A magic closet and algorithmic suggestions

Amazon.com Inc’s recipe for the department store of the future includes algorithmic recommendations and what one company executive called “a magic closet” in the fitting room.

The online retailer is making a fresh push to grow its fashion business, announcing on Thursday that it will open its first-ever clothing store this year, complete with a tech twist. “We wouldn’t be doing anything in brick-and-mortar retail if we didn’t believe we could dramatically improve the customer experience,” said Simoina Vasen, chief executive.

At 30,000 square feet (2,787 square meters), the planned “Amazon Style” store near Los Angeles is smaller than the typical department store. Model items are on the shelves and customers scan a code using Amazon’s mobile app to select the color and size they want. To try on the clothes, which are stored in the back, shoppers enter a virtual queue for a fitting room which they unlock with their smartphone when it’s ready.

Inside, the walk-in closet is “a personal space so you can keep shopping without ever having to leave,” Vasen said. Each has a touchscreen allowing shoppers to request more items which staff deliver to a double-sided secure cupboard “within minutes”, she said.

“It’s like a magic closet with seemingly endless selection,” Vasen said.

Touchscreens also suggest items to shoppers. Amazon keeps a record of every good a customer scans so that its algorithms personalize clothing recommendations. Buyers can also complete a style inquiry. By the time they arrive at a fitting room, employees have already dropped off items requested by customers and others that Amazon has chosen.

Shoppers can opt out with the help of a concierge, Amazon said.

Amazon has unveiled technology to help customers choose their outfits before. The company has overtaken Walmart Inc as the most purchased apparel retailer in the United States, according to analyst research.

But it still has room to grow and compete with Macy’s Inc and Nordstrom Inc, which have opened smaller-format stores. Amazon’s range of brick-and-mortar grocery stores and convenience stores has yet to disrupt brick-and-mortar retail.

The company’s new store aims to attract a wide range of shoppers with hundreds of brands, Vasen said, declining to name examples.

It has hundreds of associates and no checkout without a cashier like some Amazon stores, Vasen said. Yet, using a biometric system known as Amazon One, customers can pay with a flick of the palm.

(Reporting by Jeffrey Dastin in Palo Alto, Calif.; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)

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About William G. Patrick

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