“No piles, no mess, just an easier way for customers to control the store through their mobile application”
Hointers, a new robotic/ecommerce retail store, is targeted at get-in-and-out-with-what-I-need-male shoppers, offering the ability to shop in store in a very different way. The shopper tries the jeans on by scanning them, and then they robo-magically appear in a dressing room alongside an easy “these don’t fit” chute and a mobile device with the option to order a different size online. If the shopper buys, they simply swipe their card to pay for them, and have the right size delivered—all without ever interacting with a person. By adding efficiency, the store also eliminates piles of clothes everywhere and the risk of dealing with a rude or pushy salesperson.
From a small neighborhood in Seattle, Hointer is demonstrating a futuristic shopping experience. But, why so impersonal? While they offer ease and convenience, I question the lack of salespeople. Where is the personal sales agent who brings you items that match your jeans? Or offers a (sometimes they are honest!) opinion if the jeans look good or not. If you bring a friend, will you disturb other shoppers? These are all things that run through my mind as I think of a big, empty, cold room with jeans hanging on a clothesline and scanners attached to my wrist.
Maybe that’s why the store is directed at male shoppers. Personally, I like interacting with salespeople—most of the time. Other times, I shop online, but the in store experience still offers something that online doesn’t.
Could the robotic in-store experience compete with an online retailer like Amazon?
Hointer’s owner, Nadia Shouraboura, previously worked at Amazon, and her husband is the VP of web services at Amazon. Not surprisingly, she isn’t stopping at one hyper-efficient jean store. She’s working on expanding her offering and selling her back-end system to other stores. It is hard to believe Amazon is impervious to offering in-store experiences similar to Hointer. In fact, rumors that Amazon plans to open retail warehouses are nothing new; an article in the Huffington Post said “’Amazon often tests new concepts in the Seattle area.”
I suppose control is great when you know what you want and you simply need to try it on. But there is still a stubborn ol’ me who thinks retail therapy involves interacting with people, and not machines.