Neimans has been toying with new forms of retail for a while now, but with the addition of their new brainstorming team, iLab, based out of Neiman Marcus Direct in Dallas, the possibilities are endless. iLab specializes in finding new ways for customers to shop their many Neiman Marcus locations, specifically new technology and customer experiences.
iLab was formed two years ago and has already successfully grown out of its smaller showroom and exploded into a new one, and is projected to also include separate showrooms adjacent to executive offices for meetings and conferences. The iLab “suggests the company’s deepening dive into emerging technologies, many bridging the online and brick-and-mortar channels.”
Some innovative and fresh projects that have stemmed from iLab and popped up in various Neiman’s locations include, “Memory” mirrors, beacon technology being installed in a few select doors and, most recently, custom-designed “interactive” tables. These tables have been placed in a few of Neiman’s specialized shoe salons. They were a product that Scott Emmons, enterprise architect for the iLab, had seen at last year’s National Retail Federation convention in New York. He spent 11 months redesigning them to make them work for their shoe floors. “The tables enable customers and store associates to comfortably view (not purchase) online and store inventory across multiple categories and add items to a wish list. The software also supports a recommendation engine. The tables are like large, enhanced digital look books, with ultra high-definition 32-inch touchscreens from T1Visions, covered by a pane of glass. Since November, the three interactive tables, each 70 inches long, 34 inches tall, and 26 inches wide, have been in the shoe salons of Neiman’s in Austin, Chicago and Topanga.”
Besides interactive tables, Emmons has also been “leading initiatives around information systems, BYOD, digital signage, wearable tech and efforts to personalize and enhance the shopping experience, and has overseen what officials describe as a complete Wi-Fi refresh, major wide area network upgrades and a deployment of more than 8,000 Apple iOS devices — 5,000 iPhones and 3,000 iPads — to Neiman’s sales associates.”
Most recently, they have been experimenting with new forms of display for their stores: “Memory” mirrors. Two memory mirrors were installed in Neiman’s Walnut Creek, Calif., store. The San Francisco and Willow Bend, Tex., stores are going to both get two mirrors next. These display mirrors will aid the customer in making decisions, more specifically she can take photos or videos of herself in a dress, compare side to side with another dress pic, send the photo to her friends to help her make a decision, post it to Facebook or email it to herself. “We’ll know more or less by the end of this month or early February whether to deploy more of these,” Emmons said. In the meantime, Neiman’s is pulling together analytics on usage and getting feedback from stores on what’s working and what isn’t. Emmons is optimistic. “I knew this beautiful piece of furniture would work in our store environments. It’s a no-brainer to me.”
“Amid the deluge of technology that he confronts, ‘There are certain things, you know, there is an immediate R-O-I [return on investment]. There are other things that are more Willy Wonka, off-the-beaten path things,’ meaning basically that they have to find ideas that will work most successfully right now and might leave certain projects for more research on the iLab table. This type of innovative design in a sea of old school fashion brands is a breath of fresh air and I am sure we will be seeing more from Emmons and his iLab team in the future.