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Karen Millen puts itself at heart of in-store tech innovation

Fashion retailer Karen Millen has this week partnered with tech solutions provider Retail Assist to highlight the potential of the future retail store.

At an east London-based pop-up concept shop – open Wednesday to Friday this week – Karen Millen and Retail Assist have been showcasing various technologies to a range of visiting retailers, with the aim of providing inspiration around the future customer journey. The latest collection from Karen Millen was on show and used as an example product line to test out new RFID, interactive mirror and mobile point of sale technology.

Other technology partners participating in the pop-up store, called Nexpo and located at Hoxton Arches' Cremer Street, were Vodat International, Vista Retail Support, InovRetail, Enactor, Adyen, Catalyst and DB Pixelhouse.

Although Karen Millen does not yet use all of this technology in its stores, the company's involvement in Nexpo is part of its wider drive to develop the customer experience in store via the use of new technology and digital content.

Recently appointed customer director Charlotte Ellis, who was Karen Millen's digital director and had previously held roles as head of multichannel business development and head of innovation, IT & distribution, told Essential Retail she was keen to partner with Retail Assist for the project to show what impact this new wave of technology can have on the customer journey "in a real life environment".

"Retailers that will be successful will differentiate their experience," she explained.

"Having an emotional connection to a brand or product is about bringing all your digital content to them as part of the in-store experience. The customer wants the experience of the store, trying things on, touching the fabric, receiving advice and having the emotional feeling when she makes the purchase. This tech can help meet that need – we want to cherry pick the tech that allows you to do this, and delight the customer."

Of the partners on display at Nexpo, Karen Millen already works with Retail Assist and Adyen for order management and payments services respectively. The former's Merret tool allows the fashion retailer's staff to access a real-time view of inventory on tablet devices across its estate, affectively enabling store associates to guide customers through wider stock ranges that may not be available in their specific store, as well as actively sell and upsell to consumers on the shop floor.

Adyen's cloud-based payments service and accompanying analytics package allows Karen Millen to get a real-time view of sales and a breakdown of transactions, including the capacity to identify payments that have been made by the same customer both online and offline.

Much of Ellis's new role revolves around assessing how customers are shopping with the retailer, via the use of new analytics tools, and ensuring the business has a common approach to serving its consumers across multiple channels.

"My job as customer director is taking the theory of putting the customer at the centre and making it a reality for our business," she noted.

"And for us, that is about building an emotional connection with the brand. Underneath this sits digital experience, marketing, visual merchandising and the in-store experience so we can start seeing that in trend. That will be achieved through data analytics right through to creating digital content that delights her."

Ellis added: "If you really want to put the customer first, you really have to put her in your business and at the head table. My role is showing the brand is committed to that."

Essential Retail also learned that Karen Millen will be launching a click & collect service in the next couple of weeks, initially for its KM Black VIP loyalty customers. Ellis also identified BT Expedite and Demandware as other key tech partners for CRM and eCommerce respectively.

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