As you enter the UGG store at Tyson’s Galleria in the suburbs of Washington, DC, the organic and woodsy furnishings belie the high-tech that courses throughout the retail floor. As opposed to clichéd high tech expectations of 3D projection maps, robotic sales associates, voice activated intelligent agents etc. the latest UGG store keeps the tech out of the spotlight and focusses on the organic touch and feel of the space to echo their products.
The UGG brand has been an international sensation for years based on its signature sheepskin boots and associated comfy designs. The touch and feel of the products are a major selling point and one that is difficult to convey via an ecommerce site. The obvious solution is to drive customers to stores so that they can pull on a pair of these comfy boots and realize the value live and in person. But with the industry-wide trend of retail stores sizing down to minimize square footage costs– how could UGG possibly showcase their entire line of footwear in a 2000sq foot space? The answer lies in the buzzwordy but effective “omni-channel” approach to retail– a blend of both the IRL ability to try on 207 different SKUs of sheepskin shoes while also having access to the deeper catalog offered by their website. But short of setting up a web browser in the store, how do you bridge the divide between the shoes being tried on and the endless aisle of styles that the website can afford?
The solution came about through a prototyping and innovation project undertaken by Control Group and the Deckers Brand Global Retail Operations team. Initially hitting on the idea of using RFID tags as a unique identifier that could trigger unique content and customer experiences, Control Group worked out the feasibility of RFID tagging on shoes, reading RFID tags with floor based antennas through sheepskin carpets, integration with UGG’s internal inventory system and sourcing imagery, data and extended product lines from the website. There are a great deal of moving pieces that had to be brought into synchronicity but once they are all working together. And the effect for the customer is nothing short of magic.
Recently on a photo shoot for the upcoming store opening, I had the pleasure of working with 13 year old model Mila Cesaretti and observed her experiencing the Magic Carpet for the first time. While we were still setting up, she tried on a pair of UGG boots and wandered around the store. As she walked over one of the Magic Carpets, the digital screen above suddenly changed– she did a double take as she looked down at her boots and realized the shoe on screen was the same model she was wearing. Instinctively, she reached out to touch the screen and explored the additional colors of the boot she was wearing and then clicked to send the shoe to her phone. She audibly gasped as her phone vibrated with text and held it up to show her Mom who was sitting nearby. The cameras weren’t rolling while this first played out, but seeing a millennial instantly “get” what was going on was a huge validation of the technology.
The UGG store opens today Thursday, November 13, 2014 at the Tyson’s Galleria in Tyson’s Corner, Virginia.