Dean Salakas of The Party People is set to unveil an innovative retail tech trial just in time for the busiest season in the costume retailer calendar - Halloween.
The Party People will be trialling an augmented reality mirror store for a unique customer interaction and checkout experience with plans to expand the system to encompass other types of retail, we spoke to The Party People founder and Chief Party Dude Dean Salakas to learn more about this innovative new product.
Set to pop up in Macarthur Square, a Lendlease shopping centre in Campbelltown NSW, an exclusive trial for the augmented reality mirror store will take place from the 9th October to 31st October for people to virtually try on, and shop Halloween costumes.
What is exciting about this prospect is that this mirror itself doesn’t sit inside a store, but can be placed at a variety of locations – in this case a pop up store, but can be set up as a stand alone retail activation, after hours in a shop window, or even on hoarding for a store under construction, and practically anywhere with space for a mirror. This addresses the major problems retailers are facing. Customers are leaning less on online shopping and are enjoying the in-person shopping experience. With rents rising, and staff in shortage, this kind of innovative retail tech is essential.
AR technology is in no way new – in fact its official invention was in 1968. Its commercial use is much more recent, with 2008’s Mini Cooper magazine ad that came to life with the assistance of a webcam. In 2014, Pepsi made headlines with its AR bus stop activation which brought animated scenes to life in real time. Pokemon Go in 2016 brought the tech to everyone and their grandparent’s smart phones, and Snapchat has been championing filters for years. While not new, the tech itself has made leaps in recent years. This year, AR fashion tech company ZERO10 skyrocketed to fame as their AR mirror activations were picked up by a variety of fashion houses including Coach and Tommy Hilfiger during fashion weeks and it has subsequently created its own platform for digital designers to showcase their work through 3D mapping. FFFACE.ME, employed by Mugler is a similar AR mirror design, with the fragrance brand using the tech to add ethereal filters to passerbys in promotion of its new scent.
What sets his AR mirror apart, says Dean, is its checkout functionality. “We are doing some fun stuff with augmented reality and ecommerce,” he said. “Augmented reality mirrors are floating around but we have taken them to another level by adding checkout functionality to them. Its my understanding that globally this has never been done before. Customers can now try things on using our mirror with the item being put on them with augmented reality and then checkout on the mirror and have the item delivered to their house before they get home.”
The mirror featured in this activation appears as a mirror but is built with an augmented reality functionality. Users stand in front of the mirror and see their reflection as well as navigation options. The mirror then uses sensors to understand the user movement so the user can move their hand to where the button is – essentially their reflection moves to where the button is and if they “grab” the air at that point it will select the button, and then they can cycle through costumes until they find their perfect match.
Costumes are not the final frontier for this retail tech. “Fashion is the largest opportunity for this. We also we have some interest from a toy brand wanting people to be the toy character and then buy the toy. For fashion however this can be for hats, masks, wigs, contact lenses, clothes, shoes and anything else you can wear,” said Dean. “We have some exciting ideas for the future such as having a virtual assistant hologram above the mirror and also having the mirror on a vending machine to allow people to try fashion items on through augmented reality and then buy them from the vending machine. For now our focus is the pilot and to learn how customers will use the technology.”
The project has a group of high profile collaborators attached, further demonstrating its potential applications. Lendlease is assisting with real-estate and pop up execution, Uber is providing lightning fast delivery, Shopexp is providing the augmented reality tech and mirrors, stockinstore is providing Ship from Store and Click & Collect solutions with inventory & order management, Starshipit is providing the shipping automation, and Shopify is providing the checkout.
“I don’t know how many costumes this might sell but that’s what the trial is for,” concludes Dean. “To learn how customers use it and how they purchase. I have learned in my experience with innovation, that customers are going to do things with this that I haven’t thought of yet so I am excited to see what we learn from the trial.”