Taking stock of retail tech

Jul 6 2019   9:40AM GMT

The Trending Store, a data-led retail popup

Clare McDonald Profile: Clare McDonald

Tags:
ai
Data
retail
shopping

A new popup store has opened in Westfield London to use data collected from social media to sell only products that are trending in real time.

By partnering with tech firm Nextatlas, the store will track over 400,000 accounts across the internet known for being early trend adopters or innovators to determine what fashion, accessories and footwear are most popular so the store can stock just the most talked about items.

Mario Coletti, managing director at Nextatlas, said: “This is the first time we’ve used our data in a physical setting and so it’s amazing to see how the platform has come to life at The Trending Store. It’s a pioneering way to demonstrate how AI will be relevant in physical retail for years to come. Our platform monitors trend creators, analysing visual content, hash tags and captions on a daily basis to project the trends of the future.”

Since social media has been dubbed “one of the most powerful tools” at a retailer’s disposal when it comes to connecting with customers, this use of social platforms to identify what products customers want or need could lead to record sales, in theory.

The store claims to be driven by artificial intelligence (AI) – Nextatlas uses machine learning to predict trends before they happen, which in this case means using more than 3bn data points across the internet in the form of people seeking the most up-to-date fashion, so stylists working in the Trending Store can source popular items from other shops in Westfield London, including Topshop, Reiss, Whistles, Lindex and Stuart Weitzman.

Around 100 products from both brick and mortar stores and online only retailers will be featured in the shop, which will also have a Trending Vending Prize Machine where people can donate to Save the Children to receive a random prize.

While the labels Romantic Heroines, Design Therapy and Dystopian Fashionistas sound like they may be titles of a romantic vampire-focused book series, these are some of the fashion trends the shop has identified from social media activity.

Fuelled by political unrest, dark TV shows and rebellion against digital, data gathered from text and images on social media has found voluminous floral dresses are back in fashion, as well as military patterned apparel and minimalist design.

The shop itself is full of LG screens showing live social media trend data, graphics and hashtags relating to each of the above trends, giving the shop a digital vibe.

Myf Ryan, CMO Europe and group director of brand and strategic marketing for Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield said the store reflects how consumers are increasingly wanting a blended online-offline experience – while digital shopping is at an all time high, customers are still more likely to shop with brands who also have a physical presence.

Ryan claimed: “At Westfield centres we aim to bring the newest concepts, first to the market brands and best experiences to our customers. Through our How We Shop Research platform we know that shoppers increasingly want to experience both online and offline retail in seamless journey. Shoppers are inspired by online influencers and used to being guided by AI when they shop online, with products served to them based on their behaviour. Working with data analysts, NextAtlas, we are able to bring our shoppers products that are trending in real time – a true reflection of social conversation brought to life in a physical space. We believe The Trending Store represents the way we will all be shopping in the future.”

The clothes and accessories on the shop were a little too trendy for me, I couldn’t see myself in any of it – but in theory if the products are trending on social media it would make sense for them to skew towards a younger audience.

Either way, the store mixes physical and digital in an interesting way to raise money for charity.

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