Canadian companies should take advantage of technological breakthroughs poised to revolutionize shopping—including body scanners that recommend clothing purchases—if they are to keep up with foreign retailers setting up business in Canada, says BMO.
Sherry Cooper, chief economist of BMO Financial Group, says in a report that new technology offering novel approaches for both online and in-store shopping are going to change the way the busy people of today shop.
“Canadian retailers could leapfrog the competition by taking advantage of these advances, but they need to act quickly because it is already happening in the U.K., Europe, Australia, and the U.S.,” Cooper says.
Many stores in the U.S., for example, are already equipped with body scan kiosks, similar to the ones in airports, which provide shoppers with a personalized shopping guide based on their body size and shape.
This will be a win for both business and the consumer and one way to enhance productivity.
— Sherry Cooper, BMO
These scanners take 200,000 measurements in 360 degrees using low-power radio waves, then prints out a list based on the style, size, or brand the shopper is interested in. The retailer pays a fee each time its products are included in a personalized recommendations list.
Brands that favour the scanners, which were developed by a Nova Scotia-based company, include Bananna Republic, Eddie Bauer, Gap, J. Crew, Lacoste, Nike, and many others.
New innovations in online shopping also allow consumers to create “virtual fitting rooms” on their computers by using an image or “avatar” of themselves based on measurements entered by the user so they can see how they would look in different clothes.
Another new type of software uses a webcam to measure a person wearing dark clothing while standing in front of a light wall. The software then allows the user to find clothes that fit perfectly.
The report notes that data collected from shoppers would enable clothing manufacturers to produce better-fitting garments and more accurately forecast what sizes to stock. In turn, retailers would save on labour needed to fold and re-hang rejected garments. An estimated 20 percent of apparel bought online is sent back.
“The confluence of smartphones, 3-D printers, parametric technology and other digital technology will change retailing dramatically, eliminating traditional fitting rooms, check-out lines and expensive inventory and returns,” Cooper says.
“This will be a win for both business and the consumer and one way to enhance productivity.”
U.S. retailers planning to set up shop in malls across Canada include Target, Bloomingdale’s, Tanger Outlets, and Nordstrom. Marshall’s, which already has 12 stores in Ontario, is planning to open new locations.
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