BrainTrust Query: Is Hointer the Future of U.S. Clothing Stores?
Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a series of recent articles from the Lenati blog.
Visiting Hointer, a men’s denim store in Seattle, is a bit like crawling inside a website. As it turns out, the physical interior of a website can be a pleasant place to shop.
The interior feels more like a denim showroom rather than a boutique. Instead of stacks and racks of inventory piled high, one pair is hung of each style. Hointer intentionally separates the browsing experience from the shopping logistics of finding your size and gathering potential purchases to try on. Shoppers only need to choose styles they want to try on or purchase. The store’s technology takes care of the rest.
The first time visiting the Hointer store you are asked to download their smartphone app. From there you can do all your shopping on your phone. Each offering has a tag with the style, description, price and QR code. Scanning the QR code of a particular style adds it to your virtual shopping cart. The Hointer app then asks you to select the size(s) you would like of that particular style. No rifling through a pyramid of folded jeans to get to your size and style — just a clean set of clicks.
Once you have made your choices, you click "Dressing Room" on the app. The items you added to your cart electronically are all waiting for you in the dressing room as though they had been placed there by a salesperson in advance. In fact, you have just been served by a robot.
After trying on all your styles, discarding your unwanted items is just as easy. Each dressing room has a chute where unwanted items go. Tossing items down the chute gets them out of sight and automatically out of your shopping cart.
Founded by a former Amazon executive, Hointer’s experience is enabled by an innovative behind-the-scenes inventory system that takes technology from automated picking systems used in shipping warehouses and brings it in-store. This model offers numerous benefits that aren’t found in a traditional store:
Customer experience benefits: Finding their jeans of choice is easier than at traditional retailers because each style is clearly on display and there isn’t the clutter of all the size options on the floor. Finding the right size is literally just a click of a button in their app, and self-checkout means no waiting in line.
Operational benefits: The model eliminates the need to keep up a unit density for visual display purposes. Merchant inventory planners no longer have to send stock to a store just to keep racks full, or maintain a visually pleasing assortment variety. A Hointer store could have 200 styles on display, but generate 80 percent of their sales from five styles, and optimize their inventory stock to support these sales with no customer experience impact.
- Hointer – company website
- Hointer: Disrupting Apparel Shopping – Lenati
- Part 2: Hointer and the Two Types of Customers – Lenati
- Part 3: Hointer as Retail Technology – The Operational Impact – Lenati
How would you rate the benefits of Hointer’s hybrid e-commerce/brick & mortar model from a customer and operational standpoint? What features of e-commerce shopping could be brought to brick & mortar to simplify the shopping experience?