We live in a time where technology is taking over every aspect of our lives, slowly merging digital and physical worlds. Trying to keep up with the ever-changing consumer behaviour, major retailers often throw themselves into the world of digital technologies, forgetting what they want to achieve and overlooking its unique advantages. Jonathan Chippindale, the founder of Holition - a company pioneering innovative digital solutions for retailers - spoke to Appear Here about why technology needs to be treated as a communication tool rather than a goal in itself.
Technology always has to be placed in context within a retail environment. Not so long ago when brands started to embrace the concept of technology in-store screens, tablets, computers were often placed randomly around a store in a very temporary way which generally jarred with the essence of the ambiance and environment. It was all rather short term.
Today brands' attitudes to technology are a little different. Technology is no longer seen as a ‘fad’; that case has now been succinctly made, and technology is here to stay! Brands are making more effort to integrate technology in a seamless, more elegant and sympathetic way - they are looking at the longer term and trying to ensure that the technology does not get in the way of the relationship between the brand and consumer, and is an enabler not a barrier. There is definitely a greater understanding of the role that digital can play.
At Holition we feel strongly that the in-store experience should be about the store and its products and digital should support that, and never take-over from it – technology is a communication tool, and shouldn’t ever be the ‘story’ itself. iPads and screens tend to grab people's attention, but the physical space should in some ways be the opposite, getting people to interact with the product and environment rather than focussing attention on screens.
Although many brands see technology as being the story, the reality is that technology is merely a channel of communication, and once you’ve denigrated technology to that role then it’s clear that, as ever, it is the quality of the content that makes the difference. Luxury has steadily been integrating art and creativity into communication, and yes it makes sense to use technology to talk about these notion and ideas, for example a brand’s heritage, history and craftsmanship. Post recession luxury brands started to move away from the product itself towards creating more of an experience in-store. Brands are far more willing and keen to focus on the story-telling behind the name, using technology to communicate the narrative.
An interesting project we have been working on is with Lauren Bowker and her exploration house, THEUNSEEN, who presented their sculptural jacket that changes colour depending on the wearer's mood during London Fashion Week at Somerset House. The ceramic wearable garment is able to translate human magnetism into visible colour patterns and was designed as part of a project called The Eighth Sense. One of the aims was to bring a physical manifestation to digital data.
Cosmetics is a good example where innovative technology can enhance the trying on experience. There is only so much make up a woman can try on, whether in a retail store or at home and sometimes it is a question of culture or hygiene. Our new app, Face by Holition, is an immersive virtual cosmetic experience where smartphones and tablets act as a mirror to try on and experiment with the latest colours, shades and textures of makeup.
Jonathan Chippindale, Founder and CEO of Holition.
Holition is a synthesis of luxury marketers, retail specialists and cutting edge leaders in innovative and emerging digital technology. They craft premium digital experiences for a growing network of pioneering luxury organisations including Richemont, LVMH, Swatch Group and Gucci Group across the emerging digital fashion and accessory sectors.