For three decades, I.T has been at the forefront of luxury fashion in Hong Kong and China. Celebrated for its creative interiors and a curated portfolio of more than 300 top-tier international labels, the retailer is now exploring innovative digital strategies as part of a wider plan to integrate a seamless omni-channel experience across their stores worldwide.
“Taking a truly global perspective, we are investing significantly in digital technology, with the goal of becoming an international lifestyle tastemaker,” says Kar-Wai Sham, I.T’s founder and chief executive officer, in an official press release. In October, consumers in Hong Kong tested out a number of these investments through an immersive digital pop-up exhibition, held in the city’s leading luxury shopping mall, Pacific Place.
Conceptualised by British architect Jamie Fobert, the touring exhibition presents exclusive capsule collections from over 100 brands – including Off-White, Alexander Wang and Acne Studios – in a physical space enhanced by digital payment kiosks and shoppable touchscreens. Additionally, Amsterdam-based technology firm, Your Majesty, and digital animation start-up, the Fabricant, developed interactive screens showing merchandise renderings that can be activated by human motion.
“With this exhibition, we want to open a dialogue with our advocates in a highly visual space that is as innovative as it is digital,” explains Sham. Enticing consumers to make all their purchases through its online platform, ITeShop, the pop-up merges the efficiency of e-commerce with an immersive shopping environment, a retail model relatively unheard of in Hong Kong or China.
“Hong Kong is still at an early adoption stage of digital commerce, so pop-ups are a great way to test consumer reactions to any digital implementations,” says Tiffany Lung, a retail analyst at Hong Kong-based retail solutions provider, Tofugear. She adds that I.T’s initiative enables them to observe consumer behaviours and distinguish whether or not they can actually adapt to an omni-channel retail culture.
“Technology should be an enabler for good customer experience not the goal itself”
Lung goes on detail other brands and retailers in the region adopting digital in-store strategies, suggesting it is a growing trend. “While the concept of omni-channel shopping is still catching on in Hong Kong, we see increased usage of tablets in-stores for augmented reality makeup, mainly at beauty brands such as Estée Lauder and L'Oréal.”
She points out, however, that a lot of these strategies are based solely on marketing, and can often damage the consumer experience if poorly executed, whereas I.T aims to offer viable solutions to enhance the consumer purchasing journey. “So far we’ve witnessed initiatives like selfie-led photo taking and augmented reality, but nothing like the technology found at I.T’s pop-up,” says Lung.
She explains that many retailers feel pressured to stay relevant amongst competitors, often rushing into their technology tactics, be it placing hardware in-store, or pushing inadequate apps: “Retailers tend to forget about the objectives of innovation, which then results in the creation of ‘gimmicks’ – investing in technology that is often neglected or even frustrates customers. Technology should be an enabler for good customer experience, not the goal itself.”
Considering I.T has over 860 points of sales in more than a dozen countries worldwide including Dubai, South Korea, Singapore, Canada, and the US, I.T’s e-commerce director, Giovanni Cirillo, is optimistic for the tech’s uptake: “We are at the beginning of this journey, but we have a clear vision of where we want to go,” but admits it might take time to build consumer acceptance for its technology strategies, and develop a consistent digital infrastructure.
Lung believes that so far, I.T’s pop-up initiative has been successful in introducing new omni-channel efforts to consumers and has the potential to reap rewards if it can offer a favourable shopping experience. “Ultimately, I.T is the face of Hong Kong’s fashion industry, and with the support of so many global brands under its wing, it will become an innovation leader, especially for growth markets like Hong Kong.”
Consumers on the mainland can visit a replica of the exhibition in Shanghai’s Xintiandi district from 14th - 18th November, and in Beijing on 1st - 9th December. The exhibition is also set to hit Paris in early 2019.