One reason why Macy’s is the largest department store chain in America is its willingness to innovate.
It is a trait that the company’s founder, Rowland Hussey Macy, fostered in the mid-19th century at his first store in New York City.
Macy changed merchandise management in the mid-19th century by setting clear prices for goods instead of allowing the traditional practice of bargaining about how much to pay. Today, the company is moving the industry toward mobile commerce techniques reflecting the hyperconnectivity of Internet-loving shoppers.
From Whaler to Retailer
- R.H. Macy was the son of retailers on the Massachusetts island of Nantucket. In 1822 at age 15, he went to work on a whaling ship. Four years later, he was back on land running his own store, which sold needles and thread.
But Macy was not a successful retailer until 36 years later when he opened his first New York City store, R.H. Macy & Co. The company began life with a rooster as its symbol. However, Macy took little time in switching the icon to a bright red, five-pointed star.
According to a 2015 Macy’s blog post, the future retailer got a tattoo of the star on his forearm during his time at sea. Some researchers call the star a nautical symbol of good luck, because it represented the North Star guiding a sailor to port. Now it is one of the brightest stars representing fashion merchandising in ecommerce.
Rough Waters of Retail
Perhaps Macy thought the star would guide his new company to safe shores. These days, the retail journey involves adopting digital tools to create customer-centric merchandising and improve the way that companies function.
In a 2013 interview, Macy’s President Jeff Gennette noted that the number of mobile devices in use had exceeded world population. Gennette reported that one out of every seven people on earth participated in an online social network.
Gennette added that if Facebook were compared to world nations based on its population of users, it would be the third largest country. Keep in mind that Gennette made these comments three years ago. Nearly two years later in January 2015, Huffington Post reported that Facebook’s population was larger than the more populous nation on earth.
Retailers can no longer ignore the power of social networking and mobile devices to increase sales online and in brick-and-mortar stores. Here are eight of the many ways that Macy’s is using smartphones, computer tablets and other mobile devices to innovate today.
Image Search: Finding Clothing You Want
Macy’s Image Search application allows customers to submit photos of clothing they like to the app. It searches Macy’s for similar items.
Better Tagging: Improving Inventory through RFID
Keeping track of store inventory in real time has become easier at Macy’s through tags containing radio frequency identification (RFID) sensors. The ability to find merchandise that is out of place or not yet on the floor increases sales.
Click & Collect: Picking Up Online Purchases In-Store
It used to be that online Macy’s shoppers had to visit the company website via computer to find out if items they wanted were in stock locally. Now a mobile app is available for click and collect purchases. This provides personalized shopping that links a customer’s virtual and real worlds.
Same Day Delivery: Eliminating Delays
The same digital ability that makes Macy’s click and collect purchases possible now enables same day delivery of online purchases. The delivery service is available in major metro areas from Los Angeles to Northern New Jersey.
Smart Fitting Rooms: Experimenting with Mobile
It may not be long before Macy’s outfits many of its stores with mobile technology creating Internet-connected dressing rooms. The company’s Manhattan Beach, California, store is piloting this “smart” room project.
Shoppers send directions via mobile to sales staff regarding the types, colors and sizes of clothing to place in their smart dressing rooms. Tracking tools, including serialization, allow staff to do quick searches for on-shelf availability. The smart fitting room app directs shoppers to their individual rooms. Each room contains a computer tablet that a shopper can use to notify sales staff when they need additional choices, such as larger or smaller sizes of particular items.
Smart dressing rooms are becoming a popular amenity for in-store shopping. They allow customers to save time by selecting items online before arriving at a store. Shopping time also decreases, because customers don’t have to venture onto the sales floor repeated times.
Wearable Technology: Tech Popups
These days, many teenagers and young professionals are more interested in buying new technology instead of clothing. Wearable mobile technology, including Internet-connected smart watches, is attracting these customers.
Instead of merchandising these items, Macy’s makes room for popup shops staffed and stocked by popular high technology producers. Last autumn, the chain’s Herald Square store in New York City redesigned its basement floor to contain these kinds of popups and other high technology attractions, including seating areas with mobile recharge stations.
Digital Wallet: Storing Coupons & Offers
Millennials are well known for valuing experience over material purchases. They like to travel light in many ways, including avoiding fat wallets. Macy’s My Wallet is a mobile app in which shoppers can store coupons and shopping offers. This makes sales transactions easier.
Whale of a Change
- R.H. Macy would be amazed to see how his company has changed over the past 155 years. If he were to haunt his Herald Square store — the site of the movie Miracle on 34th Street — mobile commerce would make his head spin.
Digital transformation is creating a whale of a world of change in retail.