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A Perfect Match

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With limited floor space for displaying fashion products and the expense of hiring, training and keeping knowledgeable sales associates, using digital technology to supplement in-store displays and sales associates is “a great idea” for New York-based specialty retail brand LittleMissMatched. Especially, says vice president of sales and licensing Andrew Arguiarro, when that same platform can be used to connect a retailer’s brand to social network sites like Facebook and to help in the development of a mobile app.

This holiday season, LMM will be rolling out to all seven locations iPads pre-loaded with an innovative software platform. Arguiarro says LMM will be using Thirdshelf to show its target customers, aged about eight to 12, how to wear their mismatched but coordinated socks and other apparel items, including their “four looks in one” reversible dresses.

Because LMM sells different and kitschy things like that reversible dress, Thirdshelf “helps us speak about the apparel in a significantly non-traditional way,” Arguiarro says.

Growing brand awareness
Thirdshelf gives small and mid-sized retailers the technical ability to deploy tablets in-store to supplement mannequins and other displays. The platform also allows retailers to provide in-store access via the tablets to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter and create apps that can be downloaded to customer phones where shoppers can receive personalized messages about sales, upcoming events and other items of interest.

The platform is designed to help retailers “meet the challenge of growing their business in a world where they have to deal with relatively new communication technologies such as mobile devices and social networks in a way that is safe, secure, future proof and affordable,” says Thirdshelf CEO Antoine Azar.

The platform is particularly advantageous for smaller retailers because it gives them access to the same digital technologies that large chains can afford to develop and deploy, but without the significant investment inherent in developing the technology from scratch. Arguiarro estimates that LMM will see a return on investment “in about two to four months.

“We’re sure it will lift sales and, at the same time, create more awareness for our brand, our physical stores and our website,” he says.

Retailers with online stores simply import the images and information available on their e-commerce site to the digital tablets running the Thirdshelf software. There is no need to invest more money to create content for the platform.

“Retailers invest big budgets for great content — whether it’s photo shoots, videos, feature descriptions or a product story,” Azar says. “But all this content only lives online. When you step inside of a store, all that content is nowhere to be seen. … Products are presented with no context or details, and customers go online to fill the gap — leading to showrooming.”

Arguiarro says that for younger consumers, “technology is such a part of their lives that we want to be relevant in that space. Thirdshelf allows us to use social media. It allows us to display products, to cross-merchandise between our e-commerce site and our stores, to capture e-mail addresses. We will change our messages every two weeks. We want to use it in different ways to create interest and loyalties as well as incremental sales.”

LMM will showcase the tablets in customized, store-branded fixtures located near the two highest profile displays in the center of the store. At first, says Arguiarro, they will deploy just one or two tablets per store, limiting the content to news about events, sales and informational items.

“Our plan is to show from our website all the product-specific information to give people an idea of the products, what they’re about, the way you can wear our apparel or our socks, our signature items and [the ability to] order from the site if it’s not in the store.”

LMM manufacturers its own branded apparel and accessories and also licenses the brand to the makers of products like bicycles and bedding. Because of space limitations, physical stores only stock three core categories: mismatched socks (from which the chain derived its name), apparel and accessories. Thirdshelf will give shoppers access to all the products carried on the LMM website, creating another opportunity to increase sales and brand awareness, Arguiarro says. “In our stores, customers will be able to order from e-commerce and have it delivered right to their homes.”

Customized marketing
The mobile apps that Thirdshelf has developed give retailers the ability to market to its customers as individuals, sending personal messages as they enter the store as well as delivering targeted promotional offerings to their smartphones. Customers can download the apps directly from the tablets in each retailer’s stores.

Thirdshelf helped LMM “create our first app,” says Arguiarro — a game and shopping tool the retailer used to promote its support of a popular boy band’s tour last summer. “Basically, they showed our videos during the concerts and before the concerts,” he says. “So it was great exposure for us.”

LMM wanted to create an app to supplement the advertising at those events. “We talked about our LMM app in the video, hoping we could get people to download it while they were at the concert and it was pretty successful,” Arguiarro says.

While it is difficult to measure sales increases from that kind of campaign, “we know we got significant brand awareness, especially in markets where we are not well known such as the Midwest,” Arguiarro says. “We saw spikes in all the social media and for our target customers, social media is their life.”

By using the tablets in the stores, shoppers are able to “like” products to share with Facebook friends, add them to a wish list and ask friends questions like “How does this look on me?” directly from the tablet. No usernames or passwords are necessary — Thirdshelf’s revolutionary login method uses the shopper’s mobile device as an identification key.

Customers can scroll through the tablets by product categories, and then see how the items look on the model wearing it in the online photo. They can also scan a SKU while in the store to get more information about the item.

LMM is just “scratching the surface about how we can use Thirdshelf,” Arguiarro says. “Holiday 2013 will be a test for us and then going forward in 2014, we can take the feedback we’ll be getting from our holiday guests and implement it in even more meaningful ways, fine-tuning how we are going to use it going forward.”