How Do You Bring Personalized Shopping Technology to Stores? Adobe Has an Idea

On Wednesday, the company unveiled a concept for bridging the "personalization gap" between online and brick-and-mortar stores.
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Lauren Indvik
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On Wednesday, the company unveiled a concept for bridging the "personalization gap" between online and brick-and-mortar stores.
Errol Denger, director of commerce at Adobe, demos the company's new personalized retailing solution. Photo: Adobe

Errol Denger, director of commerce at Adobe, demos the company's new personalized retailing solution. Photo: Adobe

These days, shopping on the web is personal — or personalized, rather. Every time you log on to Amazon.com, or open a Net-a-Porter email, you're seeing a feed of products uniquely determined by your past browsing and purchase history. Visit a product page on Saks.com, and you'll even be given a sizing recommendation based on the measurements of the clothes you purchased from the retailer in the past.

For online retailers and shoppers, these "personalization" features are a win/win — they help shoppers find what they're looking for (and in the case of Saks, in what size), and help boost retailers' conversion rates. But where does that leave brick-and-mortar retailers? How do they integrate personalization features into their shopping experiences? (Aside from employing a human personal shopper.)

That's something Adobe's digital marketing division is aiming to figure out. At the company's annual marketing Summit in Las Vegas this week, Errol Denger, director of commerce at Adobe, unveiled a concept for integrating personal shopper information and data-driven product recommendations into the offline shopping experience.

Here's how it works: Imagine walking onto the men's floor of a department store and approaching a screen hooked up to a Microsoft Kinect device, which would scan your body and display your measurements — not just your height and hip width, but even the length of your spine and your legs. Using those measurements, combined with data stored in your user profile (including your past purchase history, and any hobbies and other personal details you choose to share, should you opt to sign in) you'd then be shown an assortment of items in the store that, according to Adobe's proprietary algorithms, would suit you best. Say, for example, that you're looking for a blazer: Using your measurements, it might recommend that you select a size 42 slim-fit cut with extra-long sleeves and, because you gravitate towards prints and have bought a few things from Ralph Lauren over the past year, it then shows you a couple of striped seersucker versions. It might even offer you a 15 percent discount if you make the purchase in-store. If you wanted to work with a store associate, that information could be shared with him or her to further aid your shopping experience. 

Adobe isn't yet working to bring this concept to market — until Wednesday, the project has been entirely under wraps — but Denger says he'd like to work with retailers to make it happen before the end of the year. Key to the strategy is using commercially viable technology: While a handful of retailers, including Brooks Brothers, have been operating dedicated body-scanning machines in their stores for more than a decade, part of the reason they haven't become more widespread is because they can cost tens of thousands of dollars per unit. A Kinect sensor, on the other hand, costs $99, and is already widely available in people's homes. 

"Every [retailer] wants Burberry's 121 Regent Street store," Denger says, referring to the digitally integrated marvel of a flagship the British company unveiled in London in late 2012. "That’s what we're taking on. We don't want a gimmick, we want to make sure it's really immersive, the embodiment of that brand."

Note: This story was updated to reflect that the application works for both men's and women's wear, not just men's wear.