Macy's Brings AR and VR Technology to Stores, Partners with Facebook to Introduce The Market @ Macy's

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As the holiday shopping season gets into full swing, Macy's has been making some bold moves in its stores with numerous investments in enhanced in-store technologies to make customer shopping journeys more "convenient, efficient and fun."

The new features include virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR) furniture and beauty experiences, and a partnership with Facebook that brings nearly 150 ecommerce brands to The Market @ Macy's across nine stores for the holiday season.

The Market @ Macy's

The Market @ Macy's consists of small open spaces within select high-traffic Macy's stores that rotate a handful of brands in and out. Macy's describes The Market as a "one-of-a-kind approach" that helps to introduce both emerging and established brands currently advertising on Facebook to new audiences.

The Market @ Macy's provides a rotating selection of offerings to Macy's customers. Sometimes, shoppers will find apparel or accessories. At other times, they'll find beauty, decorative home items, technology, stationery, or gifts. The idea is that customers will be enticed to shop at Macy's stores more often, as there will be new items from new companies available each time they visit.

"We've made lots and lots of changes at The Market @ Macy's based on customer feedback," Marc Mastronardi, Executive Vice President of New Business Development at Macy's, said, commenting on the what's happened since the retailer first rolled out The Market earlier this year. "We're bringing the brands to life."

This is true. Many of the brands coming into The Market @ Macy's have never had a store before, according to Michelle Klein, Facebook's Senior Marketing Director of North America and Global. Though many of the brands have already established themselves digitally, now, The Market @ Macy's partnership with Facebook is providing them with a unique opportunity to sell over-the-counter during the busiest shopping season of the year as well. It's a bold step by Macy's to engage its in-store customers in an innovative way during the holiday season.

"All over the world people are running businesses, big and small, that have inspiring stories and we want to help them succeed," said Klein. "We are thrilled to be partnering with one of the world's biggest retailers to bring some of those businesses to a physical store this holiday season. Macy's shoppers will have the chance to meet businesses such as Love Your Melon that sells hats and apparel to help in the fight against pediatric cancer, or Charleston Gourmet Burger Company that started from a backyard barbecue and has expanded to reach customers in all 50 states. There is nothing small about small business and Macy's is helping to celebrate their stories."

Virtual and Augmented Reality

Following a successful pilot earlier this year, Macy's has also introduced in-store VR and AR furniture shopping experiences at 69 US stores. In pilot stores, shoppers who used the virtual reality headsets to view Macy's furniture had more than a 60% greater average order value than non-virtual reality furniture shoppers, Macy's says. In addition, VR shoppers had less than a 2% return rate on transactions.

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The headsets allow shoppers to view furniture in a virtual world, allowing them to get a feel for how the items might look in a home environment. The technology also allows Macy's to offer customers access to a larger assortment of the furniture items it has on offer, without sacrificing precious floor space at both large and small store locations. At a recent conference, Macy's CEO Jeff Gennette noted that with VR technology, Macy's can offer a full range of furniture with as little as 5,000 square feet of space - down from 20,000 square feet previously.

The new VR roll-out complements another exciting addition to the Macy's app for iOS devices - an augmented reality furniture experience called "Visualize Your Space". The feature allows shoppers to use their smartphones and tablets to virtually place Macy's furniture products in their actual living spaces at home so they can see how it would look in a real-world setting against their existing furnishings. Macy's says it will roll out this feature to Android in 2019.

Back in the stores, AR is also being used to enhance the beauty shopping experience. Virtual mirror technology has been introduced to 50 Macy's stores nationwide, allowing shoppers to virtually try on 250 beauty products - such as eye shadows and lipsticks in a host of different shades - without the need for traditional makeup trials.

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Behind the scenes, Macy's is also rolling out what it calls the "Beauty Playground" to help with employee training. The initiative involves technology that showcases tutorial videos and information from brand partners and popular influencers, enabling employees to use their smartphones and tablets to become beauty specialists, stay up-to-date on the latest trends and techniques in makeup, and keep abreast of who the top beauty influencers are. This will enable them to provide better service and advice for customers, enhancing the in-store experience in more traditional ways that complement the new customer-facing AR technology on offer.

Final Thoughts

As retailers compete hard for shoppers' wallets this holiday season, Macy's is upping the experience game in its stores. From VR to AR to The Market @ Macy's, the retailer is giving customers more reasons to visit their local Macy's and is hoping the investments will translate into additional sales.

"Macy's is focused on providing customers with fresh experiences, and we are always looking for new ways to engage our customers in store, online and via our mobile app," said Hal Lawton, President of Macy's. "Our technology enhancements are practical applications that will engage our customers while also driving sales. The investments we are making behind the scenes will enable our colleagues to give our customers the best shopping experience possible. We're also thrilled to be partnering with Facebook to bring new brands into our retail as a service concept, The Market @ Macy's."

In-store technology is set to be a hot topic at Future Stores Seattle 2019, taking place June 5 – 7.

Download the agenda today for more information and insights.

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