Hointer: Disrupting Apparel Shopping
Visiting Hointer, a men’s denim store in the University District of Seattle, is a bit like crawling inside a website. As it turns out, the physical interior of a website can be a pleasant place to shop.
As you approach Hointer’s storefront, you’ll first notice the bare white and gray walls and the minimalist construction. The interior feels more like a denim showroom rather than a boutique clothing store. Instead of stacks and racks of inventory piled into the store, Hointer highlights their offering by hanging one pair of each style. They intentionally separate the browsing experience from the shopping logistics of finding your size and gathering potential purchases to try on. All shoppers need to concern themselves with is choosing styles they want to try on or purchase. Then they let the Hointer store technology take care of the rest.
The Hointer app
The first time visiting the Hointer store you are asked to download their smartphone app, a quick and painless process. From that point forward you can do all your Hointer shopping on your phone. Each style has a tag with the style, description, price, and QR code. By scanning the QR code of a particular style, you are adding it to your virtual shopping cart. The Hointer app then asks you to select the size(s) you would like of that particular style. No rifling through a pyramid of folded jeans to get to your size and style, just a clean set of clicks.
Once you have made your choices, you click “Dressing Room” on the app and you’re directed to one of Hointer’s spacious private stalls. The items you added to your cart electronically are all waiting for you in the dressing room as though they had been placed there by a salesperson in advance. In fact, you have just been served… by a robot.
After trying on all your styles, discarding your unwanted items is just as easy. Each dressing room has a chute (similar to a laundry chute) where unwanted items are directed to go. Tossing items down the chute get them out of sight, out of mind, and automatically out of your virtual shopping cart.
From that point you can continue shopping, adding other items to your cart, or click “Check Out” on the app. No interaction with the sales staff required. Your credit card will get you out the door.
Hointer’s unique experience is enabled by an innovative behind-the-scenes inventory system that takes technology from automated picking systems used in shipping warehouses and brings it in-store. Hointer’s founder, Dr. Nadia Shouraboura, is the former head of Supply Chain and Fulfillment Technologies for Amazon.com. Recognizing that shopping for clothing online is limited by the customer need to physically try-on styles before buying, Shouraboura set out to solve the problem. However unlike her counterparts who attempt to make online more like in-store with “virtual dressing rooms”, etc., Shouraboura set her sights on revolutionizing the in-store shopping experience by giving it the conveniences of online. What was born was the concept store of Hointer, which is extremely fast, convenient, and flexible—just like an online store.
This is the first post of our three-part series on Hointer. Continue reading to Part 2 where we discuss customer types and their experience with Hointer here.
About the Author
Loren Bors is a Manager at PK, where he helps businesses attract, grow and retain customers. Loren has worked with companies of all sizes and types, from the B2B software Fortune 50 enterprise to the four-person startup, and specializes in assessing market opportunities and designing programs that engage with customers on their terms.Tags: Hointer, Mobile, Retail