GDR’s Charlie Lloyd took a trip to Zara’s new flagship at Westfield Stratford City, a tech-driven space that aims to make the brand’s physical and online shopping experiences more seamless than ever before.
The new Zara flagship is a major statement from parent company Inditex, sprawling across almost 50,000 sq. ft. over two floors in London’s Westfield Stratford City. The store’s objective, despite its size, isn’t to wow shoppers with quantity, but through the quality of its seamless online and in-store shopping experience.
Central to the store delivering on this is the efficiency of its online collection area. Customers scan QR or PIN codes that they receive after making an order on their phones at a series of self-serve kiosks. Out of the customer’s view, a robotic arm collects the order and, in a matter of seconds, it is waiting to be picked up from a hatch next to the interactive screen. If placed before 2pm, orders can be picked up on the same day.
Myriad payment options also help to streamline service and bring the digital experience in-store. In addition to conventional cashier desks, all staff serve as mobile checkouts thanks to Zara having equipped them with iPads that can be used to complete transactions (as well as offer style advice). On top of this, a customer can make use of self-checkout machines adjacent to the store’s fitting rooms, if they wish to make a quick purchase straight after trying something on.
Technology underpins everything that makes this store so progressive but the space strikes a sensible balance between cutting edge tech and the conventional shopping experience. Shoppers aren’t bombarded with digital theatrics; most of the tech, from the collection points to the checkout options, performs purely functional roles designed to create as seamless an experience as possible. Returns are dealt with by staff at a dedicated desk, presumably because Zara has made a judgement call that technology can’t yet provide a service in this area as effective as humans can.
There is one exception to the rule where tech does offer a fun moment of theatre. Throughout the store are several magic mirrors, which use RFID technology to identify the item of clothing in the shopper’s hands. The mirror then displays an image of the model wearing that item of clothing as part of a complete outfit suggestion. The mirror identifies the garment instantly, although when I tried this technology the mirror displayed a model wearing the item in a different colour to the one I had in my hand, indicating that this feature hasn’t quite been optimised for every item on sale.
Inditex hope that the store will bridge the gap between online and offline and allow shoppers to move seamlessly from one to the other. Pablo Isla, Inditex chairman and CEO, has said: “The reopening of Zara’s flagship in Stratford is an important moment for Inditex. We are in a unique position as we enjoy a global sales platform that fully integrates stores and online. In recent years we have invested in both the most advanced technology and optimised our stores for this aim. Our business model combines stores and digital seamlessly, and we are ready for the opportunities that this brings with current and new customers.”
On the basis of GDR’s visit, the company has achieved its goal through the re-opening of the Stratford flagship, which serves as a sterling example of customer-first digital transformation.