Given the ubiquity of online shopping, it's easy to dismiss the notion of stepping into a brick-and-mortar store as a bit old-fashioned. But walk into any Rebecca Minkoff location, and you might think you've been teleported to the future.
When the fashion designer launched her brand of ready-to-wear accessories, handbags, and footwear in 2005, she knew it would never survive as a normal store. Minkoff and her brother Uri, who helps run the company, wanted to create the perfect shopper experience. "We always wanted the shopper to be connected, to allow her to direct her own course within the store," said the five-time Inc. 5000 honoree on Thursday at Inc.'s Women's Summit in New York City.
Shoppers visiting the flagship stores are greeted by a digital touchscreen wall that displays the latest runway collection, offers style suggestions from the designer herself, and even takes orders for drinks (champagne, sparkling water, coffee, or tea).
Every item contains an RFID tag that can detect when a shopper enters a dressing room. When the tag is scanned, an image pops up on a mirror with suggestions for complementary accessories. Since the stores added this feature, Minkoff said, 30 percent more shoppers have brought items into the room, which has increased sales threefold.
The rapid rise of technology and social media has given brands the opportunity to intimately connect with their consumers. Minkoff, who was also the first designer on Snapchat, said she has been connected since day one.
"When social media became popular years ago, I was told that I was 'dirtying' the brand by engaging with my consumers," she said. But naysayers be damned. Minkoff used to spend at least an hour every day chatting with her shoppers. "They couldn't believe it was actually me talking to them," she recalls, adding that the engagement has enabled her to truly understand shoppers.
"As the world changes, so do the needs of our customers," Minkoff said. "It's important that we cater to her and stay true to her needs. An item can only go to market if it's done right."
Of course, she conceded, she didn't attain her success without any hiccups along the way. She offered her ultimate business lesson to the audience: "I wish I would have slowed down. I always felt like I had to do everything, immediately. If I had built things slowly, I wouldn't have made stupid decisions."
Regardless, Minkoff is still an authoritative voice when it comes to fashion. Perhaps it's because she's as passionate about her brand as her customers are. When an audience member asked what she was wearing, she proudly replied that her outfit is available in the sale section of her company's website: "I'd be shooting myself in the foot if I wasn't representing my brand!"