How 8 Retailers Including Rent the Run Way are Defining the Future of Retail

Rent the Runway Chicago

Rent the Runway Chicago

By Karen Tang and Tricia McKinnon

Retail is changing at a pace that is hard to keep up with.  From augmented reality shopping apps, to subscription services for just about everything to smaller stores, retailers are experimenting in a way they haven’t before in a bid to a to stand out from the crowd and grab a greater share of wallet. If you are curious about what the future of retail is going to look like these eight retailers will give you a sneak peak.

1. Rent the Runway has effectively brought the sharing economy to the fashion world.  Rent the Runway is a digitally native women’s clothing retailer that allows customers to rent clothing that ranges from casual items to designer gowns.  It has two plans within its subscription service.  One for $89 per month and one for $159 per month. The difference between the plans is that under the cheaper plan customers can rent four items per month and can have one item swap per month.  With the more expensive plan customers can rent an unlimited number of items.  One of the benefits of shopping with Rent the Runway is that it allows customers to take advantage of the benefits that fast fashion retailers like Zara offer which is the ability to frequently have new looks without a significant investment.  With more and more consumers becoming socially conscious Rent the Runway allows customers to engage in the sharing economy which may reduce the waste a customer would normally occur if they were constantly buying new clothes based on the latest trends.

2. Are ModCloth’s Fitshops which carry minimal inventory a sign of the store of the future? ModCloth a digitally native brand that sells vintage inspired clothing opened its first permanent store location in 2016.  It calls its stores FitShops which are essentially merchandise showrooms that only carry sample sizes.  Customers shopping at one of ModCloth’s FitShops browse the store and can try on merchandise. The majority of clothing in a ModCloth store is not available for a customer to purchase and take home on the day of the purchase.  Instead merchandise is shipped to the customer’s desired location free of charge with expedited shipping.  This allows ModCloth to only carry sample sizes on site instead of carrying the same amount of inventory as a traditional store.  Clothing samples are available in sizes XXS to 4X.  One of the benefits of these shops is that customers of any size can go into a store, shop and ensure that their size is in stock and can be tried on.  

3. Amazon saves shoppers time by only selling the best of the best of its assortment in its Amazon 4-star stores. Amazon continues to expand its investment in bricks and mortar stores with its September 2018 opening of a new store concept called Amazon 4-star. The store only sells products that have at least a 4-star rating on Instead of browsing a store that contains a retailer’s slow, medium and fast selling items this store showcases the best that Amazon has to offer. Customers shopping there are rest assured that they are shopping a curated selection of merchandise – the best of the best.  Amazon now has three of these stores.

4. Augmented reality takes over the beauty counter.  L’Oreal created a Facetime-meets-makeup-counter augmented reality customer experience within its NYX cosmetics app.  Customers are connected with NYX makeup artists by calling a makeup artist via the NYX app.  The makeup artist can speak to the customer and can put various shades of makeup on the customer using the AR functionality that is within the app.  It is essentially a live streamed beauty consultation that provides an aspect of educational one-on-one service with makeup artists, from wherever the customer would like to take the call. The app’s functionality also allows for in app purchases.

5. Why shop all the time if you can have Walmart do it for you? For the first time Walmart entered the subscription clothing business in April of this year with a subscription service targeted at kids.  In partnership with KIDBOX customers complete a quiz to get started with the service.  This is a clever way to obtain deeper customer data such as the child’s style, size and favourite colours. Unlike Stitch Fix which offers a similar service there is no styling fee. Stylists choose from clothing from more than 120 brands and based on data from the quiz they select four to five curated items for each box.  The clothing costs $48 which is 50% of the full price of the merchandise.  Customers can choose to receive the box on demand or can have it delivered to them up to six times per year. Any clothing that is unwanted can be returned and shipping is free for both deliveries and returns.  

The benefit of this service is that it transfers some of the time busy parents spend selecting and purchasing clothing to Walmart. Additionally as the amount of choice continues to grow exponentially a service like this makes shopping easier. 

6. ThirdLove is leveraging customer data to make the shopping experience more inclusive.  Customers shopping at ThirdLove, an online bra and underwear retailer, often start the shopping process by taking a Fit Finder quiz.  The quiz asks customers questions such as what their current bra size is and if they have any fit issues (i.e. the cups gape a lot).  12 million women have used ThirdLove’s online Fit Finder quiz to-date. The data has enabled the company to design and offer 78 bra sizes including bras that come in half sizes, the first company to do so.  According to ThirdLove’s CEO Heidi Zak, the company is trying to create a “bra for everybody”.  “We use the data we collect from Fit Finder” — that is the measuring tool in its app — “to create a better physical product and individual sizes, and then we use the data to create a better digital product experience,” Zak said. “We do all this in a way that more traditional retailers don’t.”

Given the difficultly that women have finding the perfect fitting bra using data to create bras for every shape and size is a powerful example of personalization and a difficult to value proposition to imitate.

7. Retailers like STATE Bags allow customers to immediately give back with each purchase they make.  With STATE Bags, when customers purchase a bag, along with their purchase a backpack filled with school supplies is donated to a student in need. Launched in 2013, this company ensures that customers feel like they are making an impact in someone’s life while at the same time making a great purchase.  Scot Tatelman, Co-Founder of STATE Bags has said: “we’re trying to be the company that took the incredible one-for-one model and brought it back to kids that could really use some help.”  

8. Nordstrom makes it easier for us to express ourselves with personalized merchandise. In its new men’s store in New York city there is a Levi’s Tailor Shop. Nordstrom calls the Levi’s Tailor Shop a one-of-a-kind partnership where customers can have their denim jeans or jackets distressed, hemmed, repaired or elevated with studs and decals. Customers can also have their denim monogramed.  Nordstrom offers this service even if the denim the customer wants customized are not Levi’s.  In a world where we are increasingly inundated with more of everything, people are looking for a way to standout and show their uniqueness.  


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Tricia McKinnonTrends