Scott Emmons, director of the Neiman Marcus Innovation Lab, receives dozens of cold calls a day from vendors pitching technologies. Only about 10% of the tools are interesting or intriguing, while the other 90% either don’t fit or the retailer isn’t ready for them. It’s the nature of Emmons’ job to research and pursue new technologies that can enhance how the luxury department store chain does business.

Scott Emmons, director, Neiman Marcus Innovation Lab

Scott Emmons, director, Neiman Marcus Innovation Lab

But just because a retail technology is available or possible is by no means a reason to pursue it, he says, even though he’s had room to “shoot from the hip a little and try things for the sake of trying” in the 13 years he’s been with Neiman Marcus. Much of that experimentation has involved in-store technology, but with e-commerce accounting for 30% of the retailer’s sales, it’s increasingly important to test online tools that can help the retailer gain  a more complete understanding of customers and their behaviors across channels, he says.

The Memory Mirror is one such tool meant to wow customers and gain a better understanding of their preferences. Deployed at more than 20 of the 42 full-line Neiman Marcus stores, the interactive, internet-connected mirror lets shoppers compare outfits side by side that they’ve already tried on and captured in a 360-degree view with the mirror’s camera and software, and the video can be saved and shared online.

A high-tech mirror isn’t for every retailer, and neither are many of the other technologies currently generating retail industry buzz such as virtual reality, augmented reality and chatbots. Some technologies are aimed at grabbing customers’ attention as online retailers jockey for eyeballs, higher sales and conversions, and increased customer loyalty, while others help bolster retailers’ behind-the-scenes, back-end operations.

Regardless of the tool, retail leaders operate on a budget, which means they have to evaluate and determine if an investment in such tools is worth it.

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