The retailer plans to test a number of offerings, including a voice-powered shoe concierge service, a shoe rental service and a shoe storage service.

Over the next six to 12 months, DSW Inc. plans to embark on a series of tests aimed at finding ways to help the multichannel shoe retailer distinguish itself from its online and offline competition.

Among the online and offline initiatives the retailer, No. 146 in the Internet Retailer 2017 Top 500, aims to test are:

  • An artificial intelligence-powered, voice-based shoe concierge service, which may integrate with Alexa technology from Amazon.com Inc. (No. 1) that can assist shoppers with a range of services including helping them find shoes to rent or buy.
  • A shoe rental service that enables consumers to rent shoes online for special occasions in much the same way that shoppers rent dresses through retailers like Rent the Runway Inc. (No. 229).
  • A shoe storage service in which the retailer will ship a consumer a box filled with empty shoe boxes that she can then fill and ship back to DSW to store remotely.
  • A shoe repair service.
  • A host of other auxiliary needs or services that may be tangentially related to DSW’s business but may appeal to its customer demographics, which is 77.8% female and 32.9% 34 or younger, according to Internet Retailer’s Top500Guide.com.

The retailer is basing its tests on feedback its received from members of the retailer’s loyalty program, said CEO Roger Rawlins during a presentation last week at the Shop.org conference in Los Angeles.

“We surveyed our rewards members to ask them what services they need that we don’t currently provide,” says a DSW spokeswoman. “Repair is an easy one to understand because it’s hard to find a good cobbler and, when you do, he’s often in an out-of-the-way place. Storage is another one that could appeal to consumers in New York or San Francisco who may already be paying a third party to hold their seasonal goods.”

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While DSW has yet to finalize its testing schedule, it plans to make a customer-facing push to gauge interest in the services in the next six to 12 months.

The retailer, which has been on an aggressive omnichannel push that has driven roughly half of its online orders to be fulfilled by its 511 stores, also is testing a new design for its stores.

DSW aims for its stores to feature a warehouse aesthetic with pallet fixtures and flexible roller conveyors. And thanks in part to its use of vertical product showcasing, which enables it to display more merchandise, it is adding 70% more inventory to its physical locations. The retailer is testing the new store design in its Polaris “lab” location just north of Columbus, Ohio. It plans to roll out the design to several other stores in 2018, as well as in a new location on the Las Vegas strip that’s set to open in the spring.

As part of its store redesigns, DSW is co-developing new proprietary store technology that will enable associates to use a single tablet for everything from stocking inventory to looking up a consumer’s past purchases.

DSW also plans to revamp its rewards program beyond discounts. Roughly 95% of sales at DSW stores are to consumers who belong to the program, which has 25 million members.

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“Our customers are craving a relationship with us that is not just transactional,” the spokeswoman says. “We’re relaunching the program to go beyond points, to create more emotional loyalty with us. We want to offer our rewards members special services to deepen our relationship with them.”

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