Saturday, July 7, 2012

Though online shopping has undergone multiple transformations over the past two decades, the same can not be said for brick-and-mortar retail. Shoppers are still brought in using approximately the same marketing tactics (think direct mail catalogs, window displays, seasonal sales). Product is still refreshed at the same rates and customers still line up and check out, with few exceptions, at cash registers.

Signature, a mobile app company that bills itself as the “ultimate personal shopping assistant,” is looking to reengineer the way consumers shop in stores namely, the stores of upscale clothing retailers. The San Francisco-based startup has partnered with Neiman Marcus to develop a custom iPhone app to better facilitate communications between stores and customers.

The app, called NM Service, is currently being piloted at four Neiman Marcus locations: San Francisco, Calif.; Palo Alto, Calif.; Austin, Texas; and Neiman Marcus’s flagship store in Dallas, Texas.

They can also make appointments and leave messages for associates, and see which ones are on the floor. A built-in QR code reader lets them scan signage for trend and product information displayed in-store.

Sales associates’ version of the app has tools designed to help them provide better service. They can view a shoppers’ online and in-store purchase history, helping them better understand their preferences and suggest items that might compliment previous purchases. They can also see which products a customer has favorited. They will be notified when a preferred customer arrives in-store, accompanied by a Facebook photograph.

Hegarty says that future iterations of the app will be more personalized. Users will receive notifications about new merchandise based on their previous purchase history, and have the option to list not just favorite products but also favorite designers.

Beyond the custom app he and his team have developed for Neiman Marcus, Signature also has a general platform app which works with two Seven for all Mankind locations: one at Fashion Island in Newport Beach, Calif., and another in the Flatiron district of New York City. A few more retail partners will be onboarded later this year, and an Android version of the app should also arrive in time for the holidays, he says.

Signature currently has eight employees and has raised $1.1 million in angel funding from Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Triangle Peak Partners, Amicus Capital, Don Hutchison and Dave Pell.