The Dandy Lab - a merging of retail and technology

Retailers are struggling with the online and physical divide, but retailer The Dandy Lab has implemented a store to combine retail and technology in the physical space.

Spitalfields used to be a meat and veg market. If you went there now I honestly don’t think you would have any idea.

Now it is a beacon for small and quirky retailers, with Brushfield Street hosting a number of shops that look both fancy and unusual.

Amongst them is the Dandy Lab, and from outside it seems like any other vintage brand, until you notice the sign on the window that announces the use of “interactive mannequins” which allow customers to interact with the products even when the store is closed.

The Dandy Lab has partnered with Cisco to allow customers to discover and interact with the products being sold.

The store plays host to a number of different British luxury men’s lifestyle brands, and incorporates technology into the shopping experience using interactive screens, a social media cafe and NFC.

Co-founder Peter Juen Ho Tsanga tells me: “It was very much about merging the digital and the physical worlds together.”

The whole format of the shop is designed to encourage interaction with the products and social media, and create a different type of shopping experience where customers discover, learn, shop and share.

A lot of the millennial generation and younger are already doing this when they shop, with Dandy Lab giving them a platform to extend their current behaviour “through displays and interactivity of the store that allows our story to be told” Tsanga explains.

TDL shop 1.jpg

The first display unit in the shop features an NFC enabled platform. When items from the shop are placed upon this mysterious block, an overhead display gives customers information about the chosen product, called a “product story,” to help engage customers using details such as the product brand and what else in the store is by the same designer.

This is similar to the ecommerce experience shoppers will have online, bringing the physical and the digital together.

How customers are interacting with products, and taking note of those interactions, can be a huge win for the store because, I was told, “they can monetise that data.”

TD_White Circuit Board_Exclusive (1).jpg

On the opposite wall, there stands a virtual show room to help customers “explore without the need of a sales assistant.”

A camera above a touchscreen display scans products held up by customers and allows consumers to search through other products in the store that match, allowing the visitor to build an outfit.

Eventually the store hopes to “map customer emotions” during this process to gather information about how the customer is feeling when interacting with particular products and brands.

Footfall of individual customers can be tracked, including their route around the store and where they paused.

And downstairs? The shop aims to encourage customers to use the space, featuring a café with wireless charging and Wi-Fi in an attempt to create a social area where customers feel more open to share and interact with the store, browse products and use social media.

The objective of all the technology Dandy Lab has to offer is to gain valuable insights into the customer journey from entering the store, to buying something, and beyond.

Tsanga explains it’s all used in the simplest way possible to ensure customers can play with the technology without any assistance.

TDL shop 2.jpg

Where shops are usually in the mind-set of being wholesale to retail, Dandy Lab aims to be an interactive space that can interface with customers at all points of the supply chain.

I decided to pop back after the opening and Tsanga told me it’s going well – there has been a lot of interest in the space, especially from the younger generation.

The shop looks at “bringing back special treatment” with a personalised experience that customers used to get when visiting branches.

Cisco’s investment is part of its on-going research on the internet of things, or as Cisco calls it the internet of everything, which highlights £37 billion could be saved by startups embracing the connected world, from supply chain efficiency down to the improved customer experience.

“It’s about them now getting hard data about who their customer actually is” a representative from Cisco told me.

Aircharge for wireless charging units, members group Capital Enterprise, consultancy DH Ready, Fagerhult for lighting, Hoxton Analytics, Iconeme for beacons, Panduit, Universal Display, Snap Fashion, Von Bismark and Ordo: Epos for point of sale, and network We are pop up are also involved in Dandy Lab’s development.

The store also partners with brands Coeur, David Bennett and Fox Hunt Menswear to provide products and clothing.

TDL shop 4.jpg

Although the products in the store only cater to men, the experience as a whole is interesting, and the shop and social media café are open to anyone to experiment and interact with what the Lab has to offer.