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Rebecca Minkoff: Fashion meets wearable loyalty

The world of wearable connected tech and customer loyalty just drew closer with the announcement of a new limited edition line of "smartbags" from fashion accessory brand Rebecca Minkoff. One day, simply wearing your Rebecca Minkoff handbag around a retail location, or even a city itself, might unlock a world of personalized, relevent experiences for the brand's loyal fans. In the cutthroat world of fashion, Rebecca Minkoff's forward-looking approach to brand loyalty may provide a glimpse of the future.
 
By Rick Ferguson
 
The company announced that by this summer, all of its handbags will feature embedded QR codes that will unlock personalized experiences in Rebecca Minkoff retail stores. Step into a store and the smartbag will provide access to exclusive content, product recommendations, and special offers. The technology isn't frictionless; to access these experiences, customers will need to "check in" by scanning the bag's QR code with their smart phones. To encourage customers to take that extra step, the offers and experiences will need to provide real value to shoppers.
 
Will shoppers bite? It's too soon to tell - but kudos to Rebecca Minkoff for taking the initiative to find out. The company has become known as one of the most tech-forward companies in fashion; in its New York store, the company has installed mobile checkout technology, an interactive touch-screen "smart wall" upon which you can order a cappucino,  "smart mirrors" in the dressing rooms that can tell what items you're trying on and drop them into your digital shopping cart, individualized lighting options, and a mobile app that connects your online shopping lists with your in-store experience.
 
Adding reward and recognition to this suite of customer-centric technology is a natural next step for the fashion retailer. CEO Uri Minkoff certainly has the necessary vision; he envisions a future in which your Rebecca Minkoff bag serves as your VIP passport to unique rewards and personalized experiences wherever you go. Money quote courtesy of co.design:
 
"Imagine you're going on a trip to NYC, LA, or Chicago, and we had six opportunities for you in that city to explore. So you could look at a point, this is Rebecca's city guide, this is the breakfast place, this is the club, this is the coffee shop to go to... If [a customer has] 10-20 bags in her closet, I want her to wear my bag. There could be a sense that, if you wear this bag seven times in the next 14 days, here's what you get. We’re going to give you this gift. She's wearing it, shown she's wearing it, so we're giving her something."
Minkoff has his eye on the prize: post-purchase engagement. Particularly for luxury retail and fashion items, the long sales cycle makes it difficult to build engagement and loyalty between purchases. By combining wearable tech with loyalty marketing, the company can build stronger relationships in-store and online, yes - but perhaps more importantly, they can build loyalty to the brand simply by rewarding their best customers for carrying the bag instead of keeping it in the closet. 
 
The technology is in early days, and the need to scan the QR code via mobile phone adds friction to the experience that the company will need to overcome via compelling rewards and exclusive recognition. That conundrum aside, Rebecca Minkoff's wearable loyalty initiative may provide a glimpse of a future symbiotic relationship between retailers, their products, and their best customers.
 
Rick Ferguson is CEO and Editor in Chief of the Wise Marketer.
 
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