What do you get when you mix robotics, mobile technology, fashion, and hassle-free shopping in a brick-and-mortar store? Paradise...at least in the eyes of men who hate shopping.
Hointer is a startup selling men's designer jeans that launched in Seattle last November and offering customers a 21st century shopping experience. The store has no salespeople, confusing signs, or stacks of clothes to riffle through to find the right size. Instead, lines of clothes in hundreds of styles hang for you to browse through. When you find something you like, you scan the QR code on the tag, pick your size on the Hointer app with your smartphone, and your selection automatically drops into a chute in a changing room from the German robot-operated stockroom. Once you find everything you want, you put your items in a bag, checkout by swiping your credit card at a station, and walk out the door...just like that.
It's as close to the ease of shopping online in the physical world as you can get.
Geekwire posted a video on YouTube showing a firsthand account of shopping at Hointer:
Since launch, the startup has continued to reimagine the shopping experience by adding tailoring of purchases with free, next-day custom alterations. A color-coded system has been introduced to help customers quickly find their category of clothes (such as big & tall, relaxed, classic, or slim fit). Real-time data and user ratings provide instant feedback on which styles are hot and which need to be pulled. Clothing tags are now NFC-enabled, so phones with NFC technology only need a simple swipe to pull up the desired style. Shirts and belts have also been added to the inventory, and magnetic clothes hangers provide a sleek and convenient way to look through the clothes on display.
With all the success of the men's line, it's no wonder that Hointer is seriously considering a move into women's and teen clothing.
The founder and CEO of Hointer is Dr. Nadia Shouraboura, former head of Supply Chain and Fulfillment Technologies for Amazon. In addition to her previous work with startups, her experience with the technology in action within Amazon's warehouse system undoubtedly helped her oversee the sophisticated Hointer system aimed squarely at making shopping effortless. In face, the name Hointer comes from "hunter" and that's exactly what all the technology lets customers do.
With lots of media attention and new features being added routinely, it seems that the future of the startup is bright (the success of the startup has even been a surprise to Dr. Shouraboura). Additional stores are being planned and may include locations in San Francisco, Shanghai, and Tokyo.
Last year, the fashion world saw a number of tech implementations, such as the Brazilian store C&A that added Facebook Like counts onto hangers and the heartbeat dress or the other heartbeat dress. But what Hointer has accomplished is truly in another league because of the revolutionary power inherent in an automated operation that empowers customers with connected technology. It is an innovation in the life of the consumer that feels like a big step forward with no turning back, so that years in the future we will wonder why shopping was so convoluted back in the day.