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First Look: Rent the Runway opens digitally-enhanced flagship

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Online apparel-rental company Rent the Runway continues its offline expansion with the opening of its biggest store to date, a tech-savvy, luxe flagship in New York City.

Located in the Flatiron District of Manhattan, the 4,000-sq.-ft. shop is three times the size of Rent the Runway’s six existing locations. The stylish-looking space merges the retailer’s digital assets (including its app and website) with physical elements to create a very personalized customer experience, one that is based on each customer’s unique needs and past interactions with the brand. It was developed with an understanding that time is a precious commodity to its customer base.

“Everything around the store experience is based on our customer’s needs,” said Maureen Sullivan, president, Rent the Runway. “Ninety percent of our customers work, and the most important thing to them is their time. Everything has to be efficient as possible.”

To that end, a sleek-looking service counter, called RTR Bar and reminiscent of Apple’s Genius Bar, is located upfront. Customers can do everything from pick up dresses ordered online to make an appointment for one of the store’s 16 fitting rooms (a text will be sent when the room is ready). They can also browse the brand’s online offerings (200,000 plus styles) on tablets.

There’s also a drop-off area, “RTR Post,” where customers can return their orders and exit the store in just 10 seconds.

Rent the Runway added two new features to its mobile app to supports the store experience: RTR Now, which provides a real-time view of the store’s inventory on a mobile phone, and RTR Concierge, which enables shoppers to interact with store associates. Shoppers can use the app to pre-select dresses they want to try on when they get to the store.

Rent the Runway partnered with Samsung to integrate immersive display technology throughout, starting with a huge video wall just past the entrance. The 9-sq.-ft. wall comes alive with exclusive programming designed to bring the brand and its customers to life.

“We wanted a ‘wow’ digital wall that could be seen from the street,” said Sullivan.

The main focal point of the space is the centrally-located “Dream Closet,” which combines built-in displays of clothes with four, 32-inch endcap digital displays (also from Samsung) and a spacious fitting room area. There are no mannequins or racks. The idea, explained Sullivan, is for the customer to feel as if she is walking into a dream version of her own closet back home — a closet that is continually updated with new brands, styles and trends.

The digital displays highlight the depth of clothing available and serve as a “closet in the clouds,” giving customers access to Rent the Runway’s “endless aisle” of online offerings.

“The digital display features a live feed that pulls directly from our site,” said Sullivan. “It isn’t technology for technology’s sake, but technology that really enhances the customer experience.”

The store’s physical inventory on a daily basis. Customers can browse the styles on their own, or they can schedule an appointment and consult with (for a fee) a personal stylist in the luxurious Style Studio. The private area, which even has its own entrance, provides a personalized VIP experience.

The final digital element is Samsung’s 55-inch Mirror Display screen, which combines the clarity of a mirror with the full functionality of a digital display. It provides an interactive screen that allows the customer to try on different make-up looks as she tries on different dresses. The mirror also has photo-sharing capabilities via social media.

The flagship is Rent the Runway’s seventh physical locations, with others inSan Francisco, Chicago, New York City, Washington, D.C., Las Vegas, and Los Angeles. The brand also recently entered into an agreement to open in-store shops at Neiman Marcus stores.

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