This past weekend, 40 students and their chaperones hopped on a bus for the iSchool’s Retail Roadtrip. This two-day trip focused on the blend between technology and the retail industry. I was lucky enough to be part of this experience and visit three leading companies in and around New York City.
Our trip started in New Jersey where we visited L’Oreal. L’Oreal has 27 global brands, and over 613 patents filed in 2011 alone, making the company the top nanotechnology patent holder in the United States. When we got there, Division Systems Officer Jennifer Alvarez introduced the company history and informed all the students of the large scope of products that fall under the L’Oreal Paris brand.
Students could then ask questions of panelists who worked in L’Oreal’s IT department. Throughout this discussion, they covered the importance of having knowledge of software such as Microsoft Sharepoint, and encouraged students to learn softwares such as Excel throughout their college careers. They answered questions about RFID (radio-frequency identification) technology in the retail industry. Specifically, they pointed out that RFID technology, while it could be extremely helpful, is unrealistic for their beauty products because of their small size.
Another interesting part of the discussion focused on social media. The L’Oreal team explained the company’s relationship with video blogger Michelle Phan, who has a great following and influence in the beauty industry. Interestingly, the panelists also brought up their concerns with emerging social platforms such as Pinterest. Although many hold various positions on this subject, the L’Oreal team expressed their concern that Pinterest and similar sites bring no return on investment. They see it as a fun site to spend time on, but don’t see them getting anything out of investing their time into it. (Maybe, some #RotoloClass students will change their mind someday soon…)
They talked about a new social technology on bloomingdales.com that allows shoppers to poll their friends before making a purchase. The process allows shoppers to pick two to four items and allows their friends to vote on their favorites via public or private message on Facebook. After the voting process is complete, the customer will be notified via email of the winner. Bloomingdale’s also discussed its award-winning Denim Seeker. This system allows shoppers to pick one of eight body types, and the system will show a daytime and nighttime look that accentuates the select body structure.
Two employees from Macy’s then talked more in depth about their current major RFID project. Their main goal is to implement this technology in the stores to eliminate many issues that come about from theft and human error.
From the Classroom
It was interesting that RFID technology was so prominently featured, as many students who were on the trip know that this topic is a major part of the required iSchool course IST 195: Information Technologies. It is always exciting to see information you learn in class come to life in the real world.
The final stop on the Retail Roadtrip was Gilt Groupe. This company offers flash sales on items such as clothing and shoes, but also rare items such as vacations and cars.
The panel of employees at this company discussed the way their IT department handles all the sudden traffic for flash sales. Because of the nature of their service, they never experience in a lull in traffic, so the IT department always must be prepared.
They gave the students a valuable tips on working in an area outside of your major, and stressed how much value is put on the desire to continue learning throughout your career. Allison Down highlighted the power of Linkden, and encouraged all the students to connect with potential employers.
Additionally, any student that went on the trip would tell you that one of the highlights was the incredibly cool USB bracelets that were given out by the Gilt Groupe.
I had a great time on the Retail Roadtrip and would like to thank everyone involved in the organization of this trip. I hope it will continue to occur for many years to come!