We carry burrito punch cards, download rewards apps, and flash our American Express cards to get specially reserved concert tickets. Why? Because we’ll do just about anything for a deal or a taste of the VIP experience. Rebecca Minkoff wants to sew those perks into the very fabric of what you wear.
The company has announced that by summer of 2017, all of its handbags will be “smartbags,” fit with QR codes that can personalize your experience at the company’s techie stores. And into the future, the bags may unlock discounts and experiences with other businesses, perhaps across the country or globe. The technology was developed by Avery Dennison RBIS and EVRYTHNG.
“As we’ve seen with with Pokémon Go, there’s a fascination around the gamification of people wandering around looking for things. It was like, ‘wow, what if our products had a life from the moment they were turned on?,'” says CEO Uri Minkoff. “And what if that bag, and utilization of that, gave you information, access, opportunity, loyalty–those sorts of things that became private moments that weren’t broadcast, but there for you?”
Launching in a limited edition of just 10 individual bags this month, the handbags will at first interface with Rebecca Minkoff’s stores, which already feature extensive use of smart technologies like RFID. Here, the bag can serve as a customer’s identification, and content will then appear on in-store video screens, which Uri says could be anything from a message from Rebecca Minkoff herself telling the story about the product, to recommendations of products that might complement your purse, to special discounts.
But what’s more exciting about the project is that the bag itself could serve as a VIP pass to a place or city.
“It unlocks experiences and opportunities which they otherwise wouldn’t have. That’s the key,” says Uri. “It would almost be like, 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.” You’d bring your bag, check in when you get there with your phone. (That’s right, it’s not quite as seamless as walking into a store with your bag. You’ll use your phone to scan your QR coded bag in situ–basically scanning your bag at a store or restaurant yourself–which eliminates any headache on a third party’s part to install specialized equipment. Via your phone, Rebecca Minkoff might send you a code to redeem for a discount or special product.)
The business implications could be expansive. Loyalty programs already drive massive amounts of revenue to companies like Starbucks–in fact, when the coffee company tweaked the value of its loyalty program last year, it may have vastly impacted its revenue. Yet while most companies handle such programs with member IDs and apps, these are just placeholders for our identity. Who needs a loyalty card when we already make daily statements of who we are, articulated from the things we carry and wear?
Bags are well-suited for integrating wearable technology. They have extra pockets and space by nature, so there’s room for discreet electronics. They’re rarely laundered, so the washing machine isn’t an issue. Yet, your bag follows you everywhere through your day, much like actual clothing. Unlike a wallet, your bag broadcasts itself–and its brand–to anyone with open eyes. As a result, Uri hopes that building rewards into a Rebecca Minkoff bags could actually convince customers to wear their bags more often, ostensibly making the fashion brand more fashionable, driving brand loyalty not by tweeting of Instagramming about it, but by actually wearing it out and about.
“If she’s got 10-20 bags in my closet, I want her to wear my bag,” says Uri. And by building partner locations to check in at, Rebecca Minkoff could incentivize customers to bring the bag on the reg to those check-in spots. “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.”
Obviously, the idea is in early days, but the challenges that remain seem to be more corporate than anything else. Can the fashion brand sign enough compelling partners that it convinces customers to take part, to literally change the way they dress for that VIP, Pokémon Go experience? Either way, the core idea is tantalizing. And at the very least, it’s easy to imagine a day when wearing a new pair of Adidas to a Bulls game could score you some free swag.