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Under Armour and Luxottica may not seem to have much in common at first glance, given their specific retail focus. But the athletic performance apparel retailer and the eye wear maker and seller actually have more than a few things in common.

A big one is providing consumers a premium retail experience.

Christian DiMattesa, Under Amour senior manager, retail marketing, and Irv Cassio, director of digital experience at Luxottica, shared insight on technology, innovation and deployment of immersive and multi-sensor experiences during a panel discussion at last week’s Interactive Customer Experience Summit 2016 held in Dallas.

“We have to think a bit differently in this space. We look at store experience as making it a premium experience for the premium product we sell,” said DiMattesa.

Her company’s mission is simple: “To Make All Athletes Better Through Passion, Design And The Relentless Pursuit Of Innovation.” Under Armour began in 1996 with a simple plan “to make a superior T-shirt,” and it’s achieved more than that initial goal. Its gear is embedded with innovative technology and its retail locations boast the same level of customer experience innovation.

Describing her company as a “gritty start-up,” customer retail experience is the differentiator from Under Armour’s competitors, explained DiMattesa.

It’s also a prime competitive element for Luxottica, said Cassio. Luxottica is a global leader in design, make and sales of fashion, luxury and sports eye-wear.

Immersive technology is everywhere at the company’s SoHo, New York location. The store features its own spin on the Apple genius bar, a ‘Ray-Bar,’ for customers trying on Ray-Ban eye wear. The store also serves as a  testing ground for customer experience strategies.

Luxottica’s brand portfolio includes Ray-Ban, Vogue Eyewear, Persol, Oliver Peoples and Alain Mikli, as well as licenses including Giorgio Armani, Burberry, Bulgari, Chanel, Dolce&Gabbana, Michael Kors, Prada and Ralph Lauren. Its global wholesale distribution network covers more than 150 countries and a retail network of over 7,200 stores, including LensCrafters and Pearle Vision in North America and Sunglass Hut worldwide.

For both retailers, when it comes to deploying innovative technology, budget is an important part of the equation.

“We have to be resourceful,” said DiMattesa, noting the company strives to partner with other start-ups and innovators. “We grow and help each other,” she said.

“Budget is always the challenge,” echoed Cassio.

But it’s a challenge the two retailers are not letting stand in the way of interactive, innovative and engaging customer experiences.

Community interaction is a big focus for Luxottica. At its Novine, Michigan Lens Crafters store, which boasts a brand new design, customers can interact while trying on frames at a community table. The table environment entices a customer’s natural tendency to interact.

“It really opens the dialogue process. It engages people,” said Cassio. Touch-screen displays provide a consumers a simulation feature. And, at the company’s Times Square New York Sunglass Hut location there is an 18-foot LED display wall that sets the mood for the store and boasts dedicated content.

The Times Square store, explained Cassio, presents a “whole different personality from the Ray-Ban store.”

“We are always striving to push the envelope and be prepared to learn,” said Cassio.

The same is true at Under Armour, noted DiMattesa, where her team focuses on “how we can take what we’ve done and get better and better and better.”

“We want product to be compelling to customer so it’s always improve, improve,” she said.

Both retail innovation leaders agree developing and building technology should never be done in the realm of technology for tech sake.

“It should be about solving problems,” said Cassio.

This month Under Armour launched its UA Shop, the brand’s first mobile app dedicated to elevating the consumer shopping experience. Integrating data from its digital fitness community allows the UA Shop to offer users a deeply personalized experience based on athlete inspiration, workout history and previous purchase history.

“UA Shop is the next step in our connected fitness evolution,” said Jason LaRose, senior vice president, revenue, in an announcement. “This app was created to maximize our digital platform and complement our existing in-store experiences by bringing consumers a way to find the products they want, when they want it. We are now able to provide custom experiences across our various categories specific to our diverse customer base,” states the release.

Such innovations are key to attracting customers and retaining customers, stated the retail leaders.

At Luxottica Cassio said it goes way beyond providing unique products. It’s about using technologies to help inform and educate consumers about advances in eye wear such as reflective coatings. The innovative tools let consumers see and understand how eye wear technology works before they buy a frame or lens.

“It’s huge for us to explain lenses. Something that used to be boring is fun,” noted Cassio, adding the technology is also proving valuable to staff. “It’s helping associates be engaged with customers and more information.”

The same benefits are being realized at Under Armour. The key is for retailers to be true to their mission and their customer, according to DiMattesa.

“Lots of retailers are throwing in cool tech but how is it authentic to the brand. It must be authentic to the brand,” she said.

Reprinted with Permission from

Judy Mottl

Judy Mottl is an experienced editor, reporter and blogger who has worked for top media including AOL, InformationWeek and InternetNews. She’s written everything from breaking news to in-depth trends. She loves a great pitch so email here, follow on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn.

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