When it comes to hot retail trends in 2019, there aren’t many bigger than the drive for personalised in-store customer experiences. Shoppers have lapped up the individualised offerings served by digital pureplays and they now crave similar treatment when visiting bricks-and-mortar stores. One firm, however, has gone a step further – delivering the kind of personalised theatre that trumps online retailers. Printing specialists YR have exploited a niche in the market to offer personalised customisation of some of the world’s biggest fashion brands including Levi’s, DKNY, Nike, Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger. Using state-of-the-art printing and kiosk technology YR gives shoppers the chance to interact with their brand of choice, in-store as they wait, customising garments and creating one-off pieces of wearable art.
Here Tim Williams, who founded YR with business partner Tom Hogan in 2014 before turning it into a global business valued at £5m, explains what makes his business venture so special.
Retail Connections: Personalised garments have been in existence for some time. How is the YR concept different?
Tim Williams: When we started YR we were confident that we could make creating amazing designs easy, fun and exciting. Most customisation websites and ‘experiences’ are dull and hard to use. We wanted to make it possible for everyone to create amazing designs. Our goal is to work with brands to bring customisation experiences, both online and instore, to life. Our software is at the heart of this experience.
RC: Are customers enabled to print whatever design they like onto garments?
TW: YR software gives users easy ways to make fabulous designs in-store and online – but we work with brands, artists and content owners to make sure that consumers always create on-brand and great designs using our software.
RC: Are there any limitations to your printing process?
TW: We work with lots of printing processes and that gives us great flexibility. Some allow all-over print, which is great for bold designs, others are a more tactile digital print. We also work with embroidery and vinyl as well as engraving, so we try to work with the right print or embellishment technique for the project we are working on.
RC: Why is unique personalisation is so important to modern consumers?
TW: Customers want more than simply buying products off the shelf. They want to stand out and not have the same product as someone next to them. We also see that consumers want an experience in every aspect of their lives – and personalisation adds a great level of interaction and excitement to the fashion retail process.
RC: Was it a battle selling this concept to fashion brands that are famously wary of diluting their brand image?
TW: It’s always a challenge to make sure that we offer enough customisation choice – but not so much as to dilute the brand. We have just worked on a great collaboration with Bathing Ape in LA where every item created had to be totally on brand, so choices were limited but demand was very strong. YR can always find a way of creating an experience without diluting the brand image.
RC: What next for YR?
TW: We want to be global leaders in on-demand design and production, that means we plan on growing vertically as well as building on our in-store and online customisation platforms. Customisation is a super-interesting space at the moment, and it goes hand in hand with on demand production. Moving to on-demand is a huge task for brands but the benefits of vastly reduced inventory and more focused and nimble product offerings mean it’s a real focus right now. This is only going to increase, and we intend to work with our current and future customers to develop faster, more engaging and more efficient ways of producing products. We have expanded globally with offices in the US and Asia, now we want to build those markets and a truly global partner for our clients.