Technology is the means to doing new things in the retail space, but without creativity all that technology sits underutilised. What’s exciting is apparel companies who are coming up with innovative ways of using technology in their products and marketing endeavours.

Below are three particularly innovative companies and campaigns that will get even the most jaded retailer excited again about the possibilities available to them – the possibilities that come when fitting technology is injected into their industry.

UnPocket – Go Dark

Inspired by George Orwell’s dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, apparel company The Affair recently used Kickstarter to raise the funds necessary to launch its UnPocketTM range of clothing which, says founder Zoltan Csaki, “combines the classic work wear styling of Orson’s novel with modern tech fabrics” to allow individuals to effectively ‘hide’ their tech gadgets and so drop off the grid – or go dark. Csaki says we are now living in the age of Big Brother surveillance that Orwell warned against in his novel, and we need to reclaim our privacy. UnPocket can help us do this.

Designed as a range of premium street wear, all garments such as chinos and jackets come with a removable stealth pocket that is made from police-grade shielding fabrics and so when you put your mobile phone inside GPS, Wi-Fi and RFID are blocked and you are given back a degree of anonymity. No tracking, and no hacking.

“It’s fashion for an under-surveillance society,” says Csaki.

The North Face – Never Stop Exploring

In September American outdoor company The North Face, as part of its Never Stop Exploring campaign, offered its South Korean shoppers a truly unique and memorable shopping experience. A pop-up store showed up in town with racks of jackets on display for customers to peruse. At different points when a customer was left by themselves inside the square ‘store’ the floor would start to recede, leaving the bemused shoppers no choice but to take hold of the hand- and footholds of the rock climbing wall at hand to keep themselves aloft.

Next a North Face jacket would drop down from the ceiling and be left suspended over the middle of the space. A monitor would then inform the shopper that they have 30 seconds to jump and try to get hold of the jacket. An inflatable floor was their landing. Check out the video below for a mashup of the surprised, nervous and excited shoppers.

Repurpose – Store up solar energy as you walk

Launched in June of this year here in South Africa, local female-owned company Rethaka started to distribute its school satchels – called Repurpose Schoolbags – which are made from recycled plastic shopping bags and are fitted with solar panels so children without electricity at home can store up solar energy as they walk to and from school during the day and then power night lights to help them study at home in the evenings.

Rethaka is an almost all-female company based in Rustenburg that looks for green innovations that will “redefine societal problems into solutions”. The company identifies no-fee, disadvantaged schools where students are known to walk long distances and then finds “Giving Partner” to match with schools to finance their batch of Repurpose bags. After production is complete a themed handover is organised with each school and its Giving Partner.

Repurpose-SchoolbagSo what can you do to add a new dimension to your product or marketing strategy?

Remember that digital technology in particular is an avenue that every company needs to embrace if they want relevance, reach and longevity. You cannot afford to not be online in today’s digital world, but being online in a ticking-all-the-boxes-of-modern-marketing manner is uninspired and will not be nearly as effective as being online in an innovative and exciting capacity.

The opportunities for engaging online with customers and potential customers are seemingly endless. Consumers want to be drawn in – we all want companies to believe in and support, we’re just waiting for someone to win us over, to offer us something unique, exciting, something we can buy into. So wake up your creativity, and you will wake up your consumer base!