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Growing career skills, students connect Amazon, Nordstrom with new customers

AMDT students with their Amazon presentation, in front of a classroom.
Connecting prospective customers to the fashions of Nordstrom and Amazon, senior students in WSU AMDT put new ideas and new technology into action in their spring Capstone Course. Above, the winning Amazon team of Kylie Humble, Mckenzie Kendle, Kelime Rae, Ryann Younker, and Paige Kallander.

 

From Boomers to members of post-millennial Generation Z, technology is changing the way people shop for clothes.

This year, students in Washington State University’s Department of Apparel, Merchandising, Design and Textiles (AMDT) teamed up with retailers Nordstrom and Amazon to find new ways to connect with customers, both in the physical world and through our digital devices.

Solving future problems

“For the third year in a row, we’ve challenged our seniors to draw on four years of coursework and preparation for their Capstone project” said Jihyeong Son, the AMDT assistant professor who leads the course.

For Amazon, students designed a clothing collection and promotion aimed at increasing its base of younger customers. For Nordstrom, teams designed shopping experiences based on new products, aiming to bridge physical stores with today’s online, mobile-first mentality. Judged by professionals from both companies, the winning teams took home $600 in gift cards.

“Working with Nordstrom and Amazon, and judged by experts from both companies, our students bring everything to the table, from textile knowledge and market research skills to social media awareness,” Son said. “It’s an opportunity to solve real future problems before entering the world of work.”

Technology played a big role in both research and ideas. Students built online surveys to gauge their market’s preferences, and incorporated body scanning, interactive shopping, social media takeovers and augmented reality to bridge live shopping with a digital experience.

Five WSU students stand in front of a presentation screen.
The winning team behind “Nordstrom Look”: Claudia Chu, Carly Henning, Leah Schwallie, Christine DePriest and Maya Stanley.

Digital natives

Known as “digital natives,” members of Generation Z connect electronically and follow social media influencers, like teen fashion and beauty video bloggers Brooklyn and Bailey McKnight, who have 5 million YouTube subscribers, or Twitter snowboarder sensation Chloe Kim.

AMDT students paired these influencers with promotions, such as a trendy tops collection or a design-your-own-tee tool, to reach new audiences.

For the Nordstrom project, the first-place team, made up of students Claudia Chu, Leah Schwallie, Carly Henning, Christine DePriest and Maya Stanley developed a campaign called “Nordstrom Look,” which pairs a digital kiosk with a mobile app. The kiosk offers personalized styles for all ages, based on customers’ past purchases and interests. Judges appreciated how it integrated existing technology while looking ahead to using social media influencers for promotion.

Putting in hours of online research on the preferences of 13- to 19-year-olds, the winning Amazon team discovered that young people prefer shopping in person—and devised “Treasure Trucks,” shops on wheels that can pop up anywhere.

“We wanted to create an Amazon experience that was relevant for young customers,” said senior Paige Kallander. She and teammates Kylie Humble, Mckenzie Kendle, Ryann Younker and Kelime Rae designed a streetwear collection, “A Piece for EveryBODY,” with ideals in mind.

“Members of Generation Z shop by their values,” Kallander said. “We designed our line as unisex, to appeal to the social movement around gender, and for all seasons, to cut down on the millions of tons of textile waste produced every year.

“To appeal to the technological side of this younger generation, we used body scanning through Amazon’s Body Labs,” Kallander said. Used in their pop-up shops and Treasure Trucks, scans create a personalized image that helps customers visualize apparel choices and get a perfect fit.

Kallander said her team’s results could inspire companies to focus on what younger customers really want, such as physical stores and a balance of live experience with digital technology.

Ready for industry

To win, teams had to master teamwork, presentation, marketing, and much more.

“The capstone helped prepare us for the world of work,” said teammate Kylie Humble. “By researching our market and coming up with new product lines and marketing mixes, we gained first-hand experience of problem-solving and creative thinking in the apparel industry.”

“These students have built their ideas from the ground up, and they’ve received honest feedback from companies just like those they’ll be working for in their future,” Son added. “They’re that much more prepared for their careers now.”