Gyre-O-Matic

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Its offbeat, stacked-box structure alone is enough to entice visitors, but inside, Tokyo's Gyre building presents a more enticing proposition: an innovative interactive shopping experience that could reshape the way we view a mall. Located in the city's Omotesando fashion district, Gyre (meaning "swirling vortex"), is an ambitious two-year collaboration that leverages the architectural designs from Rotterdam firm MVRDV, concepting and creative direction from Wieden + Kennedy, Tokyo and interactive/web execution from Tokyo-based Suitmen Entertainment. Housing name-brand luxury retailers like Chanel and Bulgari, a MoMA store, restaurants and a design gallery, the six-floor building, which opened in November 2007 and was commissioned by realtor Mitsubishi Corp UBS, is tethered to a socially-themed concept called "Shop and Think" and attempts to provide customers with a truly connected shopping environment.

"We wanted to give shopping a new meaning," says W+K, Tokyo art director Gino Woo. "It is not only about being in tune with the latest trends but also about being aware of what is going on in the world around us. Shopping consciously is a worldwide trend but combining luxury with the search for solutions for social and environmental issues is something new, something we called 'conscious luxury.'" Wieden + Kennedy, Tokyo developed the "Gyre" theme as well as logo, signage and advertising, inspired by artists like Alex MacLean, Bernhard Edmaier and Miwa Koizumi.

Suitmen Entertainment built and implemented the site's Gyre World Reflector—which consists of large digital screens that serve as part art installation, part communicative hub that grabs random excerpts of dialogue from blogs and chat rooms and lets Gyre patrons interact via mobile phone. The company also set up a network to enhance the connectivity between the customers and the stores and eateries housed within the center, via a series of mobile phone readers, located on each floor. Visitors swipe their handhelds over the readers and become part of a channel that links them to the dialogue and other content swirling in the digital screens around the venue, whose spiraling interfaces were designed by the inimitable Yugo Nakamura.

"We're using a FeLica-based system, a Sony product that they're pushing globally," explains Suitmen President Alejandro Lopez. "It's a microchip embedded in a phone that carries personal data and then recognizes it through what's called a Selica reader. People use phones here in Tokyo as what's called an electronic wallet. If you go to the train stations, you simply put your phone over the reader there and then it charges you money for the ticketing. That's being ramped up and a lot of vending machines and retailers are going that route now." With FeLica technology Suitmen developed its own "click and mortar" platform for mobiles called CREaM. "It stands for Connected Retail, Entertainment and Marketing," says Lopez. "Once you register [to CREaM] and put all your data in, when you go into Gyre, you put your phone over the reader and it recognizes you immediately. You don't have to enter anything else and it enters you into the system which then becomes a retail pipe."

Suitmen is currently in phase three with Gyre, executing interactive brand channels for Chanel, Bulgari and others. Shopkeepers can send recommendations and background info directly to customers once they're hooked in, but Lopez says, "We're trying very hard to steer our clients away from doing e-coupon stuff. We're really pushing more for entertainment. MoMA could [offer] designer interviews on different products they have, it could be the latest stuff coming in, the latest trends from New York and just a whole content platform. We believe in more than '15% off today if you swipe twice.' It should be about really great content where you go in, like music you can only download from that shop or interviews from really great people." In the works is "a more direct feed using customers' purchase data in the store tied to a response mechanism and collaborative filtering service to strengthen the front line retail staff upon the customers' next visit," he says.

Suitmen is also focusing on the restaurants and other enhancements. "We'll have reservation systems in the restaurants—you go into the building and swipe on any floor, you can get their daily menus, critic reviews and most importantly, you can make reservations. You can keep shopping, and it'll have a countdown to when your table's ready. We're trying to get rid of lines."

Not only is shopping and dining made more convenient. Social consciousness is too. "The system is linked to a point redemption plan where users are given points for initial registration into the CREaM system," Lopez notes. "Upon each visit and phone 'swipe' they are awarded points. Purchase tallies are also linked to the point system. The points are changed into monetary contributions to socially conscious causes like Medecins Sans Frontieres."

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