Retail

LL Bean Backs Away From The Blockchain

L.L. Bean had been testing a data collection project that was attempting to determine the viability of the blockchain ledger for attaching sensors to coats and boots. The tests were scheduled to begin earlier this year and involved asking consumers to wear garments that would send information back to the Ethereum blockchain platform, which would have given L.L. Bean access to those customers’ demographic information.

However, the announcement of the project caused a stir, and not in the way L.L. Bean was probably hoping. Some found the program “creepy,” and a few media outlets (incorrectly) reported that L.L. Bean was looking to “continually track clothing after purchase.”

Apparently the creep-out factor won out, as Chad Leeder, who was heading up the project for L.L. Bean, confirmed in an email it had been shut down.

The retailer has not commented on the discontinuation of the blockchain project at this time.

“This was originally a conceptual test involving about 12 product testers who agreed to test garments with sensors, with the original intent of testing how the garments performed,” a spokesman for L.L. Bean said in an email, according to media sources.

Loomia — the tech firm that was slated to bring the plan to fruition with L.L. Bean — noted previously  that “pioneering technology companies are often misunderstood.”

L.L. Bean didn’t want information about customer location; the tests were hoping to gather information like temperatures their products were worn in, frequency of wear and number of washes — insights which were initially slated to be built into the product development process.

While the idea was novel, said Bart Willemsen, a research director at Gartner, L.L. Bean’s blockchain project failed in its most important responsibility: making sure customers were comfortable with the innovation.

“If you can’t be 100 percent clear about what information you’re collecting and transparently explain what you’re going to do with it, you’re going to end up on the wrong side of the creepy line,” he said.

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