Categories
technology

Westfield seeks to grow mall traffic with new large format multi-player gaming theatre

The ESC Gaming Theater at Westfield
The ESC Gaming Theater in action at Westfield

At the peak of holiday season 2016, one of the United States’ largest shopping malls opted for a new kind of tourist attraction. Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus, New Jersey, replaced the traditional lone-standing arcade game or low thrill ride with a one of a kind gaming centre.

Known as the ESC Gaming Theater, the 750ft room includes a roof-high cinema screen, a live emcee, concert grade surround sound, pulsing lights and 30 touch screens for an immersive multi-player gaming experience.

Designed to bring together friends and strangers alike, this ESC Game Theater offers solo or team play games for up to 30 players at a time. A series of about a dozen games on offer span approximately five to seven minutes and can be either collaborative or competitive, depending on the crowd. With the emcee providing an energetic string of live tips and running commentaries, the entire activity becomes somewhat of a sporting event. Live tournaments are even held periodically for prizes.

The ESC Gaming Theater at Westfield
The ESC Gaming Theater at Westfield

The fun is all laced into a strategy to reimagine the future of shopping malls as technology continues to rapidly expand. At a time where shoppers are not only increasingly moving online and to mobile to carry out both research and purchase, but seeking experiences over merely material items, brick and mortar venues need to reinvent the wheel to encourage consumers in and maintain them for as long as possible. Gaming and entertainment is a big driver.

Charley Delana, Westfield’s EVP of global brand ventures, said: “Westfield is committed to redefining the shopping experience by leveraging the latest in technology and digital entertainment innovation. We are thrilled to welcome ESC Games to Westfield Garden State Plaza and we are looking forward to giving shoppers the chance to be among the first in the world to experience the future of gaming and entertainment.”

Capitalising on a projected 18% annual growth in the video game industry in the year to come, ESC Games CEO Todd Swidler has thought about massive expansions both in the US and internationally. “The video game industry is experiencing explosive growth, and we see major opportunities for ESC Games to pioneer a new category that taps into that demand through our unique game experience and competitive tournaments. The possibilities are vast.”

The concept for this mall initiative was incubated by ESI Design. Founder Edwin Schlossberg is an innovator of all things game-design; he entered the scene back in the 1970s when his best-selling book series taught consumers how to play games on their run of the mill pocket calculators. Once again, he gives a technology facelift to a quasi-antiquated model.


Categories
e-commerce film social media

Unboxing videos boom in holiday season; why the psychology matters

Unboxing videos
Unboxing videos from vloggers Eleventh Gorgeous

Unboxing videos, where products are unwrapped and described in an informative and entertaining format, prove most influential in the run up to the holiday season, according to packaging supplier Rajapack.

Views from October through December run at 1.5x that of other quarters, totaling 34% of the year, which lends even more credence to the argument for seasonal packaging and ensuring perfection in every product shipped out.

The craze began back in 2006, when the new Nokia E61 was unveiled on camera as it was pried out of its packaging. The trend only picked up from there, with marketers and internet fame seekers alike jumping at the chance to reveal products fresh from the box, be it electronics through to toys and of course, luxury, fashion and beauty.

In 2015 alone, over 6.5 years’ worth of unboxing videos were uploaded to YouTube. Searching the video hub today yields over 53 million search results, at time of writing.

The better-produced videos are also achieving massive viewership. FunToyzCollector sits at the number three YouTube position with over 11.6 billion views, for instance. And the unboxing hobby can prove quite lucrative: another giant in the toy unboxing space, DC Toys Collector, raked in $4.9 million in 2014.

For brands, the profit component is much greater as each video contains the possibility to convert a viewer into a customer. Psychologist Diana Parkinson believes: “It’s the best, and cheapest form of advertising ever. These videos make us drool and desire what may well be unattainable.”

But why does all of this excite the viewer when they’ve got nothing to personally unwrap? According to Rajapack, our brains contain Anticipation Circuits that fire up when we see something building to a boil. Combined with a Mirror Neuron System that sets this in motion for other’s anticipation, we feel personally stimulated watching these videos. We go through the experience with the person on camera. “[It’s] totally voyeuristic, there is no material reward, only transitory visual reward,” Parkinson said.

The key to creating a coveted product and a successful unboxing video turns out to be as much about the box itself as its interior offerings. Author Martin Lindstrom of the New York Times bestseller, Buyology: How everything we believe about why we buy is wrong, claims this as truth for all buying experiences.

In building appropriate anticipation, the brand needs to factor in the packaging’s aesthetics, its sounds and even its tactile quality; all of which will be recounted to the viewer. This is something Apple does particularly well on all fronts, as featured in the above video example which has over seven million views.

This proves even more crucial in the luxury market where the consumer buys an experience with a product, whether opening it privately or with millions across the web.

Net-a-Porter's #thenetset still content back in 2013
Net-a-Porter’s #thenetset still content back in 2013

Fashion brands have long jumped on this bandwagon, of course, not only thinking about ensuring they’re offering high quality packaging but also how to benefit from the unboxing phenomenon directly. Net-a-Porter for instance leveraged its consumer champions by encouraging them to use the hashtag #thenetset on social media back in 2013, long before that same name became the company’s social commerce channel. While this was primarily pushed over Twitter and Instagram, the content at the time noted growing use of YouTube for unboxing by their fans.

The strongest effect of the psychology of unboxing and product videos, stands in the authenticity of these non-branded vloggers – in the notion of user generated content. According to Google findings in partnership with TNS and Ogilvy, there are particularly strong yields in the beauty market, where 66% of recent purchasers noted YouTube as a product visualisation aid pre-purchase.

In a fragmented digital marketplace, brand ambassadors and social media influencers have become commonplace. Potential customers look to these figureheads for insight. Another Google study revealed that 62% of people tuning into these videos do so once they’ve begun researching a particular product. As an animated reel of product reviews, these unscripted clips have become the modern day version of word of mouth.

Categories
e-commerce mobile

River Island pushes localised product listings using Google’s Local Inventory Ads

River Island
River Island

River Island has become the first UK fashion retailer to use Google’s Local Inventory Ads (LIAs) in an effort to bridge its on and offline presence.

Based on location technology in a user’s mobile device, the LIA will display River Island products directly to shoppers searching for relevant items nearby. For instance, and as per the image below, if the user is on the hunt for a black dress or a bomber jacket in their standard Google search, it will surface River Island product first and foremost (listed as sponsored and also including a map on the ‘shopping’ search page, as well as distance to that particular store).

To achieve that, a retailer must provide a well-organised inventory of product and have set a high enough bid within the Google system. Clicking on the ad for the user will then take them to a Google ‘Local Storefront’ page, where they are provided with further information on the product, retailer, price, nearby location, opening hours and a link to purchase online if applicable.

River Island's Google Local Inventory Ads
River Island’s Google Local Inventory Ads

In searching for the most seamless shopping experience for its consumer, River Island elected to only feature products available both in store and online in the ads. To do so, the company solicited the collaborative efforts of its retail, digital marketing and IT departments, along with the help of inventory feed provider Intelligent Reach for a unity of product offerings.

The project has proven successful thus far, with sales numbers climbing accordingly: 6% of clicks on the mobile-based LIAs resulted in a store visit, an increase of 17% compared to standard shopping campaigns. When looking at return on investment, the numbers were equally compelling with a 15% rise in return-on-ad-spend and a 33% increase in total sales (both on and offline).

Josie Cartridge, customer director at River Island, said: “We’re pleased with the results of our LIA activity so far and it’s good to see targeted mobile activity driving sales in-store as well as online. Mobile offers us lots of opportunity to enhance the shopping experience through location technology and stock information and we’re excited to keep working with Google and developing in this area.”

In an effort to keep the growth consistent, River Island plans to invest further into its LIA strategy. The retailer has expressed interest in using in-store beacons to collect even more accurate store visit data which can be applied towards its LIA automated bidding strategy.

It also recently launched its Christmas campaign starring Caroline Vreeland and Shea Marie of Peace Loves Shea as they get ready for a festive night out. You can also check out the rest of this year’s seasonal films, here.

Categories
mobile social media

Anya Hindmarch introduces digital art app inspired by 8-bit graphics

PIX by Anya
PIX by Anya

British designer Anya Hindmarch has launched an app tied to her autumn/winter 2016 collection focusing on pixelated artwork.

The PIX by Anya mobile experience, invites fans to share in the collection’s inspiration of “8-bit graphics and the origins of digital art” by distorting their own images.

Users can upload and convert their shots into an artistic blur created of circles, squares, triangles or cubes. There are four different pixel styles to choose from, each “pinchable” to adjust the pixel size. Needless to say, selfies are proving popular.

PIX by Anya
PIX by Anya

The interactive app asks users to share the #PIXbyAnya hashtag with their resulting artwork. In addition to the app’s main function, other features include inviting the user to read about the collection, watch a stream of the AW16 runway show, peruse collection images and connect to the online store.

The collection itself (as below) features innovative leatherwork techniques such as heat-fusing and leather marquetry to showcase the “building blocks of digital design”. Moving beyond simple mosaics, designs include famed characters from first generation arcade games such as Space Invaders and Pacman, not to mention an overarching striking resemblance to Tetris.

In speaking on the collection as a whole, Hindmarch says it “explores the development of artificial consciousness and poses the question, do computers dream when they sleep?”

PIX by Anya
Anya Hindmarch AW16
PIX by Anya
Anya Hindmarch AW16
Categories
mobile product technology

Topshop introduces second bPay wearables collection

Topshop-bpay-wearables
Topshop’s latest bPay accessories line

Topshop has launched a second collection of accessories activated for payments thanks to a partnership with Barclays’ bPay contactless technology.

Hot off the heels of its successful November iteration of bPay wearables, which featured brightly coloured pieces in a monster motif, the new items target a more luxe aesthetic.

The six-piece collection features bracelets, phone cases and robot-themed keyrings in gold metallics and faux snakeskin detailing. The price point comes in slightly higher than the original £15 by dropping stickers from the line and adding in better quality materials. For £25-£35, a shopper can pick up the new wares both in-store or online.

Each accessory holds a small bPay contactless chip, which links to a secure digital wallet. Anyone with a UK Visa or MasterCard debit or credit card (not just Barclays customers) can use it, adding funds via a mobile app or online through the bPay web portal.

The focus is on a quick purchase market – much like competitors Apple and Android Pay – accommodating transactions up to the contactless limit of £30. Keep the device topped up between £5-£200 and it will be accepted anywhere with contactless payment scanners.

Categories
Editor's pick social media

Alexander Wang launches Apple Music’s new fashion channel

alexander-wang-apple-music-fashion
Alexander Wang for Apple Music

Alexander Wang is the latest fashion brand to collaborate with Apple, this time to launch the Apple Music Fashion channel.

The designer has curated three different playlists for the live streaming service accessible via iTunes; each designed to fit with fashion and music lovers’ daily lives.

For unwinding, he presents a Chill playlist including The Weekend, Drake, and Juicy J. A Hype playlist includes Diplo, Skrillex, and M.I.A., and is set to “kick up the energy” on route to a festival or party. And for the in-between moments, Wang’s Vibe playlist rides the highs and lows with music by A$AP Rocky, Chris Brown and Kendrick Lamar.

“I love musicians because they personify their work. It’s always exciting to see a new, up-and-coming musician evolve and watch how their physical appearance evolves as their music evolves because of who they’re collaborating with or what designers they start working with,” Wang told Vogue. “That’s the thing about musicians that I’m attracted to, that their physical appearance and their style play such a big role in how they connect to people. In fashion, the biggest movements that I feel connected to have always been from music, whether it’s grunge, punk, glam rock, hip-hop.”

Alexander-Wang-Apple-Music-fashion-playlists

To introduce the collaboration, a short video was released titled When Fashion Gets Turned Up. The comical spot features Wang prepping for a house party to A$AP Ferg’s “Work”, before ultimately falling asleep prior to the guest arrivals.

Throughout the year, Wang will be adding to the playlists in order to keep fans and listeners up to date with his music preferences. Other channels on Apple Music Fashion come from Burberry, Vogue and Dazed.

Categories
Events product technology

Designers imagine the future of performance-wear with 2040 sport event at Arizona State University

Running man polygonal

Arizona State University will be hosting the fifth annual edition of its Emerge festival tomorrow – an occasion that will bring together the minds of artists, scientists, storytellers, engineers, dancers, roboticists, ethicists and athletes, in creating an imagined future.

Designed to cater to a crowd of innovators and forward thinkers, the focus this year is on “The Future of Sport 2040”. The carnival atmosphere will allow for a wholly interactive experience from advanced robotics demonstrations to group TED talks with influencers from an array of industries.

Topics will include the future of cheating, the future of big data, super-cyborgs and athletes in outer space. The future of performance-wear will also play a major role, with a runway set up in the Wells Fargo Arena to convey the work of 10 designers. Concept pieces created especially for the occasion will be on show, presenting the impact of future technologies through explanations by an emcee in place of such functionality yet being possible. Once the looks have been modelled, they will take to a podium for further observation and designer Q&A.

Arizona designer Angela Johnson and Project Runway participant Emily Payne were both involved. As the owner of LabelHorde – a hub for manufacturing, design services, co-working, education and more – Johnson took the helm on rounding up designers to participate.

Angela Johnson's Future of Sport 2040 look
Angela Johnson’s Future of Sport 2040 look

She also created her own look, a piece she refers to as multi-purpose with a sleek form accompanied by breathable panels. “The technology involved is in the fibre, in that the fabric acts like a video screen. The fabric will show video of the athlete’s name, number, team logo, sponsor logo, etc,” she explains. Typically an eveningwear designer, she describes the best part of participating in the event as “pushing [herself] to think outside of [her] usual box”.

Designer Miqala Salinas meanwhile, constructed football (soccer) uniforms that include pulse-controlled heart monitors and dual temperature controls. Cristy Auble – who is otherwise a fashion merchandising teacher in Arizona – designed cheerleading outfits that are completely flexible, breathable and waterproof. She did so incorporating present day Gore-Tex or PUL fabrics, which she believes to be impressively futuristic. “This fabric is so lightweight, I can’t believe it would be as warm as my heavy wool letterman’s jacket,” she says.

Anya Melkozernova by comparison fabricated her outfit on a truly futuristic concept: “In the year 2040, humans have made it to Jupiter and have employed its magnetic surface for an obstacle course game designed to use magnets to aid the athlete through the challenges. The player will be wearing a magnet plated suit, a space helmet with oxygen supply and LED light-up shoes for the underwater parts of the course,” she explains.

Sketches of Future of Sport 2040 looks
Sketches of Sharane Dorrah, Anya Melkozernova and Miqala Salinas’ Future of Sport 2040 looks

Some designers borrowed from personal experience in coming to future solutions. Sharane Dorrah for instance designed a sleek hooded jacket in direct response to her personal battle with Lyme Disease in 2011, incorporating insect repellent into the fabric.

And industrial design grad student Jacob Sarradet, recalled his time running cross-country and track and field in high school: “I’d feel the pain in my body and wonder what it was. Was it a result of pushing myself or was something wrong?” He devised a wristband that would monitor oxygen levels in order to track the level of performance to answer some of those questions for athletes. Coming from a non-fashion background, he’s left the aesthetics of his piece up to others. A basic LED screen will be customisable, with the true styling of the garment available for download from any number of online retailers.

Joel Garreau, founding chief of imagineering and provocations at the Emerge festival, says: “[The aim] is to invent futures in which we can thrive. Not the ones we fear, but the ones we can love.”

If you happen to be in Phoenix this Friday, step into the future from 5pm to 10pm at Emerge 2016: The Future of Sport 2040.

Categories
e-commerce Editor's pick product social media

#ICYMI: Alice + Olivia to live stream “see now, buy now” Coachella show

aliceandolivia_coachella

Hot on the heels of brands like Burberry, Tom Ford and Rebecca Minkoff, comes further news in the “see now, buy now” stakes, and this time not tied to fashion weeks.

New York brand Alice + Olivia is launching a shoppable runway show attached to the behemoth of the US festival season, Coachella.

Held in collaboration with Neiman Marcus, it will run just two short days before the highly anticipated opening weekend of the Californian music festival.

Aptly, the brand’s spring 2016 collection favours a bohemian aesthetic. Though a selection of those pieces were presented at New York Fashion Week back in September 2015, a fresh capsule collection inspired by Grateful Dead will be presented as well.

We’re yet to discover if tie-dye and roughed-up rocker roses will replace creative director and CEO Stacey Bendet’s customary geo prints and ditzy florals, but several sneak-peaks on the brand’s Instagram account point to the expected teddy motif so related to Grateful Dead. The reception by fans has been one of extreme yearning, with the first collection video pushing 15k views in just one day.


T – 1 week til my @gratefuldead capsule hits stores! ? #AOxGratefulDead

A video posted by alice + olivia by StaceyBendet (@aliceandolivia) on


Said Bendet: “A ‘See Now, Buy Now’ runway show is something I have been wanting to do for a few seasons but it took time to feel out when and where felt right. I wanted what I showed on that runway to be relevant to what consumers actually want to wear, now. I came up with the idea to have the show around Coachella and have the runway looks be based upon things that every girl would want to wear to a music festival.”

The entire production will be live streamed on the social media accounts of both Alice + Olivia and Neiman Marcus from its NeueHouse Hollywood venue in LA on April 13. Immediately following the presentation, 12 exclusive items will be available for purchase online giving last minute ticket-holders an opportunity to clinch a less-predictable festival look.

Categories
business e-commerce Editor's pick

8 unique e-commerce sites you need to bookmark immediately

Bow & Drape
Bow & Drape

As with everything digital – noise is one of the greatest barriers to success. With more players in the space, comes increased difficulty around standing out. E-commerce business is no different.

Responsive mobile sites and extensive product detail – once considered special features – are now points of parity. Ideas like free shipping, blog content and wish lists are commonplace. With consumer expectations at an all-time high, going above and beyond is harder than ever too.

Today, landing the claim of “hidden gem” particularly is no small feat. Up against established names including Net-a-Porter and Zappos, through to Farfetch, Lyst, Zalando and more, start-ups and smaller players must increasingly find ways to differentiate themselves in order to get seen. After all, it’s not just about giving shoppers reasons to visit, but convincing them it’s worth hanging around long enough to spend too.

While the specifics vary, the bulk of the success stories can be summarised under three headings: exclusivity, editorial and user experience. Read on for a highlight of eight lesser-known or particularly unique names worth checking out:


1. Shop-GhostShopghost

For a curator of high-end designer pieces, Shop-Ghost does nothing like its competition. The website is quirky and drunk with dizzied content, but somehow, it works. Tumblr-style clustered graphics are met with fragmented thoughts in “blog posts” that suggest pieces to fit the mood. The website is not searchable, does not bother with filters and offers anything BUT a clean interface. The zine formatting even forces users off the site to make the actual purchase. This is the digital version of the cluttered shop that oozes cool and finds you fleeing with three bags in tow. www.shopghost.com


2. Bow & Drape

Bow & Drape

Bow & Drape finds its niche right at the cusp of where young Millennials match up with Gen Z. This pop culture hub plays right into its market, updating simple garments with customisable and glittered-emoji makeovers, finished with the catchphrase du jour. A shoppable Instagram section also sees a witty artful take on meme-manufacturing, keyed in on ‘90s nostalgia and modern trends. www.bowanddrape.com


3. Semaine

Semaine

Each week, Semaine focuses on a new tastemaker, allowing a completely shoppable behind-the-curtains reveal into their lives. Monday begins with a short film or profile of the individual in question, while each subsequent day then features another glance into their lives, ranging from their beauty regimes to the dust collectors on their bookshelves. www.semaine.com


4. The Iconic

The Iconic

If you’re in Australia – this name won’t be new to you. For everyone else, it’s worth knowing for the unique fashion glossary on offer – a categorisation feature every site should consider implementing. The fashion conscious shopper is able to use it as a tool to quickly navigate the expansive site offerings in search of their unique piece. The fashion newcomer, however, gets a complete education in images akin to a more accurate and completely shoppable Google Image search. www.theiconic.com.au


5. Brika

Brika

Brika is the perfect online destination for the shopper with DIY pipedreams, but lack of skills to deliver. Each day, a new artist is introduced on the homepage with their story and collection featured. In search of art, home décor, jewelry, accessories or even little knick-knacks for kids, this is the destination that breeds the perfect kitsch meets craft item. www.brika.com


6. Shoes of Prey

Shoes of Prey

For the love of shoes, a woman need look no further than Shoes of Prey, which enables users to customise every aspect of their footwear, from sole to zipper. What makes this a standout offering is the expansive colour selection and a complete 360-degree view of the final designs. www.shoesofprey.com


7. Of a Kind

Of a Kind

This one may already be on your list – if it’s not, it’s really time to bookmark it. An online concept store, it specialises in limited runs of items created especially for its website. The supply side of the operation comes from emerging designers, which further appeals to the quaint luxury of the setup. The special items are deemed “# of a kind”, letting the consumer know just how unique their buy is. Each item is also paired with a beautifully photographed story, similar pieces to curate a collection and non-exclusive add-ons that make the look. www.ofakind.com


8. Vide Dressing

Vide Dressing

The consignment model is completely revamped by Vide Dressing – the eBay of the pre-owned luxury fashion market. Sellers post their goods, get them checked over by a legal team for authenticity and then have 72 hours to ship to their buyer after purchase. The unique feature that sets Vide Dressing apart from competitors such as Vestiaire Collective is a money-back guarantee within 48 hours of product receipt. www.videdressing.co.uk