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How brands can find their own voice in a screenless future

Amazon Alexas and Google Homes have been popping up in households around the world, and it is expected that there will be 8 billion voice assistants by 2023. While so far, the technology has mainly been used for running other smart devices in the home, asking novelty questions or setting timers, there is strong potential for fashion and beauty brands to focus on the retail aspect of the experience.

Voice commerce sales totaled a whopping $2.1 billion last year, and it is predicted that consumers will use the technology for almost a fifth of their total spending by 2021. For brands, this is not only a new a new opportunity to connect with its customers, but an important new sales channel. 

Last year we spoke to Amazon Alexa’s founder, William Tunstall-Pedoe, on the Innovators podcast, on how voice tech will impact retail. Although the technology is still in its early stages of development, Tunstall-Pedoe envisioned a future that is all connected: “I think you’ll be surprised in a couple of years if you speak to a device and it doesn’t reply.” He believes that the technology will be transformative, with the artificial intelligence behind voice assistants eventually interconnecting everything around us. 

As far into the future as it sounds, this concept may be happening a lot sooner than we think. 

From creating moments of discovery to enabling better store interactions, we explore 3 ways that brands retailers can be leveraging voice tech in order to enhance customer experience.

Gaining traction
Rebook’s limited edition Club C sneakers

One of the biggest challenges retailers and brands face when engaging in voice interactions is how to get their product discovered. The lack of a screen and the current intelligence of algorithms means that shopping on these platforms is generally a linear journey, and unless the customer is looking for a specific brand, surfacing as a suggestion is virtually impossible. 

One way retailers can adapt to the technology is by utilizing it in their marketing strategy. Reebok, for example teamed up with Amazon and Google for the launch of its Swarovski sneakers collaboration. Consumers could win a pair of the limited edition trainers by asking their voice assistant to “open Reebok Sneaker Drop”, which would automatically enter them into the competition. On the day of the launch, 50 lucky winners were announced through the voice channels. 

This specific campaign showed that as the popularity of the drop model starts to lose steam, voice tech could help reignite its spark. This approach is also particularly effective with the younger generation who is not only tech-savvy, but constantly looking to be challenged in order to land exclusive products.

Setting the tone
Mastercard’s sonic branding

Marketers often talk about fighting to get through the noise, but now brands are literally fighting to get their voices heard. In the near future, owning a clear brand voice, which aligns to its overall identity and DNA, is going to be an important tool to have under the belt. 

As voice tech gets more sophisticated, we’re seeing that brands will start to move away from the generic ‘Alexa’ or ‘Cortana’ voices, into recognizable accents that differentiate the brand from competitors. Developing the correct tone of voice will be key to building brand loyalty, as 72% of consumers believe brands should have a unique voice and personality.

Mastercard has been experimenting with sound architecture by creating its own sonic brand identity which is simple, memorable and adaptable. The distinct melody is played at every touchpoint of the consumer journey, with the intention of helping reinforce the brand’s values and build deeper connections with its customers. This indicates that although brands have long relied on having a purely visual identity, in the future, they are going to have to adapt to an environment that is increasingly audio-friendly (and often screenless).

Enhancing the in-store experience
H&M’s voice activated mirror

68% of consumers say voice assistants free them to multitask and accomplish tasks hands-free in the home, but how could that translate in-store? For example in a fitting room, a voice assistant could make product recommendations, check for other sizes, or even offer styling tips.

Last year, H&M tested the use of voice-activated mirror at its NYC flagship, which allowed users to access style advice, discounts and even take selfies. The mirror gained a lot of traction, with 150 interactions per day, while 85% of people who did so, scanned an additional QR code to receive a discount. The mirror was implemented as a standalone feature, but in the future, this technology could potentially move into changing rooms, allowing people to experience it privately (and therefore lowering the barrier to entry.)

In 2016, Gartner predicted that by next year 30% of web browsing would be screenless. Brands and retailers must therefore keep up with the pace of change, or risk being excluded from this emerging behavior that is increasingly leaning towards audio.

How are you thinking about new technology? The Current Global is a transformation consultancy driving growth within fashion, luxury and retail. Our mission is to solve challenges and facilitate change. We are thinkers and builders delivering innovative solutions and experiences. Each of the rules referenced above is matched by one of our products and services. Interested in how? Get in touch to learn more.

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e-commerce Retail technology

Coty launches hair color app for Google Assistant

Coty’s Clairol brand has launched a new app for the Google Assistant platform that talks consumers through the entire at-home hair dyeing process – from finding the right shade to aftercare.

The ‘Clairol Color Expert’ is triggered when the user says “Hey Google, talk to Clairol”. From then on the app (or Action, as it is called on the Google Assistant platform), talks users through finding the ride dye shade to suit their needs, how to apply the color, re-apply, and take care of their hair at home, with no professional help.

“In beauty, service is the new product, and for consumers, the real value of a product is not just what’s in the box, but the expertise and service that comes with it,” says Fred Gerantabee, Coty’s VP of digital innovation. “We worked with Google, who helped us identify insights around known category challenges combined with how (and where) beauty consumers are using voice assistants. By delivering Clairol expertise through the unique Google Assistant ecosystem we are able to transform the at home hair color experience and truly help Clairol consumers feel confident that they will get better results with a lifeline and expert at every step of their journey.”

For the beauty group, the Google Assistant, which is currently available on 500 million devices from Google Home speakers to smart TVs, is the ideal platform for its target audience of women aged 18 to 34, who buy at home color. Being able to access it through a myriad of different devices completely hands-free is an important tool to help women overcome the challenges of coloring their own hair, says the brand, which is often the reason why they choose to go to professional salons instead.

Although it is still lagging behind the Amazon Alexa ecosystem in terms of consumer adoption, the Google Assistant has been gaining traction with more and more brands and retailers creating Actions for the platform, such as Nike and Sephora.

Meanwhile earlier this year, Coty also announced the introduction of a beauty skill for the Amazon Alexa Echo platform, which features a screen, allowing users to get beauty tutorials from brands across its portfolio.  

Seemingly the initiative wasn’t just a marketing exercise but an opportunity for both customer acquisition and conversion. According to the brand, 95% of users interacting with the experience were pleased with the result, with 80% of them new customers to Coty’s brands. The skill also resulted in 7.5x higher click through rate than an average Amazon media campaign. 

How are you thinking about retail innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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Campaigns e-commerce Editor's pick Retail

Calvin Klein to launch interactive NYC Market with Amazon Fashion

Calvin Klein Jeans Fall Campaign

Calvin Klein is partnering with Amazon Fashion to bring to life its Fall 2018 jeans campaign through an immersive retail experience in New York.

The Calvin Klein x Amazon Fashion NYC Market, as it’s called, sees three major attractions – a photobooth with flying popcorn, a photoshoot set-up themed around the brand’s “Together In Denim Billboard” campaign, and a giant water-box installation.

Visitors will also have the chance to win exclusive Calvin Klein products such as jeans and underwear designs, as well as Amazon devices, by playing games on site.

Calvin Klein Jeans “Together In Denim” billboard

 

“By joining Amazon Fashion’s digital expertise with Calvin Klein’s physical presence, we are creating a ‘phy-gital’ experience in the middle of New York City, reinforcing our commitment to a consumer-first strategy,” Marie Gulin-Merle, chief marketing officer of Calvin Klein Inc. told WWD.

Further detail show the interactive photobooth will feature levitating popcorn that visitors will be able to take a picture with. It was inspired by the Calvin Klein 205W39NYC Fall 2018 runway show, which saw the floor covered with the white snack.

The re-enactment of the brand’s “Together in Denim Billboard” campaign, which saw models posing on an oversized billboard, will have a professional photographer on site ensuring social media-ready snaps.

And the giant water-box will house vending machines where visitors have the chance to win limited edition artworks from the Fall campaign.

Calvin Klein Fall 2018 runway show

Amazon will also host an Amazon Alexa Jukebox Lounge, where an analog Juke Box enhanced through the Alexa voice technology, will allow visitors to interact with the music played on digital screens. Guests will also have the chance to use their voice to control the music and lighting.

Any visitors keen to purchase Calvin Klein merchandise on site will be able to do so smoothly through Smile Codes (Amazon-branded QR codes), which will give visitors access to the dedicated Calvin Klein website on Amazon Fashion. A dedicated #MyCalvins Campaign Shop will allow them to try things on when on site.

To further encourage consumer purchasing, the brand has also created a denim jacket in collaboration with rap star A$AP Rocky, exclusively available on Amazon Fashion.

This is the second time the brand has partnered with Amazon Fashion for an interactive experience. In November of 2017 the brand opened a tech-enabled store in Los Angeles and New York, selling exclusive stock and offering in-store customization stations.

How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about helping you build innovative integrations and experiences. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology, powered by a network of top startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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Editor's pick product technology

Ministry of Supply introduces AI-enabled heated jacket

Ministry of Supply's intelligent heated jacket
Ministry of Supply’s intelligent heated jacket

US performance label Ministry of Supply has launched an intelligent heated jacket that uses machine learning to adjust the garment’s temperature.

The Mercury jacket creates a microclimate optimized to the wearer’s body by using a custom microcontroller heating system to heat up carbon-fiber heating pads sewn in the garment’s lining. The system takes in to consideration the weather and body temperature, motion data, and user preference to modulate power. For example, when walking to a train stop the jacket senses temperatures and an elevating heart rate, as well as user behaviour learnt through time, to regulate the system.

The machine learning element ensures that the more feedback the user gives its accompanying app, the better the system gets at learning their preferences. Meanwhile an added voice element allows wearers to naturally activate the jacket through a smart assistant like Amazon Alexa.

Ministry of Supply's Mercury Jacket
Ministry of Supply’s Mercury Jacket

“Our mission is to invent clothing that blends form and functionality — and temperature regulation is one of the most important factors in comfort,” says the brand’s team. “We’re excited to present our vision of what wearable technology can become, not just a way to monitor our vitals – but also act on it allowing us to become more comfortable and capable because of it. The Intelligent Heated Jacket is just that literally putting a learning thermostat in your jacket.”

Since Ministry of Supply’s inception, it has approached clothing through a human-centric, design-led methodology that takes into consideration both aesthetic and function. The jacket has been developed to replace any other outerwear alternative.

The jacket’s production is being crowdfunded via a campaign on Kickstarter. Since its launch yesterday (February 21) the jacket has trebled its original donations goal, to reach over $150K in pledges.

This is Ministry of Supply’s third successful Kickstarter campaign. In 2012, it launched the Apollo shirt, which controls body temperature after raising over $400K. Following that, the Atlas socks, which are made out of coffee beans that filter out sweat, raised over $200K or its $30K goal.

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business data digital snippets e-commerce Startups sustainability technology

What you missed: retail’s existential reckoning, Echo Dot is the Christmas best seller, bots on the rise

2017 was the year of retail’s existential reckoning
2017 was the year of retail’s existential reckoning

A round-up of everything you might have missed in relevant fashion business, digital comms and tech industry news over the final fortnight of 2017.


TOP STORIES
  • 2017 was the year of retail’s existential reckoning [Quartz]
  • The Echo Dot was the best-selling product on all of Amazon this holiday season [TechCrunch]
  • Bots are about to get better at customer support than humans [Wired]
  • The last days of Colette [Garage]

BUSINESS
  • Retailers feel shoppers’ Christmas cheer [WSJ]
  • Jonathan Saunders steps down from DVF role [Guardian]
  • Meet Oscar Olsson, the mind behind H&M’s new brand for millennials [TheCut]
  • Reformation raises $25 million to fuel brick-and-mortar growth [BoF]
  • Clothing companies are trashing unsold merchandise instead of donating it [TheOutline]
  • With Phoebe Philo leaving Céline, what’s next? [BoF]
  • UK cotton back in production in Manchester [BBC]

MARKETING
  • Adidas brings all-star talent and tech to the table [BrandChannel]

E-COMMERCE
  • Prada launches e-commerce platform in China [Reuters]
  • The fake news of e-commerce [Racked]
  • There’s money to be made in returning e-commerce orders [LA Times]
  • What fashion brands can learn from Nike’s first six months as an Amazon partner [Glossy]
  • E-commerce company ThredUP rolls out AI-powered ‘goody boxes’ to rival discount clothing chains [AdWeek]

STORES
  • Walmart is developing a personal-shopper service for rich moms — and a store with no cashiers [Recode]
  • Sephora mastered in-store sales by investing in data and cutting-edge technology [AdWeek]

TECHNOLOGY
  • This is Magic Leap’s mixed reality headset [Engadget]
  • If the bitcoin bubble bursts, this is what will happen next [Wired]
  • Mall of America gets high-tech with chatbot and humanoid robots [Racked]
  • Ikea is stepping into virtual reality by creating a game for new store openings [AdWeek]
  • Beauty tech made major strides in 2017, and it’s only the beginning [Fashionista]

START-UPS
  • Target to buy Shipt for $550 million in challenge to Amazon [Bloomberg]
  • Meet the nanotech scientist who used her mad skills to build a better party clutch [FastCompany]
Categories
data e-commerce Editor's pick mobile social media sustainability technology

2017: A designer meets digital year in review

Chanel's spacecraft at Paris Fashion Week (Image: Vogue Paris) - space technology - space race
Chanel’s spacecraft at Paris Fashion Week (Image: Vogue Paris)

It’s always interesting looking back at the most-read stories on the site for the year – a hugely indicative view on what the big subjects have been and the direction of travel accordingly for the industry.

This year – while we’ve been living a particularly tough time for retail, with multiple bankruptcies and ongoing store closures – the lens through which we report, has only been a positive one.

There’s been a big focus on sustainability for instance, from new bioengineered materials actually hitting at a commercial level, through to the role blockchain can play in enabling greater transparency.

Artificial intelligence has also been a particularly pertinent subject – ranging from the impact it’s having on personalisation, to the future of automated stores and the role of voice technology.

On the subject of the future, our ongoing fascination with space travel hit fever pitch this year too – as a society at large, and within the fashion industry itself once more – which was reflected in our long-read on the future branding opportunity that lies in spacesuits.

On top of that in our 10 most popular stories on Fashion & Mash this year was a look at augmented reality, the evolving view on the store of the future and the way in which Instagram Stories is being used.

Enjoy!

Categories
e-commerce mobile social media technology

You can now get beauty tips from Amazon Alexa, thanks to Wunder2

The Beauty Tips skill on Amazon Alexa from Wunder2
The Beauty Tips skill on Amazon Alexa from Wunder2

Wunder2, the cosmetics company behind viral eyebrow product, WunderBrow, has launched an Amazon Alexa skill to provide voice-based beauty tips to consumers.

The initiative offers users access to current beauty trends, insights on great make-up hacks and details on products to buy.

To activate it, consumers ask Alexa what the “beauty tip of the day” is. The artificial intelligence platform will then respond with tips from make-up artists such as how to create flawless brows or how to get a holiday party look. The tips update daily.

“Our decision to develop on Alexa goes back to our roots as founders – which are within digital advertising and tech,” says CEO and co-founder Michael Malinsky.

“We are amazed by the way voice technology can add convenience and seamlessly improve daily tasks, routines and decisions. We have made a meaningful impact in the colour cosmetic space by introducing products that are innovative and technologically advanced, and feel that what we’ve learned about our products, and about using them, can and should be shared conveniently.”

Soon Alexa will also send videos that correspond to the tips so users can see them visually on their phones, computer screens, or even TV, the team added.

Users can also conveniently choose and buy Wunder2 products, which are top sellers on Amazon, just by continuing to chat with Alexa.

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e-commerce Editor's pick technology

ICYMI: Perry Ellis offers voice-activated menswear style advice via Amazon Alexa

Ask Perry Ellis on Amazon Alexa
Ask Perry Ellis on Amazon Alexa

Perry Ellis has introduced “Ask Perry Ellis”, an Amazon Alexa skill that aims to give style advice and outfit options to men using the voice-activated artificial intelligence.

The brand created the skill based on a study it commissioned that found more than one-third of men admit to having skipped an event because they didn’t have the right clothes to wear, said president Melissa Worth. Meanwhile, 76% of men said they would be interested in using a technology that would help them find outfits for occasions they find challenging to dress for.

The skill launches as a time when Amazon is upping its range of Echo devices that house the Alexa AI. It is triggered when the user says: “Alexa, ask Perry Ellis what I should wear to… [a specific occasion].” Alexa then replies by offering an appropriate look for over 150 occasions, including jury duty, a wedding, a networking event and even Mardi Gras.

Ask Perry Ellis on Amazon Alexa
Ask Perry Ellis on Amazon Alexa

The aim is to drive engagement and ultimately push users to purchase. When asking for advice on what to wear to a Skype interview, for instance, Alexa creatively replies: “Look sharp on screen in our Slim Tech Washable Suit jacket and stay comfortable in a pair of Conformity boxer briefs.”

The app also takes into account the venue, weather and dress code, and then sends a selection of outfits to the user’s Alexa app, and email address. Interestingly, they can then click through to PerryEllis.com to complete the purchase, rather than the more obvious route of Amazon itself.