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e-commerce Retail social media

Instagram launches seamless checkout with Burberry, Zara and more

Instagram has announced a new shopping feature that allows customers to complete their purchases without ever having to leave the app. Launch partners include fashion brands such as Burberry, Zara and H&M.

The feature, called Instagram Checkout, allows customers to check out on product purchases with one click, without having to leave the app. Previously, clicking the shopping tag on posts led users to an external e-commerce page. The customer journey is now entirely seamless: users only needing to pre-register their payment and delivery details the first time they use it, and can purchase with one click from then on. Users will also receive push notifications from Instagram on their orders, such as when it has been shipped.

The feature is currently only available in the US through 20 participating brands, which also includes Revolve, MAC Cosmetics and Oscar de la Renta.

Speaking on the launch, Rachel Waller, VP of marketing, digital at Burberry said: “Burberry is always pushing for digital innovation that improves our customers’ experience. We have seen great results from the monthly B Series product drops which launched last September, bridging the journey from inspiration to e-commerce for our social community for the first time,” adding, “We are excited to expand our social commerce as one of the first brands to adopt checkout on Instagram”

Instagram shopping feature Checkout Instagram

Posting on Instagram Stories on Tuesday (March 19), the platform’s head of fashion partnerships, Eva Chen, gave her followers a sneak peak of other brands who will be joining in the upcoming weeks, including Dior, Prada, Uniqlo and Kylie Cosmetics.

Instagram has continuously improved its shopping features in order to align with consumer demand for more frictionless social shopping. Last September, it also announced shopping capabilities on its Stories and Explore features.

How are you thinking about e-commerce innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners for your innovation strategy. The Current Global 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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e-commerce technology

Amazon Go is a go! Automated store opens to the public

Amazon Go
Amazon Go

Amazon has opened its highly anticipated automated store – Amazon Go – to the public, more than a year after it launched the pilot.

The Seattle-based grocery store has no cashiers on site, as well as no checkouts for shoppers to contend with. Instead they download the Amazon Go app and scan it on entry. From there they can simply walk out with products in order to activate automatic payment.

The idea for the store came five years ago at Amazon. According to Recode, Dilip Kumar, the Amazon Go technology chief who served for nearly two years as CEO Jeff Bezos’ technical adviser, asked the question: “What can we do to improve on convenience?” The answer consistently came back to solving the fact people don’t like waiting in line.

The resulting 1,800 sq ft space features special cameras, shelf sensors that track inventory and the company’s computer vision system. As a result, it knows when you have put something back down, comparative to when you’ve actually walked out with it.

This isn’t however a completely employee-free zone – various staff are on hand to help at the entrance and to restock the shelves.

Until now, only employees of Amazon were able to use the store, which is housed within the e-commerce giant’s headquarters. The concept was first announced in December 2016 but has taken over a year to be consumer-ready while various bugs were ironed out. It couldn’t previously cope when the store got too crowded for instance or when items were misplaced.

The company has yet to announce plans for further rollout or for a business model attached to it. It is imagined however, that Amazon’s “Just Walk Out” technology may be licensed to other retail partners down the line.

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business e-commerce Editor's pick mobile technology

The automated future of the fashion store: where self-checkouts and human touch collide

Rebecca Minkoff's new self-checkout
Rebecca Minkoff’s new self-checkout

There was a media frenzy when Amazon Go was announced in December 2016. A grocery store based initially in Seattle, it enables shoppers to literally just walk out with whatever items they choose thanks to sensors recording what they pick up and charging back to their Amazon Prime accounts. Facilitated by first swiping the Amazon app on your smartphone, it nods to the automated future of retail, but more than that the growing potential ahead for the phone to control the entire commerce experience.

A wake-up call to retail execs around the world, the question on many people’s lips is whether that concept is equally applicable to other verticals? From a value proposition, not to mention strategic business perspective, it’s something that makes a great deal of sense for grocery, where both the barrier to entry and level of associated risk, is low. But for the sake of this argument, can it work for fashion? Will we all soon be able to pick up new clothes in-store and just walk out too, or will we always expect to have a level of human interaction with such tactile purchases?

The fact is, we live in an evermore-demanding society. Consumers today expect instant access to everything – from cars to food – at the touch of a screen. Patience has gone down. Convenience is key. Even in fashion, new businesses keep popping up offering us clothes for rent, clothes through our mailboxes, clothes tailored to our exact needs.

For all of these retailers, it’s a race to the bottom (led by Amazon no less) to offer faster than ever fulfilment to meet our expectations. The same goes in the store space, where standing in line to pay for something is as far removed as can be from the ease of the on-demand mobile era we otherwise inhabit, even at a luxury level.

This was part of the premise behind the launch of New York designer Rebecca Minkoff’s self-checkout in her Soho store at the end of 2016 too. Partnering with QueueHop to provide the technology, the aim was to ease the shopping experience for the millennial consumer the brand is targeted at. Unlike Amazon Go, there is still a checkout to contend with, but one the shopper can do for herself.

“More and more we are seeing millennials want to be in complete control of any and all of their shopping, and that includes payment. Long gone are the days where you needed to depend fully on a sales assistant to request new sizes or to ring you up,” said Uri Minkoff, CEO at Rebecca Minkoff. Part of his point is that there’s an inherent burden that comes with shopping in stores when the line is long. “If we could shave off time, would that spur consumers to go into stores more? Could that spur a return to retail?” he asked.

The other piece for the Rebecca Minkoff team was about reducing the “social friction” of a luxury shopping experience, or as Minkoff referred to it, removing the “Pretty Woman moment”. This means enabling shoppers to no longer feel judged by staff for what they look like and instead being left to enjoy the experience. “If we use technology to take that [bias] out of the equation, then we become blind to what a person looks like, meaning ultimately we can create a better relationship between the store associate and consumer,” he explains.

Katie Baron, head of retail, innovation and insights at trends service Stylus, agrees: “I think there’s a need to look at the wider implications of automation beyond the desire only for speed and convenience – understanding the mileage these concepts also have because of the sense of control they present to the consumer, who doesn’t always want to be steered or cajoled into line or, particularly in the case of luxury brands, have to contend with a rather intimidating experience.”

The QueueHop system comes with an RFID tag that brings the item up for payment on an iPad and an anti-theft device that only unlocks after that exchange is made. That means there is literally no need to speak to or deal with a sales associate at all if so desired, much like the online shopping experience feels.

Uri Minkoff in front of the new Rebecca Minkoff self-checkout
Uri Minkoff in front of the new Rebecca Minkoff self-checkout

Central to all of this is the fact the technology is only today fit for purpose, Minkoff said, emphasizing that he’s been working on this concept for two years. With stores (and products) today now evermore connected, the possibilities for this ahead are, of course, only going to improve. Rebecca Minkoff also has a connected fitting room experience for instance, while others including Ralph Lauren and Nordstrom are also playing in the space. As highlighted in this 2017 tech trends for retail list, it’s about the Internet of Things having a useful consumer impact by enabling a more frictionless mode of shopping.

As Uwe Hennig, CEO of retail software vendor, Detego, which works with other retail brands to help connect their clothing and their physical spaces, says: “We’re already starting to see a change in the way stores are being designed, with conventional [checkouts] being replaced by mobile terminals. […] In the not too distant future, you can expect to see retailers putting self-checkout systems directly into the fitting room, in combination with smart fitting rooms. These will allow consumers to try on clothes, but also browse and choose other accessories, styles or sizes and request sales staff bring them directly to the fitting room, as well as checkout themselves.”

He sees getting point of sale (POS) queues under control as of particular benefit to fast fashion retailers, over luxury – a boon to high traffic sites and particularly time-starved shoppers. For the more premium store by comparison, there’s somewhat of a gap between the values of automation, and a remaining focus on personalized service and interaction with the customer.

As Ana Andjelic, SVP and global strategy director at Havas Lux Hub, notes: “Self-checkouts are firmly going to set apart the mass/fast fashion from the premium/luxury fashion. They make more sense for the former, where it’s all about speed and volume versus the latter, when it’s about the quality of experience, of service and feeling being taken care of.” Indeed you can imagine automated purchases in H&M more so than Louis Vuitton.

Minkoff admits the feedback he’s received from the industry has been mixed: “Some brands have said ‘that’s amazing and we love it’, and others say ‘we don’t think it’s right for us’, and that’s totally cool.”

Of course, there were many brands who also believed e-commerce wasn’t going to impact the industry at one stage of its development, yet it’s now expected to be worth €70 billion annually for luxury goods by 2025, according to McKinsey.

The answer at this point, therefore, is about balance. José Neves, founder and CEO of online marketplace Farfetch, which also owns London boutique Browns, recently told the Guardian: “I’m a believer in physical retail experiences; I always say ‘fashion isn’t downloadable’. You need the human element – a program or piece of technology won’t provide the full level of care, attention and assistance that a shop assistant or customer service team will give. This interaction and engagement is an essential component of providing a luxury experience. On the other hand, you can’t ignore technology. To succeed we need to strike a balance between the online and offline experience.”

To achieve this Sucharita Mulpuru, chief retail strategist at Shoptalk, recommends thinking about high touch and low touch interactions with consumers in different ways. “Paying for your transaction needn’t be high touch. Even high-end hotels let you check out on your own, so self-checkout in stores shouldn’t be a foreign concept. That said, luxury will still need people in stores to greet people, to share the stories of the brand and the products, to manage exceptions and problems with transactions, etc. but for straightforward transactions, there is no reason that self-checkout shouldn’t be an option.”

Part of the issue, is that what a self-checkout looks like itself isn’t overly luxurious. “The form factor and execution will be critical. It would be silly to have a kiosk that looks like something you’d find at an airport, but if customers can check out on their own phones (like the Apple Stores allow), that could be the right approach,” Mulpuru adds.

Amazon Go operates on the basis of turnstiles similar to those found in the subway, which permit entry into the space once your Amazon app has been swiped. Uri Minkoff doesn’t imagine this will translate overly well to a high-end fashion store, but he does see the idea of more seamless automated transactions enabled in other ways in the future, so customers can similarly just walk out. “We’re already working on a next iteration that would make it even more seamless than it already is,” he explains. “I still think when dealing with items that are hundreds or thousands of dollars, then there’s got to be a security element to it. In a grocery setting, where an item, is a dollar or two, it’s different, but maybe through technology like facial recognition we will get there.”

Indeed, there’s no reason down the line why a luxury retail experience shouldn’t also include automatically identifying consumers (through facial recognition, or their phones, on an opt-in basis) when they enter the store in order to tailor service personally to them.

Andjelic suggests a layer of artificial intelligence is what will then make all the difference for luxury retailers adopting some level of automation at the checkout stage. “There’s tons that AI can do for luxury fashion when it comes to luxury stores as POS, and is all going to revolve around low-value interactions (like filling out one’s billing address) being outsourced to AI and high-value interactions (like white-glove customer service) belonging to humans. High-end fashion stores would definitely want to make the checkout process as seamless, efficient and convenient as possible, and AI will have a big role in that but more on the back-end side… What can we outsource to technology that is going to help us to have a better one-on-one personal relationship with our customers?”

John Vary, head of innovation at UK department store John Lewis, similarly imagines a future where in fact what we have is automation alongside human interaction to maintain a sense of luxury as far as fashion is concerned. He believes the result will be an enhancement of the customer experience, thanks to technology.

“We are moving to ‘intelligence amplification’ through the creation of intelligent artificial systems resulting in humans having extended ability to provide better services and solutions for customers,” he explains. “The rapid evolution of technology, such as computer vision and machine learning is enabling retailers to curate end-to-end customer journeys built for convenience and connectivity. Having a hybrid model is essential, and the next natural step in the adoption and evolution of these behaviors and the successful convergence of digital and human centered experiences.”

As Minkoff concludes: “We’re in a period of radical change, and the old way over the last 100 years of going to market, being based on a busy street and having good product, no longer cuts it alone. Some brands are slow to adopt, for some [such new technology] just doesn’t work, but either way, change is inevitable and we prefer to be at front of the pack than the back.”

This post first appeared on Forbes

Categories
Editor's pick technology

Rebecca Minkoff introduces self-checkout for millennial shoppers

Rebecca Minkoff's new self-checkout
Rebecca Minkoff’s new self-checkout

New York-based designer Rebecca Minkoff has launched a self-checkout option in her Soho store. Partnering with QueueHop to provide the technology, the aim is to ease the shopping experience for the millennial consumer the brand is targeted at.

“More and more we are seeing millennials want to be in complete control of any and all of their shopping, and that includes payment,” said Uri Minkoff, CEO at Rebecca Minkoff. “Long gone are the days where you needed to depend fully on a sales assistant to request new sizes or to ring you up. We needed to continue finding ways to make her feel like she can have multiple experiences.”

Part of that move is to protect a certain level of anonymity so highly regarded by supposed millennials, according to Minkoff. The QueueHop system comes with an RFID tag that brings the item up for payment on an iPad and an anti-theft device that only unlocks after that exchange is made. That means there is literally no need to speak to or deal with a sales associate at all if so desired, much like the online shopping experience feels.

As Minkoff told Fast Company: “When we were going through our initial technology layout, we took on the view that the millennial consumer either wanted to be treated like a celebrity—a VIP with full service—or anonymously. [We wondered] what if they could have the store to themselves after-hours? Or how could you approximate the online shopping experience that you’re checking out by yourself, and it’s very quiet?”

“Is this going to maximize our sales in a huge way? Probably not. Do we have a huge shrinkage [theft] problem? Probably not. But we think it’s important for us to let our customer know that we get her,” he added. He also referred to it as removing the “Pretty Woman moment” – enabling shoppers to no longer feel judged by staff for what they look like and instead enjoy the experience. It’s about letting technology police customers, rather than bias.

The Rebecca Minkoff Soho store also houses the brand’s connected fitting room experience, where users are able to reserve items, as well as change colours, sizing and more through the system, without having to hang their heads out and get a sales associate’s attention.

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business e-commerce

ShopStyle: Expansion takes it from search to digital marketplace

popsugar-800x508

For anyone who’s a regular user of the ShopStyle fashion search platform (and I’m one), there’s an interesting development due in Q2 as it transforms into a fashion marketplace with the launch of new shopping cart service, ShopStyle Checkout.

Parent company Popsugar said the aim is to enable consumers to purchase products from multiple retail partners in a single seamless transaction using one login.

The launch will be via ShopStyle’s iOS app and it will roll out across all the brand’s platform’s as well as 14,000 ShopStyle Collective influencer sites by year-end, Popsugar said.

Popsugar doesn’t intend that ShopStyle becomes an actual retailer itself, and the retail partners it signs up will remain the ‘merchant of record’.

So far it’s named a number of partners, including big hitters like Topshop and River Island, Target, Neiman Marcus and Yoox.com.

It could be pretty amazing – it will launch with over 3.4m products and expects to have over 100 retailers on board by the end of this year.

It’s certainly got a dynamic team behind it. Popsugar is one of those businesses that grew out of the digital revolution. Founded a decade ago as a blog by husband and wife Brian and Lisa Sugar, the media and tech company targeting millennial women is profitable and now has combined visitor traffic of 100m.

This post first appeared on Trendwalk.net, a style-meets-business blog by journalist, trends specialist and business analyst, Sandra Halliday

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digital snippets e-commerce film mobile social media Startups

Digital snippets: Polyvore sells to Yahoo, Calvin Klein on sexting, Marques’Almeida’s email campaign

Here’s a round-up of the latest stories to know about surrounding all things fashion and tech. Fashion & Mash is now taking a bit of a break for the summer in a bid to regenerate, but we’ll be back later in August…

calvin-klein-sexting-ad-750

  • Why Polyvore’s Jess Lee sold to Yahoo [TechCrunch]
  • Calvin Klein takes on sexting, Tinder to promote #mycalvins (as pictured) [WWD]
  • Marques’Almeida is releasing its new campaign by email [i-D]
  • Louis Vuitton to stage Instagram-friendly ‘Series 3’ exhibition in London [BoF]
  • Filmmaker and video artist Charles Atlas creates Calvin Klein Collection’s new fall campaign [Style.com]
  • The Asos approach to native content: authenticity [Digiday]
  • How Facebook (not YouTube) is helping Chubbies make videos about men’s shorts go viral [AdWeek]
  • Forever 21 launches Instagram powered thread screen [DigitalBuzzBlog]
  • Everlane’s mobile app: one-tap checkout, download incentives [Digiday]
  • Agile adaptors: How John Lewis, Argos and Westfield are innovating through start-ups [The Drum]
  • Do universal shopping carts have a future? [Fashionista]
  • If you think Amazon is huge now, wait until it becomes America’s biggest fashion retailer [Quartz]
Categories
e-commerce social media Startups technology

Personalised fashion marketplace Lyst launches “integrated checkout”

Lyst_integratedcheckout

Ever wanted to be able to buy a dress with the same sort of ease you can purchase an app? That’s the aim from social shopping site Lyst, now referred to as a “personalised fashion marketplace”, with the launch of its new integrated checkout feature from today.

The three-year-old company is introducing an express shopping option directly from individual product pages, meaning users are no longer taken to third-party sites to buy the pieces they want. In doing so it’s aiming to capture consumers at the moment of inspiration, rather than expecting them to fill out multiple sets of payment and shipping details around the web.

Launch partners include both retailers and brands, from Alexander Wang, Theory and Helmut Lang, to Satine, Revolve and Lane Crawford. Initially it’s for shipping to the US market only, with plans to expand internationally throughout the rest of the year.

Speaking at the press launch this morning, Chris Morton, co-founder and CEO, said there were already two million people visiting Lyst every month, 50% of which are in the US. “We expect to see a step change increase in the number of sales that we generate for our partners as a result of this,” he explained. Mobile is another big focus of this move to make checking out seamless, based off the fact traffic to Lyst from smartphones and tablet devices has grown from 8% in 2012, to 30% so far this year. “People are happy to buy on mobile today, we just have to make it easy for them,” Morton said.

Importantly, the process is also a very simple one for Lyst’s partners, separating the site out from other companies attempting to introduce the same. “There’s no integration work required for our partners, meaning there’s therefore no fees for them either. We’re really proud of that. It’s hard to make something very easy,” said Morton.

Lyst handles the actual purchase, using proprietary technology to securely store users’ payment and shipping information, reports WWD, but the fulfillment of the purchase is then carried out by the designer or retailer. Morton refers to it as “moving the buy button”. Everything after that from the delivery, to the customer service, even the packaging belongs to the brand. “Think of us as a shopping mall,” he said. “A marketplace.”

A key factor in making this work is that inventory availability is constantly tracked by Lyst. “I’ve been waiting for this day for three and a half years,” Morton started this morning, “but it was too difficult to do from a tech point of view before. The most important thing is that what we have on Lyst matches with what’s on those partner sites. If it doesn’t, that results in a bad experience for our consumers and seriously breaks down those relationships.” He has a significant tech team in place to make sure they’re constantly solving that problem.

Other launch partners include James Perse, Hudson Jeans, Maiyet, Rag & Bone, Cynthia Rowley, Intermix, the Yoox Group, Trina Turk and Seven For All Mankind. More than 7,000 designers are currently represented on Lyst.