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5 brands tapping virtual storefronts to drive engagement and push conversion.

Brands are using virtual experiences in physical locations to provide shoppers with the benefit of an interactive in-person experience without needing to carry inventory.

These “invisible” or virtual storefronts – usually in the form of augmented reality content visible via smartphones – are being used to drive sales, collect data and boost branding efforts. At a time when physical retail is struggling, such mobile initiatives aren’t just eye-catching, they’re more convenient by providing curated products that can then be delivered on demand. 

To date, we’ve seen brands doing everything from collaborating with artists and social media platforms to creating personalized assortments using such virtual setups. Shoppability is key. Here’s a highlight of some of the more recent success stories…

Havaianas
Havaianas’s boardwalk virtual store

Early this summer, footwear brand Havaianas launched a virtual storefront focused on driving sales for one day only. Located on the Venice Beach boardwalk in Los Angeles, shoppers passing by a colorful mural discovered it was actually a virtual pop-up store. Snapping a photo of the designs they liked directed them to a shoppable microsite at  StepIntoSummer.com, revealing a curated style guide with various tips on what to buy. 

The concept was powered by Google’s Cloud Vision AI platform, which helped Havaianas pair merchandise with colors from the mural – a big step up from QR codes. The brand collaborated with street artist Buff Monster on the mural and featured fashion tips from stylist Tara Swennen.

Lego
Lego’s augmented reality store

To promote its first limited-edition clothing line for adults, Lego opened a pop-up shop with a twist in February: the store was entirely empty. Shoppers in London’s Soho neighbourhood arrived to find a Snapcode (a QR code for Snapchat) displayed on a pedestal. Scanning the code with their phones then surrounded them with a virtual storefront in AR. 

Customers could choose between three different types of merchandise – sweatshirts, caps and t-shirts – and view them on a Lego character. The pieces then sold through an integrated “Shop Now” feature on Snapchat, which led shoppers through to a dedicated e-commerce page that displayed the products on a real-life model, enabling them to choose their size before completing purchase.

Macy’s
Macy’s Santa Monica Pier displays

Macy’s partnered with Pinterest to display scannable Pincodes at vibrant gathering spots in the US, such as Central Park in New York and the Santa Monica Pier in LA. Scanning a code took shoppers to a Pinterest board curated with ideal summer looks for their location with links to the online store. 

Unlike most immersive retail experiences that are fixed to a specific location, or indeed online only, this campaign was designed to inspire customers with virtual catalogs that meet them where they are. 

Nike
The Nike Air Jordan III “Tinker” sold out on Snapchat

Nike is another that has been experimenting with the idea of using specific virtual spaces to release new products. In 2018 it also used Snapchat, this time to release its Air Jordan III “Tinker” for those in attendance at the NBA All-Star after-party only.

 Achieved via a partnership between Nike, Snap, Darkstore and Shopify, users could scan exclusive Snap codes to buy and receive the shoes by 10:30pm that same night. All of them sold out within 23 minutes.

Outdoor Voices
Outdoor Voices augmented reality experience

Austin-based activewear brand Outdoor Voices launched an augmented reality app experience at SXSW in 2018 that encouraged fans to get outdoors to find particular virtual products in the middle of the park. Once discovered, users could explore them in 360-degrees, find out more information as well as click to purchase.

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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product technology

Rebecca Minkoff launches ‘connected’ bags that provide access to fashion week show

The new connected #AlwaysOn Midnighter handbag from Rebecca Minkoff
The new connected #AlwaysOn Midnighter handbag from Rebecca Minkoff

Rebecca Minkoff is continuing on her tech-enabled journey as a fashion brand, this time introducing smart tags to her new handbag designs in order to offer consumers access to exclusive content and experiences.

Ahead of her fashion week show taking place at The Grove in Los Angeles this weekend, 10 limited edition bags, dubbed the #AlwaysOn Midnighter style, will be available at an exclusive pop-up shop on site. Each one comes with a hangtag that unlocks a ticket to the spring/summer 2017 runway event when scanned.

The initiative is in partnership with apparel branding solutions Avery Dennison’s Retail Branding and Information Solutions (RBIS) division and Internet of Things platform EVRYTHNG. It follows the 2016 announcement of the duo’s #BornDigital concept, which aims to digitise 10 billion items of clothing and accessories over the next three years. The first iteration of this was seen with a limited edition run of jackets from New York menswear brand Rochambeau in October.

Rather than a one-off, in this instance, Rebecca Minkoff has further announced that all of its bags will be “smart” by summer 2017, helping to push towards that vision for the mass spread of #BornDigital wardrobes. Head over to Forbes to read all about what the products provide access to via their digital identities in the cloud.

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mobile product technology

Get your ‘thinking cap’ on – this connected hat combines physical and digital worlds for smart localised experiences

 

Rochambeau's Thinking Cap
Rochambeau’s Thinking Cap

Hot on the heels of its connected jacket that unlocked access to exclusive local experiences, New York menswear brand Rochambeau has introduced a “Thinking Cap” to make wearers smarter wherever they go.

Unveiled as part of its collection for the International Woolmark Prize Final in Paris today, the concept piece is once again a collaboration between the designers, Internet of Things platform EVRYTHNG, apparel branding solutions Avery Dennison’s Retail Branding and Information Solutions (RBIS) division and hybrid retail/media company The New Stand.

It also follows the announcement in 2016 of EVRYTHNG and RBIS’s #BornDigital concept, which aims to digitise 10 billion items of clothing and accessories over the next three years, as well as ties to the much wider trend for the Internet of Things and connected consumer products.

The hat incorporates NFC and QR code labels hidden inside that pull-up content on a mobile web page when scanned. What’s surfaced depends on factors like time of day, as well as location – all of it has been designed for major cultural centres and destination cities including New York, Paris, London and Tokyo.

You can read the full story on Forbes, including insights directly from the Rochambeau team on this idea of connecting consumers directly with experiences through the products they create.
Categories
business data e-commerce Editor's pick technology

Intel to invest $100m in retail tech anchored by IoT, data-led platform

Intel demonstrated next-generation Internet of Things technology at the 2017 NRF Retail's Big Show
Intel demonstrated next-generation Internet of Things technology at the 2017 NRF Retail’s Big Show

Intel is planning to invest over $100 million in the retail industry over the next five years, it announced at the NRF Retail’s Big Show in New York this week. At the heart of that is the Intel Responsive Retail Platform (RRP), an Internet of Things solution that it says will “take retail to the next era of highly efficient and personalised shopping”.

Through RFID, video, radio and other sensors, it will enable easy, holistic integration, help to deliver a 360-degree viewpoint of retail from the store floor through the supply chain, and deliver real-time, actionable insights, the press release explains.

Intel is looking to transform the industry through this platform – driving operational efficiencies and creating new and exciting customer experiences, both online and offline.

Brian Krzanich, CEO of Intel, said: “The retail platform collects multiple data streams to connect digital and physical environments. With the goals of lowering costs and increasing sales, the platform helps optimally place inventory, deploy employees and other resources, and track inventory – through the supply chain to the store door. It provides in-the-moment information about what customers are buying, what they want and how to manage inventory so it arrives just in time for customers to take it home.”

He added: “Our technologies can see what items are not in their correct location and the up-to-the-minute store inventory, including what’s in the back room. They can even tell what items go in to changing rooms, but never make it to the cash register.”

Data is the critical factor, he explained. “At Intel, we believe that increasingly retailers will be separated by those who have data and use it to grow and optimise the shopping experience, and those who don’t and make their decisions based on ‘experience’ and subjective observations.”

Virtual reality and artificial intelligence features will also become a part of the platform in the near future, Krzanich added. He nodded to Alibaba already empowering customers to use VR to shop from their homes, calling it a potential “game changer” for retail. “The immersive technology is opening doors for retailers to creatively reach new customers and markets,” he explained.

Meanwhile technology like robots and artificial intelligence will free up employees, enabling them to better focus on the customer and improve the store’s performance, he added. “We’re developing technologies that will help transform the shopping experience in the near future. By bringing together virtual reality and the power of data, we’ll help create the store of the future – one that is smart, responsive, connected and secure.”