Categories
Events technology

Vote for us at SXSW: How streetwear turns hype into $$$

Louis Vuitton x Supreme
Louis Vuitton x Supreme

In 2019, we’re returning to SXSW in Austin, Texas – but we need your support! The festival is a hotbed for innovation and while TheCurrent will be on site gathering insights and producing exclusive events like podcast recordings, we are also aiming to host three panels. But we can only get on the official schedule with your vote.

One of our panels, “How streetwear turns hype into $$$”, will look at how streetwear labels are now catering way beyond hip-hop artists and skater kids on the fringes of society. Trading on scarcity and hype, this is a business on an unstoppable rise, with its poster child, Supreme, now estimated to be worth $1bn. From coveted collaborations to luxury department stores releasing ‘drops’, everybody wants to satiate the young consumer’s appetite.

But what can other industries learn from such masters of frenzy? Listen from a group of experts that include Swan Sit, VP of global digital marketing at Nike; Ferdinando Verderi, creative director at Johannes Leonardo, the global ad agency for Adidas Originals and responsible for the Alexander Wang x Adidas Originals launch; and Aaron Levant, founder of the ultimate streetwear festival ComplexCon and now CEO of NTWRK, an upcoming HSN-like shopping channel for Millennials and Gen Zers.

The panel will dissect this highly engaged community, and help the audience better understand what makes the thrill of the chase such a successful retail strategy.

Click to vote
Click to vote

So if you want to see this panel at next year’s edition, please vote! But be quick, as public voting closes this Thursday (August 30). Doing so is easy, just login or create a quick PanelPicker® account via panelpicker.sxsw.com. Then find our How street turns hype into $$$ and all you have to do is click on the “Vote Up” button in the top lefthand column.

Streetwear has had an increasingly strong influence on how young people consume fashion trends and engage with brands, and the luxury industry in particular has taken notice. Last week, Balenciaga launched exclusive sneakers at Selfridges, but they can only be purchased by appointment; earlier this year, Moncler announced it will launch monthly collections, as opposed to seasonal, in a collaboration model not too dissimilar from the streetwear industry; and lastly this November, TheCurrent will be present at ComplexCon for the very first time.

Our other panels at SXSW include Blockchain for radical transparency and The future of connected beauty. Please vote for them too!

Categories
mobile social media

Six tips for nailing your chatbot content strategy as a competitive advantage for the future

Burberry's Facebook Messenger chatbot
Burberry’s Facebook Messenger chatbot

Chatbots have received somewhat of a mixed response since they hit the market at scale – both praised for the ease with which they can offer customer service for instance, yet critiqued for their lack of true intelligence.

This is something we’re working towards, according to Ben Parr, co-founder of chatbot building platform Octane AI, who spoke at Lions Innovation, a division of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, last week. “The technology for bots that are truly intelligent and personalised based on AI is just not there yet to be totally reliable 100% of the time, but in the future, as the tech evolves and improves, they will be,” he explained.

In the meantime, what’s important is to create an experience that is repeatable and reliable, he urged. Building an audience through such platforms now enables brands to be at the forefront of this space once we are there, he added, making it a competitive advantage for the future.

Head over to Forbes to read the six tips he gave for how to nail your chatbot content strategy on that basis.

Categories
mobile social media

British Vogue launches chatbot on Facebook Messenger at London Fashion Week

British Vogue, March 2017 issue
British Vogue, March 2017 issue

British Vogue has made its first foray into the AI space via a chatbot on Facebook Messenger that allows users to personalise their fashion news.

“Vogue Fashion Update”, as it’s called, was launched to coincide with the start of London Fashion Week, enabling users to catch up on all the latest shows and their favourite designers.

Alexandra Shulman, editor-in-chief of British Vogue commented: “This is a new method for us to be able to talk directly and immediately to the huge Vogue audience, who rely on us to provide inspiring and authoritative fashion news.”

On joining a chat, users are first given options as to what information they receive, including daily alerts on top stories, up-to-date runway news during the show season, or more tailored content based on specific designers of interest.

Vogue Messenger chatBot

The bot will evolve over time, with future updates set to provide further personalisation and interaction, the Condé Nast International digital team behind it explained in a press release.

Their view is on taking away the need to compete with a scrolling newsfeed and instead deliver content directly to the subscriber for a distinctly more personal interaction.

Cantlin Ashrowan, Condé Nast International’s director of product, said: “We are always seeking to engage with our audiences in new and innovative ways. Today marks the latest step in British Vogue’s long history of innovation in fashion journalism.”

More specifically, it also follows British Vogue’s attempts to run a Whatsapp group (which was really just a broadcast list) for similar reasons. This started out as an instant message update every time there was any relevant fashion news – and fairly frequently – but closed down within a month or so with no word as to why. One can only assume the manpower behind it didn’t make sense for the team (in terms of returns), comparative to this automated version using Facebook’s bot store.

Categories
e-commerce Editor's pick mobile social media

Facebook is pushing the idea of “conversational commerce” hard

everlane

 

In what will come as little of a surprise, Facebook is backing the idea of consumers being able to shop directly through messaging apps.

Speaking at Retail Week Live, Nicola Mendelsohn, Facebook’s vice-president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said shoppers will be able to increasingly contact retailers and brands directly through Facebook Messenger, and use that conversation to order products instead of leaving to go to a website.

She referred to this as the next big digital retail trend, according to Drapers, and highlighted that 800 million people worldwide now use Facebook messenger and one billion use [Facebook-owned] WhatsApp.

“Six out of the top 10 apps in the world are messenger apps and it will not be long until brands are integrated into that space,” she added.

Indeed, stats released last year by Business Insider show that four of the biggest messaging apps have now met (and no doubt since overtaken) the number of people using the four biggest social media platforms.

 

Messagingvsocial

 

It’s on that basis Facebook Messenger is believed to be heavily following in the footsteps of its Chinese counterpart WeChat and aiming to become more than just a place for conversation, but for everything from banking, to travel, customer service, and yes, shopping.

It released its business offering on the platform in the US in 2015, with the likes of Everlane as launch partner.

Everlane shoppers can now receive updates about their order via FB Messenger rather than just email. For those wanting to, they can just leave it at that. For those more inclined, they can use the app to then spark up a conversation with the customer service rep on the other end of it. Given payment details are then stored, they can order anything they like through that discussion, but better yet, also receive personalised recommendations and the such like given their history is stored in that one app.

“It is instant communication and a different type of commerce. It allows shoppers to shop whenever they like,” said Mendelsohn.

At this point for Everlane, it’s reportedly still a human at the other end beyond those initial shipping updates, by the way. But the bigger part of this conversational commerce trend – a term first coined by Chris Messina, developer experience lead at Uber, in a must-read blogpost earlier this year – will be the role bots play to automate much more of that back and forth.

This is something WeChat is already heavily invested in, and others including Kik, Slack and Telegram all too. It’s also a step Facebook is rumoured to be announcing at its next developer conference in April.

As Messina wrote: “Computer-driven bots will become more human-feeling, to the point where the user can’t detect the difference, and will interact with either human agent or computer bot in roughly the same interaction paradigm.”

Categories
business e-commerce Editor's pick social media

Digging in to Reddit: does it work for fashion brands and retailers?

reddit

Late last week, Intel’s Sandra Lopez teamed up with Rebecca Minkoff for a conversation on social news site Reddit. The “AMA” (Ask Me Anything) encouraged users to pose questions about the roles of fashion and technology intertwining, as well as the opportunities for millennial women in STEM fields.

It was a strong example of something that worked on the platform – native to how its users operate, and filled with personal responses (from how Lopez and Minkoff got started in their careers, to how they managed their work/life balance, and why men never get asked that question).

Self-proclaimed as ‘the frontpage of the internet’, Reddit has a reported 202 million unique visitors a month. During 2015, it saw 82.54 billion page views across 88,700 active subreddits (sub forums). There were 73.15 million submissions, with 725.85 million comments made by 8.7 million total authors.

Risky business

The Intel/Minkoff example is one of many AMAs, but it’s still one of few of fashion brands and retailers really getting involved.

The uncensored and unpredictable nature of the site goes some way to explaining why. The platform was designed to be a space where like-minded individuals communicate without interference. Reddit is open source and moderated by unpaid volunteers. Users, known as “redditors”, create threads called subreddits, which other members with similar interests can join.

Initially the company had just five rules: “Don’t spam; Don’t ask for votes or engage in vote manipulation; Don’t post personal information; No child pornography or sexually suggestive content featuring minors; Don’t break the site or do anything that interferes with normal use of the site.” The lack of rules and regulations, fostered an “anything goes” culture that still defines Reddit today.

For a brand, therefore, entering a community like Reddit can be risky.

RedditAMA_Intel_RebeccaMinkoff

Frequent changes of senior management has done little to improve Reddit’s volatile reputation. Three different leaders have been in place over the past three years: Yishan Wong, Ellen Pao and Steve Huffman respectively, all with very different objectives. Pao’s 2014 strategy to clean up the darker side of Reddit and remove the less savoury elements for instance – like banning subreddits “fatpeoplehate” and “hamplanethatred”, which focused on shaming overweight people – angered core members who felt Poa’s intentions went against the free-speech ethos of Reddit.

But needless to say, this did make it more appealing on the brand side. Around the same time, Nordstrom created Nordstrom1901, the official Nordstrom subbreddit, to communicate with customers after noticing increased activity surrounding the brand on the platform. Nordstrom’s first post encapsulated the relaxed, genuine attitude Reddit users appreciate. “We are Redditors at heart and can’t wait to get to know the communities better. We’re here to help so questions, comments, etc. are all welcome,” it read.

Focusing on service and avoiding aggressive marketing, Nordstrom received a warm Reddit welcome. AMAs proved particularly popular. Real-time feedback also allowed Nordstrom to navigate any minor issues before they escalated into larger problems. Their venture onto Reddit appeared fruitful, so it’s unclear why Nordstrom1901 has been abandoned (the last official Nordstrom1901 post was 11 months ago). Often such moves come down to the advocate for a specific platform no longer being in the business, but it’s also likely a change of strategy was at play; if ROI wasn’t proving fruitful from the platform, resources could easily have been allocated elsewhere.

Ensuring authenticity

One brand that has converted conversation into revenue through Reddit is Uniqlo. Speaking to Marketing Land, Uniqlo’s e-commerce manager, Arielle Dyda (who manages the retailer’s Reddit involvement), explained that it now drives more traffic and revenue for the retailer than any other social channel.

Its efforts started on the platform in 2012 after traffic from Reddit crashed the soft launch of its e-commerce site. Today, 5% of its referral traffic comes from social media, with 64% of that from Reddit. Of the 3% of monthly sales from social media, 64% is also from Reddit. On a day when Dyda posts about a special deal, it can drive up to 20% of their online sales.

One particular subreddit – r/MaleFashionAdvice – is particularly fruitful, and Uniqlo isn’t even the most mentioned brand on there:

Reddit_malefashionadvice

The key to Uniqlo success surrounds authenticity, transparency and excellent customer service, says Dyda. She focuses on being real, but also on being playful. It helps that she uses her personal Reddit account, midnight1214, tagged as an official company representative.

“So just being able to be a genuine person is important. I joke around with them, I post memes. I’m savvy with the Reddit lingo and that makes me one of them. I’m not just Uniqlo, I’m midnight1214, and I understand the jokes and I understand frustrations, but I’m going to be here to help you when you need it,” she explains. She also leans on the community’s moderators for help so as not to seem too promotional at times.

Spending time getting to know the platform, answering questions and contributing, without imposing corporate strategies or marketing campaigns, distinguished Uniqlo from other companies entering Reddit. Dyda adds: “I think if another band wants to jump in, they really have to take the time and learn and understand first of all what are people saying about your company [on there].”

By comparison, US-based, outdoor apparel company REI, conducted insufficient research when they attempted to join the platform. Misjudging the importance of authenticity, CEO Jerry Stritzke started the conversation by highlighting REI’s decision to close on Black Friday. Seemingly unaware of the distain of brands using the site for advertising and marketing, he wrote: “Hi Reddit. I’m Jerry Strizke, CEO of REI. You might have heard about us recently when we announced that we would be closing all of our stores on Black Friday this year. We’re paying our 12,000 employees to take the day off and we’re encouraging them to opt out of the Black Friday madness and spend the day outdoors with loved ones…Ask me anything!”

His comments were interpreted as a publicity drive, prompting a dramatic backlash of negativity. Redditor phD_in_Random said: “I’ve never even heard of this company and I hate it already. We don’t have one in my city and I hope we never do.”

Strizke also missed a number of contentious questions from current and former employees surrounding a membership sales scheme the company runs. Strizke failed to grasp that leaving the discussion early, didn’t mean the conversation was over, but rather gave the impression he was avoiding tougher issues. One comment in particular got so blown up (there were some 5,000 responses on the AMA in total), that he had to return to Reddit later to address it.

Unsurprisingly, there’s been no further activity on Reddit from REI.

Native advertising

Steve Huffman, one of the original founders of Reddit, returned as CEO in July 2015, shifting the focus from imposing a level of moral decency to expansion. He is in charge of the business side of Reddit, while co-founder Alexis Ohanian concentrates on editorial aspects like Upvoted, Reddit’s new publication.

Here, a small team of editors sifts through the most interesting posts, rewriting stories worthy of further development. It aims to put a spotlight on all the hundreds of conversations that otherwise get lost in the noise of the platform. It also proves an opportunity for Reddit itself to monetise, by offering brands a safer way to enter through its native advertising scheme.

Sponsored posts are likewise written by the editorial team, and designed to fit with the nature of the content rather than through traditional advertising banners. In the interest of transparency, Reddit made its intentions clear from the off: “We will be working with brands on sponsored content, all of which will be visibly distinguished as such.”

Going forward, the introduction of Upvoted reflects the positive changes at Reddit. There’s a deeper understanding that if the site is to reach its full potential, management must act responsibly. Initiatives like providing a help section with advice on “Brandiquette”, for brands thinking of advertising, makes the site much more approachable.

Brands in other industries including food, literature and music have accordingly reported positive results (case studies available). With that in mind, fashion brands and retailers will also look to consider Reddit as a suitable advertising partner in the future.

Needless to say, for any brand thinking about stepping into the Reddit world in the meantime, operating within the context of the site is paramount. With such a large audience available to tap into, and proven revenue drivers at play when handled correctly, the opportunity is almost too good not to.

Categories
digital snippets e-commerce mobile social media technology

Digital snippets: NYFW’s consumer shift, has Burberry become a gimmick, Thakoon’s real-time fashion plans

A round-up of the latest stories to know about surrounding all things fashion and tech…

thakoon

  • NYFW going consumer? CFDA hires BCG to study the idea [WWD]
  • Is Burberry becoming too gimmicky? [Yahoo Style]
  • Thakoon to shift to “real-time fashion”, launch see-now, buy-now, wear-now model (as pictured) [BoF]
  • How Rebecca Minkoff is disrupting the traditional runway show [Co.Design]
  • Proenza Schouler to keep its Pre-Fall 2016 collection images under wraps and off Instagram [WGSN Insider]
  • JC Penney shoppers visit Santa’s workshop in new virtual reality initiative [AdAge]
  • The North Face launched an online customer service tool powered by conversation [Digiday]
  • Aldo takes non-fashion approach in new Instagram push [Digiday]
  • How Boohoo.com releases up to 300 new products a day [Fashionista]
  • Michael Kors bet big on Instagram marquee ads, and it’s paying off [AdWeek]
  • Swatch to start selling mobile payment watch in US in 2016 [Bloomberg]
  • How Apple executive Angela Ahrendts is bringing a touch of chic to retail stores [NY Times]
  • Why Gilt Groupe is forced to sell, either to Saks’ parent company or someone else [Re/code]
  • 3D fashion police: how 3D-printed clothing could affect fashion law [3ders]
  • Is virtual reality the future of fashion week? [Vogue]
  • ‘Unboxing’ videos a gift to marketers [NY Times]
  • How luxury brands are balancing the digital tightrope between aspirational image and conversation [The Drum]
  • Social media: powerful selling tool for emerging designers [WWD]
  • The future of wearables is normal clothes made smart [Racked]
  • Last fashion week, Dazed armed anonymous industry insiders with wearable tech bracelets [Dazed]
  • Team behind Lady Gaga’s flying dress to bring wearable tech to a store near you [Mashable]
  • How Clothing+ is bringing smart clothes closer to your kit bag [CNET]
  • Half a year later, the Apple Watch feels like a stalled platform [Quartz]
  • Will phones replace wallets by 2021? [Vogue]
  • What’s going on at Condé Nast? [BoF]
  • Why brands are ditching Twitter’s 6-second Vine app [AdWeek]
Categories
Editor's pick mobile social media

Networking gets intimate with The Kooples’ new relationship app, Blackout

kooples_blackoutapp

The Kooples has released a social networking app designed for one-on-one communications. Called Blackout, the app is created with lovers in mind, enabling them to privately stay in touch whenever they’re away from each other.

Don’t think Tinder however, for this is no dating alternative. Deemed the “smallest social network”, users can literally only add one person to chat to. The aim is to facilitate existing relationships rather than help people find new ones.

In order to further do so, the app can also be set to “blackout mode” when a couple is together in person, stopping all other calls, texts, notifications or irritating distractions reaching their phones.

“[It] encourages couples to stay together like nothing else mattered,” reads the write-up.

Pictures can also be sent on the app, and are stylishly done so in black and white, unless the user chooses “glitch picture mode”, which means some of the image is distorted. In a playful twist, the recipient partner then has to guess what is hidden. There’s a live couple timer that counts every second of a relationship since it began too.

Check out the ad above launching the Blackout app, and the how-to video below, a particularly entertaining demonstration of everything you can do on it.

Categories
Blocks data social media technology

Social media conversation fuels real-time fabric design for Christian Siriano dress

Christian-Siriano-Verizon-socialimprint-looks

Fashion designer Christian Siriano turned to social media to inform the print of a fabric for two garments unveiled this past week.

The #socialimprint project, in partnership with Verizon, quite literally tracked conversations around music and fashion during the Fashion Rocks event held in New York in early September, and translated them into different patterns that were printed onto a silk charmeuse cloth in real-time.

Online social tools were employed to aggregate and analyse the content throughout the night. From there, the top eight trending topics for music were paired with the highest trend for fashion every 30 seconds to determine a specific set of shapes and colors in the design. The show, its performers, designers and more all impacted the result therefore, with varying symbols and shades becoming a different part of the print each time they were mentioned.

Find out more about each look and which celebrities influenced the fabric via Forbes.com.

Categories
Blocks Comment social media technology

Topshop and the BFC talk digital innovation with WGSN during #LFW

The latest in a longstanding series of Google Hangouts hosted by my team at WGSN, saw Topshop CMO Sheena Sauvaire, the British Fashion Council’s head of marketing Clara Mercer, and myself talking about the role of digital and fashion week.

Held on the final day of London’s spring/summer 2015 shows, this was an exploration of innovation versus sales, the importance of extending a campaign beyond the 10 minutes of the show and into the six months ahead, and the role that social commerce and shoppable runways are playing this season for designers.

We also explore some tips and tricks for emerging talent in approaching their digital strategy, and the need to carefully balance the role of innovation with what feels authentic to your brand.

Do watch it back below…

Categories
digital snippets social media

Digital snippets: Michael Kors, Rebecca Minkoff, Vivienne Tam, Marc Jacobs, Zac Posen

From New York to London, and everything in between, here’s a mega round-up of all the latest stories surrounding fashion and tech…

MarcJacobs_mjdaisychain

  • Rebecca Minkoff gives inside look at fashion week with Keek app [Mashable]
  • Vivienne Tam’s WeChat partnership delivers NYFW front-row access [Jing Daily]
  • Marc Jacobs opens fashion week pop-up that accepts Tweets as payment (as pictured) [Fashionista]
  • Zac Posen curated a Spotify playlist for his new lookbook [Styleite]
  • Alexander Wang showed colour-changing clothes during fashion week [Technical.ly]
  • Warby Parker tops list of top 10 retail innovators [Fast Company]
  • London Fashion Week: Nokia and Fyodor Golan create ‘world’s first’ smart skirt [Marketing]
  • Net-a-Porter puts its fashion sense on paper in new print magazine [BrandChannel]
  • Miu Miu unveils ‘Spark and Light’ short film [WWD]
  • Sass & Bide launches 360-degree shoppable ad [PSFK]
  • Bloomingdale’s hosts live-styling event on Instagram to drive interaction [Luxury Daily]
  • The new Moda Operandi app is like Tinder for designer clothes [NY Observer]
  • Instagram is shaping up to be the world’s most powerful selling tool [Forbes]
  • Seven ways retailers are embracing tech, from body scanning to digital wallets [AdAge]
  • What’s so alluring about a woman known as Man Repeller? [NY Mag]