Categories
business e-commerce Podcast product Retail technology

Mastercard: Creating experiences beyond transactions

Mastercard is on a mission to curate and create priceless experiences that money cannot buy, says Raja Rajamannar, CMO of the company, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast.

While credit cards have historically been about giving consumers speed and convenience, over the past couple of decades they have made strides into becoming an integral part of how consumers live their lives.

“We are a lifestyle brand. Lifestyle doesn’t mean it’s lifestyle for the rich and famous -lifestyle for everyone,” explains Rajamannar. “Everyone deserves to lead a beautiful life and to grow.”

On the one hand there’s the fact the technology is more seamless – gone is the swiping and signing, and in is the tapping and dipping. And if you’re shopping online, digital wallets mean you don’t even need to remember your password.

But on top of that today are perks focusing on giving consumers exclusive access to events, services and treats that help create an even deeper emotional connection between brand and participant.

A few years ago, Mastercard noticed a change in consumer behavior and strategically shifted its advertising spend into experiences. It now hosts over 750 experiences on any given day globally, from recreating the iconic The Rock restaurant from Zanzibar in NYC’s Tribeca, to enabling card holders to shadow Cirque du Soleil cast members in Canada. This strategy is based on addressing key consumer passion points, ranging from music and sports to the environment and philanthropy.

During this episode, Rajamannar explores creating emotional connections, gives advice to brands on how to drive loyalty through having a clear purpose, and reveals an industry first: why the brand is launching a sonic identity.

Listen here: Entale | Spotify |  Apple Podcasts | Android Google Podcasts | Stitcher | RSS

Catch up with all of our episodes of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by the Current Global, a consultancy transforming how 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. 

Categories
Events mobile Retail social media technology

Balmain launches app to connect customers to brand universe


Luxury label Balmain has released an app that aims to give consumers more access to the brand’s universe, in a mission championed by creative director Olivier Rousteing.

The app, which was released on iTunes yesterday, will allow users to engage with the brand in a multitude of different ways.

“The app is the final element of the strategy we are rolling out to launch the new monogram, the new logo, and to support overall the new communication strategy of Balmain,” the label’s CEO Massimo Piombini told WWD. “This is a way to connect with the next generation, with new customers, with a segment of customers that are close to the brand that are expecting from us these kinds of new features.”

For example ahead of the label’s upcoming couture show which takes place on January 23, users will be able to scan posters through the streets of Paris to trigger augmented reality content. Users will also be able to watch a livestream of the show, the house’s first couture collection in 16 years, as well as footage of the menswear show that is happening tomorrow.

To give brand fans a further glimpse into the brand, there will also interactive content around its new Saint Honoré flagship, which is due to open in February. The brand has announced that it will also be launching similar initiatives at key European cities in the future.

Under Rousteing’s helm, the 82-year-old label has been increasingly connecting with younger consumers through the lens of digital. In April 2018, it created a virtual reality experience at its Milan store based on the designer’s inspirations for the brand’s collections, while its latest campaign featured a cast of virtual models.

How are you thinking about digital innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so.TheCurrent Global 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. 

Categories
business Campaigns Editor's pick product Retail technology Uncategorized

3 media companies investing in physical retail stores

In a bid to make money beyond ad revenue while raising brand awareness, editorial companies including Buzzfeed, New York Magazine and Good Housekeeping all recently launched physical retail stores in the US.  

Merging content and commerce has long been a topic of discussion within the industry, both from how brands are thinking about their editorial voice, and – in this instance – how media businesses are monetizing their content prowess.

That’s meant all manner of e-commerce entities especially, but numerous experiments in the space have been met with mixed results. NET-A-PORTER may have nailed how to do content both online and offline, for instance, but Style.com in return flopped at the first hurdle when it shifted to a commerce model.

Others however have steamed ahead and found legs in this space balancing both angles. Marie Claire’s beauty store, Fabled, launched in 2016 and continues with a successful online and brick-and-mortar store in London.

Read on to find out how Buzzfeed, New York Magazine and Good Housekeeping are similarly thinking about physical retail experiences in order to capture consumer attention.

Buzzfeed’s Camp

Online news and media outlet Buzzfeed opened a toy shop called Camp in December. Located in the Flatiron District of New York, the space also has an experiential area that’s ready for Instagram-worthy photos. With rotating decor that changes every few months, ‘Summer camp’ is the first theme chosen for the store. Think of a “campitheater”: a sports field, a dance hall, some real bunks, a radio lab, and even s’mores ice cream sundaes by Milk Bar.

Good Housekeeping GH Popup shop
Good Housekeeping GH Popup shop

Good Housekeeping ‘s GH Lab pop-up

Good Housekeeping magazine opened a three-month pop-up at the Mall of America in Minneapolis that capitalized on the busy holiday shopping period by running until December 30. Called “GH Lab”, the store offered only one item per product category. Unlike regular retailers that sell several brands of the same item, each pick was tested and recommended by experts from the GH Institute. The shoppable showroom had more than 40 curated products, and most of them had earned the Good Housekeeping Seal, which provides buyers with a two-year limited warranty guaranteed by the magazine.

The store was cashless, with all merchandise shoppable through Amazon’s app and its SmileCode scanner. Shoppers used their smartphone’s camera to scan a code that went straight to Good Housekeeping’s Amazon seller page where they could place an order for home delivery.

The New Yorker Strategist popup
New York Magazine’s The Strategist popup

New York Magazine’s The Strategist

The Strategist, New York Magazine’s product recommendation site, also opened its first pop-up for the month of December, this time in Soho, New York. The store curated beauty brands and products, including haircare, bed sheets, and self-care products. The space also hosted events, including a beauty panel with The Cut’s beauty director Kathleen Hou, and offered workshops and free blowouts.

With so many other publishers playing in the product review and recommendation field, Camila Cho, General Manager of e-commerce for New York Media, said the pop-up was an opportunity to raise brand awareness. “Offline allows more flexibility to showcase our brand personality and how we are different,” said Cho in an interview for Fipp.

How are you thinking about interactive retail experiences? 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.


Categories
e-commerce Editor's pick mobile Retail technology

6 loyalty activations driving customer engagement

Today’s consumers are increasingly spoilt by choice, meaning brands  have to work harder than ever to earn any level of loyalty. That hasn’t stopped many from trying however. 

In today’s retail climate, personalization is king, with customers seeking brands that tailor their products and services to their behaviors. When done correctly,  loyalty programs not only respond to that need, but can generate over 20% of a company’s profits, according to McKinsey

Retailers across the board – from larger names like Target and Nordstrom to standalone brands like Nike – are revamping their traditional spend-and-reward offerings to add layers of digital that respond to the modern consumer.

From tapping into an engaged community and encouraging gamified behavior, to pushing personalized spending in-store, here we highlight some of the most innovative loyalty approaches:

FOSTERING COMMUNITY

Victoria's Secret PINK NATION
Victoria’s Secret PINK NATION

One of the cornerstones of the Victoria’s Secret’s PINK brand, is its college ambassador program, which recruits university students across the country representatives. The role is not too dissimilar from a social media influencer, with responsibilities including promoting the brand on social, offering followers advice and organizing campus events and get-togethers. Ambassadors dedicate up to 10-hours a week to their roles for free, and see this as an opportunity to build a personal brand with PINK’s support.

The brand’s loyalty program, PINK NATION, has also received an upgrade and launched its very first app, aiming to emulate a girl’s club. This includes exclusive member perks as well as a dedicated Campus tab where customers can chat with ambassadors. Ultimately, the brand wants to scale to include more college-life related content.

Flipkart-owned fashion retailer Myntra also took a similar crowdsourced approach to loyalty when it launched the Shopping Groups feature in 2017, in the run-up to its  End Of Reason Sale (otherwise known as EORS). Shoppers could team up with their friends and families on the platform to shopping groups, where all purchases were tallied together to unlock further special discounts for the whole group. 

The retailer reported almost 100,000 shopping groups being formed during the sale as a result, contributing to around 18% of sales.

INCENTIVIZING ACTION

Nike Plus
Nike Plus

Starbucks boasts one of the most successful retail apps to date with 23.5m active users. In order to encourage loyalty and get more customers to join its booming loyalty program that sits alongside (15m users), it launched a gamification experience called the Summer Game Boardwalk this year. 

Anyone could play the virtual board game, which prompted users to tap a spinner and advance steps in order to tally points, similar to a game of Monopoly. At the end, loyalty members received points towards their accounts, while general app users were prompted to join the program in order to receive the same.

Meanwhile this year NikePlus added a number of interactive experiences for its members, extending the remit of physical activity into wider lifestyles. Nike collaborated with three key partners to do so – Apple Music, mindfulness app Headspace, and gym booking app ClassPass, to encourage consumers to be active in order to receive more rewards. For example, if the user completed and logged a workout within the app, it would unlock free Apple Music playlists.

With this program, the sportswear brand is hoping to triple its 100m user membership number.

DRIVING IN-STORE ENGAGEMENT 

Inside the Philosophy skincare Manhattan store
Inside the Philosophy skincare Manhattan store

According to research company Bond, 95% of loyalty members want to engage with brands via new technologies. In-store, deploying digital tools is an opportunity for brands to engage and acquire new loyal customers at the point of sale, when demand is at its highest.

At Coty-owned make up brand Philosophy’s flagship in Manhattan, loyal customers are recognized and rewarded via facial recognition. Upon entering the store, customers are asked to take a selfie with their own phones and send it to a designated phone number. Registered customers can then be recognized on screens, which offers them special discounts. Over time, customers are pushed more tailored notifications and one-to-one consultants based on previous behavior.

Also in New York, is Nordstrom’s new menswear store, which is offering a higher level of service for its newly revamped Nordy Club loyalty program members. Customers shopping online can receive items to then try-on at that specific location. When physically approaching the store, customers receive an app notification giving them precise information on the location of their reserved item.

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.

Categories
e-commerce technology

Amazon’s CTO on how customer centricity drives innovation

Amazon CTO Werner Vogels
Amazon CTO Werner Vogels

Amazon’s goal is to be the most customer-centric company on earth, said its chief technology officer, Werner Vogels, on stage at the WIRED Smarter conference in London yesterday.

“Focusing on the customer gives direction to our innovations,” he explained.

The business is mandated to always start from the customer and work backwards, including by writing a press release and a basic FAQ of what the end product or service will look like, before beginning to build it. Within that will always be why said focus is useful for the customer, Vogels noted, even if the customer today wouldn’t yet know it for themselves.

“We always think of innovation being this glitzy new stuff, but [we’re focused on] what the things are that our customers will all love, and love forever,” he emphasized. “We need to know that what we are building is exactly what they want.”

Keywords like convenience and price always therefore come into the decision making, he explained. “No one 10 years from now will say, ‘Oh I wish Amazon would be more expensive’.”

To do this, Vogels said the most important part of the internal culture at Amazon is about a willingness to continuously experiment.

“Decisions are most often two-way doors – you can mostly always back out again, but if you wait too long the opportunity might have already passed,” he noted. He talked to the idea of culture, learning from doing, taking risks, failing fast and, through relentless measurement, taking something from each step along the way as a result.

On that basis, he referenced a letter from Amazon founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos, written to shareholders in 1997, that reads: “We will make bold rather than timid investment decisions where we see a sufficient probability of gaining market leadership advantages. Some of these investments will pay off, others will not, and we will have learned another valuable lesson in either case.”

As a recent example, with something like its voice technology, Amazon Alexa, the company was making a big bet, but it knew if the seed was going to grow it would make a big impact, Vogels explained. He referenced the flurry of new devices recently released by Amazon to bring this further into people’s homes, including a microwave and a smart plug.

“At Amazon we are strong believers that if we stop innovating, we will be dead in five to 10 years,” he added.

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.

Categories
data e-commerce Retail

Amazon’s latest retail location features 4-star rated product only

Amazon's 4-star store
Amazon’s 4-star store

Amazon is opening a new retail store in New York today featuring a selection of products that have a minimum of 4-stars in their customer reviews.

Unceremoniously dubbed “Amazon 4-Star”, the items sold are specifically selected on the precedent of being top sellers, or new and trending on the site. Collectively the items currently on display have 1.8 million 5-star customer reviews, with an average product rating of 4.4 stars.

“We created Amazon 4-star to be a place where customers can discover products they will love. Amazon 4-star’s selection is a direct reflection of our customers—what they’re buying and what they’re loving,” Amazon shared in a blog post.

The brick-and-mortar location will feature devices, consumer electronics, toys, books and games – as well as a range of items for the kitchen and home. Items that were particularly well received will also display quotes from online reviews on small paper cards.

Mirroring the structure of the Amazon website, the shop will also feature areas with product bundles,  such as “Trending Around NYC”, “Frequently Bought Together” and “Amazon Exclusives”.

Digital price tags in-store will ensure that the pricing will stay exactly the same as on the Amazon website, with Prime members getting a special membership discount.

Another clever integration by Amazon is that customers have the opportunity to trial its Alexa voice assistant while in store, thanks to the presence of the best-selling Echo Dot, which has an average customer review of 4.5 stars, with 5,600 customer reviews. This also follow the launch of a range of new Alexa-enabled devices last week, including a smart plug and a microwave.

Amazon's 4-star store
Amazon’s 4-star store

Amazon’s continued push into physical retail is a great example of how data from e-commerce can shape the product selection in-store. By further gather data specifically to the neighborhood, or in this case, city location, it is further personalizing the customer experience and incentivizing in-store visits.

How are you thinking about retail 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.

Categories
business digital snippets e-commerce film mobile product social media Startups sustainability technology

What you missed: Burberry’s ARkit, AI transforming Shop Direct, Stella McCartney and The RealReal

Burberry's new ARkit integration
Burberry’s new ARkit integration

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


TOP STORIES
  • Burberry turns to Apple for augmented-reality fashion app [Bloomberg]
  • AI will transform every retailer, says Shop Direct boss [Drapers]
  • Stella McCartney wants you to resell her goods in new partnership with The RealReal [Fashionista]
  • Could kelp be the future of sustainable fashion? [Observer]

BUSINESS
  • Direct to consumer brands vs commodities: who will prevail? [LooseThreads]
  • Decoding Chanel’s Gen-Z strategy [BoF]
  • More luxury stores closed in China over the last year than in any other country [Jing Daily]

SOCIAL MEDIA
  • Target will begin incorporating Pinterest’s Lens visual search technology [AdWeek]
  • John Lewis pioneers Facebook’s 360 shoppable ad [Campaign]
  • Dior debuts Weibo story, stays in lead with Chinese millennials [Jing Daily]
  • Inside Birchbox’s 40-person social media war room [Glossy]
  • Snapchat debuts Sponsored 3D World Lenses at Advertising Week New York [The Drum]

MARKETING
  • Gant to launch ‘Couple Thinkers’ TV show on YouTube [Fashion Network]
  • Nas brings street cred to effortlessly cool animated ads for Timberland [AdWeek]
  • Why United Colors of Benetton is parting with catwalk convention to showcase its brand DNA [The Drum]
  • Fashion brands still succumbing to the high-priced artsy film [Glossy]

RETAIL & E-COMMERCE
  • Patagonia has launched its own online thrift store [PSFK]
  • New Macy’s loyalty program nudges customers to spend more [Retail Dive]
  • Uniqlo’s retail empire embarks on a digital revolution [Nikkei]

TECHNOLOGY
  • AR is now a must-have in retail [Business Insider]
  • A way to repeatedly recycle polyester has just been discovered [Eco-Business]
  • These high-tech knitting machines will soon be making car parts [Bloomberg]
  • Fashion’s future may rest on an old technology: glue [Fast Company]
  • Modiface is becoming the go-to provider of augmented reality to beauty brands [Glossy]

PRODUCT
  • Google and Levi’s ‘connected’ jacket is now on sale [TechCrunch]
  • To make a new kind of shoe, adidas had to change everything [Wired]
  • How these female engineers reinvented the bra [Fast Company]

START-UPS
  • With lab-grown leather, Modern Meadow is engineering a fashion revolution [BoF]
  • Amazon has acquired 3D body model startup, Body Labs, for $50M-$70M [TechCrunch]
Categories
e-commerce mobile

Why Nordstrom’s latest customer experience tool is all about convenience

Nordstrom's Reserve Online & Try In Store
Nordstrom’s Reserve Online & Try In Store

If time is the greatest luxury for modern consumers, Nordstrom is steadily proving that convenience is one of the foremost things it can offer its shoppers.

The department store is expanding its Reserve Online & Try In Store service to over 40 stores nationwide, following the success of its pilot in six last year.

The premise, which is built around making it easier for customers to shop in the way that they want to, enables app users to select items they like, then book to have them set in a fitting room for them in the store of their choice, ready to try on in person. There is no commitment to purchase at any stage.

“Many of our customers like to feel and try on clothes and shoes before they purchase them and we’re excited to offer them a more convenient way to do so,” says Shea Jensen, senior vice president of customer experience at the company. Read the full story, including further insight from Jensen, via Forbes.

Categories
Comment data technology

Comment counts: If we’re going to do fashion and tech, it has to be right for the consumer

Data has a bigger role to play than the industry is yet paying attention to, writes Glenn Ebert of SapientRazorfish, pushing for a customer-first mentality from retailers.

Farfetch Store of the Future
Farfetch Store of the Future

Judging from the nonstop chatter in the trenches of nearly every digital conference and forum this year so far, much of the industry buzz stems from the potential posed by artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR), and how big brands will leverage this next frontier of tech.

As the halfway mark of 2017 has now arrived, the fact is the world of fashion and retail still remains an incredibly fragmented, chaotic and fatigued place. While new technologies present an exciting opportunity, the retail industry (especially luxury brands) appear to be even further away from being able to engage these experiential trends, as many still can’t grasp the new fundamentals needed to survive. This is especially apparent when compared to more savvy competitors and entrant disruptors.

After all, many brands are still struggling to find effective, efficient models to overhaul subpar customer experiences and meet the needs of a more demanding and discerning digital consumer. As the retail industry continues to burn and more brick-and-mortar stores shutter, very few retailers have mastered the art of using a data-driven approach to give customers products and experiences they actually want to see.

The fact remains most of what’s currently being created in the fashion tech space is still not wearable, functional, scalable, or even applicable to the day-to-day lives of the modern shopper.

While embedded virtual reality, fitness trackers and Facebook ‘like’ sensors are pretty interesting, are they really what the customer wants? The gap in appetite and comprehension for adaption and innovation is far wider than many fashion companies are aware of; especially when compared to alignment of enthusiasm and cohesion seen in other industries.

One of the biggest voids is in how to use data and insights to provide customers with relevant in-store and online experiences. This is especially true for many luxury brands, which have been stiff and cumbersome in changing how they position and deliver their products and experiences to a younger, millennial consumer.

There’s a need therefore to step back and learn from the brands that are getting this right. Take a look at Amazon’s recent $13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods, for instance, which enabled it to combine data it already collects from existing platforms with Whole Foods’ customer transaction data, to create an individually tailored customer experience.

Nordstrom seems to be the biggest bright spot in the industry to crack this code otherwise. Using an effective mix of revamped eCRM-minded digital touchpoints, social media and e-commerce data, and improved in-store technology to make the customer to salesperson experience more efficient, the once in-danger “mall brand” has rebounded to the tune of 50% revenue growth over the past five years.

Luxury e-commerce juggernaut Farfetch meanwhile, added to its list of headline grabbing moments when it announced its Store of the Future back in April. Building on its purchase of London-based department store Brown’s in 2015, the retail space aims to “link the online and offline worlds, using data to enhance the retail experience”, as quoted by CEO Jose Neves.

Using everything from RFID-enabled shopping racks, augmented reality mirrors and dressing rooms, and a full integration of the shopper’s mobile app to enhance the salesperson experience, the move is bold to say the least. While it’s one of the most literal, advantageous examples of putting data at the heart of the retail experience, only time will tell if it will translate to foot traffic.

In summary, as exciting as it may be to usher in the era of the virtual cashmere sweater, there are still many areas retailers should be focusing on first; specifically, better leveraging and integrating data and insights to optimise the customer experience for a new generation of consumers. Furthermore, we should be using such insights to validate whether consumers actually want these types of products, experiences or innovations in the first place.

Glenn Ebert is a senior digital strategist at SapientRazorfish. Comment Counts is a series of opinion pieces from experts within the industry. Do you have something to say? Get in touch via info@fashionandmash.com.

Categories
business digital snippets e-commerce film social media Startups sustainability technology

What you missed: Robotics in retail, biotech’s luxury nod, Amazon launches Spark

The rise of robotics in retail
The rise of robotics in retail

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


TOP STORIES
  • ‘We’re at the onset of an industrial revolution’: The rise of robotics in retail [Glossy]
  • Biotech gets the luxury nod with Bolt Threads x Stella McCartney tie-up [Forbes]
  • Amazon launches Spark, a shoppable feed of stories and photos aimed at Prime members [TechCrunch]

BUSINESS
  • Will the death of US retail be the next big short? [FT]
  • 10 major retailers that could go bankrupt in 2017 [RetailDive]
  • Miroslava Duma on the biggest sustainability problems facing the fashion industry [Marie Claire]

SOCIAL MEDIA
  • Instagram encroaches on Snapchat’s turf of social media influencers, winning their hearts, minds and posts [CNBC]
  • Snapchat’s e-commerce boss says World Lenses could transform how brands convert online shoppers [The Drum]
  • Nordstrom hones Snapchat strategy for annual anniversary sale [MarketingDive]

MARKETING
  • Adidas debuts lifestyle app All Day [Fashion United]
  • Pharrell Williams powers Old Navy’s 2017 back to school musical [BrandChannel]
  • Valentino integrates shoppable video for exclusive AW17 pre-launch on Mytheresa [Fashion United]

RETAIL & E-COMMERCE
  • Legacy retailers define strategy in competitive terms. Retail upstarts define it in terms of their customer [LeanLuxe]
  • Everlane to open first flagship store [RetailDive]
  • LLBean rebrands to be more digital, less direct-mail [AdAge]
  • CEO Matt Kaness on the future of ModCloth, post-Walmart [Glossy]

TECHNOLOGY
  • The permanent future of conversational commerce: eBay’s RJ Pittman on AI and chatbots [Forbes]
  • Researchers develop green method for artificial spider silk [Fashion United]

START-UPS
  • Modern Meadow to unveil its creative materials platform at fall exhibition [Modern Meadow]
  • NewStore raises $50 million for mobile commerce [TechCrunch]
  • Meet Shopshops, an interactive, online retail experience for fashion-savvy Chinese consumers [Fashionista]
  • Syte.ai, a visual search startup just for fashion, closes $8M Series A [TechCrunch]