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The digital retail activations winning this holiday season

Retailers are connecting online and offline more than ever this holiday season, with everything from virtual stores to partnerships with social networks designed to help shoppers find the perfect gifts.

Deloitte estimates that e-commerce sales are set to increase between 17-22% for holiday 2018, as consumers seek convenience and speed in their shopping experiences, meaning retailers are doing all in their wheelhouse to gain some of that market share. To add to that, 42% of US consumers say they will use smartphones or tablets to shop, according to Citi Retail Services, making the mobile experience more important than ever.

Also front and center are a number of chatbots, augmented reality initiatives for discovery and virtual try-on, and more. Here we highlight some of the best activations to know about for 2018:

Digital gift-giving
Instagram #InstaGiftGuide

Digital gift guides continue apace this year, with the social media networks heading the pack. Instagram created its first ever gift guide by pairing products with hashtags, for instance. The #InstaGiftGuide is divided into six of the most popular hashtag trends of 2018: #CatsOfInstagram, #Tutting, #OddlySatisfying, #FingerBoarding, #Vaporwave and #ISeeFaces.

Dedicated videos then act as guides, featuring more than 30 brands. #FingerBoarding, for example, is all about jewelry for hands, while #OddlySatisfying shows everything from a highlighter from Milk Makeup being cut, to a hand feeling the soft texture of a Levi’s fake fur.

Meanwhile Pinterest has partnered with brands on gift-finding tools for the holidays, with Macy’s, Lowe’s and Kohl’s using it to personalize the shopping experience. Customers can enter who they are shopping for, and “Gift Globes” will deliver a list of suggestions from participating retailers. In order to drive shoppers to the experience, brands are leveraging the site’s Promoted Videos at maximum width as well as the Promoted Pins feature.

Chatbots otherwise remain a strong currency for brands enabling decision-making on social media. Ray-Ban has released one on Facebook Messenger that helps customers shop for loved ones by recommending items, and allowing customers to purchase directly within the Facebook Messenger app. After answering questions like “Who are you shopping for?” and “Which of these faces is the best fit: round, square, oval, triangle?”, the bot gives options of frames that would be a perfect match.

Also playing in this space is Mall of America, which is the largest shopping complex in the US. It launched an interactive hologram called “Ellie the Elf” that acts as a concierge to advise customers on gift buying. 

Tapping into play
Fred Segal’s online boutique

The idea of play and fun has also been given a digital spin this year. The Walmart Toy Lab is a digital playground where kids can use their computer or tablet to preview 20 of the toys on the retailer’s Top Rated by Kids list. For each product, an online “funtroller” gives kids the option to control the action. They can see visual reviews or watch other children playing, as well as share their lists of favorites with their parents. There is even a ‘troll’ button that makes fun of the video’s host.

Over in Singapore, the  313@Somerset retail complex has created a virtual reality sleigh experience where shoppers can immerse themselves in a virtual Christmas-themed land and collect presents to help Santa Claus with his deliveries. Fun gameplay and an immersive winter wonderland environment proved a hit, with the installation receiving heavy traffic.

Mall of America is also deploying augmented reality this season by taking consumers on a scavenger hunt with an app that brings to life the oversized toys displayed across its 5.6m-square-foot mall. The engagement aims to tell a holiday story, and enable shoppers to enter for the chance to win a shopping experience.

Virtual shopping
Target “See It in Your Space” 

We’re also seeing augmented and virtual reality being used to drive shopping. Target’s “See It in Your Space” AR feature in its mobile app has received an upgrade for the holidays so shoppers can visualize Christmas trees in their homes. The retailer also added other items, such as furniture and rugs, to the tree-shopping experience.

Meanwhile, earlier this month, Fred Segal teamed up with Mastercard to create an online 3D version of its physical store. The virtual flagship is similar to Google’s Street View, with an additional shoppable feature where customers can buy whatever they see. Through a web browser, they can navigate categories like men, women, kids, and gifts. The concept helps customers see how the merchandise is displayed in-store, leading them to  discover things they wouldn’t have seen online otherwise. 

How are you thinking about digital 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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e-commerce Editor's pick technology

YOOX combines AI and digital avatars in virtual try-on feature


Luxury e-commerce platform, YOOX is launching YOOXMIRROR, an in-app feature that acts as a discovery tool for users to explore new looks through a virtual avatar, Daisy.

On the app’s homepage, users can view nine fashion stories laid out in a similar style to Instagram Stories, divided into themes such as “Join the party” and “Check mate”.

Daisy, the avatar, has been introduced to showcase the outfits,  customizable by four different skin tones and hair colors. Users can then ‘swipe up’ to play mix-and-match with more garments and accessories. Daisy has also take over the YOOX Instagram account.

 “The introduction of YOOXMIRROR represents an important move for us, offering our customers something personalized and memorable which is also a brand-new way to explore the very best of YOOX, ” says Paolo Mascio, president of YOOX. “We are so excited by the potential of this initiative that we will not limit our avatar Daisy to the styling suite – taking over our IG she is going to become the personification of YOOX, allowing us an even more direct contact with our followers and customs.”

The feature is currently available for both men and women on the retailer’s iOS app.

The luxury e-commerce group has been investigating the different ways in which AI can provide users with a more personalized experience in the future, but also how it can enable its staff to deliver more efficiently. Last year, it opened a tech hub to investigate AI and the next wave of mobile technologies. Meanwhile, at the Wired Smarter conference in London in October, it announced it is introducing a new private label collection that is informed by AI, while designed by a creative team.

This post has been edited. The original version said users could also upload a full-body shot of themselves and view outfits in 2D overlaid onto them. This feature is not currently available.

How are you thinking about digital 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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e-commerce social media

Adidas sells new shoe in Snapchat fashion show

adidas on Snapchat
adidas on Snapchat

Adidas sold its latest sneakers through a fashion show hosted exclusively on Snapchat, making it a platform first.

The brand launched an iteration of its Adidas Originals Falcon W style on “Fashion 5 Ways”, a new show that premiered on the social media platform’s Discover page last week.

Fans watching the show could purchase the shoe by swiping up, which revealed an e-commerce page powered by Shopify, with delivery fulfilled by Darkstore. This marks the first time Snapchat users can purchase a product through one of its shows.

“Fashion 5 Ways”, produced by Thumb Candy Media, is a show catering to young women who want to explore different ways to wear fashion staples such as sneakers. According to Snapchat, millions of viewers watched this specific episode, with 70% of the overall audience for it being women aged 13 to 24.

adidas on Snapchat

Brands are increasingly finding ways of gamifying real life interactions with the help of their customer’s mobile behaviors. Beyond quirky mobile games, this trend now includes an important final touchpoint: retail. By creating demand and providing tools to fulfil it on the spot, these brands are locking consumers into their ecosystems.

Another example happened in February this year, when Nike became the first brand to sell a product on Snapchat by allowing users to scan an exclusive Snap code at an afterparty in Los Angeles that they could use to purchase shoes and receive them on the same night. In this instance, all of the sneakers sold out within 23 minutes.

A further indication that sportswear labels are spearheading this movement: during this year’s SXSW festival, cult label Outdoor Voices launched an AR experience that surfaced exclusive styles of clothing depending on the user’s location. The user could then purchase the items exclusively.

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.