US-based sustainable fashion brand, Reformation, is stepping up its transparency game by opening its Los Angeles factory to the public for regular tours.
Starting on Earth Day tomorrow (April 22), the company will invite visitors to walk the vertically integrated factory floor to see where its products are cut, sewn, packaged and more.
“There are people behind the clothes we wear, and too often they work under terrible conditions. That’s why we built our own sustainable factory in Los Angeles, where we work with awesome people from all over the world,” reads the write-up.
Reformation moved into its new downtown Los Angeles facility earlier this year. It employees 300 factory workers in it, many of which are featured in a video series it has also started rolling out.
The factory uses the most efficient, eco-friendly and pro-social technologies and practices available, while its green infrastructure minimises waste, water, and energy footprints. Electricity is offset by 100% wind power for instance, while there’s also a number of recycling services and programmes on site, as well as opportunities for staff ranging from ESL classes to citizenship services and legal support.
The first tour will start at 10.30am PST tomorrow hosted by Reformation’s CEO and founder Yael Aflalo. It will also stream on Facebook Live. Thereafter, further tours will take place for anyone wanting to book a spot on the first Friday of every month.
What better time of year for something a bit fun and interactive than at Christmas. With an increasing movement towards more in the way of technology that actually resonates with consumers, we’ve seen all sorts of campaigns deployed this season to enhance the festive experience in both physical and digital spaces.
From chatbots to virtual reality devices, not to mention increasingly clever applications on social media, all things digital are proving key for successful holiday seasons to come.
Here we’ve rounded up all of the best of this year’s initiatives across the fashion and retail space. Don’t forget to also check out our best picks of the festive films for 2016.
Technology aids in merging physical with digital
The evolving presence of tech in the holiday season was first spotted when John Lewis launched its Christmas campaign in the UK a few weeks ago. Included was an in-store activity where visitors could experience its Buster the Boxer commercial through virtual reality headsets.
Shortly after, eBay opened a two-day pop up in London that aimed to be the first store run on ‘emotions’. Visitors could browse gift items and select the ones they responded to the best, according to bio-analytic and facial technology.
Next we saw Hearst Magazines teamed up with Blippar to create the world’s first ‘augmented reality retail district’ in Covent Garden. Magazine editors worked with 35 participating retailers to bring to life beauty and fashion gift guides that are only available to view through the Blippar app. Further gamification included using the app over the district’s Christmas tree, located in the famous Piazza, to unlock retailer and restaurant discounts.
Meanwhile in New York, department store window displays are being celebrated through a campaign from Google called Window Wonderland, which allows users to experience 18 displays, from the iconic Bergdorf Goodman to Macy’s and Tiffany & Co, also through the magic of VR. Each can be zoomed in and even come with audio guides from some of the store creatives talking about this year’s work.
The experience was produced by Google’s Art, Copy & Code team by taking hundreds of high-resolution images of each store and then stitching them together so they can be viewed via a web browser, on a smartphone or tablet, or through a VR headset.
In a nod to the lesser trend of wearable technology this season, Samsung is celebrating the launch of its new G3 smartwatch in Piccadilly Circus from Dec 1 until Christmas Eve, with one choir performance a day, showcasing holiday spirit from around the world. Aiming to bring Londoners and visitors together, each choir comes from a different culture or country, ranging from France to Bangladesh.
The key part however is that selected choir members will wear the new smartwatch, which will measure their heartbeats, movements and calories burnt. The biometric results have then been transformed into visuals, displayed on eight screens around the stage.
Social media spans chatbots to live video
Beyond creatively deploying technology in physical environments, brands are taking to social media to explore new and different ways they can engage and encourage followers to get excited for the season.
Conversation was also the name of the game for Agent Provocateur this season, albeit in a human capacity. The lingerie brand took to Whatsapp for a campaign led by its agency Cult LDN. Referred to as a Ménage à Trois, it helped couples choose ideal gifts by chatting within a group.
In a simpler way, we’ve also seen retailers like Macy’s pushing its “The Santa Project” campaign over social media with ads on Facebook Canvas and Instagram Marquee, while also encouraging followers to record their own videos explaining why they #Believe in Santa.
Also deploying video is Barneys New York, which has promoted a stylish Secret Santa featuring a group of influencers, from Man Repeller’s Leandra Medine to DJ Mia Moretti. #BarneysUnwrapped lives on the retailer’s Instagram page, where each participant stars in an individual video unwrapping their gift, subtly encouraging viewers to buy said items at Barneys, of course.
Needless to say, there’s also been a big focus on Snapchat this season with retailers such as Kohl’s taking the tried-and-test route of Sponsored Geofilters and John Lewis a Sponsored Lens themed to Buster the Boxer.
Sweet, Hearst’s Snapchat-only media channel, meanwhile ran a two-day pop-up ‘shop’ sponsored by Maybelline. It released a gift guide with over 100 snaps, ranging from affordable to expensive, with Maybelline ads running in between. While Sweet’s editorial team worked on the extensive gift selection, it also developed fun and shareable content such as GIFs and catchy phrases, hoping viewers would screengrab their wish list items and send to friends.
Despite the success of a Snapchat giveaway campaign during this year’s Black Friday, US beauty subscription box Birchbox experimented with Instagram Stories in a “12 Days of Christmas” initiative for the holidays instead. It revealed prizes and discounts from partners such as Hilton and Athleta, in a campaign hosted by actress Sophia Bush.
This sort of staggered giveaway as a strategy, has been deployed by a number of other American retailers this year, including Target for Black Friday, and JetBlue with another 12-day campaign in a bid to get customers to come back and interact day after day.
Meanwhile with live video on a steep incline, Facebook Live has been the focus for a lot of brands ahead of the holidays. UK retailer Primark, an active user of the feature, has recently promoted a series of giveaways under the “Go, Get and Gift” headline, where viewers who answered questions correctly the quickest would be rewarded discounts and gifts.
ASOS ran a similar campaign that grabbed viewer’s attentions by asking them to guess what was packed inside mysterious bags as tips and hints slowly unfolded, with all the right answers entering a prize draw.
What this also proves is that with digital media so embedded in customers’ lives, brands are particularly embracing chances to grab audience attention while they’re willing to join in; during a positive and festive time of the year. The holiday season, unlike its divisive younger sister Black Friday, is the perfect opportunity for them to convey a message of unity and fun, while experimenting with all that the newest tech has to offer. Look out for much more of this ahead too however.
The fashion industry – from your department store to your luxury boutique – is undergoing significant change at the hands of the digital revolution. That’s not new in concept. Neither, mind you, is talking about things like artificial intelligence, virtual reality or blockchain as emerging technologies.
Put those two together however, and things start getting interesting. Broad business adoption of machine learning (for instance) is one thing, but in the context of the impact that then has on shopping, we start to be able to see what the future might look like.
At this time of year, the web is inundated with predictions for what lies ahead, especially in the marketing and technology space. Yet, at a point when consumers are not only more demanding than ever, but market conditions are increasingly volatile, keeping abreast of such movements has also never been so pertinent.
This isn’t a list that pushes the likes of mobile or omnichannel strategy, no matter how far off retailers actually are from achieving the latter particularly, nor is it a focus on areas including the fashion week cycle or sustainability, despite how important these are to shifting business strategy. Rather it’s an opportunity to remind yourself of some of the key things to think about from a digital marketing and tech perspective as you head into the New Year. If 2016 is anything to go by, it’s set to be an interesting one…
1/ One-to-one relationships will be possible at scale
Personalisation at scale is becoming ever more of a reality thanks to the role that artificial intelligence and machine learning is playing. Nascent at this stage (particularly when applied to the fashion and retail space), we’ll see significant uptake next year and beyond, whether that be around driving recommendations, offering natural language search responses or building out more intelligent customer service. The outcome, in theory, is the idea of returning to the store of yesteryear, where the owners knew every shopper on a one-to-one basis. This time, it’s not only at scale, but constantly learning so as to keep improving the experience. It also comes with significant value exchange attached for the shopper, both online and in the real world. The nuance that goes into fashion selection makes this one of the harder areas to play in, but the company that figures out how to tie that together with personal data on a shopping level, is in for a win.
2/ The bots will arrive (they have already)
For now, AI is largely being applied in the messaging space. Burberry, Nordstrom, Tommy Hilfiger, Sephora, Everlane and American Eagle are just some of the fashion and beauty brands already experimenting with chatbots – machine-led customer service tools on Facebook Messenger, Kik and the like. Bar the odd gifting experience, this has largely been about relatively basic campaigns so far; more a bid to hit the early adopter goalpost than successfully convert consumers via new means. Looking to 2017 however, the software is only likely to improve as it learns, but so too are the brand approaches to nailing this as a channel. Look out for more ‘conversational commerce’ tied to both online and offline shopping up ahead.
3/ Frictionless brick and mortar retail will become an expectation
Technology in the store is only increasing. Rather than the sort of garish initiatives we’ve seen to date – press-worthy campaigns based on big tech geared to the customer experience – we’re moving into an era where what’s put in store has to recognisably enable a more frictionless style of shopping. Ever demanding consumers are expecting to get what they want more quickly and easily than ever, especially when it comes to the payment part – hence the launch of Amazon Go, a new checkout free grocery store, and even the self-checkouts at Rebecca Minkoff. It’s about the Internet of Things (connected stores, collections, fitting rooms and more) having a useful consumer impact. It’s this sort of heightened level of convenience that will be the ultimate customer experience in 2017. Easier said than done for businesses restricted by legacy systems, but those looking to improve on it from an omnichannel perspective will lead the pack.
4/ You’ll need to think about designing for the voice interface
If we’re talking about the Internet of Things, there’s going to be an increasing amount of focus put on voice in terms of a user interface. This is the next big platform for interaction with services – whether via devices in the home, or smartphones on the go. Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Google Assistant and Amazon’s Echo device, featuring Alexa, are all playing in this space; the question is, what does this look like for retailers (beyond Amazon)? It’s more likely to impact the consumer goods space initially, but fashion brands have an opportunity to experiment and potentially a need to future-proof here too. Mary Meeker of KPCB predicts that by 2020, half of all web searches will use voice or image search rather than text. “More efficient and often more convenient than typing, voice-based interfaces are ramping quickly and creating a new paradigm for human-computer interaction,” she said. Again, it’s about frictionless experiences – information through to purchase within one simple stream rather than multiple clicks away.
5/ Digital realities will steam forward
As far as emerging technologies go, it’d be hard to miss everything happening in the realm of virtual and augmented reality. Goldman Sachs theorises retail will be one of the first industries to be disrupted by the two combined, leading to a $1.6bn market based around 32 million users. Already heavily played with across the fashion, luxury and beauty space, albeit largely for PR purposes, we’ve seen everything from storytelling to fashion shows, not to mention practical applications for things like make-up try-ons, as per the likes of beauty brand Charlotte Tilbury. It’s the latter idea of functionality that will continue apace in 2017. Forget mere gimmick, or even gamification (as seen with Pokémon Go, which will arguably be referred to as the turning point for the mass adoption of AR) – these digital realities are set to help shoppers and businesses alike in numerous new ways, making them a highly relevant tool to explore. If any further indication was needed, just look to Alibaba – the Chinese e-commerce giant invited shoppers to not only visit a Macy’s store using VR, but enabled them to pay merely by nodding their heads.
6/ Blockchain will become part of business vernacular
Blockchain still remains somewhat in the confines of tech discussions rather than one too familiar in fashion circles, but behind the scenes it’s making significant headway. It’s referred to by Gartner as a “type of distributed ledger in which value exchange transactions (in bitcoin or other token) are sequentially grouped into blocks”. The blocks can’t be modified, but can be viewed, meaning a huge benefit lies in the added trust and transparency that provides. It was once about cryptocurrencies alone, but can now be applied to a multitude of verticals, including fashion, where there are interesting impacts to be had from a supply chain perspective particularly. Blockchain can facilitate storytelling around provenance, and even serve as a marketing and branding tool, as already tried and tested by Shanghai Fashion Week brand Babyghost. It’s the security side to help combat counterfeit goods that seems most pertinent however. As JWT Intelligence wrote: “Blockchain’s transaction ledger is perhaps the most secure tool available today to verify authenticity, a major concern in the luxury goods sector.”
7/ You’re going to need a ‘live’ strategy
Live video isn’t a new concept, but it gained serious ground in 2016 off the back of big launches including Facebook Live and more recently both Instagram and Twitter’s own versions, not to mention the continuing role Snapchat plays too. The result is serious marketing thinking in this space, which will roll forward into the New Year for those looking to gain a competitive lead within social media. It’s not overly surprising; standing out has never been harder on each of said platforms, especially in an increasingly pay-to-play market, meaning those who take the plunge as first movers, stand to gain significant advantage, albeit for limited time. Both Benefit Cosmetics and Primark are worth looking at in the Facebook Live space. WARC warns brands to think about things like quality over quantity and recognising the three-second window you have to grab a viewer’s attention.
8/ We’ll see more of a shift to visceral experiences
Contrary to the very idea of tech in the store, or digitally enabled experiences both online and offline, will come more in the way of the physical, visceral side of retail in 2017. Adding a ‘third space’, or the idea of services in store that encourage dwell time, is no longer enough however. Success will come to those who push for differentiated experiences to their competitors, with emotional connections playing a significant role. As Doug Stephens, futurist and author behind Retail Prophet, recently wrote: “In a world where almost every aspect of our lives is somehow tethered to technology, experiences that engage our bodies, our senses and our souls are at a premium. Digital is what we’ve become but visceral is what we crave.” Fashion brands and department stores especially, will need to start taking a leaf out of the likes of Apple’s book. It has recently removed the word ‘store’ from its destinations, and is instead referring to them as ‘town squares’ – places where consumers want to gather and spend time. It’s all about community, entertainment and education, whether that includes tech or otherwise.
Benefit Cosmetics is seeing anywhere from a thousand to several thousand viewers tune into its weekly “Tipsy Tricks” broadcasts on Facebook Live.
These 30-minute sessions, which have run on the brand’s page every week since April, are comprised of a host called Stephanie drinking a glass of wine while giving a make-up tip and answering questions from viewers. They get anywhere up to 60,000 views after the fact.
That success, according to Internet Retailer, is about delivering entertainment, education and personality. “On Facebook you’re killing time, so we wanted to make it fun,” says Claudia Allwood, senior director of US digital marketing at Benefit. She refers to the brands Live strategy as being like a lifestyle talk show.
The host will also chat with guests including make-up artists like James Charles or other Benefit employees, give product recommendations and push viewers to the website.
The videos are not tied to any return-on-investment metrics, however, Allwood notes. Facebook Live videos are to build the Benefit brand, educate consumers and answer questions, not to drive sales, she explains.
Facebook Live is also not its only video focus. Benefit also posts regular videos to YouTube focused on make-up tutorials, and runs daily videos for Snapchat and Instagram Stories (with specific content for each platform).
“It can all have the same message and the same theme and work well together in the same ecosystem, but it can’t be exactly the same,” Allwood says.
The brand has an in-house studio that films its Facebook Live and YouTube videos – producing anywhere from four to eight of them per month. To do so, there are two full-time employees – a content manager and video producer – plus a freelancer who helps with lighting, footage and the shot’s composition, Internet Retailer reports.
With New York Fashion Week well and truly in full swing, the main conversation this past week (and weekend) has been around the whole see-now, buy-now collection strategy from various designers. Alongside that have been the way in which tools like Snapchat and Facebook Live are being used at the shows, as well as the introduction of street style shopping on Google thanks to a new partnership between the search giant and LiketoKnow.It.
Also hitting the headlines has been everything from Ted Baker’s new shoppable film produced by Guy Ritchie to the role music is playing over at Levi’s and a look into Amazon’s fashion ambitions. Don’t forget to check out our full list of upcoming events at the bottom too…
We’re back with another round-up of everything you might have missed in fashion and technology news (and beyond) over the past week or so. Needless to say, Brexit has been the big subject as the industry tries to weigh up what such a result means for them going forward. We’ve highlighted some of the must-read pieces on the subject. Beyond that there’s an update on the value of Reddit for brands, insight on Uniqlo’s evolving digital identity and to cheer everyone up, Amazon’s new #saysomethingnice campaign…
Britain votes to exit EU, unleashing untold damage on the fashion industry [BoF]
Brexit: Retail chiefs must lead in the creation of a prosperous future [Retail Week]
What Brexit means for British fashion brands [Esquire]
Here’s why Brexit might not be so bad for… Burberry [Yahoo]
E-commerce winners and losers in the wake of Brexit [Glossy]
Why big brands are suddenly getting cozy with Reddit [AdWeek]
How fashion brands are starting to design like tech companies [Co.Design]
How Uniqlo plans to establish a digital identity [Glossy]
Amazon Fashion launches #saysomethingnice social campaign [The Industry]
Online fashion curator FarFetch, which links shops to customers, grows in China [SCMP]
Nicola Formichetti on subcultures, digital life & advertising on Pornhub [Oyster]
Primark is hosting live 360-degree video content from its autumn/winter press day in London today, providing fans with immersive access to its new collection through the eyes, and hauls, of certain influencers.
Based on the idea of haul videos – the popular term for video bloggers revealing what they’ve just purchased – the aim is to enable the retailer’s global social media audience of 7.8m to experience new product in real-time.
“We wanted to be able to put our fans right at the centre of our AW16 press days, make them feel immersed in the event space and ask some of our favourite influencers to pick out their favourite pieces from our ranges by carrying out the first ever live Primark Hauls in 360-degrees,” says Olly Rzysko, head of digital communications at the retailer.
For reference, searching for “Primark Haul” on YouTube currently delivers over 370,000 results, which is what Rzysko says inspired this campaign. “It’s a huge part of the Primark online DNA, it inspired our UGC platform Primania and it’s all created by our customers and fans, so we thought we would do something special that’s not been done before to celebrate this.”
The videos will be viewable in 360-degrees on both YouTube in real-time, and later posted to Facebook (which doesn’t yet take live 360 video) and to Primark.com. The team will also be simulcasting to Facebook Live throughout the day.
The 360 hauls will feature influencers including Dolly Bow, Becky Sargeant, Mark Hayes and Charlotte Hole and will cover womenswear, menswear, home, kids and beauty (click each for live links). They begin at roughly 12pm GMT and run until 7pm, though all can be found via this playlist link, which will be updated throughout the day, too.
Rzysko says live video is a key part of the Primark strategy today. This campaign follows a successful live tour of the retailer’s new Milan store, which saw 250,000 real-time viewers and a further 1.2m after the event. Primark will next take the 360 Haul campaign to Dublin on June 16.
If you’ve spent anytime on Facebook over the past few days it’s more than likely you’ll have stumbled across the video of a woman in the US trying on a Chewbacca mask.
Her infectious laughter has now made this Facebook Live’s most-ever watched recording with over 100m views, and counting.
Essentially an unboxing video, she just happens to mention at the beginning that she got it from department store Kohl’s, before sharing the fact that this mask is a birthday present to herself and not going to be for her kids.
Kohl’s jumped on that idea sending Candace Payne and her family several more masks so they could all enjoy wearing them, as well as a stack of further Star Wars merchandise and a $2,500 Kohl’s gift card. The nature of the response (planned with its social agency, Huge), as well as its speed, has won the retailer props around the country and across social media.
“We don’t want you to have to share your Chewbacca mask, so we ‘confinsctated’ masks for everybody,” the Kohl’s rep said in the video of the drop-off, in reference to her confusion in the initial clip about how to pronounce “confiscated”. That clip, called “The Happiest Chewbacca” has got 29m views too. The mask has also since flown off Kohl’s shelves around the country.
The question is, where’s the line with such brand integration? Kohl’s got lucky with this one, to be fair. Payne could have opened the item and never mentioned the retailer’s name. She could (likely) have even bought it from somewhere else. There’s no denying however that the store did a great job of quickly reacting in a positive way that benefitted the family further, thanking them for being loyal shoppers, rather than just taking to social media to post a basic response of their own.
The fact it had the wherewithal to do something about it when the opportunity presented itself should alone be celebrated. But dig a little deeper on social, and a few responses were of course a touch cynical – ranging from eye rolling at the fact Kohl’s did anything at all, to wishing to never have to work for an agency that did such uncreative campaigns, not to mention suggesting that the PR’ing of the initiative was what felt particularly forced.
While speed is probably what made this work – grabbing the moment and beating any competitors to it – others suggested that what it did left a nasty brand-feel to an otherwise very fun and joyful thing. Payne and her family seem pretty happy about it, but there’s a slight layer of awkwardness over so much gifting felt in the Kohl’s clip too.
In spite of that, there’s no denying that the Chewbacca story is everywhere for this particular moment in time, and the fact it’s with the Kohl’s name wholeheartedly attached to it means that team is no doubt patting itself neatly on the back. Wouldn’t you? We’d love to hear some of your thoughts as industry insiders on the matter, do share in the comments below…
There are lots of updates this past week on interesting textile developments – from the spider silk of Bolt Threads to Spiber, both of which have announced new deals with Patagonia and The North Face respectively. Also worth a read is the anonymous social media exec spilling secrets to Digiday, not to mention the idea that we will all indeed be buying our designer clothing in the future on Amazon. If that’s not enough, further fashion and tech news from the past fortnight spans Birchbox’s use of Facebook Live to a breakdown of how brands are using Snapchat. Read on for all…
L’Oréal invests in Founders Factory digital start-up incubator [BrandChannel]
Bolt Threads raises $50 million to brew spider silk, inks deal with Patagonia [TechCrunch]
Confessions of a social media exec on influencer marketing: ‘We threw too much money at them’ [Digiday]
People will eventually buy their designer clothing on Amazon, because they buy everything there [Quartz]
Everlane’s Shoe Park interactive pop-up offers self-guided shopping [Footwear News]
How Birchbox uses Facebook Live videos to engage consumers [Retail Dive]
How Frank + Oak built a modern loyalty program for men [Glossy]