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Campaigns Editor's pick Retail technology

8 brands deploying vending machines as smart retail solutions

Artificial intelligence, social media buzz and customer acquisition tools are just a few of the strategies behind vending machines being used as a key part of today’s retail experience.

Intelligent vending machines, which are expected to grow 17% globally over the next five years, come with technology that can provide invaluable customer data – making what was once an anonymous purchase into a visible opportunity for targeting and acquisition.

And so, brands and retailers have begun investing in activations where the machine is central to the experience, and dispense anything from beauty items to full-sized cars. Here we look at the most innovative vending machine experiences and technologies that are helping shape the future of retail.

Adidas: Live interaction
Adidas's World Series activation
Adidas’s World Series activation

To promote its new Splash Pack line, Adidas installed vending machines in two sports bars in LA and Boston during the baseball World Series. Customers were able to win a variety of limited edition products, from cleats to autographs and gear from Adidas athletes. The vending machine had built-in digital printing capabilities that would unlock different items based on the on-field action. For example, when player Chris Sale hit a homerun, it unlocked a chance to get his graphic tees. That created an ongoing buzz that kept fans coming back to check which new prizes were up for grabs next.

Lululemon: Data capturing
Lululemon's Run Stop Shop
Lululemon’s Run Stop Shop

Lululemon tapped into one of its core demographics, runners, by setting up a machine at one of its Run Stop Shops in New York, and another one in Chicago. Prizes included essential running supplies, such as Honey Stinger energy chews and Lululemon socks and hats. To win free goodies, customers had to answer a quick questionnaire on their workout habits, register with their emails and post a picture with the caption #thesweatlifeNYC or #thesweatlifeCHI.

Revlon: Social media shoutout
Revlon's gifting machine at Ulta Beauty
Revlon’s gifting machine at Ulta Beauty

In a similar vein, Cosmetics brand Revlon teamed up with beauty retailer Ulta to create a vending machine that toured the US to dish out free gifts with purchase for users also willing to engage on social media. After purchasing a product, clients would be encouraged to post a picture on Instagram with the hashtag #LiveBoldly – the title of Revlon’s latest campaign – in order to win a free gift. Different gifts were available depending on how much the client spent in-store.

Mulberry: Gamification
Mulberry's smart vending machine with TheCurrent Global
Mulberry’s smart vending machine with TheCurrent Global

Mulberry launched an in-store vending machine in partnership with TheCurrent Global, where visitors played a game of roulette in order to win prizes, from leather goods to vouchers to spend. The activity aimed to capture data on existing or new customers of the brand – in order to play, users had to input their social media handles and had the option to add their email address for further prizes. The machine was part of a larger #MulberryLights campaign for the holidays whereby it also toured stores in Edinburgh, Leeds, Manchester and New York.

Caravana: Retail theater
Carvana's vending machine
Carvana’s vending machine

When magnified, vending machines can provide customers with an automated retail theatre that only adds to the retail experience. US-based online car dealership Caravana has created a physical location that features a seven-story vending machine that quite literally, dispenses cars. While most of the purchase process happens online (buying, selling and financing), when the buyer wants to test drive, they can schedule to pick up their desired car at the vending machine, located in Indianapolis.  Adding even more to the experience, a Carvana employee will then hand out a giant coin that customers have to slot into the machine in order to retrieve the car. Alibaba has also launched something similar in partnership with Ford in China.

Dirty Lemon: Text-to-buy
Dirty Lemon's unmanned store
The Drug Store

NYC-based The Drug Store, which sells healthy beverage brand Dirty Lemon, looks like a walk-in vending machine for its entirely unmanned experience. Customers simply walk into the store and open the fridge to take any beverage, and walk out – there is no staff, cashier or even security in place. To pay, customers must text a number and say exactly what they are purchasing. The company has also deployed RFID tech in the refrigerators to track inventory sold, while a heat map tracker monitors customer flow.

Yves Saint Laurent: Customization
YSL's customizing vending machine
YSL’s customizing vending machine

To promote its beauty collection in Hong Kong, Yves Saint Laurent created a vending machine that added a level of customization to the consumer’s purchased. Called “Lipstick Engraving ATM 2.0”, the experience allowed guests to purchase lipsticks and have their name lazered on the product on the spot. “The concept behind the #YSLBeautyClub vending machine is all about fun and engaging way to interact with the brand. It’s about beauty on the go,” said Marie Laure Claisse, YSL Beauty’s marketing manager, at the time.

Hung Fook Tong: Personalization through AI
Hung Fook Tong vending machine
Hung Fook Tong vending machine

In Hong Kong, herbal tea chain Hung Fook Tong (HFT) is rolling out vending machines that use a combination of visual recognition technology and artificial intelligence to better understand and serve their customer. Machines will have cameras that photograph the customers, and create an individual profile that also includes past purchases. After analyzing data such as the climate at the point of sale, age and gender, the machine will know which drink or product a particular customer is most likely to buy and provide a recommendation.

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.


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Campaigns Editor's pick Retail social media technology Uncategorized

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 mobile technology

Burberry’s latest big idea – 3D digital fun in London

burberry__dreamworks

Another day, another tech initiative from Burberry. The company has linked up with DreamWorks Animation for a product campaign making use of 3D tech and the world-famous Piccadilly Circus, London, curved screen.

Passers-by will be able to design a personalised heritage scarf on their smartphones and the result will appear on the screen, according to reports. The same NOVA tech DreamWorks used in Kung Fu Panda will be employed, and just like Dreamworks’ output, Burberry wants it to be entertaining as well as encouraging us to buy more product.

Burberry CEO, creative chief and all-round tech-visionary-at-large Christopher Bailey told the Telegraph: “The huge screens in Piccadilly Circus give us a great canvas to launch the technology in a space that will show the possibilities of what [it] can do in an entertaining and engaging way. Giving users the ability to control their movement in various ways makes the experience much more personal when viewed on a screen, whether at home or on a digital billboard.”

Once the personalised scarf has been created, the potential customer can then buy it online or from the regent Street flagship just up the road.

But it really is just just about selling more stuff, right? Over to Bailey again: “The campaigns we create are not developed with a purely commercial imperative. Our aim is to identify platforms where we can create interesting content that we believe audiences will enjoy so that our relationship with them can extend beyond the purely transactional.”

The fact is that Burberry has become a master of entertaining and intriguing its audience in recent years while also boosting sales. That it’s chosen the scarf for this initiative is key as Burberry is as much about heritage as it is about fashion.

But it’s doing a pretty good job of bringing heritage product into the 21st century via a combination of forward-looking digital technology and personalisation services that underscore the luxury profile of the brand.

For now, the screen at Piccadilly Circus will be an extension of its online and in-store scarf bars and it’s likely to garner A LOT of attention for the brand.

This post first appeared on Trendwalk.net, a style-meets-business blog by journalist, trends specialist and business analyst, Sandra Halliday

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Editor's pick film

Gucci falls into the festive season with short gifting film

Gucci

News of Gucci might largely have been focused around the departure of creative director Frida Giannini and CEO Patrizio di Marco this week, but in the midst of all that was the opportunity to discover this little gem of a holiday campaign video launched last month.

Check out “Special Delivery” below; a whimsical tale of gift discovery that cleverly showcases a variety of product with a fun twist. It was directed by Remi Paringaux and showcases a link inviting viewers to ‘Find the perfect gift’ on the Gucci.com website alongside.

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Editor's pick film mobile

Harvey Nichols #CouldIBeAnyClearer Christmas campaign lobbies for better presents

harveynichols_clearer

Harvey Nichols is following up on its award-winning Sorry I Spent It On Myself campaign from last year with another cheeky take on the holiday period combining both a line of gift cards and a short film.

“Could I Be Any Clearer”, as it’s called, is based on the idea of ensuring people get what they really want for Christmas off the back of research showing nearly half of all UK adults were disappointed with a present last year. ‘Tis the season for receiving and not just giving after all…

The cards feature six traditional Christmas designs (robins, doves, wise men and more); each one with copy wishing Season’s Greetings or Good Tidings before changing tact and demanding specific presents. One such example: “Season’s Greetings…will be very awkward if you don’t get me a pair of Charlotte Olympia silver Octavia sandals. They’re the platform ones with the 6” heel. Size 4 ½, or a 5, if that’s all they’ve got.”

harveynichols_clearer2

That example appears in the accompanying film created by advertising agency Adam&Eve. In it a young woman is seen writing the card and delivering it to her bemused Auntie Val.

Harvey Nichols is also offering customers the ability to create their own Could I Be Any Clearer card online. There’s also a Christmas card app that creates a personalised digital card for every product on the retailer’s website. Each can then be printed, emailed or shared via social media.

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Blocks film

Sofia Coppola directs Gap’s holiday ads

gap_sofiacoppola

AdWeek hit the nailed on the head today when it referred to Gap’s holiday campaign directed by Sofia Coppola as “odd but charming”.

A series of four short spots have been released (all below), each one of them showcasing awkward moments between friends and family over the festive period – a young girl arrives home to a household of relatives in one; a boy stares longingly at a woman under the mistletoe in another. Both of those two, called Gauntlet and Mistletoe respectively, will air on television, while the others, Crooner and Pinball will run online.

Anchoring the series from Wieden + Kennedy is the tagline: “You don’t have to get them to give them Gap.” In other words, while the basis of the brand’s broader campaign for the season might be called “Dress normal”, for many people the Holidays are anything but.

Seth Farbman, Gap’s global CMO, said: “We wanted the campaign, and the films in particular, to focus on the best part of the season – family and friends. While the holidays look different in every home across the country, Sofia has brilliantly translated Gap’s snapshots of these authentic family characters to the screen. Our aim was to create a campaign that would be very warm, very honest and very Gap. And even if you don’t always get your family, our message this season is that it’s easy to give them Gap.”

Music is central to each of the videos, with the soundtrack including “I Got Stripes” by Johnny Cash, “I’m Not Ready for Love” by The Promise, “Cry” by Johnnie Ray, and “Deep Down” by Hazel and the Jolly Boys.

The first campaign under the Dress Normal moniker from Gap, was directed by David Fincher, and likewise included a series of short narrative-based films.

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e-commerce

Cath Kidston, Bauble Bar driving traffic with Christmas treasure hunt campaigns

CathKidston_SantaBanner

UK home furnishings brand, Cath Kidston, is running a cute campaign on its website in the run up to Christmas that invites shoppers to hunt through its pages to try and find Santa.

Every time they spot him they could be in with the chance of winning the products found on that page.

Based on the idea that Santa’s gone into hiding due to having too many wish lists to read through from the retailer’s main Christmas competition, the initiative sends fans on a hunt around its day bags, zip wallets, baby sleep suits and Christmas stocking fillers.

It is of course a clever move to get shoppers searching through the whole site, not to mention popping back on a regular basis, at a time when present inspiration doesn’t go amiss.

US online jewellery retailer, Bauble Bar, is running something similar for the festive season too. Email subscribers are being sent clues to “Buried Baubles” each day – items with serious markdowns hidden somewhere on the site. Meanwhile, its “30-days of Sparkle” campaign – as below – also sees daily discounts and offers being unveiled in the run up to Christmas.

BaubleBar_30daysofsparkle