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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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business Campaigns

3 ways fashion brands weighed in on the US midterm elections

Tory Burch
Tory Burch

Fashion companies used to avoid dipping into politics, but with society facing greater polarisation than ever, consumers are expecting their favorite brands to speak up.

More than half of US consumers (52%) said a brand’s position on social or environmental issues would impact their holiday buying decisions this year, up three points from 2017, according to research published this week by The NPD Group.

“In this midterm election year, political polarization and activism is on the rise in this country, and it’s bleeding into the upcoming holiday season, especially among younger consumers,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry advisor of The NPD Group.

With customers becoming more aware of what they support with their dollars, retailers don’t want to look like another callous corporation, but getting activism-based association right, is a challenge of authenticity.

Check out these three initiatives major brands took in the run-up to the US midterm elections:
 

Political backing from Patagonia

Patagonia
Patagonia

Known for its environmental activism, outdoor brand Patagonia took a step further this election. Not only did it join the Time to Vote campaign by closing stores nationwide to give employees the opportunity to get to their local polling stations, but it also made its first political endorsements in the brand’s history, supporting Democratic candidates Jackie Rosen and Jon Tester.

“The company is endorsing candidates for the first time this year because of the urgent and unprecedented threats to our public lands and waters. Nevada and Montana are two states where Patagonia has significant company history and a long record of conservation accomplishments, and where the stakes are too high to stay silent,” the company said in a statement.

In addition, the brand launched an entire section of its website to help customers “make a voting plan”, with links to information about candidates and polling places.
 

T-shirt endorsement from Moda Operandi, Tory Burch and Carbon 38

Moda Operandi
Moda Operandi

Limited-edition tees with “Vote” signs were on sale at numerous retailers to drive awareness around increased voter turnout. Moda Operandi even created a trunk show called “Vote 2018” dedicated to selling them. Tory Burch’s tee was among those featured on the luxury e-commerce site, with the proceeds going to Yara Shahidi’s Eighteen x 18. Prabal Gurung’s bamboo-cotton tee was also on sale, and sold out, with proceeds supporting Rock the Vote.

Activewear brand Carbon38 created 300 tanks emblazoned with “I Am a Voter”, producing a second run after selling out. All of the proceeds support groups including Democracy Works, Headcount, Nonprofit Vote, Rock the Vote, Vote.org, #VoteTogether, Voto Latino and When We All Vote.

“We noticed heavier-than-usual traffic on our site and likely reached a broader demographic than just our core customer since so many people are proud and compassionate about this,” said Carbon38 co-founder and CEO, Katie Warner Johnson, to WWD.
 

Voting booths at Levi’s

Levi's
Levi’s

Another participant in the Time to Vote campaign, Levi Strauss & Co also went above and beyond to encourage turnout. The brand worked with Rock the Vote to install 40 voter registration booths in Levi’s stores.

According to the brand’s president and CEO, Chip Bergh, the current divided political climate and government’s failure to provide for society are pushing companies to weigh in. “We are a $5 billion company. I have a platform that would be wasted if we are not taking advantage to make a difference in this world”, he said at the Fast Company Innovation Festival in New York last week.

Bergh explained the business operates with a concept called “profits through principles”: every year it gives a certain percentage of its profits as a company to its foundation. “Through the foundation, we execute a lot of goodwill towards the communities and the society.”

With so many different social issues to choose from, brands have a responsibility to pick causes that align with their values. As Bergh puts it: “If you stand for everything, you stand for nothing. We’ve had to be deliberate about the spots we’re going to weigh in on.”

Are you thinking innovatively enough in your brand messaging? 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.