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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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Retail technology

Mall of America launches elf hologram concierge to help guide gifting

Mall of America has launched an interactive hologram called “Ellie the Elf”,  which acts as a concierge and helps advise customers on which gifts to buy their loved ones this holiday season.

Activated via voice command, customers can interact with the hologram, which lives on a screen in the shopping center, by standing next to a small control board, and speaking into a microphone. 

The experience operates much like a chatbot, going down the route of a decision tree to get to suggestions for users. When users ask “Ellie, I’m looking for a gift for my mom”, for instance, it then responds by asking further questions to determine the perfect gift.

The aim of the experience, which was created in partnership with VNTANA, is to both ease the shopping journey for customers, and create a fun interaction.

“At our core, Mall of America is an experiential retail destination,” said Sarah Townes, VP of marketing at the company. “VNTANA’s hologram technology is a great way to capitalize on our multi-channel chatbot we launched last year and provides yet another interaction for guests to experience that not only offers a fun interaction but also assistance to those searching for gift ideas this holiday season.”

When approaching the hologram, customers are also invited to find gifts via different categories of suggestions. These are broken down into women, men, teens, kids and babies, for instance, after which new categories emerge such as “tech” or “experience”. 

The concierge can then also show customers where they can find the specific items they are looking for, by explaining on which level and area of the mall they are located.

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.

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

ICYMI: Dolce & Gabbana’s downfall, the double-edged sword of discounting, a trillion-dollar holiday season

Dolce & Gabbana is in trouble in China
Dolce & Gabbana is in trouble in China

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

TOP STORIES
  • The crash and burn of Dolce & Gabbana [NYT]
  • The double-edged sword of discounting [BoF]
  • Get ready for the first-ever trillion-dollar shopping season [Fast Company]
  • ThirdLove publishes a scathing open letter to Victoria’s Secret in a New York Times ad [AdWeek]
TECHNOLOGY
SUSTAINABILITY & PURPOSE
  • Sustainable fashion searches surged in 2018 [Forbes]
  • Trawling for trash: the brands turning plastic pollution into fashion [The Guardian]
  • Bangladesh clothing factories face squeeze if safety push blocked [BoF]
  • How to convince a fashion brand to go fur-free in 2018 [Fashionista]
  • From Gucci to Walmart, these brands & retailers took a stand on social issues this year [Footwear News]
RETAIL & E-COMMERCE
  • Inside an Amazon warehouse on Black Friday [Vox]
  • Amazon is mailing a printed holiday toy catalog to millions of customers [CNBC]
  • Walmart unveils ‘digital playground’ as it gets serious about toys [Marketing Dive]
  • Kohl’s cracks the retail code [Fortune]
MARKETING & SOCIAL MEDIA
  • Why holiday windows still matter [NYT]
  • Snapchat enlists Kylie Cosmetics to launch in-app social commerce [Mobile Marketer]
  • Canada Goose is turning the dressing room into a freezer [Free Malaysia Today]
  • Balenciaga just blew the CGI model debate wide open [Vogue]
  • How Farfetch leverages its WeChat strategy [Jing Daily]
  • Girlboss is launching a LinkedIn-like platform that’s exclusively for women [AdWeek]
  • Apple’s holiday ad is an animated short film [TechCrunch]
BUSINESS
  • YNAP drops Dolce & Gabbana following major Chinese retailers [WWD]
  • The race to replace Victoria’s Secret [BoF]
  • Gap plans to shutter ‘hundreds’ of its flagship stores [RetailDive]
  • The personal luxury goods market delivers positive growth in 2018 to reach €260 billion – a trend that is expected to continue through 2025 [Bain & Company]
CULTURE
  • Does fashion have a cultural appropriation problem? [BBC]
  • The art of woke wellness [The Atlantic]

How are you thinking about 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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Editor's pick Retail technology

Macy’s celebrates the holidays with plethora of interactive experiences

Macy's new holiday campaign, Space Station
Macy’s new holiday campaign, Space Station

Macy’s is deploying technology and personalization to celebrate the holiday season, allowing consumers to find their perfect gifts through online tools and offline experiences.

On Instagram, the American department store is creating personalized gift guides in the form of Instagram carousels targeting specific recipients, such as a user’s friend or family member. To join they will have to answer questions about their interests and price range, for the Instant Gift Guide to generate a list they can swipe through, with the final frame being shoppable.

Meanwhile on Pinterest, Macy’s is creating a 360-degree tool that allows users to experience being inside a miniature snow globe that alludes to an element of its holiday commercial, Space Station. The globe will be filled with colorful holiday decor and enable users to pan around to find gifts and inspiration hidden within the scene. Customers will be able to shop their finds as well as share wish lists and send items to themselves.

The use of technology will expand online, as the retailer promotes new ways to trial beauty and visualize furniture. In approximately 50 stores nationwide, the beauty department will introduce an augmented reality mirror for instant try-ons, which will also showcase more than 250 beauty products. The mirror experience will be triggered when the consumer looks into a camera, allowing them to try on different shades from eye shadow to lipstick.

The beauty department at Macy’s most icon store, at Herald Square in New York, is also getting a makeover with the Instagram consumer in mind: the retailer has launched a 270-square-foot space that allows shoppers to discover brands in new ways and snap and share. The space is anchored around revolving themes, with the current one, titled “Beauty on Display”, being set up as a luxury boudoir where visitors can snap photos near a claw foot bathtub as well as shop for products.

As for furniture, Macy’s is following many home goods retailers and deploying virtual reality to enable store visitors to visualize furniture in their homes. The “See Your Space IRL” experience, available in select stores, lets shoppers virtually design their living spaces and place Macy’s furniture within it. Through VR headsets, they can then step into the virtual spaces to help them make more informed decisions.

Small business showcase by Facebook and Macy's
Small business showcase by Facebook and Macy’s

Lastly, the updated Macy’s app will serve as a connected hub so customers can get their goods seamlessly. For instance, it will allow shoppers to scan items while they shop and check out through self-serve machines, thus avoiding the holiday crowds.

The retailer is also diversifying its merchandise offering in order to tap into a broader and more connected consumer. For example at its now year-old The Market @ Macy’s space at selected stores, it is teaming up with Facebook to provide small businesses and e-commerce brands the opportunity to sell in real life during the holidays.

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.

Categories
business data digital snippets e-commerce Startups sustainability technology

What you missed: retail’s existential reckoning, Echo Dot is the Christmas best seller, bots on the rise

2017 was the year of retail’s existential reckoning
2017 was the year of retail’s existential reckoning

A round-up of everything you might have missed in relevant fashion business, digital comms and tech industry news over the final fortnight of 2017.


TOP STORIES
  • 2017 was the year of retail’s existential reckoning [Quartz]
  • The Echo Dot was the best-selling product on all of Amazon this holiday season [TechCrunch]
  • Bots are about to get better at customer support than humans [Wired]
  • The last days of Colette [Garage]

BUSINESS
  • Retailers feel shoppers’ Christmas cheer [WSJ]
  • Jonathan Saunders steps down from DVF role [Guardian]
  • Meet Oscar Olsson, the mind behind H&M’s new brand for millennials [TheCut]
  • Reformation raises $25 million to fuel brick-and-mortar growth [BoF]
  • Clothing companies are trashing unsold merchandise instead of donating it [TheOutline]
  • With Phoebe Philo leaving Céline, what’s next? [BoF]
  • UK cotton back in production in Manchester [BBC]

MARKETING
  • Adidas brings all-star talent and tech to the table [BrandChannel]

E-COMMERCE
  • Prada launches e-commerce platform in China [Reuters]
  • The fake news of e-commerce [Racked]
  • There’s money to be made in returning e-commerce orders [LA Times]
  • What fashion brands can learn from Nike’s first six months as an Amazon partner [Glossy]
  • E-commerce company ThredUP rolls out AI-powered ‘goody boxes’ to rival discount clothing chains [AdWeek]

STORES
  • Walmart is developing a personal-shopper service for rich moms — and a store with no cashiers [Recode]
  • Sephora mastered in-store sales by investing in data and cutting-edge technology [AdWeek]

TECHNOLOGY
  • This is Magic Leap’s mixed reality headset [Engadget]
  • If the bitcoin bubble bursts, this is what will happen next [Wired]
  • Mall of America gets high-tech with chatbot and humanoid robots [Racked]
  • Ikea is stepping into virtual reality by creating a game for new store openings [AdWeek]
  • Beauty tech made major strides in 2017, and it’s only the beginning [Fashionista]

START-UPS
  • Target to buy Shipt for $550 million in challenge to Amazon [Bloomberg]
  • Meet the nanotech scientist who used her mad skills to build a better party clutch [FastCompany]
Categories
Editor's pick film

Six of the best animated ads this Christmas

Barbour's Christmas 2017 ad: The Snowman and the Snowdog
Barbour’s Christmas 2017 ad: The Snowman and the Snowdog

Over the past decade, UK department store John Lewis has established itself as a source of eagerly anticipated Christmas adverts. Intensely human in their application, it’s the emotion they engender that wins over the hearts of the nation time and time again.

What’s interesting however is that often they’re not really focused on the humans in them at all. Nearly all of them have equally included some level of CGI or animated work, from bears to foxes, snowmen to penguins. This year, it’s a monster living under the bed called Moz and the tale of his unlikely friendship with a young boy that’s generating millions of views.

Whether you like this particular iteration or not, there’s no denying John Lewis’s impact in the space. This year, there are more animated ads than ever; many of them likewise focused on some warm and fuzzy feelings.

Read on for a round-up of six other animated ads that have caught our eye…


Barbour


Barbour continues its partnership with The Snowman and The Snowdog for the second year, introducing a short campaign that follows young boy Billy into adulthood with his family. Included are his wife, his daughter and the now elderly dog, as well as the returning snowman himself. Original footage from the animated film, which was released in 2012 to mark the 30-year anniversary of The Snowman, is featured in the ad alongside 45 seconds of new content.


Tiffany & Co


This animated ad follows a wooden artist’s mannequin in a snowy landscape discovering various Tiffany & Co products in the snow; a diamond encrusted key, a ring adorning a tree and a bracelet around a rabbit’s neck. Throughout the tale, a big snowball is rolling around, eventually doing so over the mannequin until it breaks apart to reveal the best gift of all; the classic Tiffany blue box.


David Jones


This documentary style campaign from Australian department store David Jones, follows an animated gingerbread man as he leaves his home for a backpacking adventure, collecting gifts for his family along the way. He travels through London, Paris and New York, before being knocked over by a dog and falling into pieces. However, hope is not lost, as a confectioner finds and reassembles the traveller, and sends him home where he and his family embrace within the window of the storefront in Sydney. The David Jones Christmas windows are always eagerly awaited in Australia, and this advert cleverly revealed their theme.


Jigsaw


This fully animated ad from UK store Jigsaw follows the story of two neighbours who leave gifts anonymously for each other every Christmas under the tagline “Together through the years”. One year however, the boy, now fully grown, goes to leave a gift at his neighbour’s house and finds she no longer lives there. Fortunately she returns to deliver him his present and tell him where she has moved. Soon he is at her new door with another gift of his own. The closing line for this advert is “Be together this Christmas”.


Christian Louboutin


In this playful advert from Christian Louboutin, when a female homeowner leaves her house, all of the baubles on her tree magically come to life. They dance around the tree unwrapping gifts and playing with what is inside (including various Louboutin gifts). When they hear her getting home they then hastily fix up the decorations and jump back into place just as she enters to see all of her shoes unwrapped and adorning her tree.


Marks & Spencer


M&S presented a family-oriented campaign this year based on a story about Paddington Bear the night before Christmas. Tied into the launch of the Paddington 2 film, this exclusive tale sees the young bear accidentally discovering a burglar (and mistaking him for Father Christmas), then going from house to house redelivering the stolen gifts.

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Editor's pick film

Girl power meets kindness in H&M’s fairytale Christmas campaign with Nicki Minaj

Nicki Minaj for H&M's Christmas campaign
Nicki Minaj for H&M’s Christmas campaign

H&M has released a feel-good campaign for the festive period focused on fantastical storytelling with a touch of female empowerment.

Directed by Johan Renck, the tale sees rapper Nicki Minaj and Grey’s Anatomy star Jesse Williams getting their young daughter to bed. To do so, Williams must read her a bedtime story, which results in him improvising with his own version – a fairytale based on a little girl who saves Christmas.

“Once upon a time, there was a girl who had a chemistry box, and one day she happened to create a tiny black hole, a hole that plunged her into a parallel universe,” he begins. That subtle move is seemingly H&M’s way of nodding to the idea of science for young girls, as is the fact the daughter then becomes the protagonist and hero of the story.

In this parallel universe there lives the evil brother of Father Christmas, played by John Turturro, who must be stopped. The little girl turns to the “Wisest Thingy” (Minaj) and the “Fastest Fairy in the World” (Williams) to try and find him, but eventually is able to only do so by, quite naturally, enlisting the help of the internet.

Said Williams to Billboard magazine: “I’m a parent of a brilliant, imaginative daughter and story time is one of our favourite things! I make sure we tell stories with empowered female roles, and that’s what attracted me to this H&M campaign.”

The film rounds out with a message about kindness and sharing over the holiday period, ending with the tagline “Happy Giving”.

It follows last year’s campaign from H&M, which saw Hollywood director Wes Anderson create a charming tale titled Come Together starring Oscar-winning actor Adrien Brody.

This year’s ad is also accompanied by a 12-piece collection inspired by Minaj’s love for Japan, which will be released on Thursday, November 30.

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e-commerce Editor's pick social media technology

ICYMI: Calvin Klein opens tech-enabled pop-ups with Amazon Fashion

The Calvin Klein X Amazon Fashion holiday retail experience
The Calvin Klein X Amazon Fashion holiday retail experience

Calvin Klein has opened two pop-up stores in collaboration with Amazon Fashion this holiday season, offering an interactive shopping experience throughout.

The Calvin Klein X Amazon Fashion holiday retail experience, as it’s called, sees two tech-enabled spaces, one in New York and the other in Los Angeles, as well as an online brand store on Amazon.com/mycalvins.

Each one will sell exclusive styles available only to Amazon customers, focusing on men’s and women’s underwear and loungewear offerings in the physical spaces, as well as jeans online.

In terms of technology, offline visitors are able to easily make purchases by scanning a barcode within the Amazon app to have their items then delivered home. They can also interact with Amazon Echo devices within the fitting rooms, allowing them to ask Alexa various questions about the Calvin Klein product and experience, as well as to control the lighting and play music of their choice.

Amazon Echo in the Calvin Klein X Amazon Fashion holiday retail experience
Amazon Echo in the Calvin Klein X Amazon Fashion holiday retail experience

Customisation stations meanwhile enable them to personalise their underwear with special embroidery. And content creation spaces will encourage them to create and share their own clips to social media.

In a lounge area, visitors can also connect with shoppers on the opposite coast via video using the Amazon Echo Show, in a bid to allow them to interact and share content in real time, the company said.

”We are proud to collaborate with Amazon Fashion on this exciting retail concept,” said Cheryl Abel-Hodges, head of Calvin Klein Underwear and president of The Underwear Group of PVH. “It is our goal to deliver an immersive and content-driven shopping environment to the consumer, and we are thrilled to introduce this experience to Calvin Klein and Amazon shoppers, both online and offline, just in time for the holiday season.”

Customisation in the Calvin Klein X Amazon Fashion holiday retail experience
Customisation in the Calvin Klein X Amazon Fashion holiday retail experience

Throughout the holiday season, the shops will also host special events with the likes of supermodel and entrepreneur Karlie Kloss and comedian and author Lilly Singh.

“The holiday season is one of the most important shopping times for our customers, and we are delighted to team up with Calvin Klein to provide a fun, interactive experience that connects our customers to product in an engaging way,” stated Michelle Rothman, VP at Amazon Fashion.

The stores are open now through December 31.

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e-commerce Editor's pick film technology

Yoox launches ephemeral and exclusive shoppable videos on YouTube

Yoox's ephemeral pre-roll ads on YouTube
Yoox’s ephemeral pre-roll ads on YouTube

Yoox is running an innovative marketing campaign on YouTube for the holiday season, which sees pre-roll ads featuring exclusive yet disappearing products.

Created in partnership with Google and Stink Studios, the 15-second ads showcase “The World’s Most Exclusive Collection” through shoppable fashion items that are only available for the timeframe of the video. Once the spot is over, the customer viewing won’t be able to watch it again nor will they be able to find the piece in question on the Yoox site.

The products featured are referred to as the “endangered protagonists” of the short movies, with shoppers given the chance to “save” them by buying them. If the occasion is lost, the item will be destroyed by a series of surreal animated 3D mechanisms, and the next person gets the opportunity instead.

The aim is to not only play with the pre-roll format, but with the concept of luxury desirability and urgency to buy in an on-brand, whimsical and pop animated way, reads the write-up.

“The aesthetics and the concept of the animations reminds that of childhood cartoons, in which the narration is deployed very rapidly and the climax immediately reached. However, behind the simplicity of the video is an innovative technology which we have explored together with Google, which allowed us to obtain a truly captivating format”, said Filippo Vezzali, creative director at YOOX.

“This campaign is proving that it is possible to run a branding campaign with performance tools, thus integrating a full funnel strategy which appeals to both awareness and purchase intent. It is brandformance at its best,” added Simone Zucca, fashion and retail sector leader for Google Italy.

Technically, the ads have been developed by using RITA, Stink Studios’ proprietary real time video cloud rendering platform. Each item is seamlessly integrated into the animated video in real-time, as the viewer is watching, making each shoppable pre-roll ad completely unique.

The ads are running in the US, Italy, Japan and South Korea until mid December and across cyber weekend.

This post first appeared on Forbes.

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film

Tory Burch nods to re-gifting in holiday campaign

Mindy Kaling in A Very Merry Mindy for Tory Burch
Mindy Kaling in A Very Merry Mindy for Tory Burch

Actress and comedian Mindy Kaling stars in Tory Burch’s holiday campaign this year, which focuses on the idea of re-gifting.

The tongue-in-cheek video, titled A Very Merry Mindy, sees a personalised giftbox arrive from Tory Burch herself just as Kaling worries about how she’s going to have time to get all her Christmas shopping done.

She proceeds to go through all the items inside, pondering which of them should go to which of her friends and family. A navy sweatshirt with “Peace” written on the front of it she suggests for her aunt, while a gold tote she thinks will do well for Beyoncé.

She decides to keep the Tory Burch Foundation Seed Box, which features seven products made by and benefitting women entrepreneurs, for herself.