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e-commerce Editor's pick social media technology

Snapchat allows users to snap a product and buy it on Amazon

Snapchat x Amazon
Snapchat x Amazon

Snapchat has introduced a new feature that allows users to snap photos of physical objects and buy them directly on Amazon.

The initiative will allow any user within the app to photograph an object or its barcode, to bring up a card showcasing similar products available to buy on the e-commerce giant, along with their price, an image, an average review score and Prime availability. Selecting a card will send the user to the Amazon app or website to complete the purchase.

In a rare partnership for Amazon, the two entities are working closely together to ensure the journey is seamless from beginning to end – when the user photographs or scans a code, Snapchat determines what action is taking place, while Amazon then deploys image vision technology to recognize logos, artworks or any unique identifying marks on the item.

Social media platforms are upping the ante when it comes to arming consumers with the tools to purchase at the point of discovery. Last week, Instagram announced shopping capabilities to its Stories and Explore pages by launching shoppable tags and curated product selections. Pinterest on the other hand, has recently expanded its “Shop the Look” pins to all businesses, allowing any brand to create shoppable posts on the platform.

How are you thinking about visual search? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners for your innovation strategy. 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 Retail technology

Forever 21 introduces AI visual search to online shopping

Forever 21
Forever 21

Forever 21 has introduced an AI-enabled feature that will allow consumers to engage with visual search when browsing online.

The feature, titled “Discover your style”, allows shoppers to search for items by clicking on icons that represent features that they want in an outfit – such as length or fit of a skirt, or the neckline and color of a shirt. For this launch, the fast fashion retailer worked with visual search experts Donde Search, whose recommendation algorithm aims to mimic how shoppers think about products.

“Visual search technology bridges the gap between the convenience of online shopping and the rich discovery experience of traditional retail by enabling our customers to search for clothing in the same way they think about it—using visuals, not words,” says Alex Ok, president of Forever 21. “Early data shows that this is one of the most important innovations in the e-commerce space in recent years.”

The functionality debuted in the Forever 21 iOS app in May and was initially available for the dresses and tops categories. However, within the first month of launching the feature, the brand saw a 20% increase in average purchase value for the two test categories, as well as an increase in sales conversions.

Forever 21's "Discover your style" feature
Forever 21’s “Discover your style” feature

“As e-commerce’s share of retail sales continues to grow, it’s more important than ever that retailers use a universal language that both shoppers and merchandisers can understand,” says Liat Zakay, CEO and founder of Donde Search.

There are many benefits to introducing visual search alongside more traditional text, but according to the brand, the functionality also helps retailers remove any local language barriers associated with the latter.

Allowing consumers to search visually also enables them to manifest more subtle likes and dislikes when searching for garments, which is something major brands and retailers have been experimenting with for years. Last year, for instance, ASOS introduced a visual search functionality that allows people to upload images to display similar items for sale on the site.

How are you thinking about visual search? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners for your innovation strategy. 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 sustainability technology

Lush trials AR product app in new package-free store

Lush Lens in-store in Milan

Beauty care brand Lush is trialling Lush Lens, a mobile app created by its in-house R&D team, that uses artificial intelligence and product recognition to allow customers to scan a product with no packaging to gain access to information.

The technology is currently being tested at the brand’s first ever “Naked” store in Milan, where all products are free of packaging.

Customers in store have access to four Fairphone devices loaded with the app. They can then point to any naked product – such as the brand’s popular bath bombs – to receive information, such as an ingredients list.

“With this prototype mobile app we’ve put new technologies (AI) to a good use in our mission to eliminate more packaging and further educate our customers on our unique cosmetics,” says Adam Goswell, who runs technology R&D at Lush. The app is expected to be rolled out globally and be available for download on customers’ own smartphones in the future.

In piloting this digital programme, Lush is hoping to engage with digitally-minded consumers in a way that both satisfies their mobile behaviors as well as their constant need for information on the products they purchase.

The innovation also ties back to the sustainability goals the brand has built its DNA upon – by creating solid products (such as shampoo bars, rather than in liquid form) it not only eliminates the use of packaging like plastics, but enables experiences that more easily involve image recognition.

As for the first Naked shop, which opened in Milan earlier this month, Lush is hoping to not only promote sustainable behavior with its lack of packaging, but also through a series of in-store events, such as workshops and film screenings that will allow customers to share and exchange ideas of living plastic-free.

Lush’s first Naked store in Milan
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business data digital snippets e-commerce product Retail social media technology

ICYMI: Mary Meeker’s internet trends, Balenciaga’s t-shirt meme, drones at Walmart

Balenciaga - ICYMI mary meeker internet trends meme
Balenciaga

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

TOP STORIES
  • Mary Meeker’s 2018 internet trends report: All the slides, plus analysis [Recode]
  • Balenciaga heard you like shirts, so they put a shirt on a t-shirt for $1,300 [Mashable]
  • Walmart’s future may include in-store drone assistants and smart shopping carts [CNBC]
  • How Natalie Massenet’s new VC firm sees the future of retail [Pitchbook]
TECHNOLOGY
  • Blockchain can help authenticate ownership of fashion goods [WWD]
  • Blockchain and beauty go together, according to Tev Finger [WWD]
  • AmEx pilots blockchain-based loyalty rewards with Boxed [RetailDive]
  • Google is actually pretty good at identifying what people are wearing [Racked]
RETAIL & E-COMMERCE
  • ‘Need it, text it, get it’: How concierge service Jetblack is aiming to beat Amazon Prime [Glossy]
  • How OPI is hacking Amazon and data algorithms to improve its online site [Glossy]
  • Lululemon hits record high on revamped stores [Reuters]
MARKETING & SOCIAL MEDIA
  • Snapchat launches its first Lens that reacts to sound [Engadget]
  • How Macy’s is using its store employees and stylists as Instagram influencers to drive sales [Glossy]
PRODUCT
  • ALYX’s Matthew M. Williams reveals data-inspired Nike capsule [HypeBeast]
  • Zac Posen’s new Delta uniforms are the ultimate high-performance outfits [FastCompany]
BUSINESS
  • The Gucci-Gap divide: How luxury is winning the race for millennial spend [BoF]
  • J.Crew will relaunch this fall [Racked]
  • The changing face of fashion PR [BoF]
Categories
mobile technology

Google announces Style Match discoverability feature for Google Lens

Google Lens Style Match
Google Lens Style Match

Google has announced Style Match, a feature allowing users to point their smartphone’s camera at an outfit so it generates suggestions on what to buy online.

The feature is part of Google Lens, the company’s camera-powered search engine that was unveiled last year and is now fully integrated into its smartphone’s native camera.

The news, which was announced at the Google I/O 2018 conference in California on May 8, means any user can discover a specific item or receive suggestions to similar styles not only for fashion, but other categories including accessories and furniture.

Such functionality could give the tech giant the lead in facilitating discovery through mixed realities, particularly because by being embedded in the phone’s native camera, it doesn’t require the user to learn a new behavior or download a dedicated app they will eventually ditch. So far, brands such as eBay and ASOS have tinkered with image recognition within their own apps, but the ability to trigger the image via a smartphone’s main image-capturing tool can only lead to mass adoption.

Other new features of the Android phone include a smart text selection where users can ‘copy and paste’ texts from the real world, such as recipes and articles, directly onto their smartphone screens. Google Lens then allows users to highlight copy or bring up relevant information, such as the word for a dish at a restaurant menu, and receiving an image of said food.

In order to enable this, Google is leveraging its knowledge in search to help recognize word terms and the context of certain words.

Meanwhile, for the updated Google Maps, users can trigger augmented reality to navigate via Street View – this means the user can wave a phone in front of themselves to know their exact position on the map, and giant arrows will point to where they should walk next.

Beyond augmented reality and image recognition, the company also announced developments to Google Assistant that means users can increasingly have more natural interactions with voice. During the keynote, they used singer John Legend’s voice to demonstrate.

This includes the ability to have “Continued Conversations”, where the Assistant remembers your most recent questions, as well as being able to ask more than one question within the same voice request. The future Assistant will also be able to call places on the user’s behalf, which proves particularly handy when booking appointments via phone with businesses that don’t have an online booking system.

Categories
Editor's pick social media technology

Tommy Hilfiger continues digital content push with connected motorsport show experience

TommyNow Drive SS18 - gigi hadid Tommy Hilfiger
TOMMYNOW DRIVE SS18

Tommy Hilfiger launched a “behind the drive” experience as part of the digital content driving its spring 2018 TOMMYNOW DRIVE show; in doing so adding a layer of immersive storytelling to the motorsport-themed proceedings.

Guests at the Milan Fashion Week show could scan QR codes that allowed them access to exclusive video and photo content, such as the evolution of the capsule collection and the process of developing an actual Formula 1 Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport racing car.

The motorsport theme was a tribute to Tommy’s long time love of racing, and a partnership with Formula 1 World Champions Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport. It was also the theme of the brand’s latest TommyxGigi capsule collection with supermodel Gigi Hadid – a celebration of speed, from Tommy’s love of racing to Gigi’s fast-paced lifestyle.

The occasion marked the brand’s fourth in-season runway show, building upon its now signature see-now, buy-now format. All runway looks were available to buy immediately on shoppable channels across 70 countries.

There were also various other connected content experiences. As with previous seasons, the TOMMYNOW SNAP app was employed, using 2D and 3D image recognition technology so users could take a photo of any item (in store, online, on the runway or on the street) and shop it instantly at Tommy.com. For spring 2018, the TOMMYNOW SNAP app was also able to recognize any men’s or women’s style and present behind-the-scenes footage of the item’s deign process.

The TOMMYNOW DRIVE F1 race simulator
The TOMMYNOW DRIVE F1 race simulator

The 2,000 plus guests were otherwise immersed into TOMMYNOW DRIVE in real-life as well; entering through a futuristic tunnel and portrait station, while being surrounded by real racing sound effects and LED light installations. Guests could also experience an F1 race simulator and an F1 pit stop challenge.

The brand also continued to offer its AI-powered chatbots, TMY.BOY and TMY.GRL, on Facebook messenger, providing celebrity styling advice through video content of influencers sharing their favorite collection looks.

Categories
business digital snippets e-commerce film mobile product social media sustainability technology

What you missed: Ralph Lauren’s Instagram Stories, Apple’s augmented reality, brand activations at NYFW

Ralph Lauren on Instagram - Instagram Stories
Ralph Lauren on Instagram

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


TOP STORIES
  • Decoding the digital strategy behind Ralph Lauren’s ‘garage’ show [BoF]
  • Apple shows off breathtaking new augmented reality demos [The Verge]
  • Apple’s new Animojis are the latest sign that brands need to embrace augmented reality [AdWeek]
  • 7 of the smartest brand activations so far at NYFW [PSFK]

BUSINESS
  • Should Amazon buy Nordstrom next? [Recode]
  • The modern luxury supply chain is log jammed at the front door of your apartment building [LeanLuxe]
  • Kering and LVMH draft charter on models’ well-being [The Fashion Law]
  • Everlane founder Michael Preysman: ‘Denim is a really dirty business’ [Glossy]

SOCIAL MEDIA
  • Cath Kidston collaborates with Pinterest on “Colour” QR codes [The Industry]

MARKETING
  • Matchesfashion.com to launch daily content with Style Daily [The Industry]
  • AI is so hot right now researchers are posing for Yves Saint Laurent [The Verge]
  • Rodarte’s Laura and Kate Mulleavy on their first feature film [The Impression]

RETAIL & E-COMMERCE
  • To save retail, let it die [BoF]
  • Amazon’s 1-click patent is about to expire. What’s the big deal? [NPR]
  • Alibaba to open ‘More Mall,’ a physical mall connecting online shoppers in China [Jing Daily]
  • eBay launches new digital concept to mark New York Fashion Week [Fashion United]

TECHNOLOGY
  • Data from your clothing could soon earn you digital currency thanks to this blockchain integration [Forbes]
  • How AI is transforming the shopping experience based on the images consumers look at online [AdWeek]

PRODUCT
  • Nike to launch custom shoes in less than 90 minutes [Fashion United]
  • Adidas has created a pair of beer-repellent shoes [PSFK]
Categories
data e-commerce Editor's pick mobile technology

ASOS launches visual search tool to aid inspiration and discovery for shoppers

ASOS visual search
ASOS visual search

My filter for successful visual search is simple – can you take a photo of someone else’s shoes or jacket when on a busy train and find a direct replica online? Can technology negate the awkwardness of actually speaking to someone during your commute to find out where his or her “must-have” item is from?

Fashion stalker claims aside, the short answer is still no. In the majority of cases, the tech is not yet good enough to pull apart a busy image and identify exactly what that piece is.

It is however getting better at finding similar items. Thanks to artificial intelligence, it can identify shape, colour, print and more – it can serve up relevant options and at least start to inspire discovery.

That’s the key theme behind the launch of e-commerce site ASOS’s visual search launch on its native app today.

This is a fashion website with a huge 85,000 products on it; 5,000 new ones every week. One of many challenges in the online retail space is balancing that newness with the overwhelming nature of volume, particularly for users increasingly browsing on mobile. It’s for that same reason we’ve also seen Pinterest and eBay recently playing in this computer vision space. It’s about that keyword: “discovery”.

This rollout from ASOS then, aims to enable shoppers to capture fleeting moments – whether that’s someone they pass on the street, a look a friend is wearing or even a screengrab from Instagram or otherwise – and use them to search through the site’s product lines to find similar suggestions.

“The depth of our offering is absolutely one of our strengths. However that range can be challenging to present to customers, especially on a mobile phone,” Richard Jones, head of product and UX at ASOS, explains to me. “If you know what you want, you can quite simply get to what you’re looking for. But what we’re trying to find is more of that discovery use case – if you’re not quite sure what you want, or you’ve seen something that’s inspired you, visual search is designed to kickstart that discovery… It’s about getting as close as possible to giving you something that is visually similar.”

The tool is shown as a camera icon in the search bar of the ASOS app. Tapping on it then invites customers to either take a picture or upload one from their library to have it find similar products.

Jones knows the tech isn’t yet perfect, if anything the examples out in the market to date have been a “bit clunky”, but with machine learning and big data, it’s only going to improve, he suggests.

ASOS’s own version, the tech for which is powered by an external third party the company has opted not to disclose, is built on this notion. “The more [this tech] gets used, the better it gets trained, the data results get better… the smarter it becomes,” he explains.

That also reflects the way the ASOS team are operating – pushing the launch out to market (in the UK only at first) in order to test and iterate accordingly. It’s about getting it out there and learning how it’s best used before then rolling it to different geographies thereafter.

In its press release, ASOS refers to this as the “build-measure-learn” approach to innovation, a methodology developed by the Lean Startup.

This announcement also supports wider planned technology investment by the company. It currently has a tech team of 900 employees and is planning to hire a further 200 over the next year, for instance. It says its focusing on its AI-powered recommendation engine, which uses big data and a smart algorithm to learn customers’ preferences over time, as well as on improving site infrastructure to drive agility and speed up innovations for customers.

Zooming in on the mobile experience is particularly key. Today 80% of UK traffic for ASOS and nearly 70% of orders come from a mobile device, with people spending 80 minutes per month, on average, in the ASOS app.

With such mobile-native customers, Jones says it’s about how to now use the underlying technology that is in these devices – the high processing power, the ultra high-definition cameras, the depth perception imagery and more.

“We’re thinking about how do we use these devices in a way that is natural and contextual to how our 20-something customers live their lives. They go everywhere with [their smartphones] – so how can we make sure we give them an experience they are expecting?” he comments.

Further motivation lies in the fact using the camera as a means to search is going to become fairly default in September when Apple launches iOS 11, which includes the ARKit development platform. That essentially means all manner of augmented reality uses will be possible directly through the iPhone’s camera lens; visual search included. Net-a-Porter is another e-commerce player that has referenced using it.

“What we want to do is be able to meet that customer expectation and demand,” Jones adds. The visual search tool will live within the app for now, with the intention of making that broader experience an increasingly personalised one for each shopper down the road.

ASOS’s visual search launches on iOS in the UK today with pending rollout for Android and then international scale thereafter.

This post first appeared on Forbes

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business digital snippets e-commerce product social media Startups sustainability technology

What you missed: Wang’s text-to-buy line, Stitch Fix to IPO, activism from outdoor brands

The Adidas Originals by Alexander Wang line launched via text message
The Adidas Originals by Alexander Wang line launched via text message

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


TOP STORIES
  • The second Adidas Originals by Alexander Wang line launches via text-to-buy event [Racked]
  • Stitch Fix has filed confidentially for an IPO [Recode]
  • A call to activism for outdoor apparel makers [NY Times]
  • How Reebok, Adidas and Y-3 will dress future space explorers [Fast Company]

BUSINESS
  • Jimmy Choo bought by Michael Kors in £896m deal [BBC]
  • MatchesFashion.com could enter stock market [Fashion United]
  • Bangladesh to digitally map all garment factories [JustStyle]
  • Fashion must fight the scourge of dumped clothing clogging landfills [Guardian]

SOCIAL MEDIA
  • Vogue takes ‘hub and spoke’ approach to Snapchat editions in Europe [Digiday]

MARKETING
  • Why Helmut Lang hired an editor-in-residence in place of a creative director [Glossy]
  • Amazon and Nicopanda launch LFW ‘see now, buy now’ range [Retail Gazette]

RETAIL & E-COMMERCE
  • China’s store of the future has no checkout, no cash and no staff [BoF]
  • Saint Laurent to launch online sales in China [WSJ]
  • You will soon be able to search eBay using a photo or social media web link [CNBC]
  • MatchesFashion.com’s Tom Chapman: Amazon’s missing the ‘magic’ of high-end fashion [Glossy]

TECHNOLOGY
  • Walmart is developing a robot that identifies unhappy shoppers [Business Insider]
  • For the first time ever, you can buy your own 3D-printed garment online [Fashionista]
  • MIT’s living jewellery is made up of small robot assistants [TechCrunch]
  • Intel axed its entire smartwatch and fitness-tracker group to focus on augmented reality, sources say [CNBC]

START-UPS
  • John Lewis unveils retail tech start-ups for JLAB 2017 [The Industry]
  • Spider silk start-up spins into retail by buying an apparel company [Fortune]
Categories
business data Editor's pick mobile technology

Yoox Net-a-Porter looks to the future of AI and mobile commerce with new tech hub in London

The new Yoox Net-a-Porter tech hub in White City, London
The new Yoox Net-a-Porter tech hub in White City, London

Federico Marchetti, CEO of Yoox Net-a-Porter, calls the group’s new tech hub in White City, west London, its “space shuttle”.

“This is our temple of innovation that’s going to take YNAP into the future,” he explained at the opening this morning.

The 70,000 sq ft space comes as part of an investment of more than €500m in technology and logistics across the group in a bid to double the size of the business by 2020. It houses all of YNAP’s UK tech teams under one roof – a total of 500 employees, in addition to the further 500 based in Bologna, Italy.

The big focus in terms of the work they’re doing today is around artificial intelligence (AI) and the next wave of mobile technologies, the team explained. Demonstrations at the opening for instance included an AI-enabled virtual personal stylist tool that could recommend items based on image recognition, personalised preferences and contextual data like location and weather forecast.

Another AI tool in the works can suggest different options for complete outfit looks – taking the professionally styled shots that the e-commerce sites currently show and providing unlimited variations of mix and match pieces for users alongside. This level of machine learning and neural networks learn as they go, making them only better for users over time, the team explained.

Alex Alexander, CIO at the company, referred to everything they’re doing as being about making the experience more personalised for shoppers. “We’re using our own data in a smarter and more detailed way in order to tailor the customer experience to every individual customer,” he explained.

Marchetti added: “What innovation means for us is not innovation for the sake of it, but innovation for the customer.”

On the mobile side however, that starts internally. Every employee at the company is being given an iPhone equipped with new apps designed in collaboration with Apple and IBM in a bid to enable them to think not only mobile-first, but eventually mobile-only.

“Our focus on mobile starts with our employees. If we don’t think mobile-first for them, how can we expect to get it right for our customers?” Alexander asked.

The tech team is therefore meeting with every department within the business to understand their mobile needs. The personal shopping team was on hand today, for instance, exploring how they can use mobile as an opportunity to spend more time with their top customers, known as EIPs (extremely important people). The idea is to give them greater tools and capabilities so they can scale their interactions. AI will inform that too.

Yoox Net-a-Porter is prioritising mobile
Yoox Net-a-Porter is prioritising mobile

From a customer perspective, some further examples for mobile include leaning heavily on Apple’s iOS 11 update, which is due to roll out in September (though is available in beta now). Centre to that is the camera, which will come with in-built augmented reality opportunities as well as a QR reader.

Users can use it to take pictures of outfits they like and through an AI algorithm using visual recognition, find similar options to purchase, for instance. Meanwhile, the team will also deploy QR codes in some of the windows of the physical stores it powers so that the looks on display (each tagged with RFID labels) can be brought up on the relevant e-commerce site for purchase immediately.

If the QR code still sounds like a questionable option, YNAP is convinced both by behavior witnessed from Chinese shoppers and Apple’s integration of the technology as a sure sign for the future.

The company also announced a new partnership today with Imperial College London, to support an initiative that teaches local children from underprivileged backgrounds the basics of coding. The project, named Imperial Codelab powered by Yoox Net-a-Porter, is particularly focusing on increasing the number of young girls who have access to such classes. “We know there are not enough women in tech and we want to help that for the future,” Marchetti noted.

This post first appeared on Forbes