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.
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.
With the world reeling from the news of the US election over this past week, analysts have been trying to wrap their head around exactly what a Trump government will mean for retail. There are several good reads listed below.
Also hitting the headlines has of course been the mindblowing success and growth of Alibaba’s Singles’ Day – this year a $17bn affair, up from ‘just’ $14bn in 2015.
Meanwhile, some lighter bits to absorb: a wealth of new campaigns launched for the holiday season. John Lewis vs Marks & Spencer has got us excited, but also below is everyone from Gap to Macy’s, Debenhams and Kohl’s.
ps. Don’t forget to sign up for our Snapchat Masterclass – we’re currently offering 20% for our readers using code “community”.
A round-up of everything you might have missed in fashion and technology news (and beyond) over the past week or so. Read on for a sneak peek of Anthony Vaccarello’s new Saint Laurent, detail on how Primark got to three million Instagram followers, and why Samsung wants to bring VR to fashion…
An Instagram sneak peek at what Anthony Vaccarello’s Saint Laurent will look like [Yahoo]
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…
Festive retail films are continuing to come out in droves, with Target, Sainsbury’s and Dick’s Sporting Goods getting in on the storytelling and emotion-inspiring game, ranging from an adventure to save the Christmas tree, to Mog the cat almost ruining the day, and a coach getting a wonderful surprise.
Meanwhile, Harvey Nichols warns of the risk of #giftface, Primark documents a journey home with a clever combination of models amid toy scenery, Kohl’s focuses on modern family, and House of Fraser and M&S stick with good musical fun. The Body Shop is a personal highlight, however – nothing like a good sing-a-long to Jingle Bells in the shower.
When Apple makes a major announcement like a move into the wearables category, it’s guaranteed a long line of other businesses will jump on board any which way they can; aiming for success by association with relevant launches of their own.
Needless to say there were multiple new apps created in time for the Apple Watch hitting stores in April on that very basis. 3,500 to be precise. Retail is one of the key categories within that, with Target, Asos, Amazon, JC Penney and Marks & Spencer just some examples of those who introduced new applications specifically.
Many of these brands aren’t normally what we’d consider early movers in such a tech game. So what are they trying to achieve? Are such efforts merely about benefitting from the media coverage likely to follow, or do they actually think there’s potential to be shopping from our wrists?
From the magic of Christmas to the drama of gift giving, all with a little whimsical fun and frolics thrown in, there’s something for everyone in the best of the fashion and retail films this holiday season. Here’s our highlight of 10 of them:
Kate Spade: The Waiting Game
Hermès: A Little Holiday Magic
Sainsbury’s Tu: Dads Pull Out Surprise Dubstep Dance For Christmas
LOFT x SRSLY: Put the Happy in Your Holiday (series)