How are you thinking about innovation? The Current Global is a transformation consultancy driving growth within fashion, luxury and retail. Our mission is to solve challenges and facilitate change. We are thinkers and builders delivering innovative solutions and experiences. Get in touch to learn more.
How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. Current Global 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.
Generation Z: Who they are, in their own words [NYT]
Why does the burden of creating inclusivity in fashion fall largely on marginalized groups? [Fashionista]
How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. The Current Global 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.
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
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 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
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 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
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
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
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
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.
Alberta Ferretti under investigation by Italy’s antitrust authority [Fashion United]
Self-Portrait is growing in the age of streetwear — without flashy logos or sneakers [Fashionista]
Prada pulls monkey designs following outcry over racist imagery [Complex]
Diversity on magazine covers increased by a record double-digit percentage in 2018 [Fashionista]
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.
Rebecca Minkoff kicked off the first of the LA fashion shows this season (Tommy Hilfiger, Tom Ford and Rachel Zoe to follow), with a shoppable collection as well as a series of connected handbags on offer. There was also entertainment galore, which gives Tommy something to try and outdo later this week.
Meanwhile, other news this week has focused heavily on the execs movements at various brands, including Stefan Larsson out as CEO at Ralph Lauren, Riccardo Tisci leaving Givenchy, rumoured headed to Versace, and Clare Waight Keller exiting Chloé. Also worth reading is detail on the John Lewis delivery trials straight to your car boot, insight on everything you need to know about the Snapchat IPO and Gap’s new 90s inspired campaign.
Rebecca Minkoff teams with Like to Know It to make LA show shoppable [WWD]
Ivanka Trump’s brand responds to Nordstrom [Racked]
John Lewis and Jaguar Land Rover are trialling shopping deliveries straight to your car [Forbes]
LVMH sets up new investment vehicle for emerging brands [Fashion United]
Ralph Lauren CEO Stefan Larsson quits after dispute with founder over creative control [WSJ]
Couple that with persistently stagnant user growth, and it raises a real question mark over Twitter’s future. So what do fashion brands need to know in terms of whether they should or shouldn’t invest time and money in the platform in 2017?
Although phenomenally successful over the past decade, in recent years Twitter has fallen behind its peers. The main issue is flat user growth, which impacts negatively on revenue.
On average, Twitter had 317 million monthly active users in Q3 2016, up 3% year-on-year. This compares to Facebook’s 1.79 billion, up 16% yoy and Instagram’s 600 million, which is double that of 2014. Snapchat doesn’t disclose monthly figures, suggesting that its engagement is so high it prefers to talk about dailies. It has a reported 150 million daily active users, compared to Twitter’s estimated 136 million.
In terms of revenue, Twitter is therefore finding it particularly difficult to attract brand marketers to advertise on a platform with restricted growth (albeit its advertising revenue was up 6% year-on-year in Q3 2016). What’s perhaps more troubling for the long run in that vein, however, is a potential shift in the way the platform is used.
First for news?
Twitter has long been considered the go-to platform for breaking news – often reporting on stories ahead of mainstream media channels. One in five PR disasters even break on Twitter, according to marketing tool, Year Ahead. And Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey’s focus is indeed reportedly on the social media app as a global information news network.
As social media expert, Karinna Nobbs, explains: “Many customers use Twitter as a news platform, so with the right analytics, if it is right for your target, you should be on it.” She also suggests that fashion brands use Twitter for building relationships with journalists and publishers.
Yet, according to Paul Berry, founder and CEO of RebelMouse, even publishers are moving slowly away from the platform. He told Digiday: “Five, 10 years ago, there was a lot of emphasis on building Twitter followings, traffic. For new media companies, Twitter is the afterthought and the side job. It used to be one person on Facebook, one person on Twitter, and now it’s three people on Facebook and half a person on Twitter.”
Further stats from the same Digiday piece show that 59% of Twitter users do indeed get news on the service, third after Reddit and Facebook. But only 16% of adults in the US use Twitter in the first place, and only 9% of adults get news there. That compares to Facebook being used by 67% of U.S. adults, with 44% of US adults getting news there, according to Pew Research Center.
Twitter has been introducing new features in a bid to combat this, and both grow and retain engaged users. Included is its livestreaming service Periscope, and “Twitter Moments”, its storytelling feature enabling users to gather (and consume) tweets under themes, or indeed news stories. In truth, however, they still haven’t made much of an impact, while Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat continue to storm ahead – especially with live video.
Within the fashion industry specifically, there is reasonable usage of the platform nonetheless, especially during fashion weeks – arguably the industry’s most newsworthy occasions. 503,404 Tweets were tagged #LFW for spring/summer 2016, according to the British Fashion Council. But engagement is significantly higher on Instagram. For spring/summer 2017, Burberry for instance received 415,300 likes on Instagram compared to 28,750 likes and retweets on Twitter, according to Stylight. That trend continues for most other designers.
Speaking anonymously, one industry insider said: “Twitter has become the last, and at best the fourth social media channel I think about when thinking about our communications strategy [behind Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat]. I would argue Pinterest… and possibly even LinkedIn are more relevant to fashion and e-commerce today.”
Of course some fashion brands haven’t ever used Twitter at all. Christopher Kane for instance hasn’t posted a single tweet (though its reserved account has approximately 4,500 organic followers). By comparison the brand’s Instagram account has 226k followers with over 1,350 posts.
The fact is, the internet has shifted from being a text-based entity, to a visual and video one. While Twitter has attempted to keep up with this movement, for fashion brands particularly, other platforms have become more appealing and perceivably more suitable.
Another anonymous source explains: “Fashion brands have always thought visual-first, they were just previously restricted by what the social media channels enabled. When Instagram took off, they suddenly got their version of digital beauty – something that was in keeping with the aesthetic they were trying to portray and at huge scale. They’ve grown fast on that platform and engagement remains high, albeit with its own algorithmic challenges. The new flurry of live video options – on Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat – all give them new means to provide insights, news and updates from the brand too, and importantly in quite a ‘cool’ way. It’s entirely possible they just don’t need Twitter anymore.”
That’s not to say everyone feels that way of course. One example of a brand that makes the best of what Twitter has to offer is Belstaff. Its global marketing manager, Melina Fenby, explains the brand’s current strategy includes using Twitter as “our news, events and information hub to grow brand loyalty”. She says the team uses Twitter for influencer engagement (motorsport and adventure figures resonate well with the Belstaff community) and event/PR activity (the Goodwood Festival of Speed content was particularly popular).
Outlining Belstaff’s Twitter strategy going forward, Fenby added: “The real focus for us is to generate meaningful engagement with our existing fans and relevant micro-communities.”
Championing customer service
Unsurprisingly where Twitter does otherwise resonate for retail fashion brands particularly is in the realm of customer service.
ASOS for instance has a dedicated Twitter account specifically for queries. @ASOS_Heretohelp is among the top 10% of help handles with an average response time of five minutes. It has over 180,000 followers of its own, against the main @ASOS account’s 1.01 million.
Others including Nike, Jack Threads and Lululemon are incredibly strong from a customer service perspective on the channel too. Overall, two-thirds of brands tracked by L2 use their Twitter accounts for customer service.
While the average fashion brand communicates with just 64 customers per month via Twitter posts, according to L2, Lululemon addresses the concerns of more than 900 customers each month and even provides personalised product recommendations. Other stand out accounts include Macy’s and Marks & Spencer, which both receive more than 10,000 Twitter mentions and communicate with more than 800 customers each month.
When customers are taking this route, they expect brands to respond quickly to mentions and queries, more so than anywhere else. This fits with the fact cloud-based social customer service provider, Conversocial, found over half of consumers (54.4%) prefer new messaging channels such as SMS, Facebook Messenger, Twitter, and WhatsApp as their primary form of communication with brands compared to legacy channels such as email, phone, and web chat.
That’s not overly a surprise. But the truth is, much like storytelling and live news, nailing customer service is also becoming increasingly competitive from a platform side. Facebook Messenger has gained an enormous amount of ground throughout 2016 as one of the early leaders in the chatbot space for instance (behind Wechat in China). This is the introduction of artificial intelligence-enabled automated conversations through a chat interface, which for retailers is especially useful when applied to scalable customer service. Though still nascent, they’re expected to increasingly resonate with consumers.
Twitter therefore, has had to up its game in this space too. In November 2016, it launched bot-like features within direct messages for brands. Included are automated “welcome” responses, as well as “quick replies”, which let users choose from a series of pre-written sentences or prompts (like “what’s the status of my order”) to facilitate faster resolutions.
Cleverly, that also takes some of the weighty customer service conversations out of the feed, and into a private space instead, freeing up accounts to refocus on the storytelling piece Twitter is still aiming for. In that same vein, the company is also rolling out “curated profiles” to a handful of brands, in order to allow them to showcase the best of their content, including that of the visual and video type favoured by the fashion industry. Notably, Twitter is pushing this side of things far more heavily than it is the idea of conversions for retailers. It is actively phasing out its “buy” button for instance.
Sedge Beswick, managing director at SEEN Connects, and former head of social at ASOS, commented: “I still think [Twitter] plays a huge role from a customer care POV primarily – visual for Instagram, Facebook for innovation and Twitter can be the supporting platform where people know they can get timely, supportive and relevant customer care support […] especially if we get the bots right.”
Twitter isn’t going away just yet, but it’s got a lot of work to do if it wants to re-forge real relevance with the fashion industry. What does this mean in terms of how you should approach it? At this point in time, the answer is relatively dependent on the type of brand that you are – mass-market retailers, department stores and more niche, or specific, brands (like Lululemon), who have developed a level of customer service activity, will likely want to stick with the status quo, explore new features and continue using the platform as an opportunity to converse with consumers on a query-led basis while engagement is high. 900 happy customers, is still 900 happy customers. Same goes for just 64. But analyse the data in terms of what you really get out of it over time.
There’s also still something to be said for using Twitter with news in mind too, but be aware of the fact it’s less of a conversion tool and more of a PR one, and even that may well be only on a good day. Approach it from a content sharing point of view, but figure out within that what your followers actually respond to and adjust accordingly. Whether you spend any advertising budget alongside will make sense thereafter.
The simple truth is, if you’re much more of a visual brand, or indeed one already channeling your focus primarily through other platforms, you may want to keep it that way. For those hovering somewhere in the middle, it’s worthwhile maintaining your Twitter accounts, but doing so by doubling up on resource, rather than promoting anything completely unique, is probably wise.