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Knowing people: how understanding audience through tech is changing fashion

MatchesFashion.com now sees 85% of its business taking place online
MatchesFashion.com now sees 85% of its business taking place online

In the fiercely competitive retail fashion world, the winners will be those who really understand their customers and can tailor messages to reach them in the moments that matter. That was the key message from a panel discussion at Advertising Week Europe in London this week, where speakers discussed the merging of the online and offline worlds, the increasing role of the smartphone as a bridge between the two, and how best to serve such omni-shoppers.

Ulric Jerome, CEO of Matchesfashion.com, said that 85% of the luxury retailer’s turnover now comes from online – and 42% of that from mobile. This compares to 100% of sales from physical retail just five years ago.

Those figures are particularly high for the luxury sector, which on average sees just 6% of sales from e-commerce, but statistics from McKinsey show that 75% of luxury purchases globally today – even if then taking place in store – are influenced by at least one digital touchpoint. That means that three quarters of all luxury consumers take note of what they see, do and hear about your brand online along their path to purchase.

MatchesFashion.com added that bringing in a heavy focus on customer service and personalisation via technology in the physical store has also helped upselling. Sales assistants guide purchases via an iPad-based clienteling app, which has resulted in some of its 12 doors in London putting more than 50% of sales through these devices.

“What the customer wants, regardless of the channel, is the opportunity to have more choice. When they walk into the store they can only see 10-15% of inventory but through technology we can bring the entire inventory to their doorstep,” Jerome explained.

Ulric Jerome of MatchesFashion.com, Josie Roscop of River Island, Eileen Naughton of Google, and Rachel Arthur of Fashion & Mash
Ulric Jerome of MatchesFashion.com, Josie Roscop of River Island, Eileen Naughton of Google, and Rachel Arthur of Fashion & Mash

Josie Roscop, customer director at River Island, meanwhile talked about a willingness to test and learn to see what works for shoppers. She is currently testing with Google’s Local Inventory Ads for instance. “That sort of service is great for the customer. We should then have more data to understand how mobile is influencing store purchases and plan our marketing activity around some of that information.”

She added that the big challenge was to integrate the data generated across touchpoints to build a single customer view (SCV). Such insights drawn from a SCV can then help craft personalised experiences for online audiences that can be carried over into offline conversations when they walk into store. “For us it’s about thinking about customers first, and channels and product second, so we’re making decisions based on what we know customers want and need.”

The ability to measure each of such touchpoints along the customer journey is also vital. Eileen Naughton, Google’s managing director of the UK and Ireland, said that tools like Google’s Store Visits can help identify how online investment translates into footfall and sales. This is a tool that tracks the number of clicks on search ads that result in an in-store visit over the following 30 days.

With the help of Google’s audience solutions, retailers then have insight into whether people searching are new prospects or loyal customers, whether they are first time visitors to the website or app, or returning. This means retailers now have the ability to target audiences with greater precision by defining bidding and creative according to their relationship with the searcher.

Said Naughton: “If you know search, you know people. [Consumers] expect personalisation and relevance, and now you can provide personalised results to their searches.” She predicted that by 2016 a quarter of all UK Google search traffic will be audience targeted in some way – and some players will have up to 70-80% of their search investment containing a form of this data layer.

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Embracing the #longread: how digital consumption is shifting, plus five fashion stories to find the time for

TLDR

If you’re anything like me, you constantly have dozens of tabs open, bookmarks saved, emails placed in a strategic folder, and apps in use to keep track of all the stories you’re intending to go back and read.

It’s all too easy to let that accumulate, put off by the fact some of the pieces are just that little bit too long (#TLDR) to comfortably whizz through in a spare moment, rather needing you to find some dedicated time to sit down and concentrate on them. But, while we might be used to shorter and shorter formats through our social media postings – 140 characters here, six seconds there – not to mention an entirely visual-based strategy through Instagram particularly, there’s a growing trend for a lot more in the way of this long form content. Twitter itself is indeed thinking about extending to a 10,000 character limit, first page results on Google reportedly contain an average of 1,890 words (that’s mind blowing), and platforms like Medium have taken off for the very fact they enable users to easily spout words without any true perimeters.

Media companies from Buzzfeed to The Guardian, Esquire, The New York Times and Wired all also publish dedicated “long reads” or “big stories” today. The move comes down to an understanding that readers increasingly desire access to longer form content (and the involved insight, knowledge and informed opinions it provides). And more importantly, though counter to popular belief, they’re willingly engaging with it on mobile. In fact, a 6,000-word piece from Buzzfeed in early 2014, saw readers on tablets spend an average of more than 12 minutes with the story, while those on phones spent more than 25 minutes. As The Atlantic wrote: “[That’s] a small eternity, in internet time.”

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No surprise then, there’s an increasing number of highly relevant fashion stories being released that also tick the box for indulgent consumption. As Imran Amed of The Business of Fashion wrote this weekend in a post about his venture into long form with a landmark piece on the Net-a-Porter / Yoox merger (as below): “The idea to do this kind of story came during a conversation I had in September with Graydon Carter, editor-in-chief of Vanity Fair, who advised me: ‘Every once in a while, write an in-depth story that everyone in the fashion industry would want to read’.”

So here are five lengthy pieces (2,500-10,000 words) truly worth carving out some time for. Some of them date back to early 2015 (courtesy of my aforementioned bookmarking habit and some power reading this weekend), but if you didn’t get through them then, like me, now is your chance to revisit.

1. The secret deal to merge Net-a-Porter with Yoox – The Business of Fashion

Needless to say, top of this list of long reads, is the aforementioned story from The Business of Fashion last week. If you haven’t yet bitten the bullet, it’s broken down into four parts, chronicling exactly what happened between both parties and Compagnie Financière Richemont (much of which was behind the back of Natalie Massenet). This one is time consuming, but it’s insightful and worthwhile. As someone posted in the comments below: “Noting the tell-all film trend: fun to imagine who will be cast as Massenet, Marchetti and Rupert.”

2. A huge underclass of ghost workers are making your shirts in their homes – Quartz

Informally employed homeworkers in developing countries make up a substantial portion of the (subcontracted) manufacturing process for fashion retailers. This story dives into who they are, what they do and how to go about changing it so that they’re treated fairly and under the same laws as other workers. “The first step is to bring them out of the shadows and acknowledge that they exist,” writes author Marc Bain. It’s an insightful piece – detailed and warranted of its length – on an area rarely touched upon elsewhere.

3. Losing the thread: how textiles repeatedly revolutionised human technology – Aeon

With all the obsession with wearable technology of late, there’s a lot to be said for this essay, which outlines the very fact that textiles are indeed a technology of themselves. “More ancient than bronze and as contemporary as nanowires,” it reads. It goes on to highlight how pertinent textiles have been on economic development and global trade, and calls the industry out for thinking that ‘wearable tech’ is about gadgets pretending to be accessories rather than the cloth we actually wear against our skins. The piece takes us from the development of aniline dyes and cellulose-based synthetics to the performance-based materials we take for granted today. There’s also a great analogy of weaving (the original binary system) rather than mining when referring to the Bitcoin Blockchain.

4. Fashion week, reinvented – The New York Times

Vanessa Friedman penned this piece on how New York Fashion Week is evolving at the beginning of last season (September 2015). Largely a focus on how WME/IMG were bringing designers into its new venues, it explores how the aim is to make the whole affair seem less commercial yet simultaneously a feat of entertainment for the masses. It sets the scene comprehensively, and outlines the ambition on many fronts to evolve what fashion week is and what it could be. Since then, there have been multiple additional stories released, especially around the CFDA’s plans to hire the Boston Consulting Group to conduct a study on whether or not NYFW should become a consumer-facing event presenting collections more closely aligned with retail drops. Lots of food for thought as we approach the autumn/winter 2016 shows.

5. How menswear took over the internet – Esquire

Men’s fashion is growing by more than 100% a year. With that as context, this long form story from Esquire dives into where and how that is happening, talking to executives from Luisa Via Roma, Mr Porter and Matches Fashion. According to the latter, the online men’s market is highly valued for the fact returns are lower and loyalty often higher. Some 50% of its male customers return to buy something else within a year. The story also highlights such tidbits as more money coming from shoes on Mr Porter than Net-a-Porter, and Natalie Massenet saying that the rise of a more creative economy could lead to menswear becoming as big as womenswear over the next decade.

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Digital snippets: Ralph Lauren’s smart shirt, Apple’s fashion execs, fond farewell to DKNY and Oscar PR Girls

We hope you had a great summer break. Here’s what you might have missed over the past month surrounding all things fashion and tech…

RalphLauren

  • Ralph Lauren is bringing its sensory ‘smartshirt’ to market for $295 [Fashionista]
  • Why has Apple been poaching fashion execs? [BoF]
  • As DKNY PR Girl and Oscar PR Girl move on, one writer mourns the death of fashion Twitter [Yahoo! Style]
  • Why Target had the only ad in Vogue’s September issue with a digital edge [Digiday]
  • The world is not enough for Net-a-Porter [The Cut]
  • Zalando is making billions by tailoring its services to European stereotypes [Quartz]
  • Macy’s tests chutes, tablets in dressing rooms to repel Amazon [Bloomberg]
  • Matches Fashion’s stylish leap from touch to touch screen [NY Times]
  • How Neiman Marcus plans to digitise [Digiday]
  • The Dandy Lab: a new menswear concept store enhanced by technology [Grey Fox]
  • Sephora joins the beauty subscription box arena [PSFK]
  • 12 months after launch: how have John Lewis’ geo-location experiments with JLab winner Localz shaped up? [The Drum]
  • Alibaba lands Macy’s as the first US department store for its online portal [Fortune]
  • Why millions in China downloaded L’Oreal’s Makeup Genius app [AdAge]
  • How robots are ushering in a new era of retail customer service [Retail Dive]
  • Will luxury smartwatches work? [BoF]
  • This infographic reveals how social and mobile impact back-to-school shoppers [AdWeek]
  • Why fashion and beauty brands love Instagram [Digiday]
  • Periscope now has 10 million users who watch 21 million minutes a day [AdWeek]
  • Can Twitter turn around its story with buy buttons? [The Street]
  • Facebook tests a digital assistant for its messaging app [Bits]
  • Style.com lifts the veil on staffing, strategy ahead of launch [WWD]