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e-commerce technology

E-commerce businesses look to the future with increased plans for new technologies – study

69% of European retailers plan to invest in robotics over the next five years
69% of European retailers plan to invest in robotics over the next five years

European retailers are increasingly looking at new technologies including virtual reality and the Internet of Things (IoT) in a bid to increase sales margins and improve customer experience, according to new research from e-commerce consultancy Salmon.

The study finds that 61% of e-commerce directors across wholesale, retail and manufacturing companies are currently investing in IoT enablement, with 35% believing it is the biggest priority as a business. Within those numbers, 69% plan to invest in robotics and 60% in machine learning in the next five years.

The voice interface is also top of mind thanks to the growth of devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home, with 53% of respondents planning to invest by 2022. Similarly, 59% plan to take advantage of virtual or mixed reality.

Patrick Munden, global head of retail at Salmon, said: “E-commerce is undoubtedly one of the most exciting and rapid developing industries, and it’s vital that companies continue to innovate to boost business and consumer demand. Exploring the latest technologies is no longer a nice-to-have but a must-have for any businesses expecting to drive sales and improve their customer experience. This latest research shows that, whilst many perceive technologies such as wearables, mixed/virtual reality and voice interfaces as the preserve of the tech-savvy consumer, wholesale, manufacturing and retailers are now investing heavily in this space.”

In spite of that, the study also shows that figuring out which of the technologies to turn to is a continuing concern for businesses. Over a third (36%) believe they find it difficult to commit to new technologies through fear of investing in the wrong area, and 47% think that they have invested in tech that has been a waste of money in the past.

Coping with more data is also a concern: 92% of organisations agree they need to be able to better analyse consumer data, while 48% believe organising their business to react quickly to change will be a major challenge in the future.

Unsurprisingly, 74% say they plan to switch e-commerce platform in the next 12-18 months, recognising the importance of a system in place that is ready to meet the future needs of the business and its customers.

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Blocks e-commerce Editor's pick technology

Virtual reality for retail gets airtime at #CannesLions

TheApartment_VR_Experience_2_TheApartment - FM

Virtual reality is heavily integrated in the gaming space, but progressively finding avenues into other industries too. Travel is an obvious one, and increasingly, so is retail.

It’s on that basis Sapient Nitro is using the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity as an opportunity to debut its new VR experience designed specifically for shopping. Created as a retail prototype, it’s an immersive piece of content that takes the user on a virtual journey to The Apartment by The Line store, in New York’s Soho (as pictured above).

Wearing a Samsung Gear VR headset with a smartphone attached to the front of it, users can explore the store, focusing in on overlaid diamond shapes in order to activate new pieces of content; like access to another area of the space or to more information about items shown.

Chris Szadkowski, creative director at SapientNitro, said the aim was to demonstrate the possibilities around shopping fashion or lifestyle products through a VR experience. “We’re putting [the items] into the context of how people want to see them. You can appreciate how the clothes fit on regular people, how they look in the room, and how they fall in the light,” he explained.

The virtual pop-up shop even lets users tap on the side of the headset to buy. It stores all the items in a basket ready for checkout once they’ve finished exploring. It’s in there they can add in detail like sizing or colour if necessary too; though the system is also set up to know your personal specifications from the beginning.

In spite of that functionality, the experience is actually a relatively laid-back one. There’s the option to slowly peruse the store, to hear details about what’s on show thanks to headphones you wear over the top, and to meander through different rooms. This isn’t aimed at the on-the-go shopper, but perhaps those after a more luxurious affair.

Szadkowski says the intention was to focus primarily on storytelling, even though a full end-to-end solution, and a drive towards transaction is equally at the heart of it. “Virtual reality is the only piece of tech out there that puts your consumer at the centre of the story. That’s the most exciting part of it. Now they can interact and be a part of a story rather than just watch it.”

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Adrian Slobin, global innovation lead at SapientNitro, said the future isn’t going to be about who owns a VR headset, but who you can convince to put one on again. “Brands will need to create stories to get consumers to keep coming back,” he commented.

He imagines retail uptake will begin initially in physical stores – with kiosks or installations created for shoppers to enjoy the new experiences. It makes sense for luxury, he suggested, with reference to a similar initiative Dior has recently launched related to its catwalk show, but also for big box retailers like Target or Home Depot who have informational content that will be relevant to the user.

It’s a clear consumer engagement tool, and one that is swiftly on its way to being seen as more than a gimmick, he insisted. He referred to VR as similarly revolutionary as Netscape in 1995. “A lot of sceptics back then questioned whether they really needed a website. Needless to say those who didn’t do it are the ones who ended up out of business.”

But he admitted there will be mistakes, of course. “This is a conversation starter at this point. It’s nascent. No one knows yet exactly what’s going to work, but this shows one set of possibilities.”

Meanwhile, Google Cardboard, a VR headset made out of – you guessed it – cardboard, took home the mobile Grand Prix at Cannes Lions earlier this week, honoured for the fact it’s an enabler for such technology to easily reach consumers. In doing so it helped prove that VR is gaining attention as the next frontier in content creation at a week dedicated to new creative pursuits.

A number of further VR experiences are set to follow at the festival when the Lions Innovation days – an off-shoot from the main festival dedicated to data, technology and creativity – start on Thursday.

This post first appeared on WGSN.com/blogs, where you can also see my full coverage of the Cannes Lions festival.

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e-commerce Editor's pick technology

Westfield explores the future of fashion with pop-up virtual reality experience

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Westfield UK is focusing on technologies like virtual reality (VR) for spring/summer 2015, with an immersive pop-up experience at the heart of a new campaign called Future Fashion.

During March and April, visitors to both Westfield London at Shepherd’s Bush and Westfield Stratford City, will be invited to wear VR headsets paired with gesture tracking technology. The interactive experience will enable them to see their own hands within the virtual world.

There will also be a large screen that tracks shoppers’ body shapes as they walk up to it. Westfield is referring to this as creating a “fashion avatar” – as the user moves, elements of three trends highlighted by Westfield for the season – denim, floral and future modern – are expressed with them, leaving trails behind as they go. Denim sees an avatar seemingly woven from thread, floral by different buds and colours representative of scent, and future modern by glowing lines.

Users will then be able to explore the three trends via Westfield’s ‘Edit Me’ trend microsite; digitally curating products to fit each of them from retailers within the shopping centre.

Myf Ryan, Westfield’s marketing director for the UK and Europe, said: “From research Westfield conducted, we know that shoppers are eager to explore new fashion technologies and are intrigued by new virtual ways to experience it – 52% would use augmented reality in a retail environment and 57% are tempted by virtual mirrors. This event will take our shoppers on an incredible virtual journey, which pushes the boundaries of fashion and technology.”

There is also a digital content hub surrounding the Future Fashion campaign. It will include a series of stop motion, hyperlapse and how-to tutorial films produced by Portas. The campaign will be further supported by social media, out-of-home and a press partnership with The Telegraph Group.

The immersive experience will be in place in Westfield London from March 27-29 and in Westfield Stratford City from April 2-4.

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Editor's pick film technology

Virtual reality hits #LFW, River Island shoppers given access next

This post first appeared on WGSN.com/blogs

RiverIsland_virtualreality

Something innovative tied to fashion week was, for once, truly applicable to the everyday consumer at Somerset House yesterday.

River Island unveiled a virtual reality film created with designer Jean-Pierre Braganza using Google Cardboard. This makeshift headset (created out of, you guessed it, cardboard) can essentially be built by anyone. All it then needs is a smartphone slotted into the front of it and an app downloaded to showcase the content.

For River Island shoppers from tomorrow, however, any item purchased from the Design Forum Jean-Pierre Braganza collaboration collection, will also arrive with a flat-packed version of Google Cardboard included, ready to build themselves.

As Mary McClenahan, marketing manager at the retailer told us during the press launch: “This was about making technology accessible to a wider market. It’s a bit of fun really, and fashion should be fun.”

She said the aim was to test the boundaries of technology, but do so in a way that made sense for the “tech-savvy younger generation”. Downloading an app is no longer a barrier to content for consumers, making this sort of experience all the more relevant to them, she explained.

The content in question, sees the user able to direct a Kingfisher into a futuristic mechanical structure where a model wearing the new collection is to be found. Once she’s located, an augmented reality experience is also offered; providing a fluttering image of the Kingfisher atop of the user’s existing, real-world surroundings. They’re encouraged to snap an image (the Kingfisher hovering on a shoulder or over a glass, in our case) and then share it with their social following.

A Google representative said this was a very early version of what virtual reality is likely to become. The almost ‘analogue’ nature of Cardboard is, after all, a relatively primitive, albeit accessible, way to experience it. Over the next 12 months we’ll see significant inroads made into much more immersive and interactive experiences, he said, with the open-source setup of the technology making experimentation all the more possible.

VR in general is trending at fashion weeks so far this season, with Rebecca Minkoff and Tommy Hilfiger both having captured their A/W 15/16 shows in 360-degrees, ready for future release. With experiential marketing as the focus, there’s enormous opportunity for brands to make serious inroads with VR as a consumer engagement ploy up ahead.

Check out some of our pictures and a video from the Jean-Pierre Braganza experience below.

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Editor's pick technology

Virtual reality’s quiet presence at #NYFW

VR_samsunggear2

The promise of virtual reality seems to have hit New York Fashion Week, albeit it in a very quiet, non-obtrusive way.

Placed subtly at the end of a story in WWD today, Rebecca Minkoff CEO, Uri Minkoff, revealed the brand filmed its show on Friday fit for a future VR experience. It reportedly employed two cameras with three-dozen separate lenses to create footage that will be released in a few months’ time.

It did so with Jaunt, a company that has worked with the likes of Paul McCartney on immersive virtual reality experiences thanks to its 360-degree, stereoscopic 3-D cameras and 3-D sound-field microphones. The result will see the Rebecca Minkoff show available to watch through Jaunt’s app on Google Play (for Android phones), on Samsung’s Gear VR, Oculus Rift, and on the Google Cardboard platform for iOS, later this spring.

Minkoff said virtual reality as a buzzword is still six to 12 months out, but he believes this method of filming will “extend the show experience and depict the runway in a manner that a traditional live stream never could”.

wemakeVR

Today, similar plans also seemed to be underway at Tommy Hilfiger. At the end of its show at the Park Avenue Armory, my colleague and I stumbled across a 360-degree camera being placed in the centre of the football stadium-themed set (as pictured just above).

The company behind it was WeMakeVR, an Amsterdam-based business that, put simply, does indeed make photorealistic VR experiences for headsets such as the Oculus Rift. They had been filming throughout the show too of course. They also had a prototype Samsung Gear VR headset on hand to try, as I am pictured wearing (and enjoying) at the top of this post.

Though no one from Tommy was available for comment, it is understood an immersive catwalk experience will be released “very soon”.

[By the way, if you’re a WGSN subscriber, we just published a great piece on the opportunity for fashion brands and retailers with virtual reality. It’s worth checking out]

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Editor's pick technology

Smart watches to lead wearables growth in 2015 and beyond

This post first appeared on WGSN.com/blogs

apple-watch

Unit sales of smart watches are expected to grow 358% year-on-year in 2015, according to the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA).

The introduction of the Apple Watch as well as continuing uptake of other similar wrist-worn devices from the likes of Samsung and LG, will result in a total of 10.8m sales across the US.

The category – one of a number of wearable technologies being tracked by the CEA alongside fitness trackers and smart eyewear – will also see 470% growth in revenues year on year, to a total of $3.1bn. Combined, the industry is expected to hit $5.1bn in 2015 and up to $7.6bn in 2018.

“Once you put a big name like Apple or Samsung into the mix, [everyday consumers] start to take notice and start talking about them over coffee,” said Jack Cutts, director of business intelligence at the CEA, referring to the mass awareness of wearables ahead.

Speaking at technology trade event CES, he suggested these devices – smart watches especially – will be mainstream by 2018, but he urged the industry not to set expectations around the kind of penetration experienced by smartphones. Success doesn’t have to come in the form of ubiquity, he explained.

Those who do win will incorporate both ‘premium’ and ‘fun’ designs over the next few years, he outlined, with price points sitting at $500 to as low as just $30 in 2020.

He also suggested that such devices would become increasingly useful. Beyond just the communications or fitness/health tools they are today, they will also incorporate things like authentication, a central hub alongside the phone for everything to do with the ‘Internet of Things’, and more.

“Does my dad need one yet?” asked Cutts. “No, not really, it’s still a very techy device, but we’re on the cusp of that changing.”

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digital snippets e-commerce film mobile social media technology

Digital snippets: Apple Pay, Macy’s, Rakuten, John Lewis, Old Navy, social media ads

A round-up of the latest stories to know about surrounding all things fashion and tech…

ApplePay

  • The complete guide to Apple Pay, including what’s the point? [Quartz]
  • Macy’s links with Google to show mobile users what’s in stock nearby [AdAge]
  • Japan’s Rakuten e-commerce giant launches in America with fashion site [BrandChannel]
  • John Lewis eyeing Oculus Rift opportunities to unite VR and in-store experiences [The Drum]
  • Old Navy gets in on the #selfie machine [DigitalBuzzBlog]
  • Top 10 fashion films of the season [BoF]
  • Fashion brands push social media ads [WWD]
  • Inside Pinterest: the coming ad colossus that could dwarf Twitter and Facebook [Forbes]
  • Twitter to roll out its Buy button to general public in early 2015 [VentureBeat]
  • Does Oculus Rift have a future in retail? [WGSN/blogs]
  • Wonderluk’s made-to-order, 3D-printed accessories rival mass production [PSFK]
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Comment Editor's pick technology

How the fashion press critiqued the all-new #applewatch

AppleWatch_anchor

It’s somewhat hard to imagine the scene in Cupertino earlier this week – savvy tech journalists alongside a bevy of Apple employees, a handful of celebs and some of the world’s most-established fashion editors.

Like a who’s who of Angela Ahrendts’ fashion contact book, everyone from Olivier Zahm, founder of Purple magazine, to Vogue editor-in-chiefs including Alexandra Shulman of British Vogue, Angelica Cheung of Vogue China, Emmanuelle Alt of Vogue Paris and Franca Sozzani of Vogue Italia willingly took a break from their New York Fashion Week schedules to fly in especially. When Apple calls…

But what all did the industry’s critics think of the much-anticipated Apple Watch? Here are some choice highlights:

  • Lisa Armstrong at the Daily Telegraph suggested if the Apple Watch is to seduce us, first it must be able to woo us with its looks rather than its brains. Was she impressed? Ultimately, yes. Like others, the customisation factor particularly resonated: “Where Apple’s watch leaves others standing is in the almost infinite ways it can be further individualised.” Indeed to many, this was the surest sign of Apple attempting to align itself with the way the fashion industry treats accessories.
  • It was this very focus on customisation, however, that led to Time magazine giving one of the toughest reviews out there. Author Misty White Sidell referred to the launch of the Apple Watch as an attempt to kill the joy of personal style. “In a worst-case scenario for fashion, Apple will not only attain a monopoly on the timepiece market, but also the confidence to wield a larger impact on how we dress ourselves each day. The watch is no doubt an indication of how Apple will approach future fashion products, offering the masses a constrictive framework in which to dress themselves, all under the guise of customizable ‘self expression’. And that places personal style in its purest form at risk—inhibiting a consumer’s right to varied choice.” She referred to every additional fashion creation from Apple as inadvertently likely to create a less diverse shopping landscape. “The more Apple invades the fashion market, the more it will look to create a robotic consumerist culture (something it’s already done with tech)—in turn manipulating the greatest enjoyments of style and personal expression.”

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  • Vanessa Friedman at The New York Times, though providing a positive review overall, went in relatively hard as well. “It’s definitely a step forward,” she wrote. “But does it rewrite the rules of our aesthetic expectations? No.” On that customisation element, she added: “The funny thing is, while I understand why they find this sort of choice extraordinary in the tech world, it’s par for the course in fashion, which points up some of the gulf between the two sectors; What they find revolutionary makes us want to yawn.”
  • Over at Vogue International, Suzy Menkes wasn’t overly fussed by the design either. “From a fashion point of view, the external aesthetic seemed neutral: neither super-stylish nor repellent. I would imagine that geeks would love it more than aesthetes,” she wrote. But she peppered her story with what feels almost like conceding to its inevitability: “Yet smartphones have already transformed the fashion world in a way we never imagined, bringing backstage to the wide world and turning shows into a forest of phones and instant images and videos. The phone and the computer have been responsible for bringing fashion to everyone. I suspect that I, as a non-digital specialist, would fail to use this device to its full capacity. But I like the idea of setting the visual aspects according to my mood. And perhaps my wardrobe.”
  • In comparison, Fashionista very openly referred to the Apple Watch as one of the best wearable tech offerings out yet. It also praised its design, associating it very smoothly with the luxury market. “We may have just been imagining things, but the combination of the display’s smooth gradients, the leather band and the high-shine metallics gives the watch a distinctly Burberry feel. Not that Apple changed its design philosophy based on hiring Angela Ahrendts, but the vibe is there. In any case, all those luxury hires seem to have paid off.”
  • WWD [subscriber access] questioned whether Apple’s marketing savvy and brand reputation would be enough to beat out the more accessories-focused brands like Swatch group (due to unveil its own smartwatch next year), or even Will.i.am, who is plotting his own for introduction in 2015. But the fashion trade publication also highlighted an important point for retailers — the fact Apple has created an entire platform that provides new methods of interaction in the retail environment. “The Apple Watch allows a consumer to confirm a purchase via fingerprint with iTouch and now with the release of Apple Pay, there is a financial system and a platform that allows developers and retailers to integrate this into their payment transactions,” wrote digital news and features editor, Rachel Strugatz.

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  • The Business of Fashion provided a comprehensive overview of the device, outlining six underlying principles it believes form the foundations of the company’s strategy for “igniting and dominating the rapidly emerging wearable technology market, just as the iPod did for music, the iPhone did for smartphones and the iPad has done for tablets”. In doing so, it likewise highlighted some other areas of consideration beyond design, one of the most interesting ones of which was in its analysis of the need for new selling spaces for the more luxury version of the watch. “Can Apple really expect to sell a luxury-priced Apple Watch Edition in crowded stores staffed by personnel in blue t-shirts and khakis?” editor-in-chief Imran Amed asked. He expects Apple’s hire of Angela Ahrendts to lead to the brand rolling out a unique selling environment that lives up to the new product – perhaps a luxury Apple Watch shop-in-shop or a standalone deemed high-end and tailored enough to support it. From a design perspective, he also said he didn’t expect the impact on the fashion and luxury watch market to be too significant just yet. “Having seen and touched Apple Watch in person, I think traditional Swiss luxury watchmakers can rest easy — for now,” he wrote.

That “for now” comment from the BoF is particularly pertinent. As I myself wrote for WGSN [subscriber access]: “Apple has, time and time again, taken a category that already exists (mp3 players, smartphones and tablets as the most obvious examples) and redeveloped it in such a way, with design so succinctly at the heart of it, that it becomes a game changer. Comparative to all the other options out there in the wearable tech / smart watch / fitness tracking device market, this absolutely feels like that again.”

Indeed to return to Amed: “This is just the beginning for the Apple Watch and like its iPod, iPhone and iPad predecessors, I’d expect the product to evolve significantly over time.” Down the road, there’s a wealth of disruption looking likely, especially when you turn to the Millennial market (and under), who are no longer used to wearing a traditional watch, but rather relying on their smartphone. Here’s betting Apple doesn’t have too much trouble getting them back to looking at their wrists.

As Sir Jonathan Ive, SVP of design at Apple, narrates in the video: “I think we’re now at a compelling beginning – actually designing technology to be worn and to be truly personal.”

Let’s not forget, this is just version 1.0.

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digital snippets e-commerce film technology

Digital snippets: Barbour, Tory Burch, Birchbox, Levi’s, Kate Bosworth, Agent Provocateur

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A round-up of the latest stories to know about surrounding all things fashion and tech:

  • Barbour creates real-time illustrations of consumers’ stories for summer campaign (as pictured) [Marketing Magazine]
  • Tory Burch releases three pieces of wearable tech: a hands-on review [Fashionista]
  • Birchbox aims to bring ‘artificial intelligence’ to offline retail [AdWeek]
  • Levi’s CMO Jen Sey on her gymnastics career, parenting and the brand’s ecommerce evolution [The Drum]
  • It’s a Snap: Kate Bosworth to Launch Style Thief [WWD]
  • Teaser: Penelope Cruz’s mirage-filled film for Agent Provocateur [Telegraph Fashion]
  • Film: seductive stalker goes full frontal for designer Jonathan Saunders [Creativity]
  • Couture houses include consumers in fashion shows through SoundCloud [Luxury Daily]
  • Facebook tests new ‘buy’ button for online purchases in US [Reuters]
  • Op-Ed | Fashion magazines are missing the mark with shoppable content [BoF]
  • 7 must-have digital tools to promote luxury in China [Jing Daily]
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digital snippets e-commerce mobile social media

Digital snippets: Burberry, Levi’s, Nordstrom, adidas, Gap, Apple, CFDA, Bonobos

A round-up of the latest stories to know about surrounding all things fashion and tech:

burberry

  • Burberry credits 9% revenue hike on strong online sales and ‘more targeted marketing’ [Marketing]
  • Levi’s launches $96m global campaign centred on user-generated content [The Drum]
  • Nordstrom is bringing Wanelo into 100+ of its stores [Glamour]
  • Inside adidas’ social media team at the World Cup in Rio [AdAge]
  • Gap’s former social chief: retail has shiny-new-object syndrome [DigiDay]
  • Might Apple have a future as a fashion conglomerate? [CNET]
  • CDFA embraces shoppable video technology to boost engagement [Luxury Daily]
  • Bonobos raises $55 million to expand its bricks-and-mortar locations [Internet Retailer]
  • In a sea of go-girl advertising, P&G’s ‘Like a Girl’ hits hardest [AdAge]
  • The science of shopping: digital innovations shaping the future of retail [The Guardian]
  • “Buy Now” buttons start appearing in tweets. Is Twitter shopping finally here? [Re/code]
  • Stores still critical to wooing men, but leaders re-wiring for digital age [BoF]
  • How top style bloggers are earning $1 million a year [Co.Design]
  • Is Instagram killing personal style blogs? [Fashionista]
  • Here’s the first-ever Google Glass hair tutorial [The Cut]
  • In Japan, Urban Research experiments with virtual changing booths [BoF]