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5 brands tapping virtual storefronts to drive engagement and push conversion.

Brands are using virtual experiences in physical locations to provide shoppers with the benefit of an interactive in-person experience without needing to carry inventory.

These “invisible” or virtual storefronts – usually in the form of augmented reality content visible via smartphones – are being used to drive sales, collect data and boost branding efforts. At a time when physical retail is struggling, such mobile initiatives aren’t just eye-catching, they’re more convenient by providing curated products that can then be delivered on demand. 

To date, we’ve seen brands doing everything from collaborating with artists and social media platforms to creating personalized assortments using such virtual setups. Shoppability is key. Here’s a highlight of some of the more recent success stories…

Havaianas
Havaianas’s boardwalk virtual store

Early this summer, footwear brand Havaianas launched a virtual storefront focused on driving sales for one day only. Located on the Venice Beach boardwalk in Los Angeles, shoppers passing by a colorful mural discovered it was actually a virtual pop-up store. Snapping a photo of the designs they liked directed them to a shoppable microsite at  StepIntoSummer.com, revealing a curated style guide with various tips on what to buy. 

The concept was powered by Google’s Cloud Vision AI platform, which helped Havaianas pair merchandise with colors from the mural – a big step up from QR codes. The brand collaborated with street artist Buff Monster on the mural and featured fashion tips from stylist Tara Swennen.

Lego
Lego’s augmented reality store

To promote its first limited-edition clothing line for adults, Lego opened a pop-up shop with a twist in February: the store was entirely empty. Shoppers in London’s Soho neighbourhood arrived to find a Snapcode (a QR code for Snapchat) displayed on a pedestal. Scanning the code with their phones then surrounded them with a virtual storefront in AR. 

Customers could choose between three different types of merchandise – sweatshirts, caps and t-shirts – and view them on a Lego character. The pieces then sold through an integrated “Shop Now” feature on Snapchat, which led shoppers through to a dedicated e-commerce page that displayed the products on a real-life model, enabling them to choose their size before completing purchase.

Macy’s
Macy’s Santa Monica Pier displays

Macy’s partnered with Pinterest to display scannable Pincodes at vibrant gathering spots in the US, such as Central Park in New York and the Santa Monica Pier in LA. Scanning a code took shoppers to a Pinterest board curated with ideal summer looks for their location with links to the online store. 

Unlike most immersive retail experiences that are fixed to a specific location, or indeed online only, this campaign was designed to inspire customers with virtual catalogs that meet them where they are. 

Nike
The Nike Air Jordan III “Tinker” sold out on Snapchat

Nike is another that has been experimenting with the idea of using specific virtual spaces to release new products. In 2018 it also used Snapchat, this time to release its Air Jordan III “Tinker” for those in attendance at the NBA All-Star after-party only.

 Achieved via a partnership between Nike, Snap, Darkstore and Shopify, users could scan exclusive Snap codes to buy and receive the shoes by 10:30pm that same night. All of them sold out within 23 minutes.

Outdoor Voices
Outdoor Voices augmented reality experience

Austin-based activewear brand Outdoor Voices launched an augmented reality app experience at SXSW in 2018 that encouraged fans to get outdoors to find particular virtual products in the middle of the park. Once discovered, users could explore them in 360-degrees, find out more information as well as click to purchase.

How are you thinking about new technology? 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. Each of the rules referenced above is matched by one of our products and services. Interested in how? Get in touch to learn more.

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e-commerce social media

Adidas sells new shoe in Snapchat fashion show

adidas on Snapchat
adidas on Snapchat

Adidas sold its latest sneakers through a fashion show hosted exclusively on Snapchat, making it a platform first.

The brand launched an iteration of its Adidas Originals Falcon W style on “Fashion 5 Ways”, a new show that premiered on the social media platform’s Discover page last week.

Fans watching the show could purchase the shoe by swiping up, which revealed an e-commerce page powered by Shopify, with delivery fulfilled by Darkstore. This marks the first time Snapchat users can purchase a product through one of its shows.

“Fashion 5 Ways”, produced by Thumb Candy Media, is a show catering to young women who want to explore different ways to wear fashion staples such as sneakers. According to Snapchat, millions of viewers watched this specific episode, with 70% of the overall audience for it being women aged 13 to 24.

adidas on Snapchat

Brands are increasingly finding ways of gamifying real life interactions with the help of their customer’s mobile behaviors. Beyond quirky mobile games, this trend now includes an important final touchpoint: retail. By creating demand and providing tools to fulfil it on the spot, these brands are locking consumers into their ecosystems.

Another example happened in February this year, when Nike became the first brand to sell a product on Snapchat by allowing users to scan an exclusive Snap code at an afterparty in Los Angeles that they could use to purchase shoes and receive them on the same night. In this instance, all of the sneakers sold out within 23 minutes.

A further indication that sportswear labels are spearheading this movement: during this year’s SXSW festival, cult label Outdoor Voices launched an AR experience that surfaced exclusive styles of clothing depending on the user’s location. The user could then purchase the items exclusively.

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.

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business Campaigns digital snippets e-commerce product Retail sustainability technology

ICYMI: Fashion embracing AI, how Apple is using AR, breaking down Gucci’s innovation model

AI in fashion - artificial intellgence
AI in fashion

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

TOP STORIES
  • How fashion should (and shouldn’t) embrace artificial intelligence [BoF]
  • How Apple will use AR to reinvent the human-computer interface [Fast Company]
  • Breaking down the Gucci-inspired ‘innovation model’ that’s taking over Kering [Glossy]
  • In fashion’s hype-driven era, Hermès is doing its own thing [Dazed]
TECHNOLOGY
  • Blockchain, Internet of Things and AI: What the newest luxury startup accelerators are investing in [Glossy]
SUSTAINABILITY
  • What really goes into a fashion sustainability ranking & how brands game the system [TheFashionLaw]
  • Millennials say they care about sustainability. So, why don’t they shop this way? [BoF]
  • Report: Levi’s is ‘all talk and no action’ on sustainability [Glossy]
  • Beauty brands are finding innovative ways to reduce packaging waste [Fashionista]
  • The young designers pioneering a sustainable fashion revolution [Vogue]
  • TheRealReal, Stella McCartney flaunt high-fashion recycling [MediaPost]
RETAIL & E-COMMERCE
  • Is video the future of online shopping? [BoF]
  • Amazon will now deliver packages to the trunk of your car [TheVerge]
  • Fast fashion’s biggest threat is faster fashion [BoF]
MARKETING & SOCIAL MEDIA
  • Outdoor Voices uses AR to launch OV Trail Shop running collection [FashionNetwork]
  • Oakley forgives you (even if others don’t) in this lovely ode to athletic obsession [AdWeek]
  • Adidas Originals traded pieces from Alexander Wang’s new collection to get to Coachella [AdWeek]
PRODUCT
  • Disney made a jacket to simulate physical experiences, like a snake slithering across your body [TheVerge]
  • Adidas is testing how to mass-produce custom shoes like those it makes for elite athletes [Quartz]
BUSINESS
  • Balenciaga issues second apology after claims of discrimination against Chinese shoppers [Reuters]
  • Sephora’s lawsuit with obsessive compulsive cosmetics is a staggering case study in how beauty products are sold [Racked]
Categories
Editor's pick mobile Retail technology

American Express brings shoppable AR feature to Coachella

Coachella
Coachella

American Express has integrated a shoppable augmented reality feature to the official app of the Coachella music festival, spanning two weekends in Palm Springs this month.

The payment company’s AR experience allows its cardholders to buy select merchandise by using an AR camera feature when at the festival’s grounds.

Within the Coachella app, Amex cardholders can tap a dedicated Amex tab that will enable the AR experience, as well as give them a series of other benefits and rewards. Clicking the “shop” feature and waving their phones will trigger an AR image of exclusive merchandise, which can be purchased on the spot.

Other cardholder benefits at the festival include entrance into a club area, access to an Uber priority lane and free Ferris wheel rides, while Platinum card members get access to a dedicated house that hosts exercise classes and music performances.

The AR app from American Express at Coachella
The AR app from American Express at Coachella

Amex has been increasingly experimenting with AR technology in order to enable tech-enhanced, real-world experiences that blend discovery and commerce to its cardholders.

It has recently collaborated with Justin Timberlake to launch an experience to promote his new album, titled “Man of the Woods”, within the American Express Music app. The “Outside In” AR camera experience sees Timberlake himself guide users through a Montana setting while he shares details of how his “Breeze Off the Pond” track came together. Users can also shop for exclusive merchandise while partaking in the experience.

Justin Timberlake and American Express
Justin Timberlake and American Express

Brands are upping the ante when it comes to striking the right balance in providing immersive mobile experiences that eventually convert into sales. By its nature, AR technology needs to be deployed in-situ, meaning there is also scope to play with the element of scarcity by making the experience geo-fenced, as seen with the Coachella feature.

Most recently, Nike teamed up with Snapchat to offer early access to a new shoe at a basketball game that could only be purchased by scanning Snapcodes; meanwhile at SXSW this year, hip activewear brand Outdoor Voices encouraged Austin locals and visitors to go outside by creating an AR experience that surfaced particular products depending on location.

Categories
Editor's pick Events technology

Sitting at the edge of culture: How SXSW has moved from tech to brand playground

Viceland's baby goats at SXSW
Viceland’s baby goats at SXSW

How do we know when we have hit peak SXSW? Was it the year grumpy cat stole all the headlines? Was it the hotel-sized vending machine from Doritos? Was it when homeless people were rather uncouthly set up as wifi transmitters?

Or will we look back and think about when baby goats grabbed our attention in 2018? With a solid dose of irony, Viceland went above and beyond to get people to pay its parking lot spot a visit this year, with a pit full of real-life “kids” available for petting. How else are you going to spend your time in between hopping from keynote sessions to tacos and barbecue. after all?

Jokes aside, that move represents quite a significant shift that’s happened over the past five-plus years at the Austin-based festival. At one point the Interactive portion of the show, which precedes Music and runs alongside Film, was really about new tech launches – the place to discover the latest startups, and the big event for the likes of Twitter, Foursquare and beyond to get off the ground.

Where once it was really a haven for geeks, and a playground for all things B2B, slowly but steadily it has shifted to become more and more about marketing, and then carried through to be a representation really of broader culture and society.

Let’s not forget how much more pervasive the internet has become in our lives during that time. SXSW Interactive is really about everything cultural because tech infiltrates that in every single way today. In doing so, the festival has therefore simultaneously ended up being phenomenally consumer-facing.

2018 is the perfect culmination of that evolution. On the one hand, the big speakers on stage this year are discussing everything from female empowerment, diversity and transparency, while out and about around the city there’s a mass takeover by fashion brands, not to mention the most impressive activation from entertainment entity Westworld, that has ever been seen at SXSW.

TheCurrent's founder, Liz Bacelar, "wanted" at the Westworld SXSW experience
TheCurrent’s founder, Liz Bacelar, “wanted” at the Westworld SXSW experience

The audience mark-up of the event is inevitably behind this shift as well, with that focus on culture driving it. No longer is it just comprised of developers or startup entrepreneurs, but rather a perfect slice of the typical “millennial” target consumer. Is it fully representative of America? Perhaps not. But there is certainly diversity on the ground in many more ways than you would have imagined from a tech conference, and than you would have seen 5-10 years ago.

The big consumer-facing activations used to arrive only for music. Doing them during Interactive isn’t entirely new – Nike, Levi’s, Game of Thrones, even Warby Parker have had a presence in previous years – but 2018 stands out for its pervasiveness.

In terms of hype, the big activation is Westworld, as mentioned. Today, there are people lining up for hours to get a secret shuttle out to Live Without Limits, where HBO has built a replica of the fictional town of Sweetwater to kick off marketing activity around the show’s second season.

Under Armour's Hovr activation at SXSW (Image via AdWeek)
Under Armour’s Hovr activation at SXSW (Image via AdWeek)

Back in downtown, meanwhile, technology isn’t entirely missing from the experiences put together, but a lot of it is on consumer tech for today, rather than tomorrow. Highlights include the Google Assistant house touting the future of voice tech on the one hand, and Under Armour’s push for its latest cushioning technology, Hovr, on the other. The latter was teased as a zero gravity experience, but turned out to be a group of trampolines to take photos on, proving the value of Instagram-worthiness remains (with long lines out the door to back it).

The move to represent the technical ability in product, has also been the case for L’Oréal this week with the launch of its Custom D.O.S.E. skincare line – a technological service that can scan and evaluate an individual consumer’s skin and create tailor made serums as a result.

And tech is a consideration for Outdoor Voices too, with the launch of an augmented reality campaign that encourages SXSW attendees and locals to get outdoors into a park to get access to exclusive product. In addition, Bose has also been thinking about AR, but this time demonstrating a pair of smart glasses that use audio rather than visuals as the overlaid digital information. The result is that you can hear what you see – when you look at a building for instance, it tells you what it is in your ear.

Our friend @jennifer outside the Hermèsmatic store in Austin for SXSW
Our friend @jennifer outside the Hermèsmatic store in Austin for SXSW

Some of the other experiences meanwhile are more traditional in their programming. A line-up of talks, a store and a DJ for happy hour does the job for fashion brand Express, for instance, while the Create & Cultivate pop-up, which is focused on “women to watch” and backed by watch brand Fossil, is not dissimilar.

Laying on top of all that is also some truly lo-fi consumer focus. Wrangler has teamed up with Modcloth to offer denim customization in the latter’s store, for instance. Meanwhile, Hermès is probably the most surprising attendee. The luxury brand has brought Hermèsmatic – a laundromat-inspired customization and repair service – to this year’s festival to offer fans the chance to update their vintage scarves via washing and dip-dying services.

SXSW may not be the place to discover the latest big tech before anyone else anymore, but it is certainly somewhere to come for a jump into how modern culture is evolving at the hands of our connected era, and inspiration around the kind of brand activations targeting tuned-in millennials accordingly.

Categories
Campaigns mobile technology

Outdoor Voices pushes exclusive product via augmented reality experience at SXSW

Outdoor Voices
Outdoor Voices

A pair of virtual yoga pants hovering in the middle of a park isn’t exactly how you’d expect the future of shopping to look, but it’s certainly a unique way to push exclusive product.

Outdoor Voices, the Austin-based activewear brand, has launched an augmented reality app experience at SXSW to do just that.

Encouraging attendees at the festival, as well as local residents, to get outdoors to a local park, the initiative surfaces particular product for users based on their location. Not dissimilar to the game Pokémon Go, it means you have to be in a particular physical space in order for that virtual item to appear through the AR.

Once you then find the items, you can explore them in 360-degrees, find out more information as well as click to purchase.

The AR experience from Outdoor Voices at SXSW
The AR experience from Outdoor Voices at SXSW

“[The app] allows some individuals to really experience it and kind of see the future of retail and of our brand’s commitment to being outside and getting people away from their computer. It’s a really unique combo of how we build technology in ways that still support our brand mission and also serve all of the people that for the most part purchase online these days,” Tricia Katz, senior software engineer at Outdoor Voices, told AdWeek.

The experience is only active for two days during the festival this weekend, but future iterations of the app will reportedly see new opportunities tailored to the weather and to location.

The entire campaign is very close to one launched by Peak Performance in 2015, which saw virtual pop-up shops appearing in rural locations at sunrise and sunset. This more advanced augmented reality version from Outdoor Voices provides insight into the way digital content overlaid on the real world is moving.

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

What you missed: Farfetch photography, questioning Everlane’s transparency, Amazon as the largest apparel seller

Farfetch digital shoot listings fashion retail technology
Farfetch

The Wall Street Journal has a deep-dive story on just what it takes to produce all the imagery for Farfetch’s listed boutiques. Every weekday, it posts an average of more than 1,000 new listings, each with at least five different photographs. Alongside that, perhaps appropriately, comes a new set of stats about Amazon, proving the fact it’s expected to surpass Macy’s to become the biggest apparel seller in the US next year.

Sustainability is also top of mind within the industry of late, with lots of ongoing thoughts around Everlane’s transparency claims and Patagonia’s slow fashion aims. Also worth reading this week are various Snapchat campaigns, not to mention some insights on the pros and cons of retail technology. Don’t forget to also sign up for our Snapchat Masterclass before the early bird rate ends on Oct 31.


TOP STORIES
  • Where luxury fashion is a high-speed, high-volume business – on site with the photography crew at Farfetch [WSJ]
  • Radical transparency: Are H&M and Zara actually more transparent than Everlane? [The Fashion Law]
  • Amazon is expected to surpass Macy’s to become the biggest apparel seller in the US next year [Business Insider]
  • Vine video-sharing app to be shut down by Twitter [The Guardian]
  • Alibaba takes Singles’ Day to global buyers, sellers [China Daily]

BUSINESS
  • Sales surge at Kering’s Gucci, slip at sister brand [Yahoo]
  • American innovation: 5 questions with Shinola CMO Bridget Russo [BrandChannel]
  • How Outdoor Voices founder Tyler Haney plans to grow the brand into the next Nike [Fashionista]
  • In an age of fast fashion, Patagonia is going slow [Yahoo]

SOCIAL MEDIA
  • Following the screenshots: How Topshop is hacking Snapchat [Digiday]
  • Everlane’s social strategy: drive community engagement, not sales [Glossy]
  • Why Snapchat is winning out over Pinterest for River Island [The Drum]
  • H&M and Kenzo leverage iOS iMessage integration [Glossy]

ADVERTISING
  • REI’s ‘#OptOutside’ returns, and other brands have joined to help make it a new American tradition [Creativity]
  • Target channels Hamilton and The Nutcracker for holiday campaign aimed at Hispanic shoppers [AdWeek]

RETAIL
  • How AI is helping retailers [Venture Beat]
  • When it comes to retail technology, the industry is ‘just getting started’ [NRF]
  • Retail websites pile on the ad tech, but may be repeating publishers’ mistakes [AdAge]
  • Understanding China’s e-commerce and Internet sectors: A guide for global retailers [FBIC]
  • Why Alibaba just staged an 8-hour fashion show [Fortune]

TECHNOLOGY
  • This connected jacket provides VIP access to exclusive NYC experiences, demos future of the Internet of Things [Forbes]
  • The gift and the curse of 3D printing and the legislation we can expect [The Fashion Law]
  • You can now get styled by a fashion-savvy algorithm [Quartz]
  • Google Voice Search comparison-shops on mobile, creating audio ad opportunity [MediaPost]

START-UPS
  • How the Techstars + Target accelerator transformed retail start-up Blueprint Registry [Retail Dive]
  • Is Silicon Valley taking menswear more seriously? [Fast Company]
  • At ThirdLove, just one area of innovation isn’t enough [Medium]

UPCOMING EVENTS