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What you missed: retail’s existential reckoning, Echo Dot is the Christmas best seller, bots on the rise

2017 was the year of retail’s existential reckoning
2017 was the year of retail’s existential reckoning

A round-up of everything you might have missed in relevant fashion business, digital comms and tech industry news over the final fortnight of 2017.


TOP STORIES
  • 2017 was the year of retail’s existential reckoning [Quartz]
  • The Echo Dot was the best-selling product on all of Amazon this holiday season [TechCrunch]
  • Bots are about to get better at customer support than humans [Wired]
  • The last days of Colette [Garage]

BUSINESS
  • Retailers feel shoppers’ Christmas cheer [WSJ]
  • Jonathan Saunders steps down from DVF role [Guardian]
  • Meet Oscar Olsson, the mind behind H&M’s new brand for millennials [TheCut]
  • Reformation raises $25 million to fuel brick-and-mortar growth [BoF]
  • Clothing companies are trashing unsold merchandise instead of donating it [TheOutline]
  • With Phoebe Philo leaving Céline, what’s next? [BoF]
  • UK cotton back in production in Manchester [BBC]

MARKETING
  • Adidas brings all-star talent and tech to the table [BrandChannel]

E-COMMERCE
  • Prada launches e-commerce platform in China [Reuters]
  • The fake news of e-commerce [Racked]
  • There’s money to be made in returning e-commerce orders [LA Times]
  • What fashion brands can learn from Nike’s first six months as an Amazon partner [Glossy]
  • E-commerce company ThredUP rolls out AI-powered ‘goody boxes’ to rival discount clothing chains [AdWeek]

STORES
  • Walmart is developing a personal-shopper service for rich moms — and a store with no cashiers [Recode]
  • Sephora mastered in-store sales by investing in data and cutting-edge technology [AdWeek]

TECHNOLOGY
  • This is Magic Leap’s mixed reality headset [Engadget]
  • If the bitcoin bubble bursts, this is what will happen next [Wired]
  • Mall of America gets high-tech with chatbot and humanoid robots [Racked]
  • Ikea is stepping into virtual reality by creating a game for new store openings [AdWeek]
  • Beauty tech made major strides in 2017, and it’s only the beginning [Fashionista]

START-UPS
  • Target to buy Shipt for $550 million in challenge to Amazon [Bloomberg]
  • Meet the nanotech scientist who used her mad skills to build a better party clutch [FastCompany]
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business data Editor's pick mobile technology

Yoox Net-a-Porter looks to the future of AI and mobile commerce with new tech hub in London

The new Yoox Net-a-Porter tech hub in White City, London
The new Yoox Net-a-Porter tech hub in White City, London

Federico Marchetti, CEO of Yoox Net-a-Porter, calls the group’s new tech hub in White City, west London, its “space shuttle”.

“This is our temple of innovation that’s going to take YNAP into the future,” he explained at the opening this morning.

The 70,000 sq ft space comes as part of an investment of more than €500m in technology and logistics across the group in a bid to double the size of the business by 2020. It houses all of YNAP’s UK tech teams under one roof – a total of 500 employees, in addition to the further 500 based in Bologna, Italy.

The big focus in terms of the work they’re doing today is around artificial intelligence (AI) and the next wave of mobile technologies, the team explained. Demonstrations at the opening for instance included an AI-enabled virtual personal stylist tool that could recommend items based on image recognition, personalised preferences and contextual data like location and weather forecast.

Another AI tool in the works can suggest different options for complete outfit looks – taking the professionally styled shots that the e-commerce sites currently show and providing unlimited variations of mix and match pieces for users alongside. This level of machine learning and neural networks learn as they go, making them only better for users over time, the team explained.

Alex Alexander, CIO at the company, referred to everything they’re doing as being about making the experience more personalised for shoppers. “We’re using our own data in a smarter and more detailed way in order to tailor the customer experience to every individual customer,” he explained.

Marchetti added: “What innovation means for us is not innovation for the sake of it, but innovation for the customer.”

On the mobile side however, that starts internally. Every employee at the company is being given an iPhone equipped with new apps designed in collaboration with Apple and IBM in a bid to enable them to think not only mobile-first, but eventually mobile-only.

“Our focus on mobile starts with our employees. If we don’t think mobile-first for them, how can we expect to get it right for our customers?” Alexander asked.

The tech team is therefore meeting with every department within the business to understand their mobile needs. The personal shopping team was on hand today, for instance, exploring how they can use mobile as an opportunity to spend more time with their top customers, known as EIPs (extremely important people). The idea is to give them greater tools and capabilities so they can scale their interactions. AI will inform that too.

Yoox Net-a-Porter is prioritising mobile
Yoox Net-a-Porter is prioritising mobile

From a customer perspective, some further examples for mobile include leaning heavily on Apple’s iOS 11 update, which is due to roll out in September (though is available in beta now). Centre to that is the camera, which will come with in-built augmented reality opportunities as well as a QR reader.

Users can use it to take pictures of outfits they like and through an AI algorithm using visual recognition, find similar options to purchase, for instance. Meanwhile, the team will also deploy QR codes in some of the windows of the physical stores it powers so that the looks on display (each tagged with RFID labels) can be brought up on the relevant e-commerce site for purchase immediately.

If the QR code still sounds like a questionable option, YNAP is convinced both by behavior witnessed from Chinese shoppers and Apple’s integration of the technology as a sure sign for the future.

The company also announced a new partnership today with Imperial College London, to support an initiative that teaches local children from underprivileged backgrounds the basics of coding. The project, named Imperial Codelab powered by Yoox Net-a-Porter, is particularly focusing on increasing the number of young girls who have access to such classes. “We know there are not enough women in tech and we want to help that for the future,” Marchetti noted.

This post first appeared on Forbes

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digital snippets e-commerce film mobile social media Startups technology

Digital snippets: shoplifters at Harvey Nichols, Iris van Herpen on fashion and science, Rakuten’s virtual fit start-up

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

harveynichols

  • Harvey Nichols features genuine CCTV shoplifting footage in new Rewards ad (as pictured) [Creative Review]
  • Iris van Herpen’s science fashion [BoF]
  • Rakuten buys virtual fitting room start-up Fits.Me in a fashion commerce play [TechCrunch]
  • Why an “Amazon for high fashion” is a really bad idea [HighSnobiety]
  • Amazon Fashion, playing the long game [BoF]
  • ShopStyle figured out how to monetise Snapchat [Racked]
  • Why it took Zappos Labs five tries to admit failure [Fast Company]
  • Stamp your in-store Snapchats with custom Lilly Pulitzer prints [Digiday]
  • Crocs bets big on interactive Twitter videos with ‘Funway Runway’ effort [AdWeek]
  • Online jewellery start-up Bauble Bar to open retail stores [Forbes]
  • Matthew Williamson to sell part of pre-fall collection exclusively on Lyst [Fashionista]
  • Net-a-porter partners with Tom Ford on e-commerce exclusive [WWD]
  • Nike quickens plans to ‘seamlessly connect social platforms to commerce’ [The Drum]
  • How artificial intelligence is powering e-commerce in India [TechinAsia]
  • Fashion apps continue the trend for mobile swiping [The Telegraph]
  • Six futuristic retail displays that will change your idea of ‘e-commerce’ [Time]
  • Luxury brands dip toes in e-commerce waters [WSJ]
  • Why the Internet of Things won’t be about the ‘things’ for retailers [Retail Dive]
  • The man who wants to turn our clothes into modular gadgets [Wired]
  • Meet Mona, the world’s smartest personal shopper [PSFK]
  • Why the Apple Watch is flopping [Co.Design]
  • 3D-printing has stagnated, says pioneering designer Francis Bitonti [Dezeen]
  • We did not expect Vogue’s native advertising to be this good [Brand Republic]