US teen apparel label Hollister is promoting the launch of its spring collection by creating 12 corresponding outfits for Bitmoji characters, available to post on Snapchat.
At present, users can create their own avatars through a standalone Bitmoji app, which generates the ‘mini me’ characters in a variety of situations, such as showcasing emotions or sending the recipient greetings.
The Hollister launch aims to create a unique experience for Snapchat users and propel the brand back into the forefront of the teen shopper’s mind. For the Bitmoji experience, outfits include items that feature in their newest collection such as t-shirts with the brand’s iconic eagle logo and a men’s camo sweater.
As Michael Schneider, VP of marketing, told WWD: “At Hollister, we aim to create emotional and engaging brand experiences where we know our customers are spending their time.“
This focus on the consumer and the brand experience can also be seen to have positively influenced the last quarter of the brand’s sales period, with a quarterly comparable sales gain of 11%.
This is not the first time Hollister has spearheaded digital experiences on the Snapchat platform in order to engage with the Gen Z audience that is at the core of the brand. In 2015, it launched geo-tagged filters available at thousands of high schools in the US and Canada. In 2017, it launched a retro video game available through Snapcodes.
adidas will be using individual RFID tags to create 30,000 personalized videos for runners participating at the 122nd Boston Marathon happening on April 16. The feature is part of the “Here to Create Legend” campaign, which also helps commemorate the sportswear brand’s 30-year partnership with the Boston Athletic Association (BAA).
To achieve the feat, adidas will be using data generated by RFID chips on the runners’ race bibs, such as pace and split times, combined with ultra-high frequency radio signals fed from street mats to antennas. In order to create each individual video, the company is working with digital agency Grow to capture footage using seven cameras and a 20-person crew stretching the 26.2-mile length of the course. Moreover personal footage will be captured at the 15K finish line.
In order to efficiently deliver the individual videos to runners within hours of the race, adidas has completed trial runs at other races and developed shot lists, sound effects and pre-set camera angles that will help the team eliminate excess footage and edit more speedily.
“We’re capturing the excitement, support and celebration that is Boston in a way no one has ever done before,” said Paul Bowyer, head of adidas Running US “In our 30th year of partnership, adidas and the BAA are creating an epic moment for Boston by harnessing the power of technology and 30,000 runners and to highlight the pride, firsts, wins, personal records and energy of runners who will become legends on April 16.”
To access the film after the race, runners will receive an email from the BAA with a link, while videos will also be available at heretocreatelegend.com and searchable via bib numbers.
The Polo Custom shop dominates the lower ground floor of the new Polo Ralph Lauren store on Regent Street in London. If you want to embroider personalised patches or monogrammed blazers, a few taps on a tablet is all that’s required. Similarly, at the Tommy Hilfiger store down the street, shoppers can pick any item in stock and have it customised in store while they wait. At Burberry, meanwhile, you can monogram a scarf; at Gucci it’s possible to appliqué designs on jackets; and Louis Vuitton lets its customers initial luggage under its Mon Monogram programme.
According to Deloitte research, one in three consumers surveyed were interested in personalised products, with 71% of those prepared to pay a premium for such embellishments. Moreover, focusing on the fashion sector, 15% of those asked are prepared to pay a substantial markup – more than 40 per cent over the asking price – for such items.
“Luxury consumers are increasingly expecting products that feel special and distinctive to them, such as monogrammed iPhone cases from Chaos Fashion,” says Tammy Smulders, global managing director of Havas LuxHub, the media group’s division dedicated to fashion, luxury and lifestyle business. “Equally, brands are using technology and data to segment their customers and provide the right kinds of products, services and brand communication.”
Technology will continue to drive this trend, according to José Neves, founder and CEO of online retailer Farfetch. “Customisation will be the next revolution in luxury,” he says. “We wanted to find a way of offering luxury and bespoke products to an audience that’s increasingly knowledgeable about style and quality.”
Advances in artificial intelligence are destined to make our lives and shopping experiences stronger than ever – good news for the consumer, and even better news for retailers, writes Uwe Hennig of Detego.
There have been a number of buzzwords and defining technology trends in retail over the last decade, from big data, to omnichannel, and the ubiquitous, omnipresent cloud. Now the internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) have become the latest talk of the town.
Forrester expects investment in AI to triple this year. By 2020, 85% of customer interactions will be managed by AI, according to research by Gartner. It’s becoming big business across industries, and not just in retail: the value of AI is estimated to be worth $36.8bn globally by 2025, predicts US market intelligence firm Tractica.
With the proliferation and accumulation of so much data as people shop anytime, anywhere – whether online, in physical stores or increasingly via their mobile phones – the conundrum for many remains: there’s just too much information to be able to make any meaningful sense out of it.
And that’s where artificial intelligence comes in. AI relies on a continual process of technological learning from experience and getting better and better at answering complex questions. Algorithms powered by AI can rapidly come up with alternative options which are otherwise much more time-consuming and laborious using conventional computer-powered A/B testing. Like the human brain, AI adapts to the environment and gets better the more you use it. But unlike humans, the capacity for improvement is unlimited. What’s more, boring, repetitive tasks are never a problem.
Plenty of examples in retail already fall under the hat of AI: chatbots are being used to help with customer service; personal shopping assistants like Amazon’s Alexa respond to voice prompts; and robots are replacing information kiosks in stores like Lowe’s in the US. Live chat functions on retailers’ websites are also proving popular for replacing staff with always-on robots and providing a continuous machine-learning customer service experience. But the future of this space looks even more AI-enabled.
Personalised service and the human side of AI
Retailers have long since struggled with maintaining ever-increasing standards of customer service as consumer expectations continue to rise. As people continue to shop more via the internet, retailers have to provide a faster, more effective, personalised service specifically aimed at the needs and wants of individual customers.
AI is set to help. eBay’s ShopBot for instance, is an AI-powered personal shopping assistant on Facebook Messenger that helps users find the best deals and sift through over a billion listings.
Chatbots have question and answer recommendation capabilities that are much more personalised than previous systems. They’re examples of retailers trying to create a near human interaction. Yet an IBM study in retail deduced that traditional retailing is too constrained to cope with recent technological advances and that the technology to date is just not human enough.
Humans vs machines
In spite of that, a new report by PwC says that around 44% of jobs in the retail sector are at risk of automation by 2030. AI is extremely good at repeated tasks and number crunching, so machines will do lots of manual processes in the future. We’re already seeing some retailers wanting to close off stock rooms and using robots to make automatic decisions about what needs replacing on the shelves, or managing the flow of goods for deliveries and onto the shop floor, for instance.
In the not too distant future, it will be common practice for consumers to pull out their phones and ask it a question as they enter a store, rather than seeking out a sales assistant or searching through the rails themselves. The smartphone can immediately respond that a desired article is available in a specific size and that sales staff can bring it.
Voice recognition systems and speaking to a computer or smartphone (like Apple’s Siri) for answers is already taking shape. Macy’s used a version from IBM Watson to do exactly this (as pictured above), and talking interactive screens and self-checkouts in fitting rooms is something we’re also already engaged with.
AI, or machine learning, learns from past behaviour, as well as trial and error, to come up with more intelligent solutions. It’s not just science, there’s an art to selling too. Old fashioned rules-based analytics will soon become a thing of the past.
At Detego, this means making more informed recommendations to retailers using predictive analytics. So, much like the practice of online retailers flagging up similar items you might like as you browse the web, some retailers are now taking this to the next level using AI – and not just online, but in their physical stores as well (where still over 80% of sales are driven).
For example, whereas a sales assistant might, if you’re lucky, recommend something that’s evidently there on the shelves, an AI system would be better at identifying what would be the best items to offer based on many more criteria. These would include fundamental credentials like real-time product availability and the resulting profitability for the retailer, as well as other considerations like the consumer’s browsing history, or even what they’ve tried on before in the fitting room (thanks to “smart” RFID tags embedded into garments).
Informed recommendations can also be made by tapping into social media and other factors that might influence product choices, like current fashion trends or weather forecasts in different regions.
Effective AI systems are also looking for re-occurring patterns to help avoid out-of-stocks and unnecessary markdowns, such as by promoting underselling lines held in reserve that otherwise would later have to be discounted. Not only will such advanced technology know when shelves are empty, but more importantly, it will predict what will happen next.
One of the biggest growth areas where AI can make a significant difference to a retailer’s bottom line – for mobile, online and bricks-and-mortar retailing – is in this field of intelligent forecasting systems. Previously, retailers were only able to predict roughly the quantities of products to order to keep shelves fully stocked using (often out-of-date) inventory levels and historical sales data (usually going back a few years, at best). These days, AI can develop a much more accurate picture of exactly what types of products, sizes and colours are likely to sell, by looking at multiple scenarios in real time (fashion trends, consumer behaviour, the weather etc) and drawing on data from the internet. This means forecasting is no longer so much “stab in the dark” guess work.
Using AI, German online retailer, Otto, predicts with 90% accuracy what will be sold within the next 30 days and has reduced the amount of surplus stock it holds by a fifth. It has also reduced the number of returns by over two million products a year. It claims to be so reliable, in fact, that it now uses an automated AI system to purchase 200,000 items a month from third party suppliers with no human intervention. Humans simply wouldn’t be able to keep up with the volume of colour and style choices to be made.
While some fashion retailers are working with Detego to exploit many of the latest technologies to help encourage more people into their stores and improve levels of customer service, forecasting in fashion is generally quite poor. Despite more than 1,500 stores already equipped with Detego’s software and over a billion garments digitally connected, the wider industry average for forecasting accuracy in fashion still lags at a paltry 60-70%. Although RFID tagging and real-time stock monitoring offers near 100% inventory accuracy, relatively few fashion retailers have rolled-out digitally connected technology on a wider scale.
It’s still only the early stages of AI, but with the promise of it making forecasting and product selections even more accurate, it’s set to become a rapid reality. Now’s the time to jump on board.
Remembering exactly what the weather was doing, or more specifically which way the wind was blowing, might not be the first thing that springs to mind as something you want to capture forever in a piece of fine jewellery. But, it certainly makes for an interesting story to tell when your friends admire what you’re wearing.
Enter then Love & Robots, an Irish 3D-printing jewellery company that has recently introduced its new Windswept collection – a line of necklaces that can be personalised based on historical weather data.
“The world’s first wind-sculpted jewelry”, enables the user to choose any location on any date over the past 50 years and then see how the wind that was blowing at that particular time and place changes the drape of the metal accordingly. Using an online tool to do so, consumers can then pause the movement of the virtual material to create their unique pendant in either sterling silver, 14k gold or gold-plated brass.
Twitter users will be able to gain unique and personalised access to the Burberry show at London Fashion Week today through a new initiative called #Tweetcam.
Cameras around the show venue have been embedded with responsive technology that will enable real-time images to be sent straight to Twitter. Fans who tweet to the brand with #Tweetcam, will get a photograph returned to them from the “best vantage point” at that moment, with their Twitter handle and a time stamp placed on top.
“Could I Be Any Clearer”, as it’s called, is based on the idea of ensuring people get what they really want for Christmas off the back of research showing nearly half of all UK adults were disappointed with a present last year. ‘Tis the season for receiving and not just giving after all…
The cards feature six traditional Christmas designs (robins, doves, wise men and more); each one with copy wishing Season’s Greetings or Good Tidings before changing tact and demanding specific presents. One such example: “Season’s Greetings…will be very awkward if you don’t get me a pair of Charlotte Olympia silver Octavia sandals. They’re the platform ones with the 6” heel. Size 4 ½, or a 5, if that’s all they’ve got.”
That example appears in the accompanying film created by advertising agency Adam&Eve. In it a young woman is seen writing the card and delivering it to her bemused Auntie Val.
Harvey Nichols is also offering customers the ability to create their own Could I Be Any Clearer card online. There’s also a Christmas card app that creates a personalised digital card for every product on the retailer’s website. Each can then be printed, emailed or shared via social media.
Asos is taking advantage of Google’s brand new Helpouts service this Christmas, offering shoppers 15 minute time slots for real-time video chats with style experts.
Based on the Google Hangouts technology, these one-on-one sessions aim to provide live styling advice in a way that “really breaks down the barriers between the brand and our customers”, said a representative from the e-commerce site.
The promo / sign-up page for the initiative offers men and women “the lowdown on what’s in, what suits you and where to find it”. Users can get tips and advice on what to wear for specific events, on choosing someone the perfect gift and on new ways to wear items they already own. There are also make-up artists on hand to talk beauty.
Sessions can be booked for free anytime from 9am-9pm, Monday to Friday for those in the UK, US and Australia.
Launched just on Monday, December 16, three reviews on the Helpouts page prove the initiative is resonating with consumers already. One reads: “Fantastic service, really helps you find [the] end product of that ‘idea’ you were looking for.” Another concluded: “It is quite obvious that Asos is an innovator when it comes combining personalized ‘fashion advice’ with a national brand.”
Australian accessories brand, Mimco, has launched a digital initiative called The Social Kaleidscope, which invites fans to create a personalised piece of artwork merging images from its new collection with their own photographs.
Selecting from three different shapes to fill, they can import pictures from their Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram accounts, and can combine them with Mimco product shots and its Season 2 campaign images starring model Jessica Gomes. They can then share their creations with friends back through social media.
The brand has also enlisted a number of tastemakers to the initiative, such as actress and presenter April-Rose Pengilly, blogger and stylist Micah Gianneli and illustrator Sarah Hankinson.
Below is one we made using a Mimco ring, vintage car from the brand’s campaign images, yellow fixture from one of its bags, a rainbow photographed on a grey day in our own back garden, and an Instagram shot of a turquoise painted wall with international clocks on it! Check it out: