American label Badgley Mischka is partnering with enterprise software company SAP to launch a live and interactive app for guests of their upcoming show at New York Fashion Week.
The partnership aims to highlight the evolving relationship between fashion and technology, and how designers rely on the latter to quickly understand and respond to consumer needs.
Available from today (February 9), the app will enable audience members to interact in real-time with the collection, as models walk down the runway. The app will feature details on each look as they come out, with users able to vote whether they ‘like’ or ‘love’ it. All data is relayed live to the designers backstage, and after the show will help inform production and design decisions.
“Fashion is a fast-paced industry — not just during fashion week, but year-round,” said Mark Badgley, co-founder and designer of Badgley Mischka. “Through our work with SAP at New York Fashion Week, we are excited to be receiving real-time insights about our collection from industry insiders and consumers, which will ultimately help us bring these looks to market.”
Following the show on February 13, SAP will host a panel, titled “Demystifying Digital: The Future of Fashion Is Now”, which will discuss how the intersection between fashion and technology will help more effectively reach digitally-connected consumers.
“How brands connect and engage directly with consumers creates the greatest opportunity for business in the 21st century,” said Jen Morgan, executive board member of global customer operations at SAP. “SAP is at the center of helping companies meet this challenge, and we’re thrilled to partner with an iconic brand like Badgley Mischka to showcase how our innovations are shaping the future of retail and connecting businesses, consumers and designers alike.”
Calvin Klein has opened two pop-up stores in collaboration with Amazon Fashion this holiday season, offering an interactive shopping experience throughout.
The Calvin Klein X Amazon Fashion holiday retail experience, as it’s called, sees two tech-enabled spaces, one in New York and the other in Los Angeles, as well as an online brand store on Amazon.com/mycalvins.
Each one will sell exclusive styles available only to Amazon customers, focusing on men’s and women’s underwear and loungewear offerings in the physical spaces, as well as jeans online.
In terms of technology, offline visitors are able to easily make purchases by scanning a barcode within the Amazon app to have their items then delivered home. They can also interact with Amazon Echo devices within the fitting rooms, allowing them to ask Alexa various questions about the Calvin Klein product and experience, as well as to control the lighting and play music of their choice.
Customisation stations meanwhile enable them to personalise their underwear with special embroidery. And content creation spaces will encourage them to create and share their own clips to social media.
In a lounge area, visitors can also connect with shoppers on the opposite coast via video using the Amazon Echo Show, in a bid to allow them to interact and share content in real time, the company said.
”We are proud to collaborate with Amazon Fashion on this exciting retail concept,” said Cheryl Abel-Hodges, head of Calvin Klein Underwear and president of The Underwear Group of PVH. “It is our goal to deliver an immersive and content-driven shopping environment to the consumer, and we are thrilled to introduce this experience to Calvin Klein and Amazon shoppers, both online and offline, just in time for the holiday season.”
Throughout the holiday season, the shops will also host special events with the likes of supermodel and entrepreneur Karlie Kloss and comedian and author Lilly Singh.
“The holiday season is one of the most important shopping times for our customers, and we are delighted to team up with Calvin Klein to provide a fun, interactive experience that connects our customers to product in an engaging way,” stated Michelle Rothman, VP at Amazon Fashion.
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.
Intel is planning to invest over $100 million in the retail industry over the next five years, it announced at the NRF Retail’s Big Show in New York this week. At the heart of that is the Intel Responsive Retail Platform (RRP), an Internet of Things solution that it says will “take retail to the next era of highly efficient and personalised shopping”.
Through RFID, video, radio and other sensors, it will enable easy, holistic integration, help to deliver a 360-degree viewpoint of retail from the store floor through the supply chain, and deliver real-time, actionable insights, the press release explains.
Intel is looking to transform the industry through this platform – driving operational efficiencies and creating new and exciting customer experiences, both online and offline.
Brian Krzanich, CEO of Intel, said: “The retail platform collects multiple data streams to connect digital and physical environments. With the goals of lowering costs and increasing sales, the platform helps optimally place inventory, deploy employees and other resources, and track inventory – through the supply chain to the store door. It provides in-the-moment information about what customers are buying, what they want and how to manage inventory so it arrives just in time for customers to take it home.”
He added: “Our technologies can see what items are not in their correct location and the up-to-the-minute store inventory, including what’s in the back room. They can even tell what items go in to changing rooms, but never make it to the cash register.”
Data is the critical factor, he explained. “At Intel, we believe that increasingly retailers will be separated by those who have data and use it to grow and optimise the shopping experience, and those who don’t and make their decisions based on ‘experience’ and subjective observations.”
Virtual reality and artificial intelligence features will also become a part of the platform in the near future, Krzanich added. He nodded to Alibaba already empowering customers to use VR to shop from their homes, calling it a potential “game changer” for retail. “The immersive technology is opening doors for retailers to creatively reach new customers and markets,” he explained.
Meanwhile technology like robots and artificial intelligence will free up employees, enabling them to better focus on the customer and improve the store’s performance, he added. “We’re developing technologies that will help transform the shopping experience in the near future. By bringing together virtual reality and the power of data, we’ll help create the store of the future – one that is smart, responsive, connected and secure.”
The shoppable runway took on new meaning at House of Holland’s London Collections Men presentation this weekend past, with garments available for purchase straight off the back of models thanks to augmented reality.
The initiative was the result of a partnership between Visa Europe Collab and visual discovery and augmented reality app, Blippar.
Users (in this case Radio One DJ Nick Grimshaw and model Rafferty Law) were able to hold their smartphone in front of the desired garment and tap the screen to activate AR technology that would pull up imagery and information about it. They were then able to instantly check out using a pre-registered and prepaid debit or credit card.
“Being able to scan garments through Blippar and purchase them pretty much off [the model’s] back is an amazing technological development and one I have dreamt of as a consumer and a fashion business owner,” said House of Holland founder, Henry Holland.
Visa Europe Collab co-founder Hendrik Kleinsmiede, commented: “Augmented reality has the potential to be transformative for the retail industry. Imagine a future where you can point your phone at a friend’s new outfit with their permission, only for the app to recognise and source that outfit in your size, and give you the option of having it sent straight to your home.”
Indeed, that idea of being able to capture anyone’s outfit and pull up information about where it’s from has long been an appealing one to shoppers. This aims to take that one step closer to reality (albeit a simpler version by being preloaded with truly accurate data thanks to the fact it’s focused on one brand’s products).
The launch at this point is just a proof-of-concept one – meaning it only existed for the moment of the LC:M show – but the aim is to make the technology available to other retailers on a wider scale later this year. Kleinsmiede added that he hopes this virtual shift in traditional shopping behaviour is something we’ll see on the high street very soon.
This was the second time Henry Holland and Visa Europe have worked together. The two collaborated on a wearable technology project in September 2015 that saw items purchased from the brand’s womenswear show during London Fashion Week using a payment ring.
Primark is hosting live 360-degree video content from its autumn/winter press day in London today, providing fans with immersive access to its new collection through the eyes, and hauls, of certain influencers.
Based on the idea of haul videos – the popular term for video bloggers revealing what they’ve just purchased – the aim is to enable the retailer’s global social media audience of 7.8m to experience new product in real-time.
“We wanted to be able to put our fans right at the centre of our AW16 press days, make them feel immersed in the event space and ask some of our favourite influencers to pick out their favourite pieces from our ranges by carrying out the first ever live Primark Hauls in 360-degrees,” says Olly Rzysko, head of digital communications at the retailer.
For reference, searching for “Primark Haul” on YouTube currently delivers over 370,000 results, which is what Rzysko says inspired this campaign. “It’s a huge part of the Primark online DNA, it inspired our UGC platform Primania and it’s all created by our customers and fans, so we thought we would do something special that’s not been done before to celebrate this.”
The videos will be viewable in 360-degrees on both YouTube in real-time, and later posted to Facebook (which doesn’t yet take live 360 video) and to Primark.com. The team will also be simulcasting to Facebook Live throughout the day.
The 360 hauls will feature influencers including Dolly Bow, Becky Sargeant, Mark Hayes and Charlotte Hole and will cover womenswear, menswear, home, kids and beauty (click each for live links). They begin at roughly 12pm GMT and run until 7pm, though all can be found via this playlist link, which will be updated throughout the day, too.
Rzysko says live video is a key part of the Primark strategy today. This campaign follows a successful live tour of the retailer’s new Milan store, which saw 250,000 real-time viewers and a further 1.2m after the event. Primark will next take the 360 Haul campaign to Dublin on June 16.
New York brand Alice + Olivia is launching a shoppable runway show attached to the behemoth of the US festival season, Coachella.
Held in collaboration with Neiman Marcus, it will run just two short days before the highly anticipated opening weekend of the Californian music festival.
Aptly, the brand’s spring 2016 collection favours a bohemian aesthetic. Though a selection of those pieces were presented at New York Fashion Week back in September 2015, a fresh capsule collection inspired by Grateful Dead will be presented as well.
We’re yet to discover if tie-dye and roughed-up rocker roses will replace creative director and CEO Stacey Bendet’s customary geo prints and ditzy florals, but several sneak-peaks on the brand’s Instagram account point to the expected teddy motif so related to Grateful Dead. The reception by fans has been one of extreme yearning, with the first collection video pushing 15k views in just one day.
A video posted by alice + olivia by StaceyBendet (@aliceandolivia) on
Said Bendet: “A ‘See Now, Buy Now’ runway show is something I have been wanting to do for a few seasons but it took time to feel out when and where felt right. I wanted what I showed on that runway to be relevant to what consumers actually want to wear, now. I came up with the idea to have the show around Coachella and have the runway looks be based upon things that every girl would want to wear to a music festival.”
The entire production will be live streamed on the social media accounts of both Alice + Olivia and Neiman Marcus from its NeueHouse Hollywood venue in LA on April 13. Immediately following the presentation, 12 exclusive items will be available for purchase online giving last minute ticket-holders an opportunity to clinch a less-predictable festival look.
For many, this means creating collections that can be bought in-season: a see now / buy now strategy, as it’s largely being called. But others are doing something different again: some stepping out of the fashion week race altogether, others merely changing the time of year the collections are shown instead.
At this point, the result is a bit of a muddle – a variety of strategies that may or may not work. Safe to say, where leaders including Burberry, Tom Ford and Rebecca Minkoff are stepping, numerous others are waiting in the wings to see what sticks before figuring out if they too will join the (r)evolution. The question is, will the traditional Parisian houses go there?
Here’s a round-up of all the changes so far:
UPDATE FEB 19: Mulberry
Mulberry is the latest to outline its plans to more closely align runway with retail deliveries. Ahead of its return to the London Fashion Week schedule with new creative director Johnny Coca this Sunday, the brand announced it will showcase part of its Fall 2016 pre-collection on the catwalk to tap into the idea of providing product that can be bought much sooner – it will drop in stores in April. CEO Thierry Andretta said the move will short-circuit the production of cheap high-street copies, allow retailers to sell original designs at full price and give customers quicker access to new products.
UPDATE FEB 12: Tommy Hilfiger
Hot on the heels of other big name brands listed below, Tommy Hilfiger has also announced a direct-to-consumer shift. It will kickstart such plans with its TommyXGigi collection, with supermodel Gigi Hadid, in September 2016, before moving to a full in-season and shoppable consumer show in February 2017. As BoF highlights, this is no small undertaking for a brand with over 20,000 points of sale, more than 1,500 stores and distribution in 115-plus countries. In fact, 60% of the company’s sales come from wholesale. It will accommodate those lead times with private appointments for trade in September. “When the collection is on the floor, there is going to be an incredible amount of excitement that normally happens six months earlier,” said chief marketing and brand officer, Avery Baker.
UPDATE FEB 12: Proenza Schouler
Proenza Schouler will make eight of the looks walking in its New York Fashion Week show next week, available to buy in its own store in Manhattan within 24-hours. Clients will also be able to pre-order other pieces. The designers call it an experiment as this point, in that they’ve manufactured limited quantities in advance, but something they’re looking to expand on. “We’ll see how this performs and take it from there,” said one half of the duo, Jack McCollough. “If it’s sold out a week after the show, then we’ll definitely push it further.”
Burberry is shifting its fashion week calendar and supply chain so it shows in-season in both February and September (starting September 2016), and its collections are available to buy “immediately” after they’ve appeared on the catwalk, both online and in-stores. Chief executive and chief creative officer, Christopher Bailey, said: “There’s just something that innately feels wrong when we’re talking about creating a moment in fashion: you do the show in September and it feels really right for that moment, but then you have to wait for five or six months until it’s in the store… You’re creating all this energy around something, and then you close the doors and say, ‘Forget about it now because it won’t be in the stores for five or six months’.”
Tom Ford originally cancelled his fashion week show in favour of one-on-one appointments with press and buyers this season, before opting to shift the entire plan to September when he will present both women’s and menswear for autumn/winter 2016. It will also be available to buy on the same day. “In a world that has become increasingly immediate, the current way of showing a collection four months before it is available to consumers is an antiquated idea and one that no longer makes sense,” Ford said. “Showing the collection as it arrives in stores will remedy this, and allow the excitement that is created by a show or event to drive sales and satisfy our customers’ increasing desire to have their clothes as they are ready to wear them.”
In a bid to capture consumer appetite and enable immediate purchases, Rebecca Minkoff (as pictured) will show her spring/summer 2016 collection during New York Fashion Week this month – that’s the same one (plus a few extra pieces) that she already put out in September. About 30-50% of the audience will be comprised of “everyday” consumers too. This catch-up season will then enable her to continue on a direct-to-consumer model with her autumn 2016 line. “Now all of a sudden, the Super Bowl [of shows] twice a year actually becomes an actual buying and retail celebration and festival, versus just a big tease,” CEO Uri Minkoff said.
Misha Nonoo hit the headlines last season for her “Instashow”. While she has something similarly different up her sleeve for this coming week, she is otherwise also following suit and skipping a traditional show format until September 2016 when she will begin to show in-season for consumers to view and shop.
After just four seasons showing as part of London Fashion Week, Hunter is stepping away from the catwalk entirely this season, and instead focusing wholeheartedly on exploring and amplifying its music festivals opportunity. It will hold multiple global customer-facing moments during 2016, according to a statement. Detail is yet to emerge, but safe to say real integration with festivals, as well as shifting the model in terms of when and how consumers have access to product will be the priority. “Continuing our commitment to innovate, now is the time to push things further. At this time within our industry, the moment is right to change things up and, as a brand, Hunter can do just that,” said creative director Alasdhair Willis.
Matthew Williamson left London Fashion Week earlier in 2015 to move to a new model of six collections a year to suit what it calls the “buy-now-wear-now mentality” of its consumer. It closed its flagship store and opened a showroom in its place to operate as an appointment-only boutique for online shoppers. Business director Rosanna Falconer says it was a move that made enormous sense for shoppers. She was frustrated by the fact she used to be presenting images on social media fit for spring and frequently receiving comments back from fans referring to the fact it was cold outside, for instance. “It was so simple for the shopper; it just didn’t make sense. There’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re pushing something onto a consumer that they’re not ready for.”
One of the latest announcements comes from Vetements. In a slightly different move, it will show (and produce) just two collections a year, and will do so in January and June, rather than in March and October (as Paris Fashion Week falls) to coincide more closely with pre-collections. The intention of doing so is to align with the fact a bigger portion of retailer’s budgets are spent on such lines, and they get more time on the sales floor before being discounted. For now it will still operate on a long lead-time of circa six months but the plan down the road is to swap the seasons over and deliver product by February for instance. “To reach this result, the whole production will have to be pre-produced. It means each piece in the collection will be part of a limited edition. No restock. One delivery. The true definition of luxury is something that is scarce. It would be nice to give luxury back its true meaning,” said CEO Guram Gvasalia.
BONUS: Karl Lagerfeld
In conversation with WWD, Karl Lagerfeld said he’s not against changes to the fashion system “if the future goes in that direction”, but that he would never do it the same way. He said companies that produce complex garments and use special materials would need to “make two collections — one immediate, and one available in six months. It’s a way to do the future and the present. It’ll just mean a little more work, ha ha ha”. He also noted that delivering clothes several months after their unveiling is not necessarily a bad thing. “There’s also the excitement of waiting for something,” he said.