Creating retail experiences is essential for successful brick and mortar today, but it’s not a silver bullet, explains Jess Christie, chief brand officer of MatchesFashion.com, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast.
This is a luxury retailer that opened a new physical store in London’s Mayfair last year and hosted more than 100 different events in its first 9 months. If anyone knows what it takes to pull this sort of thing off, it’s Christie.
“I think everyone should be doing it, but I think the problem is that you can’t just say we’re all going to do experiences, and then say that means we’re going to do loads of ‘in-conversations’ and that’s what an experience is, and then be cookie cutter. You have to really challenge yourself to know what your brand is, who your customer is, and what would engage and inspire them,” she explains.
Indeed, by not thinking like this, the word ‘experience’ in itself has become almost meaningless, Christie suggests. It’s overused and often without direction – believed by many to be the answer to saving a challenged industry. Which is why we see everything from yoga classes to floristry workshops and ball pits taking over shop windows.
A recent study shows that one-third of chief marketing officers will dedicate up to 50% of their budgets to experiential marketing over the next five years. The winners will be those who, as suggested by Christie, don’t just think of it as a silver bullet.
There are of course examples of this truly working in the market. Apple, Nike and Lululemon have all made a name for themselves for their approach. MatchesFashion.com is now taking its strategy on tour around the world.
Join us for this live conversation with Christie held at a FashMash event in London as we explore her view on all things experiences, as well as what it means to think about personal shopping through the eyes of technology today, and the role content plays in connecting online and offline together.
Nike’s new NYC flagship unlocks a new level of convenience by allowing customers to navigate the shopping experience in-store entirely on their phones, using the brand’s existing app.
Shoppers at the 5th Avenue store, called House of Innovation 000, can use the app throughout their entire visit and have a completely unmanned experience if they wish to do so. This includes using the “Scan to Try” feature that lets customers scan QR codes on products to get them sent to the fitting room for try on; “Shop the Look”, where a QR code will bring up a mannequin’s entire outfit, which the customer can order through their phone for home delivery; and most importantly, a self-checkout feature where the shopper can pay seamlessly through their phones on services like Apple Pay and PayPal.
Future retail locations around the globe will follow the same concept, blurring the lines between physical and digital.
Customers at home can even reserve shoes online to try on in real life. In this case, the items are placed in a locker with the person’s name on, which they can then unlock with their phones once in-store. The area has its own entrance, so shop-goers can be in and out in a matter of minutes.
The six-storey building also offers multiple environments built around specific needs, such as The Speed Shop, which has all the brand’s most popular items ready to buy; The Arena, a customization area where shoppers can order shoes in whatever color they want; and the Nike Expert Studio, offering one-on-one appointments with stylists.
In addition to the digital and personalization features, the design of the store is modular, with walls that can be moved using a grid system. In as little as a day, it is possible to adapt the store into a completely different setup for a special event.
Nike’s first hybrid concept store opened earlier this year in Los Angeles as a lab for testing new retail ideas. After tracking members who had visited the store, they gathered that customers spent 30% more online later than those who didn’t have the in-person experience. Meanwhile in October, the brand also opened a similar concept in Shanghai where it has reported it is signing up a new member to the official app every two minutes.
In creating an entirely unmanned experience but still offering customers opportunities for personalization and interaction, Nike is striking a balance between two very different consumer speeds: convenience and experience.
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.
Now in its third year, Complexcon, a consumer-focused event targeting streetwear fanatics, took place to much expected hype last weekend in Long Beach, California.
The event, which is a spin-off of media company Complex, focused on feeding its Gen Z and Millennial community through a series of retail experiences, activations and panel discussions. Here we highlight the key takeaways of the weekend:
For the consumer, the biggest goal of the two-day event was to shop, plain and simple. But for an audience that is prone to forming lines outside of stores for days before a drop, brands had to think creatively on how to create shopping experiences that blended that thrill of the chase with physical and digital tools.
Adidas was arguably the biggest name on the floor, hosting two experiences – one which involved a physical booth and another which took visitors on a wild goose chase for physical cubes that unlocked a new sneaker drop every hour. These gigantic cubes were seen throughout the venue, and on the hour, the user had to stand under the cube to scan it using the Complexcon app to unlock the ability to shop for the specific style. Unsurprisingly, Adidas fanatics were seen standing under the cube for hours before their preferred drop would take place.
Gradual product drops kept the customer engaged and most importantly, wanting to attend both days of the Con for fear of missing out. Reebok’s booth featured perspex cubes filled with fog, while timers underneath each individual plinth counted down the hours until the content inside the cube (a sneaker) was revealed.
The festival also teamed up with Frenzy, a location-based drop app, to allow consumers to shop for exclusive collabs through their phones while at the venue. The fulfilment of that experience left room for improvement, however, as shoppers could only pick up their goods four hours after purchase, a wait which for many stretched to 24 hours.
In such a noisy environment of endless queues and product drops, independent brands worked hard to stand out with booths that encouraged discovery and social sharing. Cult streetwear label Lotas, for example, chose to spend its budget not on an attractive booth, but by casting a group of The Sopranos lookalikes to play poker throughout, creating an unusual opportunity for visitors to snap and share.
The Pangaia, a global collective investigating the future of sustainable clothing, showcased its inaugural collection among a floor of empty plastic bottles, encouraging visitors to dispose of the same as they walked past. On Sunday, the collective also co-hosted a beach clean-up nearby with the support of ComplexCon.
Meanwhile beyond fashion, brands across food, automotive and media were on hand to talk about the bigger lifestyle that this community is a part of. Cadillac created a booth that showcased one of its models amid a digital jungle of screens and a photo backdrop; similar to SXSW, HBO recreated the classic barbershop experience to promote the launch of LeBron James’s new unscripted series, The Shop, featuring free haircuts and sneaker cleaning; and to promote the release of Creed II, guests could join in a VR experience, as well as watch boxing matches taking place in a life-sized ring.
Finally, McDonald’s quickly became a fan favorite as it hosted a customization station with special guests and, most importantly, free hamburgers for all.
Conversations on the floor flip-flopped between who ‘copped’ the latest drop and what new endeavor someone may have been working on, from promoting their new podcast to monetizing their photography work. As a result, ComplexCon worked hard to promote conversations that had an underlying entrepreneurial spirit and was particularly relevant to the younger generation that is multifaceted in their goals.
“How to make it in America”, saw entrepreneur and social media star Gary Vaynerchuk talking about how to avoid the pitfalls and be part of the small percentage that does succeed in the country. Meanwhile actresses Issa Rae and Yara Shahidi, joined a conversation on females in media and how to overcome hurdles and balance public and personal life. And Louis Vuitton and Off White designer, Virgil Abloh, brought on stage three designers he believes are the next generation of fashion.
The spirit of giving visitors the tools to succeed and thrive also permeated throughout the festival booths. Entrepreneur Karen Civil was on hand at the Simple Mobile stand to offer one-to-one career advice, while the festival’s creative director, Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, worked with six relatively unknown footwear designers to reimagine his artwork on limited edition sneakers, which were being auctioned off on eBay.
How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about helping you build innovative integrations and experiences. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology, powered by a network of top startups. Get in touch to learn more.
In 2019, TheCurrent will be returning to SXSW in Austin, Texas – but we need your support! Beyond gathering insights and producing events like podcast recordings, we are aiming to host three panels. But we can only get on the official schedule with your vote. And today is your last chance to do so!
One of our panels, “The future of connected beauty”, will look at how digitally native consumers are increasingly relying on technology to meet their ultimate beauty goals, and how brands are catering to that by focusing on delivering efficacy and personalization. The result is a beauty experience that blurs the lines between retail and at-home.
Our CEO Liz Bacelar will be hosting this conversation with Guive Balooch, global VP of the Technology Incubator at L’Oréal, a company that has been a pioneer in the beauty tech space. Together, they will help the audience better understand the beauty consumer’s increasingly digital behaviour, as well as how self-optimisation in beauty is becoming more and more reliant on tech. The audience will also learn about new technologies that aim to deliver highly convenient and personalized experiences, and what the future holds for the beauty industry.
So if you want to see this panel at SXSW 2019, please vote! But be quick, as public voting closes today. Doing so is easy, just login or create a quick PanelPicker® account via panelpicker.sxsw.com. Then find our The future of connected beauty panel and all you have to do is click on the “Vote Up” button in the top lefthand column.
Beauty technology is one of the industry’s most pertinent conversations, as brands develop the tools and services to correspond to their consumer’s high levels of expectation. TheCurrent has been watching this space for years: most recently in May, we interviewed Paul Peros, the former CEO of Foreo, a beauty device company who as of that month was on track to turning over $1bn a year; and in March, we talked to Balooch himself on the future of beauty technology. The beauty industry has also been presenting some of the most interesting innovations at trade shows we attend throughout the year, such as CES in Las Vegas.