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6 rules for retail innovation

Innovation is one of those words that is often misconstrued in retail. Those who avoid it, claim they want to stay away from gimmicks. And those who love it, often use it as a PR-driven initiative or as an opportunity for technology to be deployed without much strategy. 

Sadly, innovation in retail has been largely about bells and whistles and not true fundamental change. 

Innovation in its true sense of the word – implementing new approaches to generate a different result – should be critical for anyone operating a major retailer or brand today. But it’s definitely not. A recent study by Gartner shows companies typically allocate 90% of their tech budget to “keeping the lights on”, or indeed what we can call ‘incremental innovation’, and only 10% to that which is deemed transformative.

The question then is how do you get it right? And how do you do it to bring progress and actual results? Frankly, the first step is to move away from old approaches. Over the past decade, numerous retailers around the world have introduced internal labs, accelerator programs and incubators. And what we’ve seen time and again, is that while such programs start strong and sharp, over time they are devoured and diminished by surrounding day-to-day business processes. The outcome even with the right intention, tends to only be marginal. 

What the industry needs is a new mindset and a willingness for new ways of working. 

We believe innovation should be actionable by connecting the right strategies to the right solutions, and closely managing integrations to make them a reality. This ties to our mission of solving challenges and facilitating change. So here are six rules for industry executives to follow to make this a reality:

1/ Validate the challenge

Deploying solutions without a defined problem is an unproductive method of innovation. It’s too easy to get lost in a sea of internal objectives and cost-cutting exercises while forgetting about what your customers really desire or need. 

To successfully determine the challenge, you must align on a united vision. Innovation internally is hard – it’s often political and frequently siloed. The best case studies out there have come from companies who have validated their roadmaps through a process of internal buy-in so they can achieve a common goal.

2/ Bring the outside in

Establishing a team that can bring different perspectives, both from outside the industry and in, as well as varied cross-disciplinary inputs, is always going to lead to greater results. New ideas come from diversity of thought – taking different things that work from other experiences, and making a new recipe out of them. It’s about getting outside your own department and making sure you have people from other parts of the company involved. Cross-pollination leads to the best ideas and strongest results. 

It’s for this reason we believe in the notion of “open innovation”: stepping outside of the internal model of building to co-create with a broader innovation ecosystem. It’s about resource and expertise coming in from experts on the outside, connected to ideas from around the globe. And it’s about increasing your chances of success by leveraging the knowledge and harnessing the success of others.

3/ Avoid the one-trick pony

The most successful projects should be updated over time, as opposed to achieving one incremental thing for a singular moment. This is about PR being the icing on the cake and not the cake itself. 

We all know innovation should have a broader goal, and often the challenge is convincing stakeholders to invest in the long term, laying the groundwork so that you gain economies of scale, not to mention scale itself, for every integration. It’s better to deploy two technologies with a clear purpose and defined ROI, then 10 pilots without strategy or buy-in.

4/ Mentor your partners

Simply put, you can’t treat startup partners like traditional vendors. These are companies big and small that provide collaborative partnerships. It’s crucial to work in a more hands-on sense, and to get help to manage these integrations if your own bandwidth is limited. 

Even when it is clear what value a technology brings to a retailer, partnerships fail due to cultural differences and conflicting expectations. To avoid this, try making time to offer your mentorship to these partners. Startups are not going to necessarily understand how to navigate your red tape or be as flexible with payments or delivery deadlines being moved. But with a strong connection in place, they could give you opportunities to co-create a brand new offering or be first to market with a technology.

5/ Empower your store teams

One of the biggest missteps with innovation is the idea of dumping new tech into store, for instance, without fully training or driving advocacy among employees. New technologies are worthless without buy-in and understanding to help things work smoothly and ensure shopper engagement. In-store, we’ve seen this with everything from smart mirrors to immersive experiences. 

This is simply about demonstrating the benefits in place for sales associates. If all this piece of tech does is add more to the checklist of things they need to do and doesn’t help their day-to-day relationship with the customer, it won’t interest them to help you as a retailer. Innovation ultimately needs to be enhancing the lives of those who have to use the tech.

6/ Calculated risks are better than failure

Innovation is usually associated with experimentation and accepting the Silicon Valley notion of ‘failure’. We’ve seen retailers trying to emulate this approach by investing in labs and incubators that fail to impact the bottom line. After all, retail corporate culture doesn’t believe in the “luxury” of merely trialing projects that won’t lead to actual results. 

So how can you test and learn with more of a conservative mindset? We believe there is a way to strategize calculated risks that allow learning and innovation to take place. Setting out a clear path of KPIs and objectives from the get-go with real measurements is the smarter way to ensure success. There’s no way around it – true innovation today is about results.

How are you thinking about retail innovation? 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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What you missed: SXSW special, see-now-buy-now’s decline, LVMH’s e-commerce moves, Gucci’s memes

The #TFWGucci meme campaign - weekly round-up Gucci LVMH SXSW
The #TFWGucci meme campaign

There’s a lot to catch up on from the past fortnight – from news of the see-now-buy-now revolution’s fading, to LVMH’s e-commerce plans and Gucci’s meme campaign, not to mention the creative director shifts happening at the likes of Givenchy and Chloé.

On top of that however, is also a special digest of everything you need to know from SXSW – from our own round-up of the top technologies on show and the numerous Levi’s, Marc Jacobs and Bolt Threads announcements, through to varying views on areas including chatbots, drones and more.

If that’s not enough, do also take time to read the much deeper dives on artificial intelligence we’ve highlighted both under the top stories and tech headers too.


TOP STORIES
  • The see-now-buy-now revolution is fizzling [Glossy]
  • LVMH goes digital with all its brands under one luxury goods e-commerce site [FT]
  • #TFWGucci is the new viral campaign merging memes and fashion [Sleek]
  • WWD worked with IBM Watson’s AI to predict the biggest trends of the season [WWD]
  • Why Cosabella replaced its agency with AI and will never go back to humans [Campaign]

SXSW SPECIAL
  • SXSW 2017: Tech takeaways from AI to blockchain for the fashion and retail industries [F&M]
  • Trying on the Levi’s and Google smart jacket at SXSW feels like the future [Forbes]
  • Why Marc Jacobs’ cynical view of fashion and technology at SXSW won’t last [Forbes]
  • Bolt Threads is launching its first bioengineered spider silk product at SXSW – a tie [Forbes]
  • My afternoon at the virtual reality cinema, including trying the Spatium Philip Treacy experience [USA Today]
  • For fashion brands flocking to SXSW, what’s the ROI? [BoF]
  • Spotify lets The North Face release campaign where it rains [BrandChannel]
  • How may AI help you, sir? [Campaign]
  • 4 best practices to make bots the next big user interface [AdAge]
  • Amazon’s delivery drones can be seen at SXSW [Fortune]
  • Fashion and beauty brands are still gaga for Instagram [Glossy]
  • Armani, Neiman Marcus embrace SXSW to appeal to young affluents [Luxury Daily]
  • Neiman Marcus tries see-now-buy-now at SXSW [WWD]
  • Pauline van Dongen’s touch-sensitive denim jacket gives intimate back rubs [Dezeen]

BUSINESS
  • Neiman Marcus reportedly in talks to sell to Hudson’s Bay [Retail Dive]
  • Canada Goose gets a warm reception, extending momentum of IPO market [USA Today]
  • Clare Waight Keller becomes the first female artistic director at Givenchy [The Guardian]
  • Chloé names Natacha Ramsay-Levi as creative director [NY Times]
  • Tom Ford bids farewell to see-now-buy-now [WWD]
  • Thakoon’s business restructuring is a blow to see-now-buy-now [Glossy]
  • M&S, Starbucks, Microsoft and L’Oréal named among world’s most ethical companies [Campaign]
  • Uniqlo thinks faster fashion can help it beat Zara [Bloomberg]
  • One simple way to empower women making H&M clothes in Bangladesh: Stop paying them in cash [Quartz]

SOCIAL MEDIA
  • Facebook rolls out version of Instagram Stories for Messenger [AdWeek]
  • How brands are innovating on messaging platforms [L2]
  • What a chatbot can teach you – and Unilever – about hair [AdAge]
  • Drop it like its bot: Brands have cooled on chatbots [Digiday]
  • How luxury fashion brands in China use WeChat in 2017 [JingDaily]

MARKETING
  • Marques’Almeida launched an interactive website as its latest campaign [BoF]

RETAIL & E-COMMERCE
  • Shopify: The invisible selling machine [Fortune]
  • Millennials buy more clothes on Amazon than any other website [Recode]
  • LIKEtoKNOW.it’s app helps you buy the products in your screenshots [TechCrunch]

TECHNOLOGY
  • How AI will make commerce as natural as talking to a friend [LinkedIn]
  • Stitch Fix creates garments using artificial intelligence as more firms seek to develop creative software [WSJ]
  • AI-powered customer service needs the human touch [Huffington Post]
  • Rethinking warehouse fulfillment — with robots [WWD]
  • Sephora is betting big on augmented reality for beauty [Glossy]
  • Walmart launches tech incubator dubbed Store No. 8 [Forbes]
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Editor's pick social media

Why Instagram influencers matter, and who to follow this fashion week

A version of this post first appeared on The Telegraph.

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Supermodel Kendall Jenner generated 1.5 million likes in 12 hours on Instagram last week for an image of herself wearing Calvin Klein underwear.

An official tie up for the brand’s spring/summer 2016 #mycalvins campaign (which also features pop star Justin Bieber), two further shots she posted, including a video, each gained upward of 900,000 likes within a similar time frame.

Last month she did the same for Mango. Her buddy Gigi Hadid similarly posted shots for Versace and Stuart Weitzman. Cara Delevingne meanwhile, was ‘gramming live from the Chanel couture show.

Brands are increasingly enlisting influencers to help promote their wares on social media in a bid to appeal to new audiences and reach much higher numbers than would be possible through their own accounts. For fashion, Instagram is the playground of choice.

“It’s the ideal platform for fashion because of the fact we’re a completely visual industry,” says Caroline Homlish, a digital strategist who recently launched her own agency following senior positions at Chanel and Alexander McQueen. “In the past you would have flicked through a magazine to see all the editorials and the ads to know what was going on, now you just scroll down.” The beauty of it is being able to discover fashion in real-time, and influencers are really helping to shape that, she says.

“It’s the most democratic platform. Smaller brands like Self Portrait and Mansur Gavriel blew up on Instagram, and that was because of the fact they were being worn by the right sorts of influencers,” she adds.

Indeed, as consumers, 81% of us trust the opinions and recommendations of such individuals (and our friends) over that of a brand, according to research firm Nielsen.

Amber Venz Box, president and co-founder of blogger monetisation network rewardStyle, says Instagram users are increasingly looking for an option to buy what they see. “When you look at the comments on influencer’s photos on Instagram, they are filled with questions from ‘where did you buy that dress’ to ‘what lipstick are you wearing?’ People are always asking about the ready-to-shop information, but bloggers and celebrities almost never have time to respond and people are left to search for the items themselves,” she explains. She created LIKEtoKNOW.it, a service that emails you shoppable links when you like certain tagged looks on your Instagram feed, as a result.

A photo posted by Gigi Hadid (@gigihadid) on

But with over 80 million images and 3.5 billion likes hitting Instagram every day, knowing who to follow and who exactly counts as an “influencer” is becoming increasingly complex.

“We are definitely in a much more diverse and diffuse landscape,” says Leila Yavari, fashion director of StyleBop. “Five or 10 years ago, one could easily list five or six [individuals] who were having an impact at any given moment. Today there are so many more of these figures in play across a broad range of platforms and each of them has their own sphere of influence.”

For Homlish, identifying creativity is particularly important in the run up to fashion weeks. During the autumn/winter 2015 shows there were 121,000 images tagged #LFW to wade through. “The problem is, you’re often hard-pressed to find very much that’s interesting from those,” she says. “There are always a lot of blurry runway photos or shots of sets that are now designed to be Instagrammed. It gets very monotonous. Anyone doing something creative with their posts is going to stand out.”

So who’s worth knowing about right now on Instagram? Head over to The Telegraph where a full list of 15 top influencers lives.

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Digital snippets: wearables, Net-a-Porter and Yoox, Facebook messenger, live-streaming apps

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

wristwatches

  • The wearables road ahead: a race to the bottom? [TechCrunch]
  • Net-a-Porter, Yoox merger creates online fashion powerhouse [WGSN.com/blogs]
  • You can now pay your friends through Facebook Messenger [Mashable]
  • Will new live-streaming apps change the way we see fashion week? [Style.com]
  • Marketers weigh in on Periscope vs Meerkat [AdWeek]
  • LVMH’s Tag Heuer surfs wave of smartwatch partnerships [Reuters]
  • Kenneth Cole reveals Connect smartwatch line [BrandChannel]
  • Harrods takes its green-clad doorman global with Instagram contest [Luxury Daily]
  • Inside Balmain’s digital revolution [BoF]
  • Why Sephora’s digital boss joined Stitch Fix, the personal stylist startup that’s growing like mad [re/code]
  • Banana Republic harnesses photographed ‘Hot Dudes Reading’ in Instagram campaign [PSFK]
  • The North Face hopes to rope you in with virtual-reality rock climbing [Chicago Tribune]
  • L’Oreal’s chief digital officer on programmatic plans, start-ups and org charts [AdAge]
  • Meet Betabrand, the company that’s using viral humour and uncensored crowdsourcing to create the future of fashion [Medium]
  • Will personalised pricing take e-commerce back to the bazaar? [BoF]
  • Social media’s elusive goal: return on investment [WWD]
  • How beauty and fashion brands can win on Instagram [Fashionista]
  • Online fashion retail in India may touch $35 billion by 2020 [The Economic Times]
  • Are ‘smart’ clothes the wearables of the future? [re/code]
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Fashion week season – is innovation a dirty word?

This post first appeared on WGSN.com/blogs

innovation_NYFW

It’s interesting to think about the point at which a word become so overused in business terms its very essence loses meaning. “Innovation” is one that’s all too easily thrown about during fashion week season especially.

Is it innovative to live steam a show? To launch on a new social media channel? To showcase behind-the-scenes? It was once. It’s probably not anymore. In fact, for A/W 15/16 in New York, there was very little that could be qualified as “innovation” in the true sense of the word, full stop.

What there was instead was a much greater focus on driving reach and engagement via social media; honing in on opportunities for ROI and ultimately conversion. Working with influencers was a big part of this strategy for the likes of Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein, while Snapchat was otherwise the buzzy platform for at least a little touch of newness. Michael Kors was one of the ones doing so, using the app’s Our Stories feature to contribute to a broader content stream from fashion week.

Arguably all of that isn’t innovation however, it’s a content strategy. Innovation around conversions is necessary (though direct path to purchase isn’t possible via Snapchat anyway), and focusing in on engagement is of course not a bad thing. But fashion shows are about generating attention for collections with all sorts of stakeholders in a bid to build the brand, and it takes something more significant to stand out from the noise, and in New York, from the over 200 shows held.

Innovation should, therefore, be seen as the opportunity to capitalise on more awareness than ever. The theatre of Alexander McQueen’s early shows fit under this header, the spectacle of Dior and Chanel too. But in recent years of course, the focus has been on the role technology plays instead. Burberry was the pioneer of this, and look what it did for them.

Since then we’ve had flying drones at Fendi, 4D water projections at Polo Ralph Lauren, and Google Glass walking down the catwalk at DVF. Call them gimmicks, but from an awareness and PR perspective, they definitely worked.

I’ve never been one that’s been pro “technology for technology’s sake”, but for once I’m disappointed there’s not more to shout about beyond just the collections so far this season. (A purist might of course be thrilled by that fact). When asked why brands aren’t doing more with technology – whether in their store or at shows – Emily Culp, SVP of e-commerce and omnichannel marketing at Rebecca Minkoff, said: “Frankly because it’s just really really hard.”

One glimmer of hope lay in a handful of brands experimenting with virtual reality. Rebecca Minkoff filmed its show fit for a VR experience expected to launch in March. It worked with VR specialist Jaunt to capture the content using two cameras with three-dozen separate lenses. Our team also spotted a 360-degree camera from a company called WeMakeVR at Tommy Hilfiger, though no official announcement has been made about what the brand is going to do with that footage yet.

On Monday at London Fashion Week, River Island will partner with designer Jean-Pierre Braganza to create a piece of content at the British Fashion Council’s seasonal film event using Google Cardboard. This is a makeshift VR headset with a smartphone embedded into it.

But if it’s innovation in terms of conversion we’re really after, it’s worth turning to what a couple of brands are doing in London once it starts today otherwise. Topshop has partnered with Twitter to showcase key trends emerging from London Fashion Week on outdoor digital screens across the UK, according to tweets using the #LFW hashtag. That real-time data will be displayed as a word cloud and placed alongside corresponding shoppable Topshop product.

Hunter Original is also using outdoor this season, live streaming its show across nine digital billboards. The brand will continue its campaign by pairing content from the new collection alongside similar pieces already available for purchase this season.

In both cases what we’re seeing is innovation tied to measurable ROI. With that and the immersive experience that VR promises, there’s hope up ahead. “Innovation” might be an overused and misunderstood word, but it shouldn’t be considered a dirty one.

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Live streaming fashion week – a classic case of quality over quantity

J. JS Lee spring/summer 2015

Last September I wrote a piece for Mashable about the role of live streaming during fashion week today – the engagement it does and doesn’t afford, and ultimately whether the cost involved is worth it for designers.

There were varying viewpoints. Live viewership isn’t especially high, but numerous brands suggested reaching the ‘super fan’ makes it worthwhile. Furthermore, understanding the ROI is a bit of a grey area anyway – many designers record videos of their shows regardless of whether they’re streaming it, so the greater part of the financial investment live streaming requires is already there. Likewise, many have that cost soaked up as part of their show package at say the Lincoln Center with IMG in New York or Somerset House with the BFC in London.

Regardless of that fact, live streams have become so prevalent, they’re also somewhat mundane. Overall there was also a consensus therefore that a point of difference and a specific content strategy beyond just the 10-minutes or so of the show, would help too.

In New York this season, however, quite a few of the big shows, including DKNY and Diane von Furstenberg, who have live streamed for a good number of seasons in the past, opted not to. Similarly, Made Fashion Week didn’t include live streaming as standard with any of its shows from Milk Studios either.

There was quite a response on Twitter; fans complaining about the fact they weren’t getting to see their favourite shows, using choice words like ‘disappointed’ and ‘annoyed’.

The numbers may not be enormous, but seemingly the engagement of those fans that do tune in has the potential to make it worthwhile. The idea of that super fan again, is loud and it’s strong. Even if they’re not yet customers, at the very least they aspire to be.

Which is why it should be credited that the British Fashion Council is fully backing live streaming for its designers this season, with a record 90% of the schedule set to be available to watch online. Even Tom Ford is – for the first time ever – set to live stream on Monday, September 15, which is a significant shift in strategy comparative to his first show for spring/summer 2011 when he only invited one photographer (his own), turned away all the bloggers, and set a strict embargo on information about the collection so as to relate it more closely to the date the garments hit store.

The British Fashion Council estimates the LFW live streams are watched from 190 countries worldwide. Click here for the full schedule: www.londonfashionweek.co.uk/schedule

Pic: J. JS Lee spring/summer 2015

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Live streaming fashion week: is it worth the cost?

This article first appeared on Mashable

FASHION-BRITAIN-CHARLES

When the late designer Alexander McQueen live streamed his spring/summer 2010 show in late 2009, his aim was to transform fashion week, an invite-only industry event, into “global entertainment.” He said at the time, “I wanted to create a sense of inclusion for all those in the world who are interested in my work and the world of fashion. This is just the first step towards revolutionizing the ‘show system’ as we know it.”

That show garnered 3.5 million views on YouTube, and though McQueen never did another live-streamed show — the Spring/Summer 2010 collection was his last — the concept rapidly spread. Four years later, live streaming is the norm across fashion weeks around the world. But the experience hasn’t perhaps come to fulfill McQueen’s original vision. In most cases, live streams are mundane, and watched by very few people.

IMG, which runs New York’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, is kicking off a new season this Thursday, and has lined up live streams for 59 — approximately two-thirds — of its shows. The degree of designer participation may seem surprising, given the levels of consumer engagement last season. According to Jarrad Clark, global creative director at IMG Fashion, the 60 shows live streamed at New York Fashion Week in February amassed 840,000 plays in total, an average of just 14,000 views per show.

Likewise in London, the British Fashion Council’s most-viewed show last September sat somewhere in the region of 6,000 views, according to an industry source. Even Marc Jacobs only attracted 20,000 viewers to its live stream, the company said. Burberry is one of a few brands with a substantial viewership, amassing 240,000 on-demand views for its most recent show on YouTube.

Rosanna Falconer, head of digital for designer Matthew Williamson, formerly BFC, says: “When [live streaming] first worked, it felt like magic, it felt more digitally innovative than anything we’ve seen in recent years. But that novelty has worn off a bit, everyone is now doing it.” NYFW alone has over 250 shows and presentations in eight days, a significant proportion of which are live streamed. That’s a lot of content to expect the public to tune into. So is it even worth it?

Seeking ROI

Understanding the ROI of live streams is a bit of a grey area. Many designers record videos of their shows regardless of whether they’re streaming it, so the greater part of the financial investment live streaming requires is already there. Likewise, many showing with IMG in Lincoln Center or Made Fashion Week at Milk Studios get the live stream as a part of their show package. Even if the content delivery isn’t vastly creative — two or three cameras are standard — it’s an easy add-on to accept.

A bespoke live stream inevitably increases the price. I was quoted in the region of $20,000 to $50,000 for the full video package, depending on the production requirements. To make a live stream more interesting, designers often invest in other extras — a more elaborate set, for example, or a musical performance — which can up the price even further. Streaming itself costs only around $12,000, and that’s for those hosting off-site from the main venues and in need of a satellite hook-up, a source says.

If you line up those costs against total viewership (i.e., cost per view), live streaming shows doesn’t make for a great return on investment. Yet a number of people in the industry stand by the fact it’s valuable even if not quantifiably (by reach). “We looked at it [when we first launched it three years ago] as the next step in cultivating fans, giving them an inside look into something that was otherwise very private or hard to get into.” Daniel Plenge, director of digital at Marc Jacobs, says. “We never looked at it as needing to show a return on the investment. It’s more about a branding and brand DNA extension for us.”

Quynh Mai, founder of agency Moving Image & Content, who helped produce Nicola Formichetti’s live-streamed shows while at Mugler, agrees it’s all about the super fan. “They’re the ones who share it with their friends and become brand ambassadors in their own social circles.” In other words, even if the quantity of viewers is low, the quality in terms of brand advocacy has potential to be high.

Tabitha Goldstaub, co-founder and director of fashion at Rightster, the video network powering live streams for the likes of IMG and the BFC, says the figures for minutes watched, rather than number of viewers, can back this up. NYFW viewers watch between 12 and 24 minutes on average, she says, demonstrating significant engagement in a world where the average online video is just 5.2 minutes long, according to comScore.

Data collection

Though relatively small in reach, the size of live-stream audiences do provide some valuable data to brands. Most are able to view the demographics of their audiences, including age, gender, income bracket and geography. Marc Jacobs is also using its live stream to capture e-mail addresses, inviting fans to RSVP for the live stream in advance and for a chance to win tickets to attend the show in person, Plenge says.

Belstaff analyzes the social sentiment of its live stream to determine which pieces in the collection are most favorable with viewers. Such data informed the buying team for the current season, The New York Times reported in February, and is even helping the brand merchandise its regional e-commerce sites accordingly. Interestingly, Belstaff has chosen not to live stream its show this season, implying the initiative wasn’t perhaps as successful as made out previously. The company was unable to comment further for this piece.

Topshop, under the direction of Chief Marketing Officer Justin Cooke, has likewise used its live experience to gather data from its consumers over the past two seasons, capturing not only which items, but which colors they most engage with. The high street retailer said 4 million viewers tuned in to its February 2013 show, which was live streamed and then available immediately on-demand. A “Shoot the Show” tool, which let viewers capture and share screenshots from the video, upped engagement, triggering 200,000 shares across social media.

The future points to more of this. Rightster is set to introduce an in-player feature next season that will help brands measure social sentiment on different looks. As with Topshop, viewers will be able to grab specific tops and bottoms from the streamed show and share them over social, Goldstaub explains.

The Engagement Challenge

Developing social strategies around live-streaming experiences is the strongest way to ensure their success, says Dan Clifford, a former VP of marketing at Victoria’s Secret. “We need to be as careful with the content as we are with the product. That’s what reaching the individual that doesn’t have the luxury of being there is about,” he said. “Too many brands isolate the runway as a moment in time and don’t consider the pre and post opportunities that they could be harnessing and leveraging across the whole season.”

There’s reportedly a significant drop off in terms of viewers when shows don’t start on time — a standard occurrence in the fashion industry — making the pre-show roll particularly important to help establish and maintain engagement with fans.

Plenge agrees: “We’re trying to be creative to incentivize people to come and watch and pay attention for more than 10 minutes, which nowadays is really hard.” The Marc Jacobs show has had blogger Leandra Medine of Man Repeller and then model Jessica Stam play host on its pre-show broadcasts for the past two seasons. It also has a social stream built into its player where viewers can see tweets and Instagram pictures, as well as an accessories-cam that shows close-ups of the shoes and bags as they come down the runway.

Plenge says there will be an “improved version” this season with cameras placed in such a way to “really benefit the viewing experience for fans,” but he hastens to add it’s not about bells and whistles. “If we do that we lose the integrity of the show and the collection. We don’t want to be known for our digital initiatives but for Marc’s vision and his clothes.”

Jarrad Clark, global creative director of IMG, says content strategy results in deeper engagement. The organization introduced pre-produced segments, as well as interviews with designers post-show, to Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia this year. “It increased radically the amount of time spent with the shows,” he says. In Australia, shows averaged between 23 and 50 minutes of engagement among viewers last season, nearly double the amount of time averaged in New York.

The Future

Fashion Week live streaming might not live up to McQueen’s vision across the board, but the future of live streaming, if approached strategically, is set to only get more interesting, says Clark. “As more technological advancements come our way, and the industry continues to experiment, we’re going to see live streaming very differently. [Designers] will begin taking more risks with it all, so it’s not as cookie-cutter as it is now.”

A key area for evolution is making the experience shoppable, something pioneered by Burberry and replicated by numerous other brands since including Topshop and Ralph Lauren. From a data perspective this is especially important opportunity, but it points to the fundamental problem of fashion weeks generally. How can consumers engage wholeheartedly with product they can’t buy for six months? And even if they can buy it, as is the case with some of Burberry’s collection, why would they want to buy something off-season, i.e. a coat at the beginning of spring?

“The problem with live streaming is it’s put a focus on how bizarre the timeline of fashion is,” says Lou Stoppard, fashion editor of SHOWstudio. “Being able to buy and get the pieces immediately is an exciting next step, but it opens up so much around the seasonality and pace of fashion. We’re going to see that completely upturn very shortly. Younger designers particularly are showing they’re very disgruntled by the fact they’re making stuff that people want and can’t yet get.”

Ultimately, fashion weeks still need to be about business before entertainment.