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product Retail

Zara introduces denim customization service

Zara is launching a pop up customization service at three global stores where customers will be able to embroider words on a selection of the brand’s denim products.

Launching on March 27, the service, titled Zara Edited, will be available at specific stores in Barcelona, Amsterdam and Milan. Customers will be able to choose from 13 different denim pieces, from shorts to jackets, and embroider them with letters from a selection of fonts and colors. Meanwhile those shopping in Italy, Britain, Holland and Spain will be able to order personalized items online.

In-store personalization services have become an effective way to engage with consumers who are seeking products that allow them to express their individuality. Brands across the spectrum – from Coach to Levi’s and GAP – have deployed it for years. Zara’s sheer size as a fast fashion brand, however, coupled with the service also being available online, speaks to the potential experiences like this may have as on-demand technologies mature.

The Spanish brand is increasingly focusing on add-on services and technologies to enhance the in-store experience. Last year, it hosted a tech-enabled pop up at London’s Westfield mall ahead of the opening of its first new concept in the same location months later; meanwhile also in 2018, it introduced an interactive AR experience to over 100 stores worldwide.

How are you thinking about product customization? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. The Current Global 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. 

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Retail technology

Mall of America launches elf hologram concierge to help guide gifting

Mall of America has launched an interactive hologram called “Ellie the Elf”,  which acts as a concierge and helps advise customers on which gifts to buy their loved ones this holiday season.

Activated via voice command, customers can interact with the hologram, which lives on a screen in the shopping center, by standing next to a small control board, and speaking into a microphone. 

The experience operates much like a chatbot, going down the route of a decision tree to get to suggestions for users. When users ask “Ellie, I’m looking for a gift for my mom”, for instance, it then responds by asking further questions to determine the perfect gift.

The aim of the experience, which was created in partnership with VNTANA, is to both ease the shopping journey for customers, and create a fun interaction.

“At our core, Mall of America is an experiential retail destination,” said Sarah Townes, VP of marketing at the company. “VNTANA’s hologram technology is a great way to capitalize on our multi-channel chatbot we launched last year and provides yet another interaction for guests to experience that not only offers a fun interaction but also assistance to those searching for gift ideas this holiday season.”

When approaching the hologram, customers are also invited to find gifts via different categories of suggestions. These are broken down into women, men, teens, kids and babies, for instance, after which new categories emerge such as “tech” or “experience”. 

The concierge can then also show customers where they can find the specific items they are looking for, by explaining on which level and area of the mall they are located.

How are you thinking about interactive retail experiences? 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.

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business Editor's pick

Man Repeller trolled Zappos’ customer service team, and it’s hilarious

zappos-personal-assistant-man-repeller-4_1024

If this isn’t the best ad for the customer service reps at online shoe retailer Zappos, then we don’t know what is.

Haley Nahman, a writer for fashion blog Man Repeller, decided to test out the company’s mandate that essentially says its team will answer any question you throw at them. And she did so in the most entertaining way possible.

First she started by asking questions related to fashion and which shoes she should wear. Straight-forward. Next, she adds in that she can’t quite find what she wants on Zappos and do they have any other suggestions – she kindly gets some Amazon links back (Zappos’ parent company), as well as some amusing details on the customer service reps name and fashion perspective.

From here on out, things start heading a little left field… from opinions on manicures, to a back-and-forth about cats vs dogs, and suggestions for artichoke dip recipes. “OMG. THIS TEAM WILL DO ANYTHING,” Nahman exclaims as she walks away with a delicious dish to try, noting simultaneously how her karma levels are slowly falling wayward.

Man Repeller writer Haley Nahman and her cat, Bug - as referenced in the Zappos customer service conversations
Man Repeller writer Haley Nahman and her cat, Bug – as referenced in the Zappos customer service conversations

On a scale of tasks related to being a Zappos rep, things only get wilder from there: Nahman heads into neediness territory, gets some killer Harry Potter quotes back (seriously), and brings in some heavy personal family matters that still manage to get the most considered of responses.

“Did I mention she thanked me for taking time out of my busy day to get in touch? I am a horrible person who doesn’t deserve nice things,” Nahman writes. “Zappos will indeed answer any question thrown at them, I no longer deserve my membership in the Former Customer Service Worker Club and I am spending my discretionary income at Zappos for the next ten years in a meager attempt at restitution for my wrongdoings.”

What a win for Zappos, who has of course based its entire business on the quality of its customer service team. “Seriously, the goodness of these people nearly drove me to poetry,” Nahman adds. Now there’s a testimony.

Categories
e-commerce

Which two leading luxury brands are messing up digitally?

luxury-board

This report may be telling us something we think we know already, but it should also make scary reading for many people working in luxury goods.

The fact is, too many high-end designer brands could do one helluva lot more when it comes to providing a luxury experience to customers who buy products online, according to new research from fashion and luxury brands specialist ContactLab.

Ok, that’s not exactly a revelation but after the recent L2 report that slammed the digital offer of some top luxury labels, it’s certainly an additional wake-up call.

ContactLab said luxury brands could actually be losing consumers who aren’t satisfied with their service. And it found that two of the worst offenders for not getting digital right included a fashion brand seen as the most innovative design-wise and a jeweller that really should know better (more of them later).

How they did it?

The Online Purchase Experience Ranking report, produced by ContactLab in conjunction with Exane BNP Paribas, certainly makes interesting reading.

The reseracher’s analysts developed 67 parameters to measure the service offered by luxury retailers from online ordering, to delivery, as well as packaging and returns.

It looked at 29 recognisable global luxury brands, including four major e-tailers, and it wasn’t impressed!

So what’s the story? It wasn’t about flashy digital features. Instead the team studied the consumer journey by purchasing two items from each brand, one for men and one for women, analysing each individual step. Those items were a men’s cardholder and a women’s belt, not hugely valuable compared to many other items on the luxury sites and so unlikely to trigger any extra special service.

The brands examined included Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Burberry, Hermès, Cartier, Tiffany, and Armani, among other leading luxury players.

cartier-website

Winners and losers

The top five brands by physical touchpoints such as delivery, packaging, documentation and returns were Fendi, Cartier, Louis Vuitton, and pureplay e-tailers Mytheresa and Mr Porter. Funnily enough, digital star Burberry was only 12th highest.

The top five by digital touch points such as abandoned carts, ordering, and purchasing and returns communications were Balenciaga, Net-a-Porter, Saint Laurent, Zegna and Armani. This time Burberry wasn’t even in the top half of the list.

So who came bottom? For physical touch points it was Givenchy, Prada, Valentino, Armani and Tiffany. Prompting the question how can Tiffany get it so wrong when jewellery peer Cartier gets it so right?

And for digital touch points it was Hermès, Ferragamo, Loro Piana, and once again, Tiffany and Prada.

So it looks like they’re the kids in the corner with the digital dunce’s cap on.

ContactLab CEO Massimo Fubini said: “There is definitely work to be done in the luxury sector. Consumers pay a lot of money for products from these luxury brands and they expect the whole experience to have that luxury feeling, from the moment they order the item to the moment it arrives at their door. Brands must go that bit further at every single stage of the consumer journey, but very few are fulfilling their full potential.

“Many brands are missing the little touches which make all the difference, such as covering the product in standard parcel paper rather than delivering it in a more luxurious manner. Some brands, such as Fendi, Cartier, Tod’s and Net-a-Porter do show best practice when it comes to packaging and focus on maintaining that feeling of luxury throughout the whole consumer journey.”

mr-porter

So what else did they discover?

  • LVMH has clearly made digital development a priority. Fendi’s number one position and Louis Vuitton’s honourable placing – as well as other factors – point to virtuous competition being unleashed within the group, which can only benefit performance.
  • In a similar vein, Richemont should benefit from Cartier’s know-how and from its relations with Yoox/Net-a-Porter (NAP).
  • Kering, by contrast, seems to be losing some of its lustre. Once the Gucci relaunch is on track, analysts will be expecting senior management to address its shortcomings in digital.
  • ContactLab expects pureplay “first mover advantage” to erode at some point. For instance, while Net-à-porter scores high on online shopping experience it’s below both Cartier and Fendi so it can’t take its position for granted as latecomers catch up.
  • Established luxury names increasing their digital footprint have an advantage compared to pureplay e-tailers. ContactLab said that if luxury brands embark on digital, the imperative for them is to be at least as good as the “industry standard” (ie Yoox/NaP). The economics are bound to be stronger for those luxury brands (and incumbent multibrand retailers) than for the pureplays. Customer acquisition costs will remain lower for luxury goods incumbents for a very long time, given their cumulated brand investments and relative scale.
  • The study found that the brands analysed are reaching less than half of their maximum potential on both physical touch points (46%) and digital touch points (45%).
  • It also found that e-tailers generally perform better than most monobrands, in particular Net-a-Porter and Mr Porter, which score well on both physical and digital touch points.
  • ContactLab also said that the “powered-by Yoox” brands whose e-stores are run by e-tail giant Yoox, generally perform well on digital.

So, while it’s not exactly a wipeout for the luxury sector, it’s clear that some labels charging high prices for their goods really need to get their acts together digitally – and fast.

This post first appeared on Trendwalk.net, a style-meets-business blog by journalist, trends specialist and business analyst, Sandra Halliday

Categories
Blocks Comment technology

YSL Beauté launches Google Glass tutorials in Selfridges, WiFi issues impact experience

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Yves Saint Laurent Beauté launched Google Glass make-up tutorials in its consignment at Selfridges department store in London last week. First offered at Bloomingdales in New York in September, these consultations have sparked quite a bit of press excitement. They’ve accordingly been a great way for the brand to pull in new customers, but the execution appears to be a little patchy.

The tutorials need to be booked in advance and take 45 minutes. The experience is similar to any other make-up consultation: the artist applies the beauty products to one half of the face, shows the customer the results in a mirror, and then applies make-up to the other half of the face, all-the-while explaining what they are doing and why.

What makes a Google Glass tutorial enticing is that the device records the entire procedure. After the makeover is completed, customers are sent a video of it via email, including before/after shots and a list of the products used. The video can be played back at any time, serving as a tutorial for how to apply the make-up in the future.

The advantages of this for YSL are plentiful. Aside from growing its email database, it allows the company to gather data on which items are most suited to the customer demographic at Selfridges, and which items receive the most post-consultation attention. It could likely also inform future customised product recommendations.

ysl_googleglass1

According to a make-up artist at the Selfridges YSL counter, the service is in demand and customers have been scheduling in appointments. There’s just one problem: the WiFi connection has been playing up, making it difficult and sometimes impossible to email the videos within the promised 20-minute timeframe after a consultation.

It’s a common issue: innovative ideas are challenging to execute, especially when they involve the introduction of new technology. Often, it comes down to difficulties in the technology on-boarding process. The existing systems in place may not be sophisticated enough to carry or support the technology. And without the follow-up video, the Google Glass consultation is no different to any other make-up consultation. And being promised a video within 20 minutes and not receiving it until at least a few hours later can lead to quite an amount of frustration for the consumer.

While this fixture may incentivise customers to book their make-up consultancy at YSL instead of at a different brand in the famous department store this season, it seems likely that the excitement around it will subside. It might prove to be a case of “been there, done that”. Either way, it’s a fun way for shoppers to get their party-face on, and it showcases YSL in a more innovative light than many of its competitors, or indeed that’s been seen before.

Images via fashion.telegraph.co.uk

Categories
digital snippets e-commerce mobile social media Startups technology

Digital snippets: Amazon 3D printing, Zappos digital assistant, Target In a Snap app, and more

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

Jeff Bezos, Amazon 2012

  • What Amazon’s foray into 3D printing means for the industry [Fortune]
  • Zappos tests digital assistant that helps you track down any fashion item [CNET]
  • Target snaps up mobile shopping innovation with image recognition app [BrandChannel]
  • L’Oréal make-up goes virtual for selfie age [FT]
  • Yoox Group teams with messaging service WeChat [WWD]
  • Marie Claire’s innovative interactive magazine covers are breaking new ground in advertising real estate [BoF]
  • This Nike vending machine accepts only FuelBand points [Creativity]
  • Virtual reality: advertising’s next big thing? [AdAge]
  • Forever 21, Urban Outfitters among most popular retailers on Pinterest, relative newbie, Modcloth, tops list [Forbes]
  • 8 start-ups trying to help you find clothing that fits [Fashionista]
  • The new bazaar: in India, online stores catch on with buyers [NY Times]
  • New York Fashion Tech Lab program debuts at Hearst Tower [PSFK]
Categories
e-commerce social media

Zappos piloting personal shopping service on Instagram with #nextootd

Most of you will have already heard of the hashtag #ootd. For those who haven’t, this is the epitome of the #selfie phenomenon. “Outfit of the day” as it stands for, has over 23 million posts attached to it on Instagram.

That’s 23 million images associated with what people are wearing, said Will Young, director of Zappos Labs – the San Francisco-based experimentation and innovation arm of e-commerce site Zappos – during SXSW last week. “We looked at [those figures] and asked as a retailer how do we be a part of that?”

The answer? His team recently launched a pilot project on the platform called Next OOTD. Very simply, followers are invited to post a selfie along with the hashtag #nextootd. Those who do will receive a personalised shopping recommendation based on their Instagram from Zappos in return.

Zappos is of course a company that prides itself, and has become known, for customer service (its longest ever phone call was nine and a half hours – and celebrated for that fact, Young revealed). He said they are constantly trying to think of lots of different ways to take that service to the next level.

At the moment this project is entirely manual – there’s one person doing it who doesn’t even work weekends – so the potential to scale isn’t really there, he admitted, but that’s not to say it won’t be down the line.

“Personal shopping via Instagram… that could be the future of our business,” he argued – and perhaps rightly so given the buzz around social shopping once again at present. “It could have a 50 person team manning it and making personalised shopping recommendations.”

To his own strategy, he added: “I heard Sarah Friar, CFO of Square speak recently, and she said: ‘Think big but start small.’ That’s kind of how we approach things at Zappos Labs.”

Categories
e-commerce social media

Asos offers personalised styling sessions via Google Helpouts

Asos_helpouts

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.”

The only other brand currently utilising Helpouts under the fashion and beauty category is Sephora. It has a total of 12 different sessions available based on how-to get a smoky eye through to achieving the perfect brow, but this time with a cost of $15 for each.