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How brands can find their own voice in a screenless future

Amazon Alexas and Google Homes have been popping up in households around the world, and it is expected that there will be 8 billion voice assistants by 2023. While so far, the technology has mainly been used for running other smart devices in the home, asking novelty questions or setting timers, there is strong potential for fashion and beauty brands to focus on the retail aspect of the experience.

Voice commerce sales totaled a whopping $2.1 billion last year, and it is predicted that consumers will use the technology for almost a fifth of their total spending by 2021. For brands, this is not only a new a new opportunity to connect with its customers, but an important new sales channel. 

Last year we spoke to Amazon Alexa’s founder, William Tunstall-Pedoe, on the Innovators podcast, on how voice tech will impact retail. Although the technology is still in its early stages of development, Tunstall-Pedoe envisioned a future that is all connected: “I think you’ll be surprised in a couple of years if you speak to a device and it doesn’t reply.” He believes that the technology will be transformative, with the artificial intelligence behind voice assistants eventually interconnecting everything around us. 

As far into the future as it sounds, this concept may be happening a lot sooner than we think. 

From creating moments of discovery to enabling better store interactions, we explore 3 ways that brands retailers can be leveraging voice tech in order to enhance customer experience.

Gaining traction
Rebook’s limited edition Club C sneakers

One of the biggest challenges retailers and brands face when engaging in voice interactions is how to get their product discovered. The lack of a screen and the current intelligence of algorithms means that shopping on these platforms is generally a linear journey, and unless the customer is looking for a specific brand, surfacing as a suggestion is virtually impossible. 

One way retailers can adapt to the technology is by utilizing it in their marketing strategy. Reebok, for example teamed up with Amazon and Google for the launch of its Swarovski sneakers collaboration. Consumers could win a pair of the limited edition trainers by asking their voice assistant to “open Reebok Sneaker Drop”, which would automatically enter them into the competition. On the day of the launch, 50 lucky winners were announced through the voice channels. 

This specific campaign showed that as the popularity of the drop model starts to lose steam, voice tech could help reignite its spark. This approach is also particularly effective with the younger generation who is not only tech-savvy, but constantly looking to be challenged in order to land exclusive products.

Setting the tone
Mastercard’s sonic branding

Marketers often talk about fighting to get through the noise, but now brands are literally fighting to get their voices heard. In the near future, owning a clear brand voice, which aligns to its overall identity and DNA, is going to be an important tool to have under the belt. 

As voice tech gets more sophisticated, we’re seeing that brands will start to move away from the generic ‘Alexa’ or ‘Cortana’ voices, into recognizable accents that differentiate the brand from competitors. Developing the correct tone of voice will be key to building brand loyalty, as 72% of consumers believe brands should have a unique voice and personality.

Mastercard has been experimenting with sound architecture by creating its own sonic brand identity which is simple, memorable and adaptable. The distinct melody is played at every touchpoint of the consumer journey, with the intention of helping reinforce the brand’s values and build deeper connections with its customers. This indicates that although brands have long relied on having a purely visual identity, in the future, they are going to have to adapt to an environment that is increasingly audio-friendly (and often screenless).

Enhancing the in-store experience
H&M’s voice activated mirror

68% of consumers say voice assistants free them to multitask and accomplish tasks hands-free in the home, but how could that translate in-store? For example in a fitting room, a voice assistant could make product recommendations, check for other sizes, or even offer styling tips.

Last year, H&M tested the use of voice-activated mirror at its NYC flagship, which allowed users to access style advice, discounts and even take selfies. The mirror gained a lot of traction, with 150 interactions per day, while 85% of people who did so, scanned an additional QR code to receive a discount. The mirror was implemented as a standalone feature, but in the future, this technology could potentially move into changing rooms, allowing people to experience it privately (and therefore lowering the barrier to entry.)

In 2016, Gartner predicted that by next year 30% of web browsing would be screenless. Brands and retailers must therefore keep up with the pace of change, or risk being excluded from this emerging behavior that is increasingly leaning towards audio.

How are you thinking about new technology? 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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Editor's pick Retail technology

Bourjois unveils virtual try-on triggered by physical products

Bourjois Magic Mirror
Bourjois Magic Mirror

Coty-owned makeup brand Bourjois has unveiled a new smart mirror experience that enables shoppers to virtually try on make-up simply by picking up a cosmetic product in store.

Available at the brand’s newly relaunched boutique in Paris, the blended reality mirror is said to be an industry first as it integrates physical product – in this case makeup – with the augmented reality experience happening on the screen.

Shoppers can, for instance, pick up a lipstick and the chosen colour will instantly appear on their lips via the smart screen. The connected screen currently features the ‘pick up’ experience with the Rouge Velvet lipstick collection, and shoppers can then complete the digital look via onscreen eye make-up and blush, which is matched to their individual skin tones.

“As part of our desire to reinvent the retail experience through purposeful and personalized innovation, the Bourjois Magic Mirror represents the most extensive integration of physical products and digital content in the beauty industry,” said Elodie Levy, Coty’s global digital innovation senior director.

“Most women intuitively prefer to play with a lipstick rather than touch a screen, as there is an inherent sensual aspect in cosmetics packaging that no technology can replace, and our new Magic Mirror provides this desired experience to shoppers.”

Coty’s innovation comes from research that shows that 72% of consumers want an in-store beauty experience to be a mixture of both physical and digital elements in order to feel more ‘believable’. Moreover, the company believes virtual product try-on solves other retail-related issues such as testers not being available, as well as general hygiene concerns.

To create this experience, Coty worked with London-based digital studio Holition and retail marketing experts Perch. Holition is also responsible for Charlotte Tilbury’s in-store smart mirror, as well as Rimmel London’s makeup filters on Facebook Stories, but what differs in the Bourjois experience from other mirrors, however, is that it is customizable by product, as opposed to previous mirrors that focus on looks. Holition’s FACE software also allows skin tones to be analysed, thus providing a more personalized experience.

The experience is complemented by NY-based Perch’s expertise in the mirror’s form and function, where the smart camera monitors a defined area for activity, and automatically triggers visual content.

On the future of in-store marketing, Perch Interactive CEO Trevor Sumner says it is about blending digital experiences naturally into the shopper journey. “The Bourjois Magic Mirror uses computer vision to sense the most important indication of interest in physical retail – when a shopper touches a product – unlocking an experience that encourages natural pathways of discovery, education and engagement.”

Tapping into the digitally-connected beauty shopper’s need for peer engagement, the mirror also offers three playful filters and a feature that takes selfies, which can either be printed in-store or sent to the customer via email, which links to purchase all trialled items at Bourjois’ online channel.

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technology

Amazon’s latest fashion device? A virtual mirror

Amazon's virtual mirror patent
Amazon’s virtual mirror patent

It was just under a year ago Amazon revealed its Echo Look device – a selfie camera embedded with style advice. Now, it has a patent for a virtual mirror.

More specifically, according to Geekwire, it’s a blended-reality display that puts your image into a virtual scene, and then puts you in a virtual version of an outfit within it.

The patent describes the mirror as partially-reflective and partially-transmissive, with cameras, projectors, display panels and lights embedded.

“When the user views the mirror, the user sees a reflection from the mirror of illuminated objects in the scene and the transmitted images from the display device through the mirror, the transmitted images being perceived as part of the reflected scene,” the inventors say.

In other words, the face and eyes of the user are scanned so that they are seen as a reflection, while the virtual clothes and the scene behind are transmitted through the mirror. The result is a real-time blended reality look.

A beachside scene is one suggested example – showcasing the user in a swimsuit on their real body.

Geekwire adds: “It’s not clear how close the blended-reality mirror is to becoming a reality, or if it’ll actually be manufactured as a physical object. Amazon makes a practice of refraining from comment on its patents until they produce products. But last year’s introduction of Echo Look suggests that as far as the Seattle-based online retailer is concerned, blended reality is no mere fantasy.”

It also highlights the fact Amazon acquired Body Labs in 2017, a software company that uses computer vision to create accurate 3D avatars. This fits well with a blended-reality product strategy.

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business digital snippets e-commerce social media Startups technology

What you missed: Amazon as the most innovative company, Canada Goose IPO, AI versus fraud

Jeff Bezos' Amazon has been named the world’s most innovative company of 2017 - retail fashion tech
Jeff Bezos’ Amazon has been named the world’s most innovative company of 2017

It’s been a pretty quiet season as far as technology goes during New York and London fashion weeks – live content is playing its part, as is politics, but there’s little in the way of the big innovations we’ve seen in the past. There’s lots to be said about that, so look out for some commentary around it in the coming weeks as we cycle into Milan and Paris. In the meantime, one of the highlights there has been is the Fashion Innovation Agency’s return to mixed reality with designer Sabinna.

Elsewhere, news to catch-up on this week spans Amazon as the world’s most innovative company, the digital printing technology taking us closer to fully customisable clothing, the fact Canada Goose has filed for its IPO, and how artificial intelligence is becoming the newest weapon in the fraud fight.


TOP STORIES
  • Why Amazon is the world’s most innovative company of 2017 [Fast Company]
  • Canada Goose IPO: Its smartest business move was expanding beyond Canada [Quartz]
  • How digital printing technology is taking us closer to fully customisable clothing [Forbes]

BUSINESS
  • British Fashion industry steels itself for Brexit [BoF]
  • The all-new Hermès: Taking its cues from… Michael Kors? [LeanLuxe]

SOCIAL MEDIA
  • Snap lowers valuation expectations in highly awaited IPO [Reuters]
  • Emma Watson launches eco-fashion Instagram [WWD]

MARKETING
  • Browns kicks off year-long #cooltobekind campaign ahead of LFW [The Industry]
  • River Island on navigating the divide between brand marketing and culture [The Drum]
  • A$AP Rocky stars in Zalando’s new spring campaign [The Industry]

RETAIL & E-COMMERCE
  • 3 trends shaping retail cybersecurity in 2017 [Retail Dive]
  • Why Indochino is opening new stores in shopping malls [Glossy]

TECHNOLOGY
  • Samsung goes for a new look in virtual reality at New York Fashion Week [Fortune]
  • Rise of the learning machines: How AI is becoming the newest weapon in the fraud fight [Retail Dive]
  • ‘Smart mirrors’ come to the fitting room [Bloomberg]

START-UPS
  • VC Cheryl Cheng: ‘Fashion has not shown it can be disrupted’ [Glossy]
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business data digital snippets Editor's pick film product social media Startups technology

What you missed: Fashion-tech education, Burberry’s see-now buy-now plans, Dior bags on WeChat

Burberry see-now buy-now fashion
Burberry’s first see-now buy-now campaign

One of the most interesting things about taking a decent summer break, and particularly one in August, is observing what happens during that time. Traditionally still the month that most of Europe closes down, it is also the time just before fashion weeks begin again and therefore the perfect opportunity for quiet on the news front full stop. We’ve certainly noticed that with regards to digital campaigns or tech stories over the past six years that Fashion & Mash has been running. And yet, not so much this year…

August 2016 proved busier than ever in terms of news in this space, ranging from Burberry’s new see-now buy-now campaign to Kate Spade’s wearables launch, Dior’s WeChat moves and various new high-tech store openings. What that does of course is continue to prove the relevancy of this world to the industry’s growth and success.

Read on for a full breakdown of what you might have missed…

PS. We’ve rebranded our regular “Digital Snippets” series to this “What you missed” feature in a bid to bring you a broader range of relevant stories, as well as a breakdown by category to make your consumption that much easier. Note: this version includes a month’s worth of links – normal weekly service will now resume. 

PPS. A new must-read site/newsletter in this space is LeanLuxe – edited by Paul Munford, and providing “stories, analysis, and opinion on the world of modern luxury business”.


TOP STORIES
  • Fashion needs a more robust approach to technology education [BoF]
  • Burberry reveals campaign it hopes will woo shoppers to first ‘straight-to-consumer’ collection [The Drum]
  • Dior in first with luxury WeChat handbags [China Daily]
  • Consumers prefer see now, buy now, wear now model, says Verdict [The Industry]

BUSINESS
  • Luxury armageddon: Even Chanel takes a hit as sales and profits plunge [Trendwalk]
  • Gucci among world’s hottest fashion brands, while Prada cools [BoF]
  • Prada sales slide as weak demand weighs on luxury-goods maker [Bloomberg]
  • Macy’s to shutter 100 stores as online players pressure brick-and-mortar [WWD]
  • How Demna Gvasalia is revolutionising Balenciaga from the inside out [Vogue]

SOCIAL MEDIA
  • Burberry sponsors Snapchat Lens for My Burberry Black launch [The Industry]
  • For Kit and Ace, Snapchat doubles as a TV channel and customer service assistant [Digiday]
  • Nike and others dive into Instagram Stories: why marketers already like it better than Snapchat [AdAge]
  • While some retailers ignore Snapchat, others are killing it with lens and geofilter ads [AdWeek]
  • Snapchat found a way to bring its ads to the real world [QZ]
  • Burberry becomes first luxury brand to personalise on Pinterest [Marketing Week]
  • Grindr officially gets into the menswear game [Fashionista]
  • Chatbots are thriving on the Kik chat app [Business Insider]

RETAIL
  • Westfield’s new World Trade Center mall puts in-store tech centre stage [Glossy]
  • Sephora’s Chicago store has new, high-tech look [Chicago Tribune]
  • After digital spree, retailers spending on stores again [WWD]
  • Malls aren’t dying. They’re changing [Racked]
  • Retailers look to high tech to engage visitors to their store [Journal Sentinel]
  • London is getting the first YouTube store, where online video stars can sell merchandise to the public [PSFK]
  • Retailers like J Crew are obsessed with data. (And it’s killing your shopping experience.) [LeanLuxe]
  • Neiman Marcus launches high-tech sunglass try-on mirror [WWD]

ADVERTISING
  • Watch Spike Jonze’s electrifying short film for Kenzo [Dazed]
  • Kate Hudson makes her new Fabletics spot ‘feel like you’re scrolling through her Instagram feed’ [AdWeek]
  • Cotton Inc.’s interactive video ad lets viewers determine how a day plays out [AdWeek]
  • L’Oreal celebrates diversity and targets men with new ‘Truly Yours’ positioning [The Drum]

TECHNOLOGY
  • Fashion’s fourth industrial revolution [BoF]
  • Kate Spade’s new wearable tech collection is fun and full of personality [Wareable]
  • Wearable technology: Amazon’s next big step? [Trendwalk]
  • Adidas ups athleisure-technology ante with Atlanta Speedfactory announcement [Trendwalk]
  • What 3D printing means for fashion [BoF]
  • Why STEM subjects and fashion design go hand in hand [The Conversation]
  • Athleta goes beyond wicking with new technical fabric [Glossy]
  • Cotton Inc. bonds with Nanotex on Dry Inside technology [WWD]
  • The MIT lab that’s quietly pioneering fashion for everyone [Co.Design]

START-UPS
  • Ignored by LVMH, Richemont, and Kering, modern luxury upstarts gain traction with Silicon Valley [LeanLuxe]
  • Eureka! John Lewis’ TrueStart deal to boost brave new tech world [Trendwalk]
  • This New York-based start-up accelerator is supporting the next generation of retail disruptors [Fashionista]
  • Topshop throws its weight behind wearables [Co.Design]
  • Start-ups in Target’s Techstars accelerator race to finish line [Star Tribune]