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How retailers are using mobile messaging to change the way we shop

In 2016, you might find yourself texting more with customer service reps than your real friends.

mobilemessaging

E-commerce has made some major technological strides in 2015, but one area in which there’s definitely room for improvement is customer service. The majority of online stores still filter you through a list of FAQs before asking you to fill out a form, eventually sending some sort of automated response to your email inbox, and still making you wait 24 hours before anyone gets in touch. If you haven’t actually made the purchase yet… well, you might just never bother.

Fortunately, some retailers are trying to streamline that experience, inventing a new way for us to shop in the process. Nordstrom launched TextStyle this summer to allow customers to be in touch with, as well as buy directly from, sales associates or personal stylists within the same text conversation.

Berlin-based e-commerce giant Zalando similarly introduced instant messaging with its stylists, but through Facebook-owned Whatsapp, which is Europe’s leading messaging app. Though less popular among US consumers, it has 900 million monthly active users worldwide, and sees more than 30 billion messages sent everyday. With Zalando, shoppers are able to use it to get in touch for advice and tips.

Meanwhile, Tictail, a Swedish marketplace for independent designers and small businesses, has just launched Tictail Talk, an in-app messaging tool that enables its sellers to chat directly with customers. “We’ve done a lot of research and across the board live chat is the leading communication channel in customer service; 95% of shoppers opt for it,” says Siavash Ghorbani, co-founder and CTO of Tictail. “And it makes sense: we all use messaging as our primary form of communication with friends. It is intuitive and real-time.”

Perhaps more importantly, he notes that it also decreases cart abandonment “by keeping the shopper within the purchasing experience”. Today, 60% of sales on Tictail come from mobile, and that number is only increasing.

Ana Andjelic, SVP and global strategy director at the consultancy Havas LuxHub, says online commerce is still very much a sport of guessing and any retailer helping to make that less the case is more likely to gain conversions. “Shopping online provides a lot of information, but being able to talk to an actual human on the other side of the chat app helps tenfold to alleviate a lot of anxieties that surround the online purchase.”

FacebookMessenger

It’s impossible to talk about such aims with instant messaging and mobile commerce without looking to China. Tencent-owned messaging app WeChat, which has nearly 650 million active users worldwide, is the market leader in this space. No longer just a tool for conversation, it’s also now a primary place for shopping, and that’s what western retailers, and competing platforms including Facebook Messenger, are looking to replicate: instant messaging with a buy button. On WeChat, an app that most people in China already have, you can hail a cab, split the bill in a restaurant, order movie tickets and, of course, buy clothes. WeChat Wallet is integrated in the app meaning shoppers don’t have to leave at any stage in order to complete a purchase. In terms of speed and ease of checkout, WeChat far surpasses any US retailer’s mobile capabilities.

The product roadmap for Facebook Messenger, which has 700 million active users, is distinctly similar to WeChat’s – an integration of tools that enable users to seamlessly move from conversation to commerce. Facebook began bringing businesses onto Messenger this year, including Everlane, which uses the platform to communicate with customers and even allows them to buy products within the app.

An added benefit is a thread of messages tracking a relationship between the brand and the shopper. As Ghorbani says: “Tictail Talk is an excellent way for brands to keep tabs on a shopper’s purchase history so that they can go back to users with new styles they think they’d like, information about when product is back in stock, even let shoppers know if they are hosting an open house, holiday sale or unique product collaboration.”

Michael Kushner believed so strongly in texting relationships between retailers and consumers that he co-founded Stefan’s Head, an SMS-based e-commerce brand. It’s built on the idea of having a conversation with “Stefan”. Informal text messages cover everything from new music to cool brands. Every couple of weeks it also includes details of new products coming out — the team started with graphic T-shirts but is evolving into exclusive collaborations with other designers and artists. “We think you should be able to message with a brand just like you do with your friends,” Kushner adds.

StefansHead

It’s about reaching consumers in the place they spend their time already, and doing so in a way that feels personal, but not too invasive or pushy. It works because it’s for a demographic that sends messages as second nature. The millennial audience has grown up with messaging, which is something Ryan Babenzien, founder and CEO of Brooklyn-based, start-up footwear brand, Greats, says is key.

“They’re living with their mobile device, so we’re communicating with them in the way they prefer. If we call them, they might not pick up; if we email them, they may not look at it. But with text, you will open it. That’s how we’ve been taught to treat messages,” he says.

Though Greats uses text as one-way dialogue at this point, it’s getting 100% open rates on what it sends, and starting to see conversions follow as a result. Today, 40% of its revenue comes from mobile, up to 60% when a new exclusive shoe will launch. “If something is seen to be very scarce and could be sold out quickly — that’s when kids want to use their mobile phone. That’s something to grab hold of,” Babenzien adds.

What all this means is that 2016 will likely be the year that retailers get much savvier about how to communicate with us via instant messages and/or text. If it solves online customer service headaches and makes shopping that much easier, we’re all for it. Just make sure you have a good mobile plan.

This post first appeared on Fashionista.com

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data digital snippets e-commerce social media Startups technology

Digital snippets: Ralph Lauren’s connected fitting room, IBM Watson predicts holiday shopping, Burberry customers can star in new campaign

Here’s a round-up of the latest stories to know about surrounding all things fashion and tech…

A Polo Ralph Lauren associate trying out the interactive fitting

  • Ralph Lauren and Oak Labs debut interactive fitting rooms [WWD]
  • IBM Watson trend app predicts hot holiday shopping items [AdAge]
  • Burberry makes customers the star of their own fashion campaign [Brand Republic]
  • Sephora’s new retail stores will take cues from YouTube [Digiday]
  • New Balance will sell 3D-printed shoes in Boston starting next year [Beta Boston]
  • Target’s big digital holiday campaign combines Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram [AdWeek]
  • J Crew and American Girl embrace social commerce ads for the holidays [AdWeek]
  • Andy Dunn’s plans to build a digital native brand empire with Bonobos [Redef]
  • Burberry receives top ranking in L2 digital index [Yahoo]
  • Macy’s imagines the shop of the future in time for Black Friday [PSFK]
  • What’s behind the exodus from Rent the Runway? [Fortune]
  • Amazon touts new drone prototype [WSJ]
  • Brooklyn’s Catbird prioritises digital over brick-and-mortar expansion [Fashionista]
  • Is there still hope for fashion crowdfunding? [BoF]
  • Can artificial intelligence sell shoes? [WSJ]
  • Three ways data is transforming fashion retail [WGSN]
  • Instant messaging will change the way brands talk to customers, says Tictail [Wired]
  • The potential of geolocation for revolutionising retail [HBR]
  • Retail enters third phase of digital evolution [FT]
  • Will social selling work in fashion? [BoF]
  • Hands-on with Facebook’s haphazard shopping feed [TechCrunch]
  • The future of shopping is… Second Life on acid? Imagining a virual reality mega mall [Co.Design]
  • Stitch Fix creates an army of brand advocates, one social share at a time [The Future of Commerce]
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e-commerce Startups technology

Fashion Future Awards celebrates US visionaries and disruptors

Stefano Tonchi Misha Nonoo Liz Bacelar
Stefano Tonchi of W magazine, designer Misha Nonoo and Liz Bacelar of Decoded Fashion

Rebecca Minkoff, Misha Nonoo and Tictail were among the winners at the inaugural Fashion Future Awards in the US; an event co-hosted by W magazine and Decoded Fashion.

Recognising innovators across the fashion, retail and technology space, the evening celebrated the best across 10 categories including mobile, customer experience, start-ups, e-commerce, fashion week campaigns, data and analytics, omnichannel, and more.

There was also a visionaries award given to both Snapchat and Tory Burch for the way in which they’re pushing boundaries in technology and fashion.

“Fashion and technology are both about the future—forecasting and influencing it as it relates to retail, designing and driving it forward when it comes to tech,” said Stefano Tonchi, editor in chief of W. “As a judge, it was refreshing to see so many inventive ideas and such an appetite for experimentation. The winners are great examples of innovative thinking at the intersection of fashion, retail and technology.”

A full list of winners is below:

A Killer Experience – Most innovative way of enhancing the consumer experience.Winner: Covet Fashion

Beyond the Runway – Most engaging campaign launched at Fashion Week.Winner: Misha Nonoo

New e-Store on the Block – Best new e-commerce launch. Winner: MM.LAFLEUR

Real-Time Innovator – Best use of data and analytics for fashion and retail. Winner: Combatant Gentleman

The Big Idea – Most promising new digital fashion project. Winner: +rehabstudio

The Game Changer – Startup set to disrupt fashion in 2015. Winner: The RealReal

The Master of Mobile – Most innovative use of mobile. Winner: Tictail

Digital Coalition – Best brand and startup collaboration. Winner: Nineteenth Amendment & Macy’s

Bytes and Bricks – Best omni-channel experience. Winner: Rebecca Minkoff

The Visionaries – Selected by W magazine, these two honorees are pushing boundaries in technology and fashion: Snapchat and Tory Burch

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e-commerce Uncategorized

Cheap Monday allows fans to unlock and shop new collection before Stockholm fashion show

Swedish brand Cheap Monday is providing Facebook fans with exclusive access to its spring/summer 2013 collection ahead of its show at Stockholm Fashion Week next week.

Launched in partnership with e-commerce start-up Tictail, the “Sneak Peek Shop” allows consumers to purchase a limited number of key items ahead of time including shirts, jeans and jewellery.

Essentially a digital pop-up shop, it is unlockable via a code, which is only accessible to those who like the brand’s Facebook page.

“Our fans and customers all over the world are the fundament of Cheap Monday. We strive to find new ways to build our relationship with them and offer exciting products and services. We hope that making it possible to purchase our SS-13 Collection before everyone else through our partnership with Tictail is just as exciting for our customers as it is for us,” says Håkan Ström, COO at Cheap Monday.

The initiative premiers Tictail’s “Exclusive Access” feature, which allows retailers to limit store access through a login service, making it possible to offer special treatment for chosen customers. “In this case, Cheap Monday turns fashion logic upside down by selling items from the new collection before it even hits the catwalk and uses the feature to give Facebook fans early access to the shop through a code,” reads the write-up.

Carl Waldekranz, co-founder and CEO of Tictail, which is named one of Wired magazine’s hottest 100 European start-ups in its September 2012 issue, adds: “We aim to empower all types of businesses, and help erase borders between them and their customers. It’s great to see smaller retailers using Tictail to sell directly to customers, and now to see a global innovative brand like Cheap Monday using it to fit their needs.”

The Cheap Monday shop opens today, ahead of Tuesday’s show (when it then becomes available to everyone), and will remain accessible until September 2. All purchases will be delivered during 2012, before they hit stores in 2013.

The show is being live-streamed online on Tuesday at 9.30pm CET at www.cheapmonday.com/show.