Categories
technology

Westfield seeks to grow mall traffic with new large format multi-player gaming theatre

The ESC Gaming Theater at Westfield
The ESC Gaming Theater in action at Westfield

At the peak of holiday season 2016, one of the United States’ largest shopping malls opted for a new kind of tourist attraction. Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus, New Jersey, replaced the traditional lone-standing arcade game or low thrill ride with a one of a kind gaming centre.

Known as the ESC Gaming Theater, the 750ft room includes a roof-high cinema screen, a live emcee, concert grade surround sound, pulsing lights and 30 touch screens for an immersive multi-player gaming experience.

Designed to bring together friends and strangers alike, this ESC Game Theater offers solo or team play games for up to 30 players at a time. A series of about a dozen games on offer span approximately five to seven minutes and can be either collaborative or competitive, depending on the crowd. With the emcee providing an energetic string of live tips and running commentaries, the entire activity becomes somewhat of a sporting event. Live tournaments are even held periodically for prizes.

The ESC Gaming Theater at Westfield
The ESC Gaming Theater at Westfield

The fun is all laced into a strategy to reimagine the future of shopping malls as technology continues to rapidly expand. At a time where shoppers are not only increasingly moving online and to mobile to carry out both research and purchase, but seeking experiences over merely material items, brick and mortar venues need to reinvent the wheel to encourage consumers in and maintain them for as long as possible. Gaming and entertainment is a big driver.

Charley Delana, Westfield’s EVP of global brand ventures, said: “Westfield is committed to redefining the shopping experience by leveraging the latest in technology and digital entertainment innovation. We are thrilled to welcome ESC Games to Westfield Garden State Plaza and we are looking forward to giving shoppers the chance to be among the first in the world to experience the future of gaming and entertainment.”

Capitalising on a projected 18% annual growth in the video game industry in the year to come, ESC Games CEO Todd Swidler has thought about massive expansions both in the US and internationally. “The video game industry is experiencing explosive growth, and we see major opportunities for ESC Games to pioneer a new category that taps into that demand through our unique game experience and competitive tournaments. The possibilities are vast.”

The concept for this mall initiative was incubated by ESI Design. Founder Edwin Schlossberg is an innovator of all things game-design; he entered the scene back in the 1970s when his best-selling book series taught consumers how to play games on their run of the mill pocket calculators. Once again, he gives a technology facelift to a quasi-antiquated model.


Categories
business e-commerce Editor's pick mobile

Burberry results: Digital and mobile make it a luxury firm in a million

Burberry
Burberry

Burberry’s in the news at the moment. No, wait, Burberry’s always in the news. Just more so at the moment. Only a couple of days after announcing Christopher Bailey would step down as CEO, the company issued a trading update this morning that the news media is jumping all over.

Newspaper and websites largely jumped on the negatives in the announcement and perhaps that’s not a shock given that Burberry has some major challenges ahead (not least among them a new management structure that replaces Christopher Bailey with an external CEO while appearing to give him as much power as ever).

But what’s more interesting than the basic sales figures is its news around digital. Digital grew strongly in all regions during Q1 (no surprise there) and Burberry’s digital growth is being driven by mobile that now approaches 60% of traffic to its site.

Let’s just step back a minute and look at that figure. This is a luxury brand, part of a sector that took virtually a decade to even recognise the existence of the internet. It’s also part of a sector that loves beautifully crafted websites that are seen at their best on large retina screens.

Yet that 60% means Burberry is enjoying the kind of website traffic via mobile that we’d expect to see in the mass-market from brands such as New Look or River Island.

It’s a testament to the investment Burberry has put into digital and a signal to its luxury peers that the ‘M’ in m-commerce can stand for lots of things as well as mobile (Mass, Margins, Momentum, and downright Marvellous, for instance).

Importantly, Burberry has also focused clearly on omnichannel where the stores work with the e-store and the warehouses for a seamless customer experience. The company said this morning that its single pool of inventory model has been further expanded, with about 90 stores now live globally, improving stock availability for all online markets and helping to drive digital/mobile growth further.

Now for the numbers

So, digital aside, what else did we learn this morning? Well, the market is still challenging. Currency-neutral retail revenue was flat in Q1 at £423m, although exchange rates boosted it by 4% in total. But comp sales fell 3%.

There was good news from Asia Pacific as revenues rose and the UK delivered mid single-digit percentage growth, with a rise late in the quarter. But the troubled Hong Kong and Macau markets remain a problem, tourists flows in Japan were down, demand in the US is uneven and mainland Europe is “depressed”, especially France and Italy.

More good news please. OK, fashion apparel and accessories outperformed and the main campaign that launched at the end of May – which was more product focused, featuring the Patchwork bag with new buckle hardware – seemed to be having an effect.

Relative strength in bags was driven by the runway rucksack (as pictured above), while lightweight outerwear performed well, in particular cashmere trench coats and newly-launched menswear styles.

The company also saw an increased number of personal appointments as it boosted its ultra-luxury services and there were more in-store craftsmanship events to enhance customer engagement.

Burberry said the external environment remains challenging and underlying cost inflation pressures persist. Since May, its outlook for wholesale revenue, particularly in the US, is more cautious for both the first and second halves of the year, in fashion and beauty.

The company now expects currency-neutral wholesale revenue to fall more than 10% in the first half to September 30, while retail revenue should be up in the low single-digits.

Thought for the day

But as we digest these figures, we have to remember that Burberry isn’t alone in this. The entire luxury sector is seeing challenges at present and all of those negative listed above can apply just as much to most of the world’s most desirable brands as to Burberry.

What Burberry is almost alone in though is its almost-obsessive focus on digital. And that’s something that can only help it in the tough times ahead.

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

Categories
business e-commerce Editor's pick social media

Digging in to Reddit: does it work for fashion brands and retailers?

reddit

Late last week, Intel’s Sandra Lopez teamed up with Rebecca Minkoff for a conversation on social news site Reddit. The “AMA” (Ask Me Anything) encouraged users to pose questions about the roles of fashion and technology intertwining, as well as the opportunities for millennial women in STEM fields.

It was a strong example of something that worked on the platform – native to how its users operate, and filled with personal responses (from how Lopez and Minkoff got started in their careers, to how they managed their work/life balance, and why men never get asked that question).

Self-proclaimed as ‘the frontpage of the internet’, Reddit has a reported 202 million unique visitors a month. During 2015, it saw 82.54 billion page views across 88,700 active subreddits (sub forums). There were 73.15 million submissions, with 725.85 million comments made by 8.7 million total authors.

Risky business

The Intel/Minkoff example is one of many AMAs, but it’s still one of few of fashion brands and retailers really getting involved.

The uncensored and unpredictable nature of the site goes some way to explaining why. The platform was designed to be a space where like-minded individuals communicate without interference. Reddit is open source and moderated by unpaid volunteers. Users, known as “redditors”, create threads called subreddits, which other members with similar interests can join.

Initially the company had just five rules: “Don’t spam; Don’t ask for votes or engage in vote manipulation; Don’t post personal information; No child pornography or sexually suggestive content featuring minors; Don’t break the site or do anything that interferes with normal use of the site.” The lack of rules and regulations, fostered an “anything goes” culture that still defines Reddit today.

For a brand, therefore, entering a community like Reddit can be risky.

RedditAMA_Intel_RebeccaMinkoff

Frequent changes of senior management has done little to improve Reddit’s volatile reputation. Three different leaders have been in place over the past three years: Yishan Wong, Ellen Pao and Steve Huffman respectively, all with very different objectives. Pao’s 2014 strategy to clean up the darker side of Reddit and remove the less savoury elements for instance – like banning subreddits “fatpeoplehate” and “hamplanethatred”, which focused on shaming overweight people – angered core members who felt Poa’s intentions went against the free-speech ethos of Reddit.

But needless to say, this did make it more appealing on the brand side. Around the same time, Nordstrom created Nordstrom1901, the official Nordstrom subbreddit, to communicate with customers after noticing increased activity surrounding the brand on the platform. Nordstrom’s first post encapsulated the relaxed, genuine attitude Reddit users appreciate. “We are Redditors at heart and can’t wait to get to know the communities better. We’re here to help so questions, comments, etc. are all welcome,” it read.

Focusing on service and avoiding aggressive marketing, Nordstrom received a warm Reddit welcome. AMAs proved particularly popular. Real-time feedback also allowed Nordstrom to navigate any minor issues before they escalated into larger problems. Their venture onto Reddit appeared fruitful, so it’s unclear why Nordstrom1901 has been abandoned (the last official Nordstrom1901 post was 11 months ago). Often such moves come down to the advocate for a specific platform no longer being in the business, but it’s also likely a change of strategy was at play; if ROI wasn’t proving fruitful from the platform, resources could easily have been allocated elsewhere.

Ensuring authenticity

One brand that has converted conversation into revenue through Reddit is Uniqlo. Speaking to Marketing Land, Uniqlo’s e-commerce manager, Arielle Dyda (who manages the retailer’s Reddit involvement), explained that it now drives more traffic and revenue for the retailer than any other social channel.

Its efforts started on the platform in 2012 after traffic from Reddit crashed the soft launch of its e-commerce site. Today, 5% of its referral traffic comes from social media, with 64% of that from Reddit. Of the 3% of monthly sales from social media, 64% is also from Reddit. On a day when Dyda posts about a special deal, it can drive up to 20% of their online sales.

One particular subreddit – r/MaleFashionAdvice – is particularly fruitful, and Uniqlo isn’t even the most mentioned brand on there:

Reddit_malefashionadvice

The key to Uniqlo success surrounds authenticity, transparency and excellent customer service, says Dyda. She focuses on being real, but also on being playful. It helps that she uses her personal Reddit account, midnight1214, tagged as an official company representative.

“So just being able to be a genuine person is important. I joke around with them, I post memes. I’m savvy with the Reddit lingo and that makes me one of them. I’m not just Uniqlo, I’m midnight1214, and I understand the jokes and I understand frustrations, but I’m going to be here to help you when you need it,” she explains. She also leans on the community’s moderators for help so as not to seem too promotional at times.

Spending time getting to know the platform, answering questions and contributing, without imposing corporate strategies or marketing campaigns, distinguished Uniqlo from other companies entering Reddit. Dyda adds: “I think if another band wants to jump in, they really have to take the time and learn and understand first of all what are people saying about your company [on there].”

By comparison, US-based, outdoor apparel company REI, conducted insufficient research when they attempted to join the platform. Misjudging the importance of authenticity, CEO Jerry Stritzke started the conversation by highlighting REI’s decision to close on Black Friday. Seemingly unaware of the distain of brands using the site for advertising and marketing, he wrote: “Hi Reddit. I’m Jerry Strizke, CEO of REI. You might have heard about us recently when we announced that we would be closing all of our stores on Black Friday this year. We’re paying our 12,000 employees to take the day off and we’re encouraging them to opt out of the Black Friday madness and spend the day outdoors with loved ones…Ask me anything!”

His comments were interpreted as a publicity drive, prompting a dramatic backlash of negativity. Redditor phD_in_Random said: “I’ve never even heard of this company and I hate it already. We don’t have one in my city and I hope we never do.”

Strizke also missed a number of contentious questions from current and former employees surrounding a membership sales scheme the company runs. Strizke failed to grasp that leaving the discussion early, didn’t mean the conversation was over, but rather gave the impression he was avoiding tougher issues. One comment in particular got so blown up (there were some 5,000 responses on the AMA in total), that he had to return to Reddit later to address it.

Unsurprisingly, there’s been no further activity on Reddit from REI.

Native advertising

Steve Huffman, one of the original founders of Reddit, returned as CEO in July 2015, shifting the focus from imposing a level of moral decency to expansion. He is in charge of the business side of Reddit, while co-founder Alexis Ohanian concentrates on editorial aspects like Upvoted, Reddit’s new publication.

Here, a small team of editors sifts through the most interesting posts, rewriting stories worthy of further development. It aims to put a spotlight on all the hundreds of conversations that otherwise get lost in the noise of the platform. It also proves an opportunity for Reddit itself to monetise, by offering brands a safer way to enter through its native advertising scheme.

Sponsored posts are likewise written by the editorial team, and designed to fit with the nature of the content rather than through traditional advertising banners. In the interest of transparency, Reddit made its intentions clear from the off: “We will be working with brands on sponsored content, all of which will be visibly distinguished as such.”

Going forward, the introduction of Upvoted reflects the positive changes at Reddit. There’s a deeper understanding that if the site is to reach its full potential, management must act responsibly. Initiatives like providing a help section with advice on “Brandiquette”, for brands thinking of advertising, makes the site much more approachable.

Brands in other industries including food, literature and music have accordingly reported positive results (case studies available). With that in mind, fashion brands and retailers will also look to consider Reddit as a suitable advertising partner in the future.

Needless to say, for any brand thinking about stepping into the Reddit world in the meantime, operating within the context of the site is paramount. With such a large audience available to tap into, and proven revenue drivers at play when handled correctly, the opportunity is almost too good not to.

Categories
Editor's pick technology

The future of retail: Beyond stories told, to stories experienced

JCP_VR2

If you’d visited a mall housing a J.C. Penney store over the holidays, you may have been welcomed by a virtual reality experience that took shoppers on an immersive ride to the North Pole.

Created with marketing and technology agency Narrative, the “Twas The Flight Before Christmas” initiative was in place in four malls (one each in New York, Ohio, Arizona and Virginia), in a bid to grab consumer attention during the busiest shopping period of the year. It consisted of an Oculus Rift-based campaign where individual viewers could interact with reindeers and snowmen, as well as Santa himself, while a large screen was also set up for the rest of the audience drifting through the mall to enjoy.

Head over to Forbes to read my interview with Tricia Clarke-Stone, CEO of Narrative, on the reasoning behind this immersive tech experience and how it was designed to drive footfall into store and traffic to the checkouts.

Categories
Blocks e-commerce social media

Charlotte Olympia opts for gamification in #spintowin Christmas campaign

charlotte olympia1

Footwear designer Charlotta Olympia is introducing a festive slot machine on its website during the first 12 days of December in a bid to drive new traffic to its online store.

Fans will be able to spin to win iconic pieces from the brand’s seasonal collection, including Glitter Kitty ?ats, Jingle Bell Dolly platforms, Holly Pandora clutch and Frosty pouch, as well as a flurry of classic styles like the Dolly platforms, Pandora clutch box, spiderweb earrings and more.

Spin to win

All they have to do is get three matching styles on the virtual machine over the course of three tries.

Bonnie Takhar, president of Charlotte Olympia, told WWD: “During a busy holiday season with a competitive retail landscape…brands are focused on new-customer acquisition. We wanted to ensure that this word-of-mouth campaign brings new customers to Charlotte Olympia.”

The campaign is being pushed via social media with a countdown bauble each day alongside the #spintowin hashtag.

Categories
business e-commerce social media

Search marketing tops customer acquisition tactics for retailers – study 

search

Paid search is still considered to be the most effective customer acquisition tactic, according to the 2014 State of Retailing Online study, released by Shop.org and Forrester Research in the US this week.

A survey of 81 retailers during May and June 2014, showed search engine marketing is considered top by 85% of them, and they’re accordingly spending more of their interactive marketing budgets on it than on anything else.

Also on the list for acquiring customers were organic traffic (41%), affiliate programs (40%) and remarketing/retargeting through online ads (29%). The latter, alongside behavioural targeting, sees display ads now ranked as the second highest area of marketing spend behind paid search.

Meanwhile, social media is also getting increased attention from retailers. Over half of those surveyed said they are dedicating more spend to the likes of Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, and Twitter in the coming year, while 62% plan to spend more on Facebook interactive marketing efforts this year than last.

“Thanks to the effectiveness and renewed budget focus on display advertising, Facebook cannot be counted out from a retail advertising standpoint,” said Forrester VP and principal analyst, Sucharita Mulpuru. “People think of Facebook as a social network, but in reality it’s another medium for personalised display advertising – likely explaining why Facebook has surfaced so high in planned budget spend this year.”

The study also found that 42% of retailers’ email opens now happen on smartphones, up from 28% in 2013, while email open rates on tablets grew from 16% to 17%.

Categories
digital snippets e-commerce social media technology

Digital snippets: Matthew Williamson, Gap, Amazon, Instagram, Wanelo, Tinder

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

MatthewWilliamson_Instagram

  • ‘Is it scalable? I think it has to be,’ Matthew Williamson head of digital on customer acquisition through Instagram [The Drum]
  • Amazon launches #AmazonCart (#AmazongBasket), a new way to shop without leaving Twitter [TNW]
  • Fashion world sashays to Instagram for brand-building [FT]
  • Wanelo profiled: like mall browsing, with a click [NY Times]
  • Meet the new wave of Tinder-like shopping apps [Fashionista]
  • Stylect, the Tinder for shoes, finds you a perfect pair [Co.Design]
  • Study shows prevalence of consumer ‘webrooming’; more people researching online and buying in local stores [AdWeek]
  • Tracking is dead: the next wave of wearables is context [re/code]
  • Millennial-focused marketers start to dig in to new SnapChat video feature [AdWeek]
  • Must see: colour-changing fabric uses heat sensitive technology to react to sound files and its surrounds [PSFK]
Categories
e-commerce

Cath Kidston, Bauble Bar driving traffic with Christmas treasure hunt campaigns

CathKidston_SantaBanner

UK home furnishings brand, Cath Kidston, is running a cute campaign on its website in the run up to Christmas that invites shoppers to hunt through its pages to try and find Santa.

Every time they spot him they could be in with the chance of winning the products found on that page.

Based on the idea that Santa’s gone into hiding due to having too many wish lists to read through from the retailer’s main Christmas competition, the initiative sends fans on a hunt around its day bags, zip wallets, baby sleep suits and Christmas stocking fillers.

It is of course a clever move to get shoppers searching through the whole site, not to mention popping back on a regular basis, at a time when present inspiration doesn’t go amiss.

US online jewellery retailer, Bauble Bar, is running something similar for the festive season too. Email subscribers are being sent clues to “Buried Baubles” each day – items with serious markdowns hidden somewhere on the site. Meanwhile, its “30-days of Sparkle” campaign – as below – also sees daily discounts and offers being unveiled in the run up to Christmas.

BaubleBar_30daysofsparkle
Categories
e-commerce Uncategorized

Boutiques.com traffic plummets, Google going out of fashion?

I was wondering why there hadn’t been much talk around Google’s Boutiques.com since its launch late late year – turns out traffic has dropped by an enormous 94%.

According to Google AdPlanner via Signature9, the site had 2.6m visitors per month in January, but in April, that figure fell to 170,000.

Furthermore, those stats compare with competitor ShopStyle‘s 3.8m and 3.9m respectively.

Some interesting thoughts on what went wrong, here.