Gap has piloted a soon-to-be-rolled-out, fully shoppable augmented reality (AR) app that lets shoppers try on clothes remotely, showing them in context and adjusting to the consumer’s size.
The concept, Dressing Room by Gap, was developed in partnership with San Francisco-based 3D avatar developer Avametric and Google – the latter deploying its AR platform Tango, which uses camera devices to overlay images onto a physical space in real-time, not unlike the Pokemon Go mobile game.
After selecting an outfit (the catalogue shows 3D renders of Gap's current e-commerce offer), shoppers are required to add personal info such as height and weight, and choose one of 10 featured body sizes (0-20). The app consequently creates a 3D avatar wearing the item, placing it into the environment directly in front of the shopper via their mobile device screen. Shoppers can move the digital mannequin to view the clothing from different angles, as well as changing whole outfits, sizes and colours, with the avatar reacting in real-time (see also Rapid Retail). All the items are purchasable in-app.
The concept is currently exclusive to Google Tango-enabled smartphones, making it relatively prohibitive. There is only one model on the market at present – Chinese computer manufacturer Lenovo's Phab2Pro, with a model by Taiwanese electronics company Asus due to launch at the end of 2017. However, the potential to review consumer behaviour and ‘trigger points’ for purchase remains strong.
The initiative digs deeper into the playful breed of luxe the brand's been co-opting since its 2014 arcade-game-style Fendi Fun pop-up in Harrods department store, London (see Haute Humour). This sensibility was reprised last year with a boisterous-looking, year-long Tokyo pop-up featuring giant fur dolls, mini theatres and neon projections (see full blog post for more).
The visual-centric, Tumblr-style 'F is For...' is accessible via the brand's main e-commerce site, a separate microsite and a standalone app, and boasts five sections. Freaks is an 'About' section pitched as a creative call-to-arms for millennials (aka 'freaks'); Fulgore hosts editorial shoots unique to the platform; Faces features interviews and images of Fendi's latest 'ambassadors'; Freedom offers global listings of hip venues; and Fearless spotlights 'creators' and emerging talent within the arts. All articles can be shared on social media.
For now, keeping the mood soft sell, nothing can be purchased on the platform. See Rise of the Exploratorium for more on the 'post-transactional' space.
While the concept illustrates Fendi's allegiance to fun, it also highlights how luxury brands are 'splintering' to ensure wider appeal. In December 2016, Fendi created an elegant 'Happy Room' pop-up at Design Miami geared towards older consumers, showcasing materials innovations. See Retail: Digitising Luxury, 2017 and Tiered Retailing for more on this tactic.
Parents' increased willingness to spend on kids' fashion, combined with an appetite for seeking value at all levels of purchasing (see The Austerity Opportunity for more), is fuelling an upsurge in online recommerce initiatives in Europe and the US. The UK childrenswear market is expected to hit £7.8bn by 2019 (Mintel), with global sales growing at a CAGR of more than 6% by 2020 (Technavio).
For more on children's retail, see Kids-Centric Commerce 2017 (publishing on February 16), and Toy Worlds: Targeting Gen Me. For more on reselling, see Rent the Runway's Subscription Mode, Sneakerhead Resale Mega-Concept, The Berkeley Vintage Style Service and Byronesque: Vintage E-Tail App.
One of the standout retail initiatives for Valentine’s 2017 comes from US pop-culture provocateur Marc Jacobs. The fashion designer has gone against the traditionally schmaltzy romantic grain with a trio of short, low-fi commercials that echo the sex hotline infomercials that were prevalent during late-night 90s TV shows.
Each of the three 35-second videos stars a female model with OTT early 90s styling, teased hair and dramatic make-up, and is slightly different in tone. ‘Lexie’ reads romantic poems, ‘Chloe’ speaks in hotline innuendo, and ‘Jessica’ offers a comedy spoof – spraying herself in the face with perfume mid-enticement.
Shared across the brand’s social media channels alongside still imagery of small leather goods and cosmetics, the tongue-in-cheek campaign invites customers to call 1-844-LUV-MARC to receive a discount. When dialled, an automated recording of a sultry voice provides a 10% discount code (for US and Canadian consumers only) on all products on Marc Jacobs’ e-commerce site.
While the shorts are circulated on social media, the surprise factor of unusually low-fi communication, and the shift away from standard-formula sponsored posts on platforms such as Instagram and Twitter, makes them likely to generate major brand buzz.
For our full coverage of the best Valentine’s concepts, including new forms of personalisation, feminism-fuelled commerce and the value of ‘self-help selling’, see Retail: Valentine’s Strategies 2017.
Walmart’s trial of Blockchain technology in China looks set to shift it from an interesting-sounding yet entirely enigmatic phenomenon to an innovation with major retail relevance.
Largely the preserve of the finance sector to date, Blockchain is a shared digital ledger, providing anyone in a network with a view of a complete list of steps in a particular process. Every person in the network can enter information at their stage of a process, with the technology using complex codes to validate and link chains of information. This makes it nearly impossible to tamper with or change an entry after recording it, presenting uses in any area where provenance is valued.
Walmart’s trial involves tracking products through complicated supply chains as a way to reassure its consumers – either by making the data directly visible, or by including it in marketing and PR communications. It will potentially allow brands to build trust, maximise interest in provenance, or tackle counterfeit goods.
Considering that consumer trust in multiple sectors – from food to fashion – has fallen over the last decade (in 2016, Havas Media Group reported that US consumers only trust 20% of all brands), the concept holds notable mileage.
British start-up Provenance goes a step further than Walmart’s trial, allowing consumers to access Blockchain-verified information about a product’s story. The company provides retailers with the infrastructure needed to trace products and materials, and has built a consumer-facing portal where product stories can be told.
As noted by Stylus in Food Content is King, the popularity of short-form cooking videos has opened up creative opportunities for brand collaboration – most recently in a three-way retail-media initiative involving BuzzFeed, Amazon and Honda, homing in on the annual hype surrounding the Super Bowl.
During the run-up to the Super Bowl (February 5), BuzzFeed’s video recipe channel Tasty partnered with both Amazon and Honda on a campaign designed to make two game-day party recipes easily shoppable.
Under the umbrella title The Upgrade Presented by Honda, both recipes were featured on BuzzFeed.com/Tasty and Tasty’s Facebook, Snapchat and Pinterest channels, where viewers interesting in buying items used could click through to an Amazon microsite. Another click led to an associated shopping list, where consumers could add desired items to a Prime Now cart.
The videos break with the usual overhead-only viewpoint by ending with the cook packing up the dish and placing it in a Honda CR-V – signalling Honda’s sponsorship of the promo (it did not facilitate deliveries). Fulfilment was handled by Prime Now, Amazon’s free two-hour delivery service for household items (available in a growing roster of US metropolitan areas).
The microsite has since transitioned to feature a week-long Valentine’s Day promotion, culminating with the cook taking the dish to a romantic dinner in the videos. See also Retail: Valentine’s Strategies, 2017.
For more on collaborative innovation, see The Streamlined Sell in our Roaming Retail Industry Trend, Shoppable Content: Entertainment, Trans-Industry Collaborations in our Anywhere Retailing Industry Trend and Retail’s Elastic Brands.
US athleisure e-tailer Fabletics has introduced an experiential component to the upper level of its two-tier subscription model – giving ‘VIPs’ exclusive access to shoppable fitness videos and discounts on wellness retreats and products.
Regular members can shop whenever they want at regular prices simply by signing up with an email address. VIP members get deals on products and free shipping for a monthly fee of $49.95, redeemable against purchases. Should VIPs skip a month, the fee is still charged, but transitions into a store credit that never expires. However, the new experiential perks are withheld for that period – incentivising members to stay fully on board.
The shoppable fitness classes are filmed at Fabletics’ LA headquarters and involve partnerships with different high-profile studios each month, such as US dance-based interval-training programme Body By Simone; and High Intensity Training from NY based Fhittingroom. Images of all the garments worn by instructors are displayed below the video (see also Contextual Commerce).
There are also discounts on wellness retreats (aka ‘fit-cations’) and experiences such as massages by US on-demand service Soothe, or juice cleanses by American cold-pressed beverage brand Suja. All perks are embedded behind a login wall on Fabletics’ lifestyle blog The Core.
Fabletics currently has more than one million VIP members, increasing its revenue by 35% each year since launching in 2013.
Hopping onto the ‘New Year, New You’ bandwagon with a subtly activist stance (a perspective that chimes with our Currency of Dissent Macro Trend), two British retailers are remit-pushing with proprietary London summits.
See also: Stores Tap January Wellness Surge.
Macerich’s portfolio comprises 50-plus centres including prominent LA area malls Santa Monica Place and the Westside Pavilion, but remains below the profile of super groups such as Westfield. Bidding to boost comparatively low levels of brand recognition, the new partnership seeks to connect across a number of touchpoints:
The partnership represents a “triangulation between PopSugar, Macerich and specific retailers at shopping centres” Fred Yeries, vice-president of digital marketing at Macerich, told WWD.
For more on editorialised brand experiences, see Contextual Commerce and Omni-Interactive: In-Store Strategy. For more on mall retailing, see Mall Worlds, Monetising Mindfulness, Christmas ’16: In-Store Activations, Smart Stores (Geofeedia) and Auto Brands Target Mall Shoppers.
Boosting conversion rates and keeping even the most budget-conscious shoppers on board, US multi-brand watch e-tailer Savvy Watch has introduced PriceWaiter – an e-commerce price negotiation technology.
The plug-in tech delivers call-to-action prompts in two places: a pop-up window (‘Leaving already? Time to make an offer!’) that appears when a customer is on the cusp of leaving the site; and, as a gentler nudge, a ‘Make an Offer’ button below the ‘Buy Now’ tab.
Customers then haggle privately via the button, naming their price and submitting it. Required to provide an email address, the bidder is notified as soon as the offer is accepted, countered or rejected.
The technology uses both human and machine learning to drive negotiations. Retailers can opt in to handle each offer individually or use the tool’s applied algorithms, which are based on a pre-arranged set of retailer-established rules to stay within acceptable gross margin levels. By choosing the automated response option, shoppers get a real-time response and can checkout immediately with their personalised price.
Savvy Watch has confirmed that the tool has already led to a 9% increase in conversions since being implemented in 2015, with average customer savings of around 10%.
The tool trades heavily on a growing culture of consumer disloyalty and promiscuity, as detailed (alongside key opportunities) in Renegade Retail, part of our Macro Trend The Currency of Dissent.
US department store Neiman Marcus has installed interactive mirrors in 21 of its US outlets – enabling consumers to record personalised beauty tutorials in-store, and replay and shop directly from them later.
The concept responds to statistics revealing 25% of US consumers are interested in interactive/digital in-store experiences such as virtual mirrors, VR headsets and interactive displays (Mintel, 2016).
Created by US technologists Memomi (see Neiman Marcus' Interactive Fixtures and Smart Stores: Connected Flagships), the 22" 'Memomi Makeover' mirrors are being deployed at counters of Neiman Marcus' own beauty brand, Le Métier de Beauté. Nine other beauty brands will join by the end of January 2017.
The mirrors film staff applying the cosmetics, subsequently sending consumers high quality, voice-note-embedded video footage – a series of shortened clips showing each step – via email or text message. The make-up artists can even mark on the mirror the products that were tried, bought and preferred post-session; consumers simply click on the links attached to the video to make a purchase.
The mirrors also simulate different lighting (night, sunlight or office), letting consumers view different scenarios side by side – especially useful for obtaining more realistic data on desire and purchase intention.
The brand is already planning to create a 'feedback loop' in future iterations, allowing consumers to communicate with make-up artists via the feature after they've left the store.
Canadian technical athletic brand RYU (Respect Your Universe) is tapping into the annual January fitness drive with a distinctly cruel-to-be-kind initiative. Fans are being offered discounts on new gear – but only if they’ve altered their shape by working out in the year since their original purchase.
Titled Up + Down, the replacement plan is part of the retailer’s Athlete Members Program. The free membership gives subscribers exclusive access to discounts and events, priority access to promotions and private shopping, training and nutrition tips and recipes – see also Membership & Tiered Retailing.
Members can return items purchased within the last year if they’ve added muscle mass or lost weight, and repurchase the same or similar workout wardrobe in their new size for half the regular price. RYU will donate all returned items to local charitable organisations that are also invested in helping individuals reach their fitness goals. See also Retail: the Eco-Ethical Upsell, Brands Behaving Authentically: Culture & Inclusivity and Pioneering Perspectives.
The scheme launched on January 3 2017 and is running both online and in-store. H&M trialled a similar concept last year – see Calories for Clothes: H&M Poland Targets Young Urbanites.
For more on retail concepts with an empathetic and/or supportive edge, see The Supportive Sell (part of The Business of Wellbeing Macro Trend), Audio Make-Up Tutorials by L’Oreal and Fashion Clinics: Aftercare Retail. See also Athleisure: New Store Aesthetics & UX Strategies.
Encouraging shoppers to indulge in self-steered exploration (see The Rise of the Exploratorium for more) and putting the shoe category on a distinct pedestal, the sneaker areas mimic art galleries, with the footwear displayed on the walls like installations.
Visitors can access ‘Behind the Sneaker’ stories and contextual information via their own headsets and smartphones. All they have to do is connect to a dedicated URL that hosts the recorded audio tracks (in-store signage gives shoppers prompts). To access audio on specific shoes, customers simply input the code shown beside the relevant pair into a dialogue box on their mobile device.
The audio tours reveal information on design inspiration, cultural influences and impact, as well as the technologies used in the product development process. They also offer interviews with influential figures such as Nike designer Tinker Hatfield, urban culture experts and athletes such as former NBA player Walt ‘Clyde’ Frazier.
With consumer appetite for wellness still booming (see The Business of Wellbeing) and global athleisure sales predicted to rise by 30%+ to $350bn in 2020 (Morgan Stanley, 2015), it’s little surprise that most US and UK department stores’ new year-based initiatives focused overwhelmingly on fitness and health. But there was also an interesting eco-ethical nod, trading on a resolve to consume more ‘consciously’.
Initiatives were largely split into two camps – editorialised, largely video-based content, and in-store events. We highlight the best:
Continuing to fuel discussion surrounding the female empowerment that's now so important to brands (as highlighted in Female-Focused Retail Stories, NY, Women's World and 360-Degree Feminism), a wave of retailers have unleashed store-based concepts designed to celebrate women, offer support and spotlight entrepreneurial opportunities.