Viewing entries tagged
omni-channel

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Copy and Paste Culture: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Well, companies are looking at new ways to capitalize on that flattery: Create or take part in desirable narratives, and make them shoppable. I like to believe that as individuals we make choices reflecting our own desires rather than those of others. But advertisers will be there every step along the way to tell us that our sense of self will be more complete if we buy whatever it is they are selling. And today advertising is so integrated into our sensory experiences that the line between creative content and paid content is practically indistinguishable. Media, which basically runs on advertising dollars, is one of the most vulnerable industries and it has been forced to evolve.

We opted out of commercial breaks only to get our regular programing saturated with product placement. We opted for free access to the news, only to find advertisements and sponsored links scattered like land mines across the page. We have traded transparency for convenience. 

In Hollywood, costume design has always been a great source of inspiration for designers and shoppers alike. And now with the rising legitimization of television alongside film, certain prime time characters are becoming popular sartorial references. With this rise of TV icons, the concept of Shazam-ing (yes, it's ubiquitous enough to be verbified) is being applied to fashion as well. But rather than wait for monthly magazines to tell us where to find the real-people-priced version of Gwenyth's latest red carpet dress, we want the information now. This trend began via shoppable runways, videos (Barneys and Nowness), and online editorials, and is now coming to a TV near you.

Conceptually, shoppable TV is a cool idea. But mostly it raises many concerns. Some of these are brought up in this Fashionista article, like preserving the creative license of the costume designer, a logistically reasonable way to provide the information, and the fact that people aren’t watching shows in real time. Transparency is a real issue in regards to which the format and messaging is key. While it seems like a great tool to know exactly where to go buy that great office wardrobe from the Good Wife, for example, the format of the medium leaves too much ambiguity between the creative prerogative and the sales pitch.

Beyond the ethical issues that would need to be addressed, this idea of prefabricated wardrobes from a celebrity or television character removes the allure of fashion and commoditizes it. It would be one thing if these movies and shows were introducing viewers to designers and products that are hard to find or unknown and ripe for discovery. But the job of costume designers is not to tell you where to shop, it is to develop characters through clothing. And the reality is that most of the sponsored content we see in media comes from big brands and distributors that are accessible to a vast audience because they are the most actionable, and they are backed with the most advertising dollars. 

It begs the question that so often comes to mind as technology tackles new frontiers: Just because we can do it, should we? 

Isn’t it better to take inspiration from what we see, rather than try to replicate exactly? In literature when we copy and paste it is called plagiarism, in art, forgery. In fashion, to copy and paste is not a crime but it does feed a biassed branch of consumerism. Fashion is one of the greatest means of self expression. To curate one’s identity by emulating someone else is to be deprived of that privilege. There will always be a distinction between leaders and followers. The danger here is not in being a follower, but in choosing your leader, and making sure its a person or a cause you truly believe in, not just the one that is convenient.

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Decoded Fashion comes to Paris: Here are the Highlights

Last night Decoded Fashion launched their Meetup series in Paris. Held at NUMA, the co-working space and incubator that opened recently in the Sentier garment district, the event had a full house and a great list of speakers to address the theme of Omni-channel retailing.

Heading the Paris launch, Celine Lippi of Fashion Capitol Partners orchestrated presentations from Pauline Butor of Google, Christophe Biget of iVentures Consulting, and Demandware's Laurent Peron followed by a panel discussion on best practices from Regis Pennel (l'Exception), Alexandre Fauvet (Fusalp, and formerly of Lacoste), and Roland Herlory (Vilebrequin). The event ended with presentations from three startups, Bodi.Me, HappyBeacon, and Shop'nBrag, which, together, explore many opportunities in the future of omni-channel retail. 

Representing Google, Pauline Butor demonstrated serval of the available tools accessible to brands to gain insight on the market such as Google Trends, where search terms are quantified and how we know that there are five billion queries regarding fashion and beauty every month. We also saw some innovative uses that brands have found for google+ and the facility of cross promotion with other websites (Vogue.com, blogs etc.). Content like live hangouts that can be embedded in many different sites or clipped into bite sized excerpts to create new, sharable content for fans and blogs, and provide what would normally be VIP access to anyone with an internet connection. Topshop was the featured example, bringing the customer into the experience on all levels, including a behind the scenes hangout showing live footage of prep for the runway show, and a live stream from the model's view of the runway.

Both Christophe Biget and Laurent Peron spoke to the importance of linking the physical and the digital to improve the customer experience. Through the insight of the eShopper Index, Biget showed how distributors have made greater strides than brands in their omni-channel systems, and how within the brand category it is the luxury companies that are lagging behind. Again emphasizing that best practices mean going beyond great in-store customer service. Brick and mortar operations are beginning to realize that they are missing out on market share by limiting their accessibility to the physical versus integrating the digital. Sites like amazon and zappos are among the best performers because they have maximized on the before, during, and post purchase activity of the customer. Their platforms might be ugly, but they are built to sell. And they sell like champions. This means creating as many moments as possible in the consumer's experience to give them an incentive and opportunity to buy.

There was a grounding moment during the panel, when Alexandre Fauvet reminded us that behind all of these amazing seamless digital systems, there remains a physical product that has to be manufactured, stocked and delivered. While our imaginations can run wild with the innovative ways an item can travel from magazine page to your closet (shop'nbrag has some great things in the works), there is a physical transport of goods involved. Just like we try to minimize the number of clicks from first sight through moment of purchase, we have to minimize the distance traveled for merchandise, from manufacture to end consumer. If brands and distributors do it well, the customer will never need to think about the logistics, and will consider only the quality of their experience.  

For some of these services that up the ante of convenience (l'Exception will deliver your order in only 2.5 hours within the Parisian region) brick and mortar can't easily compete. There are many services existing online that are either not yet possible or are very costly to implement offline, such as a wish list or shopping cart or suggesting items that you might like based on previous purchases. More than just an incentive for brands to implement omni-channel practices, it will soon be a necessity if they want to keep up with the evolving demands of todays consumers.

From the presentations it seems these challenges are frontiers that consultancies startups in fashion & tech are tackling and will soon be part of our normal shopping experience. Laurent Peron showed us shop-able window displays, Bodi.Me lets you try on clothes virtually (currently 79% of returns of online orders are because of fit issues), and HappyBeacon has sensors that will push notifications to your phone when you are shopping to tell you about promotions on those shoes you were checking out last week online, or this blouse that is similar to the one that you wanted last season but was sold out. Up to each of to determine how much of this we consider value added, or invasive of our privacy.

Borders are being redrawn between fashion and technology, with a space in between growing larger every day. As Laurent Peron put it: "For some these ideas will seem like the past, for some the present, and for others, the surreal." We see science fiction everywhere around us, and we prove over and again that our imaginations are the limit for what is possible. From the ideas shared last night, it seems clear that a combination of online and physical integration, in both directions, is imperative for the future of retail. And at the forefront of the discussion was this point: whatever moves a company makes in their omni-channel initiatives, it's all about improving and streamlining the customer experience.

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