Weekly Stories

Image source: Sid Jatia

With experience at Razorfish, Electronic Arts and now sports apparel company of the moment Under Armour, Sid Jatia knows more than most about the development of a successful e-commerce and omnichannel strategy. Ahead of his appearance at our NYC Summit next month, we caught up with the Under Armour VP (Direct-to-Consumer/Digital) to thrash out what exactly a digital-first sensibility should mean in today’s retail landscape, and also to ask him to predict the technologies that could change the game altogether in the future.

Could you connect the dots between previous roles on your CV, and how they led to your current one at Under Armour?

The last 15 years of my life have had a very strong influence of Customer Experience and Technology, starting with the graduate programme at Parsons and a series of fortunate opportunities at Electronic Arts, Razorfish and now at Under Armour. Specifically in my tenure at Razorfish, I led several global retail and e-commerce clients through business transformation utilising technology as the great facilitator and customer centricity as the major outcome, whether it be optimising online businesses, creating new business models or making the hottest customer experience in a retail store.

What brought me to Under Armour was the forward-looking vision that was in the works around connected fitness and how a traditional manufacturer – now a retail and e-commerce player – can transcend to become all about the athlete’s (customer’s) goals vs. their own. On top of that, former clients and colleagues who now work at Under Armour have inspired me. Their swearing by the authenticity and fervour of the brand certified the decision for me.

In your view, what does it mean to have a digital-first sensibility in apparel retail today??

In my mind, digital first in apparel is all about putting the athlete as part of the conversation in the full lifecycle: design/manufacture →plan/buy → merchandise →shop→feedback. It doesn’t preach e-commerce over retail. It is all about enabling convenience and personalised experiences for our athletes.

On the more interesting side, this sensibility has given rise to a new category in apparel focused on ‘wearables’. Right now, this category is dominated by technology companies, but slowly we will see more and more retailers becoming the centrepiece of that conversation. A perfect example is what Tory Burch is doing with Fitbit, which makes perfect sense in my mind. It allows for two brands which have their own unique strengths to come together on a digital-first sensibility, and create great products for the marketplace.

You have a lot of experience in shaping omnichannel strategy. What are the biggest tools and techniques that retailers should be using to optimise their omnichannel output?

It’s extremely important for retailers to focus on what really matters for their customers, vs. all the things they could do. Stop the search for a perfect recipe of flawless customer experience across all channels, and focus on how each experience can become incrementally better. Can you bring efficiencies of online such as deep product information, peer validation and searchability to the store? Or can you bring immersive experiences to the web? But the ability to execute this is still limited due to organisation silos and workflows which have been designed for a non-omni world.

Looking ahead, which new technology do you think could be the biggest game changer for the retail landscape in the future?

Honestly, getting to scale in a retail setting is extremely challenging due to integration and operational challenges, so no one technology can really drastically change what retail is. But if I had to put my money on a couple of things, I would really give a closer look to sensor enablement in retail.

The current landscape is a little fragmented, with different types of sensors ranging from BLE to RFIDs to NFC – but once we figure out which sensors are versatile enough to be embedded in all products, and can be streamlined during the manufacturing process, it will give the products a brain of their own. When combined with native mobile phone capabilities on consumer devices, emerging interactive touch/gestural technologies in-store and the new age of content distribution systems, we might see a different face of retail sooner than we expect.

To hear more from Sid Jatia, book your ticket for the Decoded Fashion NYC Summit on October 28-29.

Reported by Claire Healy

Decoded Fashion - Weekly Stories - NYFW App
Image source: Behance

TV presenter, model and general style guru Alexa Chung has turned her hand to tech as co-founder of new style app Villoid, which allows users to create fashion-based mood boards and browse, ‘love’ and purchase apparel. Chung, who worked on the app alongside entrepreneur Jeanette Dyhre Kvisvik, cites Cher Horowitz’s virtual wardrobe planner in the film Clueless as the inspiration behind Villoid.

Parallels can be drawn between Villoid and Polyvore – the fashion scrapbooking site acquired by Yahoo earlier this year, which claims to attract the “largest community of tastemakers” on the web. But unlike Polyvore, Villoid allows users to make purchases within the app, as well as ‘follow’ brands of interest. High-end labels like Saint Laurent and Christopher Kane rub shoulders with high-street stalwarts New Look, Mango and Topshop on Villoid – users not only have the ability to create fantasy high-fashion outfits, but also the option to purchase items within their preferred price bracket.

The app is currently only available on iOS, but an Android version is said to be in the works. Villoid has accrued more than 6,000 followers on Instagram and, according to Chung, around 10,000 Villoid collages were created the day after launch (September 8). Will Villoid really change the way the Instagram generation engages with fashion, or is Chung’s endorsement the main reason people are getting on board? Only time will tell.

Elsewhere, app developers are gearing up for New York Fashion Week. A free NYFW app has been released, which promises to show live streams from the catwalk as well as inform attendees of any late-running shows, venue changes or traffic delays.

Meanwhile, Marc Jacobs Beauty has struck a deal with Vênsette – the on-demand beauty service app that offers trained hair stylists and make-up artists available to visit clients at home – to be the brand’s exclusive make-up partner for NYFW. Catherine Gore, global vice-president of Marc Jacobs Beauty, told WWD she classed the partnership as “a strategic way for us to deliver best-in-class beauty to a highly engaged audience”

For more on the latest in mobile innovation, join the discussion at our NYC Summit on October 28-29. Tickets available here.

Reported by Grace Howard

Decoded Fashion - Weekly Stories - The Line
Image source: SMG

A new project for New York-based lifestyle retailer The Line is taking virtual reality (VR) from the realm of immersive marketing into engagement with the potential for direct monetisation.

Displayed via a pop-up at advertising festival Cannes Lions in June, the concept, devised by multinational brand experience agency Sapient Nitro, allowed attendees to virtually tour and shop ‘The Apartment’ – a residential-style furniture store.

Visitors were able to explore the store remotely which, according to the brand, was designed to combine the ease of e-commerce with the thrill of real-life shopping. Using Samsung Gear headsets, 360-degree motion-tracking video technology allowed users to virtually roam the apartment. They could access information about each product simply by focusing their vision on diamond shapes overlaid above them – placing items into a virtual shopping basket with a tap on the side of their headset. Once they finished exploring, all of their choices appeared in a basket, taking them through to the checkout.

Such immersive contextual shopping experiences will continue to boom in value. According to Digi Capital, a US digital advisory agency specialising in augmented and virtual reality, VR is predicted to grow from $4bn in 2015 to a market value of $30bn by 2020.

Guest post Stylus.com by Katie Baron

Decoded Fashion - Weekly Stories - Givenchy
Image source: Givenchy

Courting consumers’ growing desire for insider access, in an industry first, French luxury fashion house Givenchy will open its New York Fashion Week show on September 11 2015 to the general public.

Consumers can get the tickets free of charge on a first come, first served basis by registering on GivenchyNYFW15.com, with 100 tickets being set aside for New York residents living in close proximity to the venue, which has not yet been revealed. A further 1,200 tickets have been dedicated to non-industry fashion fans and students from local fashion schools, including The Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), Pratt Institute and the High School of Fashion Industries. Givenchy collaborated closely with the City of New York’s marketing office on the project.

Suggesting a far wider rebrand, the move also coincides with the opening of its new flagship on Madison Avenue.

The event will showcase Givenchy’s S/S 16 collection, conceived by the brand’s creative director Riccardo Tisci. He is one of the most active in the industry on Instagram (with more than 951k followers), regularly posting behind-the-scenes images to build the brand’s socially savvy following.

Guest post Stylus.com by Marta PodeszwaKatie Baron

Decoded Fashion - Weekly Stories - Sean Q&A
Image source: Sean Rad

When it comes to true connectivity, fashion retail could learn a thing or two from Sean Rad – founder and CEO of one of our era’s most defining phone apps. Since launching in 2012, Tinder has gone from strength to strength, making 8 billion matches worldwide in just three years. But in an increasingly crowded dating app marketplace, what is Tinder doing differently? We spoke to Rad about creating connections, keeping things simple and why data isn’t necessarily enough.

How did you come to found Tinder? Could you connect the dots between previous roles on your CV, and how they led to your current one?

I’ve always had a deep curiosity for how people communicate and connect with each other. My first venture, Orgoo, a unified communications platform, aimed to improve the underlying tools we use to communicate. Next, I started Ad.ly, which was the largest celebrity endorsement platform for social media at the time and dealt with the challenges brands had with reaching their respective audiences on Twitter and other social media platforms.

Tinder is designed to break down the physical and emotional barriers that exist when trying to meet new people. Tinder seamlessly connects you to new people around you – whether you are looking for friends or a date – who are also interested in getting to know you, too.

You’ve previously described Tinder, on the surface level, as a “fun, light experience”. How important do you think this is when it comes to creating successful mobile technology – not only in dating apps, but also in other areas like fashion?

Solving a real problem for your user base, in any industry, can be a big challenge, but the user experience shouldn’t be. Keeping things simple and easy is the best way for users to find value in your product.

How is Tinder keeping ahead of the dating app crowd? Apps like Happn and Hinge are just some names experiencing growth in 2015.

We really don’t keep tabs on other companies. We’re focused on our own mission and let our users guide what we focus on. We listen to our users and work hard to build the best experience for them. In just three years we have users in every country around the world and have made 8 billion matches. Twenty-six million matches happen each day – and our user base is still growing. We are creating connections that otherwise would never have existed if it wasn’t for Tinder, and in that sense we feel like we are truly making an impact on the world.

One of the big topics at the NY summit will be how retailers can learn from their consumers through data. How has Tinder’s development been informed by user preference and behaviour?

We learn a lot about our users with every swipe they take. We use data to deliver a better experience via better recommendation, and also to inform the decisions we make internally. The more we understand about our users and what within the app is resonating with them, the better we can determine which changes to the app will have the most significant impact. That said, data can only take you so far. It’s important to also seek a qualitative understanding.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt from the creation and marketing of Tinder?

We can’t live without human connection.

To hear more from Sean Rad, book your ticket for the Decoded Fashion NYC Summit on October 28-29.

Reported by Claire Healy

Decoded Fashion - Weekly Stories - E-tail CEO Departures
Image source: The Times

Last week marked changes in the landscape of fashion e-commerce, following exits from the founders of two of e-tail’s biggest names, ASOS and Net-A-Porter.

Nick Robertson of ASOS stepped down from his role as CEO on Wednesday, having been at the helm of the company for 15 years, though he will remain on the board as a non-executive director. Robertson founded ASOS – originally known as As Seen On Screen due to its replication of celebrity-endorsed fashion – in 2000.

He will be replaced by ASOS’s chief operating officer Nick Beighton, who has been described as “such an able successor for the CEO role” by Brian McBride, the company’s chairman.

Natalie Massenet’s departure from luxury e-tailer Net-A-Porter was also announced on Wednesday. The news came ahead of Net-A-Porter’s pending merger with Italian retailer Yoox SpA. The all-shares merger, which will conceive the Yoox Net-A-Porter Group, is expected to close later in the month.

Massenet has left Net-A-Porter on a high, taking more than £100m ($153m) after selling shares in the company she founded in 2000.

Since the merger between the rival companies was announced in March, grievances had been aired regarding alleged personality clashes between Massenet – who is known for her positive, democratic approach to team leading – and Yoox’s founder Federico Marchetti, who has previously declared “there is no love” between him and his employees.

In an interview with the Financial Times in May, Marchetti said of his company’s merger with its British rival: “I don’t think any merger in history has been so perfect on paper,” before adding that there would only be one boss of the Yoox Net-A-Porter Group: himself.

While both parties have been tight-lipped regarding Massenet’s departure – and, indeed, where she plans to go next – the 50-year-old Net-A-Porter founder said in a statement: “The business I started in 2000 could not be in better shape today. Having joined forces with Yoox Group, the company will be bigger, stronger and superbly well positioned under Federico’s leadership to lead the industry and create the future of fashion.”

Reported by Grace Howard

Decoded Fashion - Weekly Stories - Heals Digital Discovery
Image source: CloudTags

British furniture retailer Heal’s has just revealed the results of a year-long near-field communication (NFC) trial in its London flagship. The tablet-oriented Digital Discoveries service was part of a wider mission to understand consumer behaviour across all its platforms, and help shoppers move between them smoothly.

Oliver White, director of e-commerce, said: “While Heal’s has been excellent at understanding its customers’ behaviours on its website, in-store has admittedly been a real blind spot. Given most customers prefer to view in-store before purchasing online, it was essential to create a more seamless integration between their physical and digital spaces.”

Visitors can scan RFID (radio frequency identification) tags on products via in-store tablets to unlock additional information such as where the product was made, availability and complementary items. Selections can be added to a wish list and emailed for future reference.

The project also boosts connections to related marketing thanks to its underlying partnership with British ‘remarketing’ specialists CloudTags. When consumers click any of the product URLs in the wish-list emails, CloudTags is then able to re-engage them via targeted display ads on other sites.

Within the first week, 20% of customers used a tablet, 30% emailed themselves a wish list and 75-80% opened a link. Collaborating with UK-based real-time marketing platform Fast Thinking resulted in a click-through rate of 11% – 16 times greater than a standard online-only remarketing ad campaign. This contributed to 30% greater spend compared to Heal’s average online customer.

Heal’s partnered with Google’s Nexus on the tablets and is currently installing the NFC technology across its five other UK locations in preparation for the Christmas shopping season.

Guest post Stylus.com by Katie Baron

Decoded Fashion - Weekly Stories - Wove Band
Image source: Polyera

US-based flexible electronics company Polyera has developed the world’s first smartwatch with a bendable digital screen, called the Wove Band.

It features a flexible E-ink film and double-layered organic LED displays to create a touchscreen that can either be used flat or flexed around the wearer’s wrist – enabling a far larger display than other smartwatches on the market. The screen – which is integrated into the wristband itself – covers 75% of the simple strip design, and will display content such as weather forecasts, news headlines and emails with a simple tap.

Prototypes will be available for developers by the end of the year, with the watch released for consumer use by mid-2016.

Flexible displays are providing a more human approach to technology – particularly within the wearables market, where there is growing demand for subtle and pliable interfaces that can mould to the body. Hi-tech developments are enabling this by embedding technology within ultra-thin materials.

Guest post Stylus.com by Emily Johnson

Decoded Fashion - Weekly Stories - Reformation Yellow
Image source: Reformation

In a fashion retail scene where success and sustainability are rare bedfellows, Yael Aflalo is an exception to the rule. Since founding her eco-friendly e-brand Reformation in 2009, cool girls everywhere haven’t been able to get enough of the B-Corp’s wear-everywhere designs and empowering spirit. Come 28 October, you can catch her Fireside chat at the close of day 1 of our New York Summit. In the meantime, here’s our quick fire Q+A with one of the year’s most enviable – and ethical – e-brand successes.

How did you come to found Reformation? Could you connect the dots between previous roles on your CV, and how they led to your current one?

I founded Reformation in 2009 after working on my previous clothing line Ya-Ya for 10 years. Reformation is an extension of my background in fashion design, but a shift in purpose. While I was working on Ya-Ya, I grew frustrated with the amount of waste produced by fashion and started to dislike the industry’s common practices. On a work trip to China, I was overwhelmed by the pollution that I saw first hand, and I knew that I had to make a change. At the time, there weren’t many brands that were making clothes that I would want to wear that were also sustainable. So that’s what I set out to do with Reformation: make beautiful clothes that are also sustainably produced.

In a world guilty of huge amounts of clothing waste, how exactly has new technology helped you carve a business that leads with sustainability?

We lead with sustainability across all areas of our business – from the start with fabric sourcing, to what customers do with our products after they are done wearing them.

Reducing waste in the fashion industry was one of the main motivators for starting Reformation. We started by recycling vintage and deadstock fabrics. That doesn’t necessarily require new technology, but does require setting up a supply chain that emphasises reuse. We still source vintage and deadstock (currently about 40% of our fabrics), and are developing new, low-impact fabrics using recycled yarns or innovative textile fibres like Tencel.

We also partner with a clothing recycler to create an easy, web-based service for people to recycle their stuff when they are done wearing it. They can even use a dashboard to track their environmental impact and see where their stuff ends up. And we work hard to practise sustainability in everything in between: from sustainable local manufacturing, to green operations and biodegradable packaging. To us, it’s about leading the movement towards a world where sustainable manufacturing is the status quo, and where customers can feel empowered to make small shifts that make a big difference.

Reformation’s focus on sustainability goes hand in hand with a strong message of self-confidence for women of all shapes and sizes. How do you think technology can help brands create clothing with the individual customer – her fit and her tastes – in mind?

It’s about listening, getting feedback, and creating a business model that is agile and quick enough to respond to what customers are saying – with the products they buy (and don’t buy), with feedback to customer service, and even in Instagram comments. With Reformation’s business model and technology, we’re able to go from design to finished concept in a matter of weeks. This allows us to constantly innovate and truly design based on our customer’s feedback.

What is the importance of B Corp certification, for you personally and in the current retail landscape as a whole?

Applying to be a B Corp seemed natural. We didn’t have to change business practices to be eligible for certification because sustainability has been at the core of who we are and what we do from the beginning. But the B Corp assessment helped us report what we do to make a difference in the world, and identify best practices and areas to improve as we grow. We hope other apparel companies join to foster more transparency, move past compliance, and truly do the right thing for customers, employees and the environment.

What would your advice be to young creatives setting up their own e-brands?

Find your own way. The more you define your own method and voice, the more important what you do becomes. Your point of view and your vision are the things you have to offer, so use them.

To hear more from Yael, book your ticket for the Decoded Fashion NYC Summit on October 28-29.

Reported by Claire Healy

Decoded Fashion - Weekly Stories - Swipecast App
Image source: Swipecast

Social media and app culture are disrupting the traditional channels through which brands, photographers, stylists and designers book models, allowing for more freedom, flexibility, and individuality in the industry. Swipecast, a New York-based application launched for the iPhone, allows models to organise their own calendars and access new opportunities in real time, on the go. The app bypasses agency middlemen, and takes only a 10% cut.

The app comes at a time when controversy is circling three of London’s top modelling agencies, which have been accused of running a cartel to keep their prices fixed at a high rate, and eliminating the competition.

The Uber-like model, which features a similar two-way rating system, will offer more creative, flexible and ultimately accessible opportunities for independent clients, and those struggling to afford agency rates. It equally offers models the chance to maximise their time. So far, creatives using the app include New York-based photographer Ellen Von Unwerth and stylist Katie Burnett.

Similarly, social photo-sharing app Instagram has become one of the leading alternative ways for brands and agencies to find models. Marc Jacobs’ now defunct Marc by Marc Jacobs brand was the first to pick up on this, casting quirky, alternative models for a number of popular campaigns and inspiring others to do the same. International agency IMG Models launched the hashtag #WLYG – We Love Your Genes – on Instagram last December to scout new talent, signing 50 models as a result.

The traditional fashion hierarchies are crumbling, with younger, lesser-known models rising steadily in influence thanks to increasing exposure online. For the A/W 15-16 campaign season, a proliferation of new faces in high-profile shoots for Gucci and Louis Vuitton suggests brands are looking to re-energise their offerings and pull the focus off icons and celebrities.

Guest post Stylus.com by Lisa Payne

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