Decoded Fashion - Weekly Stories - NRF retail
Image source: NRF

Mobile payments were the hot topic of last year’s National Retail Federation Big Show. Although NFC was still a buzzword at this year’s event, other issues – like omni-channel retailing and the increased spending power of millennials – came into play. We’ve analysed some of the emerging trends.

Swapping Virtual Reality for Reality

With last year’s raft of news stories explaining that millennials are more interested in purchasing experiences than material objects, it has become paramount for retailers to keep their customers engaged. In an increasingly tech-driven retail landscape, GoInStore’s technology gives in-store salespeople the opportunity to speak to online shoppers in need of assistance.

An in-store salesperson can wear a pair of GoInStore glasses, created by Epson, to allow an online customer to see items from the salesperson’s point of view. This could be a game changer for companies selling high-ticket items like designer goods, or indeed any items that are best seen ‘in the flesh’ before purchasing.

Augmented Reality Provides a Solution for Time-Poor Retailers

Earlier this month, advisory firm Digi-Capital forecast augmented reality (AR) revenue to hit $120bn by 2020. Unsurprisingly then, the trend for AR-enabled technology continued to shine through at NRF.

During a panel on AR, James Ingram, CEO of production company Splashlight, spoke of its benefits for fashion retail, commenting: “You can’t compete without personalisation.” Splashlight works with Looklet, a clever piece of tech that allows e-tailers to shoot one image of a model and then virtually ‘change’ their clothes with the brand’s newest lines – a perfect solution for today’s fast fashion landscape, which usually requires retailers to constantly photograph new product.

Mobile Devices are More Important Than Ever

The results of a survey into consumers’ mobile shopping habits, commissioned by the Economist Intelligence Unit, were revealed at NRF. Findings showed 69% of respondents use either smartphones or desktops for shopping but, crucially, 81% of millennials claimed to primarily use their smartphones to make online purchases. So, as long as the spending power of millennials is on the rise, it would be wise for retailers to think hard about the capabilities of their mobile apps or sites.

Mobile devices could also shake things up on the shop floor. Diebold has created a new technology that allows consumers to use their mobiles to scan items they wish to purchase while shopping in-store. They can then pay for the goods by simply tapping their phone on a self-checkout unit, alleviating the need to queue.

Retailers Need Exceptional In-Store Experiences

As tech becomes more powerful and relevant to today’s retail landscape, this year’s NRF really drove home the fact that bricks-and-mortar retailers need to offer exceptional in-store experiences in order to survive.

One example of a brand getting it right is Burberry, which, for several years, has integrated its extensive e-tail offerings with its ‘offline’ retail experience. In-store, staff use iPads to showcase products and profile customers, while LED screens stream recent footage from the Burberry runway.

At the other end of the market, a great deal of high-street giant Zara’s success can be put down to its speedy supply chain. The Inditex Group brand adds new lines every fortnight – comparably faster than its competitors – encouraging shoppers to return. Robin Lewis, CEO of the Robin Report, told Retail Dive: “Consumers can’t wait to go to [a Zara] store to see the new lines… Zara’s visitation rate is 17 times a year vs 4 for traditional retailers because [customers] don’t want to miss the nuance of that. That is a form of experience.”

So, what is the store of the future? Join us at SXSW in March as we explore this topic and many more. See more details here.

Reported by Grace Howard

Decoded Fashion - Weekly Stories - Blusho
Image source: SMG

New British beauty e-marketplace Blusho is shaking up the sector with an unusually democratic retail model that merges user-generated content within an affiliate e-commerce model.

The site allows anyone from professional make-up artists to amateurs to become influencers by sharing images of their work within the community, or participating in themed competitions. However, only top contributors – those deemed by Blusho as having particularly high-quality work – are invited into an elite section on the site where they are able to monetise their content.

By using a bespoke tagging system to indicate the products used to create a specific look, shoppers can click directly from the Blusho platform to purchase items, usually via the product brand’s e-commerce site. Blusho takes a commission.

The use of user-generated content (largely selfies) marks a shrewd bid to appeal to teens and millennials – a group increasingly responsive to peer images and reviews rather than retouched model shots or traditional expertise.

While brands using the platform aren’t presently able to initiate direct involvement with users, engaging those with high or rising profiles as brand ambassadors would be a shrewd way to infiltrate the system.

The site also includes a wish-listing tool, a product search and extensive filter options including ‘face parts’, ‘looks’ and ‘brands’ to pinpoint specific interests. The image-driven platform also boasts tutorials – another key lure for YouTube-hungry Gen Y.

Replicating social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, beauty fans can also comment on images and personalise their feed by following favourite artists or scouting new products in the trending section.

The concept taps into a booming market: global beauty spending is forecast to reach around $265bn by 2017, with a growth rate of +3.4% per year, according to global market research firm Lucintel.

Guest post by Katie BaronStefanie Dorfer

Decoded Fashion - Weekly Stories - Macys Millenial Moms
Image source: Macy’s

Trading on the still-growing consumer appetite for out-of-season retail, US department store chain Macy’s has simultaneously debuted three off-price outlet concepts called Backstage in New York’s outer boroughs of Brooklyn, Long Island and Queens.

Averaging about 30,000 sq ft, the locations sell a wide range of previous-season products, including apparel, accessories, home decor and beauty, as well as exclusive newer items at up to an 80% discount.

According to Vanessa LeFebvre, senior vice-president and general merchandise manager of Backstage, the new concept was developed to attract the millennial mother, who it hopes will “graduate” to shopping at full-priced Macy’s stores as she gains more disposable income. Travel-sized products are used as a form of brand introduction, while the weekly influx of new merchandise encourages repeat visits.

Trading explicitly on the social media savvy of its millennial audience, “pin it, snap it, share it” stickers on store mirrors encourage shoppers to share the “treasure hunt” experience of discount discoveries. Additional amenities for this on-the-move generation include mobile checkout handheld devices for employees, as well as sit-down charging stations dubbed “juice bars” located just outside fitting rooms.

Social media also heavily influences the visual merchandising of the Backstage stores. Each features a single prominent display known as the “centre stage” which showcases a weekly product trend, such as ‘Country Life’. These themes are carried throughout the store on multiple Pinterest-esque product display boards.

Three more Backstage stores are set to open in 2015 in an additional Long Island location, the Bronx and New Jersey.

Guest post by Katie Baron


Two major trends stood out at this year’s South by Southwest, Engagement and Relevance and here’s the lowdown on how they will impact brands in 2015.

1 – Engagement, the new storytelling

More than ever, fashion at SXSW is in search of meaning. Style and lifestyle no longer suffice. Brands arise that operate from the belief that fashion is more than representation. The increasingly dominant generation of millennials does not only consist of customers, but also brings forward designers and marketeers, and they are developing a new breed of brands.

The same language

These new brands are associated with concepts such as sustainability, self-expression and mindfulness. Entirely in accordance with the worldview of millennials this is a natural belief that goes without saying. This engagement doesn’t need to be emphasised all the time.

Hidden message

Look at the luxury brand Maiyet, Founder and creative director Kristy Caylor seemingly effortlessly combines a distinct style with traditional elements, sustainable sourcing and collaboration with craftsmanship from countries like India, Indonesia and Kenya. “Buying a two thousand dollar handbag is always about self indulgence.” she says. “We don’t have to wave a flag on sustainability. Millennials are getting it.”

Agile consumer

The previous generation, Generation X, thinks in extremes and sees no credible middle ground between charity or sustainability on the one hand and commerciality on the other. The millennial is much more agile and expects brands to be very commercial and intrinsically socially engaged at the same time.

Less for more

In the wider market this movement of awareness is also visible. In the middle and high fashion segments in the US, a slight decrease in the sales numbers is being reported (1% was mentioned), but people actually spent more (reportedly 5%). Established luxury brands play into this by creating more understated designs and marketing. They are forced to go back to their roots of craftsmanship and eye for detail, conveying their real value much better. Think back to the decision of Louis Vuitton to largely ban the famous monogram from their products.

From the heart

Even mainstream brands are slowly moving along, take high street favourite H&M’s 7 commitments (such as care for fashion conscious customers and selecting and rewarding responsible partners) begin to be credible and contribute to the already strong reasons to buying at H&M.

Fair share

To be clear, we’re not talking about an assumed identity. This conviction comes from within. As the next example, take Cuyana [], a young brand from San Francisco. Founder Karla Gallardo explains that their motto is ‘Fewer, better items’ and that they recently started the ‘Lean closet movement’. Customers who choose ‘lean shipping’ at checkout receive a reusable bag that they can fill up with items that they don’t wear so much anymore. The items are sent to non-profit partners who make sure that the garments are delivered to people who really need them. The philosophy of Cuyana is about awareness and promotes, as they call it, intentional buying.

SXSW featured many brands with a similar mindset, and who certainly made it clear only authenticity survives. Check out The Real Real, Stelle Audio, Red Bubble and Repack.

2 Creating relevance: right place, right time, the right message

Consumers in 2015 aren’t either click or brick. They’re all over the place. They wake up with their smartphone (60% of Americans pick up their phone literally as the first thing they do every day) and they go to bed with it. From their laptop, they ‘like’ one of your posts on Facebook, to their afternoon of shopping in town before crashing on their couch in the evening with their tablet (30%). And when they’re in your bricks & mortar store they order your products using their phone (over 10%!). Because: why would you go stand in a long line at the checkout if you can order online immediately?

Channel chaos?

The word loyalty is hardly known by consumers these days. Confidence boosts the urge to discover and everything is just a click away. Google provides extreme transparency that even the luxury brands have to cope with. Customers want to buy quickly, easily and where and when it suits them.

Targeted content

How do you deal with that as a brand? How do you attract attention? A frequently heard solution at SXSW is personalisation: providing targeted content in the right place at the right time. Relevance, panelists say, is the only way to stand out for your busy customers.

Who, what, where

Big Data – knowing what your customers do, where they are, what they want – was a hot topic during SXSW this year. Big names such as ASOS, Topshop, Birchbox, Lincoln, etc. use the term. But it’s not entirely clear what brands are just flirting with the concept, and who is seriously doing good business with it.

Emotional connection

But knowing what customers do, where they are, what they want is just the start.

The brands that stand out, offer more than this, using inspirational content to reach customers on a personal level and provide an experience (check out the launch of Lincoln in China).

2015 will see the death of the segregated channels. A sale is a sale. Everyone in your organization has to contribute to it, no matter where and how that sale is made. In 2020, 80 percent of the world’s population will own a smartphone that is always online. New marketing will be commonplace: Big Data will have become BD, Internet of Things will be known as IOT. We’ll go from ‘bricks and mortar’ to ‘bricks and mobile’. Offline retail? That will cease to exist.

 Guestpost by Louise Roose and Pieter Jongerius, Fabrique

Warby Parker

More than 85% of millennials correlate their buying decisions to the responsible efforts a brand is making. Moreover, their willingness to recommend a given brand to others also increases in tandem with a brand’s goals towards doing social good. With an affluent, younger generation spelling it out loud that they want capitalism-with-a-conscience, luxury fashion brands can no longer afford to ignore the trend towards social good models. So who in the fash pack has listened to the millennials’ message so far – and how does technology help the cause of fashion’s leading B-corporations and environmentally friendly brands?

One of the best known B-Corporations – a for-profit company that also commits itself to the pursuit of social goals – is Warby Parker, the designer eyewear start-up equally admired for its affordable frames and its socially conscious business model. Not ones to miss out on a burgeoning retail trend, however, Warby Parker have also tapped the ‘fun and serendipity’ of real-life shopping, as they put it: stores in 7 satellite cities as well as showrooms inside boutiques also give customers the option to try on in-store. Technology is equally key to the offline strategy, however: each store uses smart data gleaned from sensors and wi-fi to increase business intelligence – an especially perfect technique when employed in combination with the online shopping data that comes with WP fans’ brand loyalty. Most important of all in the Warby Parker formula is that it’s a business model with heart: when each customer knows that for each pair of glasses bought, a pair will go to a person in need (through VisionSpring), said customer is certainly more likely to share their data with Warby Parker in the first place. Indeed, technology helps certified B-Corp Warby Parker stay ethical, right down to the coding: they have an active open source program, giving away quite a lot of the software that’s created in house. As CEO Dave told The Huffington Post, “Technology is the backbone behind everything we do as a company.”

Established brands aside, who else in the fashion world is set to disrupt the world of e-commerce in the name of social enterprise? Raven + Lily is one such brand – based out of Austin, Texas, it creates ethical fashion and lifestyle products with a mission of empowering women through design. Dedicated to fair trade and eco-friendly designs, each of Kirsten Dickerson and Sophia Lin’s collections refers to a particular country and cause: so, the statement jewellery of the Ethiopia Collection empowers HIV+ women in Ethiopia, while the Kenya Collection’s intricately handbeaded jewellery assists Maasai women from the Esiteti community to eradicate FGM and send girls to school.

The trend towards incorporating efforts towards doing social good within business models – and not just as part of ‘sadvertising’ marketing campaigns – is a challenge we can expect to see more and more fashion brands taking up going into 2015. The freedom and international scope that a strong e-commerce strategy can give such brands has opened up a whole new space for disruptive business models – defying those inherent inequalities that too often define the fashion industry at large.

Reported by Claire Healy