Near-Field Communication (NFC)

Decoded Fashion - Weekly Stories - Topshop Wearables
Image source: Digital Trends

With Apple seemingly determined to push the Apple Watch into fashion territory by collaborating with the likes of Hermès, it would be easy to think that wearables are only set to rise in the ranks of the fashion world. Thus far, however, most attempts at ‘stylish’ wearables have fallen flat, with common complaints being that they’re too gimmicky, impractical or simply unattractive. But in a new partnership with Barclaycard’s bPay, Topshop has created a line of accessories that utilise contactless payment technology and – most crucially to the style-savvy consumer – look current, fun and unassuming all at the same time.

The collection of small accessories, which includes smartphone cases, key rings and wristbands, each contain a bPay contactless chip. This is linked to the owner’s bPay digital wallet, meaning they can securely pay for items by just tapping their accessory on a contactless payment system.

It’s the design values that make this fashion-tech collaboration so appealing: instead of overcomplicating the tech elements (which seems to be a one-way route to gimmickry), Topshop and bPay have focused on creating a product that appears markedly non-tech-like. Those who consider items like the Apple Watch to be unattractive or out of their price range could easily be swayed by the unobtrusive nature of a colourful Topshop x bPay phone case, sticker or key ring. Perhaps the best way to lure the aesthetically minded into the world of wearables is to make them a bit less wearable.

In an industry that tends to see high-end brands dictating trends to the high street – the lower end of the fashion food chain – it’s interesting to see Topshop approaching the relatively unchartered territory of wearables, demonstrating more savvy than many luxury labels. Perhaps the high-street giant’s main demographic, the younger generation, is the main reason Topshop has got it so right.

However, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen wearables designed for the fashion-oriented. Topshop’s gimmick-free accessories are in a similar vein to the NFC-enabled jewellery showcased on Henry Holland’s S/S 16 runway, which he reportedly designed with a “vain, fashion-conscious customer” in mind. “We’re at the stage where [wearables have their] own kind of recognisable look,” he told Wareable.com. “People have been turned off by it.”

Taking non-recognisable wearables to a whole new level, though, is Project Jacquard. Set to release its first lines in spring 2016, this brainchild of Levi’s and Google uses smart textiles – but not as we know them. The products are created with conductive yarns, which, once interwoven with natural and synthetic yarns like cotton and polyester, make for decidedly ‘normal’-looking fabrics.

Meanwhile, Kovert Designs’ jewellery pieces are wearables with a difference, designed to give users a digital detox. Kovert’s founder Kate Unsworth describes the smart jewellery as a “modern-day pager”, devised to eliminate the urge to check one’s phone notifications constantly, and instead just be notified about the incoming messages, calls and updates that actually matter. Kovert’s pieces resemble costume jewellery but are far from gaudy – these are beautifully designed items that could easily be worn from day-to-day without losing their appeal.

Reported by Grace Howard

Decoded Fashion - Weekly Stories - Apple Pay
Image source: Apple Pay

Since the phenomenon of online shopping gained traction, retail analysts have long been predicting the demise of traditional bricks-and-mortar stores. But while some retailers have buckled under the pressure placed upon them by their online competitors, others continue to thrive despite their old-school approach to selling. Some formerly online-only retailers have ripped up the rule book and opened bricks-and-mortar stores after becoming successful on the web; brands like Bonobos, Nasty Gal and Warby Parker have all successfully injected their online presence into a tangible, real world setting.

Given our current financial climate, a good price is paramount. Even in the exclusive domain of luxury fashion, the popularity of discount sites like Yoox and The Outnet proves that consumers are increasingly concerned by cost. If e-commerce has the monopoly on bargains, how can traditional fashion retailers ever compete? Some have decided the answer is to use clever in-store tech in order to enhance the customer experience and, of course, to drive sales. Since technology and fashion are still growing together and learning to play nicely with each other, some stores’ approach to tech is rather gimmicky. Others, however, have got it just right. Here are some innovations worth implementing.

Body scanning to get the bespoke look

Selfridges was the first major retailer to introduce body scanners to its stores back in 2011. Since then, the slightly gimmicky, clunky concept of body scanning to achieve perfectly fitted outfits has become more sophisticated and impressive. Before creating a bespoke suit for a client, French tailor Les Nouveaux Ateliers invites them into one of its stores for a quick body scan, thus eliminating the lengthier (and slightly less accurate) processes of having your measurements taken by hand or having to send in your own measurements.

Faster payments; easier shopping experiences

Accepting NFC payments like Apple Pay helps to bring physical stores into the 21st century as well as making for a more efficient shopping experience. The trend for NFC payment has been bubbling under the surface for a while, but the fact that Apple has now endorsed it with Apple Pay is a likely sign that mobile payments will soon become commonplace amongst all types of retailers. A year since its launch, Apple Pay is growingly successful in the US; the service only launched this July in the UK, but retailers like Marks & Spencer, Liberty of London and New Look are already on board.

Analytics go offline

One of the e-tailer’s greatest advantages is their ability to easily track their customer’s buying habits and target them with appropriate marketing material. This invaluable data is much more complicated to track in physical stores, but analytics tools also have the potential to shake up the traditional shopping landscape. Some retailers have already experimented with heat mapping to track customers’ movements throughout their stores – an invaluable insight into people’s shopping habits and to see which products garner the most attention on the shop floor – and there is much scope for this sort of technology to develop.

Beating e-tailers’ delivery times

Barneys is following in Net-a-Porter’s footsteps by launching a same-day delivery service, giving its moneyed clientele the option for almost-instant gratification in the form of designer goods. At present, New York-based customers need to visit Barneys’ online store in order to set up a delivery slot, but the same-day delivery concept also has the potential to add a string to the bow of bricks-and-mortar retailers. While many customers will try on an item in-store and then buy it if they like it, others will go home to take time to think. Instead of having to return to the store at a later date if they eventually decide to buy the garment, it would be better if the customer had the option to simply call the retailer, or visit their website, to get that must-have item delivered there and then.

While many customers will try on an item in-store and then buy it if they like it, others will go home to take time to think. Instead of having to return to the store at a later date if they eventually decide to buy the garment, it would be better if the customer had the option to simply call the retailer, or visit their website, to get that must-have item delivered there and then.

Want to know more about how retailers are reimagining the possibilities of retail using tech? Join us next week at the Decoded Fashion New York Summit. Find out more here.

Reported by Grace Howard

Decoded Fashion - Weekly Stories - Contactless Jacket
Image source: Lyle & Scott

British banking corporation Barclays has adapted its near field communication (NFC) payment technology for the wearables market – as demonstrated by the Contactless Jacket, created with Scottish luxury menswear label Lyle & Scott.

Barclays’ NFC mobile payment service bPay allows customers to send money from any bank account to a digital wallet. The wallet is accessible via a number of devices, including a wristband, a key fob, the bPay sticker (which can be stuck onto items such as smartphones) – and now the Contactless Jacket.

The jacket has been designed with a small pouch in the sleeve cuff, where a Barclays bPay chip can be kept. This will enable the wearer to make payments of up to £30 ($46) by simply touching their cuff on any contactless payment terminal.

While the jacket may seem little more than a gimmick to some, the project is grounded in a solid appetite for wearable tech; the market is set to boom, with units to ship projected to reach 116 million devices by 2017 (Juniper Research, 2014).

As contactless payment becomes increasingly popular (UK shoppers have spent more than £2.5bn ($3.8bn) on contactless cards so far this year), point-of-sale solutions that permit quick, convenient transactions are more relevant than ever.

Guest post Stylus.com by Katie Baron

Decoded Fashion - Weekly Stories - Henry Holland
Image source: Visa Europe

It’s time to say “ta-ta” to the newly housed LFW! London Fashion Week felt refreshed in its new Soho location, with another wave of brands ensuring tech was embraced in the British fashion capital. So, who was killing it in the digital stakes this season?

Burberry’s Snap-Show

Given its track record of using tech to its advantage, it was little surprise that Burberry became the first brand to showcase its latest collection on Snapchat. Ahead of its S/S 16 show on Monday, the brand launched a featured Snapchat story that gave fans a preview of the collection on the app before it hit the runway, plus a look backstage. Models Cara Delevingne, Suki Waterhouse and Jourdan Dunn, as well as Burberry CEO Christopher Bailey, also featured in the Snapchat collection.

Hunter’s Periscope Headliners

British heritage brand Hunter opted to use Periscope in the build-up to its S/S 16 Hunter Original show. The Twitter-owned, live video-streaming app gave Hunter the opportunity to showcase the bands lined up to play at the event – including Fear of Men and Tropics – before it began, as well as some behind-the-scenes action.

It wasn’t all done with existing Hunter fans in mind, though – the brand’s creative director Alasdhair Willis told Wonderland Magazine he hoped to reach “a broader audience that might not traditionally engage with London Fashion Week”.

Topshop’s Pinterest Palettes

Clued into taking the power of fashion week beyond the catwalk, Topshop collaborated with Pinterest to create Pinterest Palettes – a collection of shoppable Pinterest boards that use technology to spot emerging colour trends on the runways.

Topshop.com customers can also use Pinterest Palettes to find their “colour DNA” by submitting one of their own Pinterest boards to the system; customers then receive personalised shopping recommendations from Topshop based on their colour preferences.

Pinterest Palettes will remain online for the duration of the remaining Fashion Weeks and will conclude on October 8.

Henry Holland’s Invisible Tech

In an interesting move, House of Holland partnered with Visa Europe Collab to create what Henry Holland dubbed “connected jewellery”. At the brand’s S/S 16 show on Saturday, costume rings embedded with NFC technology were given to VIP guests, enabling them to shop the collection directly from the front row.

When guests – including Alexa Chung and Daisy Lowe – decided they liked something on the catwalk, they could buy it instantly by sending out a signal through their jewellery. “For me, it was about making the technology invisible, so that the items are desirable pieces you’d want to wear regardless,” said Henry Holland.

IMG to Step Up London’s Tech Game

Finally, it has just been announced that IMG, the corporate brain behind many of New York Fashion Week’s best tech moments this season, has become a patron of the British Fashion Council. Expect to see bigger, better fashion-tech projects in future seasons at London Fashion Week.

Interested in who’s innovating at Fashion Week? Next month in New York, Decoded Fashion and W Magazine will launch the Fashion Futures Awards, celebrating talent across the fashion and technology industries. Find out more here.

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