What I'm Reading This Week

Posted on by Melanie Bender

What I'm Reading This Week

Posted on by Melanie Bender

What I'm Reading This Week

Posted on by Melanie Bender

5 High-Fashion Uses for Google Glass

Posted on by Melanie Bender

Google Glass is now on limited release to a select cohort of 'Glass Explorers'. Offering voice control, head-up display and instant sharing, the possibilities of wearable and hands-free augmented reality are pretty darn exciting. And while there are serious real world problems this tech can be deployed to address, it also has exciting potential to change the way we shop and dress. With that in mind - and amidst rumors the Google may be opening its own retail stores - here's a look at high-fashion problems at every step of the consumer journey that Glass can be put to work to solve.

1. Show Me What I Want

We have access to literally millions of products at any given time. So oftentimes what we want is out there, we just aren't finding it. Imagine an app that brings personalized shopping to anywhere you go: storing your 'of the moment' looks from every source (street and celeb style, editorial, Pinterest), indexing them (black and white blouson top, gray distressed jeans), and alerting and directing you to similar styles in the store through geocoding and inventory data. That's a win-win for consumers - easier and content-rich shopping experience - and stores - increased conversions and average spend.

Get the Look

2. Tell Me What I Already Have

Over 90% of women own something with the tags still on. We step into the store environment - style and sensory overload! - and without our closets in mind, may leave with items totally impractical for our real life. Now how much better would that decision-making process be if via Glass we could bring our whole closet with us into every store? An app could store every item we own, browsable by style (casual or cocktail) and category (tops and bottoms) for an in-store reality check on what we really need and will wear. And why not make that closet even smarter by associating with every item a video clip of you in it and links to the items you'd pair it with, and record of the last time and place your wore it.

My (Dream) Closet

3. Help Me Ask My Friends

Women shop in packs for a reason: our friends will be brutally honest ("Hon, those white super skinnies are a don't") when a sales associate may not. But let's face it, oftentimes we're going at it solo. Teleportation may not yet have enabled instant appearances by our most trusted style advisors, but Google Glass can. Imagine a social shopping app that brings the video conference experience in-store by sharing real-time video with friends for input as you're browsing racks or trying on looks. Take this one step further, and it also makes a compelling business plan for personal stylists: expanding to virtual services via Glass to allow them to take on more clients while streamlining operations.

Confessions of a Shopaholic

4. Do the Dirty Work For Me

Ecommerce has drawn consumers away from in-store for reasons of convenience (anywhere, anytime) but also availability of information. For most products I can check out a detailed description, user reviews and product availability with the click of a button. That access is leading to an increased consumer expectation for information before making a purchase, which carries in-store, as well. With this in mind, retailers are already moving into the space of augmented in-store reality via mobile app, but imagine the jump in experience if it were done via Glass: I scan any barcode in the store and up pops product reviews, price comparisons, user and retail-generated imagery, and associated products without the disconnect of a device or screen. The app could even add a layer of personalization, offering tailored content specific to my profile,  preferences and history: "We have this dress in stock in your size and it will be waiting in a dressing room with your name on it, along with some tops you might like to go with those jeans you bought last week."

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5. Tell Me What To Wear

For many, the most significant question we ask ourselves in the morning will not be 'What will I eat,' but 'What will I WEAR!' It's a complex, daily decision informed by many variables: what's on my agenda, the weather, who I'll see, how I'll get there... Make a misstep, and I shudder to think of the consequences (kidding... kind of). So how about an app that checked my calendar and tasks (business or social, upscale restaurant or patio cafe, walking or driving, swing by the store after work), checked the weather, and gave me a daily cheat sheet on what to wear. And how about even syncing with (1) and (2) above to give me some outfit ideas informed by my current style inspirations and what's in my closet. Note this could exist outside of Glass, but controlling via voice and head-up display makes it sooo much more fun for getting dressed in the AM.

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What I'm Reading This Week: April 12, 2013

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What I'm Reading This Week: April 5, 2013

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What I'm Reading This Week: March 29, 2013

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What I'm Reading This Week: March 22, 2013

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What I'm Reading This Week: March 15, 2013

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SxSW: Reinvisioning Fashion

Posted on by Melanie Bender

SxSW is a breeding ground for new thinking - some pragmatic, some far out, but always interesting.  Among the things being reinvisioned this week is the future of fashion and retail.  Social media has turned the brand-consumer relationship upside-down: who imagined shopping via tweetchatting with Diane, or real-time virtual attendance at pretty much any show at Fashion Week.  The consumer-brand relationship is fundamentally different now than it was even 2 years ago, and those jumps will happen several times over before we see a new decade, or even a new Creative Director at Dior.  

At SxSW, two themes in fashion consumer experience innovation emerged:

(1) Changing the shopping experience, catering to consumers in new ways possible through tech advancements.  Think: mirrors that transform into interactive screens (which Burberry's London flagship unveiled last year) and product recommendations for the perfect nail polish shade to match that fab dress you just bought.  For customers, it means a more personalized, more interactive and easier shopping experience.  For retailers, it means more and better connected data for improved understanding and attribution of the complex cycle of consumer acquisition and engagement.  

 Burberry's London Flagship

Burberry's London Flagship

(2) Changing the paradigm of influence and access within the fashion industry through non-traditional channels.  A decade ago the power to define trends and participate in the fashion process was limited to a select few, namely designers, editors and buyers.  Today's dynamic grants veritable authority (even the ability to decide what styles go into production, and ) through emerging social-based channels.  These new funnels of influence include socia media platforms (Twitter, Facebook and about 13 others), influencers (bloggers and vloggers du jour), and user communities (Nasty Gal's The Click), which clever brands are leveraging to great success.  (Note measurement here is far from perfect, but declaring they have no value is akin to denying global warming.) There is an inherent tension between fashion, which gets value from exclusivity, and social media, a democratizing force.  But as consumers evolve to view themselves as their own brands - thinking about where and what they share about themselves - they will expect more and more access and involvement within the brands that are marketing to them.

 Nasty Gal's The Click

Nasty Gal's The Click

Of the themes shared, it's important to note that there are no hard and fast lines between the two - both are blurred, and in fact are most successful when blurred, providing a connected, omni-channel experience which has advantages for consumer and retailer, alike.

In the coming weeks I will dig into these SxSW trends in more detail and what the next 5 years in fashion may look like.  For instant gratification, check out some live tweets from SxSW's fashion-centric panels.

What I'm Reading This Week: March 8, 2013

Posted on by Melanie Bender

The 5 Most Innovative Things at Fashion Week

Posted on by Melanie Bender

With livestreams now the standard, here are the top ways brands are continuing to push innovation via Fashion Week. 

1. Topshop and Google+ find interactive bliss (London)

The most hotly anticipated show this season was anything but couture.  Topshop partnered with Google+ to shatter whatever remained of the fashion show-public divide, unveiling interactive experiences at every step of the way.  Building on last season's Customize the Catwalk initiative with Facebook (engaging over 2 million online viewers), Topshop's show included 3-D Google Map technology giving access to the Tate Modern show space, a "Be The Model" photo booth in the flagship Oxford Street store allowing customers to try on Topshop outfits and create share-able animated GIFs, Google Hangouts between fashion bloggers, Topshop fans, and celebrities like Kate Bosworth and Pixie Geldof, live-broadcasts of model’s-eye video via tiny camera fitted to the models, and a "Be The Buyer" custom Google+ Hangout app allowing fans to 'swipe' runway outfits into a wishlist, in the process providing telling data for determining what styles actually should go to retail.

Topshop's show has garnered more than 4 million viewers, and raised a startling bar for retail giants looking to make a splash with runway (Victoria's Secret, we mean you).

2. Fashion hosts hackers (New York)

Dueling publishing houses Hearst and Conde Nast both debuted fashion-centric hackathons at NYFW this season.  Hearst's Fashion Hack (in which Post+Beam competed in) granted devs access to the Hearst API in a quest for innovative new uses of the behemoth data.  Conde Nast's Fashion Hackathon sought app solutions to specific issues facing designers, as defined by industry guiding body the CFDA.

The innovation here is on two levels: firstly, the prototype apps themselves, with standouts mixing fashion choices with musical taste via Spotify, pulling data from social networks such as Twitter and Instagram, and bringing the magazine format to user-curated online platforms.  The second and perhaps more telling innovation, is that of the publishing houses themselves.  Amid the unclear future of print media and under-monetized online sites, Hearst and Conde Nast are making a clear effort to adapt to changes in the industry.  They have the content, but need to look outside the traditional business model to remain relevant and profitable.  Here, that means seeking novel ideas for tapping into the quick-growing mobile market and redefining reader-media interaction. 

 Hearst Fashion Hackathon winner, Drobe.

Hearst Fashion Hackathon winner, Drobe.

3. Vine gives a front-row seat (Everywhere)

With a continual focus on live reporting, it was no surprise Twitter's new video sharing app Vine emerged as a platform du jour at Fashion Week this season. Vine seems uniquely suited to Fashion Week coverage, as the looping rotation allows capture of multiple looks while giving viewers a sense of movement of the clothes.  Vine use during the week included fashion press offering a real life runway experience, as well as designers giving a behind-the-scenes glimpse at the week's action.  Despite the added value of efficiency and movement, some may still prefer experiencing Fashion Week from afar via imagery - nymag.com coverage even offers multiple shots and angles in a single frame - rather than the jumpy snippets of Vine.  As many a fashion vet will attest, runway shows are often more impressive in pictures then in person (hello: lines, 60 minute delays, awkward viewing angles, and, oh yeah, more lines).

4. Alexander Wang crowdsources with Samsung (New York)

In recent months, all eyes have been on Alexander Wang as the design wunderkind embarks on his first season as dual head of his own label and creative director for Balenciaga.  Amidst that mayhem, Wang also unveiled a new project with Samsung delivering a crowsourced handbag.  Using the GALAXY Note II's Create & Share function, Wang collated a print from doodles shared by his fashion insider friends, which will be turned into a limited-edition bag in stores this summer.  Crowdsourced design is nothing new, but remains rare among prestige brands - a mass-designed prestige good is inherently oxymoronic.  However using an elite technology (the GALAXY Note II), an even more elite 'crowd' (including supermodel Coco Rocha), and limited distribution elevates this item above the fray.  Or perhaps Wang was just low on creative juices running his dual posts and needed a little design help from his friends. 

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5. Kenneth Cole goes super-social (New York)

The message was clear: Kenneth Cole loves social media.  But loving social media and leveraging it successfully are of course two separate things.  After a seven year hiatus from the runway, Kenneth Cole returned to Fashion Week keen to show that he hadn't missed a beat, embracing and even incorporating the connected consumer.  The concept was perhaps best illustrated by an opening video delivering the message: 

During the @kennethcole runway show, out of respect for other members of the audience please make sure your phones and tablets are switched ON. This show will embrace the intrusive nature of social media.

Like many, Kenneth Cole's show was livestreamed and allowed virtual viewers to snap a photo of the runway and tweet it with a custom message and the right hashtag (technology provided by Bume Box).  The livestream also appeared on a wall in their SoHo store, with participation bolstered by the added incentive of $1 for every tweet donated to charity and the chance to win $500 shopping session.  Lest you needed one last reminder, models walked the finale with smartphones in hand.

Kenneth Cole NYFW
 
 
 

What I'm Reading This Week: February 22, 2013

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What I'm Reading This Week: February 15, 2013

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Live from New York, it's Fashion Week!

Posted on by Melanie Bender

At New York Fashion Week Fall 2013, the week in pictures...

Kenneth Cole returns to fashion week with a bang... er, make that a buzz.

 Finale (and favorite look) at Cushnie et Ochs.

Finale (and favorite look) at Cushnie et Ochs.

 Our interpretation of Winter boots.

Our interpretation of Winter boots.

 The killer backdrop at Y-3, a set worthy of a show.

The killer backdrop at Y-3, a set worthy of a show.

 One up-side to 'the storm of the century': a beautiful topper at the Mondrian Soho's greenhouse restaurant.

One up-side to 'the storm of the century': a beautiful topper at the Mondrian Soho's greenhouse restaurant.

 Fashion Week math:  400 hours of design + 100 hours of planning + 5 hours of set up = 8 minutes of show

Fashion Week math:  400 hours of design + 100 hours of planning + 5 hours of set up = 8 minutes of show

The top looks seen from the week...

From top, left to right: Altuzarra, Altuzarra, The Row, Jason Wu, Jason Wu, Marchesa, Narciso Rodriguez, Oscar de la Renta, Oscar de la Renta, Proenza Schouler, Reed Krakoff, Victoria Beckham, Victoria Beckham, BCBG Max Azria, Theyskens Theory, Tibi

And the top tracks heard...

Alexander Wang: "I Wanna Be Down," Brandy

Cushnie Et Ochs: "Witching Hour," XXYYXX

Jason Wu: "A Song For You," Amy Winehouse

Creatures of the Wind: "Low Dogg," Micachu and the Shapes

Zac Posen: "Le Temps de L'Amour," Francoise Hardy

What I'm Reading This Week: February 8, 2013

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What I'm Reading This Week: February 1, 2013

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What I'm Reading This Week: January 25, 2013

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Prestige Brands and the Chinese consumer

Posted on by Melanie Bender

The L2 ThinkTank is one of the thought-leaders in marketing that I respect most.  A digital thinktank with ties to NYU, their findings are data-based, insightful and actionable.  And expensive: an annual membership runs well into the five-digits.  Given that, it was a privilege to spend January 24th participating in L2's Focus 2013 Clinic at NYU.  Modules ranged in topic from China, to the changing landscape of retail, and the enterprise effect.

Dedicating one-third of the clinic scope to this economy of the East, the message was clear: brands can't afford to ignore the Chinese consumer.  The Chinese development story is staggering, going from virtually no development (Shanghai, as rice paddies) to the second largest economy in the world in just 30 years.  How and why did this happen?  Doug Guthrie, Dean of The George Washington School of Business, identifies the pillars of gradualismdecentralization, foreign investment, cross-industry strategizing, and public private partnerships.  If how they got there is known, where they will go from here is less so, as political uncertainty, decentralization (a double-edged sword), digital isolationism, and the flight of capital raise are raising questions as to the sustainability of China's economic growth.

Looking beyond the policies and politics, what does this mean for brands, for the beauty, luxury and retail companies of the US looking to tap into China's 1.3 billion consumers?

L2's research has yielded key learnings on the Chinese market:
1. Digital is ground zero for targeting affluential Chinese consumers.  E-commerce is growing in China (Bobbie Brown, Shiseido, Coach, Ferragamo, DVF and Valentino entered the Chinese e-market in 2012) but still largely untapped.
2. Search engine market share is decentralized (no go-to Google), as is the social media ecosystem.  Social media engagement rates are also notably lower, however video consumption is huge.
3. Email marketing (a traditional focus of efforts in the US) is not as effective in China, showing lower open and click through rates.
4. Real time platforms are emerging.  WeChat reaches 70% of 3G phones in China, offering more of a 2-way communication platform.
5. China's social media ecosystem is fragmented, with the US power-players Facebook, Twitter and YouTube being replaced by multiple localized counterparts.
6. China is mobile, with 38% of internet users accessing it solely through mobile device.

The Chinese luxury consumer is young, digitally native, and researching goods before making a purchase.  (Sounds like the US, no?)  So if a successful China strategy IS a successful digital strategy, what does THAT look like?
1. It understands their tech.  Lower internet speeds plus more access through mobile devices requires content be mindful of slower load speeds.
2. It's platform agnostic.  Brands need to invest in digital content that can be broadcast across fragmented the social media ecosystem.
3. There is a mobile for everything you do (literally).
4. It combines earned with pay-to-play (as with Post+Beam's earned + paid + shared + owned approach to marketing), from search engine banner ads to local celebrity endorsement.
5. E-commerce is the endgame.  Funneling to e-commerce is shown to be the top driver of digital success across platforms.
6. It uses local payment systems (credit card penetration is low in China)

China is a complex, fragmented and uncertain economy, but the consumer potential makes it impossible (or unwise) for US brands to ignore.  Brands are doing it successfully, but the approach must be entirely tailored to the Chinese consumer - not a copy-and-paste of US efforts - and incredibly well-informed.