I've yet to make it down to the annual SXSW festival, as it always seems to coincide with a vacation or a period when I have too much work. So I was psyched when Elizabeth Canon, founder of Fashion's Collective, organized a recap event, as I knew she'd be focusing on the highlights that were most relevant to what I do and am interested in. Here's an even more concise recap of the recap, from my perspective:
Ok so it seems like all we've been talking about for the past 6-8 months has been big data - how to collect it and perhaps more importantly, how to leverage and maximize it to a brand's benefit. Whether you decide to spend only your time analyzing, hire an agency to do it for you, or even hire staff to create custom solutions tailored exactly to your business needs - it will be time/resources well spent. Ignore the elephant in the room, and you'll be missing out on opportunities and spending much more on customer acquisition. Here's an impactful statistic: it's 10x cheaper to reactivate an existing customer than to bring in a new customer.
A crucial part of leveraging and interpreting all the data your website/email/social media can put at your fingertips is putting it in the context of predictive analytics. Or rather, setting up a protocol so that your data is organized in a way that you can predict future behaviors. For example, don't ignore the "silent unsubscribes" (customers who haven't opted out but no longer open your emails.) That group is likely to eventually opt-out, unless you create a program with tailored messaging to bring them back into the fold. Customizing your message to a user's behavior is key - but creating welcome emails, cart abandonment responses and replenishment/reorder alerts all require different templates and approaches, one size doesn't fit all. If this sounds like too much work, consider another impressive stat: predictive analytics increases average click-through rates from 10% to 30%.
Wearable tech certainly isn't a new trend, but what's new is the way the tech companies are approaching it. In the past, startups would come up with a concept and then hope that fashion companies would adopt it. An example of this is Everpurse, a company that doesn't create purses, but rather the tech and supporting apps for a lining that is enhanced with RFID object tracking. So your purse can charge your phone AND tell you where your keys are, for example. They were at SXSW last year, but came back this year with actual product from collaborations with fashion companies, so that other companies could better visualize the opportunity. Another interesting example is Ballantine's, who partnered with QD Circuit, a startup that creates the tech for LED screen tees that they call tshirtOS. Ballantine's commissioned a limited edition set of 25 tees with the tech, and distributed them to tastemakers around the world. The concept is that you control what your tshirt says, depending on your mood and what you'd like to project. Ideally, once there is more demand, and orders, the high cost of the tech will be amortized and a full line can be made available to the public. And of course, the most buzzed about example of this is the newly announced collaboration between Google Glass and Luxottica. The startups need the fashion companies to integrate the tech in a clever/hip way, so that an audience beyond techies and early adopters will become engaged and interested.
THE CHANGING RETAIL LANDSCAPE
This isn't a new headline either, but e-commerce continues to evolve and cause new behaviors among consumers at a local, national and global level. Even though e-commerce currently represents a paltry 8% of the $3 trillion retail industry, online activity has become even more deeply entrenched in the sales cycle. Brick and mortar storefronts remain the most important retail portal for a brand, but consumers are using their smartphones in increasing numbers (50-60%!), to compare prices, get reviews, etc. as part of their in-store experience. Constant access to the internet, via our computers, phones and tablets, represents the biggest shift in retail in 60 years, since the highway system was created, enabling development of suburbs and consequently, shopping malls to serve the suburban population.
What's new for 2014 is the trend to recognize that online and instore aren't mutually exclusive, but rather each interaction with a brand is a session. Different sessions in different environments should help to build brand loyalty using the best of what works for each medium/platform. The sum of these experiences is a consumer's overall impression and relationship. So, for example, brick and mortar stores are increasingly incorporating tech into their storefronts in order to enhance, improve and innovate the retail experience. From mobile checkout to interactive touchscreens to behavior tracking, technology allows for easier access to comprehensive product/brand information and provides data that can be analyzed to address holes or missed opportunities, as well as to measure what's working as far as foot traffic and engagement. Some brands, like Rebecca Minkoff, are also now using tech to test out potential brick and mortar locations. Empty storefronts, installed with an interactive touchscreen in the main display window, have been set up by many brands to measure potential foot traffic and engagement. If you're interested in this sort of testing, definitely check out Westfield Labs - they seem to be the pioneers with the right tech and relationships with major malls & department stores.
VISUAL & CONTENT-BASED COMMERCE
So now it's not just about social media, it's about meaningful, measurable social media efforts. From tying in product to social media posts (click to buy), to shoppable content in video and other media, content needs to be more than just interesting, it needs to be robust and strategically linked to the bottom line. In fact, since it's been shown that featured user-generated drives more sales, it makes sense that platforms like Olapic have popped up, allowing brands to easily curate and link user-generated content. These tools are only as good as what users produce, which means there needs to be a strategy behind the content that inspires them, but I think it's a promising next-step to higher engagement and a measurable boost to the bottom line. Another interesting tool is "The Latest," by Mulu, which allows you to turn any kind of content you produce into a shoppable experience. Again, there has to be a strategy behind usage, ensuring that campaigns that promote temporary events, like a sale, don't leave behind broken links when the promotion ends. But with regular planning, maintenance and oversight, it's getting easier and easier to implement content that creates interest, passion AND drive to sales, with measurable results.
COMPELLING VS. ADDICTIVE
To close her portion of the presentation, Elizabeth talked a little about "Secrets of Addictive Storytelling." For the past 5 or so years, the adjective that we've seen in practically any article about good content has been "compelling." But while compelling serves to capture initial attention, it doesn't necessarily lead to future engagement. Addictive content, on the other hand, activates and engages on a deeper, more emotional level, so that's the new concept to strive for.
Since we consume around 60 (!) hours of content/month, and check our phones about 100x a day, there's definitely the desire and space for brands to come up with content that fosters a connection and cuts through the clutter of all the other media one could be consuming instead. That means spending a lot of time and research figuring out what your customers want to learn about, and not just what you think you should be sharing. We may believe that since heritage is part of a luxury brand's DNA, that means stories about heritage should be communicated to our fans. But people choose to immerse themselves in content that aligns with visions of themselves (Dr. Bob Deutsch's biggest lesson!), that they can aspire to, that corresponds with their life experiences and connecting with their friends and loved ones. So if your content strategy revolves around just communicating the tenets of your brand architecture, think again. The right approach is to take those tenets and figure out how to translate them into relatable content - a great example is the now dated but still relevant Hermes scarf campaign. Discover our beautiful product and see how it works with your personal style/lifestyle - that's taking things in a direction end consumers can really relate to.
Since I had so many notes on this event, I'll be doing a separate post on the fascinating presentation by Mike Glaser of Google Art Copy & Code that followed, stay tuned!