5 Things You May Have Missed This Week

by Georgia Buchanan

1. SXSW: Some must-reads

The key themes to surface at SXSW this year ranged from Artificial Intelligence to the rise of Generation Z; Conversational Commerce to Collaboration. Whilst we weren’t in attendance ourselves (next year!), here are some of the best articles we’ve read this week to get our fix…

Why YouTube is a More Important Platform than Snapchat for Luxury Brands

Generation Z: 10 Stats from SXSW You Need to Know

What do Trends from SXSW mean for Customer Experience?

SXSW: Refinery 29’s School of Self Expression is a Fashion-Tech Playground

SXSW spotlight: Best practices from Nordstrom, REI for mobile retail integration

Why the new crop of E-commerce Brands should really scare Traditional Retailers: Data and Social Media are Changing the Game

‘Data is the New Oil’ and more from SXSW

2. Amazon adapts to the Selfie-Taking Generation

This week it was revealed that Amazon has filed a patent application for technology to facilitate customers to make payments by taking a selfie. It may seem like the world has gone mad to some - who would have imagined a few years ago the extent to which the ‘selfie’ would take over our world? - BUT in reality it is actually a fairly smart idea.

The online retail giant has stated that this development will help to improve web security and minimise the risk of hacking. “While many conventional approaches rely on password entry for user authentication, these passwords can be stolen or discovered by other persons who can impersonate the user for any of a variety of tasks” Amazon stated in its submission to the US Patent and Trademark Office. The company goes on to explain the flaws in also having to remember said passwords, often by saving them on one’s devices and thus making them easy to breach. They argue that their two-photo selfie payment system is a far more secure method in which to purchase items as it relies solely on facial recognition, and faces, unlike passwords, cannot be stolen and used by impersonators. We hope.

“Further, the entry of these passwords on portable devices is not user friendly in many cases, as the small touchscreen or keyboard elements can be difficult to accurately select using a relatively large human finger, and can require the user to turn away from friends or co-workers when entering a password, which can be awkward or embarrassing in many situations”. Personally, I think this is a pretty lame argument against standard password entry. We’ve managed it for years and it’s really not that hard. Phone screens are fairly huge nowadays so I don’t see why it’s any harder to enter a password than it is to send a text message, and very few people struggle with that. I’ve also personally never been in a situation where someone around me has had to turn away from the group to purchase something on their phone resulting in terrible embarrassment for all involved. Having said that, I don’t see the harm in having a selfie payment option if you so wish. Apart from our world’s continuing descent into total narcissism.

3. E-Commerce Apps adapt to the Tinder-Dating Generation

After the success of Tinder (for the founders maybe more so than a lot of the users…), e-commerce apps have taken a leaf out of the dating app’s book and started using the same ‘swipe right’ interface. Swipe right if you like an item, swipe left to pass. Simples. This design has been adopted by a huge number of apps now, from fashion-selling Stylect, to restaurant reservation platform Nibbly.

Beth Wond, managing director for Bijou Commerce, started developing a “Tinder for e-commerce” interface after recognising the potential for fashion retailers last year. 300 fashion businesses approached her in that first year alone, wanting to implement the design, as they could see how it replicates how a shopper behaves in store.

“When you walk through a clothes shop, you quickly flick through each item on the rack and decide what you like or dislike. When optimised, the Tinder swipe brings that shopping experience to mobile” said Wond. The item-by-item layout can be more aesthetically pleasing than having a number of items laid out at once, and also means that shoppers are likely to see (and actually process) more products per visit. “When the simple, clear swiping mechanics are combined with an optimised checkout process, they can deliver conversion rates three to five times higher than typical mobile site benchmarks” Wond added.

Another app that has utilised this interface is Grabble, a company that FashTech has worked closely with over the last couple of years. Daniel Murray, co-founder of Grabble (and speaker on the panel discussion “Clicking the ‘Buy’ Button” at our Summit next month), said that “‘Tinder for fashion’ had the best ‘wow’ factor and the [customer loyalty] results, so it was the outright logical choice for us and a clear winner for its simplicity”.

Despite the obvious pros of this interface, some are not convinced. Ryan Matzner, app maker and director of Fueled, thinks that it is a “horrible fad. Shopping is different from dating because a product cannot talk to you. Missing that dosage, these apps need to have additional utilities aside from discovery”. But essentially, it comes down to using whichever interface is the best fit for your business, and also knowing what’s ‘hot’ at the moment and adapting to the trends of the times.

Grabble’s Daniel Murray says “We aren’t married to [Tinder] at all. We will go with whatever user experience defends our position best and enables our customers through the best possible experience at the given time. Swiping is not something we’ll stick with eventually, but for now it works well”.

4. Coco Rocha on the Future of Fashion Tech

Spotted at SXSW, international supermodel Coco Rocha had a lot to say on the integration of fashion and technology. Introduced as “the world’s first digital supermodel” at the ‘Why Art Needs Science: Fashion and Tech’s Future” talk this week, Coco described how she’s always felt she needed technology in her career in fashion. She has been a champion of social media from the beginning, and has always wanted to study tech.

“Fashion thinks it’s forward-thinking and changing, but we are wearing what our moms used to wear,” she said. “The newest idea that we ever had was mass production”. The model has called for more innovation in production, namely in the implementation of 3D printing to allow the fashion world to create on-demand, one-off garments. This way our clothing is bespoke and unique; it is the antidote to mass-production. She is also a fan of virtual reality and the possibilities that it can present in the fashion world. Like FashTech, Coco wants to push the boundaries of these two overlapping worlds, and see how innovations in tech can change the way that the fashion industry constructs, creates, and markets clothing.

If you, like Coco and us, are interested in the way that 3D printing, virtual reality and wearables can change the future of fashion, then you might like to join us at our inaugural Summit next month to observe and get involved in the panel discussion “Coolest Tech on the Block!”. With a star panel consisting of Oli Franklin, Associate Editor of Wired, Jonathan Chippindale, CEO of Holition, and Nick Carvell, Fashion Editor at GQ.co.uk, we will be reviewing the most intriguing latest advances and revealing the next best things in future technologies. Which new technologies are likely to have an impact in 2016 onwards? What are the breakthroughs? Find out on the 13th of April at Studio Spaces, London http://www.fashtech-summit.com/tickets/.

5. Exclusivity vs. Inclusivity

The luxury fashion market prides itself on its exclusivity. But the new digital world in which it exists is overwhelmingly inclusive and accessible. So what do these luxury brands do? Stick to their now somewhat out-of-date, yet arguably timeless, approach of exclusivity? Or give in to the times and let the rest of the world in on their elite world?

Four in ten luxury brands don’t sell online. Some due to not wanting to break with tradition and widen their consumer net, some due to board members not being interested, and some because it’s just too expensive to maintain an always-on digital presence. Whilst a huge number of retailers and designers are using platforms like Snapchat to showcase their products and engage with a wider audience, a lot of luxury brands aren’t interested. “These brands are asking ‘what can i do in eight seconds as my story is too complicated than that’. There’s always a reason why they don’t need to move into digital” says Thomas Serrano, founder and president of Havas Luxe. In many cases it’s because they insist that their in store experience is part of the draw of their brands, having spent years fine tuning said experience.

It is still possible, however, to maintain a brand’s “super niche”-ness in the digital world, argues Judy Bassaly, former VP of trade marketing and business development at Giorgio Armani. “Digital isn’t necessarily another marketing tactic. It’s the way we’re going to be communicating in the future so eventually everyone is going to have to wake up to it along the way. I don’t think you have to be the first to it but it’s important to listen and it’s important to both doubt and be smart about the approach about the medium instead of blindly jumping on the bandwagon.”

These brands need to be aware of the times in order to avoid shooting themselves in the foot. For example, catering to the younger demographics. Whilst the millennial generation may not be able to afford their full collections at the moment, they could most likely afford to buy on piece, say, but they’ll want that piece immediately. So the brand needs to bear that in mind. They should also be looking to the future and realise that by targeting the millennials more now, they are setting themselves up for future purchases by creating a loyal and engaged fanbase.

Luxury is becoming democratised - a phrase we saw used a lot over the various fashion weeks last month - as it becomes less about product and more about experiences. Many brands are adapting their businesses to exploit this shift, but many (namely luxury) brands are still debating internally whether they can maintain their exclusivity whilst opening up to a inclusive and digital world.