5 Things You May Have Missed This Week

By Georgia Buchanan

1. WeChat: The Next Social Media Platform for Luxury Brands

According to L2’s recently released China luxury “Digital IQ Index”, 92% of global luxury brands now have a WeChat account, which is a growth of 87% since 2014. As the largest and most profitable messaging platform in the world, it is unsurprising that so many forward-thinking Western brands are jumping on board, acknowledging it as an imperative platform for reaching both current and new consumers.

The vast number of functions available on WeChat, ranging from micro-sites to games and quizzes; competitions to integrated online to offline campaigns; one-to-one comms to e-commerce, make it a highly useful platform for brands. With 600 million active users, a large number of whom identify WeChat as their online source for information on luxury goods, the potential for sales is huge. But who is doing it well? And what can the others be doing to use the resources available to them to the best of their ability?

Digital savvy fashion house, Burberry, uses WeChat to keep consumers informed about new arrivals, trending products, and further link them back to Burberry’s official website. And more creatively than that, they have also created a section of their account dedicated to past events, allowing followers to watch a 360-degree playback of Burberry’s catwalk extravaganza in 2014which marked the opening of their fourth flagship store in Shanghai. WeChat also allows a premium level of customer service for brands and their consumers; something which Burberry has used to ensure that their customers’ enquiries can be answered within 24 hours. Lastly, Burberry has also used the social media platform to create exclusive bespoke campaigns, such as their Chinese New Year campaign. Not only did they send their followers virtual gifts, they also allowed their users to send virtual gifts on to their loved ones, building on a feeling of personal interaction, and also working to drive footfall to their bricks-and-mortar stores by running a competition in which participants had the chance to win limited-edition Burberry Lunar New Year envelopes that were only available for in-store pick up.

Another great example of a luxury brand using WeChat to its full potential is Chanel. Similarly to Burberry, Chanel uses the app as a content marketing platform, but unlike Burberry, Chanel is one of the few luxury brands that has a “Subscription” account. This allows the fashion house to post content more frequently but it does limit Chanel’s access to mobile commerce features. The positives of a “Subscription” account? Chanel can build a few mini-sites to offer followers product information, brand history, fashion tests, events, make-up tips and company news, in the form of both text-based articles and video content. This means that Chanel can engage with their WeChat followers without taking them out of a familiar app environment.

Yves Saint Laurent demonstrated a great implementation of one-to-one marketing with their “Kissing Habits Survey” campaign featuring a new lipstick collection. Kate Spade used the gaming service available on WeChat to connect with followers through a sky lantern flying game. Sephora use a loyalty programme to entice their customers. Zara created a micro-site to implement a GPS-enabled store locator app. And Michael Kors have used the platform to promote social events, like their “Jet Set Experience” campaign.

2. High Fashion x Virtual Reality

Virtual reality isn’t new news. It’s been slowly working its way into our fashion industry, amongst almost all other areas of our society, for the last couple of years. But now it’s really starting to catch on. From luxury smartwatches to virtual reality catwalks at Fashion Weeks, major fashion influencers and retail brands are adopting technology to increase their scope and profits. VR enables the ‘behind closed doors’ areas of the high fashion world to be accessible by the masses. It “allows anyone to experience that world,” says Henry Stuart, CEO of VR studio Visualise, who argues this is one of the reasons VR is finally being embraced by the world of high fashion. Whether it’s a 360 view into an elite fashion show, or a virtual shopping experience, VR means pushing the boundaries and opening up a whole new world to both designers and consumers.

All manner of brands from around the globe have been seen to dabble in VR for a variation of marketing campaigns over the last few years. ELLE magazine has partnered with Jaunt to produce a VR cover shoot for readers to watch on Google Cardboard, Visualise has teamed up with lifestyle website Refinery 29 to produce a multi-city 360 degree fashion shoot for Samsung’s Milk VR app, and Sports Illustrated produced a three-dimensional shoot for this year’s Swimsuit issue.

But now this immersive experience is extending its way to catwalk couture. Dior, Topshop and Balenciaga have used Oculus Rift to market their collections in a new and exciting way for consumers, allowing them to sit front row at the most recent catwalk shows from the comfort of a store chair. Some brands are even developing their own stylish versions of the VR headsets so that fashion-conscious consumers are more inclined to use them.

Retail business leaders are also confident that virtual reality will change the way consumers interact with brands; and the topic of the perfect in-store experience is hot on everyone’s minds at the moment, with bricks-and-mortar stores failing to keep up with the ever-changing industry landscape. “It’s not about turnover by square foot anymore. It’s about surprise by square foot, or newness,” said Tommy Hilfiger CEO, Daniel Grieder. And what better way to surprise your consumer than with a virtual reality experience? Not only is it new, creative and exciting, it is personal. The virtual reality experience has the potential to be entirely bespoke to the person wearing the headset; something that the eBay and Myra virtual shopping app is focusing its development around.

It is still relatively early days for virtual reality, in terms of the bigger long-term picture, but its adoption by designers and brands for digital marketing is a certainty. It’s just a question of how quickly and effectively these fashion retail brands can implement VR over the coming years.

3. Robot Seamstresses

With technology advancing at the rate that it is, many have been saying it’s only a matter of time until robots start to do our jobs for us. And it seems that now, with the cost of industrial robots and electronic cameras plummeting, robots may just be the new seamstresses.

Adidas recently unveiled “SpeedFactory” in southern Germany, a project in which robots will be starting to turn out shoes next year, with an aim of increasing flexibility and reducing inventories by bringing production closer to the market. A similar American plant is also in the works. Meanwhile, in Valencia, Spain, a computer-controlled system from Jeanologia allows for workers with sandpaper creating distressed effects to be replaced with substitute lasers.

Frank Henderson, CEO of Henderson Sewing Machine Co. in Andalusia, Alabama, said: “Last year there were more than 70 different types of sewn products that we implemented automation and automated devices into. There’s more than you can even think about.” Examples of the work they can do include: sewing pockets on to jeans, interfacing collars, assembling elastic for underwear waistbands, placing and stitching Velcro fasteners.

Whilst some robots are human-operated, and are therefore creating more jobs for people, others are beginning to adopt “autonomous work cells” where the machines do all the work themselves. Not only can this cut time and cost and promise quicker turnaround, automation also allows for far greater precision. Softwear Automation, an Atlanta-based startup that uses machine vision to drive precision sewing systems, has software that tracks exact needle placement, using the thread grid and surface textures to create a topographic map of the fabric. “We’re at half a millimetre accuracy”, says CEO K.P. Reddy. “Most humans can’t even contemplate what that looks like. We can do things like sew a perfect circle, which a human can’t do.” Whilst proving an exciting step towards a more technologically advanced future, these developments spell trouble to the workers whose jobs may become redundant as a result. Robots are precise, reliable, and don’t take holidays or sick days. Hard to compete.

To read the full story on Bloomberg, click here.

4. Snapchat Surpasses Twitter

It has been reported that this week saw Snapchat hit the phenomenal number of 150 million daily users, meaning that they have now officially surpassed Twitter. At only four years old, this is quite the achievement for the unparalleled photo-messaging app. Twitter, founded ten years ago, has fewer than 140 million daily users.

Snapchat’s huge popularity is largely down to Generations Y and Z. Having made communication more of a game by letting people send annotated selfies and short videos, it has become a primary source of contact for young teens. With its extremely simple interface and total reliance on visuals, it is the ideal platform for these young consumers who seem to be constantly after instant gratification. A recent YouGov report suggested that Snapchat has made its biggest gains amongst millennial women. In March, nearly 49% of Snapchat users were Gen Y women, compared to just 31% last August.

This demographic makes Snapchat a key platform for brands wanting to reach out to the younger, and extremely important, consumers; hence the huge increase in fashion and retail brands jumping aboard the bandwagon. The likes of Burberry, Stella McCartney, Alexander Wang, H&M and more are now reaching huge audiences via both paid advertising and simple Snapchat stories. It is a perfect way to give your consumer an insight into the brand, making them feel part of the experience and giving them a taste of the lifestyle of the brand, enticing them to spend money on the collections they are viewing.

Essentially, Snapchat is fun, whilst Twitter can be confusing and alienating at times; something that their Chief Executive Officer Jack Dorsey acknowledged at a technology conference this week. And not only is it fun, it gives the consumer the most realistic insight into the worlds of all of those they admire, adore and follow on a daily basis. You can see your favourite celebrities, designers and brands in a (fairly) raw and intimate light. You feel a connection and closeness to them on Snapchat that you cannot get on other platforms. And this, it seems, is why it’s currently winning the race.

5. Instagram Takeovers!

As of next week, FashTech is starting a series of Instagram Takeovers, in which we invite some of the most inspiring and exciting innovators from the fashion tech world to take over our Instagram account and give us an exclusive insight in to a day in the life of their working world.
The first contributor, logging in this coming Tuesday, will be the brilliant 3D-print designer, Francis Bitonti. Having created dresses for the likes of Dita von Teese, and a mantra of “THIS IS DESIGN FOR THE INFORMATION AGE”, we are very excited to get a sneak peak into the very highly regarded studio of Francis Bitonti and his designers.

Make sure to put a reminder in your diary… Tuesday 7th June - @fashtechldn Instagram Takeover #1!