High Street Stores Work Towards a Digital Future

by Kate Enright


2012 was truly the year in which the fashion industry began to look to technology as a means of securing a place in the digital future. We saw brick-and-mortar brands particularly strive to claw back some of the revenue that online-only stores have been dominating of late through the use of some innovative ideas. It seems the idea of multi-channel retail and the viral popularity of tech trends actually got through to those at the top, and the creative juices began to flow!

Fashion week saw several innovative projects launched by labels and retailers alike in order to target the tech savvy younger generation and give their brands some leverage in the marketplace. Topshop did so using live streaming (the latest craze to swiftly dominate the world of online marketing). The brand decided to merge the physical with the digital by streaming their fashion show live on their site. The interactive purchase window updated in real time allowing users to click on looks they liked, browse all of the colour options and add it to their cart, all without pausing the livestream. This was a really innovative and clever idea which used the serendipity (ecommerce buzzword of the year) factor to influence consumers. What they did here was make it easier for viewers to purchase at the exact moment of longing – no taking time to think it over, no sleeping on it, no forgetting about it, just Like – Click – Buy. And this is marketing genius.


Topshop Runway to Website

Topshop made the entire experience extremely user friendly and engaging too, not to mention social. For example, viewers had the option to change the music, download the fashion show’s soundtrack from iTunes, and share screen shots and snippets of the show on Facebook – a feature specially designed for Topshop by Facebook developers – now that’s dedication! They realised that the way to get this venture out there was through social media and particularly through social recommendations and sharing. They ran with this and made it a core part of the campaign. This idea has been something that e-commerce sites have well and truly grasped in 2012, the notion that people buy what their friends buy, that people take advice from their peers on purchases great and small.

Check out the promo video.

Another fashion week moment where a technology fad reared its head was on the runway at the Diane Von Furstenburg show in New York. The models wore the latest in augmented reality and wearable tech with prototypes of Google’s Project Glass. The interesting move on the part of both Google and the high profile designer provided both with credibility in each other’s worlds. Von Furstenburg gaining interest from the trendier than ever US tech geeks, and Google gaining from exposure in an event being watched all over he world.


Google Glasses on the Runway

Topshop brought offline to online in their campaign and the idea works just as well in the reverse as we see all the time in the physical web applications like Google Glass. Burberry saw this and showed great innovation in the area with their new flagship store renovation on Regent Street in London. The store is like no other and the media buzz surrounding its opening was unsurpassable. Burberry executives said by creating a feeling of being connected in an offline setting, they wanted to “blur” the line between the physical and digital.

Interactive signage greets shoppers as they walk in to the 3 story megastore and displays key points in the building; visitors can try on clothes in front of a mirror that transforms into a screen showing how the piece they’re wearing was made and what it looks like in full-flow on the catwalk; members of staff all have iPads at the ready to help shoppers find exactly what they’re looking for; and guest WIFI is available throughout the store, “perfect for all you tweeters”, in their words.  They have clearly taken into account many aspects of why people love to shop online and off, and given them the best of both worlds. The store has to date been an enormous success.


Burberry Flagship Regent Street London

At the Dublin Websummit last month, I was present at the talk on “Curating the e-Commerce Revolution”. Here we had some of the biggest names in online fashion and commerce such as Chris Morton of Lyst, Diego Berdakin of Beachmint, Shauna Mei of AHAlife, Carl Fritjofsson of Wrapp and Olivia Gosset of ILWYW. Listening to these founders discussing the future of e-commerce really made me realise, that the industry is only beginning to come into its own! There is so much to be done, so many fresh ideas and outlooks and things definitely do not begin and end with the likes of Amazon. People’s thinking is that the era of the luxury brand is finished and that all anybody wants now is cheap and disposable, this simply isn’t true. From what they said, the key is marketing to the right people through the right medium. Amazon removes “serendipity” and cuts out merchandising value with its cold and functional site and precise search. This has its place of course, and will continue to thrive, but the likes of AHAlife will drive serendipity through content, through stories and personal marketing. AHAlife emails out “life enhancing” products via email regularly with engaging images and sharing options.


AHA Life Email

The main thing to consider about these cutting edge startups, is that they have technology at their hearts; they have technical founders and in-house development teams working with marketers and founders. What bricks and mortar brands need to do is make sure they can keep up! Brands like Topshop, for example, are at the forefront, but can they even continue to outsource their innovation to agencies, or do they need more control and integration from within? I believe a time will come in the near future when digital will need to become much more core in organisations, not just at an outsourced campaign level but at an intrinsic level, within the company itself, part of the eco system.

For now however, brands that are working to engage both online and off are the ones that will reap the rewards in the long term. The audience is changing and they need to change along with them. Take a leaf out of Burberry’s book, and no matter what your budget, bring some aspect of your online experiences to your store.