From Real World Wearables to Targeted Messaging, Challenging Assumptions at West L.A. Tech Conference
Retailers and brands put their heads together at the Fashion Digital Conference, held at the Olympic Collection and Banquet Center in West Los Angeles on May 19 to dig deeper for answers of how to improve their apparel businesses with technology. As one moderator at the conference explained, it was the chance to probe experts with specific questions that couldn’t be answered by Google.
The topics ranged from specific how-to’s such as optimizing email marketing to general trends in retail technology and digital marketing. A few big takeaways in digital trends were the consumer’s increasing demand for immediacy and responding to customers “in the moment.” For example, the “magic mirror” by eBay that is being tested in select Nordstrom stores interacts with customers “in the moment” that they are in the dressing room. Shoppers can request different sizes or be offered different items from a touch screen on the mirror. “These millennials are not going to wait for the sales associate for the other size,” said Jeremy Swift, founder and chief executive officer of the marketing data and messaging platform Cordial, of the new generation.
New wearable technology further echoed the theme of “in-the-moment” information. Bellabeat is a piece of jewelry that monitors health, activity, stress, sleep and menstrual cycles for women who are trying to conceive. The new Viawear bracelet connects to the wearer’s phone and sends push notifications via different levels of vibration or a color emitted from the bracelet. The product was designed with working parents in mind so that even when a phone is turned onto mute during an important meeting, users can receive notifications in case of an emergency.
Customer segmentation and targeted messaging was another hot topic. For example, in the most basic applications, the website can recognize if a user is a male or female and where he or she is located. To be able to properly speak to customers based on their previous purchases or browsing history, the brand must have reliable data. Dominique Levin of AgilOne, a company that uses big data and predictive analytics to deliver personalized experiences, cautioned that triggering in real time means that “you need to make sure [data is] clean everyday.” Lindsay Freeman, director of operations for the Web-design agency One Rockwell, added that connecting bricks-and-mortar retail and e-commerce databases is one way to reduce contact redundancies. A clever way to gather information from shoppers is to provide free Wi-Fi in a bricks-and-mortar store by entering an email address.
However, when it comes to fashion, data can’t bear all the weight. Andy Soloman, CEO of Sole Society, said that the company is “rigorous about data, but we’re also in fashion. We understand what’s trending and working in the marketplace.”
Spokespeople from O’Neill, Skullcandy and the luxury sneaker brand Buscemi discussed the best strategies for influencer marketing. “The key to talent is to figure out if they are authentic,” said Shauna Keller of Skullcandy. Brands concurred that it was better to create lasting relationships with a higher quantity of emerging, authentic influencers than to purchase exposure with one high-profile blogger or celebrity. Rob Heppler, founder of Buscemi sneakers, said that Justin Bieber purchased his sneakers at a retail store and posted himself wearing the shoes. The brand gained 50,000 Justin Beiber devotees to its follower count—“but no sales,” Heppler said.
Overall, the measure of success and innovation is different for every brand. Roy Erez, founder of the e-gifting platform Loop Commerce, said that innovation means to “challenge your own fixations and assumptions.” He offered, for example, the assumption that most consumers are women. If a brand or service can change the shopping experience that inhibits men from buying, it can open up 50 percent of the market.
Editor’s note: There are two competing Fashion Digital Los Angeles conferences run by separate individuals, Sandy Hussain and Ryan Slack, who are currently disputing ownership of the name and content. Slack’s Fashion Digital Los Angeles conference was held on May 7.