‘The Concept of Product as Content’: Fashion brands & retail’s seduction with digital technology. By Anna Nadolna
Welcome to the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” that redefines customer experiences through total immersion. Anna Nadolna explains the radical tech movement transforming the fashion industry into a new digital landscape.
Two events have recently coincided and made me take a closer look at the relationship between fashion and digital technology – Aidan Quilligan’s (Global Managing Director at Accenture Industrial Software Solutions) keynote at CW Prestigious Lecture Series discussing “The Fourth Industrial Revolution – when Digital Technology meets the Shop Floor” and Integrated Systems Europe (ISE) 2015 in Amsterdam – a pan-European tradeshow connecting new technologies, companies and end-user industries.
My first brush with the huge potential of digital technology for retail industry was at the ISE 2013. I saw the scale, nearly cinematic staging of endless possibilities: interactive floors and display tables, seamless LCD video walls, Augmented Reality, digital point of sale (now ePOS), LED technology and light-emitting fabrics blurring the edges of the Digital Signage exhibition hall. It was immersive, futuristic and fun – designed to engage and awe users/consumers – a completely different type of storytelling crafted to stimulate purchase decisions. All in tune with the omni-channelling hype hovering over the pavilion halls.
It seems like there has been a greater focus on content and native marketing recently, but omni-channelling (using multiple retail channels including web, social, mobile and physical retail to create seamless customer experience) is definitely back on the agenda at events like Decoded Fashion London Summit coming in May 2015, focusing on business strategies integrating ecommerce, in-store, mobile, wearables & social.
Retail goes digital. Burberry’s Regent Street store is designed to bring the feel of an easy-to-navigate website with their stock-controlling iPads, audio, hydraulic stage and RFID microchips sewn into garments which transform mirrors into digital screens demonstrating how the clothes look on a catwalk. The British label also pioneers the art of live-stream fashion shows and collaborates with tech giants including Google to craft digital campaigns like ‘Kisses’, allowing users to send messages ‘sealed’ with their virtual kisses from mobile devices.
High-street brands want to tap in, too. Topshop used Occulus Rift last year to bring London Fashion Week’s runway to a wider audience creating 360 degree virtual reality catwalk show in their shop window and is currently collaborating with Yr Store offering customers an intuitive design-to-print in-store experience via large touch-screen devices; the McQ London shop (affordable spin-off of Alexander McQueen label) offers interactive tables and digital mirrors from which customers can send selfies to their friends; American Apparel has been playing with Augmented Reality for a while now and Nordstorm has redefined the whole industry with the launch of their innovation lab, hook ups with Pinterest and apps integrated with the inventory management system.
And there’s more to come, London Fashion Week AW15 is just round the corner and about to disrupt with the next fashion/tech project outshining the 3D-printed dress.
Digital technology transforms brick-and-mortar businesses into something more conceptual, elusive and compelling at the same time. Trish Mueller, the CMO at Home Depot calls this ‘ephemeral retail – the concept of product as content’ referring to an experimental Manhattan boutique called ‘Story’ converging different media experiences captured in their strapline: ‘Point of view of a magazine, changes like a gallery and sells things like a store’.
With mobile devices the power has shifted towards consumers, there’s no doubt, but digital technology has also equipped companies with high-tech tools allowing them to engage with these empowered consumers and communicate their brand messages across different platforms and channels impacting global audience.
It’s not easily done, but once it is, boy, buying a frock turns into a whole different story actually worth sharing – like the British Airways’ #lookup campaign or Pepsi’s ‘Unbelievable’ bus shelter installation. Ultimately, isn’t this the kind of visual narrative social media was meant for?
About The Author
Anna Nadolna is Events and Marketing Executive at CW
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