- Regina Henkel |
INTERVIEW "Everywhere Commerce" is currently seen as the next step after multi-channel commerce. It means no more distinction in e-commerce, m-commerce, call center commerce or traditional brick-and-mortar retail. And that makes sense, after all, because the customer also does not distinguish between channels, but always perceives the retailer. The German technology company commercetools has developed a solution that enables companies to centrally manage all existing and future touchpoints with customers and their product data - right up to augmented-reality glasses. FashionUnited DE spoke with Dirk Hörig, CEO and co-founder of commercetools GmbH about his vision of the retail of the future and how the fashion industry has already recognized the potential of innovative technical ideas.
FashionUnited: Hoerig, exactly how do you define "Everywhere Commerce"?
Hoerig: The retail business has undergone fundamental changes in recent years. The purchase decision-making process and the customer journey are much more complex today than ever before. Recent studies have shown that consumers now encounter an average of 2.8 different touchpoints or devices on their way to making a purchase decision. And today customers expect their retailers to provide them with the best possible service at all points along their customer journey – regardless of which channel they use to make contact, when they start the interaction, and which device they use. But above all, "everywhere" does not mean that everything is the same everywhere. Maybe Amazon can do that, but the goal of most retailers should be to give customers a personalized experience everywhere, with the right product in the right context. And it can appear differently on the mobile phone while on the go than it does on the couch in the evening, even if the offer comes from the same retailer. The problem, however, is that until now there were hardly any solutions on the market with which retailers could deliver, manage, and control the customer experience with data along all touchpoints. Products need to be easy for the retailer to push into the channels and sell, and campaigns have to be centrally managed from one platform.
Can you give us an example of this kind of selling process?
At the core of "Everywhere Commerce" is the customer experience, meaning the customer's shopping experience. It includes experiences from a variety of areas such as the website, mobile app, content, images, layout, and functionalities, interactions with customer service, sales staff, and even the price. An example of how the future could look: Maria enjoys shopping for new fashions. She follows her preferred fashion labels through various avenues, regularly gets newsletters with offers and new releases that are more or less tailored to suit her. In addition, she follows some brands on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Just yesterday she saw a fabulous dress in a newsletter and put it in her shopping cart in the online store. While scrolling through her Facebook timeline of the same brand she discovers a jacket that would be a great match for the dress – and even 15 percent off for all Facebook followers! She clicks on the "Add to cart" button on Facebook and the jacket is automatically added to the shopping cart for the online store – along with her dress. Then she remembers a "pin" with special sunglasses that she saved last week in Pinterest. With just a click, she checks out the glasses on Pinterest and pays conveniently with the credit card information saved in her profile. Because she is waiting desperately for her order to arrive, the next day she uses Twilio to activate her retailer's intelligent voice messaging service and it announces the exact order status on her smartphone: Both packages are en route to her home. That is Everywhere Commerce! An absolute requirement for such a scenario is a "central shopping cart" that can be accessed individually from any channel. For example, the checkout process can be completed from the smartphone (by means of an app), the shopping cart loaded with products from an entirely different context, such as a virtual fitting room, a smart watch, or the like.
An entirely new sales channel is now offered with the first shopping apps used with data glasses, like the Microsoft HoloLens. How should we imagine that? Would it also be interesting for fashion?
In the fashion environment, there are many possible use scenarios – for example, think about an "extended shopping center". With the HoloLens, products that are not in stock or in the store can be presented in an extremely realistic manner. It is only a small step then to a virtual try-on session. The HoloLens can make a complete 3D scan of your body, save it along with your profile, and you can try on clothes virtually in the store and even buy them right on the spot – commerce everywhere! And retail outlets also benefit from the enhanced experience factor while shopping, and obtain entirely new opportunities to make shopping in the store a true experience. The technology from commercetools can integrate the HoloLens – just like all other channels as well – directly into the purchase decision process, and even make it possible to place orders directly from the glasses. For the retailer, it is then a walk in the park to put campaigns in place across all channels because all products come from one platform, are synchronized with the networks in real time, and are thus available immediately from everywhere.
What role do brick-and-mortar retailers play in your scenario?
Brick-and-mortar retailers are currently faced with what is probably their biggest challenge in recent decades. Everything is undergoing radical change and there is no way to tell where this journey will lead. The worst thing that brick-and-mortar retailers can do now is to take a seat in the spectator stands. However, merely acting for the sake of doing something is not the right method. What is clear, is that the retail store as we know it today has outlived its purpose. In the future, it will no longer be enough to display products on shelves and offer on-site availability. It's about product and shopping experiences. What works and what doesn't for which industry should be evaluated individually. Creativity is called for here, because a one-size-fits-all approach will no longer exist in the future. It is that much more important for retailers to invest in their brand, to be unique, and work with customers to test new methods.
Your approach is (still) very advanced for many retailers. Are there companies in the fashion industry that have already implemented your approach?
The fashion industry is one of the first to recognize that in the future it will be important to create new fun-filled customer experiences and integrate these into the customer journey. Therefore, in the fashion industry there are already the first augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) applications – even if these are still in an experimental stage. Examples of this include the VR app from GAP, that can visualize the clothes in 3D on one of the models adapted to individual body measurements. Yoox recently started to market accessories such as purses, sunglasses, and jewelry as AR via live shoot in an app. Other examples are the Moosjaw X-ray app or the Converse sample app with which shoes can be shown on your own leg with just a swipe. There are also some initial approaches for using the HoloLens for the fashion industry: The designer Martine Jarlgaard presented her new collection for the London Fashion Week exclusively through the HoloLens.
What challenges do retailers have to overcome if they would like to offer their customers Everywhere Commerce?
We want to inspire retailers with "Everywhere Commerce" to think far beyond an online store. The challenge initially consists of understanding that every new communications and sales channel can be a differentiating feature and offer a clear competitive advantage. In order to overcome this, the retailer has to understand that a successful future can only come about with innovations and the use of technology. This requires rethinking in different directions: In the organizational structure, IT, and marketing. An additional challenge consists of understanding that most of the commerce solutions available on the market were never built for quickly adding new channels – there were built to bring a product catalog into an online store. However, cutting-edge, fast-acting companies require resilient software solutions that can only come from the cloud and thus are flexible enough to allow for connecting channels and devices in the future that do not even exist today.
In your opinion, are there perhaps target groups for which Everywhere Commerce is not relevant?
Certainly. There will still be retailers that try to survive with an online store and possibly a marketplace connection. In the area of price leadership in particular, this is a valid strategy, but time will tell how successful it will be in the long run. One thing must be clear: To survive competitive pricing, there are only two options – either find a niche or apply economies of scale. Thus, for the rank and file of retailers who seek to offer their customers a unique purchase experience, the only option we see is differentiation from the low-priced segment. In addition, new technological developments cannot be stopped. New channels like mobile, chat, or social have evolved and will continue to do so – the winners will be those who can skillfully integrate the new channels into their offering and into the purchasing process. You are probably familiar with the saying, "When the winds of change are blowing, some build a wall and others windmills." We offer those who want to build the windmills the ideal platform for integrating new channels into their processes quickly and efficiently.
They want to enable consumers to do their shopping across all available channels on the market. Which of these, in your opinion, is especially appropriate for selling fashion?
As is so often the case, of course, that depends on the product :-) In our opinion, channels with good visualization options such as magic mirrors, virtual fitting rooms, and augmented reality (AR) are very well-suited for highly emotional products – meaning always in situations where engaging the senses should be paramount. This can also be the case in the sports and leisure industry. Social media networks are another important channel, especially for brand providers. Imagine a brand with a large number of followers on Facebook. With an influencer campaign, a certain product is promoted on the company's Facebook page – for example, a celebrity wears a certain brand of sunglasses. With our solution, brands can sell these products directly on Facebook without extra expense.
Commercetools also has a subsidiary in the USA. If you compare German retailers with American retailers, what differences do you see?
First of all, the market in the US is significantly larger without a need for the retailers to immediately go international. The result is that even in niche markets a large number of retailers are making several hundred million US dollars in annual online sales, while comparable sales here just make it to the 1-2 digit range. In addition, retailers in the US invest more and earlier in innovative concepts and act a bit more courageously. That doesn't mean that there are no such companies in Germany, but here they tend to be isolated cases. Very specifically, in the US we see a great deal of interest in the subject of social media commerce. In the area of the personalized customer contact, the Americans are further ahead, in other words, when it involves providing the customer with the desired product at the right time, the right place, and at the best price.
Let's take a small established fashion retailer, maybe with 2-3 branches, who has regular customers and also sells through Amazon. To what extent can your technology offer an advantage to this retailer?
First of all, the retailer has to look at where he wants to go in the long term. What kind of pressure are chain store operations under, and is it time to reconsider the entire business model? In the intermediate terms, is the branch outlet still responsible for the breadth and depth of the product mix, or are new concepts needed in a digitally networked world? How customer-centric can and must the business be positioned? In the process, the technology can be a driver for also gaining new customers. A virtual fitting room in stores, for example, can result in a much larger product mix and thereby to additional sales.
Can small retailers afford Everywhere Commerce?
Probably not. In the process, the costs only play a role in the second step. It would probably be far more difficult to expand the knowhow internally, so as to be capable of managing the digital value creation chain in the interest of the customer. Without sufficient resources, the expenditures for this would like be too great. It could conceivably still work in a niche business, but in larger markets a small retailer would always lag behind the opportunities open to the competition.
- Simone Preuss |
Chinese online giant Alibaba is planning its own brick-and-mortar shopping mall, which is currently being built in Hangzhou in eastern Chinas, also the location of Alibaba's headquarters. The five-story mall is slated to open in April 2018, offering products from brands on Alibaba’s Taobao platform and elsewhere according to Beijing-based media group Caixin. Its name, however, is not very imaginative - the new mall is simply called “More Mall”.
All the more imaginative though is Alibaba's approach in entering the traditional, i.e. brick-and-mortar, retail market. With the help of retail technologies like virtual fitting rooms, high-tech makeup testing mirrors and barcode scanners, the Chinese company wants to interlink its offline and online businesses.
“Alibaba believes the future of New Retail will be a harmonious integration of online and offline,” confirmed Daniel Zhang, CEO of the Alibaba Group, in a statement in July.
According to Forbes, the company invested as much as 8 billion US dollars in brick-and-mortar retail in the last two years, with its aquisition of tech-based grocery chain Hema from department store chain InTime making up the lion's share. Then there is Tao Cafe, Alibaba's unstaffed chain of convenience stores, which will be featured along with a Hema flagship store at the new “More Mall”.
With its new business venture, Alibaba counters the Chinese e-commerce boom, which is slowly coming back down to earth with a growth of 'only' 20 percent instead of the 40 percent seen previously. Reason enough for the internet giant to cement its growth with solid brick-and-mortar projects. After all, 80 percent of all retail transactions are still taking place offline in China.
In addition, Alibaba invests in technologies like a variety of algorithms and machine learning techniques, which help in decoding and understanding the shopping behaviour of its customers. This data will be used for evaluating Alibaba's online and offline business, thus helping the company gain a critical advantage.
Alibaba is known for its vertical expansion; only in March of this year, Alibaba founder and chairman Jack Ma announced the company's first logistics and e-commerce hub outside of China in Malaysia, the so-called “electronic World Trade Platform” (eWTP). Bevor that, Alibaba invested in Kakao Pay, subsidiary of South Korean messaging giant Kakao, to expand its global reach.
- Vivian Hendriksz |
Beulah London has opened its latest pop-up store in London. Located at 196 Sloane Street, the new pop-up store is set to run for six months over the busy Christmas period until February 2018.
In order to offer visitors a unique retail experience while visiting the pop-up, Beulah London teamed up with Sarah Hammond Interiors to create the store's interior design. The pop-up store's concept is inspired by Beulah brand's roots in India and aims to evoke the beauty of the country and its rich culture. For example, the store features hand painted wall murals and furnishings created using Beulah's AW17 charity prints.
In honour of Anti-Slavery October, the pop-up store also features portraits of women who were the victims of human trafficking, the result of the collaboration between Beulah and famous illustrator and designer, LulaHerself. In addition to offering Beulah London's Autumn/Winter 2017 collection, the pop-up will also be selling the 'Bless It Forward' scarves, which are made by hand in India.
The scarves are made in collaboration with The Women's Interlink Foundation and Key to Freedom, offering women a sustainable, alternative livelihood. The sale of one tie provides employment for one woman for one day and with each silk tie purchase, shoppers receive another one to 'Bless it Forward.' Each silk tie purchase also directly contributes to the charitable Beulah Trust.
To celebrate the opening of Beulah London new pop-up store, the brand has created an Indian Garden installation in store with Fabulous Flowers, on display from September 11. Beulah London Sloane Street pop-up is set to run from September 6, 2017, to February 28, 2018.
Photos: Courtesy of Beulah London
- Georgie Lillington |
For the past six weeks FashionUnited has brought together a selection of the best independent stores in the city to discuss the place that self sustaining stores have found amongst the ever changing retail industry.
Starting in the Dutch capital, Amsterdam, FashionUnited visited leading independent retailers, to speak to the founders and employers about their inspiration for their stores and plans for the future. As the series comes to an end, FashionUnited lists the independent stores featured in the series in the brief overview below.
1. This Is The Shit, T.I.T.S
This is the Shit, T.I.T.S is an eclectic concept store based in the west of Amsterdam, offering a large selection of modern fashion brands for women of all ages, as well as jewellery, footwear and home accessories. The store has a unique ambience, perfect for showcasing interesting, new brands that cannot be found anywhere else in Amsterdam.
2. X Bank
X Bank is a large hybrid store, continually offering new Dutch fashion brands, design and art as well as hosting events in store. With an extensive collection of over 180 designers, displayed across two floors and 700 square meters, the store, which is located in the former Kas Bank building offers a one of a kind retail format to the city.
3. Tenue De Nimes
Tenue de Nîmes is a specialised denim store based out of two locations in the west of Amsterdam. Both stores offer a range of premium denim brands for both men and women, along with other fashion brands and home accessories. Tenue de Nîmes attracts a wide range of customers thanks to its quirky, industrial interiors as well as their renowned expert advice.Read more >>
Hutspot has grown from a single concept store in Amsterdam to a series of stores spread across the Netherlands. Offering a range of changing independent and commercial brands, the stores stock clothing, furniture, accessories, home decor, daily supplies, gifts, books, stationery, bikes, plants and art.Read more >>
Gekaapt, or Hijacked in English, is a spacious new concept store based in the west of Amsterdam. Offering a large selection of gifts, clothing, accessories, design, art, jewelry, shoes, plants, furniture, food and body care products, the stores offers a unique retail opportunity for upcoming brands and their owners.Read more >>
6. Het Faire Oosten
Het Faire Oosten (The Fair East), is an independent store located in the east of Amsterdam, which is dedicated to offering fair, ethically and locally produced products. The store offers a large collection of fashion, books, stationery, furniture, interior accessories and art for every kind of person.Read more >>
Homepage photo courtesy of Gekaapt
- Georgie Lillington |
Marks & Spencer, the multinational department store group, is celebrating its 50th year anniversary in Northern Ireland.
First launching in Belfast, M&S has grown over the years and now counts 20 stores across the province.
Each store in Northern Ireland will celebrate the anniversary, but M&S Belfast store will hold the main celebrations, with a visit from M&S Chief Executive Steve Rowe, as well as many customers and colleagues who have been a part of the M&S journey.
“On behalf of M&S, I would like to extend a huge, heartfelt thank you to our customers, suppliers and dedicated colleagues past and present over the last five decades. For half a century, we have been proud to serve the people of Northern Ireland...We can’t wait to see what the next 50 years will bring,” said Ryan Lemon, M&S Head of Region, Northern Ireland & IOM.
2017 has been an exciting year for M&S Ireland, who in June announced that it would deliver one million hours of community volunteering by 2025, set to launch in Londonderry~Derry where M&S operates two stores.
Additionally, M&S launched a ‘Making Every Moment Special’ community project, which saw staff from each store take on 50 ambitious projects. Renovating charity shops, animal shelters, holding tea parties and sewing bees were amongst the 50 projects, which helped over ten thousand people.
Continuing the positive year, M&S Ireland announced today, that they would continue their expansion at Aldergrove, Carrickfergus, Newry and is also set to open a new store in Craigavon next year.
Photo courtesy of M&S
- Vivian Hendriksz |
Amsterdam - Saks Off 5th, the outlet chain from iconic department store Saks 5th Avenue, is set to open its first store in Rotterdam the Netherlands today at 10 am. A second Saks Off 5th is set to open in November in the capital of Amsterdam, as the department store, owned by parent company Hudson's Bay, continues to expand across Europe. FashionUnited NL attended the press preview last night and shares its findings below.
Located at Hoogstraat 185, Saks Off 5th in Rotterdam is located in the same building that houses high-end department store Hudson's Bay, Topshop and Topman. The opening of the premium outlet department store follows on from Saks Off 5th debut store opening in Europe in Düsseldorf this June. The new store offers a relatively new concept to the market: 'off-price' premium women's, men's and children's wear as well as footwear, accessories, and homeware. Saks Off 5th aims to offer approximately 750 different premium labels in Europe by the end of the year, as the retailer sees great potential in tapping into the 'off-price' retail market in the region.
Saks Off 5th opens new store in Rotterdam
"We work together with many well-known brands and manufacturers. Saks Off 5th offers them an appealing opportunity to extend the life of their products. Many brands really appreciate this option," said Berna Bartosch, Chief Merchandising Officer of Saks Off 5th, who is in charge of Saks Off 5th and expansion in Europe together with Wayne Drummond, President of Saks Off 5th Europe. Each store's assortment will be regularly renewed and restocked with trendy fashion products from premium brands.
"We see great potential for Saks Off 5th in the Netherlands," added Drummond. "Saks Off 5th offers an unrivaled combination of exclusive brands which are very attractively priced in a premium shopping environment - a concept that customers in the United States have appreciated for years. With Saks Off 5th we increase the attractiveness of city centers. We continually offer our customers new products. Each visit to the store is therefore different and special, which encourages shoppers to return to the store more often. Which is why we are convinced city centers to benefit from this."
The opening of Saks Off 5th first store in the Netherlands comes two days after Hudson's Bay debut store opening in Europe. Located at the Rokin in Amsterdam, Hudson's Bay is also set to open the doors of two new stores in Rotterdam and the Hague on September 7, as Hudson's Bay Company sets its sights on dominating the European department store sector.
Photos: Inge Beekmans for FashionUnited
- Georgie Lillington |
eBay have launched #MyFashionWeek with shoppable fashion sketches to celebrate the start of New York Fashion Week.
Posted on the eBay Fashion homepage, the #MyFashionWeek drawings take inspiration from eBay’s most popular sellers’ street style, translating recognisable outfits into sketches with ‘Shop the Look’ technology that suggests eBay items for customers to purchase.
"#MyFashionWeek illustrates the thrill of finding style inspiration from the world around you through the seamless shopping experience that eBay delivers," says Jill Ramsey, Vice President of Merchandising at eBay in a press statement.
Fans can also follow the concept on social media, using #MyFashionWeek to search, and participate on Twitter and Instagram.
The illustrators include Jenny Walton of The Sartorialist, Dallas Shaw, who has previously worked with Chanel, and Jessica Durrant, whose clients include Lancôme Paris, L'Oreal Paris Kérastase, and NYX Cosmetics.
"My illustrations have always been inspired by unique street style, and #MyFashionWeek makes that very inspiration shoppable -- letting me browse and buy brand-new and coveted vintage finds that suit my own unconventional look, in a never-before-done way," says Walton in a press statement.
#MyFashionWeek is currently only available on eBay’s US site.
Screenshot courtesy of eBay Fashion website.
- Georgie Lillington |
British fashion and lifestyle brand Joules, are set to open a new store in Southampton’s Westquay shopping centre this Autumn.
The store will carry Joules’ entire offering including clothing for women, men and children as well as accessories and homeware, set over 3,966 square feet.
Located on the mall’s third floor, the store will launch alongside brands such as H&M, Lush and River Island and will be the first Joules in Southampton.
“It’s great to see another high quality business choose Westquay for its first store in the city. An incredibly popular brand, Joules will enhance the retail line-up further with its unique range of products,” commented Iain Mitchell, UK Commercial Director at Hammerson, the retail management firm responsible for Westquay.
The addition of Joules to Westquay comes amid changes to the shopping centre. A dining and leisure extension: Westquay South was added, as well as brands including Smiggle, Yankee Candle, Laing Edinburgh, and Russell & Bromley having signed for stores.
Joules was founded nearly three decades ago, and now counts over 100 stores in the UK and Ireland.
Photo courtesy of Joules
- Danielle Wightman-Stone |
Polish fashion retail group LPP has entered the UK market with the opening of its flagship brand, Reserved, with a store on Oxford Street in London.
Located within the former BHS unit at 252 Oxford Street, Reserved have opened a 32,000 square foot store, offering its trend-led affordable fashion for women, men and children. The opening, which was attended by Kate Moss, who is the face of its latest campaign, features a special London Collection that includes “fashion-led pieces built around style and individuality”.
“Launching Reserved in the UK is a milestone for LPP and reflects our ambition to grow brand recognition and establish ourselves across Western Europe and beyond,” said Marek Piechocki, LPP’s founder and chief executive. “London is an iconic fashion capital and a global city, and is the perfect stage on which to introduce Reserved and LPP to the international shopping community.”
To coincide with its London store, Reserved is also launching its e-commerce offering for the UK, showcasing the full Reserved London and autumn/winter 2017 collections.
Reserved opens on Oxford Street, London
Speaking about the launch of Reserved on Oxford Street, New West End Company chief executive, Jace Tyrrell, added: “The arrival of Reserved and LPP is incredibly exciting, and a strong vote of confidence in London and the UK. London’s West End continues to be the number one choice for brands opening their stores in the UK and this comes at a particularly momentous time with the imminent arrival of the new Elizabeth Line.
“With its unique look and established customer base Reserved looks set to make its mark on Oxford Street, the world’s greatest shopping district.”
The opening in the UK represents the 20th market for LPP, which has 1,710 stores covering over 10 million square foot worldwide for its five brands: Reserved, House, Mohito, Cropp, and Sinsay. It is also part of LPP’s wider global expansion strategy, which includes Reserved openings in Berlin, Serbia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan.
LPP, founded in Gdansk, Poland in 1991, is one of the fastest-growing clothing companies in Central and Eastern Europe, last week, the company announced H1 2017 revenues of 3 billion Polish Zloty (650 million pounds), an increase of 15 percent.
Commenting on the company’s first half performance, Przemysław Lutkiewicz, vice-president and finance director of LPP said: “This is attributable to a well-designed collection and, specifically, the positive reception by customers of the spring/summer offers of Reserved and Mohito. In the first half, sales in like-for-like stores increased by 5.5 percent, which confirms that we were right in choosing our strategy.”
Images: courtesy of LPP/Reserved
- Danielle Wightman-Stone |
Fashion accessories brand Skinnydip has opened its first standalone store outside of London in Yorkshire’s Meadowhall shopping centre.
Skinnydip, known for its colourful and quirky fashion accessories range of phone cases, bags and jewellery, has opened a 1,000 square foot store on Meadowhall’s High Street, alongside retailers including Zara and Levi’s.
The London-based brand also has standalone stores in London’s Camden, Westfield White City and at Brent Cross shopping centre.
Meadowhall has had a number of new stores debut this year including Flannels, Schuh Kids, Timberland, as well as upsized Primark and Sports Direct flagships as part of the shopping centres 60 million pound refurbishment.
Image: courtesy of Meadowhall