Listening to the different speakers present on digital strategy, retail trends and emerging demographics at the WWD Digital Forum last week in Los Angeles provided fascinating insight into how different companies have approached and are approaching the digital space. From realizing that eBay has evolved into much more than an auction site - and is in fact investing is some of the more interesting solutions to reach - and to take advantage of - an increasingly mobile customer (check out the Kate Spade Saturday TouchScreen Storefronts), to the powerhouse partnership between OPI and Disney surrounding one Minnie Mouse, its became clear that when budgets are large and innovation is encouraged, digital campaigns flourish.
For me, it was most interesting to notice the different ways that digital departments - and the presenters themselves - came to be standing at the podium, and the obvious disparity in digital savvy among them, and how that extended to the audience (I overheard a conversation between a women asking for advice about what a social media job description should include). Always a good reminder that while many fashion brands have taken advantage of the digital space to great result, there are still so many companies who are just beginning to take the space seriously, and are struggling with how to build out departments for tasks they barely understand. Finally, many of the male presenters felt the need to clarify that they themselves are not fashionable, and to please, not judge too hard (despite being experiencing fair amount of success at the hands of the industry). With tech and fashion basically in bed together, this need to clarify one's position as tech nerd or fashion maven seems tired, unnecessary and bit insulting. And really, good sir, calling out your Warby Parker glasses as evidence is really more of a #humblebrag, no? Ok rant over.
Here are a few of favorite takeaways from the day:
Lo-Fi vs Hi-Fi content
"You see a piece of GAP product anywhere on the web, you should be able to shop it"
At Gap, the distinction between the unpolished feel of say, Instagram, and the traditional perfection of big ad campaigns is understood through the distinction between Lo-Fi and Hi-Fi content. Unsurprisingly, when dealing with a digital audience, Lo-Fi content works better, generating upwards of 70% more digital engagement. Rachel Tipograph, @racheltipograph, Director of Global Digital & Social Media made me want to enlist, as she explained how Gap Community Managers were chosen in part by their Instagram portfolio and how she fought to change the in-store photo policy at Gap stores.
Mobile disrupts retail
Employees the same level of access to [to new mobile/digital tools] as corporate and consumers, so they can provide a great sales associate experience"
In addition to having the best job title I've come across, maybe ever, self-proclaimed watch-man Steve Yankovich, @steveyankovich, the vice president, innovation and new ventures at eBay Inc, offered a Minority Report style peek into how retail is changing - from the aforementioned Kate Spade Saturday displays, to having an app that would allow you to bypass sales associates to purchase an item and have it sent to your home, all from your phone. Retailers should explore how they can use the vertical space in their stores to create touch experiences, not computer kiosks because, "people already have computers." To make an impact, retailers need to provide an experience that a consumer cannot get at home. Finally, Steve reminded the audience that when it comes to mobile and entertainment, the sales integration needs to come from a companion device, not embedded directly into say, the television show. Consumers want to experience their entertainment free of ad-distractions and instead to have the option to dig deeper, on a different device.
That's so me!
"The market for something to believe in is infinite" - Hugh MacLeod, Gaping Void
Recent college grads don't know anything other than having access to the Internet - their identifies were created, in part, through online activity. In a sobering presentation on the world of Amazon and retail conglomerates and the resulting struggle of smaller brands and ecommerce sites to compete, Elton Graham, vice president of e-commerce at @KellwoodCompany (Elton previously headed e-commerce for Nasty Gal - and we all know how well they're doing), worked his way into my heart by not only peppering his presentation with 80s references, including my favorite Lloyd Dobbler monologue, but by emphasizing that the way around the internet mega-mall is through brand-storytelling and basing business decisions off of inherent brand DNA. The goal is to create a digital presence so finely tuned to your customer (and your own aesthetic and values) that the first thing out of their mouth is, "This is me!," Examples of brands doing this included ModCloth, Jack Threads and Karmaloop's Miss KL. Brand Passion = Sport of the Future.