The transition to a fully-connected experiential retail environment has increasing relevance in a post-COVID-19 world, with industry data from eMarketer reporting a 3% global retail sales decline in 2020.
As we continue grappling with extreme changes in the retail environment, not to mention over 90% of consumers beginning their retail journeys online, the exponential need to fuse emerging technologies within traditional retail models has never been more apparent.
Today, restoring retail will require a harmonious mix of digital innovations and personalised experiences that are aligned with consumers' interests and needs.
For this reason, understanding the impact of hyper-personalised and data-driven creative retail strategies seemed a befitting topic for our recently-concluded Holition Talks.
Hosted in partnership with creative innovation studio Holition, we sat down with Alfredo Orobio (Co-Founder, AWAYTOMARS) and Kostas Koukoravas (CEO, Intelistyle) to talk about some of the different strategies that brands can implement that can help restore retail in 2021. Here are some of the key lessons we learned and the main advice that the duo gave us.
ON GOING BEYOND BASIC PERSONALISATION
Personalisation has always been a key facet of most retail experiences. It involves knowing your customers and understanding how a certain product or service can help address their needs and interests.
In the analogue world, an appropriate example would have been your sales assistant in a retail store - someone with full knowledge of their customers’ names, dress sizes, and perhaps even has good recollection of your previous purchases. Another well-known example for this would be Nike’s iD initiative, which launched in the 90s, a programme that empowers individuals to customise their own trainers and apparel according to their liking.
While the main value proposition of personalisation still remains the same, brands are now faced with the challenge of gaining a deeper understanding of customer profiles to effectively deliver tailored brand experiences.
With this in mind, the exponential need to fuse emerging technologies within traditional retail models to link brands with consumers has never been more apparent. This is what we know today as hyper-personalisation.
The way that most retailers have done personalisation is by following the Amazon model, where recommendations are determined based on items that you’ve clicked on or added to your basket and purchased.
In the case of Intelistyle, which has worked with brands such as Dolce & Gabbana, Tommy Hilfiger, and MaxMara, according to Kostas, hyper-personalisation is about going deeper into understanding exactly what a customer wants. More than just singular products that a particular customer clicks on, through AI, they are able expand user profiles to cover everything from occasion-based needs, to specific details of a garment such as types of fabrics or cuts.
“The traditional luxury industry used to do hyper-personalisation since the beginning. They know the customers by name, they know what they want to buy, they know if they have kids, they know if the kids are married and so on. Today, we have technology and data that we can use to do hyper-personalisation at scale, taking inspiration from traditional luxury. What we’re trying to do at AWAYTOMARS is trying to not only allow people to change the colour of their t-shirt but also have the experience that people have in couture studios - to go to a designer and gain the experience of creating and designing your own dress through technology.” - Alfredo Orobio
Having worked with some of the world’s most renowned brands in luxury, fashion, and retail, Holition has also played a significant role in enabling brands to immerse their customers inside their brand universe by harnessing creative retail technologies.
An interplay of immersive retail technologies such as augmented reality, face-tracking technology and artificial intelligence, hold an essential role in creating seamless and connected retail experiences such as the Burberry Beauty Virtual Studio, Clinique Laboratories, and Maxfactor’s My Makeup Artist, which encourage consumers to discover, play, and shop for products like never before.
ON UNDERSTANDING THE OPPORTUNITIES OF HYPER-PERSONALISTIAON
“If you want to survive and grow in this [luxury and retail] industry, you really have to open your mind to the digital world. If you don’t do hyper-personalisation right, you can potentially lose your customers too, and this goes back to fully understanding their needs and interests.” - Alfredo Orobio
Through the years, we have also witnessed a certain type of reluctance or hesitation from brands when it comes to implementing digital innovations, primarily due to concerns surrounding democratisation and accessibility.
While some have been fearful of change, Alfredo emphasises that “If you [brands] want to survive and grow in this [luxury and retail] industry, you really have to open your mind to the digital world.”
Having worked with the Italian luxury knitwear brand, Missoni, Alfredo talks about their wonderful archive of prints and artwork. There was a lot of hesitation on the digitisation of the prints, and AWAYTOMARS’ role was to help the brand see the value of going digital. Today, they have collaborated on a new collection featuring some of the most coveted prints from Missoni’s archives, and this has been a significant step towards helping immerse Missoni’s customers further into their brand world.
Integrating technology inside the physical space also provides massive opportunities for brands to engage and create emotional attachments with consumers. To succeed, brands need to find a balance between technology and maintaining that personal touch within the in-store environment.
ON CONSUMER EXPECTATIONS AND THE RETAIL EXPERIENCE OF THE FUTURE
“We need to see supply chains being updated with more digital assets so you can see how clothes are going to look on a customer. I think the technology will mature in the next few years and that will allow us to do this at scale.” - Kostas
“Something that is needed is the automation of the production line. Our main bottleneck is production. We still need a pattern cutter, we still need all that human interaction with the garment. Imagine you go to a store, design your garment online and then print it, there and then, on-demand. When we fix that we can truly revolutionise hyper-personalisation.” - Alfredo Orobio
In the future of retail bespoke and hyper-personalised customer experiences will be the future of retail. More than creating a frictionless retail journey, brands need to find ways to harness technology in such a way that complements the human experience to create a lasting emotional attachment and drive brand loyalty.
From harnessing AI to leveraging automation and machine learning, data-driven creative retail strategies that put consumers at the centre of the experience can open doors for enchanting and immersing consumers inside a brand’s universe.
Holition and INTERLACED would like to thank our wonderful panel and everyone who joined live. Stay tuned for announcements about our next webinar happening in April 2021. In the meantime, follow Holition and INTERLACED on social media for the latest updates on the future of fashion.