Event Preview: WWD Digital Forum London 2014

Ashma.kundeAnalyst Insight by Ashma Kunde – Apparel and Footwear Analyst

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It is evident that technology has shaken up every aspect of the apparel and footwear industry, from the way consumers discover and purchase products, to the way they interact with brands and peers. The WWD Digital Forum, taking place on July 10th 2014, brings together top executives across fashion, beauty and retail industries to address the most pertinent issues businesses face in this ever-evolving digital landscape.

The Omni-Channel Agenda

Omni-channel retailing has become a ubiquitous term in the strategies of apparel brands across the board. With no established playbook, it is evident that the rules are still being written with new technologies and innovations. Arguably the most important part of omni-channel retailing is that each piece of the omni-channel puzzle should connect to provide a single narrative.

Kate Spade has been held up as a poster child for a successful omni-channel strategy, which is completely in tandem with the brand’s target consumer. In 2013, Kate Spade Saturday launched digitally-enhanced window displays in four Manhattan locations, in partnership with eBay. Consumers were able to browse products and make instant purchases on the touchscreen windows, with the option of free one-hour delivery.

Mary Beech, Senior Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer at Kate Spade will reveal how the brand continues to blur the lines between online and offline shopping. This spring, the brand plans to integrate a digital display system into its stores, which will use an optical sensor to reveal branded content related to a particular product once touched by consumers.

The New Face of Retail

Internet retailing has redefined the global apparel and footwear distribution landscape. Its share of value sales more than doubled over 2008-2013, reaching 8.3% of total value sales in 2013. It was also the biggest gainer in absolute terms, increasing by US$92 billion over the same period.

As such, fashion brands have been placing increasing importance on their online business, treating e-commerce as importantly as global flagship stores rather than a business offshoot. In fact, UK based AllSaints aims to position itself “as a digital brand that just happens to have some stores”, according to CEO William Kim. As a consequence, the brand’s physical stores are set to incorporate more digital facets.

Commerce and Content Intertwine

Iconic British high street retailer Marks & Spencer’s has prioritised digital transformation as it looks to improve its performance. According to Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne, Executive Director of Marketing and Business Development, “Basically content is king. We’re getting a phenomenal response to the consumers’ engagement across every single topic that we obviously program for them.”

Content plays a huge role in influencing online purchases. Content serves assumes the role compelling in-store environments and visual merchandising play in-store, inspiring consumers and encouraging impulse buying. As unplanned purchases are a significant driver of category sales, particularly for women, generating the same sudden temptation online is a vital role of content.

Merging editorial content with e-commerce has become a popular strategy in this respect. Guidance on styling and seasonal trends is offered, providing context to the products on sale. For example, luxury e-tailer Net-a-Porter has positioned itself as a “shoppable magazine” from the outset, through its weekly magazine The Edit, and in 2013 ventured into print media through its publication Porter. Marks & Spencer’s’ e-commerce site features an online magazine called “Style and Living”, which includes editor’s picks, trends and interviews.

Other speakers are set to include Martin Bartle, director, global communications and e-commerce at Agent Provocateur; Charlotte Burrows, head of e-commerce at Estée LauderCos. Inc. and Laurent Malaveille, CEO of Clarins Group Switzerland.

Euromonitor International will publish a recap article following the event.


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