The transition to a fully connected experiential retail environment has increasing relevance in a post-COVID-19 world, with consumer shopping behaviours shifting relentlessly.
According to a report published by McKinsey in the United States alone, the first half of 2020 saw a massive shift in e-commerce equivalent to that of the previous ten years, whilst in Europe, the overall consumer adoption of digital technologies is now at a rate of 95%.
As we continue grappling with extreme changes in the retail environment, with 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.
Following the need to adapt and pivot their strategies, brands are no longer simply interested in creating e-commerce platforms to drive sales, and instead are looking at the online experience as an extension of the physical space.
Post-pandemic, the future of retail will require a harmonious mix of digital innovations that harness the key elements of both physical and digital retail to provide an individualised experience for consumers. This then, begs the question of how brands can activate hyper-personalisation not only to immerse consumers inside their brand universe but more importantly, to restore confidence and bring them back to the physical store.
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.
In partnership with Kristina Dimitrova and leading media and events platform, Interlaced, 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 our panellists shared throughout the session.
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 a good recollection of your previous purchases.
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 and hyper-personalised brand experiences.
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 whilst browsing online or historical purchase data.
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 to expand user profiles to cover everything from occasion-based needs, to specific details of a garment such as types of fabrics or cuts.
Moving beyond historical purchase data, Holition recognises that there are a plethora of driving forces affecting human behaviour outside of consumers’ shopping carts.
By blending new types of information such as lifestyle, environmental, psychological, and behavioural data into the fold, we are able to introduce hyper-personalised experiences that have the ability to truly understand consumer motivations inside the brand world through creative storytelling, emotion, and individualised experiences.
Having worked with some of the world’s most renowned brands in luxury, fashion, and retail, the main challenge that comes with every project is to reimagine a product and elevate it into a dynamic and immersive experience.
Through an interplay of technologies that harness science, data, and art, Holition has worked with some of the world’s most renowned brands in luxury, fashion, and retail, to help create hyper-personalised brand experiences such as harnessing colour psychology to inform and recommend fragrances through our collaboration with Carolina Herrera, using microworld of colour and movement to depict Rolls Royce’s Spirit of Ecstacy, or augmented reality to create a real-time immersive installation experience that aggregates sentiments of love all over the world for Tiffany.
All of these have played an essential role for Holition to introduce seamless and connected retail experiences that break down traditional barriers and reinvent the consumer retail journey.
“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.
Whether that’s online or in the physical space, consumers will want to shop and interact with the brand in different ways at different times, and brands need to be able to cater to these needs by offering multiple touchpoints that deliver complementary brand experiences.
As we progress towards alternate types of interfaces, Holition’s design and research processes have expanded to include brain/computer interfaces, VUI, gesture and emotion tracking, smart textiles and predictive intelligence that address the need for highly individualised brand experiences that address the natural human desire to discover, learn, and explore products and brand worlds at a time when they have felt more disconnected than ever.
Exploring how technology can be applied to reimagine the traditional retail experience, Holition has reimagined the traditional e-commerce website through multi-sensory 360 virtual spaces such as the Clinique Laboratories and Jo Malone Virtual Townhouse, which provide consumers the added benefit of expanding their brand experience beyond the confines of a physical store, aiding in product discovery and creating a seamless path to purchase all within the same platform.
“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.”
“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 to exploring other sources of data that can impact shopping behaviour, 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 its speakers, Alfredo Orobio and Kostas Koukoravas, and all of our colleagues, friends, and partners that joined us in the sold-out event.