MAGIC Seminar Recap: Bridging the Gap Between the Online and Offline Retailer


It goes without saying that the retail industry is changing. It has become increasingly harder to reach customers in a space that's saturated with noise.  As part of MAGIC's Seminar Series, Nicole Guarascio, Trend Director at Stylesight presented ways retailers are engaging customers through the use of technology, branded content and subscription models as a way to bridge the online and offline worlds. Here's a recap of retail trends and predictions for the future:

Customer Experience

Consumers are looking for an experience, whether that be from curated product offerings or excellent service, the bar has been raised in two ways: 

1. Service - Consumers are expecting all-star customer service. Retailers like Bonobos have set an industry example by nailing customer service with their "ninja" mantra that has also become on of their cornerstones. On their site, you'll even see their elite score by Stella Servicea company that provides evaluations of online brands.
2. Curated subscription based model - The new subscription based model is niche, catering to a specific customer that offers curated products and value through a manageable price point. Brands like Birchbox are winning with model by sending monthly samples that can make full size purchases purchased at the site. Elizabeth and Clarke, a relatively new company offers up to three shirts a month to women at with $30 at their highest tier. Both sites are low risk because users can opt out anytime and don't feel the pressure to commit. 
Content Meets Commerce
Brands are realizing the important of quality content that's ownable to their company through their unique voice. It's become clear that products need a story and that story can be coupled with an e-commerce component. We've seen this with Net-A-Porter's  shopable magazine and at their brother site, Mr. Porter. Additionally, many brands are leveraging stylists and experts to shape their digital content. On Park & Bond's Intersection portion of the site that keeps men informed of styles, trends and fashion tips, they recently asked the top fashion bloggers to curate 50+ looks for fall that all could be purchased from the editorial content. 
The Rise of Social Shopping Social shopping has become integral to the overall online experience. Whether customers are following brands, influencers or their friends, online platforms are seeking ways to engage their customer. Various players are out there with their own point-of-difference to set them apart. Lyst and Stylefeed allow consumers to see products from people and brands in a list they've generated.Incentive-based models are on the rise too. Style Owner allows fashions enthusiasts to become their own entrepreneur by earning cash from sales they generate from their online boutique while Mulu takes on the same concept but goes ones step further and gives consumers the option to donate earned cash to a social cause.

Growth in Mobile 
Mobile is becoming the future of retail and will soon trump computer usage in the upcoming years. Mobile optimized sites are key and payments via phones will payments soon be the performed method of payment. With this shift, an increasing amount of payment providers will try to win. ISIS, one of the latest mobile payment options that's available in test market stores payment options and loyalty card information and has built-in technology that allows for communication between ISIS and the merchant along with reward offers.
Social Gaming and Technology 
Technology will become more prevalent to engage the consumer. We've seen Net-A-Porter introducer the KARL app during Fashion Week, an innovative technology that allows consumers to shop looks from a storefront merchandised with images.

Gamification is also on the rise, providing a new form of engagement. We've since this with various fashion brands like DKNY and Diesel, but in other categories as well. Olioboard offers interior design enthusiasts to build 2D & 3D moodboards that consumers can shop, share and save.

Online to Offline
Online retailers understand that they must bring their brand to life offline to provide consumers with that real-world experience. Whether that's to a full brick-and-mortar store, like Warby Parker who is opening in New York this fall or a popping up at a physical space, brands are using offline strategies to reach their customer and acquire new users. We've seen this with Groupon with their launch of kiosks throughout Chicago that provide deals to customers and with Etsy's through their craft nights.  
These engagement strategies coupled with technologies are the future of retail and will lead to relevant, customer-driven experiences.

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