April 23, 2013

Engage, Interact, Transact

E-commerce is hotter than ever as more and more consumers shift their focus to the online marketplace. Increased access to the internet via smartphones and tablets is reshaping how and when we buy. With that said, virtual consumer engagement, interaction and transaction are the key to surviving in this changing retail environment.

Consumers no longer want to be spoken at through advertisements but desire collaborative marketing that breaks down the barrier between companies and their customers. As we move forward, the brands that improve their products and recognize the importance of conversing with their consumers will find success by connecting with their audience through a co-ownership strategy. This new call for consumer engagement reflects our changing values towards transparency, accessibility and reach, personalization and curation.

video via DollarShaveClub.com

Meet Michael Dubin, the founder of Dollar Shave Club, a razor-blade business who's witty youtube video has now attracted over 10 million views. The video urges men to buy razor blades on a subscription basis for as little as $2/month and grossed over 12,000 orders in the first 48 hours of launching, causing the site to completely crash. With a background in digital media and marketing, Michael has created a lifestyle company dedicated to providing men with things they need in their everyday lives, in the most convenient and affordable way.

Recently launched to the public, The Cools, is a two year old members-only curated marketplace that connects over 50,000 active users with independent fashion and lifestyle brands. The fully integrated social commerce platform provides young labels with little online presence a chance to interact directly with consumers by managing their own stores, publishing content and engaging with consumers. With a 12% commission on sales, The Cools has recently revamped their business model from thousands of sellers as of January to a select 100 brands who best fit the criteria of the site.

photo via NY Times

Hashtagging is one major phenomenon that's gone internationally viral and now, it's about to get a little funny. Comedy Central and Twitter are teaming up to host a five-day comedy festival where comedians post short video clips featuring the hashtag, #ComedyFest. This partnership represents the merging of social media with television as Twitter grows to feature more video content via its platform, Vine. Due to the changing way viewers are watching videos via the internet and social media, television is beginning to experiment with new multi-platform strategies that incorporate more consumer engaging tactics to bring back their audiences.

Others look to advance their mobile efforts to build branding and traffic both on and offline. H&M has launched its latest Conscious Collection via a mobile video campaign using the Hulu Plus video app. Through these videos, H&M is running 15-seocnd clips that show various looks from the new line where consumers can click on a button on the screen that brings them directly to H&M's mobile site. Meanwhile, Kate Spade has built a Saturday mobile site where users can shop the latest trends and newest items from apparel to accessories, home and travel. Here customers can even design their own custom travel bag by personalizing the body, handle, base, front and back pockets, strap colors as well as monogram the bag.

photo via GIGAOM

While many brands link to social media and mobile platforms via their sites, getting customers to socially shop may not be as easy as one would think. Take a company like Zappos that has a huge online presence, but still struggles to capitalize on its social media activity because in their case, customers primarily demand overnight shipping and free returns over social media presence. The problem with large companies like that of Zappos, Amazon and Nordstrom is that they have such widespread customer bases – because they don't focus on one niche, they also can't just target one particular social media platform either. With so many new platforms out there from the most recent Pinterest boom to now Poshmark and Vine, it is extremely hard for retailers to keep up with how their clientele socialize online. Not to mention, how do large companies like this build smaller communities for those who engage and use social media regularly versus those that don't? The only answer thus far is to experiment with a social experience that is innovative, easily accessible and understandable to their customers like that of Urban Outfitters and ASOS.

It looks like the digital world finally has its own currency and its called Bitcoin, an electronic cash system that generates money via virtual computers, a shared public transaction log and mathematics to authentic each bitcoin exchanged. One bitcoin is approximately worth $70 USD and much like cash, there are no transaction fees. However, the information of your transaction is accessible by pretty much anyone and everyone including the amount and the address linked to the purchase. While this new controversial online economy may only be around a few more years, it is a monumental step towards changing the way we spend our money in the digital realm.

The power retailers possess is quickly fading as consumers grow more knowledgeable and demand to be more involved with what and how they are selling. It comes down to understanding how to approach the changing retail arena, really understanding and listening to your customers, as well as experimenting with how to apply these changes to your business model. Engagement and interaction aren't just the future, they are what's happening right now and in order to further make those transactions, retailers large, small, well-known and independent are going to have to make the shift to a more captivating way of doing business.

April 18, 2013

Do Something

In honor of Earth month, we wanted to take some time out and think about what's really important, the world around us and the people we share it with! Despite all the scandals and fast fashion allegations going on, there are tons of companies, celebrities and new initiatives celebrating our precious planet and trying to make a real difference.

With so many things going on in the world including unstable global economies and countless people in need, giving a hand doesn't necessarily mean what you would conventionally think. Whether it's buying products that have more longevity, donating time and/or money to a cause or building a DIY urban garden, what matters is that you are doing something

photo via Burt's Bees

First off, we bet you have no idea that some of the smaller, sustainable brands you are supporting are actually owned by larger corporations. For instance, Honest Tea is owned by The Coca-Cola Company and Burt's Bees by The Clorox Company, to name a few. These partnerships create a win-win situation as smaller companies gain resources and larger distribution networks and corporations begin to learn the ins and outs of sustainable operations.

In today's workplace, the t-shirt, has taken on a new role of professional acceptance. Ashton Kutcher's e-commerce startup, Pickwick & Weller, strives to design, manufacture, and sell "the perfect t-shirt." This vertically integrated online brand is based in LA and appeals to the modern creative type, by offering an assortment of luxury products made of everything from supima to modal cotton, cashmere, linen and silk. The company even brings the fitting room to your home by sending you t-shirts free of charge so you can find the perfect style for you.

photo via Ecouterre

One of the simplest ways we can be more sustainable is by repairing damages to our own clothing. With this idea in mind, denim label, Self Edge, has launched a vintage hemming and repair studio in San Francisco called Darn It!. The space, which is dedicated to everything denim from tailoring stations to restored vintage sewing machines, provides authentic and quality repairs. From fixing holes without patches to replacing buttons and zippers, all repairs cost a flat rate of $40. We don't know about you, but saving a favorite pair of jeans is priceless and not only for our wallets!

photo via Huffington Post

Two of everyone's favorites, Halle Berry and Michael Kors have teamed up in the fight against hunger with their campaign, Watch Hunger Stop. With this initiative, for every Kors' bestselling Runway watch that sells at $295, 100 meals will be donated to children through the U.N. World Food Programme. Together, the pair plans on visiting some of the places meals will be sent which could include Africa, Syria and perhaps Central America. Halle who just announced the pregnancy of her second child, hopes to educate women on prenatal care and talk to mothers struggling to feed themselves and their children. 

video via Vogue UK

On June 1st, as part of Gucci's Chime for Change, a global concert will take place in London to raise awareness and money for female empowerment. Headlined by none other than Beyoncé with additional performances by Florence and the Machine, Ellie Goulding, Izzy, Azalea and Rita Ora, among others, this event calls to bring education, justice and health for girls and women to a worldwide platform. 

So this month, with the onset of warmer temperatures and sunshine, take some time to appreciate your local community and environment. If you happen to be in the NY metro area this weekend, make sure to check out the Green Festival at the Javits Center or celebrate with free live performances, displays and exhibits at Union Square on Sunday. We can't do it all alone, but if we team up to combine our resources, one step at a time, anything is possible. 

April 11, 2013

What Will Tomorrow Bring?

Whether you're keeping up with it or not, our shopping habits are changing. Today's world is driven by multi-stream technology that connects to consumers anytime, anywhere. Companies are finally learning to make the mobile and tech savvy lifestyle of consumers work for them by keeping their customers "in the know" while on the go.

There's so much data out there and as our technology evolves we are only beginning to understand what this data can, does and will bring. How can we best use this knowledge and just as equally important, how will it impact the way we live? We have the ability to track our customers' buying habits – where, when, what and how they are purchasing. This information is crucial as we move forward into the future. So today we ask, how will this affect the face of retail?

For a new wave of e-commerce brands like Warby Parker it means learning to better control your supply chain. Many premium brands are cutting out the middlemen and going directly to manufacturers. They want to do it all – from designing, manufacturing, distribution, delivery to building customer relationships. By approaching their business models like this, they can sell luxury products directly to consumers at discounted prices and gain higher profit margins in the process. This explains why many brick and mortar retailers with extensive brand recognition produce their own private lines. However, until recently due to the explosion of the internet and social media, this was very difficult for new brands and start-ups to do because it was hard for them to build brand awareness.

photo via Luxury Daily

That's why many continue to delve deeper into the social media universe to build brand recognition through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and now Vine. Take David Yurman who is going more visual by incorporating an Instagram element into their spring marketing initiatives. Through their "Show Your Colors" campaign, consumers can upload an image of their favorite David Yurman piece and tag it #DavidYurman. These hashtags also serve as data analytics so companies can track the virality of their brands. At this point, the key to social media is connecting to your customer's lifestyle by engaging and interacting with them on a direct, everyday basis.

Meanwhile, brick and mortar stores continue to take the technology focused route by creating new and exciting in-store customer experiences. Bloomingdale's is teaming up with Me-Ality to bring digital sizing stations to five stores throughout the country, including one right here in New York. These stations take a mere 10 seconds to match up your size and recommend the best denim styles based on your fit, which are sold both in-store and online. According to retail architect M.J. Munsell, "A few stores – Burberry, C. Wonder in New York, Nordstrom – have experimented with dressing rooms that the customer can actually tailor themselves. You can go into a booth...where you can either plug in your iPad, your iPhone for your own music, you can adjust the light levels, and have your own personal oasis."

video via NMANewsDirect

Look at how the cash register has evolved over the years from antique receipt-less cash drawers to computers, self-checkouts and now smartphones and tablets. And now, Walmart has begun to experiment with their new app, Scan & Go where customers can use their iPhone to scan QR codes and then bag and pay quickly at self-checkouts without ever having to unload their cart. With U.S. mobile payments expected to reach $90 Billion by 2017, before we know it we'll have coupons being sent to us via our smartphones as we browse down store isles tracking exactly what we pick up.

video via Lululemon

One brand who has mastered customer engagement is Lululemon. They have transformed their stores into more than just a shopping destination, but a fitness fanatics dream. From the knowledgeable and enthusiastic brand ambassadors to an entire wall of leggings in any color, pattern, length and fabric you can imagine, this brand really focuses on creating a quality experience dedicated to what their customers want. They've even created an app that helps you find yoga classes near you, invite friends and get tips from local yogis. Not to mention, all the floor displays are on wheels so they can be pushed aside for their weekend yoga classes hosted at their stores. What started as an idea for half store/half yoga studio, has now become a power player in the fitness world and plans to expand to 15 new markets, enlarge their menswear line and launch a new girls store called Ivivva.

With all of this in mind, we will continue to invest our time and money into exploring the possibilities of the future. A new world of commerce is just over the horizon as more and more aspects of the way we live are being replaced by computer generated devices and mobile technologies. Tools like these could eventually lead to the extinction of sales associate and traditional shopping habits. Despite, some are trying to preserve our everyday rituals by figuring out new ways to combine the on and offline worlds, developing community driven concepts, and most importantly remaining dedicated to the wants and needs of their customer base. Today we have mobile phones, apps and personalized in-store experiences, but what will tomorrow bring? 

April 2, 2013

MBF Blogger Picks

It's crazy to think that today bloggers are just as credible as the most prominent magazine editors. Designers are giving them front row access to shows and sending them clothing samples to be featured on their blogs. Their voice matters and some of their followings are incredible. Many of them have transformed a simple hobby into an entire lifestyle as they branch out to become consultants, socialites and even brand ambassadors and models. From fashion to food, they inspire us and represent a new breed of celebrities as well as the future of traditional reporting and writing.

photo via Haute Inhabit

For blogger Lainy Alexandra Hedaya it's not just about personal style, but upcoming trends, runway shows, outfit and interior inspirations, and other fashion/lifestyle related topics as well. Her motto,  "redefining modern elegance" is more than apparent through her selective taste and dedication to sticking to her style, not what people send her to wear. She has even created a Haute Inhabit avatar to represent the trends of the season based on what fashion's top designers have sent down the runway.

photo via The Sunday Girl

If you're overwhelmed by the endless amount of different beauty products out there, this UK based blog offers 100% honest and unbiased reviews to conquer all your beauty crazed questions, concerns and thoughts (there's even a disclaimer!). From Chanel, MAC and Topshop to products from your local drugstore, her fearless skin, hair and nails try it all! She also offers weekly staple products, giveaways and monthly favorite picks covering all the newest and hottest products out there. 

photo via How Sweet It Is

No blog list is complete without at least one pick dedicated to food. Whether you're in the mood for healthy recipes, comfort foods or scrumptious desserts, Pittsburgh based blogger Jessica tries to keep things local and seasonal when she can. While she has no formal culinary training, she has a cookbook set to launch in 2014 and we don't know about you but if it tastes good, that's all we need to know! 

photo via LopezJennyLopez

Brought to you in both English and Spanish, Colombian swimsuit model Jenny Lopez fuses her unique bohemian style by mixing various price points and decades into fashion, beauty, home decor and travel as readers follow her along on her adventures. In addition, she is designing a jewelry line called Momposina Rocks which combines silver and brass with different findings from around the world. 

photo via Censational Girl

By keeping "fabulous for less" in mind, this blog is dedicated to your inner DIY bargain hunter. Through a combination of tricks, tips and tutorials, Kate, who also writes a design column for Better Homes and Gardens, teaches readers how to successfully and stylishly decorate on a budget. She reaches an average of 1.9 million pageviews per month, has been featured in a plethora of magazines, and worked closely with brands and retailers like Lowes and Home Depot to West Elm and Donna Karan Home. Who says style can't be affordable?

photo via Lily Kwong

Model and blogger Lily Kwong incorporates an impeccable mix of sophistication and eclectic looks into everything she does. Her blog invites readers along on all her fashion related events she attends to give us an inside view into her life as a socialite. Not only is she a Vogue favorite, but cousin to designer Joseph Altuzarra, who she frequently collaborates with. 

video via Elite Daily

Nasty Gal
Nasty Gal has been all over the press lately and this online fashion phenomenon's following continues to explode with over 621,000 Facebook fans and 550,000 average monthly users. Their blog not only posts inspirational images and gives us a glimpse into the Nasty Gal shopper from style to music, movies, models, and California life, but also a behind the scenes look into the infamous Sophia Amoruso and the rest of the Nasty Gal family.
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MBF Trend Talk by MBF Trend Consulting is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at mbf-trendtalk.blogspot.com.