At the WWD Digital Forum Fall Conference, top digital marketing masterminds shared their insights into leveraging social and digital platforms to enhance the consumer experience behind some of our favorite luxury brands. Below are a few of FMM’s top five highlights:
During L2 Think Tank’s “Commerce: E, M and F” session, Donald Chesnut, Chief Experience Officer, SapientNitro presented a talk on “Connected Retail: Optimizing the Customer Experience from Attraction to Transaction.” As the web and consumers evolve, the lines between the physical and digital are increasingly blurred, they’re either being enhancing one another or distracting from one another.
This year, branded content was the only trend that took the fashion, more specifically the retail industry by storm. For the past five years, it seems that once dowdy television retailers such as HSN, QVC and ShopNBC, have attempted to raise their brand profiles and establish themselves as retailer portals who cater to a wider audience than just to dowdy, conservative women over the age of 40 with 1980s infomercial style product showcases.
The way these retailers are leveraging their multichannel retail approaches is nothing to sneeze at, fashion designers and cosmetics companies can sell more product (by volume) via these retailers’ online, television and mobile channels in one hour than they can in one year in a department store. Now, the cross selling of apparel and beauty products is bleeding into consumer electronics, with consumers now buying technology in conjunction with their apparel and other product purchases.
Leading this new multi-channel approach is HSN. HSN is changing, if not completely redefining, the meaning of home shopping as it’s the three networks to create new online product distribution channels through social technologies and platforms.
Analyzing HSN’s social marketing initiatives, I discovered impressive uses of the iPad and YouTube as customer social marketing and educational tools. The company is the largest video content contributors to YouTube (their channels hosts over 60,000 videos) and is the first of the home shopping networks to be release an interactive iPad application that acts as a companion to the television and mobile shopping experiences it creates for it’s customers.
The new HSN iPad application is the first to offer live and on-demand video and enables users to create their own channel to ensure they are only ever seeing their favorite programs. The most unique aspects of HSN’s iPad application include:
- The app distributes both their live programming and video on demand.
- The app offers up to 15 product category-oriented channels and 5 completely user customizable channels – with hundreds of products, the possibilities are endless for your personalized and self-created content.
- App users can drag the screen splitter to enable them complete control over whether they would like to see more programming or more content on their screens depending on where the user is and what they want at that time
Intrigued by how HSN is leveraging the iPad for mobile experiences and social technologies and curious about the profitability of their efforts, I spoke with HSN Vice President of Advanced Serviced, John McDevitt, on how the retailer is setting the bar for online retailers embracing mobile and social channels to tell the stories the products they sell by creating cross platforms for customers to shop and buy products relevant to their lives.
“HSN started to evolve it’s marketing strategy four years ago, when our current CEO Mindy Grossman felt it was more important for HSN to become a multichannel retailer that creates a curated shopping experience for its customers across multiple platforms, “said McDevitt. “HSN had to have quality brands and designer with great stories; moreover, we had to have great storytellers to covey those stories to our customers. We don’t just hire hosts, we bring in experts or the designers themselves to tell the stories.”
HSN has also recently launched a partnership with Quirky, an online, social product development company. Quirky is a site that uses a crowdsourcing model to bring new products to life. Each week, Quirky engages its online community to collaborate in all aspects of product design and development – from ideation all the way to packaging. Quirky brings two brand new consumer products to market every week and shares the revenue with all of the individuals who were influential in bringing these products to life. Starting this week, HSN has partnered with Quirky sell the tech gadgets crowdsourced into creation by Quirky’s community. HSN is taking the partnership a step further by offering all would-be entrepreneurs the opportunity to submit their product ideas for consideration on HSN’s product submission page.
The Quirky partnership was born after Bill Brand, Executive Vice President Programming, Marketing and Business Development for HSN, met Quirky founder Ben Kaufman. Brand, was so enthralled and impressed by this “technology whiz kid’s passion” that it created a personal connection between the two that lead to the partnership. “Ben is an amazing storytellers,” says Brand, “HSN’s marketing strategy is based on pairing great storytellers with great products, becoming an incubator for entrepreneurs with great stories was natural for us.”
If you carefully analyze this partnership, HSN just created an alternative to venture capital funding for emerging entrepreneurs creating and designing product for consumers. This also marks the evolution of crowdsourcing used as mainstream marketing tactic for offline audiences. When asked how Quirky felt about the partnership, said Jon Liebman, CEO of Brillstein Entertainment Partners and representative for Quirky sad, “Our vision is to marry Quirky’s unique online social product development network with the incredible reach of HSN’s interactive shopping experience. We’re all excited about this partnership because it’s a great example of what happens when Internet and television meld.”
Launching brands on a multichannel platform that focuses on access, personalization, experience (the very things younger online audience want) rather than focusing only on transactions has been successful for HSN, allowing them to develop an impressive customer base with web generation women ages 24-35 that come back and purchase over and over.
Is this social incubation of entrepreneurs and crowdsourcing product production through mainstream channels a smart way to use multi-channel retailing? Are using tablets and smart phones as companions to websites and television outlets a smart marketing strategy? What do you think?
P.S. We are all ordering that cool ipad things above, please commit to buy it, it’s only $52.50!
For this year’s Dwell on Design show, I sat down with Marta Calle, the Creative Director of CB2, to talk about design, color inspiration and her personal fashion preferences.
At least, that’s what I thought the agenda would be. The interview, however, turned into an amazing full blown commentary on multi-channel and social marketing. Marta offered some amazing insights on how the small brand was growing under it’s large parent, Crate & Barrel.
Whether you’re an interior or fashion designer, interior retailer or fashion retailers, this offers valuable insights for all.
Macala Wright: CB2 entered the online space a little less than seven years ago. It launched its website in 2004, the catalog in 2005 and its m-commerce site in December 2009. The brand has slowly opened stores all over the US and now internationally, as well. What’s been your experience in all these different mediums?
Marta Calle: It’s actually been something quite amazing. We’ve found that customers who are loyal to the brand actually shop across all four mediums – the catalogs, the stores, online and via their mobile devices. The combination of the four has increase the dollars spent by customers over all three outlets.
MW: It seems that mobile, e-commerce, catalog and store sales are dependent on one another. How has this effected the way you market CB2 to customers through these channels?
MC: With CB2, we make sure we curate our customers’ experiences across all our communication channels. Customer experience is key for us as a brand. We ensure that transition from online-to-offline is as seamless as possible. The settings we create in the catalogs are translated to the web, from the website and catalog, and we take painstaking care to bring those settings to life in the stores.
MW: CB2 brand standards are at the core of everything it does. Tell me about them.
MC: Well, to start, the perfect example would be The Standard Hotels and some of the boutiques on Melrose and Robertson here in Los Angeles. There are no frills. CB2 is the same way, we opt for no frills in order to create focused, streamlined live/work spaces. We’d rather capture your attention in small detail of an accent piece, the curve of a table or the lines of a desk instead of filling a room with too many distracting elements.
MW: CB2 designs are relevant to the color palettes and styles what people want now, how does the brand manage to maintain a competitive edge over it’s competition.
MC: CB2′s relevancy to its customers is found in the way the brand aligns itself with modern design. And by modern, I don’t mean retro modern; I mean real time modern. The term “modern” is always changing, I’m always asking myself, “What’s modern now?” We try to understand the changing meanings of “modern” and focus on real-time trends and what customers want now. CB2 is moving towards real time relevancy without turning into the “fast fashion” style retailer.
MW: Dwell on Design is about creating sustainable living and work environments. CB2 has taken that concept and translated it into the physical location of the stores it opens. Tell me about blending CB2 into “on brand” community environments.
MC: We feel the places where we open CB2 locations have to be places that our customers live in, as well as work in. They have to “local” for the people that live in them, meaning their centrally located. Our locations in West Hollywood, Santa Monica and SoHo are walkable; you don’t have to get into your care and drive 30+ miles to get to them. The same goes for our locations that we’re opening right now in Toronto; it’s located on Queens Street. The only other two large retailers there are Adidas and and Nike. All the other retailers around these stores are independent stores. All three retailers aim to support the local business, not compete with them.We think there needs to be a balance between big and small retail.
MW: CB2 carries its philosophies through to its philanthropic projects. Tell me about that.
Our philosophy is “Cherish the Home”. When we open a store in a certain neighborhood, the staff picks a local charity to support that focuses on food and shelter; we donate a percentage of that store’s sales to that charity.
Also, on an opening day, we offer 15% customer purchases in exchange for customers bringing seven cans of food to donate to food banks. In Chicago one month, CB2 donated 10,000 pounds of food in a span of two weeks. The entire food donation that month from other companies that supported the charity that same month was 10,000 pounds.
Creativity Explored is a nonprofit visual arts center where artists with developmental disabilities create, exhibit and sell art. We use their artists’ works in our rugs, wall decor and accessories that we produce with our collections. The artists are paid for their work. So the next time you buy your accent pillow or a rug and before you would have wondered about the designer, you know where it came from!
MW: When it comes to shopping online, where do you go?
MC: Net-A-Porter. The way they merchandise their products just grabs you, drags you in and forces you to buy that Alexander Wang bag. I love the digital content as well. Shame on them for being so good!
MW: What’s in store for CB2 in the next year?
You are going to see a lot more technology in the stores, further bridging online-to-offline experiences. You’re also going to see enhanced functionalities on the website; without giving away too much, you’ll be able to mix and match your home on the site before you even come into the store.
Marta Calle On Social Media