Tag Archives: customer service

Zappos piloting personal shopping service on Instagram with #nextootd

19 Mar

Most of you will have already heard of the hashtag #ootd. For those who haven’t, this is the epitome of the #selfie phenomenon. “Outfit of the day” as it stands for, has over 23 million posts attached to it on Instagram.

That’s 23 million images associated with what people are wearing, said Will Young, director of Zappos Labs – the San Francisco-based experimentation and innovation arm of e-commerce site Zappos – during SXSW last week. “We looked at [those figures] and asked as a retailer how do we be a part of that?”

The answer? His team recently launched a pilot project on the platform called Next OOTD. Very simply, followers are invited to post a selfie along with the hashtag #nextootd. Those who do will receive a personalised shopping recommendation based on their Instagram from Zappos in return.

Zappos is of course a company that prides itself, and has become known, for customer service (its longest ever phone call was nine and a half hours – and celebrated for that fact, Young revealed). He said they are constantly trying to think of lots of different ways to take that service to the next level.

At the moment this project is entirely manual – there’s one person doing it who doesn’t even work weekends – so the potential to scale isn’t really there, he admitted, but that’s not to say it won’t be down the line.

“Personal shopping via Instagram… that could be the future of our business,” he argued – and perhaps rightly so given the buzz around social shopping once again at present. “It could have a 50 person team manning it and making personalised shopping recommendations.”

To his own strategy, he added: “I heard Sarah Friar, CFO of Square speak recently, and she said: ‘Think big but start small.’ That’s kind of how we approach things at Zappos Labs.”

Asos offers personalised styling sessions via Google Helpouts

18 Dec

Asos_helpoutsAsos is taking advantage of Google’s brand new Helpouts service this Christmas, offering shoppers 15 minute time slots for real-time video chats with style experts.

Based on the Google Hangouts technology, these one-on-one sessions aim to provide live styling advice in a way that “really breaks down the barriers between the brand and our customers”, said a representative from the e-commerce site.

The promo / sign-up page for the initiative offers men and women “the lowdown on what’s in, what suits you and where to find it”. Users can get tips and advice on what to wear for specific events, on choosing someone the perfect gift and on new ways to wear items they already own. There are also make-up artists on hand to talk beauty.

Sessions can be booked for free anytime from 9am-9pm, Monday to Friday for those in the UK, US and Australia.

Launched just on Monday, December 16, three reviews on the Helpouts page prove the initiative is resonating with consumers already. One reads: “Fantastic service, really helps you find [the] end product of that ‘idea’ you were looking for.” Another concluded: “It is quite obvious that Asos is an innovator when it comes combining personalized ‘fashion advice’ with a national brand.”

The only other brand currently utilising Helpouts under the fashion and beauty category is Sephora. It has a total of 12 different sessions available based on how-to get a smoky eye through to achieving the perfect brow, but this time with a cost of $15 for each.

Social media isn’t a 9-to-5 job in retail, especially at Christmas

6 Dec


That title should be quite an obvious statement to most, but a number of stores seem to need reminding of it in the busy run up to the holidays this year.

At a time when capturing consumer attention is fraught with more noise than ever, any sort of social activity that has the ability to cut through should not be restricted to the standard Monday to Friday routine. Yet many of them are…

Not to pick on John Lewis, but in this instance it’s the most obvious example. The UK department store has been running an advent calendar competition via Twitter with the hashtag #JLChristmas.

A nice incentive-based initiative (and no doubt a traffic driver), it invites @johnlewisretail followers to guess what festive treat is behind the door of its advent house to be in with a chance of winning it.

Every day between 10am and 3pm, it tweets out clues. At 4pm it then reveals the answer as well as a winner. Every day except Saturday and Sunday that is.

As the press release reads: “We won’t be running our competition on Saturdays or Sundays, but that means we’ll be giving away three lovely prizes instead of just one each Monday so there are even more chances for you to win.”

You could argue it’s because Mondays are the strongest selling days for e-commerce over the holidays, which would be fair. But in this case, that’s thoroughly illogical. If the aim was to increase traffic on a Monday you could still up the content on those days while maintaining the usual over the weekend too. For the record, eBay UK expected Sunday, December 2 to be its busiest online shopping day of the year.

So the simple answer, of course, is resources. Retail marketing is not a 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday job. It hasn’t been for a very long time. It certainly isn’t now, yet with social it’s frequently still seen like it is.

Customer service departments are a lot better at working around the clock (M&S has doubled the number of those in its e-commerce call centre), but enormous marketing opportunities are being lost by brands who only focus on pushing out messages at the times they’re also sat in the office. How many of the individuals on such teams then go home and browse through Facebook, or better yet do a spot of online shopping themselves I wonder?

And that’s exactly the point.

As Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of DreamWorks Animation, famously said: “If you don’t come to work on Saturdays, don’t bother to come in on Sunday.” Not a bad takeaway for Christmas traders…

Digital snippets: Chanel, Barnaby Roper, Michael Kors, Tod’s, Littlewoods, Chopard

31 Oct

Some more great stories from around the web surrounding all things fashion and digital over the past week:


  • Chanel No. 5 surges on viral video chart, aided by Brad Pitt parodies (as above) [AdAge]
  • Barnaby Roper’s Nowness film pushes interaction with user-controlled “future catwalk” [Nowness]
  • Michael Kors lauded for digital desire: report [LuxuryDaily]
  • Tod’s releases apps to accompany Italian Portraits book [Vogue.fr]
  • Chopard launches e-commerce in the US [CPP-Luxury]
  • Ikea releases clever making-of video with alternative storyline starring Darren the Bear [PSFK]
  • Business of Fashion reaches 500,000 followers on Twitter [BoF]
  • Consumers turn to social media for customer service [WWD]

Digital snippets: Neiman Marcus, YSL Beauté, Mercedes, Nike, Revlon

10 Jul

Some more great stories from around the web surrounding all things fashion and digital over the past week:


  • Neiman Marcus app syncs shoppers and sales staff [Mashable]
  • Yves Saint Laurent Beauté launches limited edition make-up palette on Facebook [Web&Luxe]
  • Joan Smalls stars in latest Mercedes fashion campaign (as above) [Telegraph]
  • Revlon charts new digital course [WWD]
  • Luring online shoppers offline [NY Times]
  • Comment: Luxury must become interactive to survive [Wired UK]
  • Fashion industry aims to corner the Chinese market with Weibo [Fashionista]
  • Four rules for luxury brand mobile marketing [Mashable]

Warby Parker: style x tech perfection

19 May

“Geek chic” might be somewhat of a cliche, but it’s an appropriate term in more ways than one when describing eyewear brand Warby Parker.

The US-based company not only has stylish (and affordable) glasses for today’s hipster set absolutely nailed, but it’s a model example of a company using digital and technology to successfully market itself.

I actually only became truly familiar with the brand at SXSW where it hosted a “Citizen Circus”, a 1920s-themed space filled with live music, vintage clothing stalls, food trucks and of course the brand’s own product. During Internet Week New York this week, it then held a party with Refinery29 called “Style, Specs + Tech”. Both events left me wanting to learn more.

Fortunately that wasn’t too hard. Provide a check-list of top social media sites, and Warby Parker is present across them all: Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram. Each is done brilliantly; tapping into the brand’s stylish existence, storytelling and building dialogue, while always looping back to a focus on exceptional customer service.

On that note, take its second YouTube account as an example. Here, short quirky video responses are posted to individual consumers. Some of them suggest which style to choose, other just say thanks for ordering (see below)… It doesn’t get much more personal than that.

In fact, ensuring satisfaction is seemingly seeded throughout the company’s business model. A wealth of innovative tech functions on its website help decision-making; rotating model shots for instance, or better yet, a virtual try-on tool.

And there’s also a service that enables shoppers to order five pairs of glasses to try-on for free at home. That may not seem about marketing directly, but the delivery encourages users to post photos of their options to Facebook. According to co-founder Neil Blumenthal, the average post then receives five comments, helping to publicise the products further.

The company is also tapping into the physical vs digital world in quirkier ways. Tomorrow its taking its love of Instagram onto the streets with a photo walk around New York. Following the success of a similar event held in January, it invites consumers to join for an “afternoon photo scavenger hunt beginning at Washington Square Park at 3:30pm, ending at our headquarters with Imperial Woodpecker Sno-balls”. Contest categories include ‘signs of summer’, ‘hotdog’ and ‘looking up’. Should make for some great Instagram content, not to mention further affinity with its fans.

If you still weren’t sure whether this is a good company to learn from, they also support a Buy One Get One model – for every pair of glasses sold they provide a pair to someone else in need, check it out. And why not order five pairs to try while you’re at it; I just did.

Brazil’s new luxury focus: IHT #hotlux and more in summary

22 Nov

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been completely and utterly engrossed in both attending and then writing up everything from the International Herald Tribune’s annual Luxury conference, which was held this year in São Paulo.

I was lucky enough while I was there to spend a few extra days immersing myself in everything to do with how the fashion / retail industry operates – meeting with everyone from ad agencies and local brand owners, to publishers, editors, bloggers and sales assistants. I was blown away.

Here’s an attempt at summarising everything I learnt:

Rising middle class and growth of luxury brands

– Brazil has a rising middle class. There are currently 100m people considered in this category, up from 50m less than five years ago. By 2014, Carlos Jereissati, CEO of Iguatemi, says there will be 120m, or 60% of the population. That’s a lot of growth.

– That and the fact the country has a new sense of economic stability – 7.5% growth in 2010 –  remaining relatively unscathed while Europe and the US have weakened in the global crisis, means the luxury industry is thriving here. And the country’s presence on the global stage is only set to increase further as the eyes of the world turn to it in 2014 and 2016 for the FIFA World Cup and Olympics respectively.

– Having said that, São Paulo is the first major city I’ve been to in the world where I don’t recognise most of the stores along the street. In fact, in the malls – where most of the true luxury sits – only 25% of the space currently belongs to international brands. Local designers still rule the roost. But although local consumers are rightfully very attached to that fact, they’re also pushing for more and more of the fashion world on their doorstep.

– Next year will see two new shopping centres: one from JHFS, Cidade’s Jardim group, and another from Iguatemi, the JK mall. International stores are headed out in droves to the latter including: Lanvin, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, not to mention the first Topshop Brazil.

– A couple of other specific cases: Gucci is planning to have 25 stores in Latin America by the end of 2012. Diane von Furstenberg’s store in São Paulo’s Iguatemi mall is her second most successful in the world, after New York. Sarah Burton of Alexander McQueen had never before been to Brazil but held meetings while in town for the conference to discuss opening a store there soon. Coach will open its first store in Brazil in the new JK mall next spring, but has plans to quickly increase to up to seven stores. CEO Lew Frankfort says he estimates the market to be worth up to $350m per year to them.

Complicated and expensive

– It’s a highly complex market though. There isn’t a culture of multi-brand stores, for instance, the result of sky-high import taxes restricting a regular wholesale model. Most designers entering the market therefore have to do so by opening own-brand stores. Needless to say, that’s quite a risk in what could still be referred to as unknown territory.

– With those import taxes through the roof, everything in Brazil is expensive, not least the fashion. But people still buy. There is an overwhelming desire for access to international labels no matter what the price is. Some stores, like Zara, are getting round this however by also producing in the country. There’s likely to become more of this, although it’s currently the exception rather than the rule.

– An interesting fact: shoppers in Brazil buy on credit; deferred payments in two to three installments is absolutely the norm. According to a few people I spoke to, it provides a false sense of security – they don’t see what they’ve bought as the total price, but rather as the individual installment prices.

Lacking fast fashion but digitally savvy

– In amongst all this new luxury, fast fashion as we know it doesn’t really exist. One couple I spoke to – admittedly both of whom work in the industry and both of whom travel often – buy when they’re abroad. They raid Topshop and H&M and otherwise only spend occasionally when they’re in Brazil. When they do, it’s inevitably on expensive items, but they see these as likely to last. Investment pieces.

– Local stores such as Marisa, who are turning to this faster fashion route, feel it is necessary to educate the middle class consumer they’re targeting. These shoppers are not used to buying ‘fashion’ nor are they used to thinking about ‘trends’, the store’s ad agency explained to me. A heavy proportion of marketing therefore is based around advice, hints and tips.

– The only thing fast about fashion in Brazil is the response seen when actors in the infamous soap operas wear items or bloggers post about them. Where they go, the market follows. Simple.

– Given this is a digital blog, it’s also worth noting this is one of the most digitally savvy consumer markets there is. Period. In fact, I’ve never seen such obsessions with Twitter, Foursquare and Facebook (or local site Orkut).

– One in three Brazilians is currently online, and they spend an average of nine hours connected, said Jessica Michault, online style editor of the International Herald Tribune. Real growth is set to follow however as the internet infrastructure improves – things are currently being put in place on a national scale to enable widespread broadband access for instance.

E-commerce versus service

– What’s interesting though, is the complete lack of e-commerce acceptance there is in the marketplace so far. Why? In the main part, because of customer service. I have never seen anything like it – not only do the shop assistants actually speak nicely to you, but everyone is treated like a VIP. Suzy Menkes, fashion editor of the IHT, told a great story at the conference about Tom Ford saying his role model for service in opening his first New York store was Brazil’s most upmarket one, Daslu.

– On top of the service aspect however, consumers in Brazil are used to shopping as a truly social experience. Friends hit the mall in groups, and they continue it back at home, trying on outfits, sharing with others and getting ready en masse ahead of a night out. The interesting thing is, this isn’t restricted to a teenage activity; women of all ages reportedly partake.

– Combining this service and social aspect means two things then: brands coming into this market will really have to up their game (it’ll be interesting to see what Topshop does), but so too will the e-commerce experience need to evolve to get this consumer truly on board. Thinking bigger picture, you could say e-commerce is likely to follow once some marrying between service, bloggers and fast-fashion occurs. There’s definitely business opportunity there.

And finally

– My favourite quote from IHT, came from Diane von Furstenburg. She said: “If Brazilians could put their joie de vivre in a bottle, it would be bigger than Coca-Cola’s”. Just about says it all, not to mention summarises my trip.

– On a truly final note, if you haven’t checked out the local activation of Puma’s After Hours campaign in São Paulo, you should. Run by the team behind by the Brazilian edition of Vice magazine and its counterpart agency Virtue, it’s a brilliant example of turning global creative into experiences specifically relevant to the market at hand. It did so with a variety of events throughout the year that transformed regular nightclubs into old fashioned social clubs; offering games and sports such as table tennis, snooker, darts and more. The outcome was so successful, it opened its own fully operational bar for three months. If you’re visiting, be sure to stop by, it’s there until December 23, 2011.

Enormous thanks to my incredible friend, and tour guide, @carolalt

The Corner’s China launch to partner with FedEx for luxury standby service

11 Aug

With the increasing integration of luxury and e-commerce, an ever-present hot topic is customer service. How best can upmarket designers replicate what they offer in-store in the online space?

It was interesting to read a piece on The Wall Street Journal recently therefore (A wish of e-shoppers everywhere, now in China), about the forthcoming launch of Yoox Group’s The Corner in China, and its collaboration with FedEx.

When shoppers get a delivery from thecorner.com.cn, the deal means the courier will actually wait on the doorstep for them while they look at their purchases, try them on and decide whether to keep them. Now that’s service.

The aim is to appeal to China’s high-end consumers and draw more of their luxury spending online. In case you weren’t already aware of the power of China spending, it might be worth noting it is estimated the country will account for 20% of the expected $547bn worth of luxury purchases by 2020, according to investment research group CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets.

Attracting this booming market is now about doing more than just opening a store. As the Chinese consumer has become more sophisticated so have their expectations, meaning special perks and exceptional service do hold value.

“China’s luxury buyers started decades later than the rest of the world, but in many ways, they are not only catching up but are surpassing the others,” said Federico Marchetti, founder and CEO of Yoox.

The site will also offer a 24-hour call centre, and fashion advisers accessible via instant messenger who can answer questions on fabric, quality, style and sizing.

Interestingly, if the standby service with FedEx is successful in China (it launches in September), Marchetti has suggested it may roll out to other countries too. Watch this space…

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