Last night played host to the third installment of our EDITIONS winning formula; where we get fashion industry insiders together, ply them with drinks (thanks Celia Beer!) and then encourage them to reveal secrets and share their learnings from the inside track. The latest in our bill of exclusive events was held at the Hospital Club, and although tickets were snapped up swiftly, we’re happy to impart the night’s wisdoms to those who couldn’t make it. This time, we got our industry pals mulling over The Ins & Outs of Omni-Channel.
David Koma – Designer
Lou Stoppard – Fashion Editor, SHOWstudio
The night kicked off with a keynote from David Koma, who’s currently in the first week of research for his new collection – a favourite stage for the London designer, and self-confessed library-geek. “I love the library, it makes me feel like I’m back at school!”. Koma shared with the audience his adoration for Topshop, and spoke of the ease of his collaboration with the retailer in 2011 – “they allowed me to be very creative and free” and for the first time allowed him to reach a wider audience; invaluable for any young designer.
With the night’s focus on the digital experience, Koma admitted that currently omni-channel is not correct for his brand, although he sees e-commerce as a good way to communicate with the customer and in turn, evolve product. He uses Instagram, but doesn’t tweet, “I don’t really feel the need to say everything.” Acknowledging the importance of e-commerce to the industry, Koma said it’s part of the “bigger plan”. Where the online mindset does kick into the brand however, is in Koma’s development process. He spoke of his “digital eye” (his camera!) and the value of testing things through this format; evaluating how they will appear online and in imagery. He steers clear of Swarovski crystals for example, as they don’t photograph well on the catwalk and uses prints which can be seen easily even when the texture of fabrics can’t. With such focus on the visual online life of his products, can Koma see the physical fashion show becoming obsolete? “I’m very old-school. Everything is changing but I hope the physical element remains!”
Next up it was the panel’s turn to be quizzed by Stoppard and they wasted no time in setting the record straight; the fashion industry hates the term ‘omni-channel’! FCUK’s Suzanne Egleton suggested ‘happy shopping’ would be a better term, saying it’s about getting product to everyone, everywhere; whether that’s via mobile, web or in store. Wednesday’s antonia made the excellent point that retailers and brands see themselves in online and offline terms, but the customer does not. Omni-channel to Thompson is the ‘when and where’ of consumers experiencing the brand. All agreed that experience is critical to good e-commerce.
Stoppard then quizzed the trio on how resources are dedicated to multi-channel. Kate Malkin stressed a holistic view of the web and said that at Whistles, there’s a digital role in everyone’s job, making it core to the business. Everyone owning a part of the process aids in better communication. Suzanne echoed this; at FCUK teams work collaboratively across all sectors, although getting everything to tie together is one of her biggest challenges.
Upon the complex issue of a customer personalisation vs. a seamless experience, Malkin suggested that over-personalisation can be annoying. Thompson spoke of the fine balance of privacy and personalisation her agency tries to strike and their leaning on social listening in order to get into the mindset of the customer. Egleton backed this up, saying that in reality a single customer view can be difficult but “data, data, data” helps out. We couldn’t agree more Suzanne!
With the in store vs online battle raging, Egleton shared that 20-30% of FCUK orders are Click & Collect and says she’s excited about having product availability across all channels. Malkin and Thompson both agreed that in store technologies can be annoying and get in the way of retail but cited Burberry, McQueen and Dover Street Market as examples of tech retail done well. Product also sells differently online to in store; shoes and dresses being top categories for both Whistles and FCUK with both retailers’ representatives saying their trend-led and directional product sells better online.
So what of the future? Do our insiders envisage platform exclusivity for retail, with a magazine style subscription? Malkin does, and although it will require a lot of research, sees editorial content by invitation as relevant to Whistles. Egleton doesn’t think customers are ready to pay for content and Thompson agreed that it wouldn’t be easy but the opportunities here are exciting; how to reward loyal customers being of particular interest.
Another insightful night, with huge thanks to all our speakers and the excellent Lou Stoppard for extracting their priceless knowledge. Want to be involved? Follow our EDITIONS Facebook page to be the first to know about the next event. In the meantime, happy shopping!