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Q&A: antonia, Wednesday & Saturday Group

EDITIONS speaker, antonia, Director of Consulting and Strategy at Wednesday & Saturday Group, shares digital solutions in fashion and luxury e-commerce.
Q&A: antonia, Wednesday & Saturday Group | EDITED
  • antonia

The digital overhaul of Proenza Schouler has received much attention, with their recently re-launched e-commerce site playing a crucial part in this new venture for the brand. The team behind it are Wednesday Agency, working with some of the biggest names in fashion and luxury to create some of the most innovative omni-channel experiences.

We caught up with their Director of Consulting antonia (also Director of Strategy for Saturday), ahead of her debut on tonight’s EDITIONS panel.

EDITD: Wednesday and Saturday Group have such a vast portfolio of customers, how does your approach differ from client to client? Is there a specific formula for different areas of the market? eg. from working with H&M and then Mr Porter.

AT: One of the great things about being part of a group of specialised agencies servicing the luxury fashion sector is the excellent insight it gives us into the forces and factors influencing the fashion marketing communications landscape. It genuinely provides a holistic understanding of our client’s businesses — from production to PR, marketing, sales and licensing — which of course helps to inform our creative and strategic approach to every project.

There isn’t one blanket “formula” that works for every client (if there were I would be out of a job!) Every approach and creative solution has to be tailored to meet a client’s individual goals and specific business requirements — budget, timing, technology requirements, internal resource such as content and editorial production teams, etc.

More importantly, however, every approach must always consider the customer first: who will be engaging with this site or campaign and what will they want to get out of it? What are their priorities and how can we tailor an experience that’s right for them?

When our founders brought the idea for Mr Porter to the Net-a-Porter group, they did so with the mindset of the customer at heart: men more interested in style than fashion. As such, we tailored the experience — from product merchandising, content formats, art direction and launch initiatives like the “founding members” campaign — around this idea of a certain customer mentality and took it from there.

Of course our approach would be completely different for a celebrity-driven seasonal H&M campaign or to Tory Burch’s iOS app, for instance — each of which come with their own very different audience bases with their own unique set of priorities and behaviors and varying levels of engagement.

EDITD: How do you create the right mix of original ideas and intelligent solutions for you clients? Do the ‘wow’ ideas create sales?

AT: It is important to me that we are first and foremost an ideas-driven agency. We are about coming up with strategic and creative solutions to solve a specific business issue or to go after an identified marketplace opportunity for a brand, and then using technology to bring those ideas to life, always looking to the horizon to see what’s coming next and how it can be applied in innovative ways.

Of course, its always a delicate balance between pushing boundaries and leveraging the latest design innovations and functionalities whilst respecting best practice when it comes to driving sales (i.e. leveraging technology to enhance not hinder customer’s experience or path to purchase).

EDITD: You work with many luxury brands to provide them with digital solutions, do you find some of these brands are nervous they will lose brand integrity?

AT: When it comes to maintaining brand integrity, this is an understandable source of concern for brands who have in some cases spent hundreds of years building and protecting their brand equity and image. Engaging with the audience and opening up a dialogue online can be a very scary thing for a luxury brand whose ambition has always been to maintain an element of exclusivity.

When we concepted the launch campaign for Balenciaga’s L’Essence fragrance, we had the challenge of ultimately having two clients with somewhat opposing objectives — balancing the somewhat “mass market” ambitions of the fragrance partner (from a quantitative reach and engagement perspective) with the exclusive aspirations of the brand. Our solution for the “Your L’Essence” campaign was to take a ‘luxury’ approach to user-generated-content, asking fans to upload Instagram imagery that encapsulated their “essence” or “mood”. We then curated the submissions on the brand’s website and Facebook channels, rewarding the top contributors by sending their artwork to them in the form of large-scale framed art prints signed by then-creative-director Nicholas Ghesquière (along with the fragrance of course.) The approach satisfied both the brand and the fragrance partner, generating reach, ‘buzz’ and engagement without sacrificing brand image.

What is scary for a luxury brand operating in a new and often unfamiliar space is that they have set their own bar very high — they must project and deliver the same level of quality and service online as they do offline. For a while many luxury brands thought that it was as simple as putting their offline assets on the web, creating in a sense a static digital ‘brochure.’ We so often talk about the subject of “ownability” with our clients — finding ways in which to creatively translate their brand into the digital space in a way which is ownable to them.

EDITD: Do you look at data and consumer engagement to inform projects? Is that something you monitor with ongoing development?

AT: It is crucial for us as an agency to constantly be aware of what is happening across the market as a whole — identifying new trends and technologies and assessing how and when to apply them. And listening. Monitoring activity on social channels is like having a wealth of targeted, engaged real-time focus groups at your fingertips.

The power of social media “listening” and analytics to drive interaction and content experiences at touchpoints outside of the owned media landscape is huge — determining where a brand can credibly speak outside of the channels in which they are currently playing, areas which in many cases would never have occurred to them.

We will always glean as much information as possible from a brand if they have been able to capture customer data and track customer interactions and behaviours. It should be said that few brands have this kind of data on hand and available. In many cases we are asked to help our clients identify what kind of analytics and data they should be tracking for campaign and content success measurements, both short term and ongoing.

Depending on project scope, we will also often supplement this information with other research tools such as user profiling, scenario and persona testing and a range of other qualitative and quantitative methods.

EDITD: What are the most innovative technologies and emerging digital trends that you’re most excited about?

AT: It is often a game of catch up when it comes to technology. Whether we are talking about leveraging digital to maximise the in-store experience or the online one, we are often waiting for IT systems and processes to catch up with our thinking and strategy as we throw around the “omni-channel” buzzword. It remains to be seen who will be the first to really master the art of personalization — the virtual fitting room, the intelligent recommendation engine, the ultimate “personal shopper” app…

Whether from a product / content assortment standpoint or from a customer service standpoint, I’m excited to see what’s next when it comes to leveraging data to create a truly customized experience. More than that, though, what excites me most are technologies that are designed to innovate around customer behavior — leveraging what’s intuitive to the user to change the way people relate to technology, not just innovating ‘for the sake of it’.

EDITD: Thanks Antonia!

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