Vantiv Omnicommerce Tracker™ June 2017
Can social become the complete fashion shopping experience?
Every month, Vantiv and PYMNTS.com team up to deliver the latest news in omnicommerce. Here's an overview of the Omnicommerce TrackerTM published in June 2017.
Clothes shopping is an inherently social experience, and technology is playing a critical role in pushing its social boundaries even further. From sharing selfies on social media to virtual stylists assembling outfits online, fashion feedback is no longer limited to trying on clothes for friends and family. Brands and designers are looking to monetize the social nature of clothes shopping through influencers with thousands of followers and other promotions that use the connective power of social networks like Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.
As fashion becomes increasingly social, tech players are starting to get involved too. Many have invested in digitizing in-store shopping with innovations like smart mirrors and storefronts that can turn window shopping into interactive experiences. But mode.ai is one company that’s looking to make Facebook a fashion destination in its own right.
June’s Omnicommerce Tracker, presented by Vantiv and PYMNTS.com, features an interview with mode.ai’s founder Eitan Sharon. In the interview, Sharon discusses mode.ai’s chatbot that’s integrated with Facebook’s Messenger, which allows consumers to make purchases directly through the social media site’s chat function. Consumers send messages to mode.ai’s Facebook Messenger account, which sells clothing online, or to retailers with which mode.ai has partnered. Then, the bot learns about their style preferences before allowing consumers to make a purchase directly inside the chat.
In the interview, Sharon is joined by Karen Ouk, senior vice president of business development, to discuss how the company is partnering with retailers and working on other functions to make the future of fashion even more social.
Ouk explains that mode.ai’s bot was designed to help suggest and sell items. She says that often consumers are already discussing what to wear to an event or a night on the town in social channels like Facebook’s Messenger app, which gave Sharon and his team the inspiration to use those same channels to connect and sell directly to consumers.
“From the consumer prospective, it helps them get style inspiration and find what they’re looking for,” Ouk says. “It’s basically a virtual stylist that’s at your fingertips, 24/7, that can make recommendations or help you find the right clothing for a special occasion or anything else.”
Sharon didn’t think simply making a sale or even giving a recommendation based on personalized style preferences was enough, because of fashion’s inherent visual elements. Instead, he wanted consumers to be able to make their own suggestions to the bot by uploading photos that can analyzed — a much more complex coding conquest than a simple text-based bot application.
“In the field of fashion or clothing retail, text isn’t sufficient. We have to be able to take an image of a piece of clothing or an outfit and identify everything in the image, what it is and where it is, so people can find that look or style based on a photograph,” Sharon says. “We really believe that the visual element is critical for many consumers.”
Along with selling styles and items on mode.ai’s own Facebook page, the company has built a second business model, Ouk notes. The company also partners with retailers in order to help merchants boost their social media presence and online sales through increased personalization with users, a growing trend among eCommerce companies.
“On the business side, we’ve built what’s really a B2B2C business, where we partner with retailers to build branded bots to help boost their online business,” she says. “The bot is designed to enable these retailers to engage with their consumers in a much more interactive and personalized way.”
As more sales in the fashion industry migrate online, eCommerce is becoming a lynchpin for any modern merchant’s business plan. But while fashion may benefit from its own social DNA, the ability of brands to move products online can be hindered by the nature of online sales.
Customers frequently want to try on clothing before they buy it so they can ensure it fits right and looks good in person. Sharon says that he and his team are aware of these online limitations and are working to address them with future improvements to the company’s chatbot.
Along with finding new retail partners, the company is working on upping the chatbot technology with new features. One feature would take a user’s measurements and photographs to build a three-dimensional model of that person. That model could then be used to virtually display different styles in order to help replicate the in-store experience of trying on a potential purchase. The company is also collaborating with Facebook and other social networks to use new advertising and outreach features to help partners better connect with customers and help those customers find new and appealing styles and items.
“It’s really all about taking that retail experience that fashion customers are accustomed to and presenting it in an online and social context,” he says.
Read the full interview in June’s Omnicommerce Tracker, along with other news and updates in seamless shopping. Here’s a sampling:
- While brands are taking to Facebook and Twitter to find innovative ways to interact with customers, new evidence reveals that a dinosaur of online communication is still alive and kicking. According to a new study from Yesmail360i, new email subscribers are up 30 percent over the past three years. Not only are more consumers signing up to receive promotional emails, the study found, but their motivation to interact with brands by opening emails is on the rise as well, with open rates climbing to their highest point in four years.
- Target is testing a pair of new eCommerce-inspired features for consumers, including a next-day delivery service and a new 360-degree shopping experience on its website. The company is currently testing its Target Restock next-day delivery program in retail locations in Minnesota. The program is designed to compete with instant-delivery options like Amazon Prime, Instacart and Peapod. Meanwhile, the company also added a new virtual reality–inspired 360-degree furniture shopping experience on its website. It enables customers to view curated room designs and browse nearly 150 products to help create the room displayed on a screen in their homes.
- Walmart recently filed a patent for a device designed to compete with Amazon’s Wi-Fi-connected, one-button ordering device, Amazon Dash. According to reports, the platform would place new orders as products require replacement without the need for consumer interaction, unlike the Dash buttons, which need to be pushed by a consumer to place an order. The platform could also provide new consumer data to Walmart from tracking how often products are used and replaced. The move is intended to help boost cross-selling efforts, especially within the grocery business.
- Walmart will also reportedly invest millions of dollars over the course of 2017 to redesign a dozen stores in Michigan. The remodeled locations are an attempt to build deeper connections with customers and help transform them from traditional in-store shoppers to eCommerce shoppers as well. The new stores will include redesigned in-store pickup areas for online orders, pilot online grocery delivery programs and the expansion of several popular departments.
- While Target and Walmart look to better compete with Amazon online, the eCommerce giant is bringing the fight to brick-and-mortar. The company recently announced it will add Washington, D.C., to its list of cities that will soon feature physical Amazon locations, a list that now numbers 13 different locations. The 10,000-square-foot Georgetown location joins stores that are already operated or planned in Chicago, Seattle, San Diego, Portland and several other cities on the East Coast.