It was an engaging day filled with thought provoking questions on the state of the fashion industry as a retail business, and insights into the high-end fashion community’s focus on technology.
In the opening session we heard from Karin Upton Baker, the Australian managing director of high-end fashion brand, Hermes.
The most interesting takeaway from her presentation was the shift in strategic direction for Hermes since Karin has taken the reins. She mentioned the irony and juxtaposition that Hermes is a heritage brand in the digital age, but she’s finding ways to bring the two together. As the brand is inherently innovative by nature, it’s crucial that global retail innovation trends are executed across the Hermes staple in Australia.
For example, as a connection to the Hermes e-commerce store, the brand now leverages an email system (both staffed and automated) which will reply to customers within 24 hours of their query. Through making this promise, Hermes is ensuring its customers receive exactly what their brand expectations are.
FASTRAK ASIAN SOLUTIONS
Following this, Richard Beere of Fastrak Asian Solutions, discussed the Asian marketplace and how best to engage with it. His “Beere’s Beliefs” were a highlight, with audience members taking home the following messages:
1. The Chinese marketplace is modern, not western – you need to target the market as such and build business around respect.
2. There’s a “wonderful inter-connectivity of people” in the Chinese market – this means that positive feedback and negative feedback spread at equally rapid paces.
3. It’s about bragging rights and conversational currency – ⅕ of global internet users are in China; they’re constantly on their mobile devices and social networks talking about their daily brand engagements.
Richard hypothesised that in the next 15 years, cities 10x the size of NYC will be built in China. This essentially means that with the rapid growth of the chinese market, we need to know more about their trades, cultures and retail spaces than ever.
Keith Mercer, omni-channel retail executive for IBM, showed off IBM’s latest product: Watson. He began by announcing his statistical findings on the rise of social media marketing for customers on the path to purchase. Keith explained that friends are the biggest influences on purchasing behaviours due to:
-51% of friends posting about items they’ve purchased
-50% of retailers emailed sales announcements
-48% of friends post about retailers they’ve shopped at
-42% of retailers announce sales via social channels
-38% of retailers receive recommendations on their own site
-30% of retailers receive recommendations on their own social channels
So Keith introduced the concept: So-Lo-Mo – social, local and mobile will be the biggest differentiator between technologically engaged brands who are utilising the right marketing channels for their business.
As an example, Watson, IBM’s shopping product, answers the age old question, “what shall I wear” through a iPhone Siri-style interface and serves locational content to a users’ device based on their social media preferences (like Pinterest).
SHOES OF PREY, LULULEMON AND TOP 3 BY DESIGN
An engaging panel with Shoes of Prey’s Jodie Fox, Lululemon’s Gordon Devin and Top 3 by Design’s Terri Winter which answered some of our lingering questions on what it’s like to start a business and be successful.
Jodie mentioned that generosity is a redeeming factor in the retail community. It’s widely regarded that you’re not supposed to know everything, but rather learn from your mistakes and grow. Jodie also mentioned that a great way for a business to function is by asking for forgiveness rather than permission. That way you’re not bogged down by red tape and can allow your brand the room it needs to grow.
Gordon mentioned that they don’t necessarily do marketing in the traditional sense, but rather operate in a decentralised structure by trusting and empowering the leaders in their stores to be the biggest advocates of their brand.
STREETSMITH, HABBOT SHOES AND MISSCHU
Finally, we heard from three entrepreneurs and influencers in the fashion retail community who all had incredible success stories to tell: Liz Sunshine of Streetsmith, Annie Abbot of Habbot Shoes and Nahji Chu of MissChu.
Liz owns her own photography business shooting fashion street style, Annie runs a high-end shoe label and Nahji has a Vietnamese street food chain.
Their parting words to inspire the industry professionals were:
“Flats or heels? It depends who’s ass you’re kicking that day” – Nahji Chu
“Know that it will happening if you keep pushing. Keep trying and don’t give up” – Liz Sunshine
“Don’t take no for an answer” – Annie Abbot