Fashion & Tech: Too Cool for School?

By 16th March 2015Digital Strategy, Ecommerce
Style.com rounds up the best of fashion week across the globe

February and March have been all about fashion – runway show coverage has been all over the media and if you’ve been near the Strand you won’t have missed the influx of impossibly fashionable people in our lovely city of London. With all this focus on the fashion market, we’ve been asking ourselves: how does tech fit in?

Fashion holds heavy ‘cool’ credentials – and some of the industry leaders in tech have long been trying to harness some of that ‘cool’ factor to drive sales. Google glass teamed up with DvF and included their (maybe-not-so-cool-looking?) glasses in a runway show for SS13. Mickey Drexler, CEO of J. Crew, still sits on Apple’s board of directors, and Apple have taken a 12 page spread in Vogue to promote the Apple Watch this season.

apple watch

Apple Watch in Vogue

Fashion isn’t always so keen to embrace tech, however, and some of the big names are playing it cool by not trying too hard. Miuccia Prada said of ecommerce: “We don’t like it. I don’t care”. Phoebe Philo, Creative Director of Céline and undisputed queen of cool elusively explained their lack of ecommerce presence: “I very much like the idea that shoppers experience a Celine product in a Celine store”, and Celine CEO Marco Gobbetti said that they prefer to reach customers ‘in the way they like to be engaged’ i.e., IRL. Protecting distribution and limiting access to hero products is nothing new to the fashion industry, and cements the iconic status of design houses and their most coveted items. This aloof, “I’m not interested” approach to ecommerce is in stark contrast to Adidas, whose “just be cool” mission statement for 2015 may have fallen at the first hurdle.

phoebe and miuccia

Phoebe & Miuccia: “I Don’t Care”.

This said – Fendi have just launched their digital boutique this month, and there are plenty of luxury brands that are doing ecommerce extremely well. So – how do you strike a balance? Here are our thoughts on the subject.

Content

It’s possible to have big, glossy imagery on your site, without having to compromise on speed. The quality that is achievable now, along with ever-increasing pixel density on mobile, has played a huge role in luxury ecommerce, and may be helping to bring reluctant players to the table. Tom Ford launched their ecommerce site less than a year ago, but they’ve arrived with a bang – check their ultra-glossy, huge product images: www.tomford.com.

Tom Ford's Homepage

Larger than life product imagery on Tom Ford’s homepage

Handling your images properly in Magento isn’t hard to do, but really important to get right. Like most things in Magento, you can customise the image re-sizing to ensure your images are being served at the right resolution, and that they’re being optimised for mobile.  You can also create multiple page templates, to allow you to make best use of your imagery on a per-product or per-category basis.

Gucci were one of the first fashion houses to embrace ecommerce and were early adopters of ‘Shop the Video’ – and they still have clickable campaign video content on site – you click to bring up an add-to-basket Pop Up, and the video pauses. Productising your brand collateral is an obvious way to get customers to engage with your brand – while still driving sales. From a Magento perspective, we would implement this by integrating our custom lookbook module. Implementing edge technologies like CSS animations and transformations, which rely on the GPU, is another way to get rich content on site. Unlike processor-heavy Javascript, this can deliver some of that old-school Flash functionality – without slowing down your site, or requiring a plugin download.

Mr. Porter has invested in some extremely cool mixed-media content – their recent Belstaff feature achieves the right balance of video content, brand ambassador endorsements, sleek photography and on-point product. Here at LogicSpot, we would achieve this through an enhanced Magento and WordPress integration, creating a blend of content and commerce pages that are easily managed and editable.

Customer Service

So much of the luxury experience off-line is about service, and there’s no reason to offer any less dedicated service online. Liberty do this well – their in-store loyalty program is totally integrated online, creating a truly ‘omnichannel’ service proposition. Net-a-Porter Group are known to use data-driven purchase-profiling to identify potential new best customers, who they then offer superlative service to. To read more about data mining on your site, check out our blogs on the subject – here, and here (part 3 in this series is coming soon…!)

Magento’s account pages allow you to offer a broad service offering to clients, remember who they are and what their preferences are. Loyalty programs, tokenised payments, product recommendations and a smooth checkout can all help you meet heightened customer expectations, and improve your client retention. Magento Enterprise also has a built-in RMA functionality, allowing you to streamline your after-care service offering, too.

Speed

It’s important to underpin all the good work you’re doing around content and customer service with a site that doesn’t waste your customers’ time. Magento is optimised for speed and has built-in server caching, but there is more you can do to increase your site’s speed. Configuring Varnish cache, optimising for javascript rendering, setting up Lazy Load images and installing a CDN can all help increase your time-to-first-byte, page rendering (first thing customers can see) and full page load speeds.

Elijah Wood looking too cool for school for Mr. Porter

Elijah Wood looking too cool for school for Mr. Porter

Ultimately, no matter how cool you are, if your site isn’t easy to use, fast, and helps your customers, you’re going to struggle to get your message across and drive sales. Compromise is key. Jane Shepperdson of Whistles said of their 2009 ecommerce site: “We spent a lot of time researching best practice online. We then threw out everything we had learned, and just designed something that pleased us visually.” – Econsultancy decribed the result as a “a complete unusable mess”.  Its been a long five years, and Whistles are now a major player in the ecommerce landscape – but its still a good lesson to bear in mind.