Can you take e-commerce offline? Ask Alexa and Amazon.

Image result for storesigns.com

Image source here.

Hello boys and girls, ladies and gentlemen,

One of the hot topics I lecture on is e-commerce, physical stores and the combination of both. The usual way this is done by companies and brands is that they have a store and then absolutely must expand into e-commerce, making sure they are available to customers through all sorts of digital and mobile devices.

But can this work the other way around? Can a pure-play retailer (only selling via e-commerce and with a business model entirely devoted to it) take its business offline?

The world’s pioneer of e-commerce Amazon has done just that. The infamous inventor of Alexa was once famous for being an on-line bookstore and a few decades later this bookstore is now a physical store. What’s highly interesting is how the digital gimmicks of ratings or purchase suggestions have been turned back into brick-and-mortar. Although I usually write about fashion, art, Japan and textiles, I want to direct your attention to books, in this case. It’s a great example for any e-business, including e-tailers like ASOS or Net-a-Porter and Zalando who all might consider a brick & mortar store (and not just a pop-up store which they open from time to time).

Below I am re-posting an excerpt of an insightful article by Anne-Marie Kovacs and her blog “As a Consumer.” Enjoy and click on the link to read it in full if you fancy!

 

“[…] The shopping experience at Amazon Books, the physical store

I walked into Amazon Books in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood last month. This was the company’s fifth physical store. At 6,000 square feet with only 3,800 titles on display, it’s definitely not a bookstore on the scale of the mega Barnes & Noble or Borders bookstores of lore. It’s “small” but the whole product selection is curated – with guidance from Amazon’s top ratings and product popularity – to feature only top selling favorite products. Add Amazon’s tweaks and “secret sauce” to the traditional bookstore model and it made for a very enjoyable shopping experience.

 

Amazon Store in Southport Corridor of Lakeview neighborhood, Chicago

 

Book display Amazon Books store

Reviews and ratings

Amazon Bookstore reviews and ratings

Each book presented here has been deemed worthy of taking up shelf space. That’s because any book in the store has a rating of at least 4 out of 5. There is also a chosen reader’s review is featured on the review card that is displayed with each book. As is a barcode that customers can scan to get more information. As a consumer, I’m comforted to know that every book in the store has been vetted by hundreds – thousands? – of readers and should provide a satisfying, if not captivating read.

Visual cues

If you like youll love feature in the Amazonbooks store

I particularly enjoyed the “If you like {_____}, you’ll love {_____}” feature. A visual, immediately accessible way to find other books in a similar theme, style or category.  

Reading prompts and local interest

Amazon Books endcaps

The endcaps each feature different compelling reading “themes” such as the geo-relevant “Fiction Top Sellers in Chicago”, the take-it-on “100 Books to Read in a Lifetime”, addictive “Page Turners” and “Highly Rated” books in various categories. The books throughout the store are all placed face up. This take up a lot of real estate but it does make the selection easily scannable and shoppable.

Mobile enabled and encouraged

Using the Amazon app in the store

Amazon knows exactly how consumers shop today: always with a phone in hand, ready to “showroom” and search for reviews, coupons, opinions… It’s probably pointless to “showroom” in the Amazon store since, as we know, Amazon is the usual showrooming reference when we shop elsewhere.

The Amazon Books store encourages customers to use their app, not for showrooming, but to see the item’s price, additional recommendations and information on the Amazon.com site itself. The Amazon app (incidentally categorized under “Essentials” in iTunes) is quite fun to use in the store. Click on the app’s camera icon and it will scan pretty much any object (you can use it anywhere! Try it on any object where you are now) and provides eerily accurate search results within seconds. It found my Macbook right away when I was revisiting the app at home…

Prices are not marked on any of store items. In what we can guess is an attempt to onboard new Amazon Prime customers, existing Amazon Prime members get Prime pricing (which fluctuates constantly, so it can’t be listed) as opposed to the higher “list price” for non-Prime people. I don’t know anyone who’s not a Prime member. Do you? I bet only a minority of customers here actually pay MSRP. Anyhoo, if you don’t have the app, there are plenty of “scanning stations” throughout the store that can be used to get all the item’s info.

Electronics demystified

Amazon Books store - electronics section

Innovative electronic gadgets are not always an easy sell. We often need to see them in action to convince us to take the leap and purchase. The electronics display seen here, paired with competent and enthusiastic sales associates, make the sale a lot easier: easily understood product descriptions, customer reviews, samples to play with and salespeople available to ask questions to. This is the model needed to break through that customer hesitancy barrier. […]”

 

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Sonic branding for fashion

AS I am researching this topic to include in my lecture next week, I want to share some interesting things I have found out with you, my dear readers.

Sonic branding – it is the stuff our windows PCs are made of when we start it up, what makes (some of) us love McDonald’s or know that a 20th Century Fox movie is starting. Yes, these are all familiar sounds, forever engraved in our minds and representative of the brands they are attributed to.

But how does it work for fashion? Fashion rarely makes use of repetitive jingles, perhaps because fashion is built on the concept of always presenting something new, something fresh, something yet unthought of. However, fashion DOES use music to its full advantage! Think of the famous Levi’s commercial which my dear friend John Altman arranged the music for.

“Levi’s Engineered Jeans were promoted in 2002 in “Odyssey”, a TV commercial that has come to be known as a classic. A young man (played by French actor Nicolas Duvauchelle) opens a door, steps back and emotionally prepares himself for the odyssey. And then he runs. Through the door, through the wall of the next room, and the room after. As he continues to burst through one empty room after another he is joined by another runner, a woman (played by Antoinette Sugier). Finally they stop, breathless. They catch a glance at each other, preparing for the next stage of the journey. It’s through the exterior brick wall, out into the forest, up the trees and into the sky. The text: “Levi’s Engineered Jeans. Freedom to move. levi.com”.” (Levi’s ‘Odyssey’ was the first major project delivered by special effects production company Framestore CFC since its inception at the end of 2001.)

The beautiful music was produced by Jeff Wayne and arranged by John Altman. The music is Handel’s ‘Sarabande’ from the Suite in D minor for solo harpsichord. John Altman employed a late-classical chamber orchestra — 22 strings, flute, clarinet, bassoon, three French horns and timpani.

This is a classic example of fusing – erm, classical music with fashion to get a very specific brand experience across.

But now lets fast forward a decade and a half to 2016, when Uniqlo (one of my favourite Japanese brands) made a fantastic music video to accompany their flagship store launch in London on Oxford Street. The campaign is created by Faster Horses and what they managed to do in this commercial is to capture the very unique spirit of London through visuals and sound. They used a German DJ named Konstantin Sibold: https://www.residentadvisor.net/dj/konstantinsibold [this has a great sound cloud link so you can sample his art] for the music and 8 individual dancers whose sequences were choreographed by Lukas McFarlane. They actually used derelict buildings and passages with graffiti all over London to make it authentic, unique and more cutting edge.

I hope the link works and you can watch their “This way to Utopia” commercial and I would love to hear your thoughts on this. What emotions does the video evoke? What do you make of the soundtrack?

 

 

 

On French Elections, Karl Lagerfeld & French Astronaut

Hi boys and girls,

On the day of legendary French elections, I want to re-post a cosmic article that shows what can happen when fashion meets astronauts. This is so out-of-space, first seen on WWD.

Whatever the outcome of today’s election will be, I will always love  and admire France! Enjoy!

And BTW, Thomas Pesquet has his own Twitter page:

https://twitter.com/thom_astro

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Karl Lagerfeld Interviews French Astronaut in Space

The designer revealed Thomas Pesquet, who has been aboard the International Space Station since November, inspired his fall collection.

By Joelle Diderich on May 6, 2017

ROCKET MAN: Karl Lagerfeld has revealed the real inspiration behind his space-themed show for Chanel in March: French astronaut Thomas Pesquet, who has kept the nation in thrall with his regular reports from the International Space Station since November.

The designer hooked up with the cosmonaut for a remote interview broadcast on French radio France Info on Saturday, in which he asked him everything from what he eats, how he washes and how often he works out.

“I admire [him]. In fact, he has even inspired fashion since I was indirectly inspired not only by where he is, but also by his personality, because I think he is more charismatic than his predecessors,” Lagerfeld said.

The designer installed a giant rocket (35 meters/115 feet high) inside the Grand Palais in Paris for his spectacular fall ready-to-wear display.

“I am very flattered that Karl Lagerfeld draws inspiration from space for his collections,” Pesquet said. “Thankfully he did not draw inspiration from astronauts’ outfits, because obviously here, we tend to wear European Space Agency polo shirts and pants with Velcro fastenings, which is not that great.

“But it’s good. It means space makes people dream, that people are interested in exploration and science, and that’s a good thing, because we are doing this for them. We don’t do this for fun, but to be useful to society, at the end of the day,” he added.

Asked if he would like to trade places with Pesquet, Lagerfeld demurred. “No, I think it’s a little late [for that]. And the training is terrifying, on top of which I only speak four languages, and he must speak six, so you see, it’s not enough,” he said.

The designer did have one special request. “Is there a way to design a room in my house where I float around? I would quite enjoy that. It’s nuts,” he said.

 

Kansai Yamamoto thrifty Tribute

Ladies and gents, boys and girls,

Have you ever heard of the Japanese Designer Kansai Yamamoto? Yes, no or maybe? Just to give you a little hint (or reminder for those who know him), he is one of the most colourful, experimental and legendary designers who clothed David Bowie for his Ziggy Stardust Tour. 山本 寛斎 is just fabulous!
david-bowie-and-kansai-yamamoto-in-japan-1973

Image above: Kansai Yamamoto and David Bowie trying on one of Yamamoto’s creations. Sourced here.

It was just my luck, that strolling through London, as one does, I should veer off the road into a thrift store and discover…drum rolls please…a Kansai Yamamoto sweater from the 80s!With a beautiful appliqué dragon and “Kansai Yamamoto” appliqué signature below it.

Kansai Sweater 2

 

The thrift store ladies gave it away almost for free, asking with much concern on their faces: “Are you going to wear it out or just at home?” Yes, of course, OF COURSE I am going to wear it out! I don’t care if I look like I just arrived fresh from the 80s in a time machine, this is a Yamamoto original and my tribute to his great talent.

Check it out:

The discovery of this vintage piece is coincidentally perfectly timed with the Louis Vuitton 2018 Cruise Collection Show in Kyoto, Japan – held on May 14, 2017! Nicholas Ghesquière made a vivid tribute to Yamamoto and it turns out he is a fan of his just like moi.

 

 

Louis Vuitton 2018 Cruise Collection – Image source here.
Louis Vuitton 2018 Cruise Collection seen here.

If you are as inspired as I am, you might like to check out Pinterest with lots of fantastic images of his creations: https://uk.pinterest.com/beaconscloset/kansai-yamamoto/?lp=true

And if you feel like you must have a retro piece, too, there are a few sites which offer Kansai Yamamoto vintage pieces: https://www.1stdibs.com/creators/kansai-yamamoto/fashion/

Have you got a cool vintage story to tell? I would love to hear from you!

Olga xx

The Pretenders: A look at pseudo-international brand names

Dear readers,

In March I gave two mini-lectures to the Business School students at the London College of Fashion on the subject of international branding and talked about brand names inside and outside of Japan. Here is part of the lecture which I hope you will enjoy!

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The Pretenders: A look at pseudo-international brand names

Superdry is a fashion brand with a logo that features Roman letters and the Japanese Kana und Kanji alphabets – they are two of the three alphabets commonly used in the Japanese language. If you wanted to use the logo to figure out where the brand is from, you would be faced with quite a challenge, similar to finding out whether the American Hamburger really originated in Hamburg….

But let me explain!

 

Bild 1: Superdry Logo. Quelle: http://www.realclothesforsale.com/

Image 1: Superdry Logo.

Yes, the 3 Superdry founders really have been to Japan (so this part is true) at some point in the past, but they never lived there, they are not from Japan, they do not even speak “Nihongo” (Japanese language in, erm, Japanese) let alone know how to write it. They did, however, fall in love with things like the Asahi Super Dry beer and many other products which claim to be “super”-something. This led the founders to start a fashion label based in the small British town of Cheltenham which is not very exotic I would say.

(http://www.superdry.com/about-us)

Bild 2: Asahi Super Dry Bier. Quelle: http://www.e-aidem.com/aps/02_A50827134687_detail.htmImage 2: Asahi Super Dry Beer.

Now the famous Superdry logo is based on graphics also inspired by Japan and it is very popular in many countries around the world. It is also an important USP (unique selling proposition) for a fashion brand. But what exactly does this Japanese combination of letters mean? When you read Superdry’s famous graphics 極度乾燥(しなさい) you hear “Kyokudo Kanso (shinasai)” which can be translated to something like “Extremely dry (do it now)” – and it is not a polite request at all but rather an order which parents might give to children. In 2011, the Superdry founders admitted that this is pure gibberish which they like to print on their merchandise, but that did not deter the fans.

They are pretenders!

Bild 3: Superdry Werbung. Quelle: http://www.thedrum.com/news/2012/08/17/superdry-appoints-icrossing-search-accountsImage 3: Superdry advertisement.

Ok, so the founders are pretending that their brand is from Japan. Fair enough. But why are people ready to wear gibberish on their clothes, so much so that Superdry, which was founded in 1985, was able to offer an IPO about 6 years ago? For those who might not be familiar with the financial market, an IPO is an Initial Public Offering on the stock exchange and means that a company or brand is thriving and can promise investors further growth in the future.

Did the founders think that everything that looks Japanese is so cool that it will always sell? And do Japanese think the same way? Interestingly, or perhaps logically, there is not one Superdry store in Japan.
This is however, a strategic step by the brand, as Japanese people would not know what on earth they are supposed to think of the phrase of “Jinglish” – a mix of Japanese and Englisch. In fact, in Japan the popular items are T-Shirts with English or French Prints and fashion brands which sound Western – the exact opposite of Superdry’s appeal in the West.

Bild 4: Shibuya 109, Tokyo. Quelle: http://jpninfo.com/4979Image 4: Department store Shibuya 109, Tokyo.

They sound almost authentic, these Western brands which are called Dainy by JURIANOJURRIE or YUMMY MART by PEACH JOHN, Delyle NOIR as well as Ober Tashe. These are just some of the labels which are on offer in one of the most famous department stores in Tokyo, the Shibuya 109 – or “Ichi-Maru-Kyu” as the locals call it by spelling out the number. This is a fashion mecca for lovers of J-Fashion where young and fashion-conscious people flock to in the search for fashion styles like „Kawaii“ (= super cute), „Gyaru“ (super girly) or „oshare“ (highly fashionable).

 

Bild 5: Liz Lisa. Quelle: http://universal-doll.com/2014/06/shop-staff-68-liz-lisa-machida-109-yokohama/Image 5: Liz Lisa.

And just like the exotic names of the aforementioned fashion brands, customers also love T-Shirt with prints in „Jinglish”: „World Difference Execute“ or „Trusting To Luck. Everything is in your hand“ or „Much Like Hold“ they read. (More trends of Japanese T-Shirts are here: http://mrstsk.tumblr.com/post/80665324669)

Bild 6: T-Shirt mit „Jinglish“ Print. Quelle: http://www.liberalamerica.org/2014/12/01/in-japan-t-shirts-with-reallyyyy-random-english-words-are-a-thing/Image  6: T-Shirt with „Jinglish“ print.

In Japan, the English-inspired prints are not limited to shirts nor to Tokyo, but you can find thm on all sorts of products (chocolate, cosmetics, bath essences etc.) and all over the country.

 

Bild 7: Fancl Japan

Image 7: Fancl Japan

 

One wonders why Japanese people might find foreign language gibberish so cool and one speculates what a customer values in such a product which is pretending to be foreign.

Afterall, Peach John or Fancl are also pretenders as they are local Japanese brands!

In the case of Superdry it is probably the attraction of a foreign alphabet which is impossible to decipher, and costs around €100 if printed on to an “extremely dry” sweatshirt which paradoxically does not absorb moisture nor shield you from the rain. The printed letters convey the poular image of Japanese products being high-tech and superior in quality. The customer transfers these characteristics onto the brand – irrespectable of its true qualities.

The Branding Journal reasons: “Research has shown that European consumers aspire and exhibit inclination towards Japanese brands and this is reflected in their purchase decisions. Moreover, packaging/products scripted in Japanese tend to exude a certain degree of quality and “wow” factor in the customer’s perception.” (http://www.thebrandingjournal.com/2016/03/the-superdry-appeal/)

Superdry has thus managed to turn this perception into a print and logo and then into its brand value. This same psychological mechanism can probably be applied to the Western brand names in Japan. Pretending to be a foreign brand seems to pay off quite well!

And how did Superdry admit its brand origin? Watch this video and see if you can spot the “truth”!

 

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Hoshinoya Hotel Tokyo – a brand new old-style Ryokan

The Hoshinoya opened in 2016

Today’s post is once again influenced by my love for Japan, Tokyo and the amazing buildings that you can find there.

Riddle me this: You do construction work in a multi-million people city and find a natural hot spring. What do you do with it?

Answer: You do some more construction work and put a multi-million-yen building on top of it, call it a traditional-yet-modern Japanese Inn and connect the hot-spring up to the 17th floor.

This is very close to what really happened in downtown Tokyo very recently. The result is the magnificent Hoshinoya Hotel right smack in the middle of Tokyo’s business district Otemachi – a 5-star treat with a real Japanese flair.

The Telegraph describes the interiors:

“A clever addition to Tokyo’s hotel scene, the city’s first luxury ryokan fuses contemporary design and traditional craftsmanship with high-tech touches. The tower is encased in a black metal grid repeating a traditional Japanese kimono motif.

Inside, there is a dramatic double-height genkan entrance with a seasonal flower display, indigo walls, sliding paper screens, expanses of aromatic Japanese wood and modern-style cotton jersey kimono outfits for guests.

The 84 guestrooms are split into groups of six on 14 floors – with each floor resembling a self-contained ryokan inn, with its own Ochanoma lounge. Here, at a communal wooden table or on low sofas, staff serve o nigiri rice balls, coffee, tea or seasonal sakes.”

Omotenashi
Omotenashi

Hoshinoya is good at hospitality and excellent service, because that is what Japan is good at. In the style of a tradition al Ryokan (Guesthouse or Inn) the staff takes care of the guest and makes sure that he or she longs for nothing. This concept is known as “omotenashi” in Japanese and it is truly lived to its fullest potential.

Omotenashi - long-for-nothing at the Hoshinoya.
Omotenashi – long-for-nothing at the Hoshinoya.

 

What does it cost to whatch your dreams on a fluffy futon, after soaking in the Onsen, enjoying a dinner delight of the most delicious traditional Japanese cuisine and staff bringing you tea and slippers before bed time? It will be in the region of $590 to $1000, depending on season and room options. But remember: When you are there, you must take off your shoes at the entrance and show your best manners.

Sliding washi screens and tatami mats with soft futon beds make up the standard room at the Hoshinoya Hotel.
Sliding washi screens and tatami mats with soft futon beds make up the standard room at the Hoshinoya Hotel.

 

Shoe x Floor competition

Good evening guys and dolls!

This post is going to be about foot-candy: SHOES! I’ve been following an amazing guy on Instagram who photographs incredibly beautiful Parisian floors and his two feet in funky shoes standing just at the edge of them.

This week he is doing a competition to win some Net-a-Porter shoes where you have to do a similar shot of shoes and an interesting floor. So here is my go at it. Let me know what you think! I will try to post some more in the following days, just because this is great fun.

I have already spotted a few interesting textures whilst strolling through Munich today….

Olga xx

shoes-1

1) Prada sparkly mules

shoes-2

2) My beloved golden Coccinelle Roman sandals which I bought in Milano a long time ago.

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3) These are my brand-new Repetto ballet flats, the famous “Cendrillon” model in patent “Flamingo” pink!