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Personalise your customer experience with Salesforce

anna dziubinska mVhd5QVlDWw unsplash 1 scaled
Bram van der Doelen
Bram van der Doelen
Marketing Automation Tech Lead
Date
1 November 2022

DEPT® is pioneering technology and marketing to help brands stay ahead of trends. Improving the customer experience to engage on a personalised level with the target audience will definitely be on the priority list of many brands for the next few years. Do you wonder what the personalised CX of tomorrow looks like? Spoiler alert: you can already start optimising your brand’s customer experience today with the help of DEPT® and Salesforce.

anna dziubinska mVhd5QVlDWw unsplash 2 scaled

Optimising your customer experience in one go might seem like a giant leap. That’s why we take it one step at a time. You don’t run a marathon on your first training, do you? The same goes for personalising your communication. Let’s take a look at this roadmap we implemented to skyrocket a personal care brand’s engagement with a personalised customer experience.

Low-hanging fruit: basic personalisation

The first step in personalisation is using the customer’s first name in your communication. It’s a lot easier to build a relationship when you’re on a first-name basis. This easy-to-realise, seemingly small improvement has a significant impact; it directly shows the value of personalisation. Adding the customer’s name in our test run with the personal care brand increased the open rate by a staggering 14.45%. 

The next step was creating three segments within the target group: women under the age of 35, women over 35, and men. After the implementation, the CTR of brand’s emails increased by 7.64% for women and a whopping 93.90% for men!

These “low-hanging fruit” optimisations never fail to increase performance. And the best part is you can start implementing these changes today.

Elevate personalisation with advanced segmentation

Let’s turn your personalisation up a notch. Salesforce’s possibilities go beyond the basics. By gathering data based on online behaviour and interaction, it’s possible to get valuable insights into the customer’s interests and needs.

As a brand, you want your customers to receive your message when they have the time to read it, but every person has their own daily routine. Salesforce’s AI system, Einstein, made it possible to customise the send-out day and time based on the behavior on a personal level. When we implemented this for the personal care brand, the open rate increased by 33.40%.

Predictive personalisation for a top-notch CX

What’s next, you wonder? Predictive personalisation. Salesforce’s Marketing Cloud Personalization gains in-depth insights into each customer and applies AI to deliver personalised, cross-channel experiences at any point in your customers’ journey. Their behaviour will be monitored on the web by first-party cookies, in-app, and email. Marketing Cloud Personalization can determine the following action for every customer and adjust messaging on different channels accordingly in real-time by identity-stitching the data of various data sources. 

For example, when a customer is browsing through the ‘day cream’ category, Marketing Cloud Personalization calculates the user’s affinity with this category. By combining an individual’s user behaviour with the data of other customers, the tool can personalise the website by changing the home page banner and recommendations on the home page. If the client leaves the website without a purchase but has a considerable conversion intent, there’s a possibility to reach out through different channels, like sending AI-driven emails.

Do you want to communicate with your target audience on a personalised level to gain engagement and revenue? Optimising your customer experience is the way to go. If you want to be a leader in your industry by gaining engagement through a personalised customer experience, go beyond the low-hanging fruit. DEPT® is a certified Salesforce partner with the expertise to stay ahead of the curve.

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Marketing Automation Tech Lead

Bram van der Doelen

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The future of commerce is composable, cookieless, sustainable, & personal

future of commerce 1
Kelsey Anderson
Kelsey Anderson
Sr. Content Marketing Manager
Date
27 October 2022
the future of commerce

Each year, DEPT® Commerce Day brings the brightest minds in e-commerce to share their expertise and vision.

The following talks from October 2022 highlight the future of e-commerce and actionable steps brands can take to accelerate their e-commerce strategies across marketing and technology. 

The future of e-commerce is composable

In this discussion, Tim de Kamper & Jonathan Whiteside (DEPT®) talk about why composable commerce is soon to be the leading architecture for sophisticated e-commerce stores. 

Top takeaways

  • More than likely, all brands will move to composable commerce in 3-5 years.
  • Composable commerce is about selecting the best-of-breed e-commerce tools/solutions and bringing them all together to compose and build your own experiences. 
  • The reason brands are selecting composable commerce is that no single vendor can offer all the applications needed to deliver e-commerce experiences that meet the demands of today’s customers. 
  • The typical components that brands are seeking out for best-of-breed include content, search, merchandising, payment, shipping, taxation, product management, and marketing automation. 
  • While we’re big fans of composable commerce, there are a few drawbacks, namely, managing several vendors and contracts, development resources, and more complex architecture. Before diving in, brands should reach a level of digital maturity. 

It’s not just best of breed, it’s also a matter of being able to quickly change certain components in your architectural landscape without overhauling the whole system.

Tim de Kamper

The future of e-commerce is cookieless

Lisanne Maatman (Lead Data Consulting at DEPT®) reviews the new cookieless and privacy-driven reality, and how to handle your data going forward. 

Top takeaways

  • The cookieless future affects all industries but impacts e-commerce most of all, and it’s already had a massive impact. While Chrome has delayed its cookie policy, Safari has already updated its browser to purge this data. A future-proof data strategy is imperative. 
  • There are four layers of data management that e-commerce teams need to be aware of: consent, identity, audience, and campaign data.
  • In order to gain consent to track additional data, brands need to offer something of value via content. 
  • Think about implementing the privacy sandbox from Google or start working on a CDP roadmap so you can combine all types of data (online, in-store, CRMs) and use it. 
  • We will all depend on our self-collected first-party data or the “public” gardens of Google, Amazon, etc. 

You want to be able to connect that user across all touchpoints – the way you do that is by merging that data in one central database.

Lisanne Maatman

The future of e-commerce is sustainable  

Anusha Couttigane (Head of Advisory at Vogue Business) reveals research on consumers and sustainability, showcasing how brands can communicate their initiatives effectively. 

Top takeaways

  • Consumers are willing to do research to make sustainable choices. In fact, 71% of people will choose a luxury brand that supports sustainability over one that does not (Vogue Business Index, 2022).
  • Consumers in the West are more likely to trust legacy media, such as magazines and websites, over social media. In other words, if brands tout their sustainability on social media, it will not be as effective. 
  • Only 15% of brands put sustainability information on product pages on their e-commerce sites. 40% of brands have zero information on sustainability and another 38% bury it in the footer. 
  • Brands should be more upfront with consumers about their sustainability practices–putting information at the point of sale. 
  • Consider sustainability services (repair, warranties) as an extension of your customer service lines. 

The more information we provide to shoppers at the point of sale, the more confidence they will have in your product and brand.

Anusha Couttigane

The future of e-commerce is personal

Ali Mcclintock (Managing Director at BYTE/DEPT®) walks us through an example of scaled personalisation for the e-commerce brand Just Eat

Top takeaways

  • By not personalising ads and brand messaging, you risk inefficiencies by wasting ad dollars on unqualified markets or audiences.  
  • It’s all about showing the right message to the right person at the right time. To do that effectively, you need paid media, data, and technology. 
  • To create a single personalised piece of content, you need to take into account the market, funnel stage, customer mindset, product, brand attribute, and desired behaviour.
  • Automating personalisation as much as possible frees up marketing teams to work on things like sponsorships, partnerships, and innovation. 
  • In fact, Just Eat’s automated personalisation project was 400% cheaper than manual asset production. 

Today there are too many options. With personalisation, brands have the opportunity to say, ‘I think I know what you might like.’

Ali Mcclintock

The future of e-commerce is phygital 

Max Pinas (Executive creative director at DEPT®) gives examples of how digital and physical commerce are blending into one “phygital” experience. 

Top takeaways

  • AR is becoming more relevant than ever. We are shopping at home away from the main shopping streets, but we still want to see things. We want to know: how does this look, or how does this fit?
  • A lot of big names are reverse engineering tech toward stores. We call that “phygital,” where physical and digital meet. 
  • Two examples of this are Amazon and Nike–Amazon opened their own first fashion retail store, and Nike has opened Nike Style. These experiences feature a green screen studio where you see digital screens that are really intermixed with physical experiences. 
  • Shopify has said, “the future of retail is going to be retail everywhere,” and they are set on making this happen. Currently, they have a partnership with Pinterest, Twitter, and YouTube that support in-app purchases.

If you look around, e-commerce is getting integrated into everything we do.

Max Pinas

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Sr. Content Marketing Manager

Kelsey Anderson

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Before you create a design system, do these three things

145 Rotterdam Design
Logan Bishop
Logan Bishop
Lead product designer
Date
4 October 2022

Creating a design system is typically what you think of in the early phases of your design strategy. 

But before you create a design system, a whole lot of work goes into a website or product’s design strategy. And these steps are essential to be able to successfully create a valuable design system.

Here are the steps to take before designing your system:
 
1. Information architecture
2. Goals of key pages 
3. Zonal definitions 

Let’s run through each of these and why they’re essential to the success of any website or product design project. 

Information architecture

The information architecture answers three important questions 

1. Approximately how many website pages do we need?
2. What is the natural hierarchy of these pages?
3. How will users interact with and flow through the site?

If you start designing without knowing the answer to these three questions, you can easily miss the mark. 

By knowing how many pages you have and establishing the hierarchy of those pages, you can start to imagine how many custom pages, templatized pages, and modules you will need. A good design balances uniqueness, consistent themes, and scalability. By understanding which pages are most important, it gives you more context and colour over how you will design. 

sitemap exmaple

For example, think about a SaaS company and the architectures you commonly see (like the image above).

Sometimes you see a single product page that summarises everything the user needs to know in one page. Other times, you see a product overview page and then sub-pages underneath that go further into product features or use cases. You won’t know what you need until you’ve gone through an IA workshop.  

If a user experience team discovers that a single product page is best for users, its future design will need to achieve different things compared to architecture with multiple sub-pages. 

This is how information architecture starts to inform your designs. 

Define the goal of your pages   

Your website has several goals, both qualitative and quantitative. Increased traffic, purchase frequency, demo sign-ups, app downloads, etc.

And of course, some pages are more inclined to facilitate conversions of these goals. 

page goals

Let’s go back to our example of a single product page, where the goal might be to encourage demo sign-ups. Other pages on this website could have goals like: 

– Increase trust in product and brand 
– Navigate to the product demo contact form
– Spark excitement about the product 

Outlining the goals of each page keeps designers focused on strategic outcomes and the holistic user experience. Goal setting also helps designers stay grounded and design for what the given page needs to accomplish rather than indulging in design exploration. 

Zonal definitions 

Once you have an accurate picture of the total pages, core pages, and the goals for all pages, move on to zonal definitions. 

Zonal definitions answer the question, “how will we achieve the goals of each page?”

Some common zones include wayfinding, engagement, conversation, and education, but these are highly dependent on your product’s/service’s unique value.

Define all zones in an easy-to-reach list, like the one below.

zonal definitions

Using the same product example, a question that needs answering is “How will we increase demo sign-ups using this product page?” The answer to this question might be something like:

Create some excitement with potential offers, make sure users can find the exact information they need, and showcase how our values align with theirs.

From a page view, this will look like this:

1. Conversion – limited promotion or offer
2. Wayfinding – answers the user question “where am I?” 
3. Engagement – brand values and content 
4. Wayfinding – specific navigation 
5. Engagement – additional content  

By listing out (in order) how you plan to achieve sign-up goals, you’ve naturally created zonal definitions.

You’ve also created a super-low-fidelity wireframe. 

product page with zones goals

Once you’ve done this exercise for all pages, you will start to see some commonalities. Maybe on 50% of your pages, you know you need a “features and benefits” zone. And only one page on your website needs a “brand values” zone. 

In this case, knowing a certain zone is important and used frequently, you might plan to design variations of the features and benefits to keep the design fresh from page to page. And since you know brand values are only featured once, you wouldn’t design more than one. 

From these zones, you can start to understand how many modules, custom pages, and templates are needed. 

Then you can start designing and creating your design system.

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Logan Bishop

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Design systems 101

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Simon Fairhurst
Simon Fairhurst
Head of Design
Date
30 August 2022

Welcome to design systems 101, a five-step guide that anyone can use to begin to understand and implement design systems. 

Let’s start with the basics.

Define your team

The first lesson in any design system 101 class is to think about who needs to be involved to bring the concept to life. The people who use the design system will be the foundation of its success. 

As it may be a completely new way of working for your business, it’s imperative to have all key stakeholders involved from the get-go. This will ensure everyone moves forward in the same direction and enable them to collaborate optimally in both the short and long term as the design system is implemented and evolves.

Despite the name, we can assure you that it takes more than a team of designers to develop a successful design system. Design systems bridge the gap between visual designers, UX/ UI specialists, and front-end developers, so each of these teams will need to be involved… but that’s not it.

An ideal team would include

  • Designers to define the visual elements
  • Front-end developers to create modular code
  • Accessibility experts to ensure the system conforms to WCAG 2.1 standards
  • Performance and optimisation experts to ensure the system loads quickly on all devices
  • Product managers to ensure the system is aligning to customer needs
  • Leadership team to champion and align the vision throughout the company
  • Content strategists to advise on the tone of voice
  • UX researchers to help you to understand customer needs

Depending on the digital maturity and in-house resources of different companies, it is at this stage that some will decide to work with an external agency that has expertise in delivering these types of solutions.

Some organisations simply do not have the right people or skills to deliver a future-forward solution, while others do but appreciate the impartiality that comes with an external partner that can provide fresh perspectives and really elevate the project to ensure its success.

colors in a design system

Conduct a visual audit 

Before building a design system, it is fundamental to complete an audit of your current design, be that an individual digital product or your entire digital estate.

To understand how small or large the task will be, it is important to take stock of all visual elements such as colour, spacing, and typography, as well as UI elements like buttons, cards, lists, and forms, in order to see how much design debt needs to be addressed. 

This can be done as simply as screenshotting different elements of digital assets and storing them in a categorised document where you can review all the elements. However, it’s not a small task, so we suggest getting as many team members as possible involved. 

It is at this stage that many companies realise how inconsistent their brand identity has become without a modern solution in place; with numerous different hues of brand colours, font families and sizes, or variations of the same type of button.

But by gaining a complete and holistic view of these design and UI inconsistencies, the more effectively you will be able to merge or remove different elements to create a more streamlined and robust system. 

Create a visual language

The visual language is the backbone of a design system, this comprises the ‘basics’, ‘elements’, and ‘principles’ mentioned earlier. When looking at basics, there are four key areas that play a role in every component on the screen: colour; typography; sizing and spacing; imagery.

Colour

Design systems most often have one to three primary colours that represent the brand. Most companies introduce a range of secondary tints to complement each primary colour, sometimes with light and dark variants of each, to give designers more options and flexibility. It may be that certain colours are reserved for certain uses, such as calls to action, to maintain consistency in colour use. 

Typography

Choosing the right typeface is one of the most important steps in creating a design system. Most design systems include a maximum of two fonts to avoid overloading and confusing users – one for headings and body copy – and a monospace font for code. Keeping the number of fonts low is not only the best practice from a typographic design perspective, but it also prevents performance issues caused by excessive use of web fonts. 

Spatial systems

Spatial systems, grids, and layouts provide rules that give your designs a consistent rhythm. The spacing and sizing system works best when it provides balance between elements. The 4-based scale is growing in popularity as the preferred option due to its use in iOS and Android standards, ICO formats, and even standard browser font size. 

Imagery

It’s important to set guidelines for the use of imagery, treatments, illustration, animation and iconography to ensure brand consistency. You won’t want all image assets to be identical, but they do need to look and feel part of a family. The key here is to have a plan and stick with it. 

color palette

Build a pattern library

With the ‘basics’, ‘elements’, and ‘principles’ defined, you can apply this visual language to build ‘components’ and ‘templates’. 

Components are the reusable parts that form many different pages (e.g. forms, mastheads, navigation, and articles), and templates show how elements and components can be put together in common layouts to achieve an effective design. Created by designers and coded by developers, these UX and UI and interaction patterns are the modular building blocks that will be stored in the pattern library and will become the core content of your design system. 

A pattern library is an online tool to capture, collect and share design patterns and guidelines and how to use and apply them. It enables teams to browse components and see how they can be applied in different platforms and circumstances. They can download source files or code to accelerate the production of their digital asset using these consistent patterns. It can be made available to all or limited stakeholders, either publicly or within a protected secure area. 

Traditionally, a style guide focuses on static elements and styles, such as iconography styles, colours, and typography. A pattern library builds on this to serve more as a toolbox of reusable components that can be combined to create an interface such as user flows, interactions, buttons, and text fields. This broader set of interactive patterns demonstrates how hierarchy can be used to produce consistency, but not at the detriment of flexibility. 

The atomic design methodology really comes into effect at this stage

This encourages consistency and reuse. To ensure this, the pattern library should be built in a hierarchical way.

On the base level, there will be simple design patterns like buttons, text boxes, or labels. At the next level in the hierarchy, you will have more complex patterns that combine a number of these features (e.g. an email submission form that includes a text box, button, and label).

Each ascending level of the hierarchy builds on the simpler patterns found in the previous levels. 

The benefits of this modular methodology are twofold.

First, when documenting a design pattern like an email submission form, the designer doesn’t have to rewrite how buttons or text boxes work. Secondly, the email submission form provides a real-life case study of how to use the button, text box, and label effectively. The atomic design approach and standardisation ensure consistency, as well as facilitate ease of use.

Documentation is what separates a pattern library from a true design system. This involves documenting what each component or template is and when to use it. The goal is to create cohesion between design and development teams to ensure the consistent and effective activation of the design system components and templates.

Most design system documentation includes the component’s name, description, example, and code. Others may show metadata, release history, and examples. The most important thing is that it shows what’s necessary for your team to implement that component or template.

Again, the documentation will be hosted with an accessible online tool, such as Frontify, to ensure that standards and guidelines can continue to evolve along with the digital products and assets they serve.

As projects grow and become more complex, everyone knows exactly how to proceed since all details are recorded in design templates and relevant documentation, enabling large organisations with multiple design teams to work harmoniously, and newcomers to the team can jump right in.

Define a governance strategy

Once your design system is in place, focus can turn to maintenance, which is equally important.

Design systems should be kept in constant motion in order to evolve with the business and its continually expanding digital estate, so a strong governance strategy is required to maintain its integrity and effectiveness of it in the long term.

A design system is a living system that needs to be regularly adapted and changed to meet new requirements and feedback. However, to maintain consistency and best practice approaches, changes and additions to the system need to be carefully considered and approved.

Creating a clear governance plan is essential for making sure the design system can adapt and thrive as time goes on.

A solid governance strategy starts by answering some important questions about handling change.

  • What happens when an existing pattern doesn’t quite work for a specific application?
  • Does the pattern get modified?
  • Do you recommend using a different pattern?
  • Does a new pattern need creating?
  • How are new pattern requests handled?
  • How are old patterns retired?
  • What happens when bugs are found?
  • Who approves changes to the design system?
  • Who is responsible for keeping documentation up to date?
  • Who actually makes changes to the system’s UI patterns?
  • How are design system changes deployed to live applications?
  • How will people find out about changes?
  • Page loading times (impact overall experience of our products)
  • The use of animations and transitions

To best manage this, we suggest establishing a design system governance group. This will help to define owners, their roles, and responsibilities, and ensure the ongoing review of digital products and assets in adherence with the design system.

It is also helpful to define workflows for modifying, adding, and removing components or templates as well as education and communication plans to ensure that all relevant teams are made aware of any changes to the system.

https://material.io/

Image courtesy of https://material.io/

Design systems we love

To wrap up design system 101, we recommend browsing the web for examples of design systems. The following are notable design systems that our team of UX/UI designers has selected as benchmarks and inspiration.

Want more? Download our guide to implementing design systems

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Simon Fairhurst

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Production Trends: Virtual Production

mandalorian stagecraft 1 scaled
Lidia Weinstein
Lidia Weinstein
Producer
Date
26 July 2022

Virtual Production

Video production is changing rapidly. A plethora of formats which can be played back on a variety of devices dominate today’s digital space. In addition, the implementation of extended reality technologies (augmented reality, virtual reality, mixed reality) has made immersive content accessible to users via smartphone or tablet, opening up a space for almost infinite creative applications.

For some years now, the topic of immersion has also been increasingly explored in the production processes of film and video – virtual production.

The combination of state-of-the-art game technology and film has already made it possible to produce films in immersive studios for several years. Now this technology is mature and ready for use, experts report. What virtual production is and what impact it will have on film and video production in the future – and accordingly on brands and their marketing measures – is the subject of this insight.

What is virtual production?

Virtual production is a collective term that describes many different digital production processes. These include AR, VR, motion capture and volumetric video (more on this shortly). What we have recently become familiar with from productions such as “The Mandalorian” (2020) and what is commonly referred to as virtual production describes the possibility of producing films in an immersive studio. The entire production of a film is made possible by the combination of reality – i.e. actors and actresses, props – and digital backdrops that are generated in real time in game engines.

What does a virtual studio look like?

In principle, a virtual studio consists of an LED surface that runs in a semicircle or elliptical shape around the set and extends over the ceiling. This surface is covered with a digital backdrop, e.g. a mountain landscape with a sky above it. The possibilities for design are, as you might expect, endless. An immersive space is created with which the actors and crew can interact. For example, an actress can look at a mountain in the far distance without just imagining it, as previously on a set with a greenscreen. In addition, it is possible to experiment with the scenery: landscapes can be changed in real time or colour moods can be adjusted.

Auf dem Set von “The Mandalorian”. Filmcrew im immersiven Studio von ILM StageCraft, auch “The Volume” genannt.

On the set of “The Mandalorian”. Film crew in the immersive studio of ILM StageCraft, also called “The Volume”.

Technological developments in the gaming sector make this production process possible in the first place. To achieve a perspective match between the backdrop and the shooting angle, the camera movement in the room is tracked. The room is measured volumetrically beforehand – volumetry refers to a technical measuring procedure in which a room is measured three-dimensionally. The computer can then track all the elements in front of the camera lens and place them in a 3D environment. The game engine then renders the 3D environment in real time – currently, the Unreal Engine is probably the most powerful. The Meta Festival initiated by DEPT® and Journee is also based on the Unreal Engine.

Since the backdrop is already part of the production, the post-production is brought forward and integrated into the pre-production. In some cases, post-production is not necessary at all, since the backdrop exists for every scene and the light emitted by the LED surface already creates the desired colour world. The green screen can still be used to achieve certain effects. It is then simply projected over the LED surface as well. 

A selection of films made on virtual sets: “The Batman” (2022), “The Mandalorian” (2020), “Ripple Effect” (2020), “Lion King” (2019), “First Man” (2018). Another innovation in the field of virtual production is volumetric video.

What is volumetric video?

Volumetric video is produced in a special volumetric studio and refers to a video where pixels have not two but three spatial coordinates – giving it volume. In a volumetric studio, cameras are installed so that the object is recorded from all perspectives. Through this recording process, the object can later be viewed from any perspective, similar to gaming, with the difference that the degree of representation is much more realistic.
 
This technology is particularly interesting for use in the metaverse, e.g. for the creation of photorealistic avatars. A film in which volumetric video was used is, for example, “Matrix Resurrections” (2021). Many shots from the film were created in the Babelsberg studio Volucap

Das Volucap Studio in Babelsberg.

The Volucap Studio in Babelsberg.

Volumetric video has the further advantage that the camera perspective can be changed in post-production and is not limited by the camera movement as before. This is particularly interesting for interactive films in which the viewers can explore the space themselves. 

The possibilities of virtual production grant filmmakers unprecedented control over all elements and brings great flexibility. For example, the film crew is no longer dependent on local weather conditions and can avoid long journeys to locations. Scenes can be replicated afterwards, as lighting conditions and backdrops can be recreated exactly. 

Virtual production has also accelerated production processes tremendously. This is reflected above all in production costs, which means that virtual production is increasingly becoming the focus of producers.

What do these developments mean for future film and video production?

The transition to digital production will change the professional field from the ground up; for example, think of production designers who will no longer build physical sets but digital ones in the future. Art departments will become virtual art departments or hybrids. Virtual set objects will become reusable and monetisable, e.g. in the form of NFTs

There are several arguments in favour of entering virtual production: maximum creative control, flexibility, sustainability – the elimination of building huge sets on locations, transporting film crews and the associated logistics – and correspondingly lower costs.

Will virtual production replace conventional production? Not quite, because it doesn’t make sense in every case. It is therefore worthwhile to subject a project to a proof-of-concept at the beginning to determine which production method is best suited. Nevertheless, one can follow this development with interest.

DEPT® has experts on hand to advise and support you throughout all phases of production. Further information is available on our Production service page. We look forward to working with you!

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How to accelerate your omnichannel retail experience

shopping trolley 1200x750 c
Lizzie Powell
Lizzie Powell
Strategy Director
Date
4 July 2022

The face of retail is forever changing. With constant changes in consumer behaviour paired with increased competition, it’s becoming more and more difficult to gain competitive advantage, not to mention the heightened pressure on brand’s bottom line.

Retailers are well aware of their expectations of them. According to Adobe, 53% are expecting demands on their digital experience to accelerate beyond what they’ve already witnessed over the past two years. And although retail growth is set to slow down, from an estimated 3.7% in 2022 to an optimistic 1.2% in 2023, there is still a real opportunity for retailers to deliver an out-of-this-world shopping experience to strengthen consumer connections and drive sales.

And it’s not all about digital. Footfall at bricks-and-mortar stores increased by 4.1% across the UK in June. The future of retail isn’t solely digital or in-store, it’s phygital. Believe it or not customers still want that in-store experience, but they want a seamless brand experience across all touchpoints, wherever they may be. 

Ultimately, being ahead of the curve is going to be essential to thrive. So how can retailers stay ahead, stand out from the competition and ensure they are present and optimising every stage of the customer journey?

Cue omnichannel, again

Yes, omnichannel has been a hot topic for a number of years, but retailers are struggling to execute it well. Long-term survival requires retailers to move from a multichannel to an omnichannel approach to deliver the frictionless brand experiences your customers are demanding. 

Almost half of e-commerce decision-makers in Europe and North America agree that omnichannel strategies are ‘very important’. But what about the other half? This suggests that not everyone is getting it right and improvements are required to deliver results and push omnichannel up the importance list! But let’s refresh, what is omnichannel? And how is it different from multichannel? 

A multichannel approach treats each channel as its own independent entity, delivering a consistent brand message but not necessarily connected. Therefore the way customers interact with each channel is siloed, preventing internal teams from having a full view of their customers and data. You could have an amazing website and an engaging social media campaign, but if they’re not working together then you’re not giving the customer a seamless experience.

Whereas omnichannel marketing is all about coordination activity across all channels to deliver a personalised brand experience with the customer at the heart, removing any friction along the buyer’s journey, whether that’s online or in-store. This also allows internal teams to build a full customer profile with valuable data to continuously improve and deliver personalisation. 

The future of omnichannel

To us, the future of omnichannel is all about delivering a true ‘phygital’ shopping experience. Phygital retail is combining the best of physical and digital into one. A popular example of this now is click and collect, but that’s only touching the tip of the iceberg. We’re seeing more immersive brand experiences bringing both worlds together, from Charlotte Tilbury’s virtual store to H&M’s virtual showroom

Taking this a step further, we expect to see these virtual stores and showrooms, as well as brick and mortar stores harnessing the power of data to become more and more personalised to the customer in the future. Whether that’s a sales assistant knowing what is in your favourites, or a customised virtual store showing you the products you’re running low on. The possibilities are endless. 

HM Virtual Showroom Hero Image

Here are 3 key considerations for retailers when implementing an omnichannel strategy: 

01 Get ready for a cookieless world 

Data is at the heart of any personalised experience retailers deliver. Therefore the demise of third party cookies will pose a challenge, but it also presents an exciting opportunity for brands to optimise their omnichannel strategy. At the end of the day, the more first-party data retailers have at their disposal, the more personailsed, omnichannel experience they can deliver.

However, according to Adobe, 37% of retailers believe their organisation is ill-prepared for the post-cookie world. And surprisingly, only 16% of senior executives chose “improving our ability to establish identity without cookies” as one of their top two investment areas in 2022. 

It may have been postponed until 2023, but that’s not an excuse to put it on the backburner this year. It’s time for brands to up their first-party data strategies now, in order to stay ahead. Value exchange and complete transparency are key here. Consumers aren’t going to part with their precious data unless they trust you and what they get in return is of high value to them. 

02 Using data the right way

First-party strategy nailed? Good. Now use it… but in the right way! Let’s be honest, there’s no point having all of this valuable data to hand if it’s not used correctly. Nearly a third of retailers say they are ineffective in using their first-party data to personalise the customer experience. 

An omnichannel strategy will help to collect customer data from each touchpoint, but it’s important to manage and analyse your data to develop a full customer profile and get a deep understanding of their wants, needs and motivations. 

Then it’s all about using that data to be in the right place, at the right time, with the right message to deliver a strong personalised experience to the customer.  

And H&M does just that. On their app you can ‘activate in-store mode’ which allows your shopping assistant to help you find what you’re looking for, whether that’s checking your favourite items are in stock in a local store or whether another size or colour is available. Using their customer’s data and providing them with the exact information they need at the right time and in the right place gives them the convenience and ease of use they are wanting. They also serve personalised offers based on your previous shopping habits, all which can be used either online, in-store or on the app. 

03 Put the customer first

Customer loyalty is dwindling, especially with such fierce competition in the retail space. But we all know it costs less to retain customers than it does to acquire new ones, so a personalised, omnichannel customer experience could pay dividends.

The essence of an omnichannel strategy is all about putting the customer first. If your customers feel valued, a part of your brand and always have a positive interaction at every touchpoint, then they’re likely to become repeat customers, which in turn increases your customer lifetime value – a no brainer. And, there are so many ways you can deliver just that, whether it be through loyalty programs, timely emails or exclusive in-store events.

By preparing for the cookieless world and then using your first-party data in the right way, you’ll already be making great strides in improving customer loyalty and retention rates.

KFC partnered with DEPT® to deliver an omnichannel digital transformation. We created an online and mobile experience by using insight-driven personalisation to give customers a fun and convenient experience, connecting online ad in-person experiences. In the app, customers were able to re-order their favourites and be served recommendations based on their previous purchases and behaviours. The app also included new features such as progress bars and digital ticketing, which enables a more seamless pick-up and drive-thru.

Choosing the right tech architecture

Delivering a successful omnichannel strategy isn’t possible without the right tech architecture in place. Traditionally, retailers kept e-commerce and their in-store tech architecture separate, but this hinders retailers from being able to implement a true omnichannel experience.

The right technology solution can provide seamless integration of online and offline channels, facilitating the end-to-end customer experience, as well as providing retailers with the ability to manage data at scale. But how do you know which solution is best? There’s no one-size-fits-all, it boils down to each brand’s unique requirements. 

A headless technology stack is becoming increasingly popular. This has meant that many DXP providers have started to move away from the monolithic approach to offer a hybrid solution: composable DXPs. These allow retailers to have a greater degree of flexibility, breaking free from the constraints of large implementation updates and platform lock-ins. It also lets teams adopt a best-of-breed methodology.

But a composable solution is by no means the only option. A ‘Monolithic’ digital experience platform, also referred to as suites, can provide retailers with everything they may need to execute an omnichannel strategy. Providing a single platform to manage and optimise all stages of the customer journey could be the ideal solution. It does however come with some limitations, such as being locked into a single vendor or technology. 

Ultimately, it’s all about having a platform with the right systems connected to enable omnichannel and that is best suited to your business. 

The phygital shopping experience is here to stay, and an omnichannel retail strategy allows brands to deliver just that. Retailers need to invest now or risk being left behind. With the right solution in place and a strong omnichannel strategy, you will take your customers on a seamless, personalised experience, however and wherever they choose to shop with you. 

Get in touch with our experts today to find out how we can help you define or accelerate your omnichannel retail strategy.

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Lizzie Powell

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Guide to user testing – types & timeline

user testing guide focus group
Jesse Stevens
Jesse Stevens
Senior Product Strategist
Date
15 June 2022

The only way to get a product right is through user testing. 

While assumptions can be useful, ultimately a product needs to be put in the hands of users to see if it solves their core needs. 

In fact, pairing user testing alongside market and product fit is the trifecta in building your product strategy. When teams do these things, they are more efficient in every other area of development, accelerating product roadmaps and finding ROI faster. 

This knowledge only comes from solving your user’s underlying problems, which comes from testing.

In this guide to user testing, we’ll take you through the types of user testing, when each should be used, and how to use them in a realistic product life cycle. 

user testing guide focus group

Types of User Tests 

There are two categories of user testing, qualitative vs quantitative.

Qualitative testing is learning about a user’s interpretations and feelings, while quantitative is number-based and measurable. An example might be interviewing a single user about their needs and motivations vs A/B testing a single interface element or user flow. 

When conducting your quantitative data, be sure to account for statistical significance, otherwise, your results could be by chance and not a real consensus of users. 

For the best results, you need both qualitative and quantitative testing. Here are the top user tests and how they help.  

Usability testing

One of the most important and popular tests, usability testing asks a user to complete a particular task with feedback while a moderator watches and documents. These kinds of tests are essential because they put a real human behind a device.

With this, you can learn about their problems, how they navigate, how they search for information, and what they like/dislike about a certain product. 

Direct observation

With direct observation, you observe without interaction. Seeing a user easily find information or struggle to complete a sign-up can shed light on how easy your application is to use. 

Prototyping

With prototyping, your user is reviewing a prototype, not a full-fledged app. Sometimes these prototypes are low fidelity wireframes, sometimes they’re high fidelity and clickable. Since development is expensive and time-consuming, you don’t want to begin developing without testing some kind of prototype. 

A/B testing

Comparing two options to find the superior one can be a fast way to iterate. Is a user more likely to respond to a “Contact Us” CTA or “Let’s Talk”? Does a blue button work better than a red button? With A/B testing, you can get useful data and make rapid-fire decisions. 

Treejack testing

Treejack testing is ideal for information architecture testing, which is essential for any complex website or product. You can ask questions like, “if you wanted to find the location nearest to you, what page would you click on?” and then record all interactions. 

Eye-tracking and heat mapping

Eye-tracking and heat map testing can be expensive, but it’s worthwhile for some products. With these tests, you can measure where your users are looking and where they’re clicking on your app– to understand if you are providing the right information in the right place. 

In-person vs remote

You can conduct all of these tests in-person, remote, or automatically. Remember to take these different environments into account when analyzing data, because different atmospheres can affect users’ opinions and how they interact with technology. 

user testing scaled 1

When & how often should a team test?

Like most answers to design-related questions, “It depends.” 

Minimum viable products (MVPs) need different testing compared to a legacy app. A single-page web app needs different testing versus a large e-commerce store. So, unfortunately, there is no one size fits all solution. 

A robust discovery session is a good practice. This process helps strategists understand the problem space and craft a program to tackle the issue. It also helps designers determine how to test and when. 

However, we can provide some general guidelines which are:

Test often

A strong design process starts with discovery and definition, before diving into ideation. Then, repetition is essential. 

Ideate – Prototype – Test as needed

Ideate – Prototype – Test as needed  

Every time you iterate, you need to ask yourself, “should we test this?” While a single colour swap won’t require standalone testing, a new feature will. 

You also have a budget to consider. Testing every small thing will cost you time and money, so have discussions, ask questions, and keep testing on your team’s mind. 

Lightweight iterations = quantitative tests 

There are always exceptions to this rule, but it’s generally true. 

A “lightweight iteration” is difficult to define, but it’s likely something that can be A/B tested and decided upon with analytics. 

Heavyweight iterations = qualitative tests 

Also exceptions here, but when you do more intensive iterations, like developing new features or launching to a new audience, you need to sit down and talk to users. Understanding not just what they like, but why they like it can be incredibly insightful. 

Internal vs external testing 

If you’re in the very beginning stages of product development (think wireframes), we recommend testing with internal stakeholders. 

Don’t go outside of your organisation until you have high-fidelity prototypes. After all, every product needs stakeholders to sign off before digging into the design. 

user testing emoney visual dept scaled

Real product testing: eMoney 

Rooted in comprehensive financial planning, eMoney’s products strengthen client relationships, streamline business operations, and drive overall growth. 

eMoney’s goal was to extend its product to a new audience: millennials. 

Together with eMoney, we came up with five concepts that could potentially reach their target of millennial users. We then kicked off a series of design sprints, where we built out prototypes for eMoney concepts and tested them with real users. It became clear that users gravitated towards one of the concepts more than others, which was a mobile app that could provide financial wellness advice and complement the existing eMoney software-as-a-service platform. 

This was the beginning of what became eMoney Incentive.

We learned through testing and development that Incentive appealed to a wider audience beyond millennials.

Because of this rigorous testing, eMoney’s pilot program created a strong pipeline of interested users, including current users, retirement plan advisors, and employers.  

If your product needs a user testing strategy put in place, reach out to the designers and product innovators at DEPT®. 

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Jesse Stevens

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How to think about shopping experiences in a non-binary world

non binary shopper
Marc Weinreich
Marc Weinreich
Senior Copywriter
Date
2 March 2022
fashion model

Walk into basically any clothing store and you’ll find the men’s section on one side and women’s on another.

Sometimes, they’re on separate floors altogether. 

It’s an entirely familiar experience – but does the familiar make sense for tomorrow’s shopper? 

When clothing stores opened a few hundred years ago, we operated in a mostly binary world. Men wore men’s clothes; women wore women’s clothes. The lines blur with each passing decade, but layouts of mainstream clothing stores remain binary to this day. They continue to reflect the labels that most people use to identify themselves.

The distinctions also help with wayfinding.

Regardless of how you identify, if you’re looking for men’s jeans, head to your left.

Need a dress? To your right.

Giving shoppers the confidence to find an item leads to a higher rate of conversion.

It’s no different online. The drop-down menu gives you two options: men or women. A unisex option that’s “inclusive” often excludes everything from both sections and instead feels like a random collection of hats, long sleeve shirts, and tote bags.

It’s a little murky right now in the world of apparel as brands look for ways to create a more inclusive in-store experience. The pandemic only complicates matters, of course, but the blurring of lines is a great sign that change is happening. 

When clothing is organized by gender, shops are hiding half of their inventory from half the population.

non-binary shopper

What non-binary users want in a shopping experience  

Gen Z-ers are the next generation of shoppers with a disposable income, and according to a February 2021 Gallup poll, 1 in 6 Gen Z adults identify as LGBTQ+. 

Tuesday Denekas, 17, lives in California and identifies as non-binary or trans, and subsequently prefers they/them pronouns. They’re in a band, The Inflorescence, and work as a server at a chain restaurant.

“I don’t want a they/them category in stores,” Denekas said. “I don’t want to contribute to that.” 

Instead, Denekas wants sectionless shopping, a shopping experience where gender does not dictate where you navigate. 

“The best thing a brand can do is not categorize,” they added. “It would be the opposite of progress for a brand to introduce a they/them category of clothing. It would be a patch.”

Alli Rowenna, 27, is a designer based in Seattle, Washington. Like Denekas, Rowenna identifies as non-binary and prefers they/them pronouns. 

“Brands say they’re genderless, but the men’s section is basically suits or typical menswear,” Rowenna said. “They’re not reimagining the boundaries of clothes.” 

Rowenna and Denekas are part of a growing segment of shoppers who make decisions based on personal values instead of focusing only on things like aesthetics or texture. Gen Z, which is anyone born between 1997 and 2012, surpassed 2.5 billion people globally in 2020. According to a report from McKinsey, 9 out of 10 Gen Z-ers believe a brand has the responsibility to address social issues. 

Gen Z is also more likely to “closely examine the level of continuity across campaigns and the nature of [a brand’s] strategic and operational decisions, as well as their tone.”

The study underscores the need for brands to not only be more inclusive but also to be consistent with an omnichannel approach. 

unisex clothing example

How fashion & apparel brands can create non-binary experiences that work for everyone

 Brands are expected to practice what they preach now more than ever. An example of NOT doing this is Primark, a fashion apparel company criticized in 2018 for producing a line of Pride-themed t-shirts in Turkey – a country that ranked third-worst in Europe for LGBTQ+ rights.

So how do you still design effective information architecture for shopping experiences when gender is removed from the equation? 

Ryan Porter, a senior product designer with BASIC (part of Dept), gave his thoughts on the prospect.

“Brands have been exploring ways to add better tools for finding the right size and fit, but now it’s as important as ever to cater to a new generation of shoppers,” Porter says. “For example, brands could do a full-body scan in-store and curate a gallery of everything that fits – men’s and women’s. Especially with VR and AR now. It needs to be about body type. That’s where brands are going to have to drive towards. It’s no longer just about gender.”

Augmented reality in fashion 

GAP recently launched a “dressing room” app that allows you to try on clothes without physically being at its store – allowing anyone to explore how apparel from different genders looks on their own body and in the comfort of their own home. 

ASOS introduced something similar, and beauty stores have augmented reality mirrors that let you try on makeup without actually applying it to your face, similar to how you’d use a Snapchat filter. 

These examples are focused on convenience, but the idea is this: innovation online should carry over to the in-store experience and help to reimagine a non-binary layout – that’s still easy for shoppers to navigate. 

Aligning in-store & online experiences 

Pendleton apparel designer Erin Schmitt believes the pandemic increased people’s expectations for curated in-store experiences. The Oregon-based lifestyle brand weaves and sells wool blankets, men’s and women’s apparel, and accessories.

“There’s a huge push to have that in-store experience be really curated, and inspiring,” Schmitt mentioned. “Because of the pandemic, we’re seeing a rise in the number of shoppers who learned different digital shopping tools and technologies online, and now they expect these conveniences in-store.”

Pendleton recently began selling identical colors and patterns for men and women based on the insight that their female customers really like the men’s designs. Female models wearing men’s sweaters are featured on Pendleton’s social channels because female customers routinely buy men’s sweaters, according to Schmitt. 

The brand partnered with Lee® to create a collection of jeans, jackets, shirts, and overalls with an androgynous aesthetic.

 “There’s something for everyone in the Lee x Pendleton collection,” reads Pendleton’s website. Schmitt said Pendleton is considering a non-binary collection in the future. In 2011, the brand also released The Portland Collection, which was made with an eye for unisex appeal.

Categorization by color & size 

Brands could also take a cue by looking to the past. Vintage thrift stores often display clothes based on color or size, not gender. Beyond the opportunity for bargain hunting, they appeal to Denekas, Rowenna and other Gen Z-ers because the layouts aren’t built around rigid ideals of gender. 

woman in jacket

Brands pioneering non-binary shopping

In fall 2020, Marc Jacobs introduced a polysexual collection of clothing. According to this CNBC report, the designer described it as a line for “girls who are boys and boys who are girls [and] those who are neither.”

Although high fashion and couture may not be for the masses, it’s usually where shifts begin in how we think about apparel. Look no further than the late Virgil Abloh, who democratized high fashion by bringing it to more accessible brands, such as Nike and Ikea. 

In fall 2021, PacSun introduced The Colour Range, a collection of “hand-picked styles curated without a specific gender in mind.” From Stella McCartney to Gucci, companies have introduced product lines that show a supposed commitment to a more inclusive shopping experience. Clothing brand Telfar has a simple motto: “It’s not for you. It’s for everyone.”

The Phluid Project launched in 2018 as a gender-free apparel store in New York City and online; there’s virtually no mention of “man” or “woman” on its site and it’s perhaps a preview of the future of information architecture for shopping. The Phluid Project’s mission is to be a platform for kids and young adults who feel voiceless. 

“We strive to amplify the rising voice of today’s youth, which rejects binary gender norms, and favors an inclusive world that allows individuals to wear what makes them feel good—that is, what best reflects who they really are inside,” reads their mission statement online. 

The idea is nothing new that stores display products based on local shoppers’ demographics. As Porter points out, no two Target layouts are the same. Some lead with clothing, others with food or over-the-counter drugs. It’s based on the needs of the locals. 

But clothing stores seem less flexible. 

They rarely depart from the binary store layout, despite a history of society challenging gender norms. Eliminating gendered sections would be innovative if adopted by mainstream retailers and could prove to be a worthwhile investment as the LGBTQ+ community grows. 

The opportunity for non-binary shopping experiences

When clothing is organized by gender, shops are hiding half of their inventory from half of the population.

They’re deciding which items shoppers should browse and how one’s identity should be expressed. Non-binary shopping could lead to a boost in sales as more people discover apparel that they may not have otherwise found – and perhaps in the process discover a fuller understanding of their own identity. 

A new layout could make it more difficult to find clothes, but at least the brand isn’t placing labels or making assumptions. Removing gendered sections today could help companies closely align with their customers’ values – and for tomorrow’s shoppers, that means everything. 

Retailers and brands should be looking at gender-fluid apparel as an opportunity. It absolutely can’t be ignored. It will definitely impact the fashion trends of the future. The retailers and brands that are doing it now are really going to be ahead of the curve. 

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Why experimentation is the secret sauce of optimal experiences

building light
Paul Thomas
Paul Thomas
Client Development Director
Date
10 January 2022

According to McKinsey, companies that base decisions on data, rather than instinct, are 19 times more profitable and 23 times more likely to acquire new customers. Yet 62% of businesses are still making decisions based on gut instinct alone. This approach is neither sensible nor sustainable in the digital realm, where the savviest brands are experimenting with strategies and technologies to connect with customers on a more relevant and meaningful level.

Experimentation is the process of running tests on your site with actual visitors in order to learn from them and take action based on the results. A/B (or split), multivariate and multi-page testing are all examples of experimentation, each of which enables companies to gather feedback, discard what doesn’t work, and build on what does. 

This theme was put under the microscope at ‘Optimising the Future’, DEPT® and Optimizely’s joint virtual event designed to inspire and accelerate digital strategies through 2022 and beyond. DEPT®’s Head of Data, Cristian van Nispen, and Optimizely’s Director of Strategy and Value Consulting, Elizabeth Gabster, explored why ever-changing customer journeys demand a robust, future-ready experimentation and optimisation solution. Here are the top three insights on why and how experimentation can help to take your business to the next level and deliver the experiences that customers want.

#1 Elevate strategy with sophisticated testing

Embedding digital within your business strategy is essential to long term success, evidenced by the fact that revenue growth now directly correlates with digital transformation. Businesses can no longer operate with siloed business and digital strategies; you need a holistic approach that gives a complete picture of how to best serve customers. 

Experimentation solutions can be implemented to bridge the gap between business and digital strategies to elevate both. Something as simple as pasting a snippet of code on a page that you want to test can remove any guess work and empower companies to make optimisation decisions based on customer sentiment, helping to decrease customer acquisition costs without increasing ad spend or developer workload.

#2 Exceed KPIs through objective assessment

Unfortunately, the majority of people working in digital have at least one story about a failed update that was implemented on instinct. For example, a senior team member suggests changing the ‘add to basket’ button colour from blue to grey as they heard it worked for a competitor. The team obliges but the colour change has a negative impact, with customers overlooking the button, resulting in an immediate financial loss for the company. 

This is the digital equivalent of throwing spaghetti at the wall to see if it sticks. And it’s not a robust enough strategy in 2022. Alternatively, an experimentation mindset encourages businesses to take a more holistic approach, fully considering what they want to learn or achieve and defining KPIs before running tests in a controlled environment. Using a framework to consistently and objectively test ideas enables businesses to optimise their digital experiences. For example, Optimizely’s web experimentation platform allows teams to run multiple tests in tandem, access statistically valid results and use them to implement a best experience for customers.

#3 Identify project ROI in advance

From building new products to fixing existing features, development requires resources and can be uneconomical if the outcome is not positive. At the end of the day, businesses want to know if they’re offering a product or service that creates value for customers, or not. And holding on to products that nobody wants and features that don’t work are a waste of resources.

By putting testing at the forefront of development cycles, businesses can better identify ROI and make quicker, more informed decisions about whether to pursue a project or not. Testing and experimentation empowers teams to question whether a product is worth launching, or if an old feature should be improved or removed completely. These are some of the difficult questions that are best answered upfront, before spending time, money and manpower on projects that are likely to fail.
  
An experimentation mindset and the right tooling has huge potential to take your business to the next level, providing unique data that you can trust. Decisions driven by gut feeling will not cut it in the new digital reality, but by pooling resources to develop projects based on hard evidence, businesses can operate efficiently and effectively, while delivering optimum value to customers.  

To find out more about how experimentation can drive growth within your business, click below to watch the session in full, or get in touch with a member of our team.

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Optimising the Future: Experimentation

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Fashion’s next normal: stories over products, content over ads and purpose over promotion

Kristin Cronin
Kristin Cronin
Head of Marketing US
Date
25 November 2021

Coco Chanel famously said that “In order to be irreplaceable, one must always be different.”It’s time for fashion brands to forget about the “new normal” and start work on the next normal. 

This was the focus of our most recent DEPT® Talk, where some of our Depsters were joined by speakers from Highsnobiety, TikTok, Vogue Business, Ganni, ASOS, Otrium and ABOUT YOU to explore how fashion brands are tapping into the needs of digitally native consumers and redefining the ecommerce experience. 

Map

Here are some of the most important takeaways from all of the insightful discussions that took place:

The rule book is changing and the “new luxury” is emerging

Keynote speaker Angus James MacEwan, SVP and head of US business at Highsnobiety, noted that his company coined the term “new luxury” back in 2018 to signify the shift taking place in the fashion industry. Whereas traditional luxury was very much driven by affluence and how much something cost or how exclusive it was, new luxury is driven by knowledge. That is the new cultural currency. 

Today, Highsnobiety looks at its audience as “cultural pioneers”. These are the consumers that exist in the new luxury space. And there are significant differences in their behavior and expectations versus other consumer sets.

  • They buy stories first. MacEwan noted “the story is such an incredibly important part of the experience for this consumer. It has to come first chronologically. Before the product. Because of the story, the product becomes so much more interesting.”
  • They know when they are being marketed to. These consumers are forcing brands to think differently because they are mostly turned off by marketing in its traditional form. Brands are shifting more towards choosing consumers they want to serve and hyper serving them rather than trying to please everyone.

Given all of this, MacEwan encouraged brands to create their own brand universes. 

“We enjoy watching brands move away from turning a campaign engine on/off twice a year to finding ways to invite consumers into a universe 365 days a year,” said MacEwan. “The number one reason why a consumer from our audience segment would follow or engage with a luxury brand is that they’ve been invited into their universe.” 

The new 4 P’s of marketing – purpose, pride, partnerships and positioning

Anusha Couttigane, head of advisory at Vogue Business, spoke about the evolution of marketing as we move into an era of more awareness and compassion. Brands are shifting away from traditional marketing focuses of product, price, place and promotion toward more emotional values focused on purpose, pride, partnerships and positioning.

“The idea of storytelling is becoming more important. Brands need to build relevance. Make intimate connections with real people and find a more personal, authentic way of communicating with consumers,” said Couttigane. 

  • Brands are centering around purposes they are committed to. Whether it’s Faduma’s Fellowship developing inclusive, adaptable collections for consumers in wheelchairs, or ASOS introducing visual search functions which enable neurodiverse consumers to access content easier, brands are doing more to make themselves more accessible to a wider range of consumers. 
  • Brands are also focusing more on pride and celebration of diversity, heritage, sexuality, and even flaws. Couttigane referenced Dove and Target as examples of brands focusing on body positivity and authenticity in their campaigns, as well as Maybelline’s partnership with Urban Sophistication that debunks beauty stereotypes and expectations that have become normalized through social media. 
  • Luxury brands are also pursuing more authentic partnerships, like Louis Vuitton’s work with South Korean ambassador Jung Ho-Yeon following the success of Netflix’s Squid Games or Dell’s work with actress and jewelry designer Nikki Reed to develop a collection from recycled Dell motherboards. 
  • Positioning is also evolving to focus less on price points and more on new spaces that brands can occupy, such as experimenting in the metaverse. 

Couttigane encouraged fashion brands to take risks because these new 4 P’s are new territory and emotional subjects in many cases. It can be risky to engage. But if brands do it authentically and tap into the values that are important to them, the risks will pay off. 

Original content over traditional ads is the formula for success on TikTok

John Mooney, the brand creative director for Asos.com remarked on what an insane year ASOS has had when it comes to its TikTok hashtag challenges, which have generated over 6 billion views.

“We kept our eye on TikTok to see how it would develop and how different of a platform it was. It was undeniably important with so much fantastic content. For our personality, if we could manifest into a human entity, we want to have fun. We are joyful, playful and don’t take ourselves too seriously. And TikTok is a fantastic, fun entertainment channel,” said Mooney.

Mooney pointed out that a key early lesson was learning that while of course brands are spending a lot of money on campaigns and producing ads, really you’re producing content at the end of the day. An ad, in the traditional sense, is just getting in the way of the consumer seeing what they want to see. For Mooney, the lesson learned with TikTok is that the community will not abide by rigid advertising. It should feel more like organic content with a layer of fun on top. 

Cassandra Russel, head of fashion, luxury, beauty and retail brand partnerships at TikTok seconded this, noting that there is “no better place to be real than TikTok. Brands can act like a creator, not a brand. I don’t say that lightly, as I know it takes a lot to create a style of creation for brands. But success is ready and waiting on TikTok for those that do it well.”

  • “3.2 billion avatars are looking for something to wear right now,” according to Ali McClintock, client planning director at Byte (part of Dept). When discussing the metaverse and the opportunity to wear clothes solely on social platforms, McClintock pointed out that consumers care about the way they look in their digital life as they do in real life. “There is some skepticism about accepting avatars as a digital representative of self-expression. They are a fun, playful extension of our physical forms. We’re not becoming robots, we just have more spaces to play,” she said.  
  • “12% of fashion stays unsold,” according to Chiara Piccolo, Head of Product B2C at Otrium. Otrium is focusing on a simple purpose – all clothing should be worn. Otrium believes we can use personalization, data and technology to march unsold inventory with the right consumer. 
  • “We try to do things authentically and honestly at Ganni,” which was the backdrop for how Ganni worked with Dept to build its first virtual showroom experience in just six weeks during the pandemic according to Josefine Laigaard Anderson, head of business development at Ganni. 

If you weren’t able to tune in live and hear all of these great insights for yourself, you can check out our on-demand version here

And here’s to embracing fashion’s next normal in 2022!

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Kristin Cronin

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