Centre for Fashion Enterprise Explores the New ‘Age of Experience’ in Retail Tech

Centre for Fashion Enterprise's Fashion Tech Project Officer, Ishwari Thopte, gives us a roundup on their 13th Meetup that took place this month at Campfire Shoreditch.

With diminishing attention spans, overwhelming amounts of content, lack of free time and the invasion of technology in every aspect of our lives, it’s no surprise that ‘experience’ is a new luxury. Today’s consumers crave new and innovative experiences in every aspect of their lives – from food, travel, and workplaces to events and shopping, if you can give them an authentic emotional experience, you are more likely to win their loyalty. ‘Age of Experience’ thus formed the perfect topic for our 13th meetup, an event series Centre for Fashion Enterprise (CFE) piloted in 2014 in collaboration with The Trampery, London Fields.

Centre for Fashion Enterprise
Rebecca Morter, founder of Lone Design Club (LDC)  Image credit: Emmi Hyyppa for CFE

Over the last four years, CFE has curated and hosted meetups on topics ranging from Big data, IoT, Immersive technologies, Storytelling, and Emotions, to Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, Sensory tech and Sustainability. CFE now has a strong interactive community of 500+ attendees that are a mix between designers, creatives, start-ups, investors, retailers, independent brands and tech experts that are always hungry for knowledge, exchanging ideas and collaborating on cross-disciplinary projects. But over the years, CFE kept coming back to the same unanswered question: ‘How can brands create a positive and seamless omnichannel experience?’ And finally, it seems like CFE has made progress in answering that question last week.

The 13th Centre for Fashion Enterprise Meetup

For our 13th Meetup that took place on the 4th of October at Campfire Shoreditch, CFE lined up four exciting speakers who brought their unique perspectives to the table.  Moderated by Lynne Murray, Director of the Digital Anthropology Lab and co-founder of Holition, Murray excelled at the role as she questioned and explored the different aspects of retail experiences.

Centre for Fashion Enterprise
Moderator Lynne Murray Director of Digital Anthropology Lab & co-founder of Holition Image credit: Emmi Hyyppa for CFE

Joel Adebayo, MD of Utter Couture and Not Just Another Store, kick-started the evening on a fun note with the most engaging non-visual talk CFE has ever had from an opening speaker. He talked us through his journey of becoming a serial entrepreneur in an industry that he had no previous knowledge of, and how it was his love for supporting new talent and storytelling that enabled him to grow his business, from curated e-commerce to a Boxpark pop-up and now a retail outlet on Shoreditch high street.

Centre for Fashion Enterprise
Joel Adebayo, MD of Utter Couture and Not Just Another Store

Joel’s passion for supporting young talent and his experienced business acumen was palpable throughout his talk. “We sell everything that is on display, from the rug, the sofa, the art hanging on the wall, alongside the clothes. Our store is designed to make people feel like they are in a friend’s living room, browsing through their collections and discovering something new every time they visit,” he revealed.  When quizzed about growing his business, Joel narrated how oversees customers loved to stay in touch and use WhatsApp as a channel to place orders, indicating the rise of a new sales channel in Europe which is already widely used in Asian markets.

“Our store is designed to make people feel like they are in a friend’s living room, browsing through their collections and discovering something new every time they visit”

The second speaker for the night was Jennifer Fruehauf, retail and digital transformation expert with 18 years of retail experience across North America and Europe. Her most recent stint with Farfetch as their Commercial and Business Development Director for the store of the future made her the perfect speaker to bring in a global perspective. Jennifer enthralled the audience with some fascinating examples of experiential retail projects that she has either worked on or used as best practice benchmarks. From the Samsung concept store in NYC, Revolve social club in LA, LN-CC in London, SixHundredFour in Vancouver and Peak Performance’s Magic Hour shops online, Jennifer demystified every example to help us understand what contributes to an exceptional retail experience and how brands were getting closer and closer to achieving a seamless omnichannel experience.

Centre for Fashion Enterprise
Jennifer Fruehauf, retail and digital transformation expert Image credit: Emmi Hyyppa for CFE

Adding an expert industry perspective was Richard Smith from Myagi, a software streamlining how brands, retailers and frontline teams collaborate, communicate and educate so they can deliver memorable customer service in store. Having started my own London career on the shop floor some eight years ago, I was most excited and intrigued with Richard’s presentation that addressed all the current issues customers face in-store and how Myagi was helping solve them. We quickly learned how establishing a strong knowledge supply chain for brands and retailers was key to delivering excellent in-store customer service and enabling sales associate to help brands drive sell-through. Richard shared an interesting observation when he talked about how “digital has taken the pressure off the physical, allowing it to be exactly what it was meant for – a place for discovery, experience and conversations”. His talk put the role and contribution of a sales associate in communicating a compelling brand story in a new light, and I’m excited to see more brands and retailers use it for an enhanced in-store experience.

ALSO READ: Retailers Investing in AR / VR Should Know 4 in 5 Shoppers Wouldn’t Be Interested In Using It!

Lastly, CFE had Rebecca Morter, founder of Lone Design Club (LDC) talked through her journey of designer turned serial entrepreneur to meet the changing shopping behaviour. As one of CFE’s current supported businesses, she explained how LDC unites independent designers in hosting experience led concept stores that drive traffic and sales across various channels like social, online and offline. Founded in February 2017, the community has been growing every day with their summer pop-up showcasing 17 brands having a collective reach of 118,000 on Instagram. Rebecca’s story perfectly highlighted how independent designers have been struggling with the decline of traditional wholesale and how technology is enabling us to experiment with new business models that can prove sustainable in the long run.

Centre for Fashion Enterprise
Image credit: Emmi Hyyppa for CFE

Besides listening to the speakers share their wealth of knowledge about their business journeys, those who attended were also treated to a live demo from See Fashion, a personalised search and discovery tool for fashion e-commerce, which uses cutting-edge computer vision technology to help retailers deliver tailored shopping experiences that convert.  If you missed out, do not worry the podcast from this meetup will be uploaded shortly. Otherwise, if you would like to attend future events, you should take a moment to sign up to the newsletter.

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Ishwari Thopte
Ishwari Thopte

Centre for Fashion Enterprise's Fashion Tech Project Officer Ishwari has written and presented research projects for LCF and CFE, at the EAMI ‘Managing in a Global Economy’ conference in 2011 and published a paper in the International Journal of Strategic Alliances in 2014.