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WWD Digital Forum Recap, Part 2: Embedding Digital into Brand DNA

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The WWD Digital Forum, which took place on 10 July 2014, brought together top executives across fashion, beauty and retail industries to address the most pertinent issues businesses face in this ever-evolving digital landscape.

In this second recap, Euromonitor International assesses the differing online strategies of two contemporary premium labels: AllSaints and Kate Spade.

AllSaints: An Operations Overhaul

According to William Kim, CEO of AllSaints, digital must be adopted by everybody in an organisation, not just the dedicated function. He is keen to make AllSaints not just a retailer with an amazing digital strategy, but a digital brand that happens to have some stores.

A core strategy for the company is to make the business model “foolproof” for 2020. Kim states that the US, a strategic focus for the brand, is going to be a lot more “dotcom” in 2020. Indeed, apparel and footwear internet retailing in the US is expected to grow by an incremental US$22.7 billion by 2018, according to Euromonitor International.

Contrary to the popular tactic followed by its global competitors, AllSaints has not launched a global flagship store on New York’s prominent 5th Avenue. According to Kim, this money would be better invested in coders, given, in 2020, online will be a much stronger influencer of sales than this one store.

AllSaints has taken a page out of the Zappos playbook, a pure play online retailer renowned for its superior customer service. Zappos strategically operates its distribution centre in Memphis, Tennessee, where the FedEx headquarters are located. Similarly, AllSaints has relocated its own distribution centre from New Jersey to Atlanta, where the UPS headquarters are.

Kim also emphasises the fact that working to annual targets is no longer realistic for companies, given how rapidly and dramatically change can occur in this digital age. He gives the example of tablet devices, which were first introduced in 2010 and in such a short period of time have managed to change consumers’ lives considerably. AllSaints derives 50% of its online traffic from mobile and tablet devices.

Online data analytics were used to inform the company’s decision to enter Canada and the Netherlands in 2013. In 2014, however, the company does not plan on entering Australia, the conclusion that should have been drawn based solely on online traffic.

Instead, the brand will enter Korea, where Kim believes a revolution is happening, and where AllSaints’ gritty East London vibe would fit in well. The country’s position as a trendsetter for the rest of Asia has also played a role in the decision. It has launched its Korean site before the stores, again highlighting the decision to place digital first.

Kate Spade: Digital Storytelling

For Kate Spade New York, digital has played a huge role in communicating the quirky, charming persona that the brand stands for. E-commerce currently generates over 20% of the brand’s sales. According to Mary Beech, Senior Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer at Kate Spade, content plays a huge role on the site, not just to “editorialise” products, but to highlight the fact that lifestyle is just as important a part of the Kate Spade brand.

The brand’s recent “Our Month In” campaign has been a great example of this. Each month in 2014 the brand will choose a city worldwide and launch regular content linked to it, including information on local music, food and culture, alongside new products. The frequency of publishing and its calendar-like structure is driving a lot of traffic to the site as consumers are eager to find what is coming next.

Kate Spade has also launched shoppable content outside of its own branded site. For the 2013 holiday season, the brand partnered with Google Lightbox to create a shoppable web video advert.

According to Beech, the stores remain the biggest embodiment of the brand. They are designed to look like a cool friend’s apartment, inviting and inspiring. Digital is still embedded into the physical spaces. For example, fitting rooms have been designed with “selfies” in mind.

In 2014, Kate Spade partnered with Perch, an interactive display system, to bring online content to life in stores, without the customer having to view it through a screen. The brand will also be exploring the idea of “shoppable spaces” in 2014 under the Kate Spade brand, following the success of Kate Spade Saturday’s shoppable windows.

Making Digital a Priority

Despite the drastically different aesthetics, the common vein running through both AllSaints and Kate Spade is their commitment to digital innovation. They are not only participating in it, but making it an inherent part of their brand identities. Online retailing and new technologies are influencing every aspect of their strategies: from retail expansion to the in-store experience.


Read the WWD Digital Forum Recap Part 1 here.

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