Tech and fashion may seem like unlikely partners, but as consumers increasingly embrace digital-centric shopping experiences, the retail industry is undergoing a complete transformation to build lasting relationships and connect with users, no matter the channel. In fact, according to McKinsey, industry forecasts suggest that nearly all growth witnessed in the U.S. apparel market will be the result of omnichannel sales in the next three years.
Seeing the massive role tech plays in helping users shop more efficiently, surfacing products and services according to their tastes and preferences, there was plenty to talk about during our event with Out in Tech NYC.
Moderated by Martyn Boddy, Head of Partnerships at Shopify Plus, panelists repped a variety of sectors and backgrounds:
- Elizabeth Leifer, Chief Creative Officer at Play Out Underwear
- Kyle Harrington, Managing Director at El Toro Interactive, LLC
- Darragh Dandurand, Creative Director and Photojournalist
- Talun Zeitoun, Consultant, Digital Marketing & Content Strategy
From left to right: Martyn, Elizabeth, Kyle, Darragh, and Talun
Over the span of the evening, the conversation covered a variety of topics, all primarily focused on the following four key themes.
Tech supercharges fashion and retail brands’ abilities to achieve key objectives
From wearable tech to fast fashion, technology is helping fashion and retail brands – both big and small – create engaging, user-friendly experiences for consumers. Not only can these brands tap tech partners and agencies to help them identify and stay on track with key objectives, but they can also build in-house solutions to streamline campaign creation processes.
“The world we live in is so data driven…you have to be really specific, you have to use a mixture of CRM, and in the social space, things like Lookalikes and interest-based targeting.” – Kyle Harrington, Managing Director at El Toro Interactive, LLC
Additionally, with the influx of apps designed to reduce the heavy lifting often necessary for content creation, social media campaign launches, and influencer marketing efforts, brands can now reach and engage with customers at scale, not merely online, but during every single interaction.
Meeting the demands of today’s consumers requires building organizations with diverse voices
More than just a hot-button topic, building diverse organizations that reflect a multitude of identities is essential to forming authentic connections with consumers. Across the board, our panelists agreed that hiring LGBT+ talent, people of color, and individuals from various backgrounds doesn’t just help them form meaningful relationships with customers, but it also informs product creation and marketing plans.
As a result, to truly reach people navigating the crowded retail space, consumers – who are often wary of being taken advantage of – must believe the convictions brands center their operations around. And in this case, practicing what you preach requires organizations to have teams in place that reflect a diverse set of beliefs.
“[Working at] an agency that represents brands, I feel like we have a responsibility to ensure that the people we represent are as diverse as possible. And for the people we cast for these big campaigns, that we are presenting the most diverse cast possible.” – Talun Zeitoun, Consultant, Digital Marketing & Content Strategy
Consumers are now more aware of being marketed to than ever, and the conversation touched on brands that capitalize on seasonality within their marketing campaigns. Designed to amplify the voices and groups a brand is targeting, the panelists expressed a belief that most of these efforts fall flat due to their fleeting nature.
In reference to brands who design campaigns solely centered on Pride Month, Creative Director and Photojournalist, Darragh, brought up a popular sentiment expressed by the LGBT+ community: “Are you commercializing the work we are doing?” Her advice to companies hoping to connect with consumers beyond one-off holidays is to find ways to strike a balance, ensuring different groups and audiences feel represented year-round without excluding other target audiences.
Effectively tailoring experiences can turn customers into brand evangelists
Personalization plays a crucial role for organizations looking to build cohesive omnichannel experiences. Whether mapping advertising plans, email strategies, eCommerce site designs, or mobile app interactions, Kyle stressed the importance of looking at where a customer is in their journey with a brand. “This requires [meeting] them at different parts [of the funnel] and educating them on what the core values of the brand are,” he explains.
He emphasized that once a company can put proper messaging and strategies in place – ones that speak to users’ interests, behavior, and affinities – consumers will start leaving the consideration phase and move closer to a conversion. As a result, when tailoring experiences, it’s essential for organizations to speak to consumers’ wants and needs confidently and authentically. Doing so will do more than just create a sense of trust; it will drive brand allegiance, transforming one-time shoppers into long-term, loyal brand enthusiasts.
“We have our own specific tone with everybody, and within that, we make subtle shifts to make sure we are including all of the different types of customers and make sure that they all know that there is a space there for them.” – Elizabeth Leifer, Chief Creative Officer at Play Out Underwear
AI, AR, and VR are shaping the future of digital interactions
Perhaps the most shared sentiment among our panelists was that the future of marketing is dependent upon brands’ abilities to speak to different consumers, matching them with products and services that reflect their identities. Now, as tech increasingly merges with the physical world, retailers are able to create products that help consumers better express themselves.
“With the future of personalization, the future of fashion, and the future of how we all will interact, we’re going to be able to design how we see one another.” – Darragh Dandurand, Creative Director and Photojournalist
And we’re already seeing this happen: Warby Parker has a mobile app for virtually trying on eyeglasses while Sephora’s in-store AR mirror allows visitors to virtually test shades of lipstick or different colors of eyeshadow. Darragh rationalized the increasing demand for this tech best: “We already augment aspects of our physical lives, so why wouldn’t we do that digitally?”
Paving the way for a more equitable future
In its quest to unite the LGBT+ community, we’re grateful for the critical work Out in Tech does to ensure everyone feels represented, empowered, and heard while pursuing careers in tech. We were honored to host this amazing cohort of marketers, practitioners, and creative-types, facilitating an environment for collaboration, discussion, and candid expression. Not only do these events offer a platform for learning and mentorship; they provide spaces for often underrepresented groups to share fresh perspectives and vouch for the importance of their work. We’re humbled to play a small role in building more equitable workplaces and a more connected global community, and we can’t wait to team up with this amazing organization again.