TOKYO — Omnichannel retail, cross-platform strategies and customer experiences were key topics at the inaugural Tokyo edition of Decoded Fashion.
The conference, held Thursday at the Tokyo American Club and attended by some 400 industry insiders, brought together a variety of speakers — mainly from outside Japan — representing companies such as Google, YouTube, and Farfetch. A few brands and local start-ups were also on the agenda.
Katie Baron, head of retail at Stylus, kicked off the proceedings with an engaging talk about Millennial consumers. She argued that in order to attract these influential shoppers, brands need to leverage digital technologies to have an online presence that is socialized, personalized, explorative and responsive.
“Social selling in many ways means a very subtle kind of appropriation,” Baron said, describing services that allow users to shop items they see in their Instagram feeds.
She also talked about the importance of “concierge culture,” or the idea that brands need to be able to customize users’ experiences to provide exactly what they’re looking for. But it is responsiveness, she said, that is perhaps the most important characteristic of a successful digital presence. In the future it will become even more important to leverage the “power of now” to build consumer excitement and capitalize on their shoppers’ fear of missing out.
Katie Jenkins, industry manager for fashion, luxury, and beauty at YouTube, described how companies can use user-generated video content to drive sales and increase their digital footprint. Videos produced by brands, she said, account for only 6 percent of overall views of fashion and beauty videos, underscoring the importance of working together with consumers and influencers. YouTube’s recently launched Cards enable brands to make their videos shoppable now as well, further increasing the opportunities for sales conversion.
Olapic is an application that enables brands to directly connect with their fans and “ambassadors,” or those that generate the most sales through their social media presence. It pulls in photos from Instagram using hashtags, then allows the brand to choose images to display on its own platforms, giving customers a look at the clothes on a real person, as worn in the real world. The app’s cofounder, Jose de Cabo, talked about the importance of maintaining a good relationship with fans by directly communicating with them to gain explicit rights to use their photos, and then surprising the most influential ambassadors with rewards.
Mitsuko Watanabe, editor in chief of Vogue Japan, moderated one of the only talks focusing on Japan-based companies. Akira Morikawa, founder and former chief executive officer of Line, Japan’s foremost messaging platform, talked about his new project, called C Channel.
C Channel is described by Morikawa as a “video fashion magazine.” The platform relies on what it calls “clippers,” or essentially vloggers, to create and upload one-minute videos using their smartphones. Users can then select their favorite clips and clippers and use them to curate their own video fashion magazine. In the near future, Morikawa said he plans to work together with television channels, magazines, and brands in order to get even more high-quality content.
A panel discussion moderated by Decoded Fashion founder and president Liz Bacelar focused on omnichannel retailing and the importance of melding online and offline experiences.
From a customer’s perspective, omnichannel is to experience a brand in the most frictionless way,” said Cassandra Girard, global lead for the consumer and travel industries for Hybris Software. “If a product exists somewhere in the world and I want it as a consumer, I should be able to get it. That’s omnichannel.”
Hiroshi Onishi, president and chief executive officer of Isetan Mitsukoshi Holdings, admitted that his company has not yet made much of an effort to grow its digital presence, but said it’s something he plans to do from now on. However, he also talked about Japan’s world-renowned service culture and the fact that Isetan and Mitsukoshi’s stores are destinations not only for Japanese, but for international tourists as well.
“Because we thought customer service was the most important thing, we didn’t pursue e-commerce right away,” the executive said, emphasizing that both online and offline retailing will be important to tomorrow’s consumers.
Onishi also addressed the issue of Japan’s aging population, and how digital strategies might apply to an older demographic. “It may be difficult to engage with older consumers if we have technology that is difficult to use, but I think if it’s more convenient than going to the store, they will actually use it,” he said.
Conspicuously absent from the conference were any speakers representing companies that are currently leading Japan’s digital and omnichannel push, such as Seven & I Holdings or Fast Retailing.