TechStyle Fashion Group has a unique leadership structure. Two chief executive officers lead the company: One is a technologist at heart, with a long history of creating value in the younger days of the Internet; the other, a serial entrepreneur with creative ad agency roots, was an early pioneer in e-commerce.
Their partnership is a classic left-brain and right-brain marriage; one relies on data and systems, while the other leans toward art and creativity. This approach set the foundation for TechStyle Fashion Group, an online membership retailer that grew up in a digital world where screens are smaller, needs are more immediate and attention spans are shorter.
TechStyle Fashion Group is behind such brands as JustFab, ShoeDazzle, FabKids, Fabletics (Kate Hudson’s activewear line) and Savage x Fenty (Rihanna’s line of lingerie). What has set them apart is a technology-first approach to retail.
Their online storefronts are living and breathing properties, with creative content that is constantly changed depending on what performs best and also who comes to the site. Machine learning plays a helping hand, deciding what images to show and what will likely convert best.
They approach their products with the same philosophy behind flowers: people will buy — or not buy — based on the image. It’s the image that ultimately creates an emotional connection. This has set them apart from some big-box retailers who grew up in physical stores where a lot of effort was put on visual merchandising and mannequins, but the same rigor was not brought to e-commerce.
A Content Factory
TechStyle Fashion Group has built an infrastructure that is rarely seen in the retail world. In El Segundo, Calif., five studios are shooting five days per week. Here is a typical scenario: a new style is launched on Tuesday morning. Five hours later, data shows that the style is not performing well. Within one day, the studios have reshot the product — same styles, photographed differently — and relaunched the product on the web site. TechStyle has seen styles covert 20 to 25 percent better, through this approach.
This is where Adobe comes into the picture. With five studios shooting five days a week, TechStyle Fashion Group is having to manage tens of thousands of assets. They needed a robust system to help them organize, allow teams to collaborate and push things out in real-time — along with metadata that feeds into performance metrics. Through Adobe Experience Manager, TechStyle Fashion Group has a central system that enables them to deliver hyper-personalized shopping experiences and take advantage of creative that converts best. This complements their use of Adobe Creative Cloud, that teams use to design and create the assets themselves.
Higher Conversion, Lower Returns
TechStyle Fashion Group was an early mover in membership commerce, with VIP perks such as standing discounts, loyalty programs and more. They have seen great adoption with more than 5 million active members, and it has helped with their personalization efforts. A recent Adobe survey shows how impactful this can be for a brand: Out of 1,000 consumers surveyed, half of people would stop paying attention to a brand or not make a purchase if online content was not contextually relevant. At the same time, one-third of consumers are more likely to make an unplanned purchase if content from the brand is personalized.
Machine learning is used to help drive personalization efforts for TechStyle Fashion Group. While the system will sometimes pick an image targeted to a wide segment of people (e.g. a high-performing asset, that typically performs well with a particular segment), it will continuously learn for members that log in and are authenticated. A member looking to buy a new pair of leggings, for instance, can first see it on a model but then get served user-generated, social media content of someone similar to them wearing an outfit with those same leggings. With the data, there is a fluid relationship between imagery and individual member traits and preferences, providing a base for any type of creative personalization effort.
Having creative content with different body sizes have not just driven conversion, but also has had an effect on return rates — an Achilles heel for many online retailers. Traditional big-box retailers have not had to think about this, as they were accustomed to people trying on clothes in stores. Whereas a normal return rate could be around 35 percent or more, TechStyle Fashion Group sees around a 6.5 percent to 8.5 percent return rate across all brands. They have created consistency in both the supply chain and vendors, as well as the way in which items are photographed and displayed. The incredible return rates are a result of all this.
With the priority that TechStyle Fashion Group places on creative content and personalization, driven by data, they had to ensure their creative teams worked differently as well. In many cases, this is a challenge because creative folks have long been accustomed to designing by heart and intuition, an approach that did not work for TechStyle Fashion Group and their e-commerce strategy.
They built a creative team that rallied around data analytics. It empowered creatives with a way to shape messaging to current trends, in real-time. Across the company’s properties and data, there was consistency in how people viewed data and it created a decisioning engine. It became a resource and a means to enhance, not restrict, the daily work that creatives produced. With performance metrics around every piece of content, each individual contributor could express themselves in their work, while also making business impact through better shopper experiences.
According to Tim Koranda, director of studio technology for TechStyle Fashion Group, “Adobe provides tools that help us bridge creativity and marketing, and this aligns with how we operate our business. It has allowed our teams to be more data-driven, but also accelerate content development in a booming area like video. Being able to take Adobe Team Projects and integrate it with other tools like Frame.io and Levels Beyond Reach Engine via the Adobe CC Panel integrations have enabled us to scale our video content production globally. Collaborating with our offsite resources in real-time is critical as well. They produce the many iterations required for localization and A/B testing our content. Doing this means the content we are putting out there has a higher probability of winning the attention of our current and future customers. Adobe is unique from other web content management systems in its ability to help us achieve true content velocity. The platform provides a central location for creatives and marketers to collaborate in real-time, capturing shopper attention in the moments when the conversion opportunities are still relevant and fresh.”
Setting a Bar for Online Shopping
The demands placed on retailers will continue to expand. Innovation has brought online shopping nearly on-par with the experience that consumers see in-store. Many retailers still approach e-commerce with the same strategy they used for physical stores. Experiences that are not contextually relevant and hyper-personalized will struggle to convert at levels that preserve the bottom line. TechStyle Fashion Group is a prime example of a company that embraced this early on as an opportunity, instead of a challenge. Their ability to leverage technology, data and creativity as a core part of the retail experience has enabled them to not only create more intimate and long-lasting relationships with their customers, but also set a high bar for the industry around e-commerce strategy.
Kevin Lindsay, director of product marketing, Adobe experience manager assets.
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