Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Future of Digital Luxury is Already Here, as Seen at the 2012 Club e-Luxe International Summit

When you imagine the future of digital media and technology, it is likely that the somewhat futuristic movie Minority Report may feature somewhere in the spectrum of your thoughts, notably the scene where Tom Cruise’s character walks into a shopping mall and is instantly welcomed by a lineup of personalized messages flashing on transparent walls, from adverts to product displays and direct messages, all tailored to seamlessly match his preferences, habits and lifestyle. This is of course made possible by the multiple technologies that are designed to “crack” the codes of consumer behavior by effortlessly gliding into their lives and even mind. But is this fictional setting possible in our world today, more so in luxury? The answer is a clear and sound “yes”, as was witnessed at the Club e-Luxe International Summit held on Wednesday 6th June at the Ritz Hotel, Paris.

Recognizing the forward march of digital media and its unquestionable impact on the luxury consumer’s psyche and general disposition towards luxury shopping, Luxe Corp chose the theme of E-Commerce, F-Commerce & M-Commerce for this year’s summit. Before rushing to the conclusion that online shopping has come of age (after all e-commerce has been around for over fifteen years), it is noteworthy to mention that like every aspect of technology, online selling is not static but constantly evolving. This mere fact influenced the key topics and subject areas that emerged from the summit’s theme; and they ranged from the familiar E, F and M-Commerce to the incipient V-Commerce (as in Video Commerce), A-Commerce (as in Advert Commerce), Email-Shopping (as in shopping from online Newsletters inside the mailbox), E-Customization, E-Services, Virtual Reality and a host of other intriguing technology and business facets.

Although e-commerce in luxury began with a focus on transactions and functions, today’s digital shopping environment is a far cry from this. E-shopping in the present day means first and foremost engaging with the client through interactivity and connecting with them emotionally through rich content, entertainment, storytelling, social exchanges, virtual collaborations, creative sourcing and everything in between. In fact the buzz words in today’s online selling space for luxury are “collaborative consumption”, “social selling” and “multi-media or trans-media storytelling and entertainment”. This means that the luxury online shopper must be courted, tantalized, wooed and above all enticed into becoming a “fan” before they deem a brand fit for shopping.

This context has raised more questions than ever, especially on how luxury brands can stand out in a world where access to brand information is currently at the fingertips of anyone remotely interested in luxury. The Club e-Luxe International Summit gathered some of the finest and brightest minds in digital media and luxury in a highly stimulating day where the latest innovations, tools, applications, systems, trends, strategies and solutions were dissected through illuminating presentations, live DEMOs, debate sessions, workshops and expositions.

LUXE CORP’s Executive Director Uché Okonkwo led the team of forward-thinking visionaries, through an insightful presentation that focused on the evolution of luxury e-commerce, from the arrival of the internet until the present strategies and techniques adopted by the luxury industry. She highlighted the errors made by luxury brands in the first phase of e-commerce, and indicated the current requirements and future direction of e-commerce in the industry. She emphasized that the late arrival of the luxury industry in the e-commerce landscape enabled the emergence of a market gap that was filled by several parties, including independent retailers, discounters, counterfeiters, auctioneers, lenders and others. This led to a loop-sided position where luxury brands became the “outsiders” leading to the startling reality that remains prevalent today, which is that the current structure of luxury e-retail was set by independent e-retailers and luxury brands have been forced to follow it without much choice. The presentation also revealed that luxury consumers currently seek more than products and services online, but now view content, entertainment, connecting, sharing, storytelling and creating as prerequisites prior to purchase. Content especially has become a product of consumption in today’s luxury e-commerce context. Uché Okonkwo identified the 6 areas that would be prevalent in the immediate future of luxury e-commerce as Virtual Immersive Platforms (including Real-Time 3D, Interactive 3D, Mobile 3D, Simulated Social 3D), Content Consumption (including videos, animations, magazines, blogs), Social & Collaborative Shopping (including styling platforms, visual platforms, creative platforms), Web Channel Disintegration (including the merging of self-commerce, social commerce, mobile & advert commerce), Interactive Shopping (including email shopping, shoppable videos, shoppable adverts), E-Personalization (including customization, personalization, real-time demo views).
Jean-Louis Lesage and Virginie Baudelaire from the pioneering digital company NOVACOM, which specializes in 3D virtual platforms, then took the floor and led the audience through one of the most powerful immersive virtual experiences that exists in the luxury sector today. As the company that created the Valentino Garavani Virtual Museum, the first full 3D website in luxury, NOVACOM is not only a pioneer but an enabler of the digital luxury evolution. The presentation focused on showcasing the approaches required to create an immersive experiences online using platforms that support real-time 3D integration. The presentation was followed by a virtual visit and live demonstration of the Valentino Garavani Virtual Museum an ultra-luxury online destination dedicated to showcasing over forty decades of the designer’s work, featuring over 5,000 images, 180 videos and virtual space that could be equated to 10,000 square meters of physical retail space. They emphasized that immersive 3D platforms provide the most powerful visual impact in digital media today and correspond to what luxury consumers are currently seeking which includes exceptional experiences online as well as ways to personalize, control and contribute to these experiences. They also revealed that immersive 3D technology can easily be used to create a website, virtual showroom or e-boutique as it has e-commerce applications. They may be adapted for all mobile platforms including smart phones and tablets with no diminishing factor on the visual impact on mobile phones. But the ultimate value for luxury brands is that this platform allows brands to glamorize their heritage and promote the engagement and ownership of the brand by the consumer, factors that have become imperative.

Dr F. Joseph Pompei, CEO & Founder of HOLOSONICS and inventor of the Audio Spotlight sound technology gave a highly engaging presentation on how sound & the senses may be used as complementary shopping & engagement channels for luxury. He introduced the Audio Spotlight Sound technology as a new revolution in both sound technology and innovation; and highlighted the importance of sound as a sensory trigger in brand experiences and its powerful high level of influence in consumer decisions both consciously and unconsciously. He revealed that marketing with sound is a reality that connects directly with the emotions of consumers to influence their receptiveness to brand messages and advertisements. The Audio Spotlight technology was therefore designed to provide brands with the possibility to precisely target sound that will not disrupt other customers or people in the same space, such as in a retail store, library, supermarket or other public space. It functions in two ways; 1. Direction of audio through invisible beams of isolated sound; and 2. Projection of audio which directs sound in the same way that light can be projected. The technology basically provides beams of sound that may be directed to specific people in any space or directed to specific sections of any space, which means that only the people within the beam are able to hear the sound. The benefits for luxury brands abound, as the technology enables the design of marketing messages for a specific audience in a defined private or public space. It helps each brand in a department store to have its own particular music or even in-store events and fashion shows without generating cacophony. It also enables a store to manipulate the perceived source and location of sound in large spaces through sound projection. And best of all, it may also be projected through public billboards, so when you’re walking down the street, you may be the only one hearing the sound from a billboard advert! Dr Pompei showed a highly impactful LIVE DEMO of how the Audio Spotlight Sound technology works, to the delight of the audience.
Frédéric Goldzak of ANIMATIK STUDIO brought some first-hand magic to the Club e-Luxe International Summit through a highly interactive presentation and LIVE DEMO which he made as a conversation between himself and his Hologram! As one of the pioneers of holographic technology in the luxury space, Animatik Studio is at the forefront of virtual reality experiences in luxury. His presentation focused on the magic of using interactive technology to drive the shopping experience through holograms & social media. Frédéric showcased the technology behind Holographic projections in action and brought insight into key areas of their integration in luxury marketing, events, communications, digital media and other key areas. He emphasized that holograms enable luxury brands to provide a WOW effect to their clients while engaging with them in a highly interactive manner. He revealed that the possibilities of holographic technologies include several interactive and visual applications, 3D mapping and videologue (video dialogues). The audience were also pleased to learn that developing holograms is both cost-effective and time-saving and cost as little as 10% of a 30-second TV advert spot, from content development to execution. The time-frame is also short but the results are long-lasting.
The Club e-Luxe International Summit also featured a “Sit-down Conversation” between Simon Burstein, CEO of BROWNS, the renowned British Retailer of luxury fashion and Uché Okonkwo, LUXE CORP’s Executive Director, on the topic: “The Golden Rules of Branded Content: How Digital Media is Re-defining Luxury Communications & Commerce”. The session featured a series of questions asked by both the moderator and the audience and focused on highlighting the evolution of e-commerce in luxury, the requirements of selling luxury both online and offline as well the changes in consumer needs and expectations. Some of the key points of the presentation are the following.
§  Content is key in online selling today and Brown’s recently re-launched e-commerce website is designed to focus on content. Browns strives to deliver the same experience online as in the store and content is key to achieving this.
§  Service remains very important for clients and content enables them have a stronger shopping experience. There is nothing worse than being promised something in the offering of a luxury store and not getting it. Browns lays a lot of emphasis on service and has a dedicated in-house team producing content. Providing information through content contributes to making the buying experience fulfilling; so is service, so that customers are not disappointed. Content hasn’t overtaken the importance of service but they must work hand-in-hand.
§  Physical and online shopping are inter-linked and shopping decisions may be undertaken in the store and completed online or vice versa. It is important to understand that it is the same clients so they should be given a consistent high quality experience across all channels. Browns still witnesses resistance to e-commerce from some of the luxury brands present in the store and some of these brands prefer not to sell their pieces in the Browns online store.  

The sharing of information via social media has become a fantastic way of promoting luxury brands as it
spreads the brand’s message faster.

 Dr. Roberto Valenti of THIRDSIGHT, the Dutch company specialized in digital signage and innovative facial recognition technology brought much-needed clarification to the somewhat controversial facial recognition technology that enables the reading of the mood and disposition of a person in order to personalize advertising messages for them. Speaking on the topic of “The Age of the Digital Sign: Towards the New Era of Advertisement”, he revealed that the mission behind the technologies developed by Thirdsight is “to understand humans”. His presentation focused on how Thirdsight's technologies enable brands to send out personalized and targeted messages through allowing digital signages to detect, attract and interact with the people according to their mood or interests. He explained that this works through “Emotion Recognition Software” which scans facial expressions to determine the mood & deliver appropriate adverts and content accordingly. Digital signage technology can also be used to interpret consumer responses and help them with their purchasing decisions. Other possibilities are in the area of profiling consumers in the store, projecting images or content tailored to their profiles right in front of them. This can instantly trigger a buying decision. On the web however the technology uses their online behavior to better understand their interests and tailor adverts to them. Dr. Valenti showed fascinating video DEMOs of the application of this technology in several outdoor contexts through digital and interactive billboards that merge the virtual content with physical actions. The audience saw a live demonstration of how interactive technology increases the attention of passers-by by a whopping 56%.
A Round Table session was held on the topic “Understanding How Virtual Client Behavior & Relations are being Shaped by Interactive Media & Digital Products”, featured Tom Adeyoola of METAIL, Albert Benguigui of AMERICAN SUPPLY, Frederic Goldzak of ANIMATIK STUDIO and Roberto Valenti of THIRDSIGHT and moderated by Loubna Khalfi of LUXE CORP. The session provided insights on key issues of digital innovation specifically on how client behavior is influenced by technology. Each member of the panel gave his views, referring to their areas of expertise, on the use of interactive applications to encourage consumer engagement; the use of personalization to convey the feeling of exclusivity; new technologies, best approaches for content generation from both luxury brands and clients; and concerns surrounding privacy data. Some of the main points raised during this interactive session include the following.
§  Luxury is about giving a customer experience above and beyond everyone else; the brands' digital strategy must reflect this.
§  Luxury brands want to evoke the feeling of exclusivity, for consumers to experience something new & special. Interactive media does just that!
§  Luxury brands have lost out on major opportunities in utilizing interactive media as tools of engagement with their clients. There is the tendency to wait for “who will do it first”.
§  The simplification of technology & its accessibility to the masses now allows brands to meet customer expectations. Luxury brands no longer have an excuse to be lax online.
§  Tablets & mobiles shouldn’t be lumped together. What works for one platform doesn't transfer in terms of user experience. Tablets are used for browsing when relaxed; mobile is used on the go. They should be used to differentiate & target users more effectively.
§  A virtual changing room is great but it remains a complement to actual changing rooms. It won't replace them.
§  Authenticity may be more important than exclusivity sometimes. For example Chinese consumers prefer physical to online stores as a safeguard against counterfeits.  
§  The future of digital luxury is about maintaining relevance, to own the customer through every touch-point
§  Luxury brands make beautiful products and they therefore owe it to their consumers that the internet experience is of equal perfection.  
       Younger consumers are non-chalant about data privacy concerns and technology companies know this and are using them to their advantage.  
Martina King, CEO of AURASMA, brought interactivity and excitement to the event by presenting her company’s fantastic virtual reality shopping solution on the topic “When the Virtual World becomes Real: How Augmented Reality is Re-Shaping & Re-defining the Luxury Shopping Experience”. She showcased the latest virtual reality tools and platforms developed by highlighting the extraordinary opportunities that augmented reality offers in luxury communications and commerce, as well as its high impact on consumers. Aurasma, which is the world's first visual browser interweaves the real world and the virtual world through technologies that are breakthroughs in the  way people interact with both the virtual and real worlds as well as through mobile platforms such a smart phones and tablets. Aurasma technology recognises half a million images from mobile devices, both from underground trains and 10,000 feet above ground. The technology also works in both 2D & 3D and since 2011, the company has used it on over 500 campaigns with over 3 million downloads worldwide. The technology also ensures that the unsightly and detracting nature of QR codes are overcome, which is the reason that it is based on image recognition, making it invisible. Augmented reality technology can be used across business segments including launch events, mobile networking, and even in newspapers adverts. The code for Aurasma can be embedded in existing applications or white labeled to fit each brand. Aurasma’s platforms are particularly suitable for luxury as they enable brands to manipulate both the reality and fantasies of their consumers. The technology has been used by Net-A-Porter and Dunhill recently and the tools are applicable for events, communications, shopping and even training.
Alex Savic, CEO of NEXT WIDGETS, the Swiss company at the forefront of A-Shopping, Email Shopping and Multi-Media Shopping took the audience on an enlightening journey of the next wave of evolution in e-commerce. Speaking on the  topic “The Next Frontiers of E-Commerce: Shopping Online from Movies, Adverts & Multi-Media Channels”, Alex Savic provided key insights on the radical changes that are currently taking place in the context of e-commerce including transactional advertising and social commerce . He particularly highlighted the evolution of luxury e-commerce towards shopping on interactive platforms such as banner advertisements, email newsletters and other forms of interactive content. He revealed that e-commerce functionality can be embedded almost anywhere on the web, including a direct response option within a branding campaign. His company Next Widgets develops applets that allow consumers to click and buy directly inside the email newsletter. Abandoned e-commerce transactions on a brand’s website can also be emailed to the consumer, for completion via email. The technologies behind these experiences also enable consumers to click on an online advertisement and immediately get to the product page and checkout process while completely bypassing landing pages and the e-commerce website. He emphasized that the keywords associated with interactive shopping are: Instant access, interactivity, entertainment, sharing and control.
Following the series of illuminating presentations and DEMOs by inspiring speakers, Luxe Corp took the audience into its traditional Spotlights and Highlights which featured a major Raffle Draw during which a lucky participant won the highly priced ZIKMUWireless Speaker designed by Philippe Starck for the French technology company PARROT.
In addition each participant received a Gift Bag containing luxury products from Luxe Corp’s Living Emotions series and an innovative digital gadget offered to all participants by Oregon Scientific.
In keeping with our now renowned tradition, the participants were treated to a 3-course French gastronomic lunch overseen by the Michelin-star chef of the Ritz Hotel Paris, as well as sumptuous “petites-fours”, “canapés”, “gateaux sales et sucrés” and all manners of finger-food and drinks at the open bar that was laid out at the disposition of all participants during the numerous breaks.

The Club e-Luxe International Summit ended with a much-deserved cocktail party where the chatter naturally centered around innovation, innovation and more innovation

The next Club e-Luxe event will be the Club e-Luxe Breakfast Seminar to be held on 8th January 2013 at the Hotel Le Bristol, Paris. The event will focus on the theme of Sensory Luxury – Using Digital Media as the Sixth Sense to Connect the Online & Offline Worlds of Luxury. As is now our tradition, the event will be fully curated by LUXE CORP and gather digital experts to share the latest innovations and technologies with luxury brands as well as offer insight and solutions for the most challenging related issues facing the industry.
To stay connected with Club e-Luxe, visit the Luxe Corp website:
To download this Synopsis in PDF, click here.

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