This year has been fascinating for the future of retail, to say the least. You’ve got the fall of Juicy Couture; the solidified rise of Warby Parker, who quite recently raised $60 million (topping off their investor pot of gold at over $100 million since January). There was the first Pinterest-focused campaign from a major retailer. This was also the first year that Pinterest may have won the battle with social media wannabes vying for the dollar and time of shopaholic twenty-somethings–the ones planning their weddings three months into dating The One. This might be a generalization of the user audience, but don’t tell me you didn’t see those girls pinning for their lives while they should have been taking notes in class. That’s the Pinterest user.
She’s powerful and legion, considering the reports that Pinterest has reached 10 million unique users faster than any other site. Twitter say what? Tumblr say what? The wedding planning design gurus will eat us all. Pinterest singlehandedly drove revenue up three-fold during Black Friday to e-retailers – and more and more people are buying online from mobile devices than ever before. Online sales are up 15% from 2011, even if spending is down across the board — not just with Middle America (who spent less during Black Friday than years past), but with the rich bitches, too. Do you know how empty the last fashion pop-up store I went to was? It was a desert, only with dry, small sandwiches and a lot of monogrammed handbags.
Snide remarks about Pinterest et all aside, I do think we’re entering an exciting moment in our shopping experiences. Do you know the black box fallacy? There’s a theory about media convergence that talks about how we’re all working towards one ingenious black box of technology that does everything we could ever want. A swiss army knife of digital communication. I guess Google Glass and the iPhone would love to consider that space part of their identity or future, but I’m more skeptical. The black box fallacy is more my thing – that even if we come out with a bunch of cool tech, we’re going to want to have all the things, and not have it all be in one place. I think having a lot of things is a good distraction from loneliness. We’re always going to invent new ways to distract ourselves. We’re going to invent desires and marketplace to pass the time. That is why we love social media. It’s socializing for lazy anxious people like me who don’t want to go outside, but also want to have friends and talk about things. Why the fuck does this matter? Because e-commerce is cashing in on our reliance on tech to connect to people and our desires to buy things, and it’s totally working – fast and effortlessly. It’s going to get bigger, better, more immersive in the new year. They’re already initiating a two-pronged attack on anxious Internet-addicts like me.
First, you have e-tailers making moves to be brick and mortar, a-la Rebecca Minkoff, eBay, and Warby Parker. This has proved to be a good strategy, this reversal of roles. These are also leaders in the new reign of affordable luxury brands. The marketplace for aspirational couture level brands is stale–dead air, really. But we can get down with a hi-low mix. Let me buy this Kenzo sweatshirt, so people know I can afford this sweatshirt, but also that I don’t care, and I’ve got real work to do, because I work my ass off. This is the kind of mindset that’s going to be steering us for a while now, and I’m here for it. These affordable luxury moments are banking on us being busy, tech savvy low-key bougie people who want to be first (but a sweat-free, effortless first) at everything. Enter the digital storefront. Who has time to try shit on? I want to pretend I’m in a sci-fi movie with Tom Cruise and Sienna Miller. This is the vision I have for my immediate future in relation to digital storefronts: I’m gonna Instagram direct this purchase of this Kate Spade handbag from the digital storefront, while hovering slightly above the ground using my Louis Vuitton x NASA x CDG jetpack from Dover St Market, and fly off into the sunset holding my own hands, romantically.
Secondly, and back to my example: you’re going to have more personalized, immersive marketing. Maybe even the death of the blogger. We already say this coming when Yahoo bought Tumblr, with sponsored posts on our dashboards. I think bloggers were a doorway to this, but we bloggers might become less and less relevant and useful to brands now that they can literally Instagram direct their customers personalized campaigns. Bloggers are an interesting thing, you know. We can work with brands as models, and we do, or we can work as shopping partners for our best friends on the Internet. We’re the black box of consumption and capitalism; we do it all, and there are no boundaries. But I think the lack of boundaries leads continuously to a lack of trust from readers when you get too big. I think the blogging world is big, stale, stilted, commoditized by the magazine culture it’s shaped itself after with professionalized photography and sponsorships, etc. Readers are up on all this, and the smarter brands (cue: Free People, Cole Haan, Uniqlo, GAP, Diesel, arguably) have already skipped the easy bait of Blogger as Supermodel and are going to pick up more straight-up consumer. Hyper-consumers have such utter loyalty to a brand they’ll work for free. Bloggers? Compensation fee, if you please. I am shooting myself in the foot here, but I’ve always been a contrarian.
Things are moving at a faster pace, with higher demands on quality for a lower price point, and a quicker communication between brand and buyer. I think very soon we’re going to be walking past more and more digital storefronts, juggling purchases from our iPhone 5 and the digital Uniqlo storefront (because come on, they so will do one), Instagramming direct with our favorite brands, being the unpaid fashion bitch for the labels we love. Faster. More. More. More. Better! More. On one very heavy hand, I am scared and disappointed in what that means for the future of brand connections in person, what the rise of mobile and digital storefront retail means for human connections in fashion. There is so much to value in a really beautiful store with associates that let you play with the clothes and immerse yourself in the apparel right then and there. On the other hand – buying things in person? Aint nobody got time for that. Atelier NYC died for a reason, may it rest in beautiful, goth-clothed peace.
A toast for the future of hedonism. It’s probably going to have its own insta filter in 2014, too.