Yeezy Gap could be the change agent that Gap needs

Unless you pay zero attention to retail news, you heard about Kanye’s announced 10-year partnership with Gap to introduce a new line of modern basics for men, women, and children for under $100/piece. Try to forget what you know, because I think that Yeezy Gap will revolutionize the Gap as we know it. Investors seem pretty confident, too.

The first thought that comes to mind is that this will cheapen the Yeezy brand. Anyone with a business-oriented mindset could make that argument, however, I don’t think that Kanye West is concerned about it. Everything that Kanye does is unpredictable yet beyond influential, and it would be silly to think that Kanye would keep the Yeezy brand a stagnant one that refuses to budge in fear of it being “cheapened.” While Kanye West is synonymous with Yeezy, he is a creative visionary that is always proposing new ideas that could influence his brand and the entire world of retail. Keep in mind that Yeezy is not Chanel.

Kanye has wanted to collaborate with Gap for years, and, as a person that is known to stick to his word, he is finally pulling through. He’s been known to say that he wants to make clothes for the masses under the Yeezy label, and what better way to do so than to work with Gap?

If I had to take a guess, I’d say that Kanye’s followers are primarily the younger millenials and the older Gen Z’ers. The Gap, however, is undeniably irrelevant for this group. Yeezy Gap has the potential to bring a massive group of consumers with prominent spending power that might just bring Gap back to life.

“Modern, elevated basics.” – Fashionista

A phrase we’ve heard so many times in the past few years that it is now just plain boring. Most Yeezy products could fit in this product description, yet they are anything but boring. They are highly sought after and have been exclusive in both price and availability throughout the history of the brand. With Yeezy Gap planning on all products being less than $100, this will bring in all of his followers who could not afford the regular Yeezy products.

I don’t believe that the Yeezy Gap line will cheapen the original Yeezy brand. There will probably be the same amount of hype and demand around each Yeezy season, and loyal Yeezy customers will probably still pay the full price. I think of JW Anderson’s collabs with Uniqlo that are wildly successful yet have not taken anything away from the JW Anderson brand, and Kanye has a much different level of following and influence.

If anything, Yeezy for the masses brings Kanye deeper into our culture and deeper into our households.

Some things that need to happen for this to be successful:

  • The products need to find a balance between the Yeezy aesthetic and what we know of Gap. Because of Kanye’s hype, these products will most likely draw in those that follow Kanye. What will make this work will be if someone who has no idea what Yeezy is will like the products, too. The line can’t be too abstract compared to Gap’s current lines because Gap needs to maintain its loyal customers while trying to bring in new ones.
  • There has to still be a level of exclusivity. When the line drops, it obviously won’t work with Gap’s business model for the line to sell out immediately and then never be restocked, as Yeezy often does. At the same time, the products have to seem exclusive so that they are still on-brand for Yeezy. My thoughts on this are that Yeezy Gap should start with a small initial “drop,” with preparations in place to quickly restock and scheduled launches with other items from the line that happen frequently.
  • An AGRESSIVE social media campaign. Man, does Gap’s social need some help to bring in anyone younger than 45. Kanye is already breaking the internet with one twitter post hinting at the partnership. Please, give me a cool social media campaign leading up to the launch of this collection. Let Kanye lead the way with a gentle guidance in appealing to the current Gap customers. Even better, based on the products that are planning to be made, shoot it out at his ranch in Wyoming. I need something new and exciting from Gap and anything Kanye in Wyoming is more exciting than their current social presence.

Kanye has been doing the unexpected for a long time, and doing it well. What Gap needs is something unexpected, and this is about as big as they could go, working with someone who has always wanted to work with them.

Featured image from Fashionista.com

Snapchat’s shoppable show: “The Drop”

Nearly every social media platform has taken the plunge into the world of commerce; from Instagram’s Shops, Facebook’s Shops /Marketplace, Pinterest’s new image-recognition tools, ads on Youtube that become increasingly more shoppable, the undeniable power of TikTok, and now, Snapchat’s new shoppable show, “The Drop.”

According to this article from Mobile Marketer

“Snap this year will start streaming its first shoppable show on Snapchat, the company announced during its virtual presentation for the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s Digital Content NewFronts. “The Drop” will focus on streetwear collaborations with celebrities and designers.”

In addition, according to this article from Variety

Each episode of “The Drop” will explore the relationship between the designer and celebrity collaborator. Viewers will learn about the item for sale and how it came together as well as what time that day the item will go up for sale. Later that day, at the aforementioned time, the episode will be updated with more content that includes a “swipe up to buy” call to action. The exclusive-to-Snapchat products will have limited quantity, an appeal for viewers to tune in live.

I try not to use the word “dope” very often, but this, in fact, “dope.” Snapchat reaches an enormous audience, with the heavy majority of that audience being Gen Z. As someone who has grown up in the digital age, surrounded by social media, I am consistently flooded with ads and sponsored content for hundreds of brands. With the access that I have through social media, it’s often hard to know which brands I should shop from just because of how many there are.

This is where influencers and entertainment hold so much power, and entertainment is still in its youth in terms of commerce.

It’s obvious that if Kim Kardashian wears a product from a brand and tags that brand in an Instagram post there is going to be an influx of consumers wanting to purchase that product because they get consumption inspiration from people like her. We’ve also seen products that are worn by actors in influential movies and shows become incredibly sought after and resold for a hefty profit such as the Nike Dunks from “Back to the Future.”

Snapchat is taking a different approach to implementing commerce into their platform by creating an original show that offers up the audience exclusive products that are worn and talked about by the influential designers that make them. This can capture the Gen Z consumer audience in ways that similar content on Youtube or Instagram try to with the sheer popularity and influence that Snapchat has over other platforms.

It’s common for Gen Z’ers to watch videos about the products that they aspire to buy to see them talked about in ways that make them even more intriguing. In a world where you have so many options, you want to know that you’re buying the best products, and that often means that you look for purchasing confidence from those you trust the most on platforms like Instagram, Youtube, and TiokTok. It’s also critical in an age of prominent digital selling to have videos of a product to see how it moves when it won’t be sold in stores. Due to COVID-19 there are more and more retailers embracing digital content, but none have the power that Snapchat has, and Snapchat is picking a perfect time in Gen Z’s lives to introduce this concept.

There’s no doubt in my mind that if this show could feature someone like Virgil Abloh and then sell an exclusive pair of Off-White sneakers it would be a complete success. Other big names that I think would be a huge hit: Kanye with Adidas, Post Malone via a collab with literally any brand, anything Supreme, anyone with Nike, and any kind of streetwear product that can incorporate a popular Gen Z brand like Nintendo.

With the success of other Snapchat Originals, this could also bring impactful exposure to smaller streetwear brands, as well.

Those who are passionate about the world of streetwear will appreciate entertaining content of products that are more than just a picture of a celebrity of designer wearing the products. Untapped purchasing influence lies in seeing the product move, seeing the people we love and trust wearing the products and talking to us about them, and, most importantly, adding the exclusivity factor to these products. I also love the idea of making a show because shows are entertaining and draw the audience in more than the average Youtube video of IGTV post.

Gen Z wants to stand out in a world where there are opinions and influencers everywhere, and I truly believe that “The Drop” by Snapchat will be incredibly successful and will push Snapchat into a state of even higher influence on the younger generation. Dare I even say Snapchat as a future brand?

Featured image from Mobile Marketer

What if Instacart could…?

Chain Store Age published an article on Monday covering the new partnership between Staples and Instacart that sent the wheels in my brain for a spin.

Instacart has begun breaking out of its grocery/CPG shell with partnerships with companies such as Staples and Big Lots, where items such as office supplies, furniture, and other goods can be delivered the same day that they are ordered. The actual partnership with Staples here seems somewhat unnecessary as most people do not run into same-day emergency office supply shortages and almost anything sold at Staples that can be ordered via Amazon or picked up at your local Walmart, Target, etc. Despite the non-importance of being able to get office supplies on the same day that you order them, this article inspired me to think deeper into all of the possible partnerships that Instacart could engage in to shape the changing future of retail.

To start, I think that apparel retailers could benefit from offering same-day delivery services, especially those that are located in a mall. For most customers shopping for apparel items, your choices are to drive out to the nearest store to get what you need or to order online and wait for somewhere between 2-14 days or your order to arrive. With COVID-19 posing significant changes to the ways that people shop, I would love to see a store such as Levi’s (specifically in the Mall of America, a.k.a. my closest location) partner with Instacart to offer same-day delivery. I buy 95% of my apparel online, and if I could check the inventory of my local store, pick out a pair of jeans and pay online, and then have them picked up and delivered that day by an Instacart employee for $3.99, I absolutely would.

Regional malls forming relationships with Instacart could allow the retailers inside to offer a physical shopping experience while also being able to function as a hyper-local micro-fulfillment center, which gives the customers more choices when it comes to how they want to shop. Nobody likes waiting any amount of days for something to arrive on your doorstep at a random time of the day.

Side note: I also think that pet stores should invest in this. I find going out to the pet store to be an incredibly time-consuming and expensive ordeal, and sure, I could wait two days for an Amazon box to arrive, but sometimes with animals you really do need something like a bag of food or a leash for your dog THAT day.

My second point here, and the one that I find to be most important, is part of the title question, “What if Instacart could do return pickups and drop-offs?”

I prefer shopping online for many reasons and am willing to compromise on a sucky returns process, but why, in 2020, is this process still so sucky? Going to the post office, the UPS store, or the nearest FedEx dropoff box and waiting days upon days to see if the package made it back and was processed is a pain and having to drive out to a store or the mall, park my car, walk into the store, and then leave also isn’t optimal consumer experience. Granted, I can’t do a full pro/com analysis for this idea because of my lack of experience, but I know that I would pay someone $3.99 to come and pickup a return that I’ve packaged up and drop it off at the post office or at a physical store if the retailers accepts returns that way.

There are ways to schedule someone from a postal service to come and pick up your package, but I have to believe that using a service like Instacart would be significantly more practical. Overall, I think that there is are loads of potential for Instacart in the returns business, and, it would solve one of my biggest issues with how returns currently work in the retail world, especially in a time like this where there are consumer fears regarding shopping and going out to stores/post offices during this pandemic.

Try to catch my ‘Vibe’ using Klarna’s new rewards program

Fintech has been booming for the past few years, with a major leaning toward payment installment plans through companies such as Klarna, Afterpay, Affirm, Quadpay, Sezzle, etc., who each have their own slightly different features and terms of service.

Klarna has taken a step in a new direction by introducing “Vibe,” which is its new loyalty rewards program. According to TechCrunch, when you use Klarna as your payment method (whether on a retailer’s website or through the Klarna app) you’ll receive points for every $1 spent. These points can be redeemed at a variety of retailers, many of which who do not currently work with Klarna.

I have been using payment installment services for the past few years and always tend to choose this path of purchase when buying anything that is over about $150. I do have a credit card and know that I could put the entire purchase on the credit card and then pay it off in as many small payments as I would like, but I choose not to, and I think that this speaks volumes about how Gen Z will be making purchases going forward.

I have grown up making purchases online via my laptop and always choose to pay that way. Applying this to retail, I have never liked talking to store associates and dreadfully fear that my card will get declined in a store for whatever reason, therefore, I choose to purchase online probably about 85% of the time. Paying online via these installment plans or even through Paypal is such a smooth process, and with all of the warnings I’ve been given about abusing a credit card and the history I’ve been taught about the cyclical boom and bust nature of credit cards, those services just seem friendlier.

For anyone that works an hourly job, paying for pricier items through installments just makes sense. For all of college, I made a couple hundred dollars a month working part-time on the weekends. From that money, some of it had to go to my various fixed monthly costs, i.e., car insurance, food, dog things, gas, etc. What was left of my paychecks was my pleasure money, and with the wildly expensive taste in almost everything I acquired at an unknown point in my life, one month of my pleasure money rarely would cover the expense of, say, a pair of shoes that I wanted, but it could cover the cost when broken into installments over a period of time that allowed me to pay a portion, wait for my next check, and pay another portion. I believe that there are millions of people out there who are in similar financial situations, and installment plans really do give you the freedom to buy things that are more expensive yet are still affordable for you than what you would usually buy because of having to pay up front. Installment plans help to change the narrative on how we view affordability, and these installment services provide more of a structure, in my opinion, than a credit card that you slowly pay off.

What’s great (for now) about Klarna’s loyalty program is that none of the other installment companies are doing this yet. They will surely follow suit, but it makes me, an average consumer who uses payment installments frequently, actually consider paying attention to which company I’m using when I sign up for these installments. I have never cared, because I am incredibly brand-oriented when it comes to clothing (my biggest purchases) and such, so I always just use whichever company is offered at the brand that I like. Knowing that I could be getting something back from a specific company (Klarna in this case), you bet I’m going to pay more attention.

Another point on why I think this will be successful for these companies is that I am assuming that consumers use these installment plans for big purchases, which means that they are going to be getting a lot of points that encourage them to come back for more. I’m curious to see how long it will take to accumulate the points for a free coffee at Starbucks through Klarna’s rewards compared to through Starbucks’ actual rewards.

Overall, I predict that there will be a major shift in mindset as to how we pay in the following years, especially with the generation coming into their spending power used to using online payments for their entire lives. To me, there’s something fascinating about how I think of banking and where my money is. I know that all of my money is in my bank account and I can access it through my cards and that I can move it around in my app, yet I still feel like I do the majority of my banking through Paypal, and these installment companies because it feels more natural. Biggest point here being that that means that my shopping is done almost entirely online. I’ll whip out Apple Payh wherever I can, but that’ss till not many places.

I love visual merchandising and flagship stores and I always look for stores to visit based on their appearances wherever I go, so I am hoping that someone will figure out how to implement this type of fintech into physical retail…

Featured image from TechCrunch

Walmart x ThredUp

The basics:

Walmart and ThredUp recently announced a new partnership where new to almost new items consigned with ThredUp will be sold online at walmart.com/thredup.

According to Walmart, ThredUp is curating a collection of up to 750,000 pieces of clothing and accessories in excellent condition to be sold through Walmart’s e-commerce site.

Check out: Walmart enters the clothing resale market with ThredUp partnership

This will also allow shoppers to shop from brands not currently carried at Walmart such as Michael Kors, Nike, Calvin Klein, and even Coach, according to Denise Incandela, head of fashion e-commerce at Walmart.

My Take:

Overall, I think this a great partnership filled with tons of opportunity. Is it perfect right now? No, but maybe someday. The best part is that this makes shopping from the resale market incredibly accessible to everyone as the items from ThredUp fit in with Walmart’s pricing. Another great benefit of this is that there are many people who are familiar with shopping at Walmart.

An issue that comes up is the fact that these ThredUp items will only be sold online, and the majority of Walmart’s e-comm business is groceries. With everything happening in the world right now and with more and more people adopting new online shopping habits, I think that this issue will be very short-lived. When shopping online, you can add a dress from ThredUp into your cart along with your groceries, and maybe more people over time will see that they can still get everything in one “shopping trip” online as they usually would in a Walmart store.

A colleague of mine pointed out that when on Walmart’s site, if you generically browse clothing, no ThredUp items will show up. I am torn about this because I do like that all of the pre-owned items are separated so that nobody accidentally buys something pre-owned without realizing it, however, I can see how this would prove to be a barrier in terms of shoppers not naturally discovering ThredUp items on Walmart’s site. Of course, if you start at walmart.com/thredup you’ll make it there, but what I also noticed is that when you pull down Walmart’s side menu and go to the clothing tab, the ThredUp portion is pretty clearly marked and it is advertised for, as well, which will hopefully draw in the curious ones and will make sure that nobody makes an accidental purchase.

Back to accessibility, anyone in the retail industry knows about how popular luxury resale has become, however, even luxury resale is still pretty inaccessible to the American masses. There are sites like eBay and apps like Poshmark that make lower-priced resale more accessible, but even those require learning new technological features either on a website or through downloading an app. The familiarity of shopping on Walmart’s website will prove to be a strength in this partnership that will benefit both parties, and the accessibility of pricing will allow those who have never been able to participate in the resale economy to do so. With popular brands being curated for this partnership, I think that this could create some excitement for the Walmart shopper.

What I was most surprised to see was the diversity of the brands showcased on this site. I was initially expecting the brand offerings to mimic those that you can get somewhere such as Nordstrom Rack, but I was really surprised to see brands like Opening Ceremony, Tretorn, Prada, Vetements, and JW Anderson. There were very few of these products but the prices were incredibly reasonable ($281.99 – see below – may not sound very reasonable at all and doesn’t fit the budget of a Walmart shopper, but in my opinion this actually is a fair price for something with the Vetements brand attached to it and maybe Walmart will find a new following from the hypebeasts) and I never thought I would see a day where a Vetements x Reebok sneaker would be on Walmart’s website.

The last point I want to make is that I truly believe that ThredUp should ditch their “Designer” category of merchandise (which include designers like Gucci and Burbery on their website) to truly focus on the brands that they so successfully sell, such as Michael Kors, Calvin Klein, Coach, Madewell, J. Crew, etc.

I have never understood why ThredUp bothers with high-end designer and luxury, especially when there is already so much competition in luxury resale. I think that the partnership with Walmart helps ThredUp appeal to the masses, which will probably draw people further away from making luxury purchases on ThredUp. Appealing to the masses and selling luxury goods usually don’t work together well, and as someone who makes luxury purchases off of The RealReal relatively frequently, it is still not an inexpensive shopping experience and definitely has a high price-point boundary for entry.

I’m all for ThredUp working with Walmart to make resale accessible for all, and I think that ThredUp should go all-in with this partnership and the message of accessibility to the masses.

Featured image from CNN.

Facebook Shops: driving social commerce usage across generations

This week, Mark Zuckerberg himself addressed Facebook’s plans to move forward with and really commit to commerce on its platform. With the introduction of “Facebook (and Instagram, soon) Shops,” users will now “be able to browse and buy products directly from a business’ Facebook  Page or Instagram profile” (TechCrunch).

We all know that Facebook already has its Marketplace where users or small business owners can list their products and provide contact information or a link to their website, but Facebook Shops will go way beyond this. Instagram has shopping features as well that allow brands and businesses to link their products to a post that users can then click on that will redirect them to the individual brand’s website.

If you follow retail headlines, you probably also heard about Shopify’s “Shop” app that allows users to browse through products from their favorite brands that use the Shopify merchant platform and then keep track of all of their orders. This was convenient, however, there were still some gaps that I break down in depth in this post.

My biggest issue with Shopify’s app is that it redirected you to a brand’s website to make a purchase even though it claimed to have “streamlined the checkout process.” Instagram’s shopping features do this as well as of now, which means that you can only shop from one brand at a time. Being redirected to a website outside of that app is not my streamlined checkout dream, but, in comes Facebook Shops to save the day with Instagram following shortly behind.

Side note…Facebook/Instagram Shops are going to partner up with Shopify, BigCommerce, and a variety of other commerce platforms in the near future, which means even more excitement coming for the retail industry.

Right now, you can choose to shop locally of Facebook’s Marketplace, which will show you listings by people in your area, or you can shop from stores on Facebook’s Marketplace, which will show you listings from any stores who have chosen to use this new feature. The best part is that YOU CAN ADD MULTIPLE PRODUCTS TO YOUR CART FROM DIFFERENT STORES AND CHECK OUT ALL IN ONE GO! Bless.

In the picture below, I screenshotted my view of searching for a pair of sneakers in my regular search bar. From there I clicked on a pair of Fila’s, picked my size, and added them to my cart from a store apprently called BHFO (a real company based in Cedar Rapids, IA). Simple as that, and I never left the app.

Moving on to the bigger picture of this story…

My first thought when I read about this was that now my parents and their friends and my grandparents can all be exposed to social commerce because they all seem to be heavy users of the app but have probably never made a purchase from their phone at all. Social commerce now gets to infiltrate itself into the lives of people around the world and isn’t necessarily aimed for just Millennials and Gen Z’ers.

I personally only use to Facebook to occasionally post about updates in my life and I’ll ever so often upload pictures from trips for my family to see. Every here and there I’ll get stuck in a marathon of watching cute dog videos. Needless to say, I never actually scroll through my feed.

My mom, aunts, uncles, and grandparents (covering older millenials, Gen X’ers and Boomers) all actually scroll through Facebook as a form of entertainment, either via the app or even on their computers, and I think if they all knew that they could also literally shop right off of the app or website, they would be willing to give it a try. They all grudgingly adopted online shopping via Amazon, so I see this having potential to really bring social commerce into the conversation of consumer behavior for those older than, say, 40.

According to sproutsocial, 79% of 30-49 year old’s use Facebook, as do 68% of 50-64 year old’s, and many younger millenials and teens have actually decreased usage or have abandoned the app because they have found apps that they prefer more such as Instagram and Snapchat, which means that Facebook Shops will either attract more youngsters to the platform and/or will bring social commerce into the lives of those who it is not already.

Facebook Shops is another step in the social commerce revolution, and I think it may even have the potential to become the way that the majority of people shop.

Featured image from TechCrunch.

‘Squad shopping’ gaining ground in the U.S.

Whether or not you’re familiar with the phrase “squad shopping,” it is definitely something you should be thinking about for the retail industry as the implementation of social commerce gains an increasingly stronger footing in the U.S. consumer’s typical behaviors.

Vogue Business posted an article this week that covers ‘the rise of squad shopping’ that prompted me to write about the impact that this concept can have on the world of retail. In short, “squad shopping” is the act of shopping online with friends, specifically all interacting with products on the same platform.

That platform did not exist in the U.S. (despite there being many, incredibly popular platforms in Asia) until now. Hence, I introduce Squadded Shopping Party, which is a browser extension that allows friends to shop together on (as of now) four different major fashion e-commerce websites. Users can interact with each other and the entire Squadded community to discover new products or get opinions on potential products for purchase.

I, of course, got myself set up on Squadded and worked with a friend to get her set up as well so that I could test out the concept. Getting set up is not difficult, but it is incredibly tedious and unnecessarily time-consuming. More on that later, though.

Once you have Squadded up and running, you can invite friends to join your personal “squad,” where you can send different products, polls, or messages directly to them or you can opt to interact with the “community,” which is a feed of activity following everyone who has Squadded set up.

Squadded has made the act of getting an opinion on an item much simpler than it was. Whenever I needed an opinion from a friend my options were to send them screenshots of a product or to send them individual links to different products for an opinion. With Squadded, you can post the product to your feed and anyone in your network can share their opinions or vote between two products. You can also create a layout of four pictures which you can use to share entire outfit ideas.

Interacting with strangers via a browser extension may seem daunting or awkward, but it’s very similar to just browsing your “favorites” feed on Instagram or following a subreddit on reddit. The best parts of this feature are that you can get unbiased opinions, you can discover new products or outfit inspirations, and you’re interacting with a group of people who truly care about shopping and specifically fashion for now. In a time when human connection is very limited, it was nice to see how others were spending their time browsing the ASOS website and finding products that I would probably never find myself due to the mass inventory that ASOS has.

The opinions of both friends and strangers when shopping in a physical store can so easily influence our purchasing decisions, which is why “squad shopping” has so much potential for how American consumers behave when shopping online. Those who are weary about making purchases online can now find comfort in the opinions of others while browsing through a website, similar to asking for opinions or recommendations from people in a store.

This is all a baby step toward social commerce for the U.S. but it is a baby step with huge potential. Imagine if within your Squadded feed you could see videos of people reviewing products that they have bought that you were interested in, eliminating the need to either scroll through product reviews on a website or look up review videos on Youtube. Or, imagine that you could be on a video call with your friends while being able to virtually try on different products (I’m thinking, for example, a Zoom with your friends as you all use the virtual try-on tool from Warby Parker to see how different glasses look on everyone and to recommend different styles to your friends all while being able to just do so from Warby Parker’s website). HUGE potential here for the future of e-commerce when physical retailing seems so uncertain.

My only complaint so far with Squadded is how time-consuming and tedious the setup process is. First, you have to go to Squadded’s website in order to install the browser extension. After you do that, you have to sign in using Google (if you don’t have a google account I’m not entirely sure how you get set up). Next, you have to add your friends by sending them a link to Squadded’s website and after that they have to go through the whole process of installing the extension and logging in. And then, you might assume that because you sent your friend the link that they would automatically now be your friend. Nope, you then have to search for your friend’s name and invite them into your squad. There just has to be a simpler way, right?

And there is a simpler way, it’s just not possible yet in the U.S. A major difference in terms of social commerce and its development and popularity between Asian countries and Western countries is that the West is not connected on a universal platform such as WeChat. If we were all on WeChat here, we could all probably install Squadded and then automatically be connected to our friends or those with similar interests, skipping the whole “signing in” process and invitation process.

Maybe someday, America. But, overall, I think that this is an amazing step toward what may become the new “normal” way of shopping.

Drop culture – but make it about sustainability rather than hype

The first time that I scrolled past an Instagram ad for PANGAIA was a few months ago, right as it was starting to get cold in Minnesota. The ad was for their FLWRDWN puffer jacket, which is a cruelty-free, completely biodegradable winter jacket made from wild flowers using a patented process. I clicked on the website and checked out the details of the coat, thought it seemed really cool and innovative, and then moved on and pretty much forgot about it.

Moving forward to the last month, I have been seeing PANGAIA products and ads all over my Instagram feed. Most prominent are the matching recycled cotton sets, which are very similar to the now well-known Entireworld cotton sets. PANGAIA has a higher price point for these items, however, I believe that the company backs it up with loads of information and proof of materials innovation, which means that they can sell at those higher prices.

If you’ve never heard of PANGAIA, here’s a brief summary of the company:

PANGAIA is a direct-to-consumer materials science company bringing breakthrough textile innovations and patents into the world through everyday lifestyle products. Every technology we work with aims to solve an environmental problem of the fashion/apparel & nature industry.

We hope to drive these solutions further by making technologies and materials available to companies across different industries. By introducing these innovations, we design materials, products and experiences for everyday and everyone.”

If you head to PANGAIA’s website, you’ll notice that almost every product is sold out- for now. Now that the demand for PANGAIA products has began to surge because of social media popularity, PANGAIA products have been pretty tough to get. What I’ve started to admire about the company is that they have taken a different approach to the usual “drop culture” method by focusing entirely on the sustainability and production of the brand and its items.

From what I can tell, about once a week PANGAIA posts on Instagram that they are going to allow pre-orders for a few different items, usually rotating style and color options. For the pre-order that happened today, the products won’t be shipped for another month and a half, so there is true customer dedication considering that people will wait that long to get what they have bought.

PANGAIA does not have excess inventory laying around, which means that based on the demand inquired from the pre-orders they can then manufacture exactly how many are needed, so there is no wasted inventory left over. PANGAIA can also cap the pre-orders at their maximum production capacity meaning that there will not be any delays in production.

For companies that regularly utilize “drops” of products or lines, the products are usually already made and often sell out. There is always the potential for a drop to be unsuccessful or poorly forecast in terms of sales volume, leaving a company or brand with a ton of leftover stock that either needs to be marked down or somehow gotten rid of. While this method is more sustainable than traditional retail, it’s still not perfect in terms of sustainable apparel.

Hype is often associated with drop culture, as is exclusivity. PANGAIA has brilliantly managed to create hype around their products without the goal of creating exclusive access to their products. PANGAIA wants anyone to be able to buy their products while maintaining a healthy and sustainable production practice, which is something I haven’t seen yet. There is hype and demand, everyone just has to practice a little patience. Because PANGAIA “drops” pre-orders almost once a week, as a consumer I can tell that they’re not trying to make the products exclusive, they just want to change the way that we think about consumption and the way that products are produced.

What I’ve also noticed having to be patient for PANGAIA to drop a pre-order in a color that I really, really want is that this is training me to be willing to wait for a product that I really love that I know will be produced as responsibly as possible. I don’t need a matching PANGAIA sweatsuit right now, and even if I pick a drop to try and get a set from and miss out, I trust that PANGAIA will release those products again at some point. Patience is not usually associated with apparel consumption, but with PANGAIA’s current success, maybe it can be in the near future.

Breaking down ‘Shop’ by Shopify

A BIG headline that broke this week in the world of commerce was that Shopify had released a mobile app called “Shop” which was “designed to create a more intuitive digital shopping experience from product discovery to delivery” (via Chain Store Age). Other important things to note:

  • Customers have access to streamlined checkout across all brands on the app and all order and tracking information is stored in one place. (Chain Store Age)
  • Other features include customized recommendations, as well as local filters that identify area businesses currently offering shipping, pick-up and return policies. (Chain Store Age)
  • The app is actually an update and rebrand of Arrive, an app for tracking packages from Shopify merchants and other retailers, which the company says has been used by 16 million consumers already. (via TechCrunch)

I immediately downloaded the Shop app because many of my favorite brands use Shopify for checkout and I have always loved that Shopify could just send me a text could that when entered could pull up all of my checkout information. Unfortunately this app has not lived up to everything that I thought it was going to be going into the download, however there are some really cool features within the app with tons of potential.

What I thought I the app was going to be: In my mind, a streamlined checkout meant that I would be able to put products from all different brands into one cart on the Shop app and checkout all in one go, similar to how one can add items from any Etsy seller on the app or website into one cart and then do one big checkout when ready. I also assumed that I would be able to search for products as one does on Google or Amazon. Lastly, I figured that the app would keep track of all of my purchases from brands using Shopify going forward.

What it actually is, broken down into the good and the bad:

Good: In the “shopping” section of the app, a variety of products from all of the shops that you follow are shown in a feed that you can scroll through if you are just browsing for fun. As someone who does this for hours a day just to see what’s out there in terms of products, it’s almost like scrolling through social media combined with a department store’s website but in a user-friendly, minimalistic app.

Bad: You cannot actually search for a product, therefore the claim that the app helps with product search and discovery is pretty misleading. There is no search bar for products and the only things you can search for are the different brands who use Shopify, a.k.a the “Shops.” For example, if you want to see what’s out there in the world of white sneakers, you still have to do what you normally do for product searches (Amazon, Google, Instagram, etc.).

Great: I was absolutely amazed with the shipping and tracking features of the app. On my home page, which is where all of your recent and past Shopify orders sit, I can see my purchase history and status of those packages (such as when they were shipped and delivered) from any time that I’ve made a purchase from a brand that uses Shopify. I didn’t realize that the app would be able to pull past purchase info in that way, and I was delightfully surprised. Where I was even more surprised was that the app pulls in order placement/shipping and tracking info from any online purchase that you’ve made once you download the app as well. For me, this meant that I could see when my last Chewy order was delivered and I could track my package from The RealReal to see when it was going to be delivered.

When you connect your information to the app via your Google account, this gives the app access to your inbox which means that it can pull online orders from anywhere to put on your home page to give you updates on shipping and delivery status. Ever so slightly creepy at first, but beyond useful in terms of a bigger picture because searching for tracking emails in my inbox that I never clear out absolutely sucks.

Good: Following the above, I was pleasantly surprised that the Shop app automatically followed all of the “shops” that I had made previous purchases from, which filled my shopping feed with products from relevant brands to me.

Bad and beyond disappointing: As I mentioned above, I thought that “streamlined checkout” truly meant that I could put any products that are shown on my shopping feed in the app into one cart within the app that could then all be purchased with one click. This is not the case. You can only checkout from one shop at a time, and when you do, you get redirected to that shop’s individual website, which was beyond disappointing and frustrating for me. You can still checkout with Shopify’s “one-click” system, but this checkout process is essentially no different from just ordering directly from the brand’s website. What I thought was going to be so cool about this app was the ability to put products from any retailer that uses Shopify into one cart for one checkout, but this was apparently big dreaming. There is, in my opinion, immense potential for Shopify to make this happen, and if they do, I don’t see myself shopping anywhere else.

Featured image from TechCrunch

Poshmark ‘Stories’ are a big step forward for social commerce

Poshmark announced a new feature to be added to their platform (the Poshmark App) called “Posh Stories,” which most closely align with Instagram or Snapchat stories, where the user has the ability to post a video to their account within the “stories” section that will only last for about 24-48 hours and will then disappear.

Brands on Instagram have had the ability to post products to their stories that can be accessed either on Instagram’s Shop or the brand’s website by simply “swiping up,” making many Poshmark users familiar with the process and idea, however, because Poshmark is an app dedicated solely to resale, it will have a unique advantage and power when compared to other resale companies or even social media apps for the time being.

Poshmark has made a significant contribution to the push for and growing popularity of social commerce. Ordinary people can list essentially any kind of clothing or accessories on the app and can set pricing however they feel appropriate, which has given the overhead power of selling and consuming to the general population. There’s no consigning or having to deal with the Poshmark company unless something goes very wrong (in which case the Poshmark employees are beyond helpful and considerate- I speak from experience), and shipping is incredibly simple and dependent on the seller,which means that instead of having to track down a “Questions?” or “Help” email or page from a standard company, one just just send the seller a chat as would normally be done with friends on social media.

Both the trend to buy second-hand items and Poshmark’s popularity have grown over the last few years, and in my opinion, Poshmark is one of the easiest platforms to use as it is accessible and straightforward for all. It has always felt like the majority of people on Poshmark truly identify as part of the Poshmark community which helps drive the social commerce train forward.

The current state of the U.S. has pushed all consumers who are still spending to ecommerce-based sales with some opting for delivery and others opting for curbside pickup if available. Some notable changing consumer mindsets that Poshmark can benefit greatly from at a time like this would be:

  • The consumer who shops in-person for everything they can and maybe uses Amazon if they have to
  • Those who have been hesitant about resale but now have the time to truly give it a go
  • Those who are familiar with resale and just aren’t getting the push needed to make confident purchases right now

Social commerce can greatly benefit all of these consumers as we are living in a time where social interaction seems lacking, and Poshmark Stories can help to both ease the mind of shoppers weary of resale and can help distract the minds of those stuck at home who need more content in order to make a purchase.

Posh Stories help the potential buyers of Poshmark see how a product looks in different settings, see how it moves, and possibly even see how it looks on the seller, which can be a compromise for those who prefer to shop in-person and try things on. Seeing a product move in a video or even just listening to someone talk about the product can help give the buyer that push of confidence needed to transition over to e/social commerce.

Another interesting concept brought up in this Retail Brew article is that the short lifespan of these stories can drive the feeling of exclusivity of the products on Poshmark, which may push that consumer who’s been on the edge of making a purchase to finally do it because they figure that others may buy it after looking at the story. The potential for flash sales through Posh Stories is also immense.

While Poshmark is not usually the place that people go when they are looking for luxury resale, it does actually have quite and expansive lineup of luxury products. Poshmark unfortunately does not have the authentication infrastructure of sites like The RealReal, however, sellers are usually quite good at posting proof of authenticity on their listing via receipts or item numbers. This being said, I foresee a big increase in Poshmark-based luxury sales because of the new ability to put videos of these products on a seller’s account. To my knowledge, no other luxury resale platform does this and the closest that I have seen in terms of video commerce (outside of Asia) is Nordstrom’s few and far between videos of store associates describing some of their most popular luxury items in a video at the bottom of a product listing on their webpage.

The last point that I would make is that these Posh Stories give Poshmark a pretty significant advantage over a company like eBay. Both have pretty janky websites/apps and require a detailed eye when browsing for the best deals and products. While eBay sells significantly more categories of merchandise than Poshmark, it still has a strong apparel, accessories, and luxury resale sector and is often thought of as the first place to go for secondhand items in good shape on the internet. The concept of video commerce is not something that eBay has embraced and I think that this will accelerate Poshmark to be more of a competitor in the apparel space. My only concern is that Poshmark does not do returns unless an item is truly not what the seller listed it as.

Overall, I think that video commerce will be a powerful tool for retailers to embrace going forward. The pandemic has accelerated the adaptation of both ecommerce and social commerce in the U.S., and Asian countries have been on top of video commerce for years. While this isn’t live-streaming quite yet, I think that is is a big step forward to being close, and kudos to Poshmark for stepping up to the plate.

Featured image taken from Adweek.