What’s App/Snapchat Contest from Rebecca Minkoff

I certainly haven’t seen this done before – Rebecca Minkoff is conducting a giveaway contest exclusively via What’s App and Snapchat.  I first came across this on Instagram, where Rebecca Minkoff has 362,000 followers and posted the below image.

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I was curious and intrigued since I hadn’t seen this type of interaction from a brand before, so added her to What’s App to see what would happen.  When you add the contact, you see that they added the link to contest rules in their contact info. Then, I started to chat with her curious what would happen and got a response within minutes:

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I then clicked over to the URL they provided in their contact info. This was the most friction-filled part of the experience. Since you can’t click directly from the What’s App contact I had to type it into the URL bar.  Even once I was on their blog (RM Edit), I still had to scroll around to find the post about the giveaway.  I then learned more details:

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The contest only lasts one day (today, June 3). During the narrow time window, entrants must go to Snapchat to review the Resort collection, take a screenshot of their favorite shot and message it to Rebecca via What’sApp with why they want to win it.  This is one of the more intimate ways I’ve seen a brand interact with their followers.  I imagine that everyone who enters via What’sApp gets a personalized message back from “Rebecca Minkoff” (really her social media team) which is a very high-touch approach. Although there are a lot of steps involved in the contest…those who enter are certainly engaged customers!

Has anyone else seen a brand do a giveaway like this using What’s App or Snapchat?

Shinola Store Experience

Last week, I finally went to the Shinola store in Tribeca.  For those who are unfamiliar, Shinola is a luxury watch brand based in Detroit, Michigan. They embrace U.S. based manufacturing and are helping to revitalize the Detroit economy, while providing an exceptional product to customers.  They are getting quite a bit of press and attention recently.  My brother, Michael, now works at their corporate HQ, so I am definitely biased and have personal ties to the company, but I think they are doing some impressive work!

Currently they operate Shinola stores in NY and Detroit and are slated to open a bunch more this year.  Their products are also carried by a number of retailers like Neiman Marcus, Bloomingdale’s, Saks, Nordstrom and many many more smaller retailers, boutiques and jewelers.  They also have their own e-commerce site, shinola.com.

So as I mentioned I finally made it to check out the Shinola store in Tribeca last week. I had such a positive store experience that I wanted to share a bit about my visit…

The store itself is a VERY cool space.  Located on Franklin street, in a hip area of Tribeca, when you first walk in there’s a coffee bar operated by The Smile. I’ve been to The Smile’s Soho location multiple times and it’s a very cool cafe/restaurant, known for being very “in” — so automatically there’s some unique cache to the experience, not to mention the opportunity to caffeinate or get a treat when you set foot in the store…

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Then, the store itself has super high ceilings and feels very open, like a lofty space. They have NY corporate offices that are actually upstairs from the store.  It conveys a feeling of hipness, yet in a warm and not offputting way. There are bikes hanging in various spots and interesting displays of both Shinola merchandise as well as other brands that are curated — all are items manufactured in the U.S.A. with a similar aesthetic and sensibility.  The store kind of felt like being a museum with interesting things to discover and explore around each bend.

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I was greeted very quickly upon entry by two of the sales associates who spotted me wearing my “Mini Runwell” watch and struck up conversation right away. Jocelyn was incredibly charming, warm and nice and spent a lot of time with me, showing me around the store and sharing the back-story of various products and tips about the watches and bands. She showed me the women’s watches along the back wall and helped me try on a bunch of colors of The Birdy, which I am eying as my next Shinola purchase.

I then wandered the store myself and decided to purchase a few journals.  I went to check out — which is also nice they just use an iphone type set-up and don’t have a monstrous check-out kiosk/counter. Instead it felt really seamless and pleasant. Jocelyn then asked me if I wanted the journals monogrammed (a complimentary service) and I was so excited and thought this was super unique!

So, I then watched her put them through a huge machine, akin to a letterpress machine. She did two for my husband (RSF) and two for me (TLF). I got to choose whether I wanted gold vs. silver and the size/placement of the lettering. It was a really unique process to watch and to be part of the “making” of these products, staying true to the Shinola spirit.

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Overall, my visit was much more of an ‘experience’ than just ‘transactional’ focused. I left feeling so intrigued by the brand, and re-energized that physical retail stores really CAN have value-add and create interesting experiences rather than just be a nuisance…  (I so often prefer to shop online that I often dread setting foot into a real store – too often the sales people and environment can be a turnoff or let-down).

A few other random reflections —

– Without my new “friend” Jocelyn to show me the ropes, I may have missed the women’s watches myself, particularly if I was doing a quick pass-through the store. At first, I only saw the men’s watches on the center table. This may be intentional on their part — I am guessing a much larger % of their business is Men’s watches, or perhaps they think that women troll the perimeter of a store more and uncover items more easily. But personally I almost didn’t see these!
– Speaking of mens vs. women’s, I thought the whole store has more of a Men’s vibe to it. (This isn’t a bad thing). Just interesting to me to observe how a store that appeals/sells both genders skews male in feeling (darker colors, bold boxy letters, more mens merchandise, etc).  Probably more important to attract rather than turn off men, while women who wear Shinola are more “downtown” in aesthetic and comfortable in these types of environments / don’t need super feminine touches.
– I thought the monogram services are actually a big draw and could be promoted to encourage the purchase of journals (or other items too)! I think there’s opportunity to visually display journals with initials on them near the blank ones so customers can see this is possible to have done. (Right now, the salespeople just told me about it, or I wouldn’t have known). I think this tactic may be intentional so they don’t get over-run and can control when they offer the service (not mention it if they are too busy at the moment, and make it seem like more of a “secret” giving you a feeling of being an insider when you are offered this service)… but I think it would be excite people by showcasing it more prominently and possibly result in more journal sales.
– Speaking of the personalization, after getting my monograms applied to the journals, the next day I interestingly received a promoted Facebook post from Madewell (brand owned by J.Crew) about their monogram services. I thought this was ironic timing — maybe it’s a new trend to offer this type of thing in store…  (See below)
– Lastly, Shinola has the bones of a great e-commerce site. Pretty easy to navigate, clear descriptions, vivid imagery and is a great start. However, I do think there’s opportunity to do even more storytelling and weave in more editorial on the site. When you click “our story” for instance, you can watch a video, but it would be nice to have a written story too if you aren’t in the mood for watching a clip. Some of the great press stories would be nice to include and highlight. I could also see opportunity to showcase how real people (customers) are wearing their Shinolas — so others can get styling ideas from their photos. Shinola includes this regularly on Instagram, but it would be cool to incorporate this imagery on the site itself. Lastly, featuring some of the amazing work and partnerships they are doing in the city of Detroit, like the clocks they have around the city.
All in all though , a fantastic and impressive store experience and I was excited to share!

“No Minimum Monday”

I haven’t blogged here in a while, but received an email today that caught my eye. Anthropologie sent me an email with the subject line “No-minimum Monday (free shipping to all!) + May’s new arrivals.”


I feel like all too often, retailers say “free shipping” but when you read the fine print, what they really mean is “free shipping over $50” or something similar. I liked that this promotion was pretty straightforward and a simple execution (small banner within email and on site), and I thought the way Anthropologie framed this was quite clever.  The corresponding code they included “JUSTBECAUSE” was also very cute.



Spectacular gift capsules from Rue La La

Rue La La created holiday capsules on the Gazillion Gifts part of their site in a super creative way. I love the combination of hand-drawn illustrations, typed banners/signs, real merchandise, props and photographs of gift wrapping elements like bows, ornaments and gift boxes with ribbon. The way they styled these capsules and pulled the page together really brought forth feelings of whimsy and and a warm festive vibe.  It feels like you’re in a boutique store with white walls,  practically getting to touch and feel the display. Nicely done!

A few screenshots:

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Lauren Merkin Pinterest promotion: 3 easy steps

I received the below email yesterday from LaurenMerkin.com, announcing a Pinterest sweepstakes. I’ve seen a number of brands conduct Pinterest sweepstakes/contests, and this stood out to me in a positive way as one of the cleaner and easier implementations for users to understand what is required of them.  I particularly liked the way they broke it down into simple steps/directions for users to follow.  All too often, I’ve seen brands include paragraphs of text, where users really need to focus and digest the instructions. Lauren Merkin made it clear and straightforward as to what is required to enter.

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My main suggestion to improve this communication would be to add a prominent call-to-action, like a “go now” or “enter now” button that links to their Pinterest page. Currently if you click the image, it does link there, but this isn’t readily apparent.

When I searched Pinterest for #LMWishlist, nothing came up. This seemed strange to me because I would expect that they’d seed content themselves. Perhaps there is a delay on Pinterest before search results for hashtags appear.  When I search for “Lauren Merkin”, I do see a handful of entrants, but the hashtag is noted in the comments instead of the description so it’s not clickable.  According to articles on Oh So Pinteresting and Hashtracking, hashtags are only searchable and linkable when they are in the Pin description (not the board or account description). I am unclear on what happens if users include a hashtag in the comments section but this may be the problem.  (ex. See sparkly bag in 3rd column below):


Lauren Merkin’s account does pin quite a bit (1,000+ pins) and have adorable cover photos for each of their boards, but it looks like their Pinterest offering is in its infancy (under 200 followers). I am under the impression that this promotion is an attempt to spark growth in their # of followers. This is likely important for them during the holiday season since it’s so widely reported that Pinterest is effective as a channel for retailers to generate sales.  I’ll be curious to check in a few weeks and see how effective this was for them in terms of new follower growth.

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Zulily generates smiles

I got this email from Zulily today about a huge toy sale, and it totally caught my attention due to the adorable and recognizable “Very Hungry Caterpillar” that moved across the screen.  Here’s a close-up of him inching his way along.


This happened directly under the words “Give Playtime” in the below screenshot of the overall email: Screen Shot 2013-11-13 at 7.05.54 PM

I’ve written about clever animation before; I find it to be a very effective method of capturing user attention, particularly when done in a creative way that elicits a smile, like this.  They did a good job of just animating one small portion of the email so it didn’t become overwhelming. This small treatment packed a lot of punch!

After scrolling further down through this email, I was also intrigued by the “Coming Soon” section where users are encouraged to click the hearts next to any brands you want to be notified about specifically:

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I think Zulily did a great job of making this email very easy and straightforward to take action on. Immediately after clicking a heart, you are taken to a page about that brand, letting you know that you now “love” that brand.  No extra steps required; just one click on the email itself.  I thought this was a strong implementation of encouraging users to set advanced preferences in a very simplistic and compelling way. My only suggestion was to make the list of brands shown even more well-known, as I was only familiar with about half of these.



Anthroplogie.com takes a layout cue from Pinterest

I was just on Anthropologie.com and noticed that they’ve made their product pages similar to Pinterest in the look and feel. They’ve walked away from a standard grid format, and the default styling is now a staggered approach more encouraging of constant scrolling and discovery.

Here’s what happened when I clicked on the “Dresses” in the standard left-navigation menu:

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They give consumers the option to revert to a standard grid format in the top-right corner. I wonder if they are A/B testing each layout as the default to see which results in more clicks and purchases.  If not, I’d encourage them to do so!  I would be so curious as to the results.

As you scroll down, you see a “back to top” arrow similar to Pinterest as well:

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I’ve seen lots of aggregator sites mimicking the Pinterest approach (Lyst, Styleseek, etc), but I haven’t seen individual retailers employ this technique on their site. I wonder how effective it is.

Free shipping season?

Seems coincidental, but the past few days I noticed an emphasis on free shipping promotions and messaging from non-traditional retailers.  Rent The Runway, Gilt, One Kings Lane, and Joss and Main each sent emails highlighting free shipping in the subject line (rare of them). Strange coincidence of timing.

Rent The Runway subject line:

Finally! Free Shipping for One Year!

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Gilt subject line:

Free Shipping: Our Gift to You + Balenciaga Handbags, …

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One Kings Lane subject:

Free shipping for the holidays is here!

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Joss and Main subject:

Get free shipping through the season. Enjoy smart and stylish holiday shopping.

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I  predict we see a huge amount of free shipping offers this holiday season and that retailers will remove the price of shipping as the barrier for purchase.

Etsy + Rent The Runway collaborate on a Halloween Bazaar

One of the most creative partnerships I’ve seen recently is between Rent the Runway and Etsy.  I received the below email last week about their Halloween Bazaar, which was my introduction to the collaboration:

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RTR showcased roughly 50+ Halloween outfits for inspiration (dresses you can rent through RTR transformed into costumes with the help of accessories via Etsy).  I thought the user experience and design of this concept was fantastic – when you moused over each outfit, two links appeared, so you could quickly navigate to RTR or to Etsy.  For instance, when you hovered over the pumpkin costume, here’s what you saw:

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You could then either click through to rent the dress:

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Or shop the accessories:

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All in all, I thought it was a smart partnership, likely to draw media attention and inform users that RTR is not just good for special occasions (weddings, etc) but encourage users to use the platform in a novel way.

A few other observations:

  • I’m guessing this was primarily a public relations initiative, aimed at generating buzz for Rent The Runway. This collaboration allowed them to create a new storyline about renting dresses for one-time use, as people don’t need to own their Halloween costumes all year and are unlikely to re-wear them.  Collaborating allowed them to likely utilize Etsy resources to help promote the collaboration too.
  • Related, user acquisition was likely a focal part of the strategy on both company’s ends. I didn’t see how Etsy messaged this offering to their users other than on their blog, but cross-pollination of users was a likely goal and outcome. (When you visit etsy.com/halloween or search Etsy for “Halloween” there is no mention of it.)
  • Although I thought the UX and concept on the RTR site were unique, the execution once you clicked through felt a bit disconnected. When you clicked through to the Etsy site, you didn’t see the exact accessories that were portrayed in the costume shot, but rather similar products that were bucketed under that general category. As you can see in the illustration, you saw pumpkin-related items, but the actual items were not necessarily included or shoppable.
  • The outfit ideas themselves were super creative!  Great inspiration if anyone is still looking for Halloween costume ideas, whether you rent their dresses or not (a bit pricey if you ask me to rent most of these costumes)!
  • The relationship with Buzzfeed, Refinery29 and P.S. I Made This felt a bit contrived to me – like they just wanted these outlets to cover the news and announcement, so they incorporated their “picks” on the site as a way for them to cover this collaboration.
  • Looks like RTR also translated this into a social media giveaway on Facebook. Kudos for pulling out all stops and really putting together a cohesive and integrated marketing campaign.

I suppose if I ended this post saying a Halloween-spirited “BOO!” I’d be sending a very mixed message, because in my book this collaboration actually classifies as a big YAY.

Men’s direct mail: Fall approaches

Two weeks ago, I/my husband received fall direct mail pieces from three Men’s retailers: Saks, Nordstrom and Bonobos. I found it interesting to compare/contrast the approaches each took in messaging their fall collection to Men:

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To start, an observation on timing: When the mailings first arrived, the weather in NYC was still hot so it seemed a bit premature for sending fall marketing. However, within days, the temps dropped and all of a sudden the items featured seemed more relevant. I realize this timing is hard to nail, but it highlighted for me that particularly for Men it seems that the closer retailers can peg their fall messaging to the drops in temperature the more “wear now” and relevant/covetable the items become.

As for the 3 individual mailings —

1. Saks —

Format-wise, I found this least appealing. It was a large newspaper-like size that men would have to unfold and suddenly becomes big, showy and flimsy. Compared to Nordstrom or Bonobos, which were more compact books, the Saks mailing seemed like more “work” on the guy’s part to read it and less discreet for paging through on the train, for instance.

Content-wise, Saks took more of a basic product-focused approach, showing a few models and combinations of items on each page. There wasn’t much of an overarching message other than “LOOK WHAT’S NEW”. They did call out a few categories (graphic knits, extreme shoes) but you really had to be looking closely to spot this; the casual reader of their mailing would likely simply focus on the products themselves vs. any core messaging. This was effective in terms of showcasing new specific items for the fall with relevant brand and pricing info in hopes that the shopper would spot a particular item they are interested in. However, it seemed less innovative than the other mailers, and left me with less of a lasting impression or seasonal message once I discarded the piece.

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On each page, each of the products are clearly identified including the brand name and pricing information.

2. Bonobos —

Bonobos definitely has their own “voice” that they maintain consistently with their customers. It’s as if a cool guy friend was welcoming you to “his crew” and chats with you as if you’re one of the boys.  Although some could find it off-putting/frat-boyish in nature, they do a very good job coming up with witty sayings and it’s hard not to flip through their catalog without smiling or chuckling a bit.  Bonobos took a mixed approach of showing lifestyle shots (people wearing the clothes doing an activity) with product close-ups. Some of the pages where they discuss a general product category and show items up close (like the shirts pages shown below) remind me of a J.Crew catalog, as they are another retailer that fairly consistently includes product overview coupled with specific styles in a grid.  Some of the Bonobos’ styles themselves could also be seen as a bit outlandish, but they’ve identified a target guy who is willing to be a bit more “out there” and bold with their wardrobe choices and they consistently speak to him through both messaging and also the suggested outfits.  All in all, I thought Bonobos marketing was strong and took a stand/had a point-of-view, especially compared to other retailers that are more ‘middle of the road’.

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Bonobos uses eye-catching phrases and saucy imagery like the above. After all, sex sells.

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Bonobos used fun, compelling settings that guys can relate to, like this scene that was shot in front of a pizza place at Metlife stadium (you can see the stadium name in the window reflection).

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The caption on the Non-iron shirt page: “No one likes to deal with irons at eight in the morning. And hangovers? Forget about it. That is why we created a crisp, wrinkle free dress shirt that actually fits.”

Bonobos shirts


3. Nordstrom —
Nordstrom outlined 10 fall essentials that every guy should have this year, including quilted jackets and cardigans. They highlighted various styles in a pretty straightforward way with this list and I thought it jived well with how many men shop – creating a “list” (even a mental one) of what they need for a given season or shopping trip and plowing through it to update their mental check-boxes.  Nordstrom also established sections of the catalog listed with “tabs” vertically on the right side – Essentials, Work, Casual, etc. so one could quickly flip to a section that they are most interested in and they have context of what they are shopping for. Since the “top 10” and this tabbed approach were fairly straightforward and provided navigational cues, I found it a bit confusing how Nordstrom them also peppered in product collage pages that were more typical of what you see in a catalog. I am guessing they needed to do this to take advantage and comply with the pressure from various vendors/brands who provide funding if their products appear. However, this mixed approach led there to be less consistency in the voice throughout the mailing, particularly when you compare this to Bonobos.

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Nordstrom identified top 10 fall essentials for men and explored each individually which I thought was strong and clear.

Nordstrom categories Nordstrom lifestyle

Although more typical of what you see in a Nordstrom catalog, these product pages felt inconsistent with the rest of the mailer and felt more like ads, whereas the rest of the mailer felt more editorial from a magazine.

I will be curious to see how these mailings are followed up or integrated with the email strategy from each retailer. I’ll be watching for if the emails are consistent with the voice and products showcased in direct mail, or if different teams develop and execute the messaging independently of one another.