Bringing the Magic of Curation and Convenience to Holiday Shopping in 2018

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The AW360 team sat down with Jessica Lehmann, Strategy Director at FITCH, to get the inside scoop on retail magic this holiday season.

How has the overall shopping experience shifted toward online this year?

As young consumers’ consumption habits trend toward usage and access over ownership, many mass-market and mall brands are adopting rental and subscription models for their already affordable product offerings. This trend has taken off in Japan and is already disrupting the US market in 2018.

For Days, a female-founded T-shirt brand, is creating a circular product economy where customers rent basic tees and wear them out (until they’re unusable) before sending them back to the company to upcycle into new ones. Subscriptions range from $38-$348/year, and the whole process is done online.  While Rotarity lets your rent streetwear pieces online for 10% of their full retail value or purchase monthly unlimited subscription. Each piece is then consigned, donated, or sold after it’s been rented between 6-10 times, preserving the ‘exclusivity’ that is deeply ingrained in streetwear culture.

Increasingly, digital wardrobe management is about more than just convenience and choice. The services are designed to be both cost effective and sustainable, speaking to the increasing desire people have for efficient solutions that reduce their impact on the environment.

Some other examples that show this shift include: Birchbox, the subscription beauty box with a mix of personalized samples based on a quiz Birchbox Holiday shop – ‘hand-picked gifts for you and your loved ones’ or gift a subscription. There is also Cult Beauty, a ‘beauty curator’ that is focused on created a shop where every item is chosen by an Expert Panel + Cult Beauty Team to create a select collection of the most sought-after cult products on the beauty market. Lastly, there is Rent the Runway, where shoppers can rent from a selection of designer dresses, ball gowns, handbags, accessories, etc. for special occasions,

What kinds of fresh things are companies increasingly trying in order to attract online shoppers this holiday season?

This year we’re seeing retailers place increasing focus on creating one-stop-gifting experiences in store that not only solve the problem of what to buy but allow you to customize and wrap gifts on site. Highly curated gifting zones that bring together irresistible trend-oriented gifts for each of the important people in your life are popping up in windows, like we’re seeing at Nordstrom Men’s in Manhattan, and gift-wrapping stations are increasing in size and complexity with multiple gift wrap options and decorations available to add for free. At the Kiehl’s Holiday Popup you can customize products using a sticker printer to print art with Kiehl’s x Andrew Bennecker collab and then package the gift at a gift-wrapping station. These offerings not only make holiday shopping feel like an opportunity for fun and exploration but make the process more seamless and manageable from beginning to end. Saving you time and hassle at an already busy time of the year.

Holiday events have also ramped up this year, with Sak’s Fifth Ave Christmas Performance + Window Display at Rockefeller Center: complete with performers and live streamed to amp up the holiday spirit and Chic NYC hosting a Holiday Glam Makeup Event with snacks, cocktails, makeup demos with glitter and glam.

Special events and performances like this not only draw the attention of holiday shoppers and entice them into the store but drive awareness that can continue throughout the holiday shopping period.

There are also Christmas Holiday Markets, such as the NYC Union Square Holiday Market. Internationally renowned as a must-visit destination for unique gifts created by local craftsmen and artists for a unique and eclectic holiday experience.

How has tech changed the overall holiday shopping experience?

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are starting to impact the holiday shopping experience for both the consumer and store associates. A growing number of apps are allowing shoppers to visualize products without ever having to step out their door, for examples Macy’s VR app helps customers visualize furniture within their home and Sephora allows you to try on different products from within the app before you purchase.

VR is also being used to educate staff members on how to handle large crowds during the holiday season. Walmart’s 198 training academies has helped Walmart develop new strategies to make holiday shopping more efficient

This year we’ve already also seen peak ‘holiday shopping guide’ buzz, with every retailer trying to hit your inbox early with curated lists of the right gifts to buy, linking to discounts for Black Friday. Companies like Sephora direct you straight to the app via your email allowing you to get products into your shopping cart with as few clicks as possible.

Mobile shopping and Buy Online, Pick Up in Store continue to build momentum this year as well. It’s expected that more holiday orders will be placed on a smartphone than any other device, especially as social networks like Instagram continue to act as digital malls that invite you in and then link straight to retail sites. Retailers such as Home Depot are adept at catering to ‘phygital’ shopping habits, making it easy for people to browse in store and save the items they’re interested in by scanning the barcode in their native app, while also offering a seamless pick up service that allows you to avoid lines. Target are offering a holiday deal sweetener by providing free 2-day shipping no matter what you spend.

With Amex stating that “younger generations are more likely to make a trip to a brick-and-mortar store this year, with 88 percent of 18-29 years olds reporting that they will shop in stores this holiday shopping season—an 8 percentage point increase from 2017, according to the survey” what will be more important than ever is creating a seamless shopping experience across platforms and touchpoints. The winning retailers will create holiday magic by not only thinking carefully about the gifts and products they curate in-store, but also about how they spark your interest before you arrive and the extra perks, they offer that make the journey from gift list to purchase that much easier and more pleasant.


Jessica Lehmann began her career in London as a WPP Fellow. Starting at Y&R, she helped shape the way BBC digital communicated innovation to the public and developed trailers for flagship shows such as The Voice and for Radio 2. She went on to pursue an international career with roles at Ogilvy Shanghai helping Philips gain credibility in consumer healthcare within the Chinese market, and then in New York where she first worked at Kantar Futures helping advise companies on how to respond to emerging trends and dynamics to drive competitive advantage.

For the last three and a half years she has been at Superunion NYC, honing her specialty in brand strategy and design and advising a number of brands across the consumer technology, entertainment and retail categories on how to shape their brands to drive growth and fuel consumer engagement. These include Harman International, for whom she lead strategic development on packaging design projects for JBL and Harman Kardon, Cirque di Soleil, for whom she developed a new brand architecture that resulted in a new consumer facing brand that supports innovation and exploration, and most recently leading strategic development on a project for cult New York yogurt brand White Moustache.

As Strategy Director at Fitch she is excited to help shape and grow her clients’ businesses through in depth understanding of their challenges, and a commitment to applying analytical excellence and creativity to address them.

A Brooklyn resident, she treats the gym as her personal sacred space, and in her spare time likes to cook and hang out with her husband and their dog, Kevin.

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