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SXStyle: The Marriage of Retail and Tech at SXSW 2015

As I was boarding the plane for Austin, I couldn’t help but notice that I was among both the trendiest and most high-tech group of flyers I had ever seen. While this realization happened before my SXSW experience officially began, it was symbolic of my trip as a whole.

One of my favorite aspects of SXSW2015 was the incorporation of mini conferences that made the organized chaos of the conference, well, a little less chaotic. I specifically gravitated towards SXStyle, a niche set of sessions focused on the convergence of art, fashion, culture and technology. Among the SXStyle goers, iBeacons and wearables were hot topics of discussion, but as I heard from leading companies such as Sephora, Birchbox, and Polyvore distinct themes emerged.

Some Things Never Change

In the midst of new apps and emerging technology, panelists continually harped on traditional ideas.

Jennifer Hyman of Rent the Runway embodies a traditional advertising notion that strong insights drive ideas. Her company was formed from the insight that many women want a “closet on rotation,” as they often prefer to experience new style choices without breaking the bank. She believes in taking this insight about her smart consumers to form quality customer relationships. Specifically, RTR faces many logistical issues with the quick turnaround of clothing pieces, but solving these challenges, while not diminishing customer relationships, builds a a quality product and drives customer referral.

Katrina Lake, CEO of StitchFix, reminds the SXSW audience of the importance of differentiating yourself from the competition. “You are either the smartest person in the room or the dumbest person in the room when no one else is doing what you’re doing.”

Data Drives Style?

The topic of data was present everywhere at SXSW, and SXStyle was not exception. With the idea of Big Datacompanies are able to transform information into personalized content and fashion choices. Companies use consumer data to tailor clothing recommendations to an individual in subscription services.

Data is the most important aspect to personalized, competitive online retail.” – Jennifer Hyman

Because personal styles are so unique, there are no blockbusters in fashion. This is why data is needed for successful recommendations.

Many retail companies architect their sites using data. For example, e-commerce sites can use data to price items based on demand; sequined dresses will be priced higher during the holiday season rather than the summer months. While this may not be ideal for consumers, an influx of data is of great use for companies. On sites such as Polyvore, affiliated companies can get feedback on items they are considering selling. By revealing collections early to users, companies can see what will be popular and what they should reconsider launching. As well, retailers can see how their consumer is styling pieces and use this information in marketing.

Social Media and Fashion Week

The only session that I attended that had rows of people standing in the back was held by none other than Karlie Kloss. The former Victoria’s Secret model led a discussion on the introduction and evolution of technology in Fashion Week. Social media has allowed the every-day fashionista to sit front row at the hottest shows. Behind the scenes, Instagrams and live Snapchat feeds have leveled the playing field on who can share opinions about the shows.

“[Social media] democratizes what is popular and who has power. I think it’s actually kind of incredible that a blogger who has a great voice can confirm their seat front-row at a show that might not have had that opportunity 10 years ago. It gives someone a voice; it gives me a voice that I certainly never had before.”

Karlie also talked about how her social media accounts have had an effect on her modeling career. Her strong presence on social platforms adds value to a brand or company, and is a factor when negotiating contracts.

Although my trip ended before the fabulous Nylon closing party, I am happy to say that SXStyle was a highlight of my SXSW experience. Did you attend SXSW and/or SXStyle? What did you think of SXSW’s newest addition to SXSWInteractive? Let me know in the comments below or on twitter @lindzsilver

Lindsey Silverman

Lindsey is currently a student at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and School of Information Studies at Syracuse University. She loves all things social media, so connect with her on Twitter: @Lindzsilver

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