Topshop and Google Plan Data-Savvy Digital Runway

Topshop has teamed up with technology giant Google to stage a realtime, all-access consumer extravaganza around the live stream of its Topshop Unique show to be presented as part of London Fashion Week this Sunday.

Topshop.com | Source: Topshop
LONDON, United Kingdom — In recent cycles, fashion shows, once closed industry events, have become something of a spectator sport for the hundreds of thousands of people who follow the play-by-play online. Now, British high street brand Topshop has teamed up with technology giant Google to stage a realtime consumer extravaganza around the live stream of its Topshop Unique show — to be presented as part of London Fashion Week this Sunday — that promises connected fashion fans an unprecedented, all-access entertainment experience.

While megabrands like Burberry and Louis Vuitton have live-streamed their runway shows for several seasons now, the Topshop initiative, dubbed “The Future of the Fashion Show,” aims to bring consumers even closer to the action, employing wearable, high-definition micro-cameras and a slew of Google platforms, from YouTube to Google+ Hangouts, to let users virtually inhabit the privileged perspectives of fashion industry archetypes — the model, the guest celebrity, the retail buyer, even the designer — and experience the show through their eyes.

Realtime ‘model cams’ are set to capture and transmit what it’s like to walk the runway, while a “Be the Buyer” app will let fans compose, remix and share mood boards featuring their favourite pieces. A Google+ Hangout will give fans the chance to view and interact with the Topshop design team as they put the finishing touches on the collection.

There will even be something of a pre-game show in the form of a “red carpet hangout,” featuring celebrity arrivals at the impressive Tanks at Tate Modern show venue, broadcast on Google+ and YouTube, as well as in the digital window displays of Topshop’s Oxford Street flagship. Inexpensive souvenirs, like the beauty products and music tracks featured in the show, will also be available for immediate purchase.

“We wanted to create an experience for the many millions of Topshop fans all over the world that delivered part of the experience in the venue to the customer, but in a new and exciting way and one that would live beyond the moment,” Topshop’s chief marketing officer, Justin Cooke, told BoF.

Indeed, the experience is likely to attract a sizable audience and generate social buzz for the brand that will extend and sustain the marketing impact of the runway show. Last season, over 2 million people from over 100 countries tuned into Topshop’s digital runway.

“We gained so much insight by working with Google. We understand better than ever how people want to interact with content and the subtleties related to that interaction on different platforms at different moments,” said Cooke. “The Google+ team have worked on the US elections and some of the most engaging events in social media history and, so, using that insight, balanced with the creativity and excitement of our show, really opened up a new way of thinking.”

But driving social buzz is only part of Topshop’s strategy. Equally important is data. In fact, the large amount of data generated by millions of consumers interacting with the various elements of “The Future of the Fashion Show” has the potential to be valuable, if captured, sifted and analysed correctly.

Indeed, the brand’s “Be the Buyer” app alone promises to be a useful source of timely insight into what pieces resonate most with consumers long before they hit the shop floor, data that can be used to make more efficient business decisions, like how much of a particular type of product to manufacture and stock — and in what colours.

“With our unique customise the catwalk technology we see what looks customers engage with and share most; which colours they want. And the ‘Be the Buyer’ app will be a great indicator of their favourite styles,” said Cooke. “We learn so much because we are really putting the show in their hands.”

Vikram Alexei Kansara is Managing Editor of The Business of Fashion