Gaudi, Autumn palettes and social media elves

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[retail bytes] is our monthly round-up of the top digital retail stories. It’s brought to you by e-commerce pioneer Eva Pascoe from The Retail Practice – an international collective of communication and engagement specialists united by a passion to create high definition retail.

Digital and social marketing is one of TRP’s pillars and main area of expertise. This month [retail bytes] focuses on social channels and the benefits for retailers of becoming a truly social business. We’ll take a look at how Instagram colour palettes, Facebook Workplace and that cheeky Twitter check while waiting for the train can have a wider impact than you might think!

Nature alert: The iconic Spanish artist Antoni Gaudi loved to explore nature but kept geometric shapes like spider webs hidden deeply under the top layer of his phantasmagorical bursts of shapes and colours. But he can’t hide from a computer equipped with AI – when IBM Watson was let loose on his work, all the secrets were revealed. Young lightning designers from SoftLab and IBM Watson used this new knowledge and co-designed new lights for a retail store that are unmistakably computer-generated but also essentially Gaudiesque in their surreal beauty. Future retail interior design will surely be filled with these kinds of collabs between human and machine. Can’t wait.

For your ears onlyCo-designs of retail interiors between humans and robots are here already, but so far the customer service in shops is a strictly human affair. However, things are changing, as Google Pixel Buds (headphones to you and me) now offer real-time language translation. Just put the buds on, pair with your Google Pixel phone, select the language the customer wants to use and let Google do the translation. Alas, translating back from the sales assistant to the customer requires both parties to have the hardware, but just understanding the customer is a big step. Surely this will be a must-have for all humans soon, as it can facilitate full multilingual dialogue in stores. Alert: five hours of charge offered by Google Pixel Buds is not enough for a full working day, but they include extra chargers, extending the use to a full day. The universal translator is here: Star Trek’s Gene Roddenberry would be pleased.

Make light work of InstagramNine million Topshop followers on Instagram get regular fashion treats, which are edited using a consistent colour palette. How do they do that? Creative but consistent fashion content is what attracts Instagram users so check out Makelight‘s set of Insta creative tools: it’ll let your account win hearts and minds. The tools help you analyse the winning colour palette and mood profile for your best photos, providing a super-detailed description of what colour combinations reach your viewers and bring up the likes and comments. Makelight will also keep track of the top hashtags you need to join and then suggest the buzzy and topical ones for the next four weeks. #ThisAutumnMagic anyone?

Sharing is caring (on Workplace by Facebook)Once our work world had Intranets and, by golly, they were ugly. Facebook Workplace is the new black; it invites workers to use the same, easy interface they know from their social shenanigans and extends it to work communications. That helps to foster non-hierarchical conversations and now Facebook has enhanced it by adding screen sharing, something that only Slack.com has offered so far. We helped European lingerie leader Hunkemöller to use social networks better and watched how improved inter-company comms helped the business blossom by unlocking the bottlenecks to create real cohesion. Facebook Workplace costs a couple of quid per head to use but there are no ads served to distract your people from work. Try it out. Better they spend time on the work version of Facebook than on their own newsfeed – social media overuse at work has led to 28% of bosses reporting they’ve had to fire workers over it.

Money down the tube? Five million journeys per day are taken on the London Underground, which can run an average of 543 trains at any one time. It costs a fortune to maintain the tube network so TfL (which is a non-profit) are now aiming to track passengers via mobile phones on their Wi-Fi network and sell that data on. They play to auction the spots where there is most passing traffic to advertisers at a serious premium in real time via an online bidding platform. However, don’t rush all at once to re-do your Xmas media-buying plans, because digital privacy experts are quite rightly taking a dim view of all this and regulators have not given the green light yet. Of course, you don’t have to use their Wi-Fi but will people realise that? And will your cheeky Twitter check when waiting for your train on the platform impact advertising costs? Watch this space.

Upcoming events: Check out this October 24th event from the Fashion Bootcamp: it’s for design start-ups that are looking to create new fashion products using digital tech. Bring your ideas and meet peers, co-creators, mentors and funders. Bursaries are available too: get in touch with us at hello@theretailpractice.com.