02 November 2022
Victoria's Secret thinks digital with acquisition of DTC brand Adore Me
Innovation like home try-on was a big factor in the $400M intimates deal.
Innovation like home try-on was a big factor in the $400M intimates deal.
Victoria’s Secret was slow to recognize changes in the intimates market toward inclusivity and digital commerce, leaving an opening for direct-to-consumer brands that found a fit with how women wanted to shop. Now, it is bringing one of those digitally native brands into its fold.
The news: VS&Co., which is the parent of Victoria’s Secret, has an agreement in place to acquire Adore Me, a digitally native intimates brand and B Corp. founded in 2010.
By the numbers:
In a statement, Victoria’s Secret CEO Martin Waters said Adore Me will help the brand “move to the future much faster.” Here are three areas where the acquisition is additive for Victoria’s Secret.
Victoria’s Secret has been in the midst of a turnaround effort, as it seeks to present a more inclusive brand image and product line after falling out of step with the consumer. This includes offering a wider range of sizes and styles, and shifting marketing toward women, as opposed to the angels and looks that were geared more toward men. Some of the steps have included operational moves like a separation from former parent company L Brands, while others have been more brand-centered such as bringing on a group of activist brand ambassadors and a Mother’s Day campaign with a pregnant model, CNBC reported last year.
Adore Me has been built for where Victoria’s Secret wants to head from the start. The brand has a range of sizes – XS-4XL and cup sizes A-I. It reflects diversity throughout its brand, and presents itself as being there for women at any point in their life. As a B Corp., it also has sustainability woven into its operations. Even as Victoria's Secret overhauls its offerings, Adore Me brings market share that the company is trying to gain.
For a brand that has long been associated with the mall, this acquisition could be just as much about modernizing the shopper experience at Victoria’s Secret as it is about the product line. In the announcement about the acquisition, Victoria’s Secret put a big emphasis on the ecommerce-centered innovation that Adore Me brings, and indicated that the brand's tech can be applied to brands across the company.
“Adore Me is a technology-led, digital-first innovator in the intimates category that will help us bring differentiated experiences to Victoria’s Secret and PINK customers,” said Waters, in the statement. “This acquisition will be a significant accelerant as we pivot toward growth and modernize the foundation of our company with an entrepreneurial mindset that puts technology at the forefront of everything we do.”
The press release goes on to state that Adore Me is “powered by a sophisticated proprietary technology platform with highly differentiated customer experiences.”
One of those innovations is home try-on. Adore Me offers customers a subscription service that ships a monthly box with products that are available to try before buying, bringing the experience of shopping for lingerie to the home. Customers pay only for what they decide to keep.
Victoria’s Secret said that home try-on “generates strong retention among its customers with a personalized product experience and has achieved scale by leveraging a complex combination of proprietary logistics, algorithms, and operational assets.”
Is a Victoria's Secret box next?
Adore Me also has a customer base that is complementary to Victoria’s Secret, according to the brand. Adore Me represents the value portion of the intimates market. This means Adore Me can be a “growth vehicle” for Victoria’s Secret.
With the addition of Adore Me, VS&Co. now has a number of labels under its umbrella as it seeks growth i digital channels. There is Victoria’s Secret and Pink, which launched a dedicated Amazon store for beauty products in May. Earlier this year, the parent company acquired a minority stake in Frankie’s Bikinis and For Love & Lemons. It launched the tween-focused brand Happy Nation, and inclusive and added fashion-focused lingerie brand Elomi to its digital marketplace platform, called VS&Co. Lab.
Now, Adore Me will continue to operate as its own business brand under CEO Morgan Hermand-Waiche with 560 employees, WSJ reports.
It’s clear the modernization of Victoria’s Secret will not go through the flagship brand alone. Adore Me has long pushed intimates forward. Now it will be in a position to help one of the category's legacy companies catch up.
New tools from Adobe and Levi's generate product images in multiple variations.
AI is at the top of the conversation across technology in 2023, as new models such as ChatGPT and GPT4 show how ingesting and training large amounts of data can not only help businesses find insights in what already exists, but create something new.
While there is plenty of off-hours time being devoted to experimentation with these new models, the uses of tools that bring together automation and creativity in a way that is valuable for businesses and embraced by their customers are still coming into view.
In ecommerce, the promise of AI appears to be massive. Across marketplaces, advertising and customer service, brands and retailers have seen demands for content and customer touchpoints grow exponentially. With executives constantly in search of efficiency, AI tools stand to help generate voluminous content at scale.
To be sure, it remains early days. AI has not yet arrived permanently in ecommerce workflows, and some of the tools that lead to it arriving may not use the same models that are gaining so much press today. But the teams inside brands and retailers are interested in experimenting with this technology, and pilots can offer hints at where it might be heading.
This week delivered a pair of new launches from Levi’s and Adobe that showed how new tools can help to change how product images are generated. Let's take a look:
Photoshoots featuring models wearing products in real-world settings have long been a staple of the marketing playbook in fashion. Levi’s is piloting a new approach that could bring AI into the equation.
Through a partnership with Amsterdam-based Lalaland.ai, Levi Strauss is planning to test the use of customized, AI-generated models. Designed to supplement human models, Lalaland.ai’s technology is built to help show products for a diverse range of body types, ages, size and skin tones.
Levi’s positioned this as a move to supplement human models. Typically, a product page on the Levi’s app or website only has one model. Using this technology to create multiple images can help create a way for customers to see themselves represented in the products that are shown. It can also help to increase diversity, equity and inclusion within Levi's ecommerce stores, the company said.
“While AI will likely never fully replace human models for us, we are excited for the potential capabilities this may afford us for the consumer experience,” said Dr. Amy Gershkoff Bolles, global head of digital and emerging technology strategy at Levi Strauss & Co., in a statement. “We see fashion and technology as both an art and a science, and we’re thrilled to be partnering with Lalaland.ai, a company with such high-quality technology that can help us continue on our journey for a more diverse and inclusive customer experience.”
A new tool from Adobe is also aiming to automate the work of showing images in multiple variations on ecommerce stores, but this goes beyond fashion.
According to Reuters, the new tool is designed to allow ecommerce brands and retailers to create 3D images that show products from a range of categories in a variety of formats and configurations, as well as settings. It can be used for home goods, toys, furniture, apparel and more. Product images are used across a range of content, from product pages to emails to social campaigns. So the content needs for brands and retailers are voluminous. From Reuters:
But even keeping up with making renderings has created a tremendous amount of work for e-commerce companies as marketing campaigns have become more tightly targeted, said Francois Cottin, senior director of marketing for Adobe's Substance 3D business.
For example, Cottin said, a company selling a coffee machine might want to show the gadget against a different background in different countries, because German kitchens might look different from California kitchens. Most companies have to tap 3D artists to create each image.
This advance is as much about transforming the work of teams as it is about creating the variations of product images themselves. 3D models are currently used by many of the large ecommerce players, but creating them remains the work of large teams with specialty skills in visual effects. The images then head to the hands of marketers and merchandisers who find a home for them on product pages within the customer experience.
Automation can help make all of this work more efficient. Such a tool could also have a huge impact on smaller brands and retailers. If these capabilities move into wider release, a pool of content that would’ve only been available to the most-resourced companies now could be opened up for everyone to use.
While Adobe typically works with enterprises and this product is likely designed for that market segment, its release presents a question worth asking for the future: Will AI be the next ecommerce advance that further levels the playing field between storied brands and fast-rising startups?