The rappers, celebrities, and streetwear were in full effect — and all over Instagram Stories — this weekend in Long Beach, Calif., at the second annual ComplexCon.
If the in-demand brands on display didn’t induce enough FOMO, the celeb sightings certainly did. Between Pharrell, legendary artist Takashi Murakami, and Off-White designer and founder Virgil Abloh (who are all part of the Host Committee), as well as designer Alexander Wang and Usher, the list of celebrity names at ComplexCon reads like a mashup of the MTV Awards, New York Fashion Week, a Lakers game, and a touch of Art Basel.
Bringing together pop culture, art, food, style, sports, and music, this festival brings the world of Complex to life. Appropriately dubbed “our generation’s World Fair,” ComplexCon featured dozens of retailers including major streetwear brands like Adidas, Nike, and FILA; popular accessories brands like Vintage Frames and Herschel Supply Co.; and a slew of other retail activations on site.
Most importantly, ComplexCon is a prime example of one of the pillars of the future of retail — experiential shopping — and the magic that’s created when music, merchants, and the right booth experience all collide.
ComplexCon = Commerce + Culture
To help fuel innovation and creativity, Shopify provided 10 influential brands with the unique opportunity to sell at ComplexCon: TEN powered by Shopify. We helped these retailers bring their brand to life offline and to sell (with the help of Shopify POS and our Chip & Swipe Reader), connect, network, build community, and showcase their wares alongside some of the biggest brands in streetwear fashion. Consider it the retail runway, and these 10 brands were in the front row.
We spoke with five of these retailers about how they translated their brands to a pop-up activation, the importance of community when it comes to in-person selling, and their top ComplexCon takeaways. So, whether you want to sell at a trade show, fair, or festival, take notes: You can join this “front row” too, with a little help from these seasoned sellers.
Meet five of the TEN powered by Shopify retailers:
- Yesterdays: Enamel lapel pin etailer inspired by pop culture references and retro pop designs.
- KidSuper: Brooklyn-based apparel brand founded by Colm Dillane (a.k.a. KidSuper).
- Daily Paper: Men’s and women’s apparel online store based in Amsterdam.
- Commonwealth: Award-winning purveyor of sneaker and men’s apparel brands, and a specialty boutique (with two U.S. locations).
- Vacancy Projects: Los Angeles-based creative studio and collective specializing in artist-made goods and services.
Bringing Your Brand To A Booth
New booth, who dis?
The first place to start when building out your booth is looking at your brand story, as co-founder Hussein Suleiman of Daily Paper explains: “First and foremost, your booth has to represent your brand ethos and story, from the booth design to the shopping experience,” he says.
“Brand identity is crucial because that’s what separates you from other brands out there. For our booth at ComplexCon, we highlighted our prominent logo and provided our brand community with a familiar color scheme and unique Daily Paper pattern.”
Suleiman continues: “Our unique Daily Paper pattern on the sides of the booth is an element that you always see come back in our online branding, on every sidebar on the webshop.”
Suman Chatterjee of enamel pin brand Yesterdays recommends keeping your booth or activation somewhat minimal, as too much flash can overwhelm your visitors and customers.
“When building a booth, we tend to focus on what speaks to our brand and to our customer. It’s not completely about going over-the-top or being so flashy that there's a wow factor. Some of the flashiest booths aren't that appealing to walk into. Sometimes those set-ups can scare off buyers or even intimidate. We make sure to create an environment that's welcoming, while also showing off what we are about,” Chatterjee explains.
It’s about bringing the URL look to the IRL experience, in his mind.
Chatterjee continues: “We have a fairly minimal brand scheme online, which really helps draw attention to our product. We kill the noise and distractions to make our products the focus: just as it is on our webpage. We want the experience to feel similar and comfortable when someone comes to our booth.”
Omar Quiambao of men’s apparel brand Commonwealth agrees: “We made sure our logo was prominent and that the booth reflected parts of our upcoming L.A. store buildout.”
Dillane of apparel brand KidSuper explains how they built their setup strategy: “This was definitely a difficult decision. Because at one side you’re trying to sell clothes, and on the other, you're trying to have the most engaging booth and sometimes those are not the same idea.”
I think you have to show the world in a very easy way what your brand is all about.
Again, it’s about staying true to your brand ethos.
Dillane continues: “For our booth, we decided to go as honest and true to the brand as we could. We made our booth look like an art studio because, at the end of the day, we are always pushing forward the artistry of our founder and creative director. I think this is what differentiates us from other brands.”
But retailers still have to balance sticking to their brand story with ensuring the booth design is unique enough to stand out.
Kristofferson San Pablo, cofounder of Vacancy Projects, explains how they went about designing their booth:
“I would say that creating something unique will make you stand out. There are a lot of factors that can make that work. For example, knowing the other brands and what they might do, the demographic and what they might respond to, or maybe just not caring about both and hoping your booth will stand out either by formal qualities such as color, design choices, or just rad products.”
Nailing the In-Person Selling Experience
Started as a store, now we here
While it’s one thing to sell your merchandise online or in a specialty store location, it’s a whole other ballgame when you’re competing with other booths and engaging one-on-one with your customers.
One way to make the shopping experience as smooth as possible is to design your display to match your online vibe, navigation approach, and aesthetic.
Chatterjee of Yesterdays explains how they go about this: “Online our products are on a white backdrop and organized. We do the same at our trade shows. ComplexCon was no different. We use a menu style approach to displaying our products, making it very easy for the customer to spot what they want and make the transactions as smooth as possible.”
Daily Paper had the additional challenge of being a Dutch brand selling to a mostly American audience while at ComplexCon. Suleiman explains: “Being an Amsterdam lifestyle brand flying to Long Beach, Calif., for ComplexCon for the first time, most people here would have only had a web experience of Daily Paper. So, it was essential for us to bring our web-only experience to life and mirror our online design in our booth.
How did Daily Paper mirror the experience?
“So again, our prominent Daily Paper logo in a similar font and unique print/pattern was critical. In addition, showcasing our FW17 products that we’ve been pushing online together with our ComplexCon exclusive release (was essential).”
And when there’s a renowned artist tied to your brand, as in the case of Colm Dillane — a.k.a. KidSuper — meeting the person IRL helps add a little star power to the booth.
Dillane of KidSuper explains: “Especially for KidSuper, meeting ‘Colm Dillane’ is important for the consumers and the fans, so that they can see the man behind the operation.”
Creating an Immersive Brand Experience
Experiential retail is what's bridging the gap.” — Suman Chatterjee of Yesterdays
Festivals like ComplexCon and Coachella are helping to take the retail experience to another level by upping the interactivity and creating memorable experiences.
“I've heard that some companies refuse to do trade shows and conventions,” says Chatterjee of Yesterdays. “Many businesses run strictly via online shops and their social media, but every one of those purchases and ‘follows’ connects to a person IRL. Experiential retail is what's bridging the gap.”
And part of the experience can be giving consumers an inside look at the brand.
“We are living in a world where people and brands are more transparent than ever, and consumers are demanding a certain amount of information and honesty from a brand,” Dillane of KidSuper adds. “Luckily for us, I think who we are as people is almost better than what we display on the Internet. I love meeting people and (our) supporters, because they get to see how real and true we are, and that’s becoming more and more important.”
These different types of retail events allow consumers to get an inside look at a brand.” —Colm Dillane, KidSuper
Building A Sense Of Community
Your vibe attracts your tribe
For brands like Yesterdays, this sense of community is crucial to the branding experience.
“I love hearing, ‘Oh! Yesterdays! I follow you guys, I have so many of your pins!’ It’s one of the main reasons we like to do shows like ComplexCon. The customer gets to meet the people creating the stuff they love and we get to make a connection with them as well,” Chatterjee of Yesterdays explains.
“That sense of community is what maintains a loyal fan base and helps build a reputation. Sometimes a familiar face will tell me ‘Ah! I used to have this one (pointing to a pin), but I lost it.’ I immediately grab them a new one and hook it up. People remember those interactions. It helps bolster a feeling of appreciation, that we are all taking part in something bigger than just one transaction.”
Kristofferson San Pablo, cofounder of Vacancy Projects, echoes Chatterjee’s sentiments:
It's always about community. The community is what drives and supports the work you make.
"They are there in person, adding a vibe and support, even if it means they aren't buying something. The community is everything."
Lessons From ComplexCon: 7 More Reasons to Consider Offline Sales
1. Networking (Which Can Lead to Future Partnerships)
“We met most of the owners of the brands we are fans of ourselves. ComplexCon is also a lot about meeting like-minded entrepreneurs and connecting with other brands.” — Hussein Suleiman, Daily Paper
2. Connecting and Engaging With Consumers at the Right Time and Place
“It’s a great opportunity to connect with the consumer during a high-energy event when their interest is piqued.” — Omar Quiambao, Commonwealth
3. Moments > Merchandise
“What we take away from this year's ComplexCon is that you can never know exactly what an audience will want. With the streetwear crowd, it was awesome to see how much they connected with our pop culture designs. It wasn't always about sneakers and music, they were down for gaming, comics, and movies just as much.” — Suman Chatterjee, Yesterdays
4. Meet the End Consumer
“The direct interaction with the end consumer has been very beneficial for us. At regular business-to-business tradeshows, you never experience this direct energetic connection. Whereas at ComplexCon, we have witnessed a perfect demographic of business-to-business as well as business-to-consumer people passing by our booth. — Hussein Suleiman, Daily Paper
5. Offline Sales Build Brand Awareness
“We like how open-minded the consumers are. A lot of them bought our product without knowing the brand. That’s very good for us because we want to expand our business in America and ComplexCon is the right platform for it.” — Hussein Suleiman, Daily Paper
6. It’s All About the People
“The rad people we met and the opportunity to create cool things.” — Kristofferson San Pablo, Vacancy Projects
7. Test Out New Markets (And Take on the Competition)
“We are invigorated and excited for the next stage. ComplexCon was an amazing journey. We were able to see if we could compete with the big dogs and let's just say, we are howling at the moon.” — Colm Dillane, KidSuper
Moving Forward With More Event Sales
It’s safe to say that the TEN Powered By Shopify Retailers, along with the other dozens of ComplexCon vendors, took away many great experiences from the event. While we’re already counting down to 2018, there are plenty of sales event in the next year to allow ecommerce merchants to dip their toe in offline sales.