By Simon Cocking. Featuring Holition Anti-tech creative agency. Driven by to digitally amplify brand stories. We craft art with science to augment the experience. Snapchat: Holition

Describe the company – elevator pitch?

Based in London Holition was founded as a venture start-up focusing on the space about 9 years where emerging technology can be used to communicate with consumers. Crafting 3D digital experiences and augmented reality applications for international clients including Richemont, Swatch, Selfridges and Bloomingdales, Holition has captured the imagination of consumers and brands alike. Their rich portfolio ranges from holographic fashion shows and in-store live events to virtual cosmetics for makeup and nail polish. CEO, Jonathan Chippindale explains “our strategy is to focus relentlessly on how technology meets human experience to deliver a creative idea. Yet we remain technology agnostic, only selecting the right technology once we have come up with a workable on-brief idea.”

How are you different / how do you make money?

Being at the cutting edge of technology is difficult as many of our projects have never been done before. Sometimes a potential client does not understand what our company does and to show how we can benefit their brand is very difficult. We develop innovative digital solutions rather than a mass market commercial product and hence no one size fits all. Our income comes from one-off projects and licensing arrangements. We are also fortunate that our projects allow us to research and explore the real future of retail.

Tell us more about your product

Holition makes technology fit for purpose – it is not just about creating beautiful and realistic apps – it is about ensuring the end user fully engages with the product. At Holition we have a team of female developers who, particularly with our virtual cosmetics (Face by Holition), understand makeup, such as skin tone, face shapes, eyes and lip contours. To build the Face by Holition app meant developing accurate face-tracking algorithms from scratch, anticipating how it would be used, as well as understanding the cosmetic brands and product ranges. Technology HAS to be beautiful to work – we are driven by the human to technology experience or ‘digital anthropology’, to craft beautiful digital retail experiences which seamlessly integrate design with emerging technology. It is not about the technology and following trends, nor is it really about inventing them. The emphasis is on the experience consumers receive, and making sure that this experience is not only memorable, but also unbeatable – without need for improvement. Rather than being distracted by technology we prefer ideas to take precedence. The question is never how to do something until the solution has been refined but more about understanding the ultimate user experience.

What type of people are you trying to attract to your product?

Coming from a retail background we are very, very passionate about retail. We understand that digital and e-commerce are a threat to retail, so we try and work with online, the physical space and mobile and understand how these three channels work together. I think brands are really waking up to this. Brands are making more effort to integrate technology in a seamless, more elegant and sympathetic way – they are looking at the longer term and trying to ensure that the technology does not get in the way of the relationship between the brand and consumer, and is an enabler not a barrier. There is definitely a greater understanding of the role that digital can play. For example, when receiving commissions from a brand, the discussion ensues around what they would love to do and then try to figure out how to make it happen.

Tell us about Virtual Cosmetics Apps?

Technology can sometimes get in the way of innovation and ends up being a solution looking for a problem. Holition identifies the problem and looks for a way of solving it. Cosmetics is a good example where innovative technology can enhance the trying on make up experience. There is only so much make up a woman can try on, whether in a retail store or at home and sometimes it is a question of culture or hygiene. The virtual make up application enables people to try out different looks and styles and make informed choices; In 2015 Holition successfully launched ‘Face by Holition’ which has been customised for its many B2B beauty clients. The technology was modified to create ‘Hands by Holition’ where people can ‘try on’ in real-time virtual nail colour. Both revolutionary app use highly advanced real-time tracking, realistic visualisation and personalised skin tone analysis all combined into one mobile consumer app.

How are people shopping differently?

At Holition we feel strongly that the instore experience should be between the store and its product and digital should support that – it is not about ipads and screens but getting people to interact with the product and look around the store. Holition’s Magic Mirror for Uniqlo demonstrated how augmented reality solutions can be used to develop the consumer experience where technology is less intrusive and more meaningful. The best technology-enabled store is where you don’t see the technology – where content is being communicated without technology getting in the way. Technology should support the message and not be the message.

What technology will be the biggest disruptor to your industry in the next five years?

The Fourth Industrial Revolution – speaking as a futurist always looking ahead to the potential retail landscape, my answer is that it is better to be prepared and act now than risk playing catch-up when it is too late. When compared to the past three industrialisation shifts, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is still in its infancy, but its pretty likely that advances in technology will escalate faster than we have ever seen before and will set a higher standard of experience and service.

Another key theme is the democratisation of technology: as virtual reality and the Internet of Things spread more widely into the hands of customers, there will be no stopping experiential enrichment – whether real or digitally-supported. When these technologies become cheaper and more readily available, there will be a turning point for consumers as they demand and expect a standard in line with the values being shaped by today’s new economy, such as accessibility, sharing, and a collective consciousness for how companies and customers alike can behave responsibly. As ideals of transparency manifest in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, there will be nowhere to hide if brands and retailers are not keeping up with their customers.

What other technologies inspire you?

There are many trends and applications of new technologies that are already starting to affect consumer behaviour. For example, the idea of anticipatory intelligence, where data-capturing systems are put in place to predict and pre-empt a customer’s next move before they know it themselves. We’ve seen this with Huge Cafe, a coffee shop that familiarises itself with a customer’s everyday routine to nudge them into making their usual order. We’re also seeing personalised in-situ production in the final steps of a customer’s journey. Take AlpStories’ sophisticated robot, which mixes chemicals from scratch, right in the store, to create bespoke cosmetics for its customers based on their personal data. And finally, there is the idea of technology having the capacity to deliver contrasting experiences. On the one hand, there is the theatricality and ultra-sensoriality that virtual reality can offer, and on the other, there are more functional technologies, such as chatbots. These examples of technology’s possibilities affect experiences, services, and how we can connect and communicate as a whole.

I think Muhammad Ali’s quote sums up the future of retail: The man who has no imagination has no wings.

Tell us about Holition’s Team?

Holition is a synthesis of luxury marketers, retail specialists and cutting edge leaders in innovative and emerging digital technology. The team are experts in the areas of digital retail and are widely invited to be thought leaders at global conferences and events; sharing their knowledge and experience to encourage thinking beyond the expected.

If you would like to have your company featured in the Irish Tech News Business Showcase, get in contact with us at [email protected] or on Twitter: @SimonCocking

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