Sweden Unlimited Featured in Footwear News

Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer, Richard Agerbeek, Weighs In on the Critical Connection Between Content and Commerce with Footwear News

Read the full article here.

On the homepage of the Montreal-based online retailer Ssense, visitors today will find an essay tracing the lineage of a pair of Loewe loafers through associations as diverse as Bernie Madoff and Sally Rooney, a photoshoot and interview with the queer pop star King Princess and a fall fashion report replete with elegant collages illustrating trends like “Scorpion Black” and “Time Cher.” And that’s before they even start shopping.

Putting editorial content adjacent to e-commerce is a well-established practice in 2019, but Ssense’s mix is particularly distinctive in a voice it has honed over three years of publishing five stories per week.

What’s the Real Value of Content on E-commerce Sites?

“That’s given us a wealth of stories to look back at to understand what the Ssense reader cares about,” said Durga Chew-Bose, managing editor for Ssense and author of the critically acclaimed essay collection “Too Much and Not The Mood.” “Our strategy is fueled by seeing how we can best curate what they want while intentionally folding in stories that stray from that to introduce an element of unexpectedness to the platform as well.”

Consumers today are confronted with nearly endless options of media to consume every time they pick up their smartphone, so brands and retailers have to invest in content that breaks through the noise. Otherwise, what’s the point? For an upstart label, this could mean a well-curated Instagram feed with original images and clever copywriting. For a company with more resources, it could mean a dedicated editorial team producing magazine-quality features. Either way, the results could be highly favorable, but it’s essential to go in with a plan.

“A lot of brands maybe turn a blind eye to the ROI of content,” said Richard Agerbeek, chief creative officer of Sweden Unlimited, a creative agency focused on fashion, beauty and luxury e-commerce. “It’s something they see a lot of other brands doing, so they just throw money at content without any real strategy or knowing what they want to measure. The best success comes from knowing what you want out of it: what kind of goals you have, what things you want to measure. That’s important stuff.”

And in the online realm, Agerbeek added, there are numerous metrics that can be used to gauge results, including traffic, page views, time spent on site and returning visitors.

The multi-brand retailer Need Supply has shifted its business strategy in the past six or so months to ramp up the frequency of its web content, adding profiles of up-and-coming creatives such as neo-soul singer Dahlia Elliott, service guides to things like making herbaceous salads and exploring the retailer’s hometown of Richmond, Va. and fashion editorials about products or macro-trends.

“What we’ve decided to do is to leverage our content not to necessarily conceive of it as a tool for sales, but more as a tool to contextualize our product,” said Fanny Damiette, VP of brand and marketing at NSTO, the parent company of Need Supply Co. and Totokaelo. “So it’s creating a story around products that we carry, around people that we think are interesting for our community, around cultural movements that we think our audience should be aware of.” She noted that social media and the internet have made consumers very aware of trends and brands already, so the goal is to add more to the conversation.

“What we’ve decided to do is to leverage our content not to necessarily conceive of it as a tool for sales, but more as a tool to contextualize our product,” said Fanny Damiette, VP of brand and marketing at NSTO, the parent company of Need Supply Co. and Totokaelo. “So it’s creating a story around products that we carry, around people that we think are interesting for our community, around cultural movements that we think our audience should be aware of.” She noted that social media and the internet have made consumers very aware of trends and brands already, so the goal is to add more to the conversation.

In terms of measuring success, Damiette said Need Supply tries to avoid getting stuck on attributing sales directly to content — at least for now. “Obviously, we do it like everyone else, but it’s kind of reductive because, to me, this is a long-haul endeavor; it’s not an immediate reward,” she said. “But in the long term, you will see engagement growing, and you can definitely attribute it to certain pieces of content, to certain people we’ve featured at certain times and to certain partnerships.”

Experts said that over time, these results become easier to evaluate and leverage without compromising editorial vision. When Net-a-Porter announced last year that it was ramping up its online content to a daily rather than weekly publishing schedule, the luxury e-commerce company — which also produces a monthly print magazine, Porter, and a weekly online magazine, PorterEdit — told Internet Retailer that readers of the latter had an average order value 26% higher than other customers. Magazine subscribers also spent 5% more and purchased more often: 5.3 times per year compared with 4.1 times for others.

Chew-Bose told FN that Ssense has a multilayered approach to assessing ROI. “The company is extremely data-driven and does consider engagement, clicks, even how a story performs on our social media channels, but we also acknowledge the importance of intuition when evaluating each story,” she said. “I love seeing our content being engaged with in a meaningful way. For instance, our recent interview with Christophe Lemaire and Sarah-Linh Tran of Lemaire performed exceptionally well in terms of time spent on the page. The co-designers are known to be quite reclusive and rarely do interviews, so people were hungry for it; and when Ssense was able to publish the exclusive interview, our audience read the piece with care.”

While multi-brand retailers can leverage their rosters of designers and warehouses of inventory, individual brands have to think a little bit differently, particularly as they are starting out.

Flip-flop brand Tidal New York has garnered steady praise and devout fans since it launched four years ago, but in 2019 it has been focused on developing a recognizable brand voice across all its channels. One way it’s doing so is by highlighting a distinguishing feature of the brand (that its shoes are produced just outside of New York City in New Rochelle, N.Y.) by tapping local talent.

“One of the coolest things about being based in New York is the sheer volume of creative, exciting people that we have access to work with,” said Ben Dunmore, Tidal New York’s creative director. A recent shoot at Rockaway Beach featured native New York models and a local creative team, for example. With its rebrand, the team has also moved downtown to an office on Canal Street and has begun developing a community within its new fashion-centric neighborhood.

While it’s still early to be gauging the impact of this expanded editorial direction, Dunmore said he’s been encouraged by one outcome so far: “The amount of people who are really ready to work with us,” he said. “When we’ve got the creators wanting to work with us, that’s when we know we’ve really got it right, because they know that their work can be seen and appreciated in a way that’s true to them and true to us.”

Sweden Unlimited Featured in PSFK

Digital experience designer Leja Kress of Sweden Unlimited explains her team’s approach to creating the Watchbox experience—a platform for reselling high-quality watches.

Sweden was recently featured in PSFK’s Expert Insight on How To Design A Resale Marketplace For The Luxury Consumers

Read the full article 


The worldwide annual watch market is valued at around €50 billion, and a wave of new online marketplaces has rushed in to meet the demand. Key among these is Watchbox, a luxury brand that focuses on reselling high-quality watches that is capitalizing on both an increased interest in luxury goods and secondhand shopping. But even great ideas and platforms need the right user experience.

Sweden Unlimited is a creative agency that designs e-commerce platforms for luxury, fashion and lifestyle brands, and their work has propelled Watchbox—which stresses “personal commerce” instead of classic e-commerce—to a new level of success. Working in tandem, the two implemented live chat support and more personalized experiences to remove the hesitancy that comes with online shopping and resale in particular, especially for luxury items.

PSFK sat down with Leja Kress, CEO and founding partner of Sweden Unlimited, to glean insights from her work with Watchbox on designing an e-commerce experience for the emerging luxury resale market with millennial consumer needs in mind:

PSFK: Could you explain the Watchbox concept and what Sweden Unlimited set out to help them accomplish in redesigning their site?

Leja: Watchbox is a platform for buying, selling and trading pre-owned luxury watches. They are like a marketplace in some ways because customers can buy, sell, or do a combination of both through a trade. But the main difference is that Watchbox owns every piece of inventory on the platform and are responsible for the authentication, verification and proper functioning of every watch they sell.

Our agency recently partnered with Watchbox on a rebrand and website redesign as they upgraded their technology by re-platforming to Salesforce Commerce Cloud.

In terms of UX, what objectives did you have to consider that would be different from a classic retail brief?

Marketplaces can still feel somewhat dubious, so a key objective was to create a strong sense of trust with the UI and UX of the platform. We wanted to create a reliable and trusted brand that conveyed luxury, legitimacy and authority. Having so many different user journeys to consider was definitely a challenge—there are customers that simply want to shop, some that want to sell, some to trade, and many to simply be educated.

The details that are stored about each watch are extremely complex, so there’s a ton of information to display and ways to sort and filter on the site which makes the platform really unique. Showing a lot of information about an item while still conveying a sense of luxury is a tall order, but I think we were able to achieve it.

When we first met with the team, we were surprised to learn how much they really wanted to encourage customers to interact with the people behind the platform, and not simply transact on the site. Watchbox’s CMO, David Kaplan, explained to us that as opposed to an “e-commerce” platform, they call their business “personal commerce” because it is technology-driven to educate the customer, but everyone has access to their traders to help execute what can become a complicated transaction.

How does the consumer-end experience manifest? Does it rely on capabilities like chat assistance, or social media integrations?

Live chat is a great engagement mechanism for them. The same traders that can provide a quote on the phone operate the live chat, so the customer gets the same level of expertise, and even service from his or her own personal client advisor. Even though Watchbox is a technology platform, there is a huge emphasis on the human element. They are very interested in forming relationships with their customers, as they fully understand that a personal interaction adds so much to any luxury buying experience.

Social media is a big driver for them as well. They’re the largest YouTube player in the industry, and Instagram is growing quickly behind it. YouTube and Instagram help to establish or reinforce that trust and credibility in a world where we will not meet most of the people that are spending $10K+ to purchase a luxury watch.

There seems to be a growing list of “middle-tail” retail networks now. What do you think is driving this?

We can see with The RealReal’s recent successful IPOs, luxury resale is growing like crazy. There’s been a democratization of luxury and I think that people, particularly millennials, are drawn to luxury products but don’t feel the need to buy them directly from the retailers themselves. Buying pre-owned or even renting these items allows them to adhere to their values of sustainability. In addition, if you’re going to buy pre-owned luxury items, it’s great having a middle man to do the authenticating for you. Buying luxury on eBay or other open marketplaces has always been incredibly risky.

Why does “middle-tail” retail work for high end products?

I think it works really well for high-end, luxury products. For Watchbox in particular, the fact that the pre-owned watches are not only authenticated but then put through the company’s authorized service center, which has access to parts from all of the largest watch brands, and then resold only when it’s been serviced, helps to eliminate any hesitation one might have to buying such a high ticket item online.

Sweden Unlimited Featured in The Dieline

The Dieline recently ran a feature with Sweden CEO Leja Kress titled “Sweden Unlimited: Women Disrupting the Digital World.”

Have you ever used the Wayback Machine? This handy little tool has served as a way to document the pages of the internet since 1996. You type in a URL, select a date, and get to witness the website in its old form, even all the way back to when the internet was just gaining steam.“If you look at old sites it’s amazing that people were even able to use them,” said Leja Kress. She would know—Leja co-founded design studio Sweden Unlimited in the early days of the web when people thought automatic animations were cool and Flash was the future. And that’s not to say her studio, which began in 1999 alongside her sister Alex and husband Richard Agerbeek, was immune to the common mistakes designers made. But they’ve learned from them, grown with them, and transformed into a powerhouse of a female-driven studio which has worked with fashion brands like Chanel, Marc Jacobs, and Kate Spade.



Leja, Alex, and Richard didn’t intend to start their own studio: instead, it formed out of a desire to put their various skills in the arts (including photography and modeling) to use in an innovative way.The World Wide Web arrived in the early 90s, and they began to see “a lot of really ugly websites going up.” Richard decided to get Photoshop and Leja taught herself how to code with daily tutorials, and from there, Sweden Unlimited was born. It proved to be a new kind of creative path that really hadn’t existed before.“There was something nice about teaching ourselves and deciding we weren’t going to do graphic design layouts at a magazine,” Leja explained. “We were able to pick and choose the clients we were interested in, and pick and choose the aesthetic.”Leja and the team have witnessed firsthand how the internet has changed in the past two decades. They also remember many things which many people wish to forget.“We never talked about the user back then,” mentioned Leja. The work was brand-focused, not user-focused. “Sites used to look like it was just a designer going crazy.“We had success in early days because we were able to do whatever the client wanted,” she admitted. “We have done many stupid ideas because it was at the whim of the creative person paying us.”Today, she’s happy to report there’s far more empathy for people visiting a site. A big part of Sweden Unlimited’s job is balancing a brand’s expression of itself and its creativity with how the experience will feel for someone typing in the URL.One thing that hasn’t changed, though, is a brand’s desire to make sure the site expresses who they are. “The way they do it has changed,” Leja added, “but it’s still the ultimate goal.”

Read the full article here.

Sweden Unlimited Featured in AdWeek

It’s quite the family affair at the New York digital agency Sweden Unlimited. Established in 2001 by twin sisters Alex and Leja Kress (chief client officer and CEO, respectively) and Leja’s husband, CCO Richard Agerbeek, the shop started out designing websites for brands during the first internet boom to make the “ugly internet beautiful.”

At the time, the trio was playing in an electro-pop band called Sweden. “When we started our little agency, we didn’t really have a name, so we said, ‘We’re Sweden Unlimited, we’ll do everything and anything’ … we never changed it,” Leja Kress said.

To master “everything and anything,” they had to pick skills up on the fly, like coding. Early on, Sweden Unlimited fashioned websites for rising brands at the time, including designer Alexander Wang, eventually snagging projects for Kate Spade and Michael Kors. It’s grown new business organically ever since.

Today, Sweden Unlimited—with a primarily female staff of 20—offers services like brand strategy and video, social media and editorial content creation, along with design. Most of the shop’s work is clean and simple, but Leja Kress noted what’s unique about Sweden Unlimited is “we don’t try to insert ourselves into the final work … it should feel exactly like the brand we’re working with.”

Full article can be found here.

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