Is the ComplexLand a glimpse into the future of commerce?
The concept began as a pivot to give Complex Networks’ loyalists and consumers a chance to experience ComplexCon — albeit virtually — so the media company sought to cook up a unique experience that made shopping and video watching unique, exciting, and well, fun.
ComplexLand, which ran from Dec. 7 to 11, was littered with exclusive product drops, panel discussions and performances. The concept was created in place of ComplexCon this year in response to COVID-19, but the company may have unknowingly introduced a way to make e-commerce more than just clicking through photos and scrolling social media feeds.
Anyone familiar with game franchise The Sims or any role-playing game would find ComplexLand familiar, but imagine shopping at stores in a video game and those products being delivered to your front door in real life.
“We’re all pretty proud of what we were able to pull off,” said Neil Wright, head of collaborations and experiential for Complex Networks. “[ComplexLand] was a crazy idea we were excited to put together, it exceeded our expectations from optics and visuals, and attendance was very, very positive.”
Attendees racked up a total of 3.2 million total minutes at ComplexLand, 9.5 million interactions between attendees and 1.9 million commercial interactions across different vendors across the week, according to Complex.
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Brands such as Anta with Salehe Bembury; Kidsuper; Carrots; longtime Complex partners including Billionaire Boys Club and Rhude, and retailers such as RSVP Gallery, Atmos and Stadium Goods dropped exclusive product during the event. There were also panels with tech publication The Verge; a Brands to Watch segment featuring brands including Ampwata and Darryl Brown; a Reconstruct Program from Complex Shop featuring Levi’s, The North Face and Suicoke, and a Showtime-sponsored talk with music artist T-Pain and Complex alum and Showtime talk show hosts Desus & Mero.
Ntwrk this summer held its Transfer festival that also saw scheduled virtual product drops, video content such as conversations between Futura and Edison Chen, and DJ sets by Heron Preston and Zack Bia, but while Ntwrk’s event had a landing page to scroll on, ComplexLand attendees explored a virtual venue created just for the week.
The Long Beach Convention Center has historically been home to ComplexCon, and to replicate the show experience, the company partnered with design and experience agency Jam3 to create a 3D theme park where attendees could shop at booths like they would at the physical show, listen to panels, watch performances from artists like Jack Harlow, who performed on Dec. 11 to coincide with the release of his debut album, “That’s What They All Say.” Attendees were able to order food to be delivered to their home.
Attendees were given an avatar with a customizable outfit that trolled for exclusive launches at virtual shops like Sunset Lagoon and The Boro, entertainment at Astral Market and clues for surprise drops. They were also able to meet Donatella Versace in avatar form and earn a chance to get the Versace Trigrecca sneaker. This was the first time Versace had appeared as a virtual identity.
“ComplexLand could be our version of a Disney park,” Wright said. He added that the idea for the virtual event began at a Travis Scott concert on Fortnite during the pandemic.
“The lightbulb really went on for me and I thought it was such an innovative and unique experience,” he said. Although the company didn’t know if it would be able to host a physical show in November as originally planned, a virtual contingency plan was created as a backup.
The event wasn’t a total sellout for all brands involved, but some decided to replenish their stock when they sold out and some did not. Wright said one brand changed their virtual booth out in real time, which wouldn’t be possible at ComplexCon.
Also the lack of queues at ComplexLand “democratized” the shopping process, said Wright. He added that at the physical show, there are inevitable occurrences like line cutting that can impact the experience that weren’t an issue at ComplexLand. The company developed a process that prevented bots or digital workarounds from hoarding products.
“I give a lot of respect to Complex and ComplexCon pivoting,” said Xset chief executive officer Greg Selkoe. “It shows that they can continue to move the culture forward, being able to do the show in a digital format.”
Xset dropped collaboration product with Roots and a sneaker with Nike that sold out in three minutes. “If we had that kind of crowd for the Nike’s and we had a booth, we wouldn’t have been able to handle the volume,” said Selkoe.
Will Eddins, Xset cofounder, chief merchandising and licensing officer, said he was able to take in panels and content on ComplexLand, which is something he wouldn’t have been able to do at ComplexCon because of the drops, meetings and venue size. “At ComplexCon, I would get stopped by people before I make it to a drop, but I had time to make it to that purchase. It is an upgrade, because you can go straight to the product.”
That being said, he still enjoys ComplexCon because of the community and show experience.
“Our main goal for this year’s event is like every goal we’ve had for ComplexCon in the past: to connect with our fans on a deeper level with an immersive experience,” said Hillary Alexandre, brand marketing and public relations manager for Billionaire Boys Club. The brand hosted a virtual shop built like the Ice Cream brand’s Coneman and released a special collaborative capsule with Louis De Guzman featuring the visual artist’s signature “In Between the Lines” style and BBC and Ice Cream motifs.
“ComplexCon is one of our main brand activations that allow us to engage with our customers in an environment that’s all about people’s favorite brands,” Alexandre added. “This year, we wanted to leverage the ‘video game’ experience to gauge how well our audience would react.”
Selkoe added, “You want to have these moments with drops that are hot. In a way it was much more organized by doing it virtually.”
The BBCIcecream Coneman shop at ComplexLand. Courtesy Photo
Wright noted that the BBC, Louis De Guzman collaboration was highly anticipated, as well as the Anta x Salehe Bembury sneakers — “We were the first in the U.S. to have that release,” Wright said. — and Verdy offered a vinyl figure that was buzzed about long before ComplexLand.
Wright added that the company is focused on bringing ComplexCon back if the situation with the pandemic allows that to happen.
As for ComplexLand, he said, “If we come back with a copy-and-paste of this event, then it won’t be as interesting.”
Since the show is virtual, could ComplexLand run multiple times a year or even 24/7? “The biggest factor is that we want to make sure it feels special,” Wright said. “If it was 24/7, how do you make it special? Even though it’s immersive and exploratory, it’ll feel stale because people get tired of things very quickly. We want to make sure it’s something special and a true moment.”
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