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business data e-commerce product Retail social media sustainability technology

2019 highlights: The year in innovation news

2019 was a big year for innovation and the Current Daily has been tracking it all throughout – from the rise of 5G-enabled experiences to the continued push towards a circular economy. 

Here, we highlight some of the most interesting stories from the year, outlining why they are an important indication of where the industry is moving in 2020 and beyond.

5G will drive 100m people to shop in AR

Augmented reality took center stage this year as its user-friendly features meant a growing number of brands – and social media platforms like Instagram – started adopting it as a core engagement strategy.

In April, a Gartner report highlighted that 100 million people will shop in AR once high-speed 5G mobile services roll out more extensively. This means the experience is going to be more seamless than ever, giving it better real-time rendering, shorter download times and reduced latency. Retailers seem to be on board, as 46% of them plan to deploy either AR or VR. Check out our piece exploring what other benefits 5G will bring retail.

Fashion brands have only met 21% of their circularity targets for 2020

If there’s one thing to be sure, there’s no escaping the growing momentum around shifting to more sustainable practices as an industry. But is there really progress being made? In July, the Global Fashion Agenda (GFA) launched its second yearly assessment of fashion brands and retailers to find that only reached 45 (21%) of the 213 targets the industry has set for 2020 will be met. 

This means the 90 signatories of the GFA’s 2020 Circular Fashion System Commitment, which includes fashion companies like adidas, PVH Group and Inditex, will have to hurry if they want to achieve more in the next year. We talked a lot about the need for action in this space when a further collaborative group was announced: the G7 Fashion Pact. If you ask us, it’s time to say enough to the pledges, rather give us some tangible outputs.

H&M to trial clothing rental for the first time

Talking of sustainability, one are where we have seen a lot of action and experimentation this year is in new business models. Rental is making serious strides at all ends of the market, but perhaps most interestingly within fast fashion just recently as the H&M Group announced it will trial clothing rental at one of its H&M Stockholm stores. Members of its customer loyalty program can now rent selected party dresses and skirts from its 2012-2019 Conscious Exclusive collections.

Recently, its brand COS also launched a pilot where it is renting out clothes through Chinese subscription rental platform YCloset, which customers can access through a monthly flat rate. We also published a deep-dive into the different opportunities we see for the industry in rental, here.

Allbirds CEO calls out Amazon product copying

In November, Allbirds’ co-founder and CEO, Joey Zwilinger, wrote an open letter to Amazon’s Jeff Bezos after discovering the e-commerce platform was producing its own wool sneakers similar to the brand’s most popular style.

Instead of going the usual lawsuit route, the founder took this as an opportunity to highlight his brand’s sustainability mission. In the letter, Zwilinger highlights that Allbirds’ sustainable philosophy is open source, and it has thus far helped over 100 brands who were interested in implementing its renewable materials into their products, suggesting Amazon might like to do the same. It was a bold move but one that sparked a conversation around the role of collaboration once more, and its critical place in true innovation.

Gen Z loves TikTok. Can fashion brands learn to love it too?

Gen Z quickly adopted Chinese social media platform TikTok as their app du jour this year for its bite-sized video content. Currently, 66% of the platform’s 500 million global users are under 30, according to data analytics firm, Business of Apps.

Brands have started to follow suit, tapping the app to drive engagement and ultimately sales. Content varies from crowdsourced, as in a recent Burberry campaign that saw users challenged to create the brand’s logo with their fingers, through to more refined, such as in a snippet of an interview with singer Shawn Mendes for Calvin Klein. We explored various other brands setting TikTok precedent, here.

Lush abandons social media

While TikTok has been taking off, elsewhere social media is slowing for some. Vegan cosmetics brand, Lush, for instance decided to shut down all of its activity in the UK as it became “tired of fighting with algorithms” or paying to appear on news feeds. Instead, it suggested a hashtag where fans would still be able to speak to the brand.

Lush’s bold move speaks to fight playing out for anything still resembling organic reach. As consumers become jaded over being ‘sold to’, brands are having to find novel ways to reach them, beyond the influencer route. One other area we’re tracking here is those owning their own conversation channels, as with both Glossier and H&M of late.

Coty acquires majority stake in Kylie Jenner’s beauty business

2019 was the year of major acquisitions in both beauty and fashion. While LVMH recently announced it was snapping up Tiffany & Co for $16bn, other names included Farfetch buying New Guards Group, which operates streetwear favorite Off White for $675m; Shiseido acquiring cult skincare brand Drunk Elephant for $845m; and more recently, Coty acquiring a majority stake in Kylie Jenner’s beauty business, Kylie Cosmetics, for $600m. 

The latter served as particular confirmation of how brands build and grow in this day and age. Jenner, who was 18 when she started a single ‘lip kit’ line, used Instagram to form a direct conversation with her audience. In 2019, this seems like an obvious strategy, but the reality star’s foresight to do so in 2015 has undoubtedly been her recipe for success.

How luxury fashion learned to love the blockchain

Amid growing concerns over the proliferation of counterfeit goods, luxury brands also began to embrace blockchain as an important authentication tool this year. 

Earlier this year, we heard about how LVMH launched its own platform, Aura, which is currently being piloted with some of the brands in its portfolio and will further expand in the future. Kering and Richemont meanwhile are said to be exploring this too, while De Beers is using it to trace its diamonds. Once matured, the technology will undoubtedly make its way into the hands of the consumer, who will be able to better understand where their possessions are coming from. We also tracked some of the other innovations in the transparency space; an area that continues to heat up.

Automation in retail: an executive overview for getting ready

Automation was another big tech focus this year, particularly for its potential impact on retail, from supply chain management to last mile delivery. This shift is putting pressure on retailers to rethink their operating models, distribution centres and headquarters, with McKinsey warning that brands that fail to implement it into their strategy risk falling behind. 

Automation is something we’ve long been talking about for the sake of efficiency, but there also comes a significant ethics conversation to be had here, which the industry is exploring. We agree, now is the time.

What Fortnite could mean for fashion

The global gaming market is expected to reach $180bn by 2021, and fashion brands are realizing the valuable potential in this. Free-to-play video game Fortnite has grown into a multi-million dollar business by selling clothing to image-conscious gamers, for instance. This monetization of player aesthetics, more commonly known as ‘skins’, has opened the door for retailers to cash in on the virtual world. 

Going forward, we expect more brands to invest in digital garments or utilize gaming to drive product discovery. We accordingly explored how gamification is being used in the shopping journey by brands like Kenzo and Nike to both increase engagement and build brand loyalty.

How are you thinking about innovation? The Current Global is a transformation consultancy driving growth within fashion, luxury and retail. Our mission is to solve challenges and facilitate change. We are thinkers and builders delivering innovative solutions and experiences. Get in touch to learn more.

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business Editor's pick product Retail technology

6 brands driving consumer engagement through customization

The availability of data and an increased purchasing power has pushed retailers to create products and services beyond the standard selection. Whilst traditionally customization was seen as a luxury feature, the democratization of fashion has led to many high street retailers offering the service as another way to engage consumers.

In today’s digital era, the abundance of data has made it easier for retailers to personalize marketing content, but this is now going one step further to individual design and styling. Consumers want products tailored to their own specific needs and style, and by offering customization, retailers can increase their value and differentiate from the competition. 

From a business perspective, offering customization can be financially rewarding too, as 1 in 5 consumers will pay a 20% premium for personalized products or services. Customization can also be a sustainable method of production, as products are created to meet the exact demand, thus minimizing the risk of excess stock. 

Meanwhile, as manufacturing processes become more sophisticated and streamlined through features like 3D printing and automation, customization is something we will see more of in the future. As we continue to watch this trend develop, here are 6 brands driving engagement  through customization.

Louis Vuitton
Louis Vuitton custom Run Away sneaker

The sneaker industry is expected to be worth $95.14billion by 2025, and Louis Vuitton is another luxury brand hoping to tap into that booming market by offering consumers customized sneakers. Consumers will have the option to customize the Run Away sneaker by changing its colour, material and stripes and for an extra personal touch, get their initials printed or hot stamped on the shoe.

Fame & Partners
Fame & Partners bridemaids dresses

Fame and Partners is a contemporary womenswear brand based in LA trying to combat overproduction in the fashion industry by offering made-to-order garments. Through their Custom Clothing studio, consumers can customize any item by choosing the silhouette, sleeve length or neckline. The brand’s strategy eliminates the need for excess stock, helping to reduce waste that would otherwise be sent to landfill. 

Function of Beauty
Function of Beauty custom hair care

This DTC beauty brand has taken over social media with its Instagrammable hair care line that target Gen Z consumers who are seeking products unique to their needs. Consumers can go online and take a quiz to determine their hair profiles, selecting up to five hair goals, ranging from color protection to curl definition. They can also choose both the scent and color of their products, creating a customized product from design to function. Each bottle is then formulated using clean ingredients, which are cruelty-free and 100% vegan.

Rapha
Rapha custom collection

Cult British brand Rapha is disrupting the cycling market by partnering with Unmade to create a customizable team collection. Customers are given the opportunity to create their own unique jersey designs, including team logos, which are then manufactured into a bespoke product. Poor user experience and long lead times are usually a set back when it comes to customization, but Unmade’s print solution allows for quick bespoke manufacturing on a smaller scale.

Puma
Puma’s new NYC flagship

To enhance customer experience in store, Puma has created an exclusive customization studio at its new flagship store in New York. Customers can customize a range of footwear and apparel using paints, patchwork, embroidery, 3D knitting, laser printing and material upcycling. The studio also collaborates with new artists on a bi-weekly basis, with Sue Tsai, BWOOD and Maria Jahnkoy being the most recent.

Levi’s
Levi’s customization patches

Levi’s brand strategy has revolved around making products your own since the original blue jean was patented in 1873. These days, many Levi’s shops have a dedicated tailor shop that can customize and repair products, such as adding patches, studs, embroidery, stencilling and distressing, so consumers can have a one-of-a-kind product. To align with its sustainability initiatives, the brand also offers a full repair service which does anything from fixing rips and holes to color fading, helping well-worn jeans gain a new lease of life.

How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. The Current Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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data Editor's pick mobile Retail technology

5 ways 5G will impact retail

Last month, mobile phone network Three ‘switched on’ its 5G service in London through an immersive experience with fashion designer Henry Holland.   

The “Living Room of the Future” initiative saw visitors able to try on mixed reality headsets from Magic Leap, to enter into a world consisting of everything from a mindfulness moment, to a gaming experience and the delivery of (virtual) House of Holland shoes by drone to your door. 

5G is expected to ramp up in 2020 on a global level. Further cities in Switzerland, Spain, Germany and Italy have already begun adopting it. Meanwhile, in the US, although four cities have turned on the signal, the technology is tied up in a trade war, since China’s Huawei is the dominant 5G supplier. Regardless, the latest Ericsson Mobility Report predicts there will be more than 10 million 5G subscriptions globally by the end of this year, and that 5G population coverage is forecast to reach 45% by 2024.

In it simplest sense, 5G is just a faster version of 4G – about 20x the speed in fact. That coupled with almost no latency, means the new networks will nearly eliminate lag time. This is big news for mobile of course – opening up paths to purchase in even the busiest of crowds for everyday shoppers. 

But its existence will also help power other tech advances, from machine learning to digital realities. Add in features like low energy consumption and higher reliability, and it brings an opportunity for the retail industry to enhance the consumer experience in the physical store with a number of seamless real-time functionalities, leading to increased engagement and conversions. 

As a result, now is the ideal time for retailers to start planning how their stores and interfaces will look when 5G becomes widely available. Here are 5 ways we see it having an impact… 

Connected Spaces

Connectivity in our physical stores, means devices that can constantly exchange data with each other – also known as those under the header of the Internet of Things (IoT). To do so, they need a fast, reliable network that doesn’t require too much power. 5G networks will achieve a 90% reduction in power consumption, guaranteeing up to 10 years of battery life for low power IoT devices. This means, for example, that more retailers will have access to smart shelves like the ones Amazon implemented in its Amazon Go stores. This technology uses dozens of sensors to provide real-time inventory visibility and update pricing according to demand. 

Key tech we’re tracking: dynamic pricing, automated checkouts, connected fitting rooms, automatic replenishment

Amazon Go Store
Immersive Experiences

Augmented and virtual realities use a lot of processing power and cellular data. With the increased capacity of 5G networks, retailers will be able to create richer, more detailed experiences when integrating their physical and digital worlds. This will make technologies that we’re already experimenting with, and seeing consumer adoption of, only more of a possibility. The result will mean shoppers are able to immediately check product materials or ingredients through the use of smart glasses or their smartphones, for instance. Those same apps will also guide customers to the products they want by projecting directions into their field of view in real-time as they navigate the store space.

Key tech we’re tracking: immersive interfaces, gamification, wayfinding

Puma’s new flagship store with gamification
Higher Efficiencies

Artificial intelligence will also thrive on IoT devices via 5G. That’s not to say the AI algorithms themselves will change, but that the higher network will enable more accurate real-time data to flow, ultimately facilitating smarter systems. In retail, for instance, managers will be able to delegate more operational and inventory decisions to automation. This means greater efficiencies as well as accuracies on things like forecasting inventory quantities so as to optimize stock levels, leaving sales associates to spend more time on customer care. Having stock in the right place at the right time will also decrease the risk of losing customers to competitors, as product availability will be more accurate. 

Key tech we’re tracking: retail analytics, inventory visibility, demand forecasting, endless aisle  

Walmart’s endless aisle
Personalization

With lower latency, retailers will also be able to respond to purchasing patterns and behaviors with immersive, tailored content in real-time. Implementing 5G in-store will allow for greater interactions and data collections between sales associates and customers. Real time data could be tracked to create personalized adverts or offers based on the preferences of individual customers, helping to increase the incentive to buy. 

Key tech we’re tracking: marketing automation, personalized promotions, AI recommendations, product search tools, clienteling

Nike’s Melrose store
Fulfilment

The implementation of 5G will also revolutionize logistics by improving  efficiency in fulfilment tasks and increasing the speed of transportation. Greater connectivity and improved reliability will help communications between brands, couriers and consumers. The full capacity of 5G will eventually also enable the roll out of automation in transport and warehouses, thanks to improved processing of the vast amounts of data required in real-time. 

Key tech we’re tracking: smart warehousing, robotics, automated vehicles

Lowebot assisting a consumer

Additional reporting by Larissa Gomes.

How are you thinking about retail innovation? The Current Global is a transformation consultancy driving growth within fashion, luxury and retail. Our mission is to solve challenges and facilitate change. We are thinkers and builders delivering innovative solutions and experiences. Get in touch to learn more.

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business e-commerce Editor's pick Retail technology

Retail automation: A balance of efficiency and ethics

I recently binge-watched a BBC drama called Years and Years. Featuring Emma Thompson as a controversial British prime minister, it’s a frighteningly realistic portrayal of what society might look like given a few more twists and turns from both our political leadership and the technology developments that surround us. 

If you haven’t seen it, I recommend it as one to hunker down to next time the weather turns poor wherever you are. The reason for referencing this, however, is that there’s one speech in the show that feels particularly poignant to retail today.  

“We blame these vast sweeping tides of history like they’re out of our control, like we’re so helpless and little and small, but it’s our fault,” the family’s matriarch explains. “You know why? Because of that £1 t-shirt. We can’t resist it, every single one of us – we see a t-shirt that costs £1 and we think that’s a bargain, I’ll have that… The shopkeeper gets 5p for that t-shirt, and some little peasant in a field gets paid 0.01p and we think that’s fine. We buy into that system for life. 

“I saw it all going wrong when it began in the supermarkets, when they replaced all the women on the tills with those automated checkouts… Now all those women are gone and we let it happen. And I think we do like them, those checkouts. We want them because it means we can stroll through, pick up our shopping and we don’t have to look that women in the eye, the woman who’s paid less than us. She’s gone, we got rid of her – sacked. Well done. So yes, it’s our fault. This is the world we built. Congratulations.”

Each of us is complicit in the future world we’re creating, she suggests. And in her view, one full of automation, frankly, is a negative. 

But it’s the detail that’s important here – it’s the fact we thought any level of this automation was right in the first place, even in the most basic sense, and we forgot about the human element of it all in the process. Which is why it stuck in my head, because it’s really so real. 

Automation is something we’ve been talking about for years for the sake of efficiency. In our company, we help integrate all sorts of solutions that facilitate it constantly. And we’ve seen the industry really expanding on this front both in stores and through warehousing for some time. 

UK food delivery service, Ocado, is a market leader for warehouse automation, for instance. Its state-of-the-art facility processes 3.5 million items or around 65,000 orders every week, thanks to a fleet of 1,100 robots. 

Meanwhile, Amazon Go, the unmanned grocery store in the US, is one of the best known customer-facing initiatives in this space. It makes use of a multitude of different technologies – from sensors to image recognition – to enable shoppers to simply walk out while payment is automatically taken without having to interact with any other human being at all.

The interesting thing here, is that for every part of this in action, there are a multitude of startups we work with that do this even better. This is nothing short of a burgeoning space

To that end, John Lewis in the UK also just announced it has partnered with various robotics companies to develop its own human-robot interactions. Its intention, it says, is to have autonomous technology to assist its workers. 

Doing so comes with a multitude of benefits of course – from increased convenience for shoppers when things are faster and easier, through to better service in the process from the sales associates who are on hand to help where it matters. That also means opportunities for upskilling of staff – giving them new and higher skills, leading ultimately to better paid positions. And there’s economic incentive too. According to PWC, AI, robotics and other forms of smart automation have the potential to contribute $15 trillion to global GDP by 2030. 

This is all incredibly relevant in the context of John Lewis – one of the most trusted brands on the UK high street. The idea it suggests is that it can turn its customer promise into improved service and commercial value via robotics. 

The question really though is should it? According to the World Economic Forum, nearly 50% of companies expect automation to lead to some reduction in their full-time workforce by 2022. Meanwhile, the British Retail Consortium estimates that 60% of retail jobs will be at risk due to automation over the next 20 years. 

There’s an argument that previous industrial revolutions have ultimately led to progress – unemployment in one generation opening up new opportunities in the next. But if you want to look really far out, the University of Oxford predicts there is a 50% chance machines will be capable of taking over all human jobs in 120 years. 

That’s a fairly cynical view, but either way there’s an important note about ethics here. The John Lewis announcement came with a note that said its intention is to create an environment of safe and ethical adoption of robots in the industry. Presumably that means one that benefits its workers and not just removes their jobs. 

This isn’t a new conversation in a wider sense. AI ethics and all it consists of has been a technology debate and concern for some time. But for me, this isn’t about worrying over some apocalyptic future where the robots ultimately have intelligence enough to take over from the human race at large. It’s about the right now – the next 10 years and shaping how we want this industry to continue to work. 

I am all for efficiencies – it’s one of the linchpins of what we offer as a company, but that has to come with balance. A report by the Harvard Business Review is interesting in this sense. It suggests that those companies who are using automation mainly to displace employees, should expect to see only short-term productivity gains, whereas those who adopt it alongside staff, will achieve the most significant performance improvements.

That’s the ideal – making it great for business and for the people involved. If automation can give us greater ability to do the things we love, to remove the mundane tasks and those not adding value, it makes sense. After all, why are we doing any of this otherwise if it’s not about benefiting humanity long term. 

But we need to take a stand on this now and decide what we want for our future. There’s a certain element of inevitability to it all, but the human factor should be part of every conversation happening in this space. Ultimately what it comes down to is not do we want this change to happen, but how? It’s our choice, meaning otherwise, as per Year and Years, it will be “our fault”.  

How are you thinking about innovative solutions? The Current Global is a transformation consultancy driving growth within fashion, luxury and retail. Our mission is to solve challenges and facilitate change. We are thinkers and builders delivering innovative solutions and experiences. Get in touch to learn more. 

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business digital snippets e-commerce product Retail social media Startups sustainability technology

ICYMI: France to stop burning clothes, inside product recommendations, the role of automation in retail

A round-up of everything you might have missed in relevant fashion, retail and tech industry news over the past week.

TOP STORIES
  • France to end disposal of $900 million in unsold goods each year [NY Times]
  • Inside the multi-billion-dollar online product recommendation economy [BoF]
  • Automation in retail: an executive overview for getting ready [McKinsey]
TECHNOLOGY
  • Amazon’s Bezos says robotic hands will be ready for commercial use in next 10 years [Fashion Network]
  • Can technology keep fake handbags out of the marketplace? [Fashionista]
  • Beyond the data breach: How retail is addressing cybersecurity [Retail Dive]
  • Can “drone delivery” technology make your skincare more effective? [Vogue]
  • Apple introduces ‘sign in with Apple’ to help protect your privacy [Tech Crunch]
  • Prada’s Lorenzo Bertelli sees startups as path to innovation [Vogue Business]
  • Amazon rolls out AR lipstick try-ons via L’Oréal’s ModiFace [Mobile Marketer]
SUSTAINABILITY & PURPOSE
  • Can Kering grow and be sustainable at the same time? [BoF]
  • The beauty industry’s having an environmental awakening, but not all redemption is created equal [Refinery29]
  • Those tiny hotel toiletry bottles are on their way out [NYT]
  • Gap Inc. to source all cotton from sustainable sources by 2025 [Fashion Network]
RETAIL & E-COMMERCE
MARKETING & SOCIAL MEDIA
  • Ikea is transitioning its print catalog to Pinterest [Digiday]
  • McDonald’s and Disney top first-ever brand audio rankings [Campaign]
  • Is China ready for LGBTQI marketing? [BoF]
  • Is WeChat’s new social commerce feature a game changer [Jing Daily]
BUSINESS
  • Retailer Revolve gets 2018’s third-best U.S. trading debut [Yahoo]
  • The RealReal files for IPO [Retail Dive]
  • Topshop named mostly like to join ‘retail graveyard’ [Drapers]
  • The Modist secures investments from Farfetch and Nicola Bulgari [Harpers Bazaar]
  • Louis Vuitton sees ‘unheard-of’ growth in China [BoF]
  • Lacoste owner buys The Kooples [Drapers]
  • How China tariffs could make your sweaters and pants cost more [BoF]
CULTURE
  • Catwalk cover-up: how the west is falling for modest fashion [The Guardian]
  • Miley Cyrus takes a stand for reproductive rights with Marc Jacobs [Vogue]
  • ‘The models have bellies, hips and thighs that jiggle’: the rise of body-positive swimwear [The Guardian]
  • The Nike London flagship now has plus-sized mannequins [Teen Vogue]

How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. Current Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more. 

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business Campaigns digital snippets e-commerce product Retail Startups sustainability technology

ICYMI: Chinese moguls rebooting fashion, biotech shaping the industry, smart checkouts rising

China’s internet moguls are rebooting fashion
China’s internet moguls are rebooting fashion

A round-up of everything you might have missed in relevant fashion, retail and tech industry news over the past week.

TOP STORIES
  • How China’s internet moguls are rebooting fashion [BoF]
  • How biotechnology is reshaping fashion [BoF]
  • Smart checkouts will process $45B in transactions by 2023, study says [MobileMarketer]
  • 5 tech innovations we’re talking about from fashion week season [TheCurrentDaily]
TECHNOLOGY
  • When it comes to technology, fashion is still a laggard [BoF]
  • How Diageo is using Amazon Echo and Google Home [Digiday]
SUSTAINABILITY & PURPOSE
  • John Lewis invests in plastic reduction [Drapers]
  • Why does so much ethical fashion look the same? [Fashionista]
RETAIL & E-COMMERCE
  • Express is the latest retailer to launch a clothing rental service [CNBC]
  • Fruit of the Loom celebrates Seek No Further with interactive shopping experience [FashionUnited]
  • Forever 21 invests in online styling service DailyLook [RetailDive]
  • Is the future of online deliveries allowing drivers access to your home? [TheIndustry]
MARKETING & SOCIAL MEDIA
  • Hollister partners with Sit With Us [WWD]
PRODUCT
  • Why mainstream brands are embracing modest fashion [CNN]
BUSINESS
  • Revolve officially files for IPO [Fashionista]
  • Walmart buys Eloquii for undisclosed amount [RetailDive]
  • Anya Hindmarch losses mount to £28.2m [Drapers]
  • Payments startup Klarna raises $20M from H&M, its second backer from the fashion world [TechCrunch]
CULTURE
  • The London Underground is getting vending machines to clean all your dirty clothes [Wired]
  • Meet the robotic museum guide that will turn art into sound for the visually impaired [FastCompany]

How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

Categories
Editor's pick Retail technology

Amazon and Hyundai to open automated department store in South Korea

Amazon Go in Seattle
Amazon Go in Seattle

Amazon is teaming up with the Hyundai Department Store Group to open a South Korean version of its checkout-free store experience.

The initiative will see the duo co-develop an unmanned, or self-service, element to a new department store in Seoul, where shoppers will be able to just walk out to initiate automated payments (based on Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology).

They’ll also be able to use a drone delivery service for food and beverage, and an automated concierge made possible through Amazon’s artificial intelligence technology.

“We will apply the next-generation retail technology co-developed with Amazon to Hyundai Department Store Yeouido, scheduled to open in the second half of 2020,” an official from Hyundai said. The Yeouido store, which will be in a skyscraper in Seoul’s financial district, is due to be the largest department store in the city.

It is unclear at this stage whether the experiences will be available across other products categories, besides food and beverage.

Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology is otherwise in use in the Amazon Go store, an unmanned grocery experience in Seattle, USA. Reports have long suggested it would expand to other cities, and potentially license the tech to other partners.

This agreement with Hyundai is specifically with Amazon Web Services (AWS) division, the e-commerce company’s cloud service provider. The partnership also has plans to set up a membership platform that will analyze purchasing patterns of shoppers, and a large-scale virtual reality theme park.

When it comes to the future of retail, the idea of automated or unmanned stores is increasingly being experimented with. Alongside Amazon is Alibaba, while Walmart is also reportedly building such technology.

Concern lies in what this means for society given the number of retail employees it could affect (there were more than 3.5 million cashier jobs in the US in 2016, according to the Department of Labor), but arguably the increased consumer desire for convenience and speed – and the power of such retail and tech companies to impact change – may well outweigh that.

How are you thinking about retail innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

Categories
business digital snippets e-commerce Retail social media sustainability technology

ICYMI: Virgil on arriving at Louis Vuitton, Amazon’s treasure truck, The North Face releases renewed apparel

Virgil Abloh
Virgil Abloh

A round-up of everything you might have missed in relevant fashion, retail and tech industry news over the past week.

TOP STORIES
  • Virgil Abloh on the movement that brought him to Louis Vuitton [HypeBeast]
  • Who’s that selling steaks, seafood and toys in a parking lot? It’s Amazon’s Treasure Truck [USAToday]
  • The North Face kicks off pilot program for renewed apparel [WWD]
  • Fashion got woke. But at what cost? [BoF]
  • The power of Kate Spade’s ‘colorful, bold, cheerful’ brand [AdAge]
TECHNOLOGY
  • Waymo announces 7 million miles of self-driving car testing, putting it far ahead of rivals [ArsTechnica]
SUSTAINABILITY
  • Circularity: Sustainable fashion’s holy grail or greenwashing? [BoF]
RETAIL & E-COMMERCE
  • Stella McCartney brings meditation to Galeries Lafayette [WWD]
  • Why 2018 is the year of modernization for Target [RetailDive]
  • Club Monaco turns to in-store pop-up shops to diversify its retail experience [Glossy]
  • Harvey Nichols partners with Hero to offer “Live Shopping” online [TheIndustry]
  • House of Fraser to close 31 stores [BBC]
  • It’s not retail that’s dying. It’s our imagination [BoF]
  • Rent the Runway extends logistics tools to luxury fashion brands [FastCompany]
  • A mall in China put in a traffic lane just for people staring at their phones [FastCompany]
MARKETING & SOCIAL MEDIA
  • Adidas and the World Cup: Mass appeal or awkward deal? [BoF]
  • Instagram’s new shopping bag icon adds e-commerce element to advertisers’ Stories [MarketingLand]
  • Welcome to China’s KOL clone factories [BoF]
BUSINESS
  • Decoding the Dries Van Noten x Puig deal [BoF]
  • The future of fashion hiring is fast, digital and diverse [WWD]
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Editor's pick film technology

Prada looks at automated future in new sci-fi video series

Prada Nylon Farm
Prada Nylon Farm

Prada has released a ‘futuristic fairytale’ film series celebrating its nylon backpack first launched in 1984, by referencing a series of next generation technologies.

Nylon Farm, as the four-part project is called, features a flock of cyborg sheep, in a nod to Philip K Dick’s sci-fi novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Alternate reality technology and an automated manufacturing system is at play to harvest the synthetic fleece, but the ideals of such artificial intelligence is seemingly disrupted by a level of human emotion that comes into the scene.

“It may all seem perfect, but something in this place has gone beyond the normal production processes. A series of strange anomalies have interrupted the regularity of the Farm and required the launch of an investigation. Will following protocol be enough in this story?” reads the write-up.

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While Vogue refers to it as an example of Miuccia Prada directing an episode of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror, the intention from Prada is to symbolize the brand’s technological innovation on the one hand, but also its ability to respect the brand’s history, on the other.

The nylon that has become a signature of the house was originally sourced from factories making parachutes for the military. It’s this quest for newness from Miuccia that is so referenced.

The four episodes were filmed at the brand’s industrial headquarters in Tuscany, the first one of which launched this weekend past. The following three will be released on June 1, 4 and 9 across the brand’s social media.

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Editor's pick Retail technology

JD.com on a future where robots replace humans

Richard Liu, CEO, JD.com
Richard Liu, CEO, JD.com

“Sooner or later, our entire industry will be operated by AI and robots, not humans,” said JD.com’s CEO, Richard Liu, at the World Retail Conference in Madrid this week.

Speaking to a large audience of retail professionals, the head of China’s second-largest e-commerce company (behind the Alibaba Group), highlighted the fact he believes the future of retail is all about automation.

The Asia region is known to heavily invest in technologies that enable more personalized, seamless, and often self-directed retail experiences, as we recently highlighted on the site, making this a more natural leap for such businesses, but Liu’s views were not met by everyone worldwide.

Mango chairman Daniel Lopez disagreed on the idea of automation as inevitable, saying that humans are sociable at the core, so stores should strive to provide that element. “This is part of the experience that consumers are looking for, and by all means we shouldn’t lose that human touch,” he said. Mango has always had ‘experience’ as a central part of its DNA as a result, he explained.

In another conversation, John Lewis’ group development director, Tom Athron, delivered a warning on the same note: “Walk away from the power of the human at your peril. To assume consumers want everything to be automated or screen-based is naive, they want that in some ways, but I have a belief that humans and machines together will always be better than humans on their own, or machines on their own.”

Athron agreed, however, that some automation is necessary when labor is a retailer’s biggest cost. As the industry and technology evolves, it’s inevitable computers will be able to perform certain jobs more efficiently, he explained, making it essential to shift accordingly to an extent in order to remain competitive.

Véronique Laury, CEO of Kingfisher, which owns companies such as UK DIY retailer B&Q, says that the only benefit a physical store will have in the future is to provide emotion-led experiences, which are more often than not facilitated by humans. “That emotional connection is not completely fulfilled through digital techniques or technology. The human being side of talking to someone who understands what you are going through will be really important even in the future,” she said as she likewise dismissed the idea of purely automated or robotic-led stores.

Beyond experience, convenience and frictionless shopping was also a central theme of the conversation at the event. JD.com’s Liu also spoke about how the company is always finding opportunities to invest in logistics capabilities to serve the Chinese consumer’s evolving expectations around speed, for instance.

JD.com’s delivery service currently covers 100% of China and offers next day delivery to 90% of its 252 million customers. Liu’s goal for the next few years is to have a convenience store in every Chinese village, and the retailer is currently deploying drone technology to source and supply more remote locations until it reaches that milestone.