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business Comment e-commerce Editor's pick Retail Startups technology

6 rules for retail innovation

Innovation is one of those words that is often misconstrued in retail. Those who avoid it, claim they want to stay away from gimmicks. And those who love it, often use it as a PR-driven initiative or as an opportunity for technology to be deployed without much strategy. 

Sadly, innovation in retail has been largely about bells and whistles and not true fundamental change. 

Innovation in its true sense of the word – implementing new approaches to generate a different result – should be critical for anyone operating a major retailer or brand today. But it’s definitely not. A recent study by Gartner shows companies typically allocate 90% of their tech budget to “keeping the lights on”, or indeed what we can call ‘incremental innovation’, and only 10% to that which is deemed transformative.

The question then is how do you get it right? And how do you do it to bring progress and actual results? Frankly, the first step is to move away from old approaches. Over the past decade, numerous retailers around the world have introduced internal labs, accelerator programs and incubators. And what we’ve seen time and again, is that while such programs start strong and sharp, over time they are devoured and diminished by surrounding day-to-day business processes. The outcome even with the right intention, tends to only be marginal. 

What the industry needs is a new mindset and a willingness for new ways of working. 

We believe innovation should be actionable by connecting the right strategies to the right solutions, and closely managing integrations to make them a reality. This ties to our mission of solving challenges and facilitating change. So here are six rules for industry executives to follow to make this a reality:

1/ Validate the challenge

Deploying solutions without a defined problem is an unproductive method of innovation. It’s too easy to get lost in a sea of internal objectives and cost-cutting exercises while forgetting about what your customers really desire or need. 

To successfully determine the challenge, you must align on a united vision. Innovation internally is hard – it’s often political and frequently siloed. The best case studies out there have come from companies who have validated their roadmaps through a process of internal buy-in so they can achieve a common goal.

2/ Bring the outside in

Establishing a team that can bring different perspectives, both from outside the industry and in, as well as varied cross-disciplinary inputs, is always going to lead to greater results. New ideas come from diversity of thought – taking different things that work from other experiences, and making a new recipe out of them. It’s about getting outside your own department and making sure you have people from other parts of the company involved. Cross-pollination leads to the best ideas and strongest results. 

It’s for this reason we believe in the notion of “open innovation”: stepping outside of the internal model of building to co-create with a broader innovation ecosystem. It’s about resource and expertise coming in from experts on the outside, connected to ideas from around the globe. And it’s about increasing your chances of success by leveraging the knowledge and harnessing the success of others.

3/ Avoid the one-trick pony

The most successful projects should be updated over time, as opposed to achieving one incremental thing for a singular moment. This is about PR being the icing on the cake and not the cake itself. 

We all know innovation should have a broader goal, and often the challenge is convincing stakeholders to invest in the long term, laying the groundwork so that you gain economies of scale, not to mention scale itself, for every integration. It’s better to deploy two technologies with a clear purpose and defined ROI, then 10 pilots without strategy or buy-in.

4/ Mentor your partners

Simply put, you can’t treat startup partners like traditional vendors. These are companies big and small that provide collaborative partnerships. It’s crucial to work in a more hands-on sense, and to get help to manage these integrations if your own bandwidth is limited. 

Even when it is clear what value a technology brings to a retailer, partnerships fail due to cultural differences and conflicting expectations. To avoid this, try making time to offer your mentorship to these partners. Startups are not going to necessarily understand how to navigate your red tape or be as flexible with payments or delivery deadlines being moved. But with a strong connection in place, they could give you opportunities to co-create a brand new offering or be first to market with a technology.

5/ Empower your store teams

One of the biggest missteps with innovation is the idea of dumping new tech into store, for instance, without fully training or driving advocacy among employees. New technologies are worthless without buy-in and understanding to help things work smoothly and ensure shopper engagement. In-store, we’ve seen this with everything from smart mirrors to immersive experiences. 

This is simply about demonstrating the benefits in place for sales associates. If all this piece of tech does is add more to the checklist of things they need to do and doesn’t help their day-to-day relationship with the customer, it won’t interest them to help you as a retailer. Innovation ultimately needs to be enhancing the lives of those who have to use the tech.

6/ Calculated risks are better than failure

Innovation is usually associated with experimentation and accepting the Silicon Valley notion of ‘failure’. We’ve seen retailers trying to emulate this approach by investing in labs and incubators that fail to impact the bottom line. After all, retail corporate culture doesn’t believe in the “luxury” of merely trialing projects that won’t lead to actual results. 

So how can you test and learn with more of a conservative mindset? We believe there is a way to strategize calculated risks that allow learning and innovation to take place. Setting out a clear path of KPIs and objectives from the get-go with real measurements is the smarter way to ensure success. There’s no way around it – true innovation today is about results.

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. Each of the rules referenced above is matched by one of our products and services. Interested in how? Get in touch to learn more.

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Campaigns Retail

Magnum partners with Benefit for interactive pop-up in Shanghai

Magnum hosted a temporary beauty store in partnership with Benefit offering products and experiential activities to celebrate the launch of its new premium flavor range.

Taking place at the Réel Mall in Shanghai the pop-up made use of augmented reality and an interactive LED wall to bring its “Release your Beast” theme to life. A lion, polar bear, leopard and tiger were viewable as 3D characters, which visitors could take pictures with in a photobooth and then share on social media.

At the Benefit Beauty Bar, guests could test the brand’s latest products and book make-up artists. The environment included life-sized Benefit eyebrow pens and giant customized ice-cream installations.

The pop-up had a total of seven zones with a variety of activities. It attracted around 25,000 guests during the time it was open (May 24 to June 9).

Magnum has used the concept of “Release the Beast” in a couple of campaigns. In 2017, it teamed-up with fashion brand Moschino for a film on the theme starring Cara Delevingne and Jeremy Scott. Before that, to launch the Magnum Double ice cream in Singapore, it asked guests to release the beast of their passions in fashion, art, music and taste.

How are you thinking about immersive experiences? Want to learn more about how we worked with Google? The Current Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion 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 hear more.

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business Podcast product Uncategorized

How Havaianas is using collaborations to take over the world

“Collaborations to me, are a love affair,” says Eno Polo, US president of Alpagartas, the parent company of the world’s most popular flip flop brand, Havaianas, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global.

Listen here: Apple Podcasts | Android | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | RSS

Collaborations are at the core of both the brand’s success and its wide reach, but in order to become successful, they need to remain authentic, he explains. “It has to be two-way. I think a lot of brands out there force collaborations, they pay for collaborations. But if you pay for going out with a girl, I don’t call that a love affair. I’d rather it be a natural feeling – she likes me, I like her – and we go out together. That’s what I call a true collaboration, and those are the ones I think are most successful.”

Havaianas shot onto the international stage when French designer Jean Paul Gaultier accessorized his models on the New York and Paris catwalks with the flip flops in 1999, instantly turning them into an object of desire. What followed was a series of fashion brands wanting to collaborate with the now-iconic brand, hoping to borrow some of the color and freshness that only a Brazilian label could bring to the table.

Today, Havaianas produces over 250 million pairs a year, or 10 pairs a second, and is Europe’s number one sandal brand.

Beyond its ambitious expansion plans across the globe comes a mounting pressure for the brand to tackle the issue of sustainability, which may well still be in toddler stages in its native country, but is steadily becoming a business imperative elsewhere.

For Polo, the fact that the company is scaling its retail footprint and office count across Europe and the US means there is a growing internal pressure to become more sustainable. The brand is doing so by focusing on employee welfare, but also wants to tackle and own the fight for sustainability at the beaches where its products are so ever-present.

During this conversation, Polo also talks through the company’s history from catering to Brazil’s working class to hitting the beaches of Ibiza; the importance of creating a retail experience that puts a smile on the customer’s feet; and why creating such a simple product allows the brand to remain fun.

Catch up with all of our episodes of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by the Current Global, a consultancy transforming how 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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Campaigns e-commerce Editor's pick

Fred Perry and Raf Simons launch collaboration via shoppable virtual map

Fred Perry and Raf Simons are promoting their newest collaboration by inviting customers to view and shop the collection through a virtual map featuring a suburban town.

Similar to Google’s Street View platform, the map features models walking through a nondescript coastal town, captured mid-movement as if oblivious to the presence of a camera. Adding an element of anonymity they have their faces blurred, as do some products which are to be launched at a later date and still not available for purchase.

When navigating the platform, users are sent on a scavenger hunt to spot the models as they go through the streets by clicking arrows in the direction they want to go in. Models can then be found at random, huddled in groups, riding a motorbike or walking alone. Clicking a model will reveal what garment they are wearing, and leads customers to an e-commerce page to complete purchase.

Fred Perry x Raf Simons
Fred Perry x Raf Simons

The brands’ decade-old collaboration has become a staple in the wardrobes of many trend-led young consumers. To celebrate its 10th anniversary last summer, the brands gifted 100 garments from its archives to the subcultures that inspire their collections. Over the course of six weeks, products were distributed at places with emerging subcultures, such as Athens and Belgrade.

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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business Editor's pick sustainability

Everlane founder says time is sustainability’s largest cost

Michael Preysman, Everlane
Michael Preysman, Everlane

The biggest cost in the fashion industry’s bid to move towards a more sustainable supply chain is time, said Michael Presyman, founder and CEO of Everlane, at the Remode conference in Los Angeles this week.

The direct-to-consumer business, which has always focused on transparency, says its various progresses in sustainability have resulted in a real cost increase of 10-15% on individual products. This is something Everlane absorbs directly rather than putting on the consumer, Preysman noted.

Where he sees a key challenge, however, is in the time such innovation takes to get to market. It took the company two years to develop four new fabrics, he explained.

“We have to go out and source new materials, but those materials aren’t generally available in sustainable ways right now,” he commented. For those companies developing thousands of SKUs, getting to where we need to get to isn’t therefore an overnight fix.

Innovation is needed, but much of that also needs to come from driving change with the suppliers, he explained. “At the end of the day, we don’t own the supply chain, so we have to find partners doing the right thing and push them forward.”

His team is focused on both “moving the supply chain forward all the time, and offering a better sustainable product”. It’s impossible to have enough time if you’re not laser focused on what you want to do, he added.

He also explained that the industry needs to look at how to take such sustainable efforts back to the consumer. “Our job is to educate them on what they didn’t know existed,” he said, emphasizing the role of storytelling and transparency. “If we educate them, they in turn put the pressure back on us.”

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

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business Editor's pick product Retail

From Pharrell to Barneys: the importance of collaboration

Pharrell Williams at the Fast Company Festival
Pharrell Williams at the Fast Company Festival

Collaborations were a recurring theme at the Fast Company Innovation Festival, which took place in New York this week, with a push for retailers to increasingly step out of their comfort zones.

On a panel about strategies for wooing younger customers, Daniella Vitale, CEO of Barneys New York, said that finding good partners to collaborate with is hard. “They need to have a willingness to look outside the model that already exists, but there’s this desire to control the brand a certain way,” she explained. “It’s not all the time that it’s easy to convince people to do it our way.”

This is an even bigger challenge when working with legacy brands that have been successful with the same approach for 30 years, she added. “Brands have to think about how Barneys can add value when they participate in a drop, or by doing an exclusive capsule line with us, or doing something online when normally they don’t sell their product online. We need partners to come on this journey with us.”

The creative industry has a lot to teach retail about the importance of taking a risk in order to achieve success through collaboration, other speakers noted. Pharrell Williams, for example, talked to taking a leap of faith when he recorded Happy, the 2014 best-selling single that earned him an Oscar nomination. “The career risks we take are the ones most rewarding,” Williams remarked in a panel about creativity and collaboration.

Pointing across the stage to Chris Meledandri, founder and CEO of film and animation studio Illumination, and his collaborator on the track, Williams added: “I’m grateful when people see things I can’t see.” The two worked together on Happy for 2010’s animated film Despicable Me. This was the first time the artist had ever recorded a soundtrack.

Melendandri, who was previously president at the 20th Century Fox Animation studio, also weighed in on the importance of constant self-disruption. “The natural tendency when you hit a period of success is to stop taking risks because you think there’s safety in replicating what you’ve done before. That’s the greatest danger,” he warned.

“Comfort is very sneaky,” agreed Williams. “It feels good, and sometimes you don’t even realize you’re comfortable. But to get the best out of yourself, you have to put yourself into positions where you’re uncomfortable or vulnerable.”

Collaborations between brands that complement one another from a lifestyle perspective have long been a successful recipe for many brands, as also noted earlier this year at the SXSW festival, in a discussion between SoulCycle, Madewell and Milk Bar.

Increasingly, however, legacy brands and retailers are deploying a collaborative approach to target a younger consumer who thinks beyond seasons, and shops and discovers brands in a much less linear fashion. Many would argue that collaborations with younger, more cult brands are also a shortcut into getting the consumer to think differently about a more established player, as recently seen by the announcement of Ralph Lauren’s first collaboration with British skatewear label Palace.

How are you thinking about brand collaborations? 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.

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product Retail

Benetton launches Selfridges line featuring 109 colorways

United Colors of Benetton
United Colors of Benetton

United Colors of Benetton is teaming up with Selfridges on an exclusive capsule collection that will feature items in 109 different colors.

The collection will draw from the Italian brand’s archives and aims to reiterate its colorful history, with a modern British twist. Meanwhile, the vast color choice aims to pay an homage to Selfridges itself: the department store’s iconic yellow is number 109 on the Pantone palette. Shades will vary from bright pop hues to more pastel tones.

“It’s our first collaboration with a department store and it is an exciting new line that celebrates the colorful look, history and Italian ethos of the brand,” said Tommaso Bruso, chief operating officer of the Benetton Group. “It’s a confirmation of the brand’s history. From the Sixties to today there have been social and cultural revolutions and this has become the essence of the brand.”

The unisex collection, which will launch as a pop-up at Selfridges this Friday (September 14) to coincide with London Fashion Week, will feature sweaters, co-ords and accessories such as caps and duffel bags. Prices will range from £10 to £180.

In line with the nostalgia trend that has pervaded fashion for the past few years, sportswear and 90s favorites such as Benetton are increasingly coming back into the spotlight and joining the cultural conversation with collaborations with contemporary brands or retailers.

Sportwear label Champion is another example, teaming up with the likes of Danish cult label Wood Wood and Japanese streetwear retailer BEAMS on exclusively collaborations; meanwhile this month, Polaroid celebrated its 80th anniversary by releasing a limited edition sneaker with Puma that features its iconic rainbow stripe; and from a luxury standpoint, subversive French label Vetements has been responsible for resurrecting a few old favorites on its runways season after season, such as Juicy Couture, Eastpack and Umbro.

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

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e-commerce social media

Design your own high heels: Sergio Rossi showcases WeChat mini-program

Sergio Rossi on WeChat
Sergio Rossi on WeChat

Personalization previously only existed in a high-end couture world for private clients. Now, Italian luxury shoe brand Sergio Rossi grants a similar sense of privilege to a wider range of consumers and delivers it right to the fingertips of Chinese customers with a new WeChat campaign that showcases the brand’s ambitions to court digital-savvy Chinese consumers. 

Launched on September 10, customers can access the personalization service through Sergio Rossi’s WeChat mini-program. The homepage includes an English-language video, demonstrating how consumers can design a shoe. They can experiment with a wide variety of elements to create their very own Sergio Rossi shoe – from the material, color and length of the heel to plate and customized letters. And the vehicle, the WeChat mini-program, empowers a one-stop shopping experience, from design and payment to social media sharing. 

Participating customers can see how each customization option alters the price of their shoes in real time. Of course, design decisions need to be made carefully, as there is no refund or return option for the customized footwear once it is ordered. Thankfully, the mini-program provides a 360-degree digital preview, which can help customers gauge the look and feel of their personalized footwear.  

Sergio Rossi on WeChat
Sergio Rossi on WeChat

Sergio Rossi is trying to harness the direct-to-consumer luxury trend in China. Such personalized experiences not only allow the company to better cater their productsto consumers, but it also represents a valuable marketing opportunity for the company.

According to CuriosityChina – A Farfetch Company, who helped conceptualize and launch the campaign, the mini-program has already garnered substantial traction in China.

This WeChat mini-program campaign debuted after Sergio Rossi announced its partnership with brand management and distribution company Luxba Group earlier this year.

By Ruonan Zheng

This article was originally published on Jing Daily, a content partner of TheCurrentDaily: Design your own high heels: Sergio Rossi showcases WeChat mini-program 

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

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Campaigns Editor's pick product

Diesel teams up with cult Berlin kebab shop for latest collab

Diesel x Mustafa
Diesel x Mustafa

Diesel has teamed up with cult Berlin-based kebab kiosk, Mustafa’s Gemüse Kebap, for a limited edition collection drop.

The line launched last weekend at Zalando’s customer-facing trade show, Bread & Butter, a model aiming to emulate the success of ComplexCon in the US by hosting immersive customer experiences, exclusive drops and live music. At the event, Mustafa himself was also serving his popular kebab creations.

In line with the Italian brand’s satirical approach to fashion, Diesel is hoping to challenge what is expected of typical collaborations with this launch – where one brand piggybacks on another’s ‘cool’ factor through limited edition clothing that targets the trend-driven demographic. It also serves as commentary on how collab-obsessed the younger generation (and subsequently, brands who wish to target such customer) have become.

The Diesel x Mustafa collaboration includes jumpers, t-shirts and hats, and will also be available for sale on diesel.com and at selected Diesel stores worldwide.

Diesel’s latest initiative follows on from previous marketing activity that serves to reinforce the brand’s commitment to celebrating the unusual, and doing so with a sense of humor.

In January this year, it launched its “Keep the World Flawed” campaign, which included a video with digital Easter eggs in which everything was just slightly off; in February, it launched a “Deisel” pop-up store at NYC’s Chinatown neighborhood, selling ‘fake’ versions of its designs; and most recently in May, it launched the prototype for the world’s most uncomfortable meeting room, aiming to keep meetings as short and efficient as possible, while making fun of the fact they are often unnecessary.

Earlier this year, TheCurrent also featured Stefano Rosso, Diesel’s CEO of North America, on TheCurrent Innovators podcast, where he talked about the idea of challenging conformity.

Diesel x Mustafa
Diesel x Mustafa

Are you thinking innovatively enough about your brand messaging and collaborations? 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.
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Editor's pick product

Heist uses crowdsourced data to launch inclusive line of tights

Heist Studios
Heist Studios

Heist Studios has announced the release of five new tights in a variety of nude shades as a result of crowdsourced data from over 1,000 women. The new additions will add five new shades to Heist’s current line of nude tights when released later this week.

The diverse colour palette was sourced from “The Nude Project”, a crowdsourcing effort for which Heist created a dedicated microsite where it is asking women globally to share their own unique “nude” skin tones. Launched back in 2017, the project aims to create an ongoing range that reflects the needs of its audience accurately, says the brand.

“We know from our customers that women shy away from wearing nude garments for the most part because, with only a limited range of shades on offer, they are unable to find a suitable match,” says Heist. “We saw the furore around Meghan Markle’s tights at her first royal engagement as Duchess of Sussex, with the press lambasting the shade of nude. Our extended range seeks to solve this problem.”

Heist Studios
Heist Studios

The new range will be available to purchase from July 30 in the UK market in sizes ranging 4 to 14, while an extended sizing range from 16 to 24 will be released in October.

By launching the range in a wider variety of both shades and sizing, Heist continues to make strides towards inclusivity and diversity, which have been at the core of its DNA since inception. Additionally, reflecting its consumers’ voices in both product and advertising allows the brand to remain a strongly authentic voice in the market.

The strategy has allowed the UK-based company to quickly position itself as a true disruptor in both direct-to-consumer retail and the hosiery category itself, as CEO Toby Darbyshire told us on TheCurrent Innovators podcast in April.