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business Editor's pick Retail sustainability technology

The greater need for transparency: 7 brands regaining consumer trust

Sustainability has been a major talking point for the fashion industry over the past couple of years. In this year’s State of Fashion report, radical transparency was highlighted as one of the major trends retailers should be implementing. But following rising concerns of greenwashing, from misleading PR-led campaigns to the increase of fake news, consumer trust is at an all-time low and brands are having to work harder to prove their authenticity in the matter.

The Gen Z generation is particularly pushing for this change, with 90% believing companies should take responsibility to address environmental and social issues. Meanwhile almost three-quarters of Millennials are willing to pay a premium for sustainable products, demonstrating how there is tangible value in transparent produce. In order to regain their consumers’ trust, brands must therefore be explicitly open with information regarding data protection and how sustainable their supply chains truly are.

Technology is playing a major role in helping promote transparency, from blockchain helping shed light on the supply chain, to holistic e-commerce interactions. Here, we highlight some of our favorite examples of brands disrupting the space by going that extra mile in regards to transparency:

Patagonia
Patagonia: The Footprint Chronicles

Patagonia is one of the pioneering brands when it comes to sustainability, fully disclosing its textile mills, factories and farms through its website. The ‘footprint chronicles’ is a visual map showing information about the supply chain including the numbers of workers, gender mix and items produced there. Patagonia was the first outdoor brand to be certified to the Advanced Global Traceable Down Standard for maintaining excellent animal welfare standards for birds. 

As a result of its ongoing efforts, Patagonia was identified as one of the leading brands on Fashion Revolution’s most recent Transparency Index, receiving a score of 64%. 

Nestle
Nestle trialing blockchain

Nestle is the first major food and beverage company to utilize the use of blockchain technology, allowing consumers to trace the origin of their food. The company is aiming to eventually reach full supply chain transparency, with this move shedding light on 95% of its annual sourcing of raw materials. 

Products will have a QR barcode that when scanned, provides consumers with Tier 1 information on product, such as harvest date, farm location, packing date, as well as information on how to prepare it. To determine the feasibility and viability of the technology, an initial pilot scheme testing the traceability of milk will be created first, with plans to expand into palm oil production.

Walmart
Walmart beef supply chain

As it stands, only 33% of consumers trust the food system. Following the Tesco horsemeat scandal in 2013, consumers have become increasingly skeptical of where their food has come from, particularly when it comes to meat produce. In the US, Walmart is addressing this by developing the first beef supply chain. The system, which took 2 years to develop, follows a previous blockchain pilot on lettuce and spinach, which aimed to reduce contamination rates, following an increase in vegetable-related illnesses.

H&M
H&M product transparency

In the UK, retailers are only required to disclose where the garment was made, but this year to increase its transparency, H&M made the decision to go one step further by sharing specific details about their individual suppliers. Consumers can now access information on the production country, supplier name, factory name, and even the number of employees in that factory. H&M is setting the bar in the industry by allowing consumers to make informed decisions when purchasing, helping them to shop responsibly. 

For H&M’s sister brand Arket, sustainability has been a primary consideration from its inception. Beyond showcasing suppliers, the brand also aims to design long-lasting garments, while informing its customers on how to care for them and prolong their lifespan.

Volition
Volition’s clean products

Volition is democratizing the beauty industry with products designed from crowdsourced ideas that are voted by the general public before making it into production. The brand uses scientific ingredients to deliver safe and effective products, from skincare to bath and body. Volition gives all of its products the ‘safe science’ seal of approval, catering to the 42% of consumers who feel they do not get enough information on ingredient safety. 

Following consumers request of non-toxic but highly effective products, Volition’s experts created a blacklist of harmful ingredients, giving consumers peace of mind about what they are putting onto their skin.

Selfridges
Selfridges Buy Better Campaign

Department store Selfridges is doubling down on its Buying Better labels, which aim to aid consumers in their purchasing choices.  The labels highlight sustainable product attributes, such as vegan, forest-friendly or supporting communities. The labels are part of the retailer’s commitment to ensure that 50% of its products are better for people and the planet by 2022. Currently, over 3000 products across homeware, fashion and beauty feature the labels, helping guide consumers away from the disposable, fast fashion mindset.

Drunk Elephant
Drunk Elephants holistic products

Skincare brand Drunk Elephant may be new to the market, having launched in 2014, but it is already catching both the eye of consumers and major beauty conglomerates alike. Consumers have gone wild for its transparent, no-nonsense approach to skincare. The products are based on biocompatibility, and use clinically-effective natural ingredients. Each product listed on its website has a detailed breakdown of all the ingredients and their purposes, creating a holistic user-friendly experience. 72% of consumers want brands to explain the purpose of ingredients and Drunk Elephant is leading the with their holistic product breakdowns. 

As a result of this education-led approach, and its popularity with younger consumers, the brand has recently been acquired by Japanese giant Shiseido for $845million.

How are you thinking about sustainability? 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 Campaigns Editor's pick product Retail social media technology

5 brands tapping virtual storefronts to drive engagement and push conversion.

Brands are using virtual experiences in physical locations to provide shoppers with the benefit of an interactive in-person experience without needing to carry inventory.

These “invisible” or virtual storefronts – usually in the form of augmented reality content visible via smartphones – are being used to drive sales, collect data and boost branding efforts. At a time when physical retail is struggling, such mobile initiatives aren’t just eye-catching, they’re more convenient by providing curated products that can then be delivered on demand. 

To date, we’ve seen brands doing everything from collaborating with artists and social media platforms to creating personalized assortments using such virtual setups. Shoppability is key. Here’s a highlight of some of the more recent success stories…

Havaianas
Havaianas’s boardwalk virtual store

Early this summer, footwear brand Havaianas launched a virtual storefront focused on driving sales for one day only. Located on the Venice Beach boardwalk in Los Angeles, shoppers passing by a colorful mural discovered it was actually a virtual pop-up store. Snapping a photo of the designs they liked directed them to a shoppable microsite at  StepIntoSummer.com, revealing a curated style guide with various tips on what to buy. 

The concept was powered by Google’s Cloud Vision AI platform, which helped Havaianas pair merchandise with colors from the mural – a big step up from QR codes. The brand collaborated with street artist Buff Monster on the mural and featured fashion tips from stylist Tara Swennen.

Lego
Lego’s augmented reality store

To promote its first limited-edition clothing line for adults, Lego opened a pop-up shop with a twist in February: the store was entirely empty. Shoppers in London’s Soho neighbourhood arrived to find a Snapcode (a QR code for Snapchat) displayed on a pedestal. Scanning the code with their phones then surrounded them with a virtual storefront in AR. 

Customers could choose between three different types of merchandise – sweatshirts, caps and t-shirts – and view them on a Lego character. The pieces then sold through an integrated “Shop Now” feature on Snapchat, which led shoppers through to a dedicated e-commerce page that displayed the products on a real-life model, enabling them to choose their size before completing purchase.

Macy’s
Macy’s Santa Monica Pier displays

Macy’s partnered with Pinterest to display scannable Pincodes at vibrant gathering spots in the US, such as Central Park in New York and the Santa Monica Pier in LA. Scanning a code took shoppers to a Pinterest board curated with ideal summer looks for their location with links to the online store. 

Unlike most immersive retail experiences that are fixed to a specific location, or indeed online only, this campaign was designed to inspire customers with virtual catalogs that meet them where they are. 

Nike
The Nike Air Jordan III “Tinker” sold out on Snapchat

Nike is another that has been experimenting with the idea of using specific virtual spaces to release new products. In 2018 it also used Snapchat, this time to release its Air Jordan III “Tinker” for those in attendance at the NBA All-Star after-party only.

 Achieved via a partnership between Nike, Snap, Darkstore and Shopify, users could scan exclusive Snap codes to buy and receive the shoes by 10:30pm that same night. All of them sold out within 23 minutes.

Outdoor Voices
Outdoor Voices augmented reality experience

Austin-based activewear brand Outdoor Voices launched an augmented reality app experience at SXSW in 2018 that encouraged fans to get outdoors to find particular virtual products in the middle of the park. Once discovered, users could explore them in 360-degrees, find out more information as well as click to purchase.

How are you thinking about new technology? 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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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 Editor's pick Retail technology

5 brands using gamification to drive shopping

Nike Reactland

The global gaming market is experiencing rapid growth, with an estimated valuation of $180bn expected by 2021, according to Newzoo. 

It is currently dominated by titles such as Fortnite, a free multiplayer game with 250 million users and $2.5m in daily revenue. Streaming platform Twitch, which accounts for 54% of gaming video content revenue, has also been highly successful due to its interactive network of both players and spectators. 

Though relatively limited, fashion brands and retailers have been experimenting through collaborations or campaigns that nod to such popular references. Louis Vuitton had a campaign featuring Final Fantasy XIII’s character, Lightning, as the new face of its SS16 collection for instance. More recently, Moschino launched a new collection with Sims, featuring garments with Sims motifs. A virtual hoodie was also released so players could dress their avatars in designer clothing in the game itself. 

What’s becoming more interesting however, is the number of brands turning to “gamification” rather. This refers to “the integration of game mechanics into an internal business process, website, or marketing campaign”. It’s a market that was valued at $6.8bn in 2018 and is estimated to rise to $40bn by 2024, according to market research firm Reportlinker. 

Its growth has been driven by increased demand for new customer experiences, as well as broader access to smartphone devices. And its success has meant brands and retailers are increasingly jumping in on the action in a bid to use ‘play’ as a way to encourage shopping. 

From driving discovery and engagement, to building brand advocacy and loyalty, here are five examples of those using gamification as part of the shopping journey. 

Kenzo: Building exclusivity through gaming

Kenzo Shopping League game
Kenzo Shopping League game

French luxury brand Kenzo launched a gamified e-shopping experience last year to promote the release of its new Sonic sneaker. Restricted to just a limited number of players, the aim of the initiative was to highlight the exclusiveness of the product. Getting a turn at playing was not only difficult in the first instance, but once in the game, users had to virtually defeat other opponents in an effort to then get access to buy one of the 100 exclusive pairs of sneakers. The campaign challenged consumers and added excitement to the shopping journey for those lucky enough to even get the chance to hit the purchase stage. 

Nike: Enabling user-testing through role play

Nike Reactland game
Nike Reactland game

Nike released a virtual environment called Reactland in Shanghai last year for the launch of its ‘React’ shoe. The game allowed users to test the shoe’s new sole cushioning technology in a unique digital environment. Customers could wear the shoes and run on a treadmill that was connected to a digital character on screen. This enabled them to thoroughly test the product’s durability by virtually climbing buildings and running through simulated streets. The game fueled consumer confidence in the product, leading to 48% of the players purchasing it.

Coca-Cola: Driving sales via virtual incentives

Coca-Cola incentive game
Coca-Cola incentive game

Coca-Cola created a supermarket game in Beijing and Singapore to catch consumers’ attention at the point of purchase in-store. Shoppers could connect to their mobile to the drag-and-shoot game, which involved successfully throwing virtual ice cubes into a glass of coke. Successful completion of the game resulted in prizes such as Coca-Cola discounts or loyalty points. The brand successfully targeted consumers at the moment of intent, and influenced them to pick Coca-Cola over competitors. 

Repeller: Bringing play to e-commerce

Repeller 'Play' website
Repeller ‘Play’ website

Popular fashion blog, Man Repeller, recently launched a new e-commerce website called ‘Repeller’, which utilizes gamification in order to enable consumers to shop in a discoverable way. The website is divided into two sections: a normal shopping site and a play side. The play side is an amalgamation of aesthetic imagery and quirky videos, reminiscent of video gaming user interfaces, but this time embedded with directly shoppable products, including handbags, earrings and sunglasses. The somewhat wacky website is being pushed as an opportunity to drive discovery and encourage users to spend more dwell time on the site.

Lancôme: Pushing awareness through scavenger hunts

Lancôme pop-up store
Lancôme pop-up store

Beauty brand Lancôme teamed up with Alibaba to create an augmented reality game in Hong Kong, along with a pop-up store, to celebrate Chinese New Year this year. The app featured an AR scavenger hunt where consumers could win limited edition products and gifts by finding and scanning Lancome’s signature beauty product, Genifiques. If they captured three pictures on the hunt, they were then able to wish for any Lancôme product they desired through the app, and be in with a chance of winning it. The game successfully drove awareness of the brand through consumer generated content and brought excitement during a key time of year in the region.

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 Campaigns Editor's pick sustainability

In-depth: The big takeaways from Cannes Lions 2018

Cannes Lions 2018
Cannes Lions 2018

Pivotal societal movements from gender equality and diversity to environmental sustainability, have been a part of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity for many years, but there was a greater sense of urgency and action tied to their delivery for 2018.

Beyond the talk

It’s all too easy to step on stage – onto the influential platform that Cannes Lions represents – and talk about a need for change. A need for the industry to be more inclusive, to represent women in positive roles or to bring about a sense of brand purpose that will shift mindsets across consumer groups at large. But it’s another thing altogether to really put that into action.

In a panel focused on female empowerment, Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer at Procter & Gamble, said the reason we’re still talking about the same old things is because of the fact progress is frustratingly slow. In a recent review of 40,000 ads, for instance, 29% negatively or inaccurately portrayed women in some way due to objectification, stereotyping or some kind of diminished role.

The landscape is changing, he said, but not fast enough. “There are some good examples, and we should feel good about that, but we know it’s not enough. I am optimistic however. We are getting close to that tipping point. The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements changed the narrative forever. So let’s double down, and come together to be agents of change to achieve gender equality in the creative world.”

What’s key to driving this, he said, is seeing equality behind the camera, and throughout the entire creative pipeline. We can’t expect equality in the creative output until we have equality in the creative input, he explained.

Pritchard further highlighted that getting this right is also impactful on business results. Gender equal ads perform 10% better in trust and equity ratings, and 26% higher in terms of sales growth, he noted.

Beyond the trend

Driving change or action was also applied to the diversity conversation this year. Much like with gender equality, the focus here was on getting to the point of not needing to discuss it as a key subject at such an event anymore.

Said Edward Enninful, British Vogue’s editor-in-chief: “For the future, I want to see the marginalized, normalized… I don’t think we’re doing enough, but we’re all here doing our best. It will never be done until we’re not having this conversation anymore, until we’re not talking about diversity.”

Supermodel Naomi Campbell suggested that we’re currently at crunch time as to whether this diversity “trend” has sticking power. It’s got to be more than just a hot topic, she noted.

In an interview that dove into how she spent her early career being paid significantly less than her white counterparts, she explained: “I’m giving diversity another six months to see if it’s a trend, or something that’s here to stay and really change.”

Beyond purpose

Indeed, when something is deemed merely a trend, there’s also risk for brands of being perceived as jumping on the bandwagon should there not be authenticity in their approach. Having “brand purpose” or brands that “stand for something” are fellow trendy phrases, but it’s only through longstanding values that any such focus can ever ring true, speakers agreed.

The current era is a battle for truth, which is what’s placing trust at an all-time low for consumers, explained Richard Edelman, president and CEO of Edelman, which publishes the annual Trust Barometer. “The idea for big brands has to be how do we become part of this ecosystem pushing change? Beyond the idea of purpose is the notion that somehow we’re relevant, and pushing for better,” he commented.

Patagonia hit the stage with an exploration of its ongoing focus on the environment and active support of a better planet, on that note. That wasn’t something that happened overnight however, but a program of belief in the company established over a 20-year period, the brand’s European marketing director, Alex Weller, explained.

What’s key right now, he said however, is that consumers want to take action themselves. “In what increasingly feels like a stormy world, people are looking for hope. They’re looking for it in grassroots organizations, and increasingly in brands…. People are asking what can I do, how can I help, how can I take action.”

What the team realized was that if it really wanted to scale the movement, it needed to get out of the way a bit. “That bottleneck was us,” Weller said. The Patagonia Action Works platform, a microsite intended to facilitate interactions between like-minded activists, was the resulting initiative. “The end goal is that we and our community get to participate in things we care about to actually take action. To go from giving a shit to actually doing something,” he explained.

Once again, proof lies in the pudding. Weller explained that Patagonia has been growing at between 15-20% year-on-year. “We believe there is correlation between our movement building and our commercial performance. And the more direct correlation is, that the more we grow, the more we can do,” he noted.

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e-commerce Editor's pick Podcast Retail

How Walmart creates growth with design

Liz Bacelar and Dan Makoski, Walmart
Liz Bacelar and Dan Makoski

Design is all about helping shoppers live better lives, says Dan Makoski, vice president of design at Walmart, on the latest episode of TheCurrent Innovators podcast.

Speaking to Liz Bacelar, founder of TheCurrent, during a live recording hosted by MouthMedia Network at Spring Place in New York, he explains how the enormous e-commerce redesign he has spearheaded for the world’s largest retailer, all came down to this focus on elevating the shopping experience for the changing customer of today.

“Design is best when it serves people. And all people need great design and that’s why I am excited to experiment with Walmart, which is this everyday brand, and see how design can make a difference,” he explains.

This intention to emotionally connect with the consumer through design came from the top, Makoski notes. The permission he was given to think about people’s hearts from the CEO, was a big leap for a commercial business of this size, he adds. But it’s that style of leadership, coupled with the smart investments the organization has been making in other e-commerce businesses, that is keeping it competitive with, and still more than three times the size of Amazon, in overall revenue.

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

That’s not to say the company doesn’t still have a lot to do, however. Its online sales alone are less than a tenth of what Amazon makes ($118.57 billion vs. $11.5 billion respectively in 2017), making this redesign part of a big strategy to drive growth.

When Walmart bought Jet.com a couple of years ago, Makoski explains, there was a sense of courage and of charting new territory in the e-commerce space. The aim has to been to channel that focus on innovation through the design of the new website to create something for both the shopper and the business, to ultimately add value to each.

Dan Makoski“The conversation at Walmart has not been, let’s change ourselves. The conversation has been, we are the world’s largest company, we are the Fortune number one, our retail footprint is 1.5x the size of Manhattan. And, our customer base is not monolithic; it’s not just one type of shopper, so let’s bring in Jet.com, ModCloth, Bonobos, and let’s create a redesign of Walmart that now allows us to [have] a wider conversation,” he comments.

During the episode, Makoski also dives into the power of thinking about human language, how the retail giant is continuing to compete with Amazon, and just how his work assists large corporations to think about innovation in new ways.

Catch up with all of our episodes of TheCurrent Innovators here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by TheCurrent, 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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product

Glow Recipe encourages fans to sheet mask in public with latest innovation

Glow Recipe - Watermelon Glow Sheet Mask
Glow Recipe – Watermelon Glow Sheet Mask

K-beauty brand Glow Recipe is aiming to help its fans keep up their beauty routines even when on-the-go with the introduction of a transparent sheet mask.

The launch is accompanied by a social media campaign that encourages consumers to ‘break boundaries’ when it comes to their skincare rituals by doing face masks in public and using the #maskseverywhere and #youjelly hashtags.

The mask is an extension of the brand’s popular Watermelon Glow formulation, whose original product, the Watermelon Glow Sleep Mask, propelled the brand into cult status. The cosmetics brand worked with a lab in Korea to ‘gelify’ watermelon extract that gives the product the transparent texture that helps lock-in moisture and looks almost imperceptible on the skin.

Co-founders and co-CEOs Christine Chang and Sarah Lee said to online publication Fashionista: “We know that not all our customers can be as shameless to sheet mask in the back of an Uber, so we wanted to create a beautiful, selfie-ready invisible sheet mask that provides the effects of ‘glass skin,’ which hopefully sparks this movement of sheet masking whenever you need that quick skin-fix, even if you’re en route to a first date.”

They explain that their hope is for the new product to allow more people to take the leap and self-care in public.


Beauty brands are often at the forefront of creating innovations that respond to new consumer mindsets and demands around convenience and efficacy. The industry is particularly making strides in developing products that adapt to a busy woman’s lifestyle and their need for on-the-go formats that don’t compromise on results.

For more on how the beauty industry is listening closely to its consumers and driving meaningful innovation accordingly, listen to our latest episode of TheCurrent Innovators podcast with beauty device brand Foreo’s CEO, Paul Peros.

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Editor's pick technology

The innovation mullet: How Levi’s looks at sophisticated tech to simplify shopping

Levi's president James JC Curleigh speaking at NRF’s Big Show in New York this week
Levi’s president James JC Curleigh speaking at NRF’s Big Show in New York this week

Levi’s thinks about a balance between simplicity and sophistication as the key to relevancy in today’s market, according to the brand’s president James JC Curleigh, who opened NRF’s Big Show in New York this week.

He referenced the idea of the 1980s mullet haircut as to how this should be seen by consumers. “What did it say? Business in the front, party in the back. Well, the new brand and business mullet should be simple in the front, sophisticated in the back. The best brands on earth, the most powerful brands on earth, have found a way to deliver simplicity on the front side through a very sophisticated platform on the back side,” he explained.

“In today’s world, there are more choices, more angst points, more obstacle courses than ever before for our fans. We make jeans, and products you wear with your jeans. Let’s be simple. In a world of difficult decisions, picking out your favourite pair of jeans should not be one of them. We need to put you on a simplified course to make sure we can either keep you in Levi’s or introduce you to Levi’s in a simple way.”

To do this, modern organisations have to take a level of sophistication in the supply chain and in how they show up at retail, he said. The most relevant future innovation platforms are ones that consumers don’t see; they’re powered by partners interested in managing big data, artificial intelligence, RFID and productivity solutions. But ultimately what that’s about is a better experience for shoppers than ever before.

“We have a basic fundamental promise to our fan, to our consumer, that we can meet and exceed their expectations. It’s expected to have points of distribution – that the product is actually there, that their size is available and that they can navigate to the fit that is right for them. There are lots of modern ways through technology and innovation, and tried and tested ways through relationship and service to do this in the moment of truth. Delivering the expected has never been more important than it is today,” he noted.

He also nodded to the importance of turning moments into momentum, referring to the laws of Sir Isaac Newton, which infers that retailers at rest will stay at rest.

Referencing CEO Chip Bergh, he said Levi’s wants to always keep one foot rooted in the heritage of the past in order to remember where they came from, and one foot confidently in the future, to keep driving the brand forward.

To really achieve this momentum, he nodded to the idea of protecting the core and expanding for more. “Our vision for the Levi’s brand is to be the most relevant, most loved, lifestyle brand again,” he said. He talked about moving beyond jeans to various other lifestyle solutions, like the Commuter Jacket, its wearable tech offering in partnership with Google’s Project Jacquard team, which Curleigh demonstrated as he arrived on stage riding a bike.

He also referenced other key platforms introduced in the last five years on behalf of its fans, including the Levi’s stadium and the Levi’s music lounge.

“[We] started to look at the whole lifestyle brand we wanted to create for two reasons: first to keep inspiring the fans that never left us, and second to re-inspire those who never stopped loving us, but have left for other brands. We want them to come back,” he explained.

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product sustainability

Will sustainable fashion crack China’s luxury market in 2018?

sustainable fashion china - tortoise & lady grey
Photo courtesy: tortoise & lady grey

Sustainable fashion became something of a mantra in the luxury fashion world this year. With Gucci announcing its fur-free plan for 2018, fashion brands in Mainland China and Hong Kong are also setting up their own sustainable fashion initiatives, but do Chinese consumers care?


Reclothing Bank (?????)

Zhang Na (??), an advocate for sustainable fashion in China, is the founder of Reclothing Bank. She began her fashion career after moving to Shanghai in 2004 and founded her first fashion brand, Fake Natoo, in 2008. Two years later, she created another new brand called “Reclothing Bank,” embarking on a journey into the sustainable fashion world.

Similar to the Los Angeles-based fashion brand Reformation, Reclothing Bank is a lifestyle brand that considers sustainability across the supply chain. What makes it different, however, is that Reclothing outfits are made from second-hand clothes.

“Our sales figures were poor at first because Chinese people generally don’t want used clothes,” Zhang said in an interview with Business of Fashion (Chinese version). Therefore, she had to reconsider the marketing strategy, redesign the used clothes, and describe them instead as “sustainable fashion (????????),” she said.

During Shanghai Fashion Week in October, Reclothing Bank debuted its 2017 collection, General Rejoicing (??). Reclothing Bank’s mission goes beyond “just recycling second-hand clothes”, Zhang said. “I would like to take this opportunity to remind people to stand in awe to nature.”


BYT

Another trailblazer in the sustainable fashion industry is the Hong Kong-based BYT, which uses leftover fabrics from luxury brands to create beautiful, trendy outfits. BYT made its debut at the EcoChic Design Award competition in Hong Kong in September.

BYT is co-founded by Christina Dean and Michelle Bang, who are both advocates for waste reduction in the fashion world, having worked at the NGO Redress.

According to the Redress website: “BYT has ambitious plans for its sustainability pillars – including up-cycling fashion’s excess, working with those disenfranchised in the industry and with Asia’s top sustainable manufacturing facilities, so that collectively, BYT’s collections are using the most innovative and sustainable processes available with their trusted partners.”

While there is plenty of supply side enthusiasm for more sustainable fashion, there’s still some resistance to it becoming a big trend in China in 2018.


The second-hand stigma

The clothing industry is the second-largest polluter in the world after oil. On one hand, traditional textile production requires massive quantities of water, which are contaminated with wastes harmful to the soil when they are discharged. Given the imminent threat of climate change, it’s imperative that brands do better.

On the other hand, sustainable fashion costs more. A Reclothing Bank’s woman outfit price usually ranges between ¥1360 ($205) and ¥5960 ($900), while the average BYT outfit costs around 2,000 HKD ($255), neither of which is cheap.

Although brands such as Reclothing Bank and BYT are promoting sustainable fashion in China already, the full value of well-made, sustainable clothes is still a little abstract for most consumers. Why pay the same amount of money for a leftover, second-hand item when they could buy something brand-new for less?

There is a stigma against second-hand and upcycled items that is itself handed down from the previous generation, which endured decades of poverty.

Nonetheless, wearing sustainable fashion represents a new way of thinking — pursuing something simpler and more beneficial to everyone, not just the wearer, in the long run. As governments and global consumers demand more sustainable practices from industry, brands will need to convince Chinese consumers that it’s worth paying a little more for sustainable fashion. Luxury brands, with their greater attention to making quality, lasting clothes, are in a strong position to lead the charge.

By Huixin Deng

This article was originally published on Jing Daily, a Fashion & Mash content partner.

Categories
business e-commerce

Can JD.com’s new luxury site ‘Toplife’ beat Alibaba’s ‘Luxury Pavilion’?

Toplife's homepage, via JD.com
Toplife’s homepage, via JD.com

China’s second-largest e-commerce website JD has officially announced the launch of its first-ever luxury online platform, “Toplife”, according to a public announcement released by the firm on October 10. The new site is a full-price online shopping platform that allows international luxury labels to set up flagship stores selling products directly to affluent Chinese consumers.

Luxury labels including La Perla, Emporio Armani, Rimowa and Trussardi will be the first group of users on Toplife. More brands are expected to join the site in the coming weeks.

The development signals JD’s efforts to further compete with its key rival, Alibaba Group, to achieve a leading position in the country’s luxury market, a sector that Bain & Company expected to see growing around two to four percent to reach approximately $305 billion this year. In August, Alibaba inaugurated “Luxury Pavilion“, a new section within its business-to-consumer site Tmall for premium and luxury brands to connect with a pre-selected group of super-wealthy customers.

“Like Tmall’s Luxury Pavilion, JD.com’s Toplife creates a space separate from the e-tailer’s mass-market platform in order to provide the high-end online experience that luxury brands require,” said Liz Flora, editor of Asia-Pacific research at the New York-based digital intelligence firm L2.

JD’s Toplife and Alibaba’s Luxury Pavilion offer a great deal of similar service to luxury brands; both providing brands who work with them with additional offerings such as customer service, delivery, marketing and branding expertise.

Moreover, both platforms stress the need to connect online-to-offline (O2O) experience for luxury shoppers in China. Luxury Pavilion ultimately aims to test out Alibaba’s “New Retail” business model, which utilises new technology to create more customised and interactive shopping experiences for consumers.

Toplife, on the other hand, considered an O2O connection as an important step for JD’s luxury expansion going forward. Ding Xia, president of JD Fashion, told Jing Daily that “omnichannel solutions are definitely something we are experimenting with, especially for fashion where fit and look are so personal”.

“We are working on allowing consumers to order multiple pieces of clothing or accessories through our white glove service and keeping only the ones that are exactly what they want. That’s what a luxury experience needs to be, online-offline,” she added.

However, there are also remarkable differences between the two platforms of which luxury brands need to be aware.


Exclusivity or not

Alibaba’s Luxury Pavilion is an exclusive site to which wealthy consumers can only gain access if they are invited by Alibaba. Toplife is open to the public.

The sense of exclusivity created by Luxury Pavilion’s invitation-only mechanism seems to fit more with the spirit of luxury brands, who traditionally justify their premium pricing and top-notch image by offering an exclusive experience. Through inviting consumers who have demonstrated a certain level of purchasing power in the past, Alibaba helps luxury brands select customers they want.

When questioning if an open platform can fulfil the same need, Ding said: “Our unparalleled big data lets us identify those most likely to appreciate the offer and micro-target. JD has always attracted users focused on quality and service over price, so this is a natural fit for the high end of our user base.”


More autonomy and independence?

Compared to Alibaba, JD seems to give more autonomy to luxury brands. According to Ding, Toplife is a stand-alone luxury website that is separate from JD’s main e-commerce platform. Luxury Pavilion, on the other hand, is a sub-section of the Tmall site.

“Super luxury brands don’t want a small corner of an all-categories site, so we built Toplife as a stand-alone, truly luxury shopping experience,” said Ding. “Brands and consumers can see this is a totally different model that changes the game.”

In addition, JD emphasises that luxury brands have full control of how they want their flagship stores to appear.


Value-added logistics service

Luxury brands who work with JD’s Toplife can also use the company’s self-operated nationwide logistics network. Earlier this year, the e-commerce giant initiated a premium delivery service called “JD Luxury Express” to improve the overall shopping experience for their customers. Luxury shoppers from China’s major cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Chengdu will receive their online orders in less than 24 hours by delivery persons who wear suits and white gloves.

Speedy delivery service is believed to be much valued by Chinese online consumers no matter if they purchase luxury items or not.

Until now, the launch of Luxury Pavilion and Toplife by Alibaba and JD respectively indicates China’s top two e-commerce giants both have recognised one of their major obstacles expanding in the luxury arena, that is, the lack of fashion and luxury DNA as a mass-facing platform.

As L2’s Flora put it: “Tmall and JD.com have struggled to attract official partnerships with luxury brands due to perceived brand image incompatibility.”

According to L2’s Digital IQ Index: Luxury China 2017, only 24% of luxury brands had official stores on Tmall and only 10% operated them on JD.com as of June 2017.

By Yiling Pan @SiennaPan

This article was originally published on Jing Daily, a Fashion & Mash content partner.