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Editor's pick product sustainability

Sustainable packaging: The refill market opportunity everyone is missing

UK supermarket Waitrose recently announced a trial in one of its stores for refillable products. 46 items in total, including detergent, washing-up liquid, cereal, pasta and more, are being tested – inviting consumers to bring in their own containers for replenishment rather than buying yet more plastic packaging. 

According to Greenpeace, the top 10 UK supermarkets produce 810,000 tons of throwaway or single-use packaging every year. The initiative at Waitrose therefore also sees all produce involved offered at up to 15% cheaper, incentivizing shoppers to do this and buy more sustainably as a result. 

The first thing it brought to mind for me, is why doesn’t this already exist? 

As a consumer, it’s increasingly frustrating to run out of shampoo, detergent, cleaning products, even moisturizer, and have no option but to throw the bottles or containers away (or in some instances put them out in the recycling in the vain hope their second life becomes a reality). I, for one, would love to be able to take all of such items with me next time I pop in store and top them up again instead. And don’t get me started on miniature travel items. 

I’ve talked to dozens of other people about this subject however, and the responses have always hung somewhere between a concerted yes on wanting to do it and a feeling that it takes a lot of effort to actually carry it out. 

Consumers are lazy, we know that. 

Yet many of us now take our ‘Bags-for-Life’ with us every time we shop – popping them in the back of the car or in our handbags when we’re out and about so we don’t get caught without one and need to purchase a new plastic disposable carrier instead. 

The barrier for these refill uptakes should not be that much bigger. It’s an achievable consumer behavior shift. 

The scheme to reduce plastic bag usage in the UK is evidence. It has seen over 15 billion being saved from going into landfill since it was introduced nearly four years ago. That stat is particularly significant when you think about the fact these items can take around 500 years to breakdown. It’s the same for plastic bottles. 

What’s more, since then, we as consumers have been increasingly exposed to numbers like the 28,000 tons of single-use plastic disposed into our oceans every day. Or that by 2050, there’s expected to be more plastic in the sea than fish. Whether verified in their entirety or otherwise, such insights have spurred us into action beyond just reducing plastic bags – resulting in adopting various other habits including reusable drinks bottles, keep cups, paper rather than plastic straws and more.

The fact supermarkets like Waitrose – and others – are exploring the opportunity (or necessity) here to look at such shifts within food and household goods packaging more broadly, seems a natural one as a result. 

The other way to look at it is through the emerging brands and startups stepping into the space. 

Loop is a new initiative from waste management company, TerraCycle, announced at the World Economic Forum in Davos this year, for instance. It is being supported and trialled by major businesses including Unilever and Procter & Gamble. It enables shoppers to purchase regular goods in new durable packaging that is collected, cleaned, refilled and reused. This is not about the consumer refilling it themselves, but the company doing it on their behalf.  

Eco-friendly household product brand, Ecover, by comparison, which is owned by SC Johnson, has introduced bottles that can be used more than 50 times directly by consumers. It has refill stations across the UK for products including washing up liquid, hand soap, laundry detergent and all-purpose cleaners. The company calls the initiative a “Refillution” and says it’s been experiencing higher demand than ever before over the past year. It is one of the companies trialling with Waitrose. 

Other examples are being experimented within the beauty and cosmetics market, which accounts for around 120 billion units of packaging each year, according to retailer Lush. 

Lush itself is constantly innovating so as to introduce products that come without any packaging at all, but also has things like a zero-waste lipstick that it announced at the end of 2018. These are refills that can be placed into any other lipstick container the consumer already has at home, or bought with a recycled case from Lush to be used over and over again. 

British health and beauty retailer Boots meanwhile, recently opened a new wellness concept store in London that includes refillable skincare products from eco brand Beauty Kitchen.

And skincare brand Olay has just announced it will trial a sale of refill pods for its Regenerist Whip moisturizer from October 2019. Those pods fit into existing jars, saving consumers from needing to get a new one each time they run out of the product. The team estimates one million lbs of plastic saved if five million jars worth are refilled instead. The pods themselves are also recyclable. 

The Olay test will run for three months with the aim of then evaluating learnings to inform future packaging. “It’s really important for us to get it right because only then can we bring this concept to market at scale,” said Anitra Marsh, associate director of sustainability and brand communications for skin and personal care at Olay’s parent company, P&G.

And test and learn is clearly the stage we are at here. There are inevitably many barriers for adoption in a broader sense beyond assumed consumer apathy. The logistics of pulling many of these initiatives off are notable, but so too are concerns around things like hygiene, which is particularly pertinent when it comes to skincare or beauty – hence the pods from Olay rather than a mass refill station that is more possible with the cleaning products of Ecover. 

Much of this was noted in a report by WRAP over 10 years ago – highlighting other things like contamination of product, no easy mechanism of transferring the ‘use by’ date on the packs, the stackability of bulk refills in store or at home, and more. Arguably, all of that still stands, which is why there hasn’t been huge uptake in this space, and is what makes this such an interesting discussion. 

All roads point to huge opportunity and need for evolution, and yet so little has actually yet happened. Frankly, disruption here is needed, and as with successful movements linked to sustainability and the circular economy in other sectors (the resell market, the sharing economy and more), there is a growing business case to do so as a result. 

Right now, brands are largely jumping on a marketing opportunity and benefitting from the halo effect that surrounds reducing single-use plastic consumption. In doing so, there’s a dodge of responsibility occuring. 

Which brings us to a need for regulation in this space to force companies to adhere (something that is being looked at more broadly in the UK for single-use plastic, as this legislation dates back to 1997). It wasn’t until this came in for plastic bags that it actually made a difference to the landscape. The ability for change to really happen often needs a good shove in the right direction. 

That coupled with innovation is what will move this space forward. Our company, Current Global, is one built on solving challenges, and strictly speaking there’s very little here that doesn’t have a solution in front of it waiting to happen. 

The question then is who is going to be the first to truly do it, and at scale, in terms of grabbing the enormous market opportunity it presents. Now is the time.

How are you thinking about new packaging 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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Campaigns product Retail technology

Nars launches immersive ‘playground’ pop-up in London

Nars Cosmetic celebrated the 20th birthday of its iconic “orgasm” products with an interactive pop-up experience in London this weekend meant to evoke female pleasure in a fun playground environment.

Dubbed ‘The O by Nars’, the pop-up featured five pink rooms, each of which tapped into a different sense – touch, smell, sound, taste and sight. The result connected to the idea of pleasure in a subtle and somewhat abstract manner.

The Taste Me Room, which contained candy floss and edible bubbles, and the Touch Me Room, which featured 120 latex spheres, were most directly linked to their relative sense, while other rooms were less so. The See Me Room, for instance, featured a merry-go-round, while the Smell Me Room hosted indoor swings and clouds. The Hear Me Room meanwhile contained a content orb.

Nars’ ‘See Me Room’ featured a merry-go round

The cosmetics brand also engaged technology to enable customers to capture and share their experiences via social media. When entering the experience, visitors were given an RFID (radio-frequency identification) key-card, which could be activated by touching a specific area. It then captured images and videos of participants, which were sent via email to users.

This is not the first time Nars has created an immersive pop-up experience. Previously, in September 2018, the make-up brand launched its House of Climax pop-up in New York, which supported the launch of a new mascara.

“We drew from our key learnings and successes surrounding the ‘House of Climax’,” Barbara Calcagni, president of Nars Cosmetics and Shiseido’s Makeup Center of Excellence told Glossy. “Among the most compelling learnings [was that] each guest was spending, on average, nearly 30 minutes within the experience, which was more than we had expected. Knowing our consumers’ appetites, we wanted to further expand and deepen the consumer journey.”

Like its previous pop-up experience, “The O by Nars” pop-up was ticketed, but free of charge. The focus was to immerse customers in the brand’s identity, rather than push product sales. On this occasion, the event also allowed customers to purchase a blush at the end.

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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Retail technology

MAC targets Chinese Gen Z with interactive store concept

 

MAC Cosmetics is targeting Gen Z consumers in Shanghai, China with the Experience Center, an interactive store that aims to bridge the gap between physical and digital with a host of interactive experiences.

According to the Estée Lauder-owned brand, the store is a result of six months of consumer behavior research into the MAC consumer, including cognitive walkthroughs, focus groups and exit interviews with customers. Results then helped shape the design and experience of the store, including all tech elements that give visitors a more personalized experience.

For example at the store’s entrance, stationary digital screens invite customers to scan their phones to check into MAC’s WeChat mini-program. The program then triggers a variety of functions during the experience, such as instant checkout and product pick up.

Meanwhile in the lipstick section, a smart mirror enables customers to virtually try on 18 different shades in under 30 seconds through augmented reality. Customers can also choose from six eye shadow palettes and customize it to their tastes through the WeChat platform, which is then 3D printed for them. Lastly, an infrared touchscreen interface can scan a shopper’s face and recommend a foundation shade.

Beauty companies are leading the conversation in creating retail concepts where tech plays a major role in allowing consumers an increasingly personalized experience. Last year, brands from Bourjois to CoverGirl unveiled concepts where the try-on experience was further enhanced by tech fixtures, while Sephora often experiments with such features in its many store concepts across the globe.

How are you thinking about retail 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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Campaigns social media

Dove teams up with Kelly Rowland to release song encouraging young girls to love their hair

Personal care brand Dove has teamed up with singer Kelly Rowland to co-write a song aiming to empower young girls to love their hair. Titled “Crown”, the song is part of Dove’s ongoing Self-Esteem Project, which has reached 29m people since launching in 2004.

“I felt many of the pressures young girls face today when it comes to embracing their hair, but my mom would always tell me that your hair is your crowning glory and you should wear it proudly,” says the singer.

A music video shows the singer accompanied by a diverse cast of young girls, who share their individual stories of how they have been made to feel self-conscious about their hair. Stories include those of 11-year olds Tyrelle Davis and Faith Fennidy, who were sent home from their school for wearing hair extensions. Jorja Orrick, meanwhile, was once bullied for cutting her hair short, which spurred her sister Sarah to do the same in solidarity.

The campaign was created after research conducted by Dove showed that although 65% of young girls see hair as part of their self-expression, almost 50% said it could make them feel self-conscious as well. Furthermore, 71% of respondents cited music as an influential factor in their lives, which prompted the brand to create the empowering tune.

“Dove wants all young girls, and women, to have the confidence to wear their hair anyway they choose, and to see their hair as a source of confidence, not anxiety,” said Piyush Jain, Unilever VP of marketing and general manager of hair care.

To further promote the campaign, Rowland and the Self-Esteem Project will create a workshop at a local Boys & Girls Club of America (BGCA) in New Jersey. The organization offers children and teens after-school programs where they can learn new skills.

How are you thinking about your brand messaging? 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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Campaigns social media Uncategorized

Olay celebrates unique personality traits with real women

Face Anything, Olay, Female Empowerment
Olay’s “Face Anything”

Skin care brand Olay has launched “Face Anything”, a campaign that encourages female empowerment by celebrating unique personality traits.

The campaign, launched across print and video, features nine inspiring women sharing personal stories of how they face criticism for being ‘too much’ of something, such as too emotional, or too confident, and how they embrace their uniqueness.

The cast includes Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman, comedian and YouTube star Lilly Singh and fashion model Jillian Mercado, who suffers from spastic muscular dystrophy and has become a voice for diversity in the industry.

The campaign is powered by a dedicated microsite that further highlights their cast’s individualities, as well as an influencer campaign that will run on Instagram for 28 days. For the social media element, a cast of influencers have been tasked with documenting themselves using a curated collection of Olay products for the campaign period.

At the end of the programme, the influencers will be invited to join some of the cast on a New York Fashion Week runway. To underscore the authenticity principle of the brand, the influencers will not be wearing any make-up.

The campaign was developed after Olay commissioned a survey that revealed that 54% of women prefer a “natural look”, while 84% said that social media images pressure them into conforming to beauty standards.

Olay is not the first cosmetic company to embrace authenticity, with body care giant Dove, for instance, having championed this mindset throughout its communications for over ten years – such as most recently introducing a tool to identify any image that is digitally enhanced.

The fact that increasingly beauty and skin care brands are choosing to feature real women – flaws and all – to speak to their customer base is a huge indication that this is no longer a trend, but rather a shift in mentality that has been a long time coming.

Are you thinking innovatively enough in your brand messaging? 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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e-commerce Editor's pick social media Startups technology

Augmented reality bot brings virtual lipstick try-on to Facebook Messenger

Modiface_ augmented reality bot
The new Modiface AR chatbot on Facebook Messenger

Chatbots in the fashion and beauty space are increasingly commonplace thanks to the launch of simple bot tools on the likes of Facebook Messenger and Kik. But how about one that not only has a conversation with you about what to purchase, but can show you what said item looks like on you in real-time too?

Modiface, an augmented reality (AR) company serving the beauty industry with custom try-on apps, has integrated its simulation technology into a conversational beauty advisor on Facebook Messenger.

The AR bot enables users to discover lipsticks specifically at this stage, providing them with the ability to virtually try different options on by uploading a selfie of themselves directly into the chat. Using advanced facial tracking and simulation technology, the bot then shows them what they look like in that exact product.

Find out more via the full story on Forbes.

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Blocks Comment technology

YSL Beauté launches Google Glass tutorials in Selfridges, WiFi issues impact experience

ysl_googleglass2

Yves Saint Laurent Beauté launched Google Glass make-up tutorials in its consignment at Selfridges department store in London last week. First offered at Bloomingdales in New York in September, these consultations have sparked quite a bit of press excitement. They’ve accordingly been a great way for the brand to pull in new customers, but the execution appears to be a little patchy.

The tutorials need to be booked in advance and take 45 minutes. The experience is similar to any other make-up consultation: the artist applies the beauty products to one half of the face, shows the customer the results in a mirror, and then applies make-up to the other half of the face, all-the-while explaining what they are doing and why.

What makes a Google Glass tutorial enticing is that the device records the entire procedure. After the makeover is completed, customers are sent a video of it via email, including before/after shots and a list of the products used. The video can be played back at any time, serving as a tutorial for how to apply the make-up in the future.

The advantages of this for YSL are plentiful. Aside from growing its email database, it allows the company to gather data on which items are most suited to the customer demographic at Selfridges, and which items receive the most post-consultation attention. It could likely also inform future customised product recommendations.

ysl_googleglass1

According to a make-up artist at the Selfridges YSL counter, the service is in demand and customers have been scheduling in appointments. There’s just one problem: the WiFi connection has been playing up, making it difficult and sometimes impossible to email the videos within the promised 20-minute timeframe after a consultation.

It’s a common issue: innovative ideas are challenging to execute, especially when they involve the introduction of new technology. Often, it comes down to difficulties in the technology on-boarding process. The existing systems in place may not be sophisticated enough to carry or support the technology. And without the follow-up video, the Google Glass consultation is no different to any other make-up consultation. And being promised a video within 20 minutes and not receiving it until at least a few hours later can lead to quite an amount of frustration for the consumer.

While this fixture may incentivise customers to book their make-up consultancy at YSL instead of at a different brand in the famous department store this season, it seems likely that the excitement around it will subside. It might prove to be a case of “been there, done that”. Either way, it’s a fun way for shoppers to get their party-face on, and it showcases YSL in a more innovative light than many of its competitors, or indeed that’s been seen before.

Images via fashion.telegraph.co.uk