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4 innovative retail fulfilment methods to know

The on-demand economy has fueled consumer desire for instant gratification. Products and platforms ranging from Airbnb and Uber, to Seamless or Deliveroo, have resulted in growing appetite in the market for convenience and immediacy on virtually anything and everything we can dream of today.

Needless to say, that has therefore filtered over to retail, with mega corporations like Amazon only feeding the notion that we need access to products within the same or next day – leaving little option but for other businesses to follow suit.

By 2021, over 2.14 billion people worldwide are expected to buy products online, reports eMarketer. A core aspect of the purchasing decisions that come with this is speed of delivery. According to McKinsey & Co for instance, 25% of consumers would pay a premium to receive products same day.

This of course presents logistical challenges. The cost of global delivery amounts to €70billion a year, according to McKinsey, with the last mile portion of that being the biggest challenge to fulfill efficiently. As a result, numerous logistics businesses have been scrabbling to offer the right kind of solutions for their clients. Over the next five years, 78% of them are expected to provide same day delivery, and within 10 years, 39% anticipate two-hour delivery, reports Zebra Technologies.

In a bid to be competitive, luxury has picked up on it as well. Farfetch now offer 90-minute delivery in 10 cities globally for instance, while Net-a-Porter is also striving to improve the shopping experience by offering its top tier a ‘You Try, We Wait’ same day service.

There are many others experimenting with their own methods alongside. Here are four areas of innovation within the delivery space we’re currently tracking…

CROWDSOURCED DELIVERY

The last mile of fulfillment is the most expensive and time consuming part of the delivery process, but numerous startups are looking to disrupt this space by enabling anyone to have anything delivered on-demand by trialling such areas as crowdsourced delivery. 

Similar to the structure of Uber, this allows individual couriers to deliver parcels straight to your door, or facilitate them for pick-up or drop-off around individual homes and offices. Crowdsourced delivery is expected to be adopted by 90% of retailers by 2028, according to a report by delivery company Roadie.

One e-commerce company currently trialling such a scheme is Zalando. This allows people to volunteer their homes as pick-up and drop-off points in Scandinavia. Primarily intended to benefit the customer, it also enables self-employed, retired or stay-at-home parents to earn some extra income.

ROBOTIC POSTIES
Ford Delivery Robot

McKinsey & Co predicts that more than 80% of parcels will be delivered autonomously in the next decade. The thought of robots walking around town beside us may seem a little futuristic, but many companies have already successfully tested them.

Postmates is intending to roll out a new autonomous delivery robot in Los Angeles later this year, for instance. The self-driving rover, named Serve, uses a camera, light detector and sensor to safely navigate the sidewalk. This can create a virtual picture of the world in real time and communicate with customers via an interactive touch screen. Serve is part of Postmates’ vision of a world where goods move rapidly and efficiently throughout cities.

Ford meanwhile is experimenting with a package carrying robot that will be able to walk, climb stairs and deliver your parcel to your front door. In partnership with Agility Robotics, the robot – called Digit – can successfully carry a 40lb package.

DRONES
Amazon Prime Air Service

Next up is autonomous urban aircrafts, otherwise known as drones. This could become a $1.5 trillion industry by 2040, according to Morgan Stanley Research.

Amazon has been leading the way in the space for some time with its Prime Air service, which is under constant experimentation. Its latest announcement said consumers will be able to get parcels delivered within 30 minutes or less by drone, thanks to a sophisticated ‘sense and avoid’ technology allowing it to safely maneuver in the sky. Executive Jeff Wilke stated that between 75%-90% of deliveries could technically be handled by drones in the future.

Strictly speaking, however, when that will be is still unclear. While the technology is improving constantly – using a combination of thermal cameras, depth cameras and sophisticated machine learning – there remains the small issue of authorization. Regulation is continuing to evolve, with a recent test moving things forward in the US market, and further developments happening in Europe, but Amazon’s view of commercial drone deliveries ready within just a few months, seems unlikely.

It’s not alone in trying however. Wing, a drone service from Alphabet – Google’s parent company – has completed a successful trial in Australia and is now doing so in Finland. Similarly, UPS is currently testing drones for the use of medical supplies and samples in North Carolina. Its long term plan is to eventually roll out the drones for the industrial, manufacturing and retail markets. UPS is another that has applied for a Federal Aviation Administration certificate that it hopes will allow it to operate the drones on mass.

ALL ACCESS
Waitrose While You’re Away Yale Technology

In a bid to combat the fact so many parcels see unsuccessful delivery attempts due to the absence of the recipient, there are also numerous experiments in the market to get around the need for humans to be present when the action takes place. This is especially being considered in the online grocery market, which is expected to grow 52% over the next give years to £17.3billion, meaning investments in home deliveries will need to be expanded.

One example we’ve seen comes again from Amazon, which has developed a system that allows couriers to deliver parcels to a customer’s car. The Key-In-Car service is available for all Prime members with a Volvo or General Motors vehicle dated after 2015. Through encryption, the courier can unlock the trunk without needing a key. This is available in 37 cities across the US. Similarly, Skoda is developing a technology that allows delivery firms one-time access to the trunk of the car. The biggest challenge to this opportunity is the threat of security. The risks can be mitigated however by couriers wearing body cameras and sending photographic evidence upon delivery, but retailers must gain consumer trust in the process first.

British supermarket Waitrose, part of the John Lewis Partnership, has gone even further by testing a ‘While you’re Away’ service in south London. This initiative gives delivery drivers a unique code that gives them temporary access to the customer’s property, allowing them to put away the shopping on their behalf. The lock technology has been developed by Yale and will be free to install for customers. To give them piece of mind, each driver will indeed wear a video camera to record their steps, which the customer can request access to.

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

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business Podcast

Tommy Hilfiger on embracing innovation

Liz Bacelar and Avery Baker
Liz Bacelar and Avery Baker

Risk, authenticity and understanding your consumer are the keys to innovation, says Avery Baker, chief brand officer of Tommy Hilfiger, on the latest episode of TheCurrent Innovators podcast.

“When you’re trying to do something that really creates an impact and is somewhat revolutionary, then you’ve got to put all the chips on the table,” she explains to TheCurrent’s founder Liz Bacelar, at a live recording at Neuehouse in New York.

LISTEN HERE:

She was referring specifically to the brand’s Tommy Now runway experience, which first launched in February 2017 and most recently took place in Shanghai for Fall 2018. A tech-enabled interactive fashion event, she refers to it as “the right sweet spot in terms of being aspirational and accessible” for the Tommy brand.

Across the market, its set the benchmark in terms of what a digitally-enabled, see-now-buy-now runway experience could, and should, look like; arguably by putting both entertainment and commerce at its heart.

“From the beginning we didn’t think of it as a fashion show as we know fashion shows to be. We see this as a totally shoppable fashion ecosystem that at its heart is a media and content platform. It has a moment of theater, but it also has many layers in terms of engagement and shopability and experience and shareability. It is a multilayered platform,” Baker explains.

And importantly, that got big internal buy-in, catapulting the team behind the launch to make it happen: “What I found was that everyone was so excited about being part of something that was innovative, risk-taking, that was breaking the rules and writing our own story. There was a tremendous amount of excitement, rather than fear and pride to be a part of a program that was trying to be groundbreaking.”

That mentality of how to create experiential fashion show moments targeted to a Gen Z audience, is only a small manifestation of Tommy’s bigger ambitions towards innovation, however.

Beyond digitally-enabled retail experiences, the brand has also been investigating new ways to communicate with consumers through its evolving product – from smart clothing that rewards users per wear, through to speaking to a highly underserved audience through an adaptive line for people with disabilities.

During the live conversation, Baker also talks about how the brand has translated its American roots and values to a global audience, how it overcame the unexpected lull, and why magic and logic need to work together.

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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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Editor's pick Podcast product Retail Startups

Away luggage on going beyond the VC hype

Jen Rubio and Liz Bacelar
Jen Rubio and Liz Bacelar

Direct-to-consumer brands don’t often live up to the hype placed on them by endless amounts of VC funding and Silicon Valley fandom, says Jen Rubio, co-founder of travel brand Away, on the latest episode of TheCurrent Innovators podcast.

Speaking to Liz Bacelar, founder of TheCurrent, at the British Fashion Council’s annual Fashion Forum in London, Rubio explains that from its inception in 2016, she and her co-founder Steph Korey (who she met while both working at Warby Parker), were careful not to run their business like a lot of other brands in the space.

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

“If you go back in time a little bit, a lot of new brands and e-commerce companies were positioning themselves as tech companies and raising a lot of VC money at tech valuations that would never live up to the public market at how retail companies are valued, and then run into the trouble of needing these stores and claiming they are a retail company and not a tech one,” she explains. “We saw a lot of this happening in the industry and from the beginning Steph and I said, this is not how we are going to run our business.

After pitching Away as a brand aiming to make travel more seamless, as opposed to simply making luggage, the business famously received a first round of investment before even having a physical product, for instance.

From the lightbulb moment for the brand’s concept through to its launch, Away spoke to over 800 people about what elements would make the perfect suitcase. It is that open approach to constant feedback that it continues to focus on to this day – helping to inform its product collaborations, new features and color palettes, and even locations for pop-ups and permanent retail spaces.

In this conversation, Rubio also tells Liz how its first major hurdle – airline regulation that meant their smart suitcase was no longer allowed onboard – was an important opportunity to strengthen the relationship with Away customers; how retail landlords are finally giving non-legacy brands a chance; and why understanding your consumer is key to constant innovation.

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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business digital snippets e-commerce social media Startups technology

What you missed: Amazon as the most innovative company, Canada Goose IPO, AI versus fraud

Jeff Bezos' Amazon has been named the world’s most innovative company of 2017 - retail fashion tech
Jeff Bezos’ Amazon has been named the world’s most innovative company of 2017

It’s been a pretty quiet season as far as technology goes during New York and London fashion weeks – live content is playing its part, as is politics, but there’s little in the way of the big innovations we’ve seen in the past. There’s lots to be said about that, so look out for some commentary around it in the coming weeks as we cycle into Milan and Paris. In the meantime, one of the highlights there has been is the Fashion Innovation Agency’s return to mixed reality with designer Sabinna.

Elsewhere, news to catch-up on this week spans Amazon as the world’s most innovative company, the digital printing technology taking us closer to fully customisable clothing, the fact Canada Goose has filed for its IPO, and how artificial intelligence is becoming the newest weapon in the fraud fight.


TOP STORIES
  • Why Amazon is the world’s most innovative company of 2017 [Fast Company]
  • Canada Goose IPO: Its smartest business move was expanding beyond Canada [Quartz]
  • How digital printing technology is taking us closer to fully customisable clothing [Forbes]

BUSINESS
  • British Fashion industry steels itself for Brexit [BoF]
  • The all-new Hermès: Taking its cues from… Michael Kors? [LeanLuxe]

SOCIAL MEDIA
  • Snap lowers valuation expectations in highly awaited IPO [Reuters]
  • Emma Watson launches eco-fashion Instagram [WWD]

MARKETING
  • Browns kicks off year-long #cooltobekind campaign ahead of LFW [The Industry]
  • River Island on navigating the divide between brand marketing and culture [The Drum]
  • A$AP Rocky stars in Zalando’s new spring campaign [The Industry]

RETAIL & E-COMMERCE
  • 3 trends shaping retail cybersecurity in 2017 [Retail Dive]
  • Why Indochino is opening new stores in shopping malls [Glossy]

TECHNOLOGY
  • Samsung goes for a new look in virtual reality at New York Fashion Week [Fortune]
  • Rise of the learning machines: How AI is becoming the newest weapon in the fraud fight [Retail Dive]
  • ‘Smart mirrors’ come to the fitting room [Bloomberg]

START-UPS
  • VC Cheryl Cheng: ‘Fashion has not shown it can be disrupted’ [Glossy]
Categories
business social media

Get influencer marketing right and you’ve got luxury e-tail sewn up, says study

Influencer marketing is increasingly important for luxury brands
Influencer marketing is increasingly important for luxury brands

Who decides what we buy online? Well, we do of course. But other people have an influence too. Friends, family, significant others, and celebs (from A-list to Z-list) can all play their part in our final e-buying decisions, as well as how we shop in physical stores.

Which is why influencer marketing is so important and is going to become even more relevant to the luxury and premium brand sectors over the next decade, global influencer marketing platform Traackr and digital marketing agency The Myndset say. They reckon influencer marketing can be a way for smaller brands to compete with the major players.

The reason is that if brands get it right, influencer marketing can be both cost effective and generally effective, reaching the parts other marketing channels can’t and at lower cost.

Myndset president Minter Dial said: “Luxury market CMOs must re-evaluate and realign budgetary spend around achieving true impact. The measurable benefits of advanced influencer marketing practice are enabling niche luxury clients to compete on a level playing field with major players…[As a result] all luxury brands can achieve compelling ROI and demonstrably increase sales, brand resonance and achieve superior insights into their valued customers.”

So how do Traackr and Myndset reach this conclusion? A recent study by McKinsey and Altagamma Foundation estimates the percentage of luxury sales made online should rise from their current 6% of total luxury sales to 18% in 2025, reaching €70bn.

And influencers are key when consumers shop online. Luxury may have been late to this, but as they realise that the future is all about the younger millennial shopper and that this shopper is fully connected, they’re racing to come up with effective influencer marketing strategies.

Luxury brands have traditionally relied heavily on expensive marketing methods such as glossy print and flashy TV campaigns, as well as creating expensive online brand experiences and spending heavily on creating beautiful stores. But achieving the personalisation, true engagement with and impact on their customers has remained difficult to achieve.

Traackr thinks they’ve been missing a trick lately with “trust [being] largely driven by peers and authoritative content” with only 3% of individuals driving 90% of conversations and impact online.

Luxury and premium brands are, of course, taking notice of this. Traackr cites an Econsultancy report on fashion and beauty. Apparently, 59% of company decision-makers are planning to boost their budgets for this area this year and Myndset research reveals 67% of luxury brands and 60% of premium brands considering digital “important to very important” in understanding their customers.

That’s because digital has been such a huge disruptor for their business. While 11% of non-premium and non-luxury companies say digital is a disruptor, 42% of luxury brands and 28% of premium brands say so. If you want to know more, the white paper can be downloaded here.

This post first appeared on Trendwalk.net, a style-meets-business blog by journalist, trends specialist and business analyst, Sandra Halliday. 

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Comment Editor's pick social media

Anna Wintour at Cannes Lions: Fashion needs to seek sincerity not size

anna-wintour-cannes-lions
Anna Wintour on stage at Cannes Lions

“Dare to be different,” said Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of American Vogue and artistic director of Condé Nast, to a crowd of advertising executives in the South of France today. In a digital world overloaded with information, and more pressure than ever to produce in volume, she encouraged the audience to think about stepping out of the mainstream, even if it might be scary to do so.

She applied that same thinking to what she looks for in the talent she supports in the fashion industry. As the foremost woman that designers wish to have seated firmly on their front row during fashion weeks, not to mention the continuing battle occurring to stand out in such a saturated space, she suggested the idea of focusing on sincerity over size.

“Personal, emotion-driven presentations can just as easily become blockbusters as the huge extravagances,” she said at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

She highlighted Demna Gvasalia as one of the best examples of this. His first show for Balenciaga did indeed feel particularly sincere, she noted; reminding her of John Galliano’s show in the autumn of 1994, which with just 18 all-black looks completely changed the way women think about dressing. “It sent the 80s power suit packing once and for all,” she said. “It was feminine, and romantic and emotional.”

To introduce her onto today’s stage, Christopher Bailey, chief creative and executive officer of Burberry, also told the tale of how she first came to know about the designers behind Proenza Schouler – Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez. Sat on a flight, Hernandez noticed that Wintour was up ahead of him. As a student at that point, he was too nervous to go and speak to her himself, but asked the airhostess to pass her a note written on a napkin. Wintour was reportedly so touched by that move, she soon invited them to see her at Vogue and set them up with internships at Marc Jacobs and Michael Kors.

The rest, as they say, is history. But it was that slight dare to be different that of course made Proenza Schouler stand out – and no doubt become memorable to Wintour down the line.

Back in her own talk, Wintour also emphasised the fact such moves – or indeed fashion show formats – don’t have to be small and precious to be creative. An example of someone winning in both the sincerity and scale stakes, she said, is Alessandro Michele at Gucci.

“He’s been doing remarkable things in that role. Gucci was this huge flashy, trashy house, and Alessandro disrupted that.” She made reference particularly to the fact he saw gender-neutral fashion coming before the rest of the industry and made it his own.

“I want to emphasise how hard this sort of disruption is. Not just because of the need to try and do what hasn’t been done before, but because stepping outside of what’s expected is frightening,” she said.

And she also talked to the idea therefore of disrupting herself. “When we are young we dream of moving upwards, but as I’ve got older my joy has come from moving forward,” she explained. “When I became editor of Vogue in 1988, if you had told me about everything that was to come in digital, that we would be coding our content, not to mention that [Condé Nast] would also be doing film and books and television, as well as events, podcasts and more, I would have had a heart attack. I was struggling to get the magazine on the newsstand every month.”

Today she’s gone from newsstand to stand up, having just delivered an amusing video swapping roles with comedian (and this month’s Vogue cover star) Amy Schumer – as above. And it was this passion for not just humour but being that little bit more daring that she left the crowd with: “We live in a virtually unstoppable time. Let’s seize it, embrace it, but most importantly let’s enjoy it.”

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digital snippets e-commerce Editor's pick product social media technology

Digital snippets: Mid-tier blogger power, the robotics opportunity, Alibaba’s anti-counterfeiting feud

midtierbloggers

After a week refreshing the mind and the soul at Futuro in Ibiza (an awe-inspiring experience), we’re back with a round-up of everything you might have missed in fashion and technology news (and beyond) over the past fortnight or so. Read on for highlights from mid-tier bloggers and robots to Alibaba, Victoria’s Secret, Levi’s, WeChat and more…


  • The power of the mid-tier blogger [Racked]

  • How robots can help fashion companies drive business efficiencies [BoF]

  • Inside Alibaba’s anti-counterfeiting feud [Associated Press]

  • Why Victoria’s Secret won’t be mailing out any more catalogues [AdWeek]

  • Aerie refused to Photoshop its ads for two years and sales spiked [Mashable]

  • Project Jacquard: Google and Levi’s launch the first ‘smart’ jean jacket for urban cyclists [Forbes]

  • Fashion shake-ups go beyond designers to the C-suite [NY Times]

  • Fashion industry faces disruption from outside — and from within [FT]

  • Why lux brands love Line [Glossy]

  • With 92% of luxury brands on WeChat, here’s how they can step up their game [Jing Daily]

  • How four creative directors are using Snapchat [Glossy]

  • How Instagram’s new feed will impact brands and influencers [BoF]

  • With subscription beauty boxes, rules of e-commerce don’t apply [WSJ]

  • Why buy buttons on Pinterest and Instagram haven’t taken off for retailers [Digiday]

  • Brands want to predict your behaviour by mining your face from YouTube videos [Motherboard]

  • Chatbots won’t solve everything [BoF]

  • For the first time, Google is bringing retail ads to image search [AdWeek]

  • Shoptalk: Pondering the store’s future in an age of web buying [Associated Press]

  • Keep calm and keep shopping – how elections impact retail sales [The Conversation]

  • Why dynamic pricing just doesn’t work for fashion retailers [LinkedIn]

  • I tested Rent The Runway’s new Unlimited service. My satisfaction was… limited [Pando]

  • What does ‘innovation’ in retail look like? 8 leaders weigh in [Retail Dive]

  • Online retailers should care more about the post-purchase experience [HBR]

  • Does Kendall and Kylie’s game actually sell clothes? [Racked]

  • EasyJet’s new smart shoes guide travellers as they wander through new cities [JWT Intelligence]

  • MIT researchers create 3D-printed fur, opening up “a new design space” [Dezeen]
Categories
Editor's pick Startups sustainability technology

Unmade: the London start-up ‘publishing’ clothing on-demand

Unmade

For those in London this festive season, there’s a pop-up shop in Covent Garden worth taking the time to visit. Unmade, as it’s called, is tucked down an unimposing side street off the main piazza. Away from the street entertainers and busy Christmas shoppers, it’s a minimal showcase of a knitwear brand currently considered one of London’s most disruptive start-ups.

Sweaters, scarves and a full-sized industrial knitting machine are on display. You can’t walk away with an item there and then, but you can use iPads to design your own and have it made especially for you thereafter.

And that’s the USP. The name “Unmade” comes from the fact no garment is finished until you, the shopper, come and complete it.

Born through frustration at the fashion industry’s stagnant approach to mass-consumption, it’s about bespoke, personalised knitwear, produced on-demand, yet at an industrial scale. Think of it as a 3D printer for fashion, yet using the same machines that make up the $200bn knitwear market worldwide.

Head on over to Forbes to read my interview with co-founder Ben Alun-Jones.

Categories
digital snippets e-commerce mobile social media technology

Digital snippets: NYFW’s consumer shift, has Burberry become a gimmick, Thakoon’s real-time fashion plans

A round-up of the latest stories to know about surrounding all things fashion and tech…

thakoon

  • NYFW going consumer? CFDA hires BCG to study the idea [WWD]
  • Is Burberry becoming too gimmicky? [Yahoo Style]
  • Thakoon to shift to “real-time fashion”, launch see-now, buy-now, wear-now model (as pictured) [BoF]
  • How Rebecca Minkoff is disrupting the traditional runway show [Co.Design]
  • Proenza Schouler to keep its Pre-Fall 2016 collection images under wraps and off Instagram [WGSN Insider]
  • JC Penney shoppers visit Santa’s workshop in new virtual reality initiative [AdAge]
  • The North Face launched an online customer service tool powered by conversation [Digiday]
  • Aldo takes non-fashion approach in new Instagram push [Digiday]
  • How Boohoo.com releases up to 300 new products a day [Fashionista]
  • Michael Kors bet big on Instagram marquee ads, and it’s paying off [AdWeek]
  • Swatch to start selling mobile payment watch in US in 2016 [Bloomberg]
  • How Apple executive Angela Ahrendts is bringing a touch of chic to retail stores [NY Times]
  • Why Gilt Groupe is forced to sell, either to Saks’ parent company or someone else [Re/code]
  • 3D fashion police: how 3D-printed clothing could affect fashion law [3ders]
  • Is virtual reality the future of fashion week? [Vogue]
  • ‘Unboxing’ videos a gift to marketers [NY Times]
  • How luxury brands are balancing the digital tightrope between aspirational image and conversation [The Drum]
  • Social media: powerful selling tool for emerging designers [WWD]
  • The future of wearables is normal clothes made smart [Racked]
  • Last fashion week, Dazed armed anonymous industry insiders with wearable tech bracelets [Dazed]
  • Team behind Lady Gaga’s flying dress to bring wearable tech to a store near you [Mashable]
  • How Clothing+ is bringing smart clothes closer to your kit bag [CNET]
  • Half a year later, the Apple Watch feels like a stalled platform [Quartz]
  • Will phones replace wallets by 2021? [Vogue]
  • What’s going on at Condé Nast? [BoF]
  • Why brands are ditching Twitter’s 6-second Vine app [AdWeek]
Categories
e-commerce mobile

Gap Inc‘s Art Peck talks digital disruption, aspirational brand expressions and enabling loyalty through relevance

ArtPeck_Gap

“We are entering into a period of significant opportunity driven by accelerated disruption coming from the continued pivot of customers into the digital space,” Art Peck, president of growth, innovation and digital at Gap Inc (which includes Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy, Piperlime, Athleta and Intermix brands), said at Goldman Sachs’ fifth annual dotCommerce day in New York this month.

His key message: we might think we’ve seen change over the past decade, but in retail specifically we’re on the cusp of something much bigger. It will be equivalent to that of the 1950s and 60s when consumers moved from local variety stores to suburban bix box retailers, he said, referring to the wave that saw many of today’s mega brands, including Walmart and K-mart, hit the market.

What it’s about, he said, is the customer. Consider these statistics: a decade ago, only 3% of consumers in the US bought apparel and accessories online. 15% of them engaged online but still purchased in physical stores, and the remainder only shopped offline and had no digital engagement at all.

Fast forward to today and about 15% of the market is shopping online for apparel and accessories. Those not engaged with brands digitally has shrunk to only 13%, while the remainder this time are engaged online, even if they then still buy in the real world. “What that does,” said Peck, “is put an opportunity and an obligation on us.”

At this point in time the bulk of the industry has a transactionally-efficient website that acts as a complementary channel to their stores. What we need to move towards, he explained, is an experience both online and off that ties together the overall vision of the brand. “The digital expression of our brands needs to be a holistic, aspirational expression of the brand because that is in many cases what customers now base their choice on.”

Interestingly, it’s digital that he believes will also enable the company to achieve that uniform expression of the brand across its store portfolio no matter the size of the outlet. Today at a flagship store consumers are exposed to the entire brand in an aspirational way, whereas at a mall it may just be a small subset of that intention, and often not an aspirational one at all.

“Our vision here is we bring digital together with physical, and regardless of the store, where it is, the size that it is, the mall that it’s in – we give customers exposure consistently to the entire aspirational expression of the brand,” he emphasised.

At this point in time, Gap is working on doing so with initiatives such as replacing all legacy systems in stores with web services; so in-store and e-commerce now operate on one platform. The company therefore now has the capability to have global, virtual visibility on the availability of its inventory, and has been able to introduce the likes of its ‘reserve in store’ option for shoppers.

As of next month it is also testing out an ‘order in store’ system in a bid to counter that feeling of disappointment when consumers can’t find what they’re looking for on a trip out. Said Peck: “Our commitment with assisted or unassisted ‘order in store’ is you’ll never leave the store empty-handed, whether that’s a physical bag or a virtual bag that you’re carrying with you… That’s a huge economic opportunity for us. It’s moving that conversion yield.”

Omnichannel is the obvious buzzword he said, holding up his own smartphone as an example of the most important device for retailers to be thinking about. Mobile is pervasive, but also persistent in that it stays with consumers all of the time, he explained. It’s for that reason it’s a key driver for loyalty programmes, something the company is also focusing on with a new scheme testing at Banana Republic stores imminently.

Peck referred to loyalty as a ‘big one’ for the company, a driver for frequency and for share of wallet, but more importantly as an opportunity to “bring our personalisation capabilities and customisation relevance to bear in a store environment”. At the moment 60% of people visiting the website are recognised as unique visitors, enabling Gap to personalise experiences based on things like browsing and purchase history. Doing so is providing movement on numbers like conversion, time on website, CTR and more, said Peck.

“Good things happen for the customer if they’re willing to self-identify and tell us who they are at the beginning of a shopping experience. They do on the website, they don’t in our stores. If you come into our stores today we won’t recognise you until you tender, if we recognise you then.”

This loyalty programme is about providing the customer with the opportunity to self-identify in order for the company to create a much more relevant set of experiences compared to when they shop anonymously, he explained.

It’s that word, relevancy, that he picked up on as most important: “There’s lots of talk out there about big data – to me big data, personalisation is focused on an outcome of relevance. That’s what we’re working on.”