Categories
business data e-commerce product Retail social media sustainability technology

2019 highlights: The year in innovation news

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

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

5G will drive 100m people to shop in AR

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

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

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

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

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

H&M to trial clothing rental for the first time

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

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

Allbirds CEO calls out Amazon product copying

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

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

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

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

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

Lush abandons social media

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

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

Coty acquires majority stake in Kylie Jenner’s beauty business

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

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

How luxury fashion learned to love the blockchain

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

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

Automation in retail: an executive overview for getting ready

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

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

What Fortnite could mean for fashion

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

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

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

Categories
business e-commerce Podcast product Retail sustainability technology

Ganni: Taking risks for long-term return

The most important question everybody needs to ask themselves relative to a more sustainable fashion industry is around cost and long-term thinking, explains Nicolaj Reffstrup, founder of Danish fashion brand, Ganni, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast.

“If you really want to do something, you need to look at the fabrics that you’re using and see if you can convert those to recycled fabrics, or at least organic fabrics. But that comes with a cost. So the biggest and most important question everybody needs to ask themselves, is literally how much are we spending on converting our company or our brand and our product towards a more sustainable future?” he asks.

Oftentimes, the immediate follow-up query to what is the cost, is who is going to pay for it. The majority of brands in the space – including those actively making moves towards adapting their business processes – are measured on short term returns. And yet sustainability is not an overnight fix. To make the changes that are really necessary throughout the supply chain is a big and long-term investment.

So how do we convince CFOs and shareholders that it’s worthwhile – that we have to take a hit now in order to benefit in the future. Or more importantly, that there is indeed a business case there to do it full stop?   

Ganni is one exploring it from all angles. The fact it’s small and agile means it has more ability to do so, but it also means it relies entirely on an outsourced supply chain to drive the agenda forward. Power is therefore limited, but ambition is not.

Rachel Arthur, co-founder & chief innovation officer at Current Global & Nicolaj Reffstrup, founder of Ganni

Join us as we discuss with Reffstrup how the brand is flexing its muscle as well as making investments to drive towards a more sustainable future. We also explore how he’s watching innovation from other industries like food, the new rental business model he’s testing, and why he believes sustainability and fashion is a contradiction that needs to be faced by all brands.

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

Catch up with all of our episodes of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by the Current Global, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more. 

Categories
business Campaigns Editor's pick Retail technology

7 ways fashion brands are harnessing hologram technology

We all remember the vision of Tupac being brought back to life by hologram technology during Coachella in 2012. 

Divided though opinion was, the interesting fact lay in the advance of the tech itself. Today, it is entirely possible for life-like constructs to be achieved in 3D so as to be visible to the naked eye. And more to the point, increasingly in a cost-effective way too. 

Today, it is estimated that the holography market will be worth $5.5 billion by 2020.

Fashion is one industry that has been experimenting in this space for some time, using holograms as both elaborate marketing techniques, as well as more immersive in-store opportunities aiming to drive brand engagement. 

Here are seven of the most interesting examples we’ve seen released over the years…

Alexander McQueen
Kate Moss hologram

In 2006, Kate Moss became the first human hologram to be featured as a part of a major fashion show. Alexander McQueen presented the 3D rendering of the supermodel as the finale of his ‘Windows of Culloden’ show in Paris. The hologram of Moss in a flowing white gown appeared out of nowhere to the audience from inside an empty glass pyramid following an elaborate puff of white smoke. The model danced for a few seconds before shrinking and dematerializing.

This iconic hologram, designed by video maker Baillie Walsh and directed by Lee McQueen himself, has become an iconic moment in fashion history and as such even saw revivals in 2011 and 2015 at the Savage Beauty Exhibits, dedicated to McQueen, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London respectively.

Diesel
Diesel SS08

In 2007, contemporary denim brand Diesel took the concept one step further from McQueen’s show the previous year by creating the biggest holographic fashion show to date for its Summer 2008 collection in Florence. The ‘Liquid Space’ show incorporated holograms that were created using the Pepper’s Ghost effect, an optical illusion that uses angled glass and hidden spaces, the technology for which was provided by tech specialist company Vizoo.

The campaign centred around marine creatures in space and used hologram technology to merge 2D projections of a high definition multi-screen video of the creatures with the real life models. The video images? were projected onto multiple transparent screens while careful lighting illuminated the catwalk with little or no scatter on the holographic screens. The virtual and real life elements on the catwalk consequently appeared as one to the audience.

Pinar&Viola
Pinar & Viola hologram

Dutch artists Pinar&Viola also used hologram technology to project an entirely virtual fashion line onto real life models in 2016 at their Amsterdam Fashion Week show. The occasion was designed to prompt emotions about clothing and encourage consumers to reconsider their rate of consumption in order to reduce wasted resources. The show was created in collaboration with AMFI student Amber Slooten and inspired by the mixed reality concepts of companies like Magic Leap and Microsoft’s HoloLens. Its aim was to explore how a future of holographic garments might work. 

The technology also allowed each piece of clothing to be animated through the allocation of characteristics such as eyes and mouths to further emphasize the conscious theme and help viewers to greater connect with the clothes despite them being inanimate.

Ralph Lauren
Holographic Ralph Lauren

The 2018 GQ Men of the Year Awards saw another first on the holographic medium front as pioneering designer Ralph Lauren beamed in via the medium to accept his ‘Design Lead of the Year’ award. The innovative concept was also created in celebration of the brand’s 50th anniversary. The realistic installation was created by Cinimod Holograms and used a staged box located away from the stage to create the theatre. The concept enabled the real life presenter at the awards to stand alongside and interact with Ralph’s hologram in a highly realistic and entertaining way for the audience.

This spectacle followed a series of other hologram integrations by the brand in previous years, including holographic window displays of sparring boxers in its Fifth Avenue flagship in New York in 2017 to promote the release of the new Polo Sport line, and the virtual spring 2015 Polo Womenswear show back in 2014  in Central Park.

Nicholas Kirkwood
CyFi walking at the Nicholas Kirkwood show

Footwear designer Nicholas Kirkwood is another that has utilized holograms by incorporating them in his inaugural London Fashion Week show in September 2018. Current Global worked with the brand to strategize the theme of the show, enhancing its cyber-reality theme by showcasing innovative visual technologies and integrating the experience of “white-hat” hackers in the presentation.

The result also saw a number of 3D hologram displays integrated throughout the show venue in order to enhance its underlying message of non-conformity. Created by tech company, Hologrm, they presented an animated 3D version of the collection’s main boot with neon detailing.

Wrangler
Wrangler’s immersive pop-up

US denim brand Wrangler also recently got on board with holograms, marking its Wrangler Icons launch with a 360-degree immersive pop-up experience that incorporated musicians and actors as well as numerous uses of the technology. The London experience paid homage to the brand’s musical heritage and iconic star-studded clientele from across the years. 

A continuous hologram feature was used to modernize the initiative, as well as helping to link the music theme back to the brand’s western image. A small black room at the back of the space appeared at first glance to house just drums and speakers however, broadcasted on top of the various instruments were holograms of dancing Wrangler cowboys wearing jeans and cowboy hats. The futuristic projections ran on a loop throughout the duration of the event.

Cartier
Cartier holographic watch

Of all of the fashion brands that have used holography over the years, luxury jeweller Cartier has perhaps one of the longest standing relationships with the technology. Back in 1972 the brand generated a lot of attention through its projection of a diamond bracelet dangling from an elegant wrist onto the Fifth Avenue pavement from its store window, which aimed to entice customers in. The piece, which was created by artist Robert Schinella, elicited so many enquiries that it was later revived again in 1979.

Cartier has also harnessed other forms of holograms as the technology has developed over the years, including a virtual craftsman working at a physical station at the Tokyo National Museum’s Cartier Exhibition in 2009, and a store windows campaign in 2015 where a hologram story mapped onto a physical watch face showing the inner workings and intricate parts involved in a watch.

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.

Categories
business Podcast product Retail

Stadium Goods: Riding the sneaker culture boom

The success of Stadium Goods comes off the back of unprecedented consumer desire for sneakers and the need for a rich brand experience in which to buy them, says the platform’s co-founder and co-CEO, John McPheters, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast. 

“For me the light bulb was that demand had never been higher. It was continuously growing, there were more and more people that wanted to buy our products, but there wasn’t a rich experience that consumers could go to to buy that stuff that was trusted, where they knew what they were getting, where they could really hang their hat on the brand experience and the presentation.” he explains.  

As a result he and his partner, Jed Stiller, set about creating a site that is focused on consignment – meaning it resells existing sneaker stock as well as broader streetwear – but it only does so with unworn and authentic styles. That focus on trust is the key, he says.  

Only launched in 2015, the site was acquired by ecommerce marketplace Farfetch in 2018 for $250 million. Very few emerging businesses have seen such rapid growth. It’s now considered such a market leader, it recently announced a partnership with auction house Sotheby’s to sell 100 of the rarest, most coveted sneakers ever produced.  

The site’s explosion aligns with the growth of sneaker culture worldwide. Expected to hit nearly $100bn in global sales by 2024, sneakers are outpacing much of the rest of the industry, including that of handbags. As a result, they have become the new ‘cash cow’ and awareness driver for all manner of brands, not least those in the luxury space, where such products are used as entry to otherwise more aspirational price points. 

In all parts of the market this has resulted in ‘cult’ or ‘it’ sneakers to own as a result. A rare pair of Nikes today can easily sell for as much as those from Gucci or Balenciaga as a result. This means it’s increasingly a race, with some limited edition styles going for $10,000 or more. 

Co-Founder & CEO, Current Global, Liz Bacelar and Co-Founder & Co-CEO, Stadium Goods, John McPheters

In this episode, recorded live at the British Fashion Council’s annual Fashion Forum, we chat to founder John McPheters about the cultural relevance of such products, the evolving role of exclusivity and desire in luxury today, and just how what he’s doing is really about teaching the industry to give up control.

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

Catch up with all of our episodes of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by the Current Global, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more. 

Categories
business Campaigns Editor's pick sustainability

From G7 to fashion weeks – why the industry needs to cut the sustainable chat and take action

One minute we’re talking all about saving the planet, the next, it’s onto the indulgence and excess of fashion weeks. No wonder there’s so much questioning around what the industry is about right now. 

At the G7 Summit last month, François-Henri Pinault, chairman and CEO of luxury group Kering, introduced the Fashion Pact, a deal that saw 32 brands from Adidas to Prada, coming together to commit to stopping global warming, restoring biodiversity and protecting the oceans. 

The initiative was mandated by French President Emmanuel Macron, who asked the industry to set practical objectives for reducing its environmental impact.

Practical is the keyword here. While collaboration between so many different players is in itself great progress, reflections on many of the goals are that they have been light on detail as to how they’re going to be achieved. 

Meanwhile, as has been pointed out by others this past fortnight, fashion week season has kicked off and we’re back into that completely contrasting feeling of celebration and excess once more. “Fashion month is a party,” Orsola de Castro, co-founder and creative director of non-profit Fashion Revolution, told the Business of Fashion. “It’s huge fun, but it’s the kind of fun that is no longer funny.” 

Within that is of course the volume of waste and climate impact generated from the shows themselves, but in addition, the culture of consumerism they continue to feed.  

In London we have Extinction Rebellion protesting against the very existence of fashion week itself, while in New York, the biggest stories have conversely been about the large-scale theatrics of shows from the likes of Tommy Hilfiger and Rihanna’s Savage x Fenty. Let’s not forget, fashion weeks are about marketing – appealing to buyers, press and consumers individually to encourage them to buy and buy-into the new collections in one or other of their relative ways. 

By their very nature, they therefore clash with a more sustainable approach to supply and demand. All of which makes one question how much hot air really surrounds the topic of sustainability – no matter how much it’s “trending” – when looking across the industry at large. 

Back to the G7 pact and the biggest question that sits there then, is how will any of these promises turn into reality? As in, literally what are the methodologies behind them? 

The fact is, what we really need is less talk more doing. To put it into the simplest terms, the contradiction of fashion week doesn’t sit well with the notion of ‘actions speaking louder than words’. But neither do promises that aren’t backed by some tangible outputs to follow. 

The same goes for the sheer volume of broader sustainable pledges being made by the industry. Everywhere you turn you see promises to use 100% renewable energy by 2020, to become carbon neutral by 2022, to reduce water consumption by 2025. The same can be said for chemicals, materials, recycling, waste… the list goes on. 

That’s all well and good, but only if progress towards those things actually happen. On our side, we’re tracking them all, and the list of promises is growing at a substantially faster rate than that of the actions being made in response. This is absolutely key. It means that currently the announcements are serving in the main as PR initiatives – a way of hiding behind something that is several years away, or about buying time while you figure out what to actually do. 

The result is that we either have too many pledges that risk not being met, or those offering too little too late – such as to be carbon neutral by 2050. In Greta Thunberg’s words, this is a climate emergency

Last year, Fast Company reviewed various environmental goals set for 2020 by large corporations as well as countries, questioning which of them were on target to actually be met in time. It reads like a mixed bag, though does demonstrate progress in parts. 

The same can be said for fashion. Kering itself has always been one of the most vocal about its goals, setting them out in 2012, then reporting back on what it had and hadn’t achieved in 2016. It reset its targets in 2017 with a broader 2025 sustainability strategy in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Included in that was cutting the group’s carbon emissions by 50% and reducing its overall environmental impact by at least 40%. Not small aims. An update is expected in 2020. 

H&M is another that’s always gone big. It’s reportedly on target to hit its goals of both using 100% organic or recycled cotton, and eliminating hazardous chemicals in its production, by 2020. Future aims include becoming climate positive by 2040. 

The difficulty with all this is the sliding scale of what attaining such goals mean, not to mention how they’re measured. 

One of the ones I have the biggest issue with in the industry broadly is the idea of moving to entirely “sustainable cotton” by 2025. This isn’t so much in the goal itself by any means, but in the naming of it. What is sustainable cotton? Strictly speaking, most of the time what we’re talking about is rather “better” cotton. As in, it is literally better for the environment than that which is otherwise farmed in the conventional manner. Usually this falls under those certified via the Better Cotton Initiative and others including Organic and Fair Trade. 

This sort of language use is critical because of how misleading it can be to the consumer. It instantly gives the impression that fast fashion, like Zara as well, for instance, will be absolutely fine by 2025 because the materials used will indeed be entirely sustainable. Not true. They’ll just be less bad at that early part of the supply chain. Arguably, that’s not enough. 

The same goes for what is the lesser of two evils when we hear certain companies have managed to achieve zero waste to landfill targets, yet are continuing to incinerate items. Does the ban on incineration in France mean landfill will then be on the up? 

When it comes to greenhouse gases, there was a feeling in a recent meeting I had with some members of UK parliament, that regulation for companies to declare their emissions makes the industry immediately more accountable.

What didn’t seem to be acknowledged is that the fashion industry doesn’t know the true numbers around its emissions. As I’ve written about before, it’s not completely possible right now because there is simply not enough accurate information out there for it to report this – and it doesn’t have direct control of its supply chain in the majority of cases to discover any of it itself further. 

We know this from our work with Google to build a tool that shines a light on the raw materials stage of the supply chain – Tier 4. What’s available right now is at best globalized averages, at worst, completely unknown. The result, therefore, is guesswork. How for instance can H&M become climate positive in a true sense, if it can’t trace back the impact it is actually having? It can’t. You can apply the same to Burberry, to Nike, to whoever else you like.

A few years back there were headlines about 2020 being the “magic year for fashion” based on the industry embracing sustainability. Arguably, even in the midst of fashion week season, that has already happened. But it doesn’t mean anything if it’s just being talked about.  

Change can only take place if these goals become tangible. That’s our entire mantra as a business – drive transformation by enabling action. Enough with the pledges therefore, what we’d rather see is the industry diving deep, staying quiet, building new solutions and starting to show us some results. 

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.

Categories
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.

Categories
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.

Categories
business Editor's pick

ComplexCon: Virgil Abloh on community and taste

Virgil Abloh
Virgil Abloh

“I believe that collectively we’re all the next generation of designers”, said Virgil Abloh at this year’s ComplexCon festival, which took place in Long Beach, California, this past weekend.

Abloh was leading a conversation with a group of young streetwear designers including Bstroy, Ev Bravado and Rhuigi from Rhude, handpicked by the Off White and Louis Vuitton creative director for their strides in making culture a part of the fashion discourse.

The conversation consisted of a mix of insights and industry advice for the many streetwear fanatics and bushy-eyed entrepreneurs in the audience. The biggest topics, however, revolved around how to foster a community and remain authentic to taste:

It takes a village

Early in the conversation Abloh brought to stage long-time collaborator Tremaine Emory, and emphasized the importance of acknowledging the teamwork that makes or breaks a brand. Every creative needs someone who likes an Excel spreadsheet, he said, referencing the relationship between Marc Jacobs and Robert Duffy. “We’re all in one community,” he added, urging for designers to put an end to individuality.

It is often easy for those on the outside looking in to idolize the figure who sits at the top, but streetwear in particular thrives on creatives collaborating and lifting each other up, summarized the panel. Prior to securing the top spot at Louis Vuitton menswear and spearheading his own brand, Abloh worked with Kanye West on many of his creative endeavours, from fashion to an award-winning album with Jay Z.

There also seems to be little emphasis on where the designer came from, Abloh said. “It has become ‘cool’ to pretend like you don’t have parents. It’s become part of the culture to pretend you’re brand new.”

A matter of taste

The designers on the panel hailed from Los Angeles, New York and Atlanta, and spoke about how they balance what fashion expects of them, and what truly inspires them.

“On one hand [taste level] is great, but something from our community growing up that we thought wasn’t the highest taste is equally important,” said Abloh. Emory compared it to Picasso being inspired by African art but the latter not receiving the same esteem. “As young people we have to discard the old ways and see the beauty in everything and push it forward,” he explained.

Elevating every day objects or brands is key to this new generation of brands and designers, who appropriate and remix aesthetics that were once considered mundane or uncool. It is the irony itself that makes it all so appealing, as seen by the overnight success of Vetements and its collaborations with the likes of DHL and Eastpack. For Abloh, his Off White label has become known for surfacing brands that were not previously linked to pop culture, such as Ikea and Rimowa.

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

Categories
Comment

Why street style ‘peacocks’ are critical to the fashion industry

This article first appeared on Mashable

AnnaDelloRusso

The streets of New York City can frequently be considered a runway in their own right, a veritable feast of people-watching — but never more so than when fashion week rolls around. Twice a year, the world’s leading editors are pitted against an ever-increasing crowd of style bloggers, each surveyed by a mob of photographers outside Lincoln Center and at various other venues along the city’s west side.

Last season fashion critic Suzy Menkes, writing for T Magazine, referred to the scene outside fashion week venues as a “circus,” a “cattle market of showoff people waiting to be chosen or rejected by the photographer.” She called out offending peacocks, including Filipino blogger Bryanboy and Vogue Japan’s Anna Dello Russo (pictured above). The piece elicited swift rebukes from the likes of Leandra Medine of Man Repeller and Susanna Lau of Style Bubble, both frequently photographed themselves for their outfits in such settings.

Menkes’ message last season was not forgotten. Leading into this fashion week, Oscar de la Renta announced in WWD that he would be cutting his invite list in half in order to better facilitate those attending his show with a legitimate professional purpose. He’s trying to help his guests avoid the dozens of people who attend a show to photograph or be photographed, those without any connection to the collection shown.

Amid all of this pushback, there has been little mention of the value of street style imagery for the industry itself. Notions that trends “trickle down” from the runway or “bubble up” from the street are certainly not new. But the explosion of digital and social media has truly helped magnify the latter. 

Now, a shot of someone on the street wearing Alexander Wang is just as likely to gain online traction as his runway image might — if not, more so. Smart brands, particularly in the mainstream market, are taking note. Look at the current obsession with baseball tees or football jerseys in retail outlets like Forever21 and Asos — those started, of course, on the street.

Identifying tastemakers and trends

Tracking such movements plays a more integral role to designers, product developers and buyers in their business process than ever. So says Jami Krampel, who researches what’s happening on the street for the Vince Camuto design team.

“We use it as inspiration,” Krampel said. “Whether it’s details or silhouettes, even color trends, it helps us have a view on what seems to be the new hot items.”

Rachel Zeilic, owner and designer of directional juniors’ line, Style Stalker, agreed.

“For us, street style is really important; it just shows how people adopt the trends into real life,” she said. “You can’t draw inspiration from runway; it’s not how you’d actually wear it. So it’s interesting to see how girls appropriate it and make it work in real life, it gives you a lot of ideas. As a designer you get so caught up in colors, fabrics, trims, the little details, but at the end of the day it’s a look you want to create. It goes out on the street and gets worn by real girls.”

By providing a global view into both the here and now and the future of trends, street style can serve designers with both inspiration and confirmation. Trend services like WGSN (full disclosure: my employer) accordingly forecast two years ahead so brands can plan their products and assortments well in advance. But those same trend services also report on what people are wearing now for the same reason. That means shots not only from New York Fashion Week, but also key events like Coachella or SXSW, as well as major sporting events, fashion schools and daily life in urban centers like London, Tokyo, Rio and Melbourne.

Street style chroniclers can’t just supply an endless amount of images to be useful to designers and retailers — they must also identify key trends. Stephanie Solomon, former fashion director of Bloomingdale’s, says

the best street style photographers don’t just shoot anything, but have their finger on the pulse of what’s new.

“It’s not about what’s out there and making that the trend, it’s about analyzing what’s new, and that’s where it’s important an authoritative voice comes in,” Solomon said. “The cool girls for instance aren’t wearing denim anymore, they’re wearing sportswear. They’re not seen in torn and ripped denim jeans or shorts, but in Alexander Wang’s knit drawstring track pants. That’s the bottom, that’s the new jean. It’s a strong diversion from what people expect.”

Krampel says that even if a street style look might seem incredibly wacky, it can still have an impact on design teams. “We’ll also compare it back to what we’re seeing elsewhere, in store reports for instance. By doing so, even if it’s totally crazy we’ll be able to work out the aspects of it that will trickle down to the mass market,” she said.

Yes, fashion influencers and early adopters might be “peacocking” this week (to use Menkes’ phrase) — but so too are they providing creative inspiration for teams around the world planning their next collections. Interpreting which of those peacocks are true tastemakers is the real skill.