A brand’s success depends on authentic relationships and good design over hype, says Rodrigo Bazan, CEO of designer label Thom Browne, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast.
“I tend to like less anything based on hype or cool, or the hot thing of the moment, because by definition that’s going to cool down at some point. So I still believe that the big things that are happening are led by a very, very strong design idea,” he explains.
It’s for the same reason that dressing rapper Cardi B for this year’s Met Gala in a larger-than-life ruby ballgown made sense for the luxury label, he notes.
The Thom Browne team does little PR and has no internal VIP team, meaning the relationship with Cardi, as well as sports superstars like basketballer LeBron James, happen organically.
Since launching in 2004, the brand has gained a loyal audience that appreciates its modern take on classic silhouettes. The designer’s discrete nature (he himself is not on social media) and timeless designs mean it has managed to stand out in a world of overconsumption and celebrity designers that rule social media, from Virgil Abloh at Off White and Louis Vuitton to Olivier Rousteing at Balmain.
Bazan explains how the brand is averse to overexposure and flashiness, instead focusing on creating more of these meaningful partnerships, from dressing Barcelona FC players off the field to creating bespoke tailoring with Barneys. As a result, it is steadily growing a business aiming to survive the influencer fatigue that is starting to pick up speed.
Join us to learn more from Bazan about what that means in practice, including how music and celebrity help fuel its success, why the brand believes in sportswear over streetwear, and just how its thinking about the balance of data and design today.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 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 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
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
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.
Farfetch is betting on blockchain as part of the future of luxury with the announcement of its role as a founding member of new platform, Libra Association.
It is joining forces with companies including Facebook, Andreessen Horowitz, Ebay, Spotify and Uber for the fashion-focused platform, which will launch at the beginning of 2020.
It will include a digital currency designed to ensure efficient and secure cross-border payments, as well as a focus on product authentication and transparency.
The move will see Farfetch add digital identities, such as QR codes on labels, to its inventory of 600,000 items, according to Vogue Business. It will be working with Eon, a startup from its Dream Assembly accelerator that creates digital profiles of physical products, to do so.
Farfetch CEO José Neves says he especially wants to use the technology for its resell business, which it is currently piloting under the “Second Life” header. This lets users trade designer handbags for Farfetch credit. The value of blockchain here will sit particularly in that product authenticity and provenance area – showing where an item comes from and that it is indeed real.
“Blockchain is still in its relative infancy, but we think it holds a lot of promise with regards to how it could assist the luxury fashion industry scale solutions to these consumer expectations,” Neves said. “Having data intelligence around the life cycle of a product is what really empowers the circular economy.”
Farfetch’s strategy for the blockchain platform will be developed by its new chief data officer, Kshitij Kumar.
How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about helping you build innovative integrations and experiences. The Current Global 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.
British fashion designer Stella McCartney, long known for her focus on sustainability, is teaming up with San Francisco-based Bolt Threads, a biotechnology company dedicated to creating the next generation of advanced materials.
The duo will together pursue the next chapter in innovative luxury fabrications in a bid to reduce the fashion industry’s reliance on petrochemicals and damage to the environment.
The first piece from the partnership will be a one-off gold dress made from Bolt Threads’ signature “spider silk”; a lab-made protein-based yarn. It will feature in an upcoming exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art called Items: Is Fashion Modern?
“From the day we founded Bolt Threads, we’ve dreamt of partnering with Stella McCartney,” said Dan Widmaier, CEO of Bolt Threads. “Not only does she have an unparalleled aesthetic, but her values and pioneering sustainable fashion align perfectly with our vision for the future of fashion.”
As highlighted by Bolt Threads in a blogpost about the partnership, McCartney is constantly looking for how to step away from the very traditional way in which the fashion industry operates. In 2015 she said: “We’re excited by risk. We’re excited by thinking outside the box. We think that’s modern. And I think the fashion industry is supposed to be modern, and I find it so extraordinarily old fashioned at times that I can’t really get my head around it.”
On today’s announcement, she noted: ‘’On a personal and professional level partnering with Bolt Threads is so exciting, because it feels like everything is finally coming together and the dots are being connected between fashion, sustainability and tech innovation. This is something that I’ve been personally on a journey to find for much of my career and I just feel like there is finally a new opportunity to bring so many industries together and for them to all work as one for a better planet. It is a truly modern and mindful approach to fashion.
“The industry has so much heritage, but at times it can be damaging to the environment and it can also drag you in a backwards direction and for me I always want to move forward in fashion and this is truly a moment to celebrate technology and the future of fashion.”
McCartney’s continual pursuit for more sustainable materials also recently saw her introduce a new viscose program that addresses the issue of deforestation. She also uses organic cotton, regenerated cashmere, vegan leather and recycled soles on her footwear, as further examples. Her focus even extends to alternative glues for her bags and sustainable woods in her stores, while her most recent ad campaign draws attention to overconsumption, set in a Scottish landfill site.
Speaking in November 2016, she said 53% of her womenswear collection can currently be considered sustainable, up from 30% in the early days. Her new menswear line is at 45%.
Bolt Threads, which has a new 11,000 sq ft fiber spinning facility, is also focused on closed-loop processes for manufacturing, using green chemistry practices. The company, which was founded in 2010, released its first ever product in March 2017 – a knit necktie made of its 100% Boltspun spider silk. At the time Widmaier explained: “We see this as the beginning of the story. We’re releasing it in limited quantity to put a statement out there, but there will be more to follow.”
The partnership with Stella McCartney promises to continue to announce and reveal new initiatives throughout the remainder of 2017 and beyond.
It’s interesting to think about the point at which a word become so overused in business terms its very essence loses meaning. “Innovation” is one that’s all too easily thrown about during fashion week season especially.
Is it innovative to live steam a show? To launch on a new social media channel? To showcase behind-the-scenes? It was once. It’s probably not anymore. In fact, for A/W 15/16 in New York, there was very little that could be qualified as “innovation” in the true sense of the word, full stop.
What there was instead was a much greater focus on driving reach and engagement via social media; honing in on opportunities for ROI and ultimately conversion. Working with influencers was a big part of this strategy for the likes of Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein, while Snapchat was otherwise the buzzy platform for at least a little touch of newness. Michael Kors was one of the ones doing so, using the app’s Our Stories feature to contribute to a broader content stream from fashion week.
Arguably all of that isn’t innovation however, it’s a content strategy. Innovation around conversions is necessary (though direct path to purchase isn’t possible via Snapchat anyway), and focusing in on engagement is of course not a bad thing. But fashion shows are about generating attention for collections with all sorts of stakeholders in a bid to build the brand, and it takes something more significant to stand out from the noise, and in New York, from the over 200 shows held.
Innovation should, therefore, be seen as the opportunity to capitalise on more awareness than ever. The theatre of Alexander McQueen’s early shows fit under this header, the spectacle of Dior and Chanel too. But in recent years of course, the focus has been on the role technology plays instead. Burberry was the pioneer of this, and look what it did for them.
I’ve never been one that’s been pro “technology for technology’s sake”, but for once I’m disappointed there’s not more to shout about beyond just the collections so far this season. (A purist might of course be thrilled by that fact). When asked why brands aren’t doing more with technology – whether in their store or at shows – Emily Culp, SVP of e-commerce and omnichannel marketing at Rebecca Minkoff, said: “Frankly because it’s just really really hard.”
One glimmer of hope lay in a handful of brands experimenting with virtual reality. Rebecca Minkoff filmed its show fit for a VR experience expected to launch in March. It worked with VR specialist Jaunt to capture the content using two cameras with three-dozen separate lenses. Our team also spotted a 360-degree camera from a company called WeMakeVR at Tommy Hilfiger, though no official announcement has been made about what the brand is going to do with that footage yet.
But if it’s innovation in terms of conversion we’re really after, it’s worth turning to what a couple of brands are doing in London once it starts today otherwise. Topshop has partnered with Twitter to showcase key trends emerging from London Fashion Week on outdoor digital screens across the UK, according to tweets using the #LFW hashtag. That real-time data will be displayed as a word cloud and placed alongside corresponding shoppable Topshop product.
Hunter Original is also using outdoor this season, live streaming its show across nine digital billboards. The brand will continue its campaign by pairing content from the new collection alongside similar pieces already available for purchase this season.
In both cases what we’re seeing is innovation tied to measurable ROI. With that and the immersive experience that VR promises, there’s hope up ahead. “Innovation” might be an overused and misunderstood word, but it shouldn’t be considered a dirty one.
How’s this for inspired… Brazilian menswear brand Reserva has launched a video of the robbers breaking into its São Paulo store, to help promote its seasonal sale.
The spot, hosted on YouTube and being pushed across social networks, shows real CCTV footage of a gang of thieves raiding the boutique in December. Placed over the top is bold red copy reading: “It’s not necessary to break the window. Just come in! Inventory clearance: up to 40% off.”
It shows the robbers smashing the window, knocking over mannequins and making off with armfuls of merchandise worth $20,000. “Hurry!” reads the next caption. “Why are people doing such crazy stuff for Reserva?”
The YouTube write-up outlines that the store until that point had been beautifully prepared for Christmas. The team had to do a quick turnaround to clean it up ready for shoppers the same morning. They opened without a glass window and hit sales target for the day by 4pm. “DO instead of COMPLAIN,” is the message.
Mesiler adds: “Complaining gets you nowhere, business is about doing things. Rather than suck lemons, it is better to make lemonade with them.” The video, aptly, is called Limonada Reserva.