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Everything you need to know from World Retail Congress

Retail’s ability to disrupt and update its strategies alongside a broader call for more sustainable practices were among the key topics at this year’s World Retail Congress in Amsterdam.

“High velocity retail” and “the future of retail” were the themes for the conference in 2019, with technological advancement standing out as a priority for retailers. “If you’re slow at picking up these nuances, these trends and things that are happening all around us all the time, you’re going to be a loser,” said Lord Stuart Rose, former chairman of British department store Marks and Spencer, now chair of online grocer Ocado.

There was also a conversation around slowing down, however, which tied into consumer expectations of purpose-driven brands. “I think the brands and retailers who will win will be the ones who can tap into meaning,” said philosopher Robert Rowland Smith.

Here’s everything else you need to know…

TOP STORIES
  • High velocity retail: Why the World Retail Congress 2019 was a breath of fresh air [Forbes]
  • Slower retail: Has the industry hit its speed limit? [FashionUnited]
  • Lord Rose: Death of the high street is “overblown” [Retail Gazette]
  • Amazon revealed as the world’s most valuable retail brand, but it shouldn’t rest on its laurels [Warc]
INNOVATION
  • Levi’s to allow shoppers to customize their own ‘greener’ jeans [FashionUnited]
  • Retail chiefs dismiss AI job threat, promise more training [Reuters]
  • Google launches tool to help retailers boost customer experience [Retail Week]
  • Walmart International CEO on data privacy, the failed Asda merger and leveling the playing field for women [FashionUnited]
RETAIL UPDATES
  • Zalando to expand delivery from stores to bag missed sales [Reuters]
  • Yoox Net-a-Porter to become one of the first to launch shoppable Instagram account [ChargedRetail]
  • JD.com exec Ling on the future of ‘boundless retail’ [Retail Week]
BUSINESS MODELS
  • Retailers should collaborate to survive: “You can’t do it alone” [CyclingIndustry]
  • Retailers say business model needs to change for them to remain relevant [Enterprise Times]
  • Millennials are driving growth in emerging subscription retail services [FootwearNews]
  • Superdry chairman urges boardrooms to hire young people amid online shift [Retail Gazette]

How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. Current Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more. 

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ICYMI: Reinventing the checkout line, fashion’s data war, the void of the pop-up experience

Retailers are re-inventing the checkout line
Retailers are re-inventing the checkout line

A round-up of everything you might have missed in relevant fashion, retail and tech industry news over the past week.

TOP STORIES
  • How retailers are reinventing the checkout line [BoF]
  • Fashion’s data war [WWD]
  • The existential void of the pop-up ‘experience’ [NY Times]
  • Mulberry launches interactive retail experience for the holiday season [TheCurrent Daily]
TECHNOLOGY
  • Alibaba and Amazon move over, we visited JD’s connected grocery store in China [TechCrunch]
  • Ford and Walmart to partner on self-driving deliveries [Engadget]
  • How retailers can tell stories by reading emotions [RetailDive]
  • New York Is a genuine tech hub (and that was before Amazon) [BoF]
  • Walmart is using virtual reality to train its workforce for Black Friday [Vox]
SUSTAINABILITY & PURPOSE
  • Big names from fashion, music and art team up for #PassOnPlastic pop-up [The Industry]
  • Kering Foundation unveils campaign against cyberbullying [WWD]
  • Avon fights for LGBTI rights alongside the United Nations [Fashion Network]
RETAIL & E-COMMERCE
  • Talk to me: The rise of voice commerce [WWD]
  • Denim tailors and t-shirt tattoo parlours: Inside Levi’s New Times Square flagship [BoF]
  • Chinese shoppers crave experiences with their bags, LVMH says [Bloomberg]
  • FAO Schwarz puts a new spin on its dance-on piano as part of splashy NYC comeback [CNBC]
MARKETING & SOCIAL MEDIA
  • How brands are finally realising the full potential of personalization [Marketing Week]
  • These are all the problems with Iceland’s banned Christmas advert [Wired]
  • John Lewis unveils Christmas ad and experiential store activations [Fashion Network]
  • A third of brands admit to not disclosing influencer partnerships [Marketing Week]
PRODUCT
  • Gucci expands DIY service [Fashion United]
  • Clinique bets big on personalized moisturization [WWD]
BUSINESS
  • Beyoncé buys out Ivy Park brand from Philip Green [BoF]
CULTURE
  • Five lessons fashion can learn from Disney [BoF]
  • How cannabis became chic [i-D]

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

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business Campaigns digital snippets e-commerce Events product Retail social media Startups sustainability technology

ICYMI: Alibaba smashes Singles’ Day record, 2018 as the year of Virgil Abloh and Meghan Markle, holiday catalogs

Singles' Day 200 billion yuan sales figure
Singles’ Day 200 billion yuan sales figure

A round-up of everything you might have missed in relevant fashion, retail and tech industry news over the past week.

TOP STORIES
  • Alibaba sets Singles’ Day record with $31 billion in sales [Bloomberg]
  • Ebay declares 2018 the year of Virgil Abloh, logos and the Markle Effect [FashionNetwork]
  • Why catalogs still have a hold on holiday marketing [RetailDive]
TECHNOLOGY
  • Sephora and Google partner on hands-free experience [WWD]
  • China is now using gait recognition to identify people [FastCompany]
  • AI news anchor makes debut in China [NPR]
  • AI bots are awkwardly learning how to dress themselves [Dazed]
SUSTAINABILITY & PURPOSE
  • Is sustainability incompatible with fashion? [i-D]
  • The suddenly surging business of recycled plastic puffer jackets [Fashionista]
RETAIL & E-COMMERCE
  • Glossier opens first NYC flagship [Fashion Network]
  • Zalando looks to Alibaba for connected retail inspiration [Fashion United]
  • Amazon to inaugurate first pop-up shop in Italy [WWD]
  • Dollar Shave Club plans vending machines in high-traffic areas [Retail Dive]
  • JD.com competes for luxury partners with high-tech and white gloves [Jing Daily]
MARKETING & SOCIAL MEDIA
  • WeChat reaches 1m mini programs, half the size of Apple’s app store [TechCrunch]
  • Anya Hindmarch gets down to business, helping procrastinators and the scatterbrained [WWD]
BUSINESS
  • Black Friday 2018: Consumers are eager, more digital, and willing to spend [McKinsey]
  • Betting on Richemont’s future [BoF]
CULTURE
  • This size-inclusive lingerie show just put the Victoria’s Secret runway to shame [Teen Vogue]
  • Saint Laurent launches art project with Daido Moriyama exhibition [WWD]
  • Why fashion’s future will be shaped by male consumerism [Highsnobiety]
  • Hedi Slimane and the art of the ‘drop’ [BoF]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Exclusivity or not

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

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

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


More autonomy and independence?

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

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

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


Value-added logistics service

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

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

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

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

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

By Yiling Pan @SiennaPan

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