The environment’s new clothes: biodegradable textiles grown from live organisms [Scientific American]
More than ever, our clothes are made of plastic. Just washing them can pollute the oceans [Vox]
Skechers delivers 15,000 pairs of shoes to children still in need in Puerto Rico [Businesswire]
Where Burberry waste goes now label isn’t burning clothes any more [SCMP]
Is certification the answer to fashion’s ethical issues? [LS:N Global]
New study shows that Gen Z will strengthen sustainability trend [FashionUnited]
RETAIL & E-COMMERCE
Amazon Storefronts is a new retail hub exclusively for US small businesses [TheVerge]
Container Store tracks appointments with voice tech [RetailDive]
Italy’s first Starbucks serves cocktails, ice cream, and a side of augmented reality [Mashable]
The future of airport retail is hyper-personalization [LS:N Global]
MARKETING & SOCIAL MEDIA
Victoria’s Secret’s Pink revamps loyalty with mobile app [RetailDive]
Gucci’s surprise new Instagram account truly revitalizes its beauty offering [i-D]
How Nordstrom reinvented its retail loyalty program [Digiday]
The epic ‘Game of Go’: a real-time experience showcasing Nike’s latest React technology [TheDrum]
Bespoke tailoring in the athleisure age: how China changed Savile Row [SCMP]
How De Beers learned to love lab-grown diamonds [BoF]
Walmart is borrowing luxury’s playbook to gain an edge on Amazon in fashion [Quartz]
Store investment pays off as Harvey Nichols profits soar [TheIndustry]
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.
Mike Mallazzo of Dynamic Yield, shares his views on the year ahead in e-commerce tech, from the need for vast amounts of data to gain ground in the machine learning era, to the idea of Patagonia as a target for Amazon.
With the pace of innovation in e-commerce technology, predicting how retail tech will shake out in 2018 is the ultimate fool’s errand.
1. The golden age of customer experience will shine brighter
Today’s e-commerce professionals aren’t just thinking about changing colours on banners and buttons. The conversation has shifted to thinking about the entire shopper journey and how to optimise every element of it.
As barriers to entry in e-commerce crumble, there are scores of e-commerce start-ups in every category competing for your affection. Concurrently, there are thousands of marketing technology vendors trying to sell these companies technologies to help them deliver superior digital experiences.
The competitive landscape is fierce, breeding incredible innovations in every corner of retail from supply chain and logistics to in-app augmented reality. With smart people competing across the internet to capture our attention, the end experience for the end user will continue to get better and better.
2. Artificial intelligence will finally make a real impact, but with little glitz and glamour
With honorable mentions to “growth hacking” and “storytelling”, no buzzword was more abused in 2017 than “artificial intelligence”, or AI. It’s replaced big data as the new teen sex with everyone talking about it and nobody doing it.
However, the problem with adoption of AI in e-commerce has not been limitations of the technology itself. It’s been in access to data to help the machines learn. In order to meaningfully impact the customer experience, machine learning algorithms need to ingest vast amounts of data; machine learners are ultimately only as good as the school supplies you arm them with. However, even for tech-forward retailers, this data often exists across a myriad of software programmes and dusty basements of servers making it impossible for them to create unified profiles of their customer.
Low hanging applications of AI in retail lie in solving unsexy problems, such as which recommendations strategy to serve new visitors to an e-commerce website. While AI won’t upend retail anytime soon, practical applications of machine learning to common e-commerce problems will proliferate in 2018, benefiting brands that adopt the technology.
3. Retail’s middle class will face its toughest year yet
Already eviscerated, retailers and department stores that sell to the middle class will encounter even tougher market conditions in 2018.
All of the feel good articles saying that a lemonade stand can compete with Amazon leave out an inconvenient truth – most of the brands successfully competing with Amazon sell really expensive goods. The median household income in America simply can’t buy Away luggage, a Rent the Runway subscription or $150 shoes from Rothy’s.
Quietly, the retail apocalypse has also been a boom time for hyper discount retailers such as Dollar Tree, who can still compete with Amazon on the basis of price. Incredibly, one company, LA-based Hollar, has successfully managed to take the dollar-store experience online, blending competitive pricing with sophisticated supply chain and digital technology.
Expect Hollar to become a true household name in 2018 and beyond and a company that delivers real value to the e-commerce ecosystem.
4. Amazon will meaningfully enter fashion by way of acquisition
Last time Jeff Bezos couldn’t crack a niche e-commerce market, he simply bought out his competitor, Vito Coreloning diapers startup Quidsi. Look for Amazon to bring back this playbook in 2018 to finally break into fashion.
Amazon whisperer and NYU professor Scott Galloway predicts that Nordstrom will join the Amazon empire next year to plug this gap. An even bolder prediction from Gene Munster has Amazon buying Target in 2018 for about $40 billion. While Amazon has shown a willingness to swing big with the Whole Foods acquisition, I’d look for slightly smaller stores with high margins, nouveau riche clienteles and chic brick and mortar presences to be prime targets. Amazon can buy a retailer with less than $1bn in revenue with pocket change while avoiding pesky antitrust concerns.
Bold prediction: Amazon unites the South American topographies by making a bid for Patagonia. Bezos picks up a socially active brand beloved by millennials while Patagonia does the deal to lower prices and to provide financial cover for even more political activity
5. Brands will have less value than ever
While Amazon’s shadow looms everywhere, retail’s old guard is also being hammered by the fact that more shoppers every month are simply ambivalent about the logo on their clothes. For many millennials, the $12 black polo with no logo is just as good as the $70 Lacoste polo with a cute little crocodile.
Perhaps nothing is more telling than the fact that one of the VC darlings in e-commerce is literally called “Brandless”. In 2018, expect a lot more nice apparel from no-name brands to flood the market, increasing pressure on many iconic brands to win on the basis of customer experience rather than brand equity.
Mike Mallazzo is the head of content at Dynamic Yield, a personalisation technology start-up. His writing on the future of commerce, media and technology has appeared in Quartz, Entrepreneur, Forbes, The Next Web, MediaPost and the Chicago Tribune.
Space travel has long been a source of inspiration to the fashion industry. When the space race between the Soviet Union and the US was underway in the 1960s, it influenced designers including Paco Rabanne, Courrèges and Pierre Cardin into all manner of both sculptural and streamlined looks.
High fashion houses since have regularly referenced everything and anything related to the galaxy, the fantasy of its contents and the way in which we could navigate it.
One giant leap to modern day and little has changed. This time around it’s the likes of Chanel and Gucci taking their cues directly from exploring our solar system and beyond.
Accessories brand Coach, meanwhile, recently unveiled a limited edition capsule collection of NASA-themed pieces, including handbags, purses and sweatshirts. Said creative director, Stuart Vevers, at the time: “The collection is very nostalgic. There’s something about the time of the space program that just gives this feeling of possibility. The space references, rockets, and planets are symbolic of a moment of ultimate American optimism and togetherness.”
In today’s political environment, that feeling of hope may be particularly sought after once more, but the renewed interest in space goes beyond just nostalgia. Head over to Forbes to read all about the space travel on the horizon fuelled by private companies, and what that means for designers in terms of potential branding opportunities as the spacesuit for Elon Musk’s SpaceX is revealed.
Chanel grabbed everyone’s attention once again at Paris Fashion Week – this time for another future-focused theme with its spacecraft set design. Kudos to the work that went into that but can you imagine the budget? Even Karl Lagerfeld’s visions have got to come back down to earth (excuse the pun) at some point – where is the true value, is the question? Jeff Bezos of Amazon meanwhile, is genuinely exploring how to ship products to the moon.
Elsewhere this week, we’re also talking about Natalie Massenet’s other role running her own VC firm alongside her new co-chair position at Farfetch; the incoming of robots at retail; news of Everlane ditching Facebook Messenger notifications (an interesting move that may spell some serious indication around chatbot ROI); and under our tech header, a must-read from Wired on Ford’s future city including hoverboards that carry shopping and drone deliveries to skyscrapers.