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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.

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Kering commits to carbon neutrality, retail surveillance, Instagram supports drop model

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

Top Stories
  • Kering commits to carbon neutrality (Drapers)
  • The new ways retailers are watching you shop (BoF)
  • Instagram launches ‘reminders’ to support product drops (Vogue Business)
Technology
  • Boston Dynamics robot dog Spot is going on sale for the first time (MIT Technology Review)
  • Cryptocurrency’s huge potential in China’s luxury retail (Jing Daily)
  • Kraft Heinz brings mobile-activated packaging to Walmart (Mobile Marketer)
  • Oculus eclipses $100million in VR content sales (TechCrunch)
  • Amazon to launch smart home inventory sensors (Retail Dive)
SUSTAINABILITY & PURPOSE
  • Burt’s Bees and National Geographic partner for climate campaign (Fashion Network)
  • Can Stella McCartney make faux fur sustainable? (Vogue)
  • M&S and Tesco take top spots in climate change report ranking (Retail Gazette)
  • Taylor Stitch garment restored in Restitch’s workwear capsule (Sourcing Journal)
  • LVMH gets competitive about sustainability (BoF)
  • UK government moves to end ‘vague and misleading’ bioplastic terminology (Dezeen)
  • Clean jeans are the future of denim (Vogue Business)
  • Peta launches campaign to get Farfetch to ban angora (Fashion Network)
  • DPD inks sustainable contract with Asos (Drapers)
  • ‘No planet, no sports’ says Nike Sustainability Chief (Sourcing Journal)
RETAIL & E-COMMERCE
BUSINESS
  • Forever 21 files for Bankruptcy (Bloomberg)
  • Ebay CEO steps down (Retail Dive)
  • Rent the Runway executive steps down after delivery failures (BoF)
  • Marks & Spencer’s director of supply chain & logistics departs (Drapers)
  • Boohoo interim revenues up by 43% as annual sales break £1bn (The Industry)
  • Calvin Klein names Nadege Winter SVP brand experience (Fashion Network)
  • Boohoo appoints Missguided brand boss as MissPap CEO (Drapers)
  • British manufacturing: back in fashion (The Guardian)
MARKETING & SOCIAL MEDIA
  • MAC Cosmetics targets gamers with TwitchCon sponsorship (Glossy)
  • Walmart challenges TikTok users to share dance moves (Mobile Marketer)
  • Honda debuts animated comic book on social media (Mobile Marketer)
  • Oculus introduces social virtual reality world Facebook horizon (Adweek)
  • Facebook tries hiding like counts to fight envy (TechCrunch)
PRODUCT
  • Reebok and Adidas collaborate to launch Instapump fury boost (Fashion Network)
  • Amazon expands Alexa with voice-powered wearable (Mobile Marketer)
  • Amazon fashion teams with Puma on new athleisure brand (BoF)
  • Selfridges partners with British CBD body and wellness start-up Grass & Co (Fashion Network)
  • Nestle launches luxury KitKat bars in direct-to-consumer move (Campaign)
  • Diesel partners Coca-Cola for eco-savvy clothing range (Campaign)
  • Amazon pushes further into healthcare with Amazon Care (Adweek)
CULTURE
  • Indian women are Youtube-ing their way out of gender stereotypes (Quartzy)
  • Rebecca Minkoff on the business of representation (Glossy)
  • Mattel release line of gender-neutral world dolls (Adweek)
  • Avon can’t escape lawsuit accusing it of discriminating against pregnant women (Fashion Law)

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.

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4 innovative retail fulfilment methods to know

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

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

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

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

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

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

CROWDSOURCED DELIVERY

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

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

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

ROBOTIC POSTIES
Ford Delivery Robot

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

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

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

DRONES
Amazon Prime Air Service

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

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

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

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

ALL ACCESS
Waitrose While You’re Away Yale Technology

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

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

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

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

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business Editor's pick sustainability

10 scary truths about fast fashion’s impact on the environment

sustainability fast fashion environment mckinsey
Annual clothing production exceeded 100 billion for the first time in 2014

McKinsey & Company has released a new report outlining how important it is for companies in the fast fashion space to look to reduce social and environmental costs.

At the heart of the report is this simple line: “The fact remains that innovation in the way clothes are made has not kept pace with the acceleration of how they are designed and marketed.”

Thanks to falling costs, streamlined operations, and rising consumer spending, clothing production and consumption has soared since the turn of the millennium. The downside of that, of course, is the impact it has had on the planet accordingly. “Without improvements in how clothing is made, these issues will grow proportionally as more clothes are produced,” the authors ascertain.

Here are 10 facts they highlight before outlining a list of recommendations for steps companies need to take to start countering their increasing impact…


  • Annual clothing production exceeded 100 billion for the first time in 2014; resulting in nearly 14 items for every person on earth

  • Production has doubled from 2000 to 2014, with the number of garments purchased each year by the average consumer increasing by 60% over the same period

  • Making 1 kilogram of fabric generates an average of 23 kilograms of greenhouse gases.

  • Washing and drying 1 kilogram of clothing over its entire life cycle, using typical methods, creates 11 kilograms of greenhouse gases.

  • Across nearly every apparel category, consumers keep clothing items about half as long as they did 15 years ago

  • Some estimates suggest consumers treat the lowest-priced garments as nearly disposable, discarding them after just seven or eight wears

  • Zara offers 24 new clothing collections each year; H&M offers 12 to 16 and refreshes them weekly. Among all European apparel companies, the average number of clothing collections has more than doubled, from two a year in 2000, to about five a year in 2011

  • Nearly three-fifths of all clothing produced ends up in incinerators or landfills within a year of being made. Germany outperforms most countries by collecting almost three-quarters of all used clothing, reusing half and recycling one-quarter. Elsewhere, collection rates are far lower: 15% in the United States, 12% in Japan, and 10% in China.

  • While sales growth has been robust around the world, emerging economies have seen especially large rises in clothing sales, as more people in them have joined the middle class. In five large developing countries – Brazil, China, India, Mexico, and Russia – apparel sales grew eight times faster than in Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States

  • If 80% of the population of emerging economies were to achieve the same clothing-consumption levels as the Western world by 2025, and the apparel industry does not become more environmentally efficient, then the environmental footprint of the apparel industry will become significantly larger across carbon emissions, water and land use (as per the below graph)

mckinsey sustainability


McKinsey notes the fact 22 apparel brands belong to a coalition called Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals to improve and expand the use of nontoxic, sustainable chemistry in the textile and footwear supply chain. There’s also the Better Cotton Initiative, which involves more than 50 retailers and brands and nearly 700 suppliers in setting standards for environmental, social, and economic responsibility in cotton production. It goes on to further recommend several additional steps companies can, and indeed need, to take to start countering the impact fast fashion has:


  • Develop standards and practices for designing garments that can be easily reused or recycled. The Sustainable Apparel Coalition has created an index for measuring the full life-cycle impact of clothing and footwear products.

  • Invest in the development of new fibres that will lower the environmental effects of production and garment making. In 2016, the Walmart Foundation awarded grants of nearly $3 million to five US universities to support research on improving the sustainability and efficiency of textile manufacturing.

  • Encourage consumers to care for their clothes in low-impact ways. Washing garments in hot or warm water and drying at high heat or for longer than needed uses a lot of energy. Clothing makers and retailers can help steer consumers toward clothing-care practices that have a smaller environmental toll and keep garments in good shape for longer.

  • Support the development of mechanical- and chemical-recycling technologies. The fibres produced by mechanical recycling, for example, are shorter and lower in quality than virgin fibres and therefore less useful to apparel makers. Chemical recycling could improve on this as the technology advances.

  • Establish higher labour and environmental standards for suppliers and set up mechanisms to make supply chains more transparent. For example, the software company EVRYTHNG and packaging maker Avery Dennison have together launched an effort to tag clothing so consumers can trace how individual items were produced all along the supply chain.

  • Provide suppliers with guidance and resources for meeting new labour and environmental standards and hold them accountable for performance shortfalls. Walmart, for example, has made a public commitment that by 2017, 70% or more of the products it sources directly from suppliers will come from factories with energy-management plans. The company offers its suppliers software tools to help them find opportunities for using energy and other resources more efficiently.

You can read the full report via McKinsey.com.