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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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business e-commerce Editor's pick Retail Startups technology

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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mobile social media

British Vogue launches chatbot on Facebook Messenger at London Fashion Week

British Vogue, March 2017 issue
British Vogue, March 2017 issue

British Vogue has made its first foray into the AI space via a chatbot on Facebook Messenger that allows users to personalise their fashion news.

“Vogue Fashion Update”, as it’s called, was launched to coincide with the start of London Fashion Week, enabling users to catch up on all the latest shows and their favourite designers.

Alexandra Shulman, editor-in-chief of British Vogue commented: “This is a new method for us to be able to talk directly and immediately to the huge Vogue audience, who rely on us to provide inspiring and authoritative fashion news.”

On joining a chat, users are first given options as to what information they receive, including daily alerts on top stories, up-to-date runway news during the show season, or more tailored content based on specific designers of interest.

Vogue Messenger chatBot

The bot will evolve over time, with future updates set to provide further personalisation and interaction, the Condé Nast International digital team behind it explained in a press release.

Their view is on taking away the need to compete with a scrolling newsfeed and instead deliver content directly to the subscriber for a distinctly more personal interaction.

Cantlin Ashrowan, Condé Nast International’s director of product, said: “We are always seeking to engage with our audiences in new and innovative ways. Today marks the latest step in British Vogue’s long history of innovation in fashion journalism.”

More specifically, it also follows British Vogue’s attempts to run a Whatsapp group (which was really just a broadcast list) for similar reasons. This started out as an instant message update every time there was any relevant fashion news – and fairly frequently – but closed down within a month or so with no word as to why. One can only assume the manpower behind it didn’t make sense for the team (in terms of returns), comparative to this automated version using Facebook’s bot store.

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business digital snippets e-commerce film social media technology

What you missed: What Trump means for retail, Alibaba’s $17bn Singles’ Day, Snapchat’s Snapbots

Trump America election retail
Analysts are weighing in on what a Trump presidency means for retail and for fashion

With the world reeling from the news of the US election over this past week, analysts have been trying to wrap their head around exactly what a Trump government will mean for retail. There are several good reads listed below.

Also hitting the headlines has of course been the mindblowing success and growth of Alibaba’s Singles’ Day – this year a $17bn affair, up from ‘just’ $14bn in 2015.

Meanwhile, some lighter bits to absorb: a wealth of new campaigns launched for the holiday season. John Lewis vs Marks & Spencer has got us excited, but also below is everyone from Gap to Macy’s, Debenhams and Kohl’s.

ps. Don’t forget to sign up for our Snapchat Masterclass – we’re currently offering 20% for our readers using code “community”.


TOP STORIES: US ELECTION & ALIBABA’S SINGLES’ DAY
  • What President Trump means for retailers [Retail Dive]
  • Fashion industry reacts to ‘devastating’ Trump victory [BoF]
  • Is fashion’s love affair with Washington over? [NY Times]
  • New Balance customers revolt after company welcomes Trump [Campaign]
  • $17 billion in one day: How Alibaba turned China’s Singles’ Day into a shopping bonanza [Digiday]
  • Virtual reality lets Chinese customers shop Macy’s New York store on the world’s biggest shopping day [Quartz]
  • Why luxury fashion brands are showing up for Singles’ Day [Glossy]
  • Michael Kors dished out discount codes with a casino-themed game on WeChat for Singles’ Day [AdWeek]
  • Five takeaways from Alibaba’s gigantic $17.8 billion shopping festival [AdAge]

BUSINESS
  • Nasty Gal files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy [Retail Dive]
  • Burberry profit falls 40% as costs rise [WSJ]
  • Kenneth Cole to shut down almost all its brick-and-mortar stores [Bloomberg]
  • Luxury coatmaker Canada Goose said to line up banks for IPO [Bloomberg]

SOCIAL MEDIA
  • Snap Inc.’s Spectacles are dropping in these crazy cool vending machines called Snapbots [AdWeek]

ADVERTISING
  • Luxury brands are failing in their storytelling [The Guardian]
  • Gap harnesses optimism in holiday ads [MediaPost]
  • Macy’s bets on power of Santa belief this holiday [AdAge]
  • Jennifer Saunders and Ewan McGregor sign up for Debenhams Christmas campaign [The Drum]
  • Kohl’s ramps up giving message in holiday campaign [AdAge]
  • Browns unveils new look, new website and innovative window campaign [The Industry]

UPCOMING EVENTS
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business

BoF moves to walled content model, intros monthly and annual subscriptions

 

BoF Professional
BoF Professional

The Business of Fashion is introducing a paywall in front of much of its content in a bid to move forward with monetisation, it announced today.

From October 25, BoF Professional, as the subscription setup has been dubbed, will be the only way to get unlimited access to its content as well as exclusive analysis, special briefings and networking events. There are both monthly and annual payment plans available.

“For almost a decade, The Business of Fashion has been a trusted source of independent, authoritative analysis on the global fashion industry, arming fashion professionals all over the world with a powerful competitive advantage in today’s turbulent times. Now, it’s time for BoF to take the next step in our journey as a business,” founder Imran Amed wrote in his post about the plans.

Students and occasional readers will continue to have access to five articles per month free of charge, as well as unlimited access to the site’s Daily Digest Newsletter, BoF Fashion Week galleries, the BoF 500 and BoF Careers.

There will also be a special discount to students who wish to upgrade to BoF Professional, as well as special group rates to companies and other organisations of 10 people or more.

BoF has been steadily moving towards more of a revenue-driven model over the past couple of years, with services including a careers site, education platform and offline events under the header BoF Voices all bringing in money to the growing company.

The team raised £1.3m in seed funding from a group of investors in 2013, including Index Ventures, LVMH, Carmen Busquets and Felix Capital. This was followed by a Series A round in 2015.

For those looking to subscribe, the team is offering a 50% early bird discount to the annual subscription of £9 per month. The monthly subscription is £18 per month.

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Uncategorized

The Cut and Vice win best fashion apps; Vogue launches Daily News app

The Cut on the Runway and Vice – Dos and Don’ts have been named the best fashion apps currently available by The Sunday Times.

The newspaper’s Apps List 2012, the first section of which was published on January 22, features 250 of the best apps (the second 250 will follow on January 29), according to a team of experienced reviewers aided by several experts in specialist fields.

New York Magazine’s The Cut and Vice lead in the fashion space, alongside other entries across culture, entertainment, sport, food, travel, health and science.

Meanwhile, British Vogue has today announced the launch of its Daily News app, in association with Vertu. Available on the iPhone and Blackberry and soon on Android and Windows 7, it offers news updates throughout the day, backstage access, insider interviews, and party pictures.

“The Daily News on Vogue.com has become one of the strongest elements of the site over the last 15 years, bringing the latest updates and the most inspirational, stylish stories into the limelight throughout the day every day,” says Vogue.com editor, Dolly Jones.

“Whether you’re interested in the latest on the YSL vs. Louboutin court battle; the best new fashion labels; strongest trends; or just want to know which supermodel is wearing what and where every day, we offer the latest and most trusted fashion news resource. The fact that our readers can now read it on their phones will be a fantastic advantage.”