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.
Nordstrom is opening a new tech-enabled menswear store located in the heart of New York City, as part of its ongoing focus on new retail formats.
The three-floor location at 57th Street and Broadway, aims to combine an old school retail experience with cutting edge technology to provide a unique shopping experience to its customers.
It will be home to Nordstrom’s full-line of menswear, shoes and grooming supplies with a focus on streetwear. Brands that will be present in the store include high-end names like Comme des Garçons and Christian Louboutin, as well Vans and Adidas.
While shoe shines and tailoring are part of the traditional focus of the store (there are 16 tailors on staff, contributing to one of the largest network of tailors in North America, as well as five personal shoppers), there’s also a big interactive element enabled to drive both convenience and experience for shoppers.
Technology in its tailoring section for instance, includes digital screens that display an avatar of the shopper so they can try on an array of custom-made jackets.
Meanwhile, a new fully digital returns system will also be in place to assist on the customer journey. Returned items can be scanned at a digital kiosk and deposited in a bin, limiting the need for human contact throughout the process. The only other Nordstrom store to use this system is in Seattle.
The store also enhances the online shopping process by offering 24-hour collection. This means customers can order items online and collect them from the store – a Nordstrom employee will meet them at the store entrance no matter the time of day.
Nordstrom already operates two of its Nordstrom Rack discount stores in the city, but the investment will serve as a test of the future of department stores as people choose to shop online more frequently.
It also follows the launch of the retailer’s Nordstrom Local concept, a service-orientated store that doesn’t hold any inventory, and instead focuses on appointment-only services including alterations, tailoring and personal styling, as well as online collections and returns.
The store serves as a prelude to the opening of Nordstrom’s womenswear location, expected in 2019.
NRF’s Big Show hit New York once again this week with an expo floor covering every form of technology modern retailers need today*, and big topics of conversation pointing to the future of the industry.
From a topline perspective, focus was on everything from personalization through artificial intelligence, to the need for speed, enabling a frictionless experience as well as the increasing demand for invisibility in technology.
Artificial intelligence remains one of the hot terms in the industry today – machine learning, computer vision, natural language processing and chatbots were found left, right and center across NRF. Underlying that in terms of the reason it matters, however, was a focus on personalization for customers. Neiman Marcus’ president and CEO, Karen Katz, talked to the challenge of shifting from being a retailer that nails this in store through the human-to-human experience, and now trying to replicate that in the online world. “Online is where the next level is presenting itself for [service-oriented] personalization,” she said.
Spencer Fung, CEO of Li & Fung, talked to the idea of the industry shifting from being optimized by cost, to finding competitive advantage in speed. As an industry, the time it takes to get from ideas to stores has only extended by virtue of parts of the supply chain located further and further away. “This cost optimization model in a world where consumers are moving 10x faster is no longer valid. You can no longer make decisions today on what will sell in 40-50 weeks time,” he said. The supply chain of the future, underpinned by new technology, is predicated by speed.
While technology is so central to the NRF scene, the discussion for retailers is increasingly around how to make this invisible for consumers. “The most relevant future innovation platforms are ones that consumers don’t see,” said Levi’s brand president James JC Curleigh. He talked to the idea of complete simplicity on the front end, all the while there’s increasing sophistication behind-the-scenes. Intel’s chief innovation officer, Stacey Shulman, agreed with this point, telling us: “Technology should never be at the forefront from a consumer perspective, it just needs to be the helper at the back. It’s what enables sales associates to get back to the customer and back to what’s important.”
In the context of NRF, the word “omnichannel” is an oft-overused one. This year, however, it was the idea of making retail frictionless that was bandied about more predominantly. Neiman Marcus’ Katz talked to this as being one of the organization’s greatest challenges. Calling it frictionless retail is about having greater scope for every touchpoint, she suggested. Nordstrom’s SVP of customer experience, Shea Jensen, meanwhile, told us her focus is on providing convenience; doing things in the context of continuously solving customer problems.
*Want to know which technologies we deemed most relevant from the show floor? Our team of startup scouts combed through the innovations demonstrated, examining and analyzing those of chief importance to retailers and brands today. Get in touch to find out 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.
US department store chain Nordstrom has announced it is preparing to roll out a new store concept that will tap into consumer demand for convenience and speed with a smaller and much more dedicated retail space.
Nordstrom Local stores will carry no dedicated inventory, with customers who want to shop only able to do so via Personal Stylists. In a bid to focusing on tailored service over footprint, the space will sit at 3,000 sq. ft, compared to the average 140,000 sq. ft Nordstrom store.
“As the retail landscape continues to transform at an unprecedented pace, the one thing we know that remains constant is that customers continue to value great service, speed and convenience,” said Shea Jensen, Nordstrom’s senior vice president of customer experience, who led the Nordstrom Local initiative. “We know there are more and more demands on a customer’s time and we wanted to offer our best services in a convenient location to meet their shopping needs.”
Customers can book in appointments online, over the phone or in-person. Following one-to-one conversations, the stylists will then transfer in suitable merchandise for the respective clients to come in and try. Stores will have one styling suite and eight dressing rooms accordingly, all of them surrounding a central meeting space where customers can enjoy a drink and talk to their dedicated stylist. Other services include Alterations & Tailoring, Click & Collect and Curbside Pickup, access to Trunk Club and an on-site nail salon.
The on-site personal stylists will also be armed with the retailer’s new digital tool, Nordstrom Style Boards, which allows them to create digital boards filled with personalised fashion recommendations that customers can view on their phone and purchase directly through Nordstrom.com. Customers can also log into the app to have more extensive conversations with salespeople and stylists.