Categories
business e-commerce Editor's pick Events product Retail Startups technology

Innovation Mansion brings “human factor” to NRF

The Current Global’s Innovation Mansion came to New York last weekend exploring how retail’s future needs to focus on technology and humans working as one.

Attended by c-suite executives from Fortune 500 companies and the world’s leading brands, the experiential activation aligned with NRF’s Big Show event happening this week.

Under the theme of “The Human Factor”, it examined the techniques used by top innovators, showcased rising technologies and explored how tech can deliver personalization, experience and convenience while being increasingly led by emotion.

One of the highlights was a live Innovators podcast recording with retail trailblazer, Ron Johnson, who is best known as the man behind the Apple store and the Genius Bar concept, and then CEO of JC Penney. Today, he is the founder and CEO of Enjoy, an e-commerce company that aims to reinvent the last mile.

Speaking to Current Global’s co-founder and CEO, Liz Bacelar, Johnson discussed the importance of deepening relationships with consumers at every step of the shopping journey. He explained how he believes the future of commerce is mobile retail, and how he is focusing on helping premium brands deliver joy and convenience to the consumer’s home.

Co-founder & CEO of Camp, Ben Kaufman and Co-founder & CEO of Current Global, Liz Bacelar

Meanwhile Ben Kaufman, co-founder and CEO of family store Camp, and former CMO of Buzzfeed, talked on the podcast about how his retail concept is using the winning recipe of merchandise, theatre and experience. Described as the “Speakeasy for kids”, the store brings a fresh perspective to traditional brick-and-mortar, with a rotating schedule of activities and themes, allowing customers to always find something new.

“We find a way to integrate productive retail space into even the big immersive experiential set pieces,” he explained to Bacelar, demonstrating how every square foot of the store is used to its best potential. 

Wrapping up the day was a panel focused on direct-to-consumer brands. It featured sunscreen brand Supergoop!, DTC incubator dtx company and retail concept SHOWFIELDS. The discussion explored how to build a brand for modern consumers, who see no boundaries between physical and digital.

Guests also had the opportunity to explore the latest technologies set to transform your business in 2020 with “The Hot 12” tech exhibit from Current Global, which included everything from smart mirrors to cutting-edge vending machines.

Look out for our Innovators podcast episodes with Enjoy’s Johnson and Camp’s Kaufman, publishing soon. Meanwhile, subscribe here to keep up with the latest episodes.

A special thank you to our content partner Bellwether Culture and partners United Talent Agency and Membrain.

Want to know more about how our technology partners can help you reach your innovation goals? 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.

Categories
Editor's pick Retail

3 key takeaways from NRF’s Big Show 2019

NRF’s Big Show landed in New York this week and featured innovations across the spectrum increasingly focusing on seamless and personalized experiences.

In this sense, technologies such as artificial intelligence and the use of data are becoming essential tools to serve the customer tomorrow. Conversations on stage echoed the tech on display on the startup floor, looking at how brands are striving to meet those needs.

Data needs to strike a balance

On an exhibition floor stacked with companies that are leveraging data to better serve the customer, conversations naturally turned to how brands can use it successfully but most importantly, responsibly. Following the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal and the new GDPR regulations in Europe, it is incumbent on brands that want to deploy data to be transparent and clear with how they will use it.

From executives at Ralph Lauren, through to smaller names like LA-based accessories label Hammit, tracking behavior can bring enormous benefits, speakers said. From helping choose product assortment to how to better serve customers online, brands shouldn’t be shy about talking to their methods. If the consumer sees they are getting a service that is relevant and saves them time, they will appreciate it, they noted.

For Aaron Sanandres, co-founder and CEO of menswear label UNTUCK.it, the challenge is how to use that data to serve the customer in-store without sounding too intrusive or, in his own words, “creepy”. While online a “Welcome back, Aaron” greeting might seem like a pleasant surprise, in person, the customer might have an entirely adverse reaction, he said. Getting the balance right is tricky: “Doing that in a way that’s inviting and not off-putting is the challenge.”

Physical retail still rules

Retailers and brands are deploying physical retail in increasingly creative and flexible ways, showing naysayers that the channel is far from dead. Arguably one of its biggest cheerleaders is Story founder, and now Macy’s brand experience officer, Rachel Shechtman, who took to the stage with Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette, to explain how she is thinking like a media company to deliver content – and merchandise – that is relevant to the consumer up-to-the-minute through retail.

For smaller brands, the brick and mortar experience is now an invaluable tool to allow them to become more granular in their approach. While a brand’s retail experience always has to have an overarching layer of consistency, it is by building small moments that are relevant to a specific demographic, at a specific location, that creates a stronger sense of community and loyalty.

For John Frierson, president at LA-based retailer Fred Segal, brands born digitally do this well because they have already worked out all of the kinks of providing a frictionless experience online. They can therefore take a fresh approach when venturing into physical. “When they come down to the real world they are not looking at traditional retail metrics, but rather at storytelling. It then becomes a much more interesting experience,” he said.

Customers and employees sit at equal measure

There is a lot of conversation on how to be customer-centric, but the employee satisfaction piece is more important than ever – both to attract the best talent in an increasingly competitive market, but also to create an internal environment that lives and breathes the company’s mission, speakers commented.

In a conversation about building leadership, Levi’s CEO Chip Bergh believes the company taking a stand is not only important for the consumer it serves, but also because it is what his employees expect of him. CEOs, he said, have the responsibility to themselves and to others to give back.

Brandless founder Tina Sharkey agreed, saying its DNA to be purposeful not only helps repeat customers – wherein those who understand their social mission shop 80% more frequently than those who don’t – but employee retention too. “Employees want to work at a place where they feel they have movement and meaning in their work,” she explained.

Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario noted that while the company’s mission statement is a hugely attractive sell to consumers, it has equal importance to its employees. “You have to inspire the people that work for you into a greater and bigger purpose than themselves, and for us it’s saving the planet.”

How are you thinking about retail innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners for your innovation strategy. TheCurrent 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.

Categories
business Editor's pick sustainability Uncategorized

Patagonia is in the business to save the planet, says CEO Rose Marcario?

 

As climate change becomes real, Patagonia is striving to do more good, rather than just less harm, said its CEO, Rose Marcario, at NRF’s Big Show in New York yesterday.

“Patagonia is in the business to save our home planet,” reads the outerwear brand’s updated mission statement.

In the 90s the company’s strategy around sustainability was considered groundbreaking because supply chain wasn’t so much in the consumer’s mind, she adds. But with consumers being more informed than ever and climate change becoming increasingly tangible –  as the recent fires in California have shown – brands should strive to be much more proactive. 

The California-based company has been working on its activism for the past 35 years, but recently it has upped its efforts in speaking up for environmental issues, and supporting its consumers to do the same.

“The reality is we have been proportionally responding to what’s happening,” explains Marcario, rather than making a conscious effort to be louder. For example, it recently donated $10m from tax cuts it received from the Trump administration to environmental causes. It also openly backed two political candidates in Nevada and Montana who had sustainability at the core of their campaigns, and launched the Patagonia Action Works platform, enabling its community to give back locally. 

One could argue that being sustainable is a risky move. Marcario however believes the brand’s success has been a natural evolution, as it started as a catalog company in the 70s and therefore has always had a close relationship with the consumer. “For us it hasn’t been a big risk. We’ve been funding activism for three decades,” she adds, saying that so far the company has given over $100m dollars to grassroots environmental programs, partly because it knows how little funding goes towards environmental NGOs.

The future of the planet is not entirely bleak, however. Although some brands are still nervous to step out of their comfort zones, Marcario believes a lot of them recognize the importance of working together in order to address more transparent supply chains as well as wider activism. For example, Patagonia and 400 other companies recently participated in the Time to Vote campaign, which gave employees time off to vote on the midterm elections in the US. As for climate change, when President Trump pulled the country out of the Paris Climate Agreement, a lot of US companies vouched to remain in.

“Anybody who is running a business recognizes it is important to keep going, and the cautionary tale is: don’t just stop on the first level,” Marcario says. “Keep asking questions and go deeper.”

How are you thinking about sustainability? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners for your sustainability strategy. TheCurrent 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.

Categories
Editor's pick Retail Uncategorized

The future of retail is collaboration, says Story’s Rachel Shechtman

If the future of retail could be summed up in one word, it is collaboration, says Story founder and Macy’s brand experience officer Rachel Schechtman. Speaking at a panel chaired by Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette at NRF’s Big Show in New York today, Shechtman outlined how she is translating her successful retail concept to the American company 18 months into the new role, with a key focus on curation and scalability.

Working with such a large legacy retailer comes with a different set of challenges, but for Shechtman, it is important to retain the parameters that she applies to her successful NY-based concept, where its theme and product assortment changes every six weeks. Collaboration for her isn’t ever about simply merchandise, but rather strategic partnerships that become part of the storytelling Story has become known for.

When choosing a partner, she asks three questions: will this partner add authority and authenticity to the category in which they exist? Do they create a product that is relevant to a subset of men, women or children? And lastly, do they like them? The latter might sound simple, but when doing things that are pushing the envelope, it is important to have affinity with who you’re working with, she says.

There is no one-size-fits-all mentality to her approach, however, and the most important litmus test is: are customers receiving an experience the they cannot get on their couch? Focusing on strong staff training and visual merchandising allows the retailer to create a story around the product which will undoubtably lure the customer into the physical space, she says.

Shechtman has been attending the Macy’s university, she says, since beginning her new role, understanding how the brand’s culture and DNA affects the retail experience. Her in-house team is focused on three main strategies in order to translate the success that Story has achieved, but at a much wider scale. Firstly, they are looking at how to show up differently for their customers, presented within a Macy’s environment, both by testing and creating new processes. Secondly, engaging with 300+ colleagues within the organization and allowing them to become co-creators of this new experience in order to make it sustainable and scalable in the long run. Lastly is the important piece of partnerships, and how to maintain that value proposition when working with a company that has millions of social followers and store windows all over the country.

With internet democratisation and customer needs changing, collaboration and learning from what other businesses can offer is the way forward, concludes Shechtman. It’s about always thinking strategically about who you work with, and what the end result means for the customer experience.

How are you thinking about retail innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. TheCurrent 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.

Categories
data technology

Your future in-store loyalty program will be fed by facial recognition

Lolli & Pops is using facial recognition
Lolli & Pops is using facial recognition

Imagine this: You walk into your favorite store and the sales associate welcomes you by name. She or he lets you go about your business, but on-demand shares with you which of their latest products you would most likely be interested in.

Such recommendations, powered by artificial intelligence, are a very familiar experience online these days, but they’re also increasingly being worked towards in the brick and mortar retail world.

A multitude of different technologies lie at the heart of achieving this, but namely it’s a connection between CRM and machine learning, all with that layer of identification placed on top to deliver results for the specific customer in question.

Your mobile device usually plays a key role in making the ID part possible, but facial recognition is another such way.

Lolli & Pops, a candy store based in the US with roughly 50 doors, is one such retailer experimenting with this. A proof of concept called Mobica, which is powered by Intel, was on show at NRF’s Big Show in New York this week. Using computer vision, it’s a facial recognition loyalty scheme designed to drive VIP consumer engagement.

The opt-in experience (shoppers literally have to enrol their face to be a part of it), means anyone entering the store is recognized in real-time by an app the sales associates are using on their tablet devices. From there, they are able to tell the individual’s taste profile, know for instance if they’re allergic to peanuts, and be able to personally recommend great products to them via AI-enhanced analytics accordingly.

“It’s designed for their loyalty shopper, so about wanting to make them feel really special,” Stacey Shulman, Intel’s chief innovation officer for its Retail Solutions Division, told me. “Privacy isn’t an issue because they have such a strong relationship with their customers and are trusted by them already. It all starts with service and a connection to the customer.”

You can easily imagine the same VIP concept being applied at the likes of Sephora for beauty, or even in an apparel merchant.

Other facial recognition technology on show at NRF enabled special, personalized deals to surface on screens in real-time, demonstrated a restaurant that allows customers to pay by face, and also touted broader data collection opportunities around demographics and store-traffic patterns.

It was the customer service piece that felt particularly pertinent however. As Shulman explained: “Technology today needs to not be at the forefront. It needs to be the helper at the back. When done right, it enables people to get back to the customer and back to what’s important. That’s what we see here; it’s not about the facial recognition or the AI, it’s about the experience the customer then has. The differentiator between a brick and mortar store and Amazon today is customer service. We can’t compete on price and selection anymore, so we have to go back to service. If we don’t we will have a problem.”

The Lolli & Pops facial recognition initiative will roll out to stores in the coming weeks, according to Shulman.