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
business Editor's pick

ComplexCon: Virgil Abloh on community and taste

Virgil Abloh
Virgil Abloh

“I believe that collectively we’re all the next generation of designers”, said Virgil Abloh at this year’s ComplexCon festival, which took place in Long Beach, California, this past weekend.

Abloh was leading a conversation with a group of young streetwear designers including Bstroy, Ev Bravado and Rhuigi from Rhude, handpicked by the Off White and Louis Vuitton creative director for their strides in making culture a part of the fashion discourse.

The conversation consisted of a mix of insights and industry advice for the many streetwear fanatics and bushy-eyed entrepreneurs in the audience. The biggest topics, however, revolved around how to foster a community and remain authentic to taste:

It takes a village

Early in the conversation Abloh brought to stage long-time collaborator Tremaine Emory, and emphasized the importance of acknowledging the teamwork that makes or breaks a brand. Every creative needs someone who likes an Excel spreadsheet, he said, referencing the relationship between Marc Jacobs and Robert Duffy. “We’re all in one community,” he added, urging for designers to put an end to individuality.

It is often easy for those on the outside looking in to idolize the figure who sits at the top, but streetwear in particular thrives on creatives collaborating and lifting each other up, summarized the panel. Prior to securing the top spot at Louis Vuitton menswear and spearheading his own brand, Abloh worked with Kanye West on many of his creative endeavours, from fashion to an award-winning album with Jay Z.

There also seems to be little emphasis on where the designer came from, Abloh said. “It has become ‘cool’ to pretend like you don’t have parents. It’s become part of the culture to pretend you’re brand new.”

A matter of taste

The designers on the panel hailed from Los Angeles, New York and Atlanta, and spoke about how they balance what fashion expects of them, and what truly inspires them.

“On one hand [taste level] is great, but something from our community growing up that we thought wasn’t the highest taste is equally important,” said Abloh. Emory compared it to Picasso being inspired by African art but the latter not receiving the same esteem. “As young people we have to discard the old ways and see the beauty in everything and push it forward,” he explained.

Elevating every day objects or brands is key to this new generation of brands and designers, who appropriate and remix aesthetics that were once considered mundane or uncool. It is the irony itself that makes it all so appealing, as seen by the overnight success of Vetements and its collaborations with the likes of DHL and Eastpack. For Abloh, his Off White label has become known for surfacing brands that were not previously linked to pop culture, such as Ikea and Rimowa.

How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about helping you build innovative integrations and experiences. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology, powered by a network of top startups. Get in touch to learn more.

Categories
Events technology

Vote for us at SXSW: How streetwear turns hype into $$$

Louis Vuitton x Supreme
Louis Vuitton x Supreme

In 2019, we’re returning to SXSW in Austin, Texas – but we need your support! The festival is a hotbed for innovation and while TheCurrent will be on site gathering insights and producing exclusive events like podcast recordings, we are also aiming to host three panels. But we can only get on the official schedule with your vote.

One of our panels, “How streetwear turns hype into $$$”, will look at how streetwear labels are now catering way beyond hip-hop artists and skater kids on the fringes of society. Trading on scarcity and hype, this is a business on an unstoppable rise, with its poster child, Supreme, now estimated to be worth $1bn. From coveted collaborations to luxury department stores releasing ‘drops’, everybody wants to satiate the young consumer’s appetite.

But what can other industries learn from such masters of frenzy? Listen from a group of experts that include Swan Sit, VP of global digital marketing at Nike; Ferdinando Verderi, creative director at Johannes Leonardo, the global ad agency for Adidas Originals and responsible for the Alexander Wang x Adidas Originals launch; and Aaron Levant, founder of the ultimate streetwear festival ComplexCon and now CEO of NTWRK, an upcoming HSN-like shopping channel for Millennials and Gen Zers.

The panel will dissect this highly engaged community, and help the audience better understand what makes the thrill of the chase such a successful retail strategy.

Click to vote
Click to vote

So if you want to see this panel at next year’s edition, please vote! But be quick, as public voting closes this Thursday (August 30). Doing so is easy, just login or create a quick PanelPicker® account via panelpicker.sxsw.com. Then find our How street turns hype into $$$ and all you have to do is click on the “Vote Up” button in the top lefthand column.

Streetwear has had an increasingly strong influence on how young people consume fashion trends and engage with brands, and the luxury industry in particular has taken notice. Last week, Balenciaga launched exclusive sneakers at Selfridges, but they can only be purchased by appointment; earlier this year, Moncler announced it will launch monthly collections, as opposed to seasonal, in a collaboration model not too dissimilar from the streetwear industry; and lastly this November, TheCurrent will be present at ComplexCon for the very first time.

Our other panels at SXSW include Blockchain for radical transparency and The future of connected beauty. Please vote for them too!

Categories
business data mobile technology

Knowing people: how understanding audience through tech is changing fashion

MatchesFashion.com now sees 85% of its business taking place online
MatchesFashion.com now sees 85% of its business taking place online

In the fiercely competitive retail fashion world, the winners will be those who really understand their customers and can tailor messages to reach them in the moments that matter. That was the key message from a panel discussion at Advertising Week Europe in London this week, where speakers discussed the merging of the online and offline worlds, the increasing role of the smartphone as a bridge between the two, and how best to serve such omni-shoppers.

Ulric Jerome, CEO of Matchesfashion.com, said that 85% of the luxury retailer’s turnover now comes from online – and 42% of that from mobile. This compares to 100% of sales from physical retail just five years ago.

Those figures are particularly high for the luxury sector, which on average sees just 6% of sales from e-commerce, but statistics from McKinsey show that 75% of luxury purchases globally today – even if then taking place in store – are influenced by at least one digital touchpoint. That means that three quarters of all luxury consumers take note of what they see, do and hear about your brand online along their path to purchase.

MatchesFashion.com added that bringing in a heavy focus on customer service and personalisation via technology in the physical store has also helped upselling. Sales assistants guide purchases via an iPad-based clienteling app, which has resulted in some of its 12 doors in London putting more than 50% of sales through these devices.

“What the customer wants, regardless of the channel, is the opportunity to have more choice. When they walk into the store they can only see 10-15% of inventory but through technology we can bring the entire inventory to their doorstep,” Jerome explained.

Ulric Jerome of MatchesFashion.com, Josie Roscop of River Island, Eileen Naughton of Google, and Rachel Arthur of Fashion & Mash
Ulric Jerome of MatchesFashion.com, Josie Roscop of River Island, Eileen Naughton of Google, and Rachel Arthur of Fashion & Mash

Josie Roscop, customer director at River Island, meanwhile talked about a willingness to test and learn to see what works for shoppers. She is currently testing with Google’s Local Inventory Ads for instance. “That sort of service is great for the customer. We should then have more data to understand how mobile is influencing store purchases and plan our marketing activity around some of that information.”

She added that the big challenge was to integrate the data generated across touchpoints to build a single customer view (SCV). Such insights drawn from a SCV can then help craft personalised experiences for online audiences that can be carried over into offline conversations when they walk into store. “For us it’s about thinking about customers first, and channels and product second, so we’re making decisions based on what we know customers want and need.”

The ability to measure each of such touchpoints along the customer journey is also vital. Eileen Naughton, Google’s managing director of the UK and Ireland, said that tools like Google’s Store Visits can help identify how online investment translates into footfall and sales. This is a tool that tracks the number of clicks on search ads that result in an in-store visit over the following 30 days.

With the help of Google’s audience solutions, retailers then have insight into whether people searching are new prospects or loyal customers, whether they are first time visitors to the website or app, or returning. This means retailers now have the ability to target audiences with greater precision by defining bidding and creative according to their relationship with the searcher.

Said Naughton: “If you know search, you know people. [Consumers] expect personalisation and relevance, and now you can provide personalised results to their searches.” She predicted that by 2016 a quarter of all UK Google search traffic will be audience targeted in some way – and some players will have up to 70-80% of their search investment containing a form of this data layer.

Categories
Blocks Comment social media technology

Topshop and the BFC talk digital innovation with WGSN during #LFW

The latest in a longstanding series of Google Hangouts hosted by my team at WGSN, saw Topshop CMO Sheena Sauvaire, the British Fashion Council’s head of marketing Clara Mercer, and myself talking about the role of digital and fashion week.

Held on the final day of London’s spring/summer 2015 shows, this was an exploration of innovation versus sales, the importance of extending a campaign beyond the 10 minutes of the show and into the six months ahead, and the role that social commerce and shoppable runways are playing this season for designers.

We also explore some tips and tricks for emerging talent in approaching their digital strategy, and the need to carefully balance the role of innovation with what feels authentic to your brand.

Do watch it back below…