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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.

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e-commerce Podcast

Why Pinterest pushes shopping over commerce

There’s a big difference today between the role of commerce, and that of shopping, says Tim Weingarten, head of shopping product at Pinterest, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global.

“Commerce has this implication of pushing for the transaction – about reducing friction in the conversion. Whereas shopping is one of joy. It’s one of serendipity, it’s one of discovering something you didn’t know existed,” he explains.  

Listen here:  Apple Podcasts | Android Google Podcasts | Stitcher | RSS

It’s that mentality that underpins everything his team does at the company, focusing primarily on how to better the user experience with discovery and personalization at its core. This includes the introduction of a series of tools that filter and predict needs – from Pinterest Lens, which allows customers to find items from the database by photographing similar ones, to the newly announced Catalogs feature, where brands can upload their entire product catalog as shoppable pins.

What makes Pinterest stand out among its competitors, is that its users navigate the platform for entirely personal reasons, such as renovating their kitchens or achieving the perfect hairstyle, as opposed to pushing aspirational content to followers, Weingarten comments. Being able to capitalize on that then comes down to having the right algorithms in place.

“The more data you have, the more you can personalize. But on an e commerce site, the only data they have is based on prior transactions. That’s a very sparse dataset and it happens very infrequently. If you switch gears to Pinterest, what you have is someone visiting every day doing this authentic thing – saving things for particular use cases. This engagement signal can be applied to all products… And because we have this authentic form of engagement, we’re able to understand what you’re trying to accomplish, and actually personalize it to your tastes,” he says.

Pinterest has been around for nearly a decade with a quiet yet steady climb to the top. As of 2018, users on the platform had pinned 175 billion items on three billion virtual boards. The company is now on track to top $1bn in revenue, and is rumored to be moving forward with an IPO this summer at a valuation of $12bn.

During this conversation recorded at Shoptalk with the Current Global’s Rachel Arthur, Weingarten dissects how Pinterest is only getting better at predicting consumer needs before they’re voiced; shares how the platform balances being commercial with keeping the joy of inspiration alive, and hints at the types of technologies he’s looking at to further personalize the shopping experience.

Catch up with all of our episodes of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by the Current Global, a consultancy transforming how 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.

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product Retail

Zara introduces denim customization service

Zara is launching a pop up customization service at three global stores where customers will be able to embroider words on a selection of the brand’s denim products.

Launching on March 27, the service, titled Zara Edited, will be available at specific stores in Barcelona, Amsterdam and Milan. Customers will be able to choose from 13 different denim pieces, from shorts to jackets, and embroider them with letters from a selection of fonts and colors. Meanwhile those shopping in Italy, Britain, Holland and Spain will be able to order personalized items online.

In-store personalization services have become an effective way to engage with consumers who are seeking products that allow them to express their individuality. Brands across the spectrum – from Coach to Levi’s and GAP – have deployed it for years. Zara’s sheer size as a fast fashion brand, however, coupled with the service also being available online, speaks to the potential experiences like this may have as on-demand technologies mature.

The Spanish brand is increasingly focusing on add-on services and technologies to enhance the in-store experience. Last year, it hosted a tech-enabled pop up at London’s Westfield mall ahead of the opening of its first new concept in the same location months later; meanwhile also in 2018, it introduced an interactive AR experience to over 100 stores worldwide.

How are you thinking about product customization? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. The Current 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. 

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e-commerce product

Rapha launches custom cycling kits on demand

British cycling brand Rapha has teamed up with software company Unmade to launch a personalized design service that enables customers to create their own team kits.

Rapha Custom allows cyclists to design their team’s own kits by starting from a template, and then choosing from a variety of layouts (such as plain or chevron) and over 40 color combinations. To further personalize it, they can upload their team logos and add text. The software will then show photorealistic renders of the final design onto any photography, including lifestyle imagery of a group in any location-based scenario. Designs are digitally printed on demand, and delivered within eight weeks.

“When launching Rapha Custom we looked to address some of the biggest constraints for groups of cyclists creating custom kit,” said Ed Clifford, head of Rapha Custom. “The market was crying out for a design led and fully digital customer experience that was seamless in manufacturing and delivery. Unmade’s software provides us with a best in class system that is fully automated and integrated throughout the entire process.”

Traditionally, creating a custom team kit requires long lead times and a poor experience for the user, as well as from a production perspective, high manual involvement in the design and production of it. This service however offers brands seamless integration through a dedicated platform within the e-commerce site, and a much more efficient customer journey as a result.

Rapha Custom
Rapha Custom


“At Unmade it is extremely important for us to work in partnership with forward-thinking brands who share our vision for creating real change within the fashion and sportswear industries, through bespoke experiences and collections that are both innovative and efficiently manufactured,” said Hal Watts, co-founder and CEO of Unmade. “Working in collaboration with the world leading cycle brand Rapha has allowed us to expand our capabilities from a knitwear focus into print.”

Beyond the customer-facing element of this service, Rapha will also be able to create time-limited content or designs for special editions, partner collaborations as well as internally, bespoke products on-demand for prototyping and short runs.

How are you thinking about e-commerce innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. The Current 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.

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Podcast technology Uncategorized

L’Oréal on how tech enhances the customer bond

Technology emphasizes the bond of customer experience, says Stephane Lannuzel, operations chief digital officer at L’Oréal, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast by TheCurrent Global.

“Every CEO should be consumer-oriented, and technology can reinforce that link,” he explains.

Listen here: Apple Podcasts | Android | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | RSS

For years L’Oréal has been on an innovation path that has seen the group heavily invest in technologies that help personalize the consumer experience across the spectrum – from fully customized products to monitoring tools. At the heart of this is the importance of the shopping experience, Lannuzel notes.

He references Lancôme’s custom foundation, Le Teint Particulier, which makes use of a machine expertly mixing a formula to perfectly suit the individual consumer’s skin tone. He explains that at the end of the purchase journey, what consumers remember is not the technology itself, but the fact that they were made to feel special. This, he concludes, is the ultimate luxury experience, only enhanced by the use of tech.

Liz Bacelar and Stephane Lannuzel

There are plenty of challenges to working within such a large organization such as L’Oréal, but part of Lannuzel’s role is to make it move faster. Slowly but surely, the company is thinking digital-first; so much so that the group’s CEO, Jean Paul Agon, has said that digital is no longer the cherry on the cake for the company, but rather the whole cake itself.

The group approaches digital innovation through the lens of key trends as opposed to the technology itself, Lannuzel further explains. This includes looking at how to reduce a product’s time to market; the role of connected products and experiences; more agile operations; and the need for personalization.

During this conversation with TheCurrent Global’s Liz Bacelar, Lannuzel also talks about the huge role data and AI is playing in all of this – from manufacturing to consumer-facing interactions – and why there is a sweet spot when jumping on a new technology.

Catch up with all of our episodes of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global, here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by the Current Global, a consultancy transforming how 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.

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data Editor's pick Events product technology

Olay launches series of personalized beauty tech innovations at CES 2019

P&G-owned Olay is at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this week announcing a host of products and services that aim to create a more personalized skincare experience for consumers.

The brand is announcing three major updates to its existing Olay Skin Advisor service that launched in 2016, as well as Olay Labs, a personalized software and beauty regime service, and the Olay FaceNavi Smart Wand, a beauty tech device that provides diagnostic skin treatments.

Olay Skin Advisor
Olay’s Skin Advisor

The Olay Skin Advisor initially launched as a low-tech solution to beauty recommendations which simply asked users to answer a short questionnaire online and upload a selfie. The newly updated version, currently rolling out only in the US, introduces the Olay Future You Simulation, the Olay Whips Simulator, and the Skin Decoder features.

The first allows users to visualize what their skin and face will look like in the future through different scenarios (such as daily SPF use or no SPF) to help them make better decisions on how to personalize their regime in order to prevent long-term damage; the Whips Simulator invites users to virtually try on products from the brand’s Whips line and display what their skin would look like as a result of using them; lastly, the Skin Decoder is a camera attachment to the user’s phone which delivers high-resolution imagery that allows for a detailed diagnosis and tracking of the skin over time. The technology is currently already in use in China for sales associates, as the brand is sold at department stores in the country.

Olay’s investment in evolving its personalized advice platform is a result of its huge success since launching in 2016, with the web-based application having been visited over 5 million times by customers.

Olay Labs
Olay Labs Moments device

In 2018, Olay lunched its personalization software Olay Labs, which aims to blend machine learning with human expertise to create a bespoke four-week skincare regimen. In order to achieve this the brand is deploys a an algorithm that can learn and adapt to the user’s skin in real-time and give it advise.

For 2019, it has announced plans to take this to the next level with the Olay Labs Moments, a device that will create bespoke products to the user, daily in their homes, by tracking their skin’s circumstances and reacting in real-time.

Olay FaceNavi Smart Wand
Olay’s Smart Wand

Lastly, also launching at this year’s conference is the Olay Smart Wand, which connects to a mobile app to offer consumers personalized diagnosis and treatment. The device uses electromagnetic technology to read the user’s skin and relay it to the app, which in turn creates temporary, dynamic programmable fields that help the device better drive skincare ingredients into the user’s skin, bespoke to their issues.

How are you thinking about product 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. 

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e-commerce Editor's pick Podcast

NET-A-PORTER on personalizing the customer experience

Rosanna Falconer and Matthew Woolsey

The future of e-commerce may not be about a traditional website at all, but about existing on multiple other platforms, expresses Matthew Woolsey, managing director at online luxury retailer, NET-A-PORTER, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast by TheCurrent.

Listen here: Apple Podcasts | Android | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | RSS

The company sees many of its big customers making purchases over platforms including Whatsapp, iMessage and WeChat, which have become their primary entry point to e-commerce through their relationships with personal shoppers, he explains.

“We want to be in the platform where our customer is engaging with content, seeing the product or speaking with the personal shopper. It’s about what’s best for her. We never want to be in a position where we are forcing or imposing a platform or methodology on our customers, because that’s the opposite of customer centricity,” he explains.

“It’s very easy to imagine a time when NET-A-PORTER doesn’t even have a website, in the traditional sort of desktop sense, and really what it exists as is more of a concierge, on-demand, service offering. I think that’s the future of where this industry is headed and it’s something we are really well suited for because we have that infrastructure, we have that service component but we also know a lot more about our customer than just what she is buying.”

Data is central to being able to personalize the experience for individual customers in this way, he explains, outlining how the company is constantly looking at how to give its personal shoppers greater tools through technology.

The company is currently experimenting with how it can use artificial intelligence to merge data between purchase history and fashion trends to give personal shoppers recommendations and ideas in advance that are personalized to the customer, for instance.

Eventually the idea is for this to be scalable across the seven million consumers NET-A-PORTER talks to, but hitting its EIPs, or extremely important people, is the core focus, given the fact this 3% of its customer base, make up 40% of its revenue.

Speaking with Rosanna Falconer at a FashMash event in London, Woolsey also reveals why the most expensive item ever bought via a messaging app is so significant, whether NET-A-PORTER would ever think about physical retail, and how to manage the modern day tension between algorithms and inspiration.  

Catch up with all of our episodes of the Innovators podcast by the Current here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by the Current Global, a consultancy transforming how 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.

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business Campaigns digital snippets e-commerce Events film mobile product Retail social media sustainability technology

ICYMI: Reinventing the checkout line, fashion’s data war, the void of the pop-up experience

Retailers are re-inventing the checkout line
Retailers are re-inventing the checkout line

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

TOP STORIES
  • How retailers are reinventing the checkout line [BoF]
  • Fashion’s data war [WWD]
  • The existential void of the pop-up ‘experience’ [NY Times]
  • Mulberry launches interactive retail experience for the holiday season [TheCurrent Daily]
TECHNOLOGY
  • Alibaba and Amazon move over, we visited JD’s connected grocery store in China [TechCrunch]
  • Ford and Walmart to partner on self-driving deliveries [Engadget]
  • How retailers can tell stories by reading emotions [RetailDive]
  • New York Is a genuine tech hub (and that was before Amazon) [BoF]
  • Walmart is using virtual reality to train its workforce for Black Friday [Vox]
SUSTAINABILITY & PURPOSE
  • Big names from fashion, music and art team up for #PassOnPlastic pop-up [The Industry]
  • Kering Foundation unveils campaign against cyberbullying [WWD]
  • Avon fights for LGBTI rights alongside the United Nations [Fashion Network]
RETAIL & E-COMMERCE
  • Talk to me: The rise of voice commerce [WWD]
  • Denim tailors and t-shirt tattoo parlours: Inside Levi’s New Times Square flagship [BoF]
  • Chinese shoppers crave experiences with their bags, LVMH says [Bloomberg]
  • FAO Schwarz puts a new spin on its dance-on piano as part of splashy NYC comeback [CNBC]
MARKETING & SOCIAL MEDIA
  • How brands are finally realising the full potential of personalization [Marketing Week]
  • These are all the problems with Iceland’s banned Christmas advert [Wired]
  • John Lewis unveils Christmas ad and experiential store activations [Fashion Network]
  • A third of brands admit to not disclosing influencer partnerships [Marketing Week]
PRODUCT
  • Gucci expands DIY service [Fashion United]
  • Clinique bets big on personalized moisturization [WWD]
BUSINESS
  • Beyoncé buys out Ivy Park brand from Philip Green [BoF]
CULTURE
  • Five lessons fashion can learn from Disney [BoF]
  • How cannabis became chic [i-D]

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.

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Editor's pick Retail technology

Macy’s celebrates the holidays with plethora of interactive experiences

Macy's new holiday campaign, Space Station
Macy’s new holiday campaign, Space Station

Macy’s is deploying technology and personalization to celebrate the holiday season, allowing consumers to find their perfect gifts through online tools and offline experiences.

On Instagram, the American department store is creating personalized gift guides in the form of Instagram carousels targeting specific recipients, such as a user’s friend or family member. To join they will have to answer questions about their interests and price range, for the Instant Gift Guide to generate a list they can swipe through, with the final frame being shoppable.

Meanwhile on Pinterest, Macy’s is creating a 360-degree tool that allows users to experience being inside a miniature snow globe that alludes to an element of its holiday commercial, Space Station. The globe will be filled with colorful holiday decor and enable users to pan around to find gifts and inspiration hidden within the scene. Customers will be able to shop their finds as well as share wish lists and send items to themselves.

The use of technology will expand online, as the retailer promotes new ways to trial beauty and visualize furniture. In approximately 50 stores nationwide, the beauty department will introduce an augmented reality mirror for instant try-ons, which will also showcase more than 250 beauty products. The mirror experience will be triggered when the consumer looks into a camera, allowing them to try on different shades from eye shadow to lipstick.

The beauty department at Macy’s most icon store, at Herald Square in New York, is also getting a makeover with the Instagram consumer in mind: the retailer has launched a 270-square-foot space that allows shoppers to discover brands in new ways and snap and share. The space is anchored around revolving themes, with the current one, titled “Beauty on Display”, being set up as a luxury boudoir where visitors can snap photos near a claw foot bathtub as well as shop for products.

As for furniture, Macy’s is following many home goods retailers and deploying virtual reality to enable store visitors to visualize furniture in their homes. The “See Your Space IRL” experience, available in select stores, lets shoppers virtually design their living spaces and place Macy’s furniture within it. Through VR headsets, they can then step into the virtual spaces to help them make more informed decisions.

Small business showcase by Facebook and Macy's
Small business showcase by Facebook and Macy’s

Lastly, the updated Macy’s app will serve as a connected hub so customers can get their goods seamlessly. For instance, it will allow shoppers to scan items while they shop and check out through self-serve machines, thus avoiding the holiday crowds.

The retailer is also diversifying its merchandise offering in order to tap into a broader and more connected consumer. For example at its now year-old The Market @ Macy’s space at selected stores, it is teaming up with Facebook to provide small businesses and e-commerce brands the opportunity to sell in real life during the holidays.

How are you thinking about retail 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.

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Retail technology

41% of consumers will forego brands with poor personalization, says report

Weak personalization can have a negative effect on consumers, with two in five saying they would stop buying from a brand if they perceive their ads to be unrelated or poorly targeted, according to a report by marketing platform Emarsys.

The study, which interviewed 2,000 consumers in the UK, highlights shopper’s growing demand for more personalized offers (60%), adding that only 6% of consumers currently believe they receive these.

Creating a tailored experience is therefore key, with 41% of respondents say they would shop again with a brand if the offers they received were clearly unique and personalized to them.

However, brands are struggling to scale their human-led personalization efforts, identifying the need for automation processes and artificial intelligence (AI) programs.

“The customer is expecting an experience that they want to be personalized in a speed that is impossible,” a representative for German agile-retail start-up Les

ara, told the audience at the recent Emarsys Revolution conference. He added how technology is an enabler for personalization, and how the company has been using data as a “north-star” to guide its efforts.

Also at the conference was membership-only e-commerce brand, BrandAlley, which shared how its effort to tailor its email content to previous purchasing behaviour with the help of AI, increased traffic to its site by 16%.

AI adds immense value to personalization strategies, noted Grant Coleman, VP and market director of the UK and Nordics at Emarsys: “AI tips this balance in [retailers] favor, doing all the legwork so that communication is always tailored across every channel along the purchase lifecycle, eliminating the risk of upsetting valued patrons.”

Across the industry we’re seeing a steady increase in brands focusing on personalization by deploying tools such as AI. Recently, H&M invested in Thread, a UK-based men’s styling service that uses a combination of man and machine to tailor recommended items for its users. The move shows that the Swedish group is well aware of such technology as an important catalyst for all future consumer interactions.

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