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Podcast product

Universal Standard on leveling the playing field for ‘plus-size’ fashion

“We really and truly believe that the plus size woman will never be serviced as well as she will be when there’s no such thing as plus size,” say Alexandra Waldman and Polina Veksler, co-founders of size-inclusive label, Universal Standard, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global.

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Fashion tends to segregate women who are on the larger end of the spectrum, they say, and so they’re on a mission to level the playing field and make clothes for everyone. To that end, the brand, which had already gained a cult-like following for its size-inclusive clothing since launching in 2015, introduced an even larger range in 2018, from 00 to 40 – an industry first.

Understanding how women of all sizes shop has been key to the brand’s success, which last year also raised its first round of investment from the likes of GOOP’s Gwyneth Paltrow, TOMS’ Blake Mycoskie and Imaginary Ventures’ Natalie Massenet. They’ve also introduced collaborations with brands including J.Crew and as of just this week, Rodarte.

Much like many direct-to-consumer counterparts, the e-commerce experience is playing a major part in its popularity: all of its SKUs can be viewed at every size available within the range, making it easier for women to compare and make confident decisions; and its Universal Fit Liberty Program allows shoppers to replace their purchase, free of charge, within a year of completing it, should they go up or down in size.

During this conversation, recorded at the Current Global’s Innovation Mansion at SXSW this year, Waldman and Veksler break down the many product development challenges that come with the industry’s traditional fit formula; tell co-host Rachel Arthur what they’re putting in place to reduce hostility to women of larger size ranges, and share why their bold moves are shifting the way the whole industry approaches this market.

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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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.  

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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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Podcast Retail

Appear Here on why retail is more valuable than Google Ads

Successful retail decisions are made when physical space is seen as another media channel, says Ross Bailey, founder and CEO of Appear Here, the online marketplace for short retail leases on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global.

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Retail is failing when it’s not thinking about audience first, Ross insists. The industry doesn’t think twice about spending huge budgets on Google Ads, but customer acquisition can prove increasingly more valuable through spend on physical footprint, he explains. It’s for that reason, Appear Here increasingly sees the likes of Google or Instagram as greater competition than other brokers. 

“[If you’re playing] the audience game that means that as a brand, what’s the best most authentic, great return on investment medium, that I can reach an audience at for that moment in time, for that campaign, for that product, for that season.  And if that happens to be retail, you’re going to be making that decision over what you’re spending on AdWords or over what you’re spending anywhere else,” he comments.  

Appear Here launched in 2013 hoping to disrupt a long-established market that no longer corresponded to how customers shopped. While commercial landlords demanded an average five-year commitment from brands, customers were dispersing from the high street and shopping in a much more flexible, non-committal way. Today, AppearHere’s short-term rental model – often referred to as the “Airbnb of retail” – sees the company operate an average of 350 stores in London alone at any given time, making it the largest retailer currently operating in the city.

Bailey hopes the model gives brands and retailers much more flexibility to appear and disappear whenever they see fit, rather than wait for the consumer to do so first. For brands across the spectrum, of which he has 180,000 on his platform, there are different approaches however. For luxury names like Chanel, Nike or Netflix, all Appear Here clients, it’s about reaching a new audience or promoting a particular product or campaign; for more independent brands, it’s about creating awareness outside their online bubble where competition is too high without enormous ad budgets, he suggests. 

During this conversation Bailey also explains why he sees no problem with an in-store ballpit as a popular experiential idea as long as it is authentic to the brand; how Selfridges’ early retail days inspires him to think about how to bring back showmanship; and why technology, much like children, he says, should be seen but not heard.

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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Podcast product

Heist’s Olympic designer on product innovation

You have to be bold and brave to do meaningful innovation, says Fiona Fairhurst, VP of innovation at underwear brand, Heist Studios, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast by TheCurrent Global.

“We’re trying to make better products that make people’s lives better,” she explains.  

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The first product under the newly-appointed designer’s remit at Heist is shapewear that not only looks more aesthetically pleasing than existing alternatives in the market, but removes any stigma for women wearing it. Fairhurst’s background is in sport, a world built around product innovation focused on the importance of performance.

She rose to fame during the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000 where, while working at Speedo, she introduced a bodysuit using biomimetic sharkskin technology that went on to help 13 out of 15 swimming world records achieved during the competition. It was also eventually banned from the sport because it gave competitors an unfair advantage.

Her background has enabled her to strike the balance between the emotional side of design and the material innovation that leads to better product performance. Much like getting swimmers to swap their small Speedos for full bodysuits, for Heist it is about getting women to trust their expertise. “We very much want to base everything on science, technology and the innovation – and also what the consumer wants, which for Heist is about women.”  

During this conversation with Rachel Arthur at a FashMash event in London, Fairhurst also explains what excites her for the future of material innovation, the challenge of scaling sustainability, and what game-changing product Heist is working on next.

Heist Studios’ new Shapewear

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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e-commerce Editor's pick Podcast Retail sustainability

Allbirds on why sustainability is a non-negotiable

Tim Brown of Allbirds with Rachel Arthur
Tim Brown of Allbirds with Rachel Arthur

It’s not incumbent on the consumer to change behaviour, but on businesses to take responsibility, says Tim Brown, co-founder of direct-to-consumer footwear brand Allbirds, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast, by TheCurrent.

Speaking to Rachel Arthur, Brown stresses that brands need to show leadership on the issue of sustainability, and not expect their customers to be the ones to do it for them. “People don’t buy sustainability, they buy great products,” he explains.

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Brown started his career as a professional soccer player in his native New Zealand, which he says is what got him understanding the comfort needs in footwear. It was when he met co-founder Joey Zwillinger, a San Francisco-based biotech engineer and renewables expert, that the idea of creating a shoe that focused on sustainability and comfort together began to take shape.

Fast forward to 2016 and Allbirds launched its very first product, a pair of wool sneakers. Word of mouth quickly spread about the shoe’s simple design, level of comfort and sustainable use of textiles: a winning combination of good product and good storytelling that is at the core of any DTC brand’s strategy, and as a result, so attractive to the Millennial shopper.

Allbirds in London
Allbirds in London

Two years on, the brand has recently announced a new round of funding worth $50m, now valuing it at $1.4bn. With the investment, Brown says, comes the pressure to deliver on the many things they have imagined for the future, with a focus on physical retail, international expansion, and constant material innovation.

The latter has already included everything from a collection using ethically-sourced Eucalyptus fibres and a new flip-flop with a renewable sugarcane sole. The brand has also just opened up its first flagship store in London, as its first international move.

During this conversation, Brown explains how DTC brands succeed by owning every consumer touchpoint, how the narrative of retail being dead is greatly exaggerated, and why, in line with the UN’s recent report on climate change, every brand should strive to be sustainable in 2018.

This episode was recorded at Entale’s studio in London. Entale is a new podcasting app that allows you to interact with exclusive extra content like images, links and maps as you listen to your favourite podcast. You can download Entale from the iOS app store today.

Catch up with all of our episodes of TheCurrent Innovators here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by TheCurrent, 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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Podcast technology

TheCurrent Debate: What does VR really mean for retail?

Liz Bacelar and Rachel Arthur

A new feature of TheCurrent Innovators podcast is a monthly discussion between our hosts, Liz Bacelar and Rachel Arthur.

The two of them – also partners of TheCurrent’s innovation consultancy – come across a lot of different technologies, tons of startup entrepreneurs and many big ideas through their day jobs. Doing so means they generate many big opinions of their own – but, unsurprisingly, they don’t always agree. So, they’ve now put what normally stays behind closed doors in the office, on record for podcast listeners.

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In this first episode, the two explore what virtual reality (VR) really means for the retail industry. That comes off the back of recent news that saw Walmart filing for two patents that suggest it will launch a virtual reality-based shopping experience in the future.

The world’s largest retailer detailed the idea of a virtual showroom and a fulfilment system that will enable shoppers to both explore and purchase products using the technology. The news follows Walmart’s acquisition of Spatialand, a software startup focused on creating VR experiences, which now sits within the retailer’s Store No. 8 in-house tech incubator.

What’s more, Alibaba and Amazon are also playing in this space. The latter has already launched an example of VR shopping with Macy’s for Singles Day, while Amazon recently opened 10 virtual reality kiosks in India to promote its Prime Day shopping event.

Walmart VR

Yet, there’s an argument that much of VR, when we’re talking about application beyond gaming and entertainment, really is just gimmick. At a time when there’s little space left for technology for technology’s sake, the question is, are these retailers actually one step ahead of the game, or still just playing with something for the sake of it?

Liz has some strong views on the lack of headset penetration and what that really means for consumer uptake in the longterm, while Rachel argues there’s still space for PR opportunities with such a technology all the same. What it comes down to is relevancy in terms of both business objectives and the target consumer.

Between them they also dive into some further case studies, explore where VR really could impact retail down the line, and jump into the virtues of other technologies in the same space as alternatives.

Catch up with all of our episodes of TheCurrent Innovators here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by TheCurrent, 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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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…