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2019 highlights: The year in innovation news

2019 was a big year for innovation and the Current Daily has been tracking it all throughout – from the rise of 5G-enabled experiences to the continued push towards a circular economy. 

Here, we highlight some of the most interesting stories from the year, outlining why they are an important indication of where the industry is moving in 2020 and beyond.

5G will drive 100m people to shop in AR

Augmented reality took center stage this year as its user-friendly features meant a growing number of brands – and social media platforms like Instagram – started adopting it as a core engagement strategy.

In April, a Gartner report highlighted that 100 million people will shop in AR once high-speed 5G mobile services roll out more extensively. This means the experience is going to be more seamless than ever, giving it better real-time rendering, shorter download times and reduced latency. Retailers seem to be on board, as 46% of them plan to deploy either AR or VR. Check out our piece exploring what other benefits 5G will bring retail.

Fashion brands have only met 21% of their circularity targets for 2020

If there’s one thing to be sure, there’s no escaping the growing momentum around shifting to more sustainable practices as an industry. But is there really progress being made? In July, the Global Fashion Agenda (GFA) launched its second yearly assessment of fashion brands and retailers to find that only reached 45 (21%) of the 213 targets the industry has set for 2020 will be met. 

This means the 90 signatories of the GFA’s 2020 Circular Fashion System Commitment, which includes fashion companies like adidas, PVH Group and Inditex, will have to hurry if they want to achieve more in the next year. We talked a lot about the need for action in this space when a further collaborative group was announced: the G7 Fashion Pact. If you ask us, it’s time to say enough to the pledges, rather give us some tangible outputs.

H&M to trial clothing rental for the first time

Talking of sustainability, one are where we have seen a lot of action and experimentation this year is in new business models. Rental is making serious strides at all ends of the market, but perhaps most interestingly within fast fashion just recently as the H&M Group announced it will trial clothing rental at one of its H&M Stockholm stores. Members of its customer loyalty program can now rent selected party dresses and skirts from its 2012-2019 Conscious Exclusive collections.

Recently, its brand COS also launched a pilot where it is renting out clothes through Chinese subscription rental platform YCloset, which customers can access through a monthly flat rate. We also published a deep-dive into the different opportunities we see for the industry in rental, here.

Allbirds CEO calls out Amazon product copying

In November, Allbirds’ co-founder and CEO, Joey Zwilinger, wrote an open letter to Amazon’s Jeff Bezos after discovering the e-commerce platform was producing its own wool sneakers similar to the brand’s most popular style.

Instead of going the usual lawsuit route, the founder took this as an opportunity to highlight his brand’s sustainability mission. In the letter, Zwilinger highlights that Allbirds’ sustainable philosophy is open source, and it has thus far helped over 100 brands who were interested in implementing its renewable materials into their products, suggesting Amazon might like to do the same. It was a bold move but one that sparked a conversation around the role of collaboration once more, and its critical place in true innovation.

Gen Z loves TikTok. Can fashion brands learn to love it too?

Gen Z quickly adopted Chinese social media platform TikTok as their app du jour this year for its bite-sized video content. Currently, 66% of the platform’s 500 million global users are under 30, according to data analytics firm, Business of Apps.

Brands have started to follow suit, tapping the app to drive engagement and ultimately sales. Content varies from crowdsourced, as in a recent Burberry campaign that saw users challenged to create the brand’s logo with their fingers, through to more refined, such as in a snippet of an interview with singer Shawn Mendes for Calvin Klein. We explored various other brands setting TikTok precedent, here.

Lush abandons social media

While TikTok has been taking off, elsewhere social media is slowing for some. Vegan cosmetics brand, Lush, for instance decided to shut down all of its activity in the UK as it became “tired of fighting with algorithms” or paying to appear on news feeds. Instead, it suggested a hashtag where fans would still be able to speak to the brand.

Lush’s bold move speaks to fight playing out for anything still resembling organic reach. As consumers become jaded over being ‘sold to’, brands are having to find novel ways to reach them, beyond the influencer route. One other area we’re tracking here is those owning their own conversation channels, as with both Glossier and H&M of late.

Coty acquires majority stake in Kylie Jenner’s beauty business

2019 was the year of major acquisitions in both beauty and fashion. While LVMH recently announced it was snapping up Tiffany & Co for $16bn, other names included Farfetch buying New Guards Group, which operates streetwear favorite Off White for $675m; Shiseido acquiring cult skincare brand Drunk Elephant for $845m; and more recently, Coty acquiring a majority stake in Kylie Jenner’s beauty business, Kylie Cosmetics, for $600m. 

The latter served as particular confirmation of how brands build and grow in this day and age. Jenner, who was 18 when she started a single ‘lip kit’ line, used Instagram to form a direct conversation with her audience. In 2019, this seems like an obvious strategy, but the reality star’s foresight to do so in 2015 has undoubtedly been her recipe for success.

How luxury fashion learned to love the blockchain

Amid growing concerns over the proliferation of counterfeit goods, luxury brands also began to embrace blockchain as an important authentication tool this year. 

Earlier this year, we heard about how LVMH launched its own platform, Aura, which is currently being piloted with some of the brands in its portfolio and will further expand in the future. Kering and Richemont meanwhile are said to be exploring this too, while De Beers is using it to trace its diamonds. Once matured, the technology will undoubtedly make its way into the hands of the consumer, who will be able to better understand where their possessions are coming from. We also tracked some of the other innovations in the transparency space; an area that continues to heat up.

Automation in retail: an executive overview for getting ready

Automation was another big tech focus this year, particularly for its potential impact on retail, from supply chain management to last mile delivery. This shift is putting pressure on retailers to rethink their operating models, distribution centres and headquarters, with McKinsey warning that brands that fail to implement it into their strategy risk falling behind. 

Automation is something we’ve long been talking about for the sake of efficiency, but there also comes a significant ethics conversation to be had here, which the industry is exploring. We agree, now is the time.

What Fortnite could mean for fashion

The global gaming market is expected to reach $180bn by 2021, and fashion brands are realizing the valuable potential in this. Free-to-play video game Fortnite has grown into a multi-million dollar business by selling clothing to image-conscious gamers, for instance. This monetization of player aesthetics, more commonly known as ‘skins’, has opened the door for retailers to cash in on the virtual world. 

Going forward, we expect more brands to invest in digital garments or utilize gaming to drive product discovery. We accordingly explored how gamification is being used in the shopping journey by brands like Kenzo and Nike to both increase engagement and build brand loyalty.

How are you thinking about innovation? 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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Robot photographers, questioning the new UK PM, is fashion-tech going to burst?

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

TOP STORIES
  • Are robot photographers the future of e-commerce? (BoF)
  • Industry questions new UK PM’s priorities (Drapers)
  • Is the fashion-tech bubble going to burst? (Vogue Business)
  • Don’t scoff at influencers. They’re taking over the world (NY Times)
  • The $400 billion adaptive clothing opportunity (Vogue Business)
TECHNOLOGY
  • This AI is helping scientists develop invisibility cloaks (Futurism)
  • Elon Musk’s robot surgeon will sew electrodes into human brains, starting in 2020 (Mashable)
  • The technology that makes the fashion Rental business tick (WWD)
SUSTAINABILITY & PURPOSE
  • How fashion is helping suppliers fight climate change (Vogue Business)
  • Bally reveals Mount Everest clean-up initiative (WWD)
  • H&M, Microsoft, PVH Corp collaborate in circular fashion initiative (Vogue Business)
  • The Ellen MacArthur Foundation wants to redesign the denim industry (Vogue)
  • Lush debuts ‘carbon-positive’ packaging (Edie)
  • As Zara announces its latest sustainability goals, three of its design team weigh in on going slower and creating responsibly (Vogue)
  • YKK leads the way in sustainability with Natulon® range (Fashion United)
  • This site will show you exactly how ashamed you should be of flying (Fast Company)
RETAIL & E-COMMERCE
  • Amazon’s revolutionary retail strategy? Recycling old ideas (Wired)
  • The toys are back in town: A reimagined Toys R Us returns (Forbes)
MARKETING & SOCIAL MEDIA
  • How Tik Tok is changing beauty standards for Gen Z (I-d Vice)
  • Fashion doesn’t know what to do with YouTube. Derek Blasberg is trying to help (Vogue Business)
  • Why brands are sliding into your DMs (BoF)
  • How will fashion find validation without instagram likes? (BoF)
  • Hermès reveals behind-the-scenes to its craftsmanship via WeChat (Jing Daily)
  • Gucci gamifies house codes in retro-style mobile arcade (Luxury Daily)
PRODUCT
  • This jewelry is a brilliant shield against face-recognition intrusions (Fast Company)
  • L’Oréal is launching a new skin-care brand with paper packaging (Allure)
  • Napapijri to launch 100% recyclable jacket (Fashion United)
  • Alice + Olivia to expand beauty and wellness with CBD partnership (Fashion United)
BUSINESS
  • Gucci growth slows but Kering still posts near 19% sales growth (The Industry)
  • Asos issues third profit warning in seven months as shares fall (The Guardian)
  • Charity shops, antiques behind surprise UK retail sales jump in June (Reuters)
CULTURE
  • Hong Kong’s entrepreneurial protesters are crowdfunding everything from doctors to legal fees (Quartz)
  • Forever 21 accused of body-shaming after giving out free diet bars with orders (Hype Beast)
  • Mr Porter commits to mental, physical health (WWD)

How are you thinking about innovation? 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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business digital snippets e-commerce Retail social media sustainability technology

ICYMI: LVMH confirms Rihanna label, a business climate emergency, streetwear drives hardware innovation

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

TOP STORIES
  • Rihanna and LVMH confirm fashion label [BoF]
  • Businesses should declare their own climate emergency. Here’s how [Wired]
  • How streetwear is driving innovation in hardware [Hypebeast]         
  • Inside the world of liquidated Amazon merchandise [Forbes]    
TECHNOLOGY
SUSTAINABILITY & PURPOSE
  • Start-ups hoping to fight climate change struggle as other tech firms cash in [NYT]
  • Why the new Harrods charity shop is an ode to sustainable fashion [Euronews]
  • Going zero waste is a lot of work. Most of it is falling to women. [Vox]
RETAIl & E-COMMERCE
  • Nordstrom’s NYC flagship merges open space with hidden tech [Vogue Business]
  • Farfetch signals growing ambitions in resale [BoF]
  • Crocs opens interactive concept store in London [Fashion United]
MARKETING & SOCIAL MEDIA
  • Net-a-porter Rethinks Content and Video, Shrinks Porter Magazine [WWD]
  • Instagram launches its own e-commerce account [Fashion United]
PRODUCT
  • Sneakers, small accessories and Off-White rule as latest Lyst Index is released [Fashion Network]
  • Kylie Jenner announces skin-care brand on Instagram [WWD]
  • H&M links with Netflix for Stranger Things collection [Fashion Network]
BUSINESS
  • Kering’s shopping list should include these brands [BoF]
  • Handbag industry nervously awaits Trump’s tariff decision [WWD]
  • New York’s Fashion Week scaled back to five days [Fashion United]
  • London designer Sophie Hulme to close business, citing health reasons [WWD]
  • The clothing rental market’s broadening appeal [BoF]
CULTURE
  • Nike told me to dream crazy, until I wanted a baby [NYT]

How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. 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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Four effective ways brands are tapping into the rental market

The rental market boom is sending a clear signal to brands struggling to survive in the current retail climate: it is time to adapt to changing purchase behaviors, or risk losing market share.

The numbers don’t lie. Globally, the online clothing rental market is expected to reach $1.86bn by 2023, according to Allied Market. Disruptive fashion rental startup Rent the Runway, one of the first on the scene in 2009, has recently received a $20m funding injection from Alibaba’s founders and is now said to be valued at just under $800m.

The growing appeal of the rental market is largely due to the fact that it caters to such a large audience of consumers: from fashion-conscious shoppers who don’t want to own something they will likely only wear a handful of times, to the sustainability-focused consumer who is trying to do their bit for the planet by simply consuming and wasting less.

Globally, brands are now pursuing their own rental strategies in order to own the ecosystem in which the consumer shops. Whether the consumer is buying one day, and renting the next, they are being given the flexibility to choose while remaining within a brand’s universe, which is key to long-term loyalty. Here, we highlight three effective approaches when choosing to tap into the rental market.

Sustainability
Filippa K's Lease program
Filippa K’s Lease program

Swedish furniture company IKEA has recently announced it is piloting a furniture-leasing program at one of its Switzerland stores, starting with office furniture. The program, which includes refurbishing items once returned and leasing – or even selling – them again, is part of the company’s efforts to develop a circular business model.

Meanwhile Stockholm-based clothing label Filippa K leases its clothes as a way of promoting a more sustainable consumption model within the industry. Customers can rent anything they want for four days at 20% of the full price, with the cost of cleaning the garment included. According to the brand’s sustainability director Elin Larsson, the rental program grew 123% in 2017.  

Like Ikea, the initiative is just one part of the brand’s effort to achieve a circular business model by 2030, which also includes goals such as all garments being fully recyclable, achieving a traceable supply chain, and making the business as a whole more resource-efficient, meaning it will produce only what is needed and purchase the right amount of materials to do so.

Data-capturing
Rent the Runway designer collections
Rent the Runway’s designer collections

Many established brands dipping their toes into the rental market are doing so by teaming with new or more established players in the field in order to gather data about how customers are shopping and behaving.

After years of receiving data from Rent the Runway on how well their clothing is performing as rentals, US designers Prabal Gurung, Jason Wu and Derek Lam are introducing exclusive collections to the platform driven by consumer preferences. For example Gurung’s inaugural line, sold exclusive on RtR, will feature adjustments from different cuts to colors and prints that respond directly to customer feedback.

Another retailer trying to better understand how consumers are behaving is luxury department store Browns, which last year teamed up with rental startup Armarium on a two-week in-store pop-up presenting past season party pieces from designers such as Alexander McQueen and Erdem.

Customer acquisition
Ba&sh's NY store rental
Ba&sh’s NY store

French brand Ba&sh is expanding its US presence and hoping to garner the attention of a wider audience with a concept store in New York offering a rental program where customers can rent pieces entirely free of charge, for the whole weekend. Customers can visit the store and borrow a curated rack of garments from the current collection on a Friday between 5-7pm, as long as they are returned by Monday at 7pm.

With the service, the brand’s founders wanted to make guests feel like they are borrowing clothes from their friends’ closets. “This is an ideal place to test a concept we’d like to try in other major cities where Ba&sh also has a presence,” said Sarah Benady, Ba&sh’s CEO for North America, to French website, Frenchly.

New revenue streams
Aoki's Suitsbox service rental
Aoki’s Suitsbox service

Express and Ann Taylor are major retailers that have both recently introduced a subscription service for renting their clothes. Following the success of Rent the Runway’s business model and the many alternatives that have flooded the market since, customers to both retailers can rent a limited number of items a month for a set fee.

“The consumer who is more interested in access versus ownership is happening across many industries,” said Jim Hilt, Express’ chief customer officer, in an interview with CNBC. “We looked at this evolution and asked, ‘how do we participate?’.”

In Asia, a region where used clothing often carried negative connotations, brands and retailers are also in on the action, particularly targeting urban workers. Menswear brand Aoki is offering a subscription service, Suitsbox, where for 7,800 yen a month customers can rent a complete outfit composed of suit, shirt and necktie. Retailer Renown, meanwhile, is offering a suit rental service for a flat month fee with a minimum six-month contract. “From the age of buying clothes, we have entered the age of renting them,” said Renown’s corporate communications head, Tomohiro Nakagawa.

How are you thinking about retail 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.