Categories
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.

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

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.

Categories
Editor's pick film technology

Prada looks at automated future in new sci-fi video series

Prada Nylon Farm
Prada Nylon Farm

Prada has released a ‘futuristic fairytale’ film series celebrating its nylon backpack first launched in 1984, by referencing a series of next generation technologies.

Nylon Farm, as the four-part project is called, features a flock of cyborg sheep, in a nod to Philip K Dick’s sci-fi novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Alternate reality technology and an automated manufacturing system is at play to harvest the synthetic fleece, but the ideals of such artificial intelligence is seemingly disrupted by a level of human emotion that comes into the scene.

“It may all seem perfect, but something in this place has gone beyond the normal production processes. A series of strange anomalies have interrupted the regularity of the Farm and required the launch of an investigation. Will following protocol be enough in this story?” reads the write-up.

A post shared by Prada (@prada) on

While Vogue refers to it as an example of Miuccia Prada directing an episode of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror, the intention from Prada is to symbolize the brand’s technological innovation on the one hand, but also its ability to respect the brand’s history, on the other.

The nylon that has become a signature of the house was originally sourced from factories making parachutes for the military. It’s this quest for newness from Miuccia that is so referenced.

The four episodes were filmed at the brand’s industrial headquarters in Tuscany, the first one of which launched this weekend past. The following three will be released on June 1, 4 and 9 across the brand’s social media.

Categories
Campaigns Editor's pick social media

SXSW 2018: How Kate Spade balances strategy and creative in its storytelling

Kate Spade sxsw
Kate Spade

Strategy and creative shouldn’t be opposing forces, said the marketing team from Kate Spade at SXSW this week, highlighting how they balance both for every initiative they put out.

Mary Beech, executive VP and CMO, Kristen Naiman, SVP of brand creative, and Krista Neuhaus, senior director of digital brand marketing, spoke about how every digital initiative the brand embarks on involves understanding the symbiotic relationship between strategy, the story they want to tell, and the channel they want to tell it on.

The team finds balance between being strategic about what platform to invest their time and budget on, and what they should jump in early and learn along the way. They gave numerous examples of the way in which they have done this.

When Facebook Live came out, for instance, they developed a fully-fledged campaign shot professionally and hosted by a celebrity influencer, which quickly became resource-intensive and logistically tough, and made the brand realise that bigger is not always better. Eventually, the content was scaled back to feature in-the-moment footage often shot by the brand’s team.

Kate Spade on Instagram Stories
Kate Spade on Instagram Stories

Kate Spade had only recently decided Snapchat wasn’t the best platform for the brand when Instagram Stories came out, and rather than applying the same behind-the-scenes content plan to the feature, it began by engaging with fans via a series of quotes and questions to the audience – thus allowing them to plan content ahead and understand what stuck.

A new fragrance launch was the perfect opportunity for the brand to engage and potentially acquire a younger audience, the team said. YouTube was an easy choice for the campaign as the beauty category performs particularly well among the Gen Z audience in that space. Rather than pushing pre-roll ads based on basic demographics such as gender and age, Kate Spade uncovered queries that were high volume for their target demographic on YouTube – such as what love is, and how to become successful – and put paid media against it.

The result was a series of discovery-based ads featuring notable women aged 51, 31 and 21 (such as actress Laura Dern, as seen above) talking about a selection of topics in a very personal and honest tone of voice. In doing so, the brand targeted a woman who was looking for guidance or often solace, and aimed to provide a more meaningful brand interaction, even if short.

Working with influencers and quirky brand ambassadors is at the heart of Kate Spade’s engagement strategy otherwise, as with its #MissAdventure series. Its influencer strategy is split two-fold, said CMO Beech: long-time fans who speak to a very engaged audience and whose style and aesthetic is ‘on-brand’; and influencers who at first might seem like an odd choice for the brand, but help them acquire a new customer base. Man Repeller’s Leandra Medine is an example of the latter.

Kate Spade is a brand deeply rooted in America, so it has to fundamentally streamline its strategy for its global audience, Beech said. She highlighted the need to understand what is fundamentally only relevant in their home country, and what is universal. As a result, communications are ‘cleaner’ and simplified internationally, focused on non-verbal elements that are easier to digest in any territory or language. Its comedy series was deemed too regional, for instance, while elements such as color, the idea of joy, and even animals and a lot of product visuals are brought to the forefront worldwide.

The brand’s main intention, the team concluded, is to take an intent-rich customer and serve them a more narrative-driven and dynamic service over time.

Categories
Editor's pick technology

Hollywood steps in to give LFW a preview of an immersive augmented reality future

The augmented reality screen at steventai's LFW show
The augmented reality screen at steventai’s LFW show

Those with a beady eye will have noticed a certain Blade Runner feel to designer steventai’s London Fashion Week presentation this weekend.

While models posed onstage, a recreation of the scene was depicted on a giant screen behind them in real-time, complete with a wealth of digital augmentation – including a virtual avatar whose look transitioned from one outfit to another before viewers’ eyes, just as in a scene from the film.

It was actually a Star Wars team behind the action however. The “LiveCGX” campaign was a project between London College of Fashion’s Innovation Agency (FIA) and ILMxLAB, Lucasfilm’s immersive entertainment division. It included a transformation of the venue itself (it was hosted by the GREAT Britain Campaign at Durbar Court within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office) to look like a street scene in Macau.

Special visual effects transformed the courtyard space into a bustling scene, complete with neon digital signage, fluttering leaves and more. Meanwhile, a model in a motion capture suit backstage, made the virtual model possible – driving an improvisational series of movements reflected live on the screen amid the other models, thanks to a number of depth-sensing cameras placed around the venue. The team referred to it as a connection between real-time visual effects and human-driven expression.

As with Blade Runner, it also serves as a glimpse into a future where garments could have both physical and digital designs, worn in perfect coordination.

“Immersive technologies are leading us to a new narrative for the fashion industry. Imagine a world where you can augment everything from the clothes that you’re wearing to the environment that surrounds you, in real-time. That is the glimpse into the future that this technology offers us. LiveCGX will force us to redefine what we experience in fashion today, allowing for creative possibilities where we are limited only by our imagination. We are thrilled to bring this experience to life at this incredible venue with the support of the GREAT Britain Campaign,” says Matthew Drinkwater, head of the Fashion Innovation Agency.

The motion capture model backstage at steventai's augmented reality real-time show
The motion capture model backstage at steventai’s augmented reality real-time show

Interestingly for those in attendance, at this point you really had to look hard to understand what was happening with the technology. Drinkwater’s vision longer term is that we would all be able to be truly immersed in the experience by either looking through our smartphones to witness the augmented reality in the space around us, or better yet, by wearing smart glasses to see it.

At this point, he told me, the barrier is the technology just not quite being ready. “Give it six months and we’ll be able to do so much more,” he said. “We’re talking to Apple, we’re waiting for Magic Leap – the smart glasses are coming.”

That promise of the future was palpable, if still delivered in a relatively elementary way at this point. It fits with ILMxLAB’s mission to have people step inside stories, creating amazing worlds through pioneering immersive entertainment.

“What is exciting about this collaboration with steventai and London College of Fashion’s Innovation Agency is the opportunity to bring the stories and worlds that have inspired Steven’s designs to life by exploring augmented live performance as a means of sparking intimate and compelling relationships with the people and characters who inhabit those worlds,” says Vicki Dobbs Beck, ILMxLAB’s executive in charge.

Tai himself added that fashion is about storytelling: “It’s about representing a concept, to sell a dream, or just selling an idea that is close to the designer’s heart. Having a digitally augmented presentation this season allows us, and our guests, to achieve and experience things beyond our physical possibilities.”

Categories
Retail technology

Westfield launches immersive and theatrical VR experience

"Alien Zoo" by Dreamscape and Westfield VR experience
The “Alien Zoo” VR experience by Dreamscape and Westfield

Westfield Century City in Los Angeles has partnered with Dreamscape Immersive Inc to launch a pop-up virtual reality (VR) experience that invites visitors to explore an imaginary world.

The 13-minute “Alien Zoo” experience invites guests to walk aboard a spacecraft, select their own avatars and interact with different creatures from across the universe.

The aim was to combine the thrill of an epic theme park attraction with the awe and wonder of a great film, according to the team. The “extraterrestrial journey”, as it’s referred to as, allows viewers to witness first-hand the galaxy’s most endangered species.

“Walk side by side massive beasts, play with adorable and exotic creatures, and not only fight for survival against the most deadly predator in all the cosmos, but prove that there is still hope for humanity in our exciting, yet unpredictable, universe,” the write-up explains.

“When you think of VR, you tend to be in the world of gamers and high-tech and we try to take the virtual out of virtual reality,” Walter Parkes, Dreamscape co-chairman, said. “So let’s make it as real as possible, make it tactile. All of the animals we’ve created have deep histories. We could actually write a book about what planets they come from. It’s a narrative-rich approach to VR and much more inclined toward our backgrounds. Texture’s everything.”

As malls in America continue to struggle with the advent of e-commerce, large brick-and-mortar retailers are expanding their remits to engage with experience-hungry consumers through new types of environments. Converging retail, entertainment and technology is a primary focus to drive footfall.

“We’re at a time when movies and malls are getting a lot of competition from digital distribution. So one way to counteract that is to offer irreplaceable, unique experiences and that idea was certainly embraced by our studio partners and our retail partners,” said Parkes. “That’s why the malls that are doing well are as much entertainment centers as they are retail centers.”

As he explains, you can’t get anything at a mall that you can’t get online, thus creating environments that offer more is key.

Following the Westfield pop-up, the company plans to take the concept to other markets, envisioning its final version as true VR multiplexes, where different rooms can offer different experiences, much like a cinema.

Dreamscape Immersive has a number of big names backing its vision of VR for entertainment – in December, it closed a $30 million Series B round that included investors from Nickelodeon and VR Sense Solutions Ltd, while companies such as Warner Bros, 21st Century Fox and Westfield Corp are among its initial investor pool. Executives on staff include Parkes, a film producer, and CEO Bruce Vaughn, a Walt Disney Co alumni.

Categories
film

Tory Burch nods to re-gifting in holiday campaign

Mindy Kaling in A Very Merry Mindy for Tory Burch
Mindy Kaling in A Very Merry Mindy for Tory Burch

Actress and comedian Mindy Kaling stars in Tory Burch’s holiday campaign this year, which focuses on the idea of re-gifting.

The tongue-in-cheek video, titled A Very Merry Mindy, sees a personalised giftbox arrive from Tory Burch herself just as Kaling worries about how she’s going to have time to get all her Christmas shopping done.

She proceeds to go through all the items inside, pondering which of them should go to which of her friends and family. A navy sweatshirt with “Peace” written on the front of it she suggests for her aunt, while a gold tote she thinks will do well for Beyoncé.

She decides to keep the Tory Burch Foundation Seed Box, which features seven products made by and benefitting women entrepreneurs, for herself.


Categories
Editor's pick film

Kate Spade returns with comical #MissAdventure holiday film starring Anna Faris and Rosie Perez

Kate Spade's latest #MissAdventure film: The Pit Stop
Kate Spade’s latest #MissAdventure film: The Pit Stop

Kate Spade New York is back with the latest episode in its ongoing Miss Adventure film series, this time presenting a comical tale about random friendships in the holiday season.

Hollywood stars Anna Faris and Rosie Perez both feature as sisters-in-law for the second time, hot on the heels of previous leading ladies including Miss Piggy, Anna Kendrick and Zosia Mamet.

In “The Pit Stop”, Faris is popping into New York institution Zabar’s to pick up of a holiday basket filled with goodies ahead of the holiday party they’re on their way to, when things quite rapidly go wrong. Faris end up pretending to be an employee, while Perez is left outside in the car trying not to get a ticket from the parking attendant.


“This #missadventure episode is about connection. It’s about pausing in the chaos of life to notice the person in front of you — even if they’re a stranger or your circumstances put you fundamentally at odds—to find warmth and generosity towards them,” Kate Spade New York’s SVP of brand creative, Kristen Naiman, told Vanity Fair.

“There are people who come into your day and something about them sparkles a little, and that suddenly makes you perk up and sparkle too. It’s a kind of intrigue, but not necessarily a romantic one, that makes your day a little bit better and a little more fun.

The brand’s collection features front and centre, highlighting everything from earmuffs to owl clutches and even a caviar-themed purse, not to mention the looks the duo are wearing themselves. The film is shoppable on the brand’s website.

Categories
business data digital snippets e-commerce film social media Startups sustainability technology

What you missed: Browns’ new tech store, Gucci’s millennial advisors, Amazon’s fashion gap

The new Browns concept store in east London
The new Browns concept store in east London

A round-up of everything you might have missed in relevant fashion business, digital comms and tech industry news over the past fortnight.


TOP STORIES
  • Browns opens a nomadic concept (tech) store in London’s Shoreditch [Wallpaper]
  • Gucci has a “shadow committee” of millennial advisors [QZ]
  • Amazon ‘still has a long way to go’ in conquering fashion market, says report [BoF]
  • Alibaba’s 11.11 shopping festival is ready for its biggest global event [BrandChannel]
  • Opinion: What’s wrong with fashion’s sustainability strategy [Glossy]
  • ‘Terry Richardson is just the tip of the iceberg’ [NY Times]

BUSINESS
  • Hilfiger says making clothes in America remains unrealistic [Bloomberg]
  • H&M denies burning good, unsold product [Racked]
  • Greenpeace on why fashion is at a crossroads [FashionUnited]
  • Vogue and Vice are starting a new website together [Jezebel]

SOCIAL MEDIA
  • You can now PayPal friends in Messenger and get help via chat [TechCrunch]
  • WeChat is becoming a sales tool for luxury brand sales associates [Jing Daily]
  • Snap’s misfire on Spectacles [The Information]

MARKETING
  • Sephora cast its own store employees for its most diverse campaign yet [Racked]
  • Selena Gomez is party-ready in Coach’s glitzy holiday ad campaign [Fashionista]
  • Net-a-Porter and Mr Porter unveil “Party with the Porters” holiday campaign [TheIndustry]
  • The land of Fenty: The Rihanna masterclass in brand-building [BrandChannel]
  • Why visceral storytelling is the next brand-building territory [LeanLuxe]

RETAIL & E-COMMERCE
  • Take a look at Apple’s first ‘Town Square,’ its most beautiful retail store yet [TechCrunch]
  • Now Amazon wants to leave a package inside your house [Marketplace]
  • The most successful e-commerce brands build for mainstream America, not Silicon Valley [Recode]
  • Hudson’s Bay to sell Lord & Taylor Fifth Avenue store to WeWork [RetailDive]

TECHNOLOGY
  • Target.com rolls out augmented reality experience for smartphones [StarTribune]
  • The Under Armour ArmourBox: Subscription gear handpicked by an AI [BrandChannel]
  • Walmart’s Store No. 8 showcases the future of VR [RetailDive]
  • Nike’s focus on robotics threatens Asia’s low-cost workforce [CNBC]
  • Wal-Mart’s new robots scan shelves to restock items faster [Reuters]

START-UPS
  • How Stitch Fix’s data-driven styling could boost its IPO value [Bloomberg]
  • Harvey Nichols partners with Bink on “Payment Linked Loyalty” [TheIndustry]
Categories
Editor's pick film

Carmelo Anthony coaches basketball skills in Valentino resort campaign

Valentino Resort 2018
Valentino Resort 2018

NBA star Carmelo Anthony is helping the models of Valentino’s resort 2018 campaign up their basketball skills.

In a short film called How Good Is Your Game, the Oklahoma City Thunder player takes to St Vartan Park basketball court in New York to coach Tori Bowie, Imari Karanja, Faretta, Ratner, Jolie Alien and Mag Cysewska on how to both dribble and shoot.


The campaign accompanies a series of pop-up shops presenting the new resort collection in Tokyo, New York, Hong Kong and Milan, as well as other special collaborations with Maxfield in Los Angeles and Harrods in London.

The pop-up spaces are focused on the active nature of the collection, with a reinforced concrete setting,samples in primary colours that recall the functional training box-jump and imaginary metropolitan basketball nets.

Each space reportedly has “authors”, rather than vendors, dedicated personnel “chosen for their inclination and cultural belonging”, who each wear a uniform of the white shirt from the Valentino Rockstud Untitled collection. The collection is also accompanied by a limited edition line of sporting goods for sale, including basketballs, yoga mats and sneakers.

Categories
Editor's pick social media

Zegna introduces Instagram Stories illustration series to support AW17 campaign

Zegna
Zegna

Ermenegildo Zegna has introduced a series of short videos on Instagram Stories telling the remarkable tales of real people through the mode of illustration.

The Italian brand collaborated with 30 artists globally to achieve the project, inviting each of them to creatively respond to each real-life story with the animations. The videos are being posted on Instagram Stories throughout the months of September and October, and will then live permanently on the brand’s profile.

“We wanted to explore a new digital creative element to our global Defining Moments campaign and put the consumer at the heart of the story. We collaborated with artists from around the world to bring to life our consumers stories in an unexpected creative way that speaks to the dynamic video landscape of social media. Instagram Stories provided the perfect playing ground for this type of storytelling which could be consumed in a short snackable and tappable way,” says Zegna’s creative director, Alessandro Sartori.

Zegna
Zegna
Zegna
Zegna

The social activation is part of the brand’s Defining Moments campaign for the AW17 season, which started in SS17 and aims to reinforce a spirit where “every story begins with a moment”. This season, the campaign stars American actor Robert de Niro and French dancer and choreographer Benjamin Millepied, who share a passion for New York and, according to the brand, a natural penchant for elegance.

As a wider part of the campaign, the Defining Moments platform on Zegna.com will feature conservations from successful individuals of different ages and cultural backgrounds. On the microsite, users are also able to submit their own Defining Moments story for the chance to win a Made to Measure Zegna suit.