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From holograms to responsible packaging: 10 must-read retail innovation lists

This year has seen continued breakthroughs in retail innovation, with brands exploring new ways to interact with consumers, whether that’s through the physical store, virtual spaces, or new touchpoints like vending machines. 

2019 has also been an impressive year for sustainable innovations, with everything from creative store design and technological transparency, to responsible packaging solutions and the rise of rentals.

Here, we reflect on 10 of our must-read retail innovation articles from the year.

8 brands deploying vending machines as smart retail solutions
Mulberry x Current Global Vending Machine

Artificial intelligence, social media buzz and customer acquisition tools are just a few of the strategies behind vending machines being used as a key part of today’s retail experience. In this story we explore how the technology has been applied to brands including Mulberry and Adidas.

4 technologies aiding in-store navigation
Gatwick’s in-app navigation

Big box retailers including Walmart’s Sam’s Club, Home Depot, Lowe’s and Target are using a variety of interesting wayfinding technologies to improve customer navigation inside the physical store. This piece dives into the role of innovation for more efficient customer journeys.

5 brands pushing conversions through virtual storefronts
Lego’s AR-activated experience

Brands including Macy’s and Lego are using virtual experiences in physical locations to provide shoppers with the benefit of an interactive in-person experience without needing to carry inventory. Here, we look at how these “invisible” or augmented reality storefronts are driving sales, collecting data and boosting branding efforts.

7 ways fashion brands are harnessing hologram technology
Alexander McQueen’s hologram show

The fashion industry has been experimenting with holograms for some time, using them as both elaborate marketing techniques, as well as more immersive in-store opportunities aiming to drive brand engagement. In this piece, we take a look back at some of the best use cases from the likes of Alexander McQueen and Ralph Lauren.

9 brands pushing sustainable store design
Ganni’s sustainably designed store

With sustainability an increasing priority on the agenda for fashion and retail businesses around the globe today, attention is also turning to their brick-and-mortar stores – how they’re resourced, designed and constructed. Here we explore how the likes of Stella McCartney through to Ikea are approaching it.

4 innovative retail fulfilment methods to know
Ford’s delivery robot

With the on-demand economy continuing to fuel consumer desire for instant gratification, innovation in delivery continues to rise, from crowdsourcing to the latest in robotics. Explore how tech solutions are shaping efficiency in the last mile, here.

7 brands regaining consumer trust through transparency
‘I made you clothes’ campaign

Enabling transparency is a key focus for fashion businesses today, but with rising concerns of greenwashing – from misleading PR-led campaigns to the increase of fake news – consumer trust is at an all-time low. As a result, brands are having to work harder than ever to prove their authenticity in the matter.

5 brands using gamification to drive shopping
Nike’s React Land game

Brands and retailers are jumping on the growth of the gaming market and increasingly using ‘play’ mechanics as a way to encourage shopping. Here we dive into why gamification is estimated to be a $40bn market by 2024 and explore those making the most of it already.

4 effective ways brands are tapping into the rental market
Ba&sh’s NY store

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. In this piece we look at the varying benefits of stepping into this space, from sustainability to data capturing.

8 brands turning to responsible packaging solutions
Toad&Co partnered with LimeLoop

The rapid rise of the e-commerce era has seen an equally colossal increase in plastic packaging used by brands around the world, something those at the forefront of sustainability are now looking to change. Check out some of the best alternatives introduced by the likes of PVH to

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.

e-commerce Editor's pick technology

Nike launches virtual store where items can only be bought with Air Max credits

Nike has launched a virtual pop-up store where shoppers can only access limited edition items once they have earned credits from a previous purchase.

The store, which accompanies the launch of the Air Max 720 style, can be visited by anyone whereas items are only available to buy once the user has entered their order number for purchasing the new sneaker beforehand. From then the microsite generates “Air Credits”, which are put into a virtual wallet, and allows users to purchase the items that they can see on their screens.

All merchandise in the store has been digitized, hovering in the space while allowing for 360° views either via desktop or phones. This includes AM720-themed water bottles, socks and stickers, for example, all developed in collaboration with the brand’s network of creatives.

To assist customers in the shopping journey, it is also deploying virtual avatars of its many collaborators as sales assistants, including London-based designer Mini Swoosh, England footballer Raheem Sterling and DJ Peggy Gou, which rotate on a weekly basis.

Nike's virtual Air.Shop
Nike’s virtual Air.Shop

The virtual store expands into the physical realm, however, with visitors to the brand’s Oxford Circus flagship in London being able to explore the activation through an installation on the ground floor.

The campaign is part of Nike’s yearly celebration of its iconic Air Max style, which culminates in the Air Max Day taking place on March 26, the day when the very first shoe of the family was released. The yearly celebration is also a chance for the brand to dial up collaborations and promotions around the shoe. This year, it will reveal a style designed by a Nike fan under its On-Air initiative, a competition that grants people the opportunity to create their own shoe and have it produced and released to the public.

How are you thinking about innovation? We’re all about helping you build innovative integrations and experiences. The Current Global 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. 

Editor's pick social media technology

Facebook introduces augmented reality ads to user’s feed

Facebook AR ads

Facebook is testing augmented reality ads that will allow users to try on products virtually directly from their news feeds, in another competitive move with Snapchat.

Announced at a Facebook holiday shopping event in New York on Tuesday (July 10), this is an indication that the social media platform is further investigating tools to harness the user’s smartphone camera.

“Better marketing equals better shopping,” said Ty Ahmad-Taylor, VP of product marketing at Facebook. “You connect with [customers] in a way that’s unusual and new, and you can deliver messages to them in a format they want to accept.”

Currently trialling in the US throughout the summer, brands such as Michael Kors, Bobbi Brown, Wayfair and Sephora are already on board. The Michael Kors advert, for example, allows users to tap a visual to virtually try on sunglasses; meanwhile, homewares brand Wayfair allows the user to tap to visualize a piece of furniture in their home.

In May, Facebook announced an augmented reality capability on Messenger that allows brands to speak to users in a more experiential manner. Nike, for instance, trialled the feature via its SNKRS chatbot to unlock an AR experience where users could buy limited edition shoes. The launch of AR-enabled advertising is a natural progression for the platform, who in 2016 bought AR face filter app MSQRD.

Meanwhile, other social media platforms where visuals are a pivotal part of the user experience, have also been quick to harness the potential of AR. Snapchat has recently also teamed up with Nike to offer an AR experience that was geo-fenced and allowed users to buy limited edition shoes (which sold out in 23 minutes).

Instagram however is evolving its booming Stories feature – which as of May 2018 had 150m daily active users – to allow brands that are advertising to add stickers that click through to e-commerce pages. As users migrate from Snapchat‘s ephemeral experience to the very similar functionality found on Instagram Stories, AR will undoubtedly play a very important role in how the popular feature evolves.

As technologies such as augmented reality and image recognition mature, social media platforms are going to continue to fight for an ever bigger slice of its users’ mobile behaviors – in this case, the smartphone camera.