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business data digital snippets e-commerce product Retail social media sustainability technology

Microsoft’s $1bn carbon reduction investment, ASOS’ AR tool, men’s makeup at John Lewis

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

Top Stories
  • Microsoft will invest $1 billion into carbon reduction and removal technologies (MIT Technology Review)
  • Asos trials augmented reality fit tool (Drapers)
  • War Paint and John Lewis launch first ever men’s makeup counter (Fashion Network)
Technology
  • The tech driving next-gen customer service (Vogue Business)
  • Revolve integrates Snap+Style technology for digital communication (Fashion United)
  • How luxury retail can become a tech accelerator (Jing Daily)
  • Google Cloud launches new solutions for retailers (TechCrunch)
  • How Starbucks uses AI to counter mobiles isolating effect (Mobile Marketer)
  • Walmart expands robots to 650 additional stores (Retail Dive)
  • Stein Mart introduces ‘smart button’ for BOPIS shoppers (Retail Dive)
  • Augmented reality contacts are real, and could be here sooner than you think (Mashable)
  • Robots are changing retail, but not where you can see them (Modern Retail)
  • Gaming dominates the $120bn spent on mobile apps in 2019 (Warc)
  • Amazon is reportedly developing a hand-scanning payment option (Adweek)
  • Walgreens is training staff in virtual reality (Charged Retail)
  • How digital garment printing answers the call for customization (Sourcing Journal)
Sustainability & Purpose
  • What’s your fashion footprint? ThredUp’s quiz will tell you (Adweek)
  • Stella McCartney introduces biodegradable stretch denim (Fashion United)
  • Walpole launches its British luxury sustainability manifesto (Retail Gazette)
  • Your e-commerce addiction means delivery emissions could increase 30% by 2030 (Fast Company)
  • H&M’s AI operation helps make its supply chain more sustainable (Supply Chain Dive)
  • Jacket Required dedicates third of show to sustainable brands (The Industry)
  • Dyehouses are cleaning up their act (Vogue Business)
  • Could fashion’s next major fabric brand be green? (BoF)
  • Fast Retailing signed the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action (Retail in Asia)
  • Quorn introduces carbon-footprint labelling (Stylus)
  • Lush’s Mark Constantine: the retail rebel fighting climate change before Great was born (Retail Week)
Retail & Commerce
  • Walmart opens cashierless store in Florida (Grocery Dive)
  • Shiseido opens ‘beauty innovation hub’ in Shanghai (Retail in Asia)
  • Bose is closing all of its retail stores (The Verge)
  • Dior, Rimowa take over Harrods (WWD)
  • Opening Ceremony to close all stores (Drapers)
Marketing & Social Media
  • Instagram begins hiding photoshopped images (Hypebeast)
  • Burberry launches online game to celebrate Lunar New Year (Fashion United)
  • Facebook rethinks plan to insert ads into WhatsApp (Campaign)
  • Segmentation is dead! (Retail Dive)
Product
  • Ugg launches monthly product drops (Drapers)
  • New Under Armour sneaker will offer connected coaching (Sourcing Journal)
  • Hermès launches beauty (Fashion United)
  • Nike’s Vaporfly marathon shoes face a potential ban from competition (Quartz)
  • Is 2020 the year men’s makeup will go mainstream? (Evening Standard)
Business
  • Louis Vuitton buys the second largest rough diamond in the world (Fashion United)
  • Old Navy will stay under Gap umbrella (Adweek)
  • Pitti Immagine CEO on the future of trade shows (BoF)
  • Casper files for IPO (Retail Dive)
  • Off-White operator acquires Opening Ceremony (Drapers)
  • Amazon ramps up counterfeit reporting (BoF)
  • Boohoo to surpass forecasts after 44% jump in quarterly revenues (Retail Gazette)
Culture
  • The idea of beauty is always shifting. Today, its more inclusive than ever (National Geographic)
  • How the gaming industry is changing across the world (Quartz)
  • Redefining plus size – dressing the ‘average’ woman in Europe (Fashion United)
  • Why this community of hypebeasts only buy fakes (Dazed)
  • Comme des Garçons accused of racism in AW20 menswear show (Fashion United)
  • A-COLD-WALL* isn’t making streetwear anymore (i-D)

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 e-commerce Retail sustainability technology

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 MatchesFashion.com.

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 Editor's pick Retail sustainability technology

The greater need for transparency: 7 brands regaining consumer trust

Sustainability has been a major talking point for the fashion industry over the past couple of years. In this year’s State of Fashion report, radical transparency was highlighted as one of the major trends retailers should be implementing. But following rising concerns of greenwashing, from misleading PR-led campaigns to the increase of fake news, consumer trust is at an all-time low and brands are having to work harder to prove their authenticity in the matter.

The Gen Z generation is particularly pushing for this change, with 90% believing companies should take responsibility to address environmental and social issues. Meanwhile almost three-quarters of Millennials are willing to pay a premium for sustainable products, demonstrating how there is tangible value in transparent produce. In order to regain their consumers’ trust, brands must therefore be explicitly open with information regarding data protection and how sustainable their supply chains truly are.

Technology is playing a major role in helping promote transparency, from blockchain helping shed light on the supply chain, to holistic e-commerce interactions. Here, we highlight some of our favorite examples of brands disrupting the space by going that extra mile in regards to transparency:

Patagonia
Patagonia: The Footprint Chronicles

Patagonia is one of the pioneering brands when it comes to sustainability, fully disclosing its textile mills, factories and farms through its website. The ‘footprint chronicles’ is a visual map showing information about the supply chain including the numbers of workers, gender mix and items produced there. Patagonia was the first outdoor brand to be certified to the Advanced Global Traceable Down Standard for maintaining excellent animal welfare standards for birds. 

As a result of its ongoing efforts, Patagonia was identified as one of the leading brands on Fashion Revolution’s most recent Transparency Index, receiving a score of 64%. 

Nestle
Nestle trialing blockchain

Nestle is the first major food and beverage company to utilize the use of blockchain technology, allowing consumers to trace the origin of their food. The company is aiming to eventually reach full supply chain transparency, with this move shedding light on 95% of its annual sourcing of raw materials. 

Products will have a QR barcode that when scanned, provides consumers with Tier 1 information on product, such as harvest date, farm location, packing date, as well as information on how to prepare it. To determine the feasibility and viability of the technology, an initial pilot scheme testing the traceability of milk will be created first, with plans to expand into palm oil production.

Walmart
Walmart beef supply chain

As it stands, only 33% of consumers trust the food system. Following the Tesco horsemeat scandal in 2013, consumers have become increasingly skeptical of where their food has come from, particularly when it comes to meat produce. In the US, Walmart is addressing this by developing the first beef supply chain. The system, which took 2 years to develop, follows a previous blockchain pilot on lettuce and spinach, which aimed to reduce contamination rates, following an increase in vegetable-related illnesses.

H&M
H&M product transparency

In the UK, retailers are only required to disclose where the garment was made, but this year to increase its transparency, H&M made the decision to go one step further by sharing specific details about their individual suppliers. Consumers can now access information on the production country, supplier name, factory name, and even the number of employees in that factory. H&M is setting the bar in the industry by allowing consumers to make informed decisions when purchasing, helping them to shop responsibly. 

For H&M’s sister brand Arket, sustainability has been a primary consideration from its inception. Beyond showcasing suppliers, the brand also aims to design long-lasting garments, while informing its customers on how to care for them and prolong their lifespan.

Volition
Volition’s clean products

Volition is democratizing the beauty industry with products designed from crowdsourced ideas that are voted by the general public before making it into production. The brand uses scientific ingredients to deliver safe and effective products, from skincare to bath and body. Volition gives all of its products the ‘safe science’ seal of approval, catering to the 42% of consumers who feel they do not get enough information on ingredient safety. 

Following consumers request of non-toxic but highly effective products, Volition’s experts created a blacklist of harmful ingredients, giving consumers peace of mind about what they are putting onto their skin.

Selfridges
Selfridges Buy Better Campaign

Department store Selfridges is doubling down on its Buying Better labels, which aim to aid consumers in their purchasing choices.  The labels highlight sustainable product attributes, such as vegan, forest-friendly or supporting communities. The labels are part of the retailer’s commitment to ensure that 50% of its products are better for people and the planet by 2022. Currently, over 3000 products across homeware, fashion and beauty feature the labels, helping guide consumers away from the disposable, fast fashion mindset.

Drunk Elephant
Drunk Elephants holistic products

Skincare brand Drunk Elephant may be new to the market, having launched in 2014, but it is already catching both the eye of consumers and major beauty conglomerates alike. Consumers have gone wild for its transparent, no-nonsense approach to skincare. The products are based on biocompatibility, and use clinically-effective natural ingredients. Each product listed on its website has a detailed breakdown of all the ingredients and their purposes, creating a holistic user-friendly experience. 72% of consumers want brands to explain the purpose of ingredients and Drunk Elephant is leading the with their holistic product breakdowns. 

As a result of this education-led approach, and its popularity with younger consumers, the brand has recently been acquired by Japanese giant Shiseido for $845million.

How are you thinking about sustainability? 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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Campaigns digital snippets e-commerce mobile product Retail social media sustainability technology

Kering commits to carbon neutrality, retail surveillance, Instagram supports drop model

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

Top Stories
  • Kering commits to carbon neutrality (Drapers)
  • The new ways retailers are watching you shop (BoF)
  • Instagram launches ‘reminders’ to support product drops (Vogue Business)
Technology
  • Boston Dynamics robot dog Spot is going on sale for the first time (MIT Technology Review)
  • Cryptocurrency’s huge potential in China’s luxury retail (Jing Daily)
  • Kraft Heinz brings mobile-activated packaging to Walmart (Mobile Marketer)
  • Oculus eclipses $100million in VR content sales (TechCrunch)
  • Amazon to launch smart home inventory sensors (Retail Dive)
SUSTAINABILITY & PURPOSE
  • Burt’s Bees and National Geographic partner for climate campaign (Fashion Network)
  • Can Stella McCartney make faux fur sustainable? (Vogue)
  • M&S and Tesco take top spots in climate change report ranking (Retail Gazette)
  • Taylor Stitch garment restored in Restitch’s workwear capsule (Sourcing Journal)
  • LVMH gets competitive about sustainability (BoF)
  • UK government moves to end ‘vague and misleading’ bioplastic terminology (Dezeen)
  • Clean jeans are the future of denim (Vogue Business)
  • Peta launches campaign to get Farfetch to ban angora (Fashion Network)
  • DPD inks sustainable contract with Asos (Drapers)
  • ‘No planet, no sports’ says Nike Sustainability Chief (Sourcing Journal)
RETAIL & E-COMMERCE
BUSINESS
  • Forever 21 files for Bankruptcy (Bloomberg)
  • Ebay CEO steps down (Retail Dive)
  • Rent the Runway executive steps down after delivery failures (BoF)
  • Marks & Spencer’s director of supply chain & logistics departs (Drapers)
  • Boohoo interim revenues up by 43% as annual sales break £1bn (The Industry)
  • Calvin Klein names Nadege Winter SVP brand experience (Fashion Network)
  • Boohoo appoints Missguided brand boss as MissPap CEO (Drapers)
  • British manufacturing: back in fashion (The Guardian)
MARKETING & SOCIAL MEDIA
  • MAC Cosmetics targets gamers with TwitchCon sponsorship (Glossy)
  • Walmart challenges TikTok users to share dance moves (Mobile Marketer)
  • Honda debuts animated comic book on social media (Mobile Marketer)
  • Oculus introduces social virtual reality world Facebook horizon (Adweek)
  • Facebook tries hiding like counts to fight envy (TechCrunch)
PRODUCT
  • Reebok and Adidas collaborate to launch Instapump fury boost (Fashion Network)
  • Amazon expands Alexa with voice-powered wearable (Mobile Marketer)
  • Amazon fashion teams with Puma on new athleisure brand (BoF)
  • Selfridges partners with British CBD body and wellness start-up Grass & Co (Fashion Network)
  • Nestle launches luxury KitKat bars in direct-to-consumer move (Campaign)
  • Diesel partners Coca-Cola for eco-savvy clothing range (Campaign)
  • Amazon pushes further into healthcare with Amazon Care (Adweek)
CULTURE
  • Indian women are Youtube-ing their way out of gender stereotypes (Quartzy)
  • Rebecca Minkoff on the business of representation (Glossy)
  • Mattel release line of gender-neutral world dolls (Adweek)
  • Avon can’t escape lawsuit accusing it of discriminating against pregnant women (Fashion Law)

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.

Categories
business digital snippets e-commerce product Retail social media sustainability technology

Is footwear fueling the Amazon fires, NYFW’s evolution, Zalando trials robots

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

TOP STORIES
  • Is footwear funding the burning of the Amazon? (Vogue Business)
  • Under Tom Ford, New York Fashion Week undergoes an evolution (Vogue Business)
  • Zalando trials robots to pick shoe orders (Charged Retail)
  • Glitz, glamour & garbage: Why fashion week needs to clean up its act (BoF)
TECHNOLOGY
  • Sizing tech takes on fashion’s expensive returns problem (Vogue Business)
  • IBM serves up an ace with AI at the US Open (AdWeek)
  • Nike just created a high-tech shoe that you can control with Siri (Fast Company)
  • Amazon apparently wants to turn your hand into an ID store purchase (The Next Web)
  • ‘Deepfake’ app causes fraud and privacy fears in China (BBC)
  • Alibaba storms NYFW with data driven design (Nikkei)
SUSTAINABILITY & PURPOSE
  • Climate activists ask Jess Bezos to buy the Amazon rainforest (Ad Week)
  • Primark to train 160,000 cotton farmers in latest sustainability move (Retail Gazette)
  • H&M’s COS launched Restored Collection, ‘saves damaged garments’ (Fashion Network)
  • The Amazon fires stops Vans & Timberland buying Brazilian leather (Quartz)
  • H&M boycotts Brazilian leather following Amazon fires (Fashion United)
  • Why Levi’s new water strategy represents an ‘evolution in thinking’ (Sourcing Journal)
  • Gap sets new sustainability design focus with atelier & repairs capsule (WWD)
  • ‘Misleading’ Peta ad claiming ‘wool is just as cruel as fur’ banned by ASA (The Drum)
  • Timberland is planting 50 million trees (Fast Company)
  • How IoT and AI can enable environmental sustainability (Forbes)
  • Allbirds & Just Water’s new capsule collection supports Amazon firefighting efforts (Sourcing Journal)
  • John Lewis looks for water source (Drapers)
RETAIL & E-COMMERCE
  • Zalando launches resale pop-up store in Berlin (Fashion Network)
  • First look: Puma’s New York flagship (Drapers)
  • Burberry delves into chat-based commerce (WWD)
  • American Eagle takes on Sephora in an effort to be a one-stop shop for teens (Fast Company)
  • Amazon pushes fast shipping but avoids responsibility for the human cost (NY Times)
BUSINESS
  • Tapestry CEO ousted for poor performance, per internal email (Vogue Business)
  • Fake Allbirds & Glossier dupes: DTC brands are battling counterfeits and knockoffs (BoF)
  • Le Tote online retailers buys venerable Lord & Taylor for £100m (SF Chronicle)
  • Zara distances itself from Hong Kong protest controversy (The Industry)
  • M&S to be kicked out of FTSE 100 for first time (Fashion Network)
  • Walmart to stop some ammunition sales in response to shootings (Retail Dive)
  • Moda Operandi gets a makeover- by data and design (Vogue Business)
MARKETING & SOCIAL MEDIA
  • Is TikTok a time bomb? (Fast Company)
  • Ralph Lauren moves onto TikTok platform with US Open campaign (WWD)
  • Reebok drops Cardi B sneakers on Alexa, Google Assistant (Mobile Marketer)
  • Fortnite star Ninja signs multi-year apparel deal with Adidas (The Verge)
  • Molton Brown unveils perfume range via scent experience (Campaign Live)
  • Why Estee Lauder are spending 75% of their marketing spend on influencer marketing (The Drum)
PRODUCT
  • Google’s Project Jacquard returns on an YSL backpack strap, for $880 (The Verge)
  • How Fenty beauty is selling cruelty-free products to China (BoF)
CULTURE
  • Dior pulls ‘Sauvage’ campaign after facing appropriation backlash (BoF)
  • Walmart comes under fire for ‘segregating’ products (Fashion Law)
  • Has inclusivity skipped fashion’s front row? (Vogue Business)
  • The future of the cannabis industry (Quartz)
  • How Tommy Hilfiger thrived on hip hop (without being accused of cultural appropriation) (BoF)

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.

Categories
Editor's pick Retail technology

4 technologies aiding in-store 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.

The result is designed to enable efficiency in the customer journey. This is in response to the fact that as online sales growth surpasses brick-and-mortar, customers are expecting more than just easy access to online products in physical stores, they also want to find them faster.

Cue solutions ranging from robots to augmented reality mapping. Read on for some of the strongest examples in the market to date…

Augmented Reality
Legoland Denmark augmented reality app

Home store Lowe’s was one of the first retailers to introduce an app with augmented reality indoor mapping. Instead of a 2-D image, this mobile service projects navigation signs and price specials on top of the user’s field of view – meaning they can see which direction to go in projected through their smartphones straight onto the floor or space in front of them. 

Outside of the retail space, Legoland in Denmark has recently experimented with an AR wayfinding app that helps visitors navigate around the park via a mini Lego avatar. They can also then receive real-time information on wait times ahead of them.

Voice Search
Sam’s Club Scan & Go app

Sam’s Club Now in Dallas, Walmart’s test store for technology, is also focusing on a mobile-first shopping experience. Its Scan & Go app helps customers easily access products with an integrated system using voice search for navigation. When a shopper tells the app what they need, a map directs them to the item on the shopfloor. 

Home Depot’s version meanwhile, allows users to use voice or visual search to find a specific item and then be shown exactly where it’s located within the store. Macy’s launched something similar back in 2016 with IBM Watson, which enabled users to ask question as to where specific products, departments, and brands were located, as well as what services and facilities could be found in a particular store.

Robotics
The LoweBot

From voice technology then comes robotics. Lowe’s was also one of the first to make it easier for customers to find help on the shop floor by deploying robot attendants. The “LoweBot” responds to voice commands, guiding customers through the aisles with smart laser sensors.

For Kyle Nel, executive director at Lowe’s Innovation Labs, the LoweBot resolves a common problem: “When I walk into a store and I want to know where something is I want to know right then — I don’t want to have to download an app — a robot can really help with that.”

Real-time Beacons
Target

Target is heavily investing in beacon technology for the sake of navigation also. It renewed its stores to use energy-efficient LED lighting with built-in Bluetooth beacons, which enable the store’s app to show customers their real-time location on the shop floor in a similar experience to that of Google Maps. They also help notify customers when they walk by one of Target’s “Cartwheel” deals.

Gatwick Airport has also invested in beacon technology as part of its £2.5bn transformation. Here, 2,000 indoor navigation beacons have been installed to help customers easily navigate around the terminals and reduce the amount of missed flights. Augmented reality plays a part here too, with a blue line mapped through the smartphone for users to show them which direction to go in.

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 Editor's pick product Retail social media sustainability technology Uncategorized

ICYMI: ‘Sustainability’ arrives in annual reports, Prada goes fur-free, a lack of female fashion CEOs

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

TOP STORIES
  • Tracking sustainability’s rise as one of fashion’s favourite words [Vogue Business]
  • Prada is the latest brand to go fur-free [Dazed]
  • Fashion has shockingly few female CEOs [Quartz]
  • What’s stopping the fashion industry from agreeing on climate action? [BoF]
  • E-Commerce giant Alibaba to integrate blockchain into intellectual property system [Yahoo]
TECHNOLOGY
  • World’s first digital only blockchain clothing sells for $9,500 [Forbes]
  • San Francisco becomes the first US city to ban government facial recognition [Wired]
  • AI avatars could be the next generation’s favorite entertainers [TNW]
  • Driverless electric truck starts deliveries on Swedish public road [FashionNetwork]
  • Future smart clothes will keep you the perfect temperature at all times [Digital Trends]
SUSTAINABILITY & PURPOSE
  • How charitable are fashion’s biggest companies? [Vogue Business]
  • The young activists fighting to ‘rebrand’ air pollution [Dazed]
  • Walmart agrees to power more than 40 stores with solar energy [Bloomberg]
  • Kering sets new animal welfare guidelines [FashionUnited]
  • The Body Shop launches fair trade recycled plastic scheme [i-D]
  • Single-use plastics a serious climate change hazard, study warns [Guardian]
  • Scientists devise ‘breakthrough’ plastic that can be recycled again and again [Sourcing Journal]
  • Why Russia still loves fur [Vogue Business]
  • This clothing brand’s new repair program shows that the future of fashion can be circular [Fast Company]
RETAIl & E-COMMERCE
  • How department stores are using services to convince customers they’re still convenient places to shop [Digiday]
  • Urban Outfitters tries to stay relevant with an $88 monthly rental service [Fast Company]
  • Walmart’s ambitious plan to beat Amazon on free one-day shipping is here [Fast Company]
  • Why online fashion retailers are experimenting with invite-only access [Forbes]
  • Klarna announces first UK immersive pop-up [FashionUnited]
MARKETING & SOCIAL MEDIA
  • Calvin Klein apologizes following “queerbaiting” accusations for Bella Hadid & Lil Miquela ad [Hype Bae]
  • Nike runs shoppable Snapchat lens to support women’s soccer [Mobile Marketer]
  • How will in-game advertising change as Google, Facebook, Snap and Apple level up? [Mobile Marketer]
PRODUCT
  • So what does Rihanna’s first Fenty collection actually look like? [NY Times]
  • PrettyLittleThing launches recycled collection [Drapers]
  • Vivobarefoot launches plant-based shoe [FashionUnited]
BUSINESS
  • Body Shop owner to buy Avon for £1.6bn [BBC]
  • Topshop is closing all its US stores [Refinery29]
  • Farfetch revenue soars [Drapers]
  • Richemont profit misses estimates on online investment costs [BoF]
  • Nike, Adidas and others call on Trump to remove footwear from tariff list [RetailDive]
CULTURE
  • ‘I want to tilt the lens’ – Sinéad Burke’s fight to make fashion more diverse [Guardian]

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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business Editor's pick Events Retail technology

Everything you need to know from World Retail Congress

Retail’s ability to disrupt and update its strategies alongside a broader call for more sustainable practices were among the key topics at this year’s World Retail Congress in Amsterdam.

“High velocity retail” and “the future of retail” were the themes for the conference in 2019, with technological advancement standing out as a priority for retailers. “If you’re slow at picking up these nuances, these trends and things that are happening all around us all the time, you’re going to be a loser,” said Lord Stuart Rose, former chairman of British department store Marks and Spencer, now chair of online grocer Ocado.

There was also a conversation around slowing down, however, which tied into consumer expectations of purpose-driven brands. “I think the brands and retailers who will win will be the ones who can tap into meaning,” said philosopher Robert Rowland Smith.

Here’s everything else you need to know…

TOP STORIES
  • High velocity retail: Why the World Retail Congress 2019 was a breath of fresh air [Forbes]
  • Slower retail: Has the industry hit its speed limit? [FashionUnited]
  • Lord Rose: Death of the high street is “overblown” [Retail Gazette]
  • Amazon revealed as the world’s most valuable retail brand, but it shouldn’t rest on its laurels [Warc]
INNOVATION
  • Levi’s to allow shoppers to customize their own ‘greener’ jeans [FashionUnited]
  • Retail chiefs dismiss AI job threat, promise more training [Reuters]
  • Google launches tool to help retailers boost customer experience [Retail Week]
  • Walmart International CEO on data privacy, the failed Asda merger and leveling the playing field for women [FashionUnited]
RETAIL UPDATES
  • Zalando to expand delivery from stores to bag missed sales [Reuters]
  • Yoox Net-a-Porter to become one of the first to launch shoppable Instagram account [ChargedRetail]
  • JD.com exec Ling on the future of ‘boundless retail’ [Retail Week]
BUSINESS MODELS
  • Retailers should collaborate to survive: “You can’t do it alone” [CyclingIndustry]
  • Retailers say business model needs to change for them to remain relevant [Enterprise Times]
  • Millennials are driving growth in emerging subscription retail services [FootwearNews]
  • Superdry chairman urges boardrooms to hire young people amid online shift [Retail Gazette]

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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Editor's pick Retail technology

Walmart “IRL” concept investigates the future of retail through AI

Walmart is investigating the future of retail with the launch of the Intelligent Retail Lab (or “IRL”), a concept store where AI will be playing a major role at delivering convenience and relevancy.

For this concept launch, led by Walmart’s tech incubator Store N8, the retailer transformed one of its busiest locations, in Levittown, New York, into a 50,000 sq ft space where features such as intelligence-enabled cameras and interactive displays aim to enhance customer experience.

“The scope of what we can do operationally is so exciting,” says Mike Hanrahan, CEO of IRL. “Technology enables us to understand so much more – in real time – about our business. When you combine all the information we’re gathering in IRL with Walmart’s 50-plus years of expertise in running stores, you can create really powerful experiences that improve the lives of both our customers and associates.”

IRL is set up to gather information about what is happening inside the store, and how consumers are behaving, through a variety of sensors, cameras and processors, all of which are connected through a powerful data processing center.

The initial focus is on product inventory and availability, says Hanrahan. In this instance, an example sees a combination of cameras and analytics that will automatically trigger out-of-stock notifications to an internal app when a shelf is empty, alerting staff of the need for restocking. Other applications will look at practical solutions that keep the store running smoothly, such as making sure shopping carts are available and registers are open.

This is because at this initial phase the main focus will be on data-gathering and learning about the technology and its potentials and pitfalls, rather than implementing it across operations in haste. “You can’t be overly enamored with the shiny object element of AI,” added Hanrahan. “There are a lot of shiny objects out there that are doing things we think are unrealistic to scale and probably, long-term, not beneficial for the consumer.”

Adding an element of science fiction to the whole experience, customers will be able to glimpse through a glass wall at the store’s large data center, which will process 1.6tb of data per second – which can be compared to downloading three year’s worth of music (27,000 hours) each second. They can also become better informed about the features being tested in store through information stations scattered throughout. Lastly, an AI-enabled wall adds an element of play by imitating shopper movements as they walk by.

The Data Center inside Walmart’s IRL store

How are you thinking about retail 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. 

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data Editor's pick Retail technology

From relevancy to regulation: Why SXSW 2019 was the year of the individual ?

There was undeniably a continued focus on culture at SXSW this year, as what was once the behemoth tech festival aligned itself with broader societal shifts as well as the consumer itself.

Author Brene Brown set the tone by opening the first day of the event with a discussion on empathy and the simple notion of belonging and connection in a digital age. Now, this as a concept isn’t new for SXSW – it was our top takeaway from 2018 off the back of rising concerns around the ethics of artificial intelligence. But this year, it wasn’t said in the context of how we should build technology to behave, but instead really on how we as individuals can live better lives.

On the simplest end of the scale, that of course meant experiences – evidenced by the brand activations that continued to pop up around the city of Austin. Offering opportunities for people to have a great time, isn’t going anywhere. But on top of that was everything from politicians fighting for what society deserves through to an increased focus on wellness.

Underpinning all of it? How we create greater than ever relevancy for individuals in a way that is both fair and meaningful.

Smart wellness
Current Global's co-founder and CEO Liz Bacelar and Calm founder Michael Acton Smith
Current Global’s co-founder and CEO Liz Bacelar and Calm founder Michael Acton Smith

It’s easy to say wellness was a trend at this year’s festival – its presence was felt more than ever, from the huge volume of cannabis-related programming (60 sessions to be precise) to the second year of the wellness expo, which featured everything from breathwork 101 to a conversation on Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine. There were also activations including the Real Self House, which offered free consultations with medical doctors and complementary treatments such as lasers and injectables.

Our Innovation Mansion also heavily focused on wellness, with speakers including Calm founder Michael Acton Smith, Dirty Lemon, Recess and Under Armour all playing a role. Where these conversations proved particularly interesting, was in the way connectivity played a role. This wasn’t so much about wearables, nor about that “quantified self” trend from years gone past – rather it was around how technology is more passively enabling me to find out more about myself to then achieve better results.

One key example was in L’Oréal’s announcement of its partnership with microbial genomics company, uBiome, which the Current Global’s Liz Bacelar explored with Guive Balooch, VP of L’Oréal’s technology incubator, on the SXSW main stage. This is about deepening its research into the skin’s bacterial ecosystem in order to develop more personalized skincare solutions for individuals. The end goal is quite literally prescribing products based on exactly what the science of our own bodies tell us we need. “When it comes to skincare, people often audition product after product to determine what works for their unique skin. At L’Oréal, our goal is to advance scientific research and leverage new technologies to change this relationship, by allowing deeper levels of personalization.”

Meanwhile, futurist Amy Webb dedicated a good portion of her trends talk to biometrics, not just for identification scanning, but predicting behaviors. “These are systems that take all biodata and are constantly learning from it in some way, she explained, referencing Pivot Yoga’s connected yoga pants, which monitor poses and correct users’ form while syncing the data to an app. It’s the first time behavioral biometrics made it into her trend report, she noted. She related such a trend to “Persistent Recognition Systems”, which are algorithms that use our unique features, like bone structure, posture, or facial expressions to recognize not only who we are, but our frame of mind in real-time and make personalized suggestions as a result.

In doing so, consumers often end up giving out more information than they realize, Webb added. At Walmart, a smart shopping cart could measure your temperature, heart rate, and grip strength. If the cart senses you’re angry, it can send a representative to help you out. Walmart is reportedly using this data to create a baseline of biometric information about individual users to drive better customer service.

Personalization
Atlantic Pacific for Amazon Fashion

Optimizing data about individuals is the million dollar question for brands. We hear this at every trade show, conference, festival and exhibition we go to around the world. We hear it from every client. How do I better get to know my customer? And how do I then ensure relevancy for them in order to drive my conversions upwards?

SXSW was no different. Amazon Fashion’s CTO, Tony Bacos, said relevancy is his number one goal. “We’re focused on helping connect people to the products that we know are going to delight them. Not just in their individual taste and style but in their bodies,” he explained. By that he meant thinking about how to drive personalized discovery when the challenge is the huge scale of Amazon’s catalog, and then how to solve fit and sizing issues. With the latter he referenced machine learning in order to map sizing from one brand to the next as well as understand the role consumer preference and buying history play. Virtual try-on, where users can visualize themselves in items, will play a role for Amazon in the future, he hinted.

“No one has nailed these things in fashion yet – both the opportunity to create better and personalized experiences online and to solve the fit challenge,” he said. “That’s why it’s an exciting category.”

Kerry Liu, CEO of artificial intelligence software company, Rubikloud, agreed the future of retail really is about relevancy, and about using AI behind the scenes to facilitate it. In the words of Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, it’s about using tech to “quietly but meaningfully improve core operations”, he said. But more than that, it’s about optimizing decision making, which increasingly humans alone cannot do.

Walmart CTO Jeremy King, said it’s about efficiency, which ultimately means giving humans the tools to make better use of their time. As Marie Gulin Merle, CMO of Calvin Klein, reminded everyone: “Fashion is an emotional business; you still need people to shake the hearts of the consumers.”

Data regulation
Dennis Crowley from Foursquare

With a focus on data, of course comes conversation around privacy and increasingly, regulation. When the programming suggestions were submitted to SXSW last summer for inclusion in this year’s content line-up, top of mind were two major subjects within this: the GDPR regulations in Europe, and the Cambridge Analytica scandal with Facebook. Cue such continued debate come March.

Roger McNamee, early Facebook investor and one-time advisor to Facebook founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, spoke about the importance around regulation. “Users and society have not had a chance to debate whether companies should gather information and profit from people’s financial transactions, health data, or location,” he noted. An avid critic of Facebook today, he nonetheless understands the problem is endemic to a world where the most profitable business model is tracking people, using data to predict their behavior, and steering them toward the companies’ desired outcomes.

One company keeping a close eye on regulation is Foursquare, whose co-founder Dennis Crowley explained the company’s evolution from hyperlocal advertising to a business-to-business data play. “Now, Foursquare offers a base map of the world,” he said. But it refuses to sell data on individual customers in the process.

For Facebook, by comparison, the pressure around data privacy continues to heat up. Just before SXSW, Zuckerberg announced the platform will shift its focus away from public posts to encrypted, ephemeral communications on its trio of messaging apps. To McNamee, this supposed commitment to encryption and privacy reads like a stunt. “They’re not getting out of the tracking business. My problem with Facebook is not whether it’s end-to end-encrypted. It’s what are they doing with the tracking, what are they doing to invade my private spaces. I don’t want them buying my credit card history. I do not want them doing business with health and wellness apps to get all that data. I do not want them buying my location data from my cellular carrier.”

Senator Elizabeth Warren also took to the SXSW stage to address her tech regulatory proposal, announced the day before. This seeks to undo massive tech mergers that exist and introduce legislation that would prohibit marketplace owners from developing products for sale on their own platforms. “Amazon has a platform to sell you a coffee maker, but that company also sucks out an incredible amount of information about every buyer and seller. Then they can make a decision to go start a competing coffee making-selling outfit, and drive out of business everyone else in that space,” she said. McNamee revealed he’s now advising Warren as a presidential candidate for 2020, on her data regulation agenda.

For global brands, the role of data privacy is only going to continue apace. Regulation looks inevitable in the US, as it has been in Europe. The question is, how to balance that pressing consumer demand for personalization with the protection they equally expect.

Additional reporting by Larissa Gomes.

How are you thinking about 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.