Global online booking giant Expedia is developing a 360-degree virtual reality (VR) booking service that enables guests to view hotel rooms 'in person' before they book.
Currently in the development stage at the brand's innovation lab in Singapore, the VR technology will allow prospective customers to interact with the room on a detailed level, including 'opening' sliding doors and 'stepping out' onto the balcony to take in the view.
According to Expedia, the new service is currently being trialled in the US and will be rolled out across all of Expedia's websites, including Hotels.com and Trivago.
Expedia, which invested $1bn in technology in 2016, is also in the process of expanding its chatbot and voice-booking capabilities following its collaboration with Amazon Alexa earlier this year. Additionally, Expedia is currently gathering feedback on its websites with EMG technology, which uses electrons attached to the facial muscles to gauge emotional reactions, in order to improve and deliver its services in a more user-friendly way.
For more on how VR is being utilised across the hospitality space, see Alcohol Meets Tech: Virtual Reality Bars, The Empowered Customer Journey and Travel for the Agile Elite (part of our recent Macro Trend, The New Rules Of Luxury).
Billed as Coachella-meets-Sephora, the sold-out Beautycon NYC trade show attracted 9,000+ beauty fans to Brooklyn (May 20). Offering free samples, discounted products and social-media influencer attendance, the show is extremely valuable for youth-focused brands looking to build engagement and buzz. We highlight the product trends, influencers and sociopolitical thinking driving this young consumer spend.
Offering a beauty-box subscription service and digital content in addition to the trade show, Beautycon outlines its mission as “challenging traditional beauty standards and redefining what beauty means.” The festivals (also in LA and London) bring this ethos to life for consumers who consider make-up a key tool for self-expression, transformation and creativity (see Teen-Targeted Beauty).
While influencers typically draw the hysterical crowds at Beautycon, shrewd brands instead endeavoured to put attendees in the Instagram spotlight, acknowledging this generation’s lean towards narcissistic self-curation.
Pierpaolo Piccioli scored a home run with his sports-infused, hip-hop-inspired Resort collection, combining down-to-earth styling with his iconic brand of delectable femininity.
The collection was a masterclass in cross-cultural reference points, from the athletic-piped, zipped and poppered detailing that defined Piccioli’s easy track-themed silhouettes, to the delicate lace in-fills and Zandra Rhodes boudoir lipstick prints.
And it was luxe sports all the way, from the hammered silks and striped furs to the butter-soft leathers, silk velvet and technical jerseys, elevating washed denim and casual drills into another stratosphere.
Colour, too, combined those essential sports references – think malachite, burgundy and black – with uplifting spring-like accents of pretty primrose, geranium, forget-me-not and buddleia green, while candy pink and hot fuchsia added a girly kick.
Rounded shoulderlines and swishing panelled track pants added a new sense of soft volume to silhouettes, along with easy-cut letterman jackets, flared hem blousons and drawstring track dresses, while Piccioli’s signature lace midi dresses added another dimension to the mix.
Accessories and footwear included squishy Rockstud slides, corded thongs and mink flip-flops, infusing looks with a contradictory street-style sense of uptown luxe. Watch for the high street picking up on the new pastel Rockstud purse bags with white stud detailing.
NEED TO KNOW:
With a number of brands and retailers alienating consumers with culturally appropriated products, the time has come to stop borrowing from non-western societies and instead start working with them.
Recognising the need to bridge the gap between African designers and the rest of the world is online platform Oxosi. Founded in 2016 by Nigerian friends Akin Adebowale and Kolade Adeyemo, the site – described as part e-tailer, part online magazine – was launched not only to give smaller, unknown brands access to a broader international market, but also to educate western consumers about African design.
The site gives brands the opportunity to disrupt the often single-minded traditional identity narrative associated with the continent, providing a more accurate portrayal that is both multifaceted and diverse.
Brands showcased on the site include South African knitwear brand Maxhosa, Nigerian menswear label Post Imperial and Côte d’Ivoire-based luxury womenswear designer Loza Maléombho – featured in our Instagangs: African Designers & Brands report.
Augmented reality (AR) advertising is a growing trend, as consumers become more familiar with the technology via Snapchat filters and Pokemon Go. We highlight the latest AR media, marketing and advertising innovations.
A hotbed of innovation merging fashion, retail and technology, Decoded Fashion’s London Summit welcomed a vast number of start-ups, all stating their cause. We spotlight our top four.
The Resort collections have been slow to kick off this season, but Tomas Maier injected some much-needed season-neutral looks into the proceedings with his latest offering of stealth-wealth pieces full of want-it-now appeal.
It was luxe-touch fabrics all the way, from the sinuous silk jerseys and printed duchesse satins to Maier’s colourful shearlings and classic suede and leather, coupled with cashmere knits and crisp denim.
Colour emphasised that non-seasonal quality with a bias towards cool blues and greens, contrasted with rich autumnal browns and berry tones. Soft ivory added an essential timeless counterbalance, and there was a single nod to the current obsession with sugar-coated millennial pink.
Overall, silhouettes had a subtle, retro 70s feel, from the duo of pleated silk jersey dresses to fantasy-shearling chubby coats and a windowpane-checked cropped double-breasted jacket and matching A-line skirt, with casual field-jacket pocket placements compounding the vintage look.
That below-the-knee A-line shape was the collection’s recurring theme, often balanced with high-set waist detailing, or worked on a sharp skirt and bloused track top in a beautifully etched floral-print satin. Clusters of butterflies were strategically placed to add waist emphasis to gentle fit-and-flare dresses, while mini dome-headed studs added a harder-edged appeal.
Finishing touches included offbeat-plated, ribbed three-quarter-length socks, waisted Louis-heeled courts and covetable floral-embroidered woven leather purse bags with matching laced boots.
NEED TO KNOW:
FMCG brands have long been deciphering how best to connect with consumers as their shopping behaviour changes. Working with Google, Coca-Cola has begun using browsing-history data on consumers’ smartphones to serve them real-time, personalised ads on digital supermarket signage.
The screens, owned by Coke, are placed at the end of the soft drinks aisle and can communicate with a shopper’s smartphone. They can access a phone’s IP address – which suggests a consumer’s location – as well as browsing data from Google’s DoubleClick ad-serving software. This provides the consumer’s approximate age and gender, and current shopping preoccupations.
The data determines the most relevant ad to show, subsequently displaying it on the digital screens as the consumer approaches. For instance, if a shopper is interested in health and fitness, the screens might show an ad for sparkling water or diet tonic instead of sugary soft drinks.
Coca-Cola has already reported that a 250-store US pilot with grocery chain Albertsons delivered a one-month return on investment (the outlay involved in the supermarket purchasing the screens to facilitate the programme). It’s seen an increase in sales of both Coca-Cola and other soft drinks, although specific figures haven’t yet been disclosed.
Notably, part of the concept’s apparent early success is likely to lie in its relatively non-invasive semi-subliminal nature, with the data not pulled from app information – only browsing history.
Following the success of his Smog Free Tower in Beijing, a structure that collects polluting particles from the air (see Beijing Design Week 2016), Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde is now proposing a new iteration of his innovation: the Smog Free Bicycle. Part of a growing project, the design aims to improve China’s poor air quality by making people part of the solution.
Drawing its inspiration from a recent Smog Free workshop in Beijing, the bicycle functions like a vacuum cleaner, inhaling polluted air from around the cyclist and releasing clean air instead. It’s intended to become an everyday way to tackle urban pollution, allowing cyclists to simply ‘pedal’ it cleaner. Currently in the first stages of design, the bicycle will incorporate the same patented positive ionisation technology used in the tower, which was validated as effective by researchers at the Eindhoven University of Technology.
Supported by the Chinese central government, the project corresponds with the growing popularity of bike-sharing programmes in the country and especially in the Beijing region, which has over a million shareable bikes on record.
“Beijing used to be an iconic bicycle city,” said Roosegaarde in a statement, adding, “we want to bring back the bicycle as a cultural icon of China and as the next step towards smog-free cities.”
See the Breathable Futures section in our Reframing Rare report for more on the product innovations taking on China’s air pollution challenge.
Munich-based start-up Bragi has released two sets of "wireless ear computers" – the Dash Pro and Dash Pro Tailored by Starkey Hearing Technologies.
Retailing for $329, the Dash Pro earphones can play music and podcasts via Bluetooth audio streaming, store up to 1,000 songs on 4GB of internal storage, make or receive phone calls and hold up to five hours of battery life in a single charge.
The devices, which can be controlled hands-free with head-gestures and voice command, selectively filter noise, allowing only desired sound to pass through. They can also translate foreign languages in real time using the in-built 32-bit processor, a suite of 27 sensors and the downloadable iTranslate Pro app.
The earphones are waterproof in up to three feet of fresh water and understand whether the user is running, cycling or swimming, keeping track of workouts automatically. Users can visualise their workouts from within the Bragi app, viewing details on current performance and a full breakdown of past activities.
The custom-made $499 versions, created with US-based hearing technologists Starkey, are available from specialised audiologists throughout the US and Canada. They come with bud tips created from a mould of the user's ears, a craftsman's signature on the packaging and a laser engraving of the user's name on the earbuds and protective slider.
For more on the latest in wearable tech, see our report from the Wearable Technology Show 2017.
Global confectionery giant Mars Chocolate North America is launching The Cocoa Exchange – a platform that allows 'curators' to host at-home product tastings.
The company has created a range of sample kits for the platform based around three of its sub-brands: Dove Signature, Pure Dark and Pod Bean. Each kit comprises a range of products belonging to each brand – from cocoa nibs to marinades. Sampled items can then be bought via an online store. Prices range from $12-36, with curators earning 25-40% commission on all goods purchased.
When ordering a sample kit, curators will receive enough product to host four to six 'parties'. They can pep up the occasion with themed events including wine and chocolate pairings, fondue dipping or brunch. It's hoped that these at-home experiences will help to engage potential customers.
This initiative taps neatly into activating at-home foodies, a shift explored in our Kitchen of the Future Industry Trend. This looks into how consumers can be impassioned to create sophisticated and satisfying culinary experiences at home.
It also aligns well with cocoa's ongoing status as a luxury ingredient, as explored in New Food Covetables. For more in-depth research into chocolate trends, see Creative Confections and Chocolate Trends 2016.
Responding to a generation of consumers oversaturated with ‘stuff’, shrewd brands are tapping into the global growing desire for sustainable business practices and an upheaval of throwaway culture – with ‘loop-closing’ retail concepts anchored in repair, recycling and recommerce. See Active Flagships for more on hitting ‘peak stuff’.
Globally, 66% of millennials state they’re willing to pay extra for sustainable offerings from companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact (Nielsen, 2016). Meanwhile, 94% of Gen Z in China now say it's essential for brands to be sustainable and environmentally conscious (RTG Consulting Group, 2016).
In a bid to futureproof against disruptive challenger brands, Scottish bank Clydesdale has opened a wow-factor hybrid space in London featuring an interactive fintech expo, a working innovation lab and a conventional bank branch.
Located on Kensington High Street, Studio B follows the 2016 launch of Clydesdale’s money management app B. This offers ‘smart tagging’ to help budget control, categorising expenditure according to type and displaying the data as infographics. It also offers predictive saving; the app automatically transfers money into the user’s savings account when it registers a monthly underspend.
While it’s a fully functioning branch offering everyday services, there is also a test-and-learn facility showcasing Clydesdale’s latest technological innovations and digital banking solutions to encourage discourse between inventors and users (staff and the public). The feedback will be used to accelerate ideas already in the pipeline.
The spatial concept, by British design agency Four-by-Two, is aptly futuristic. B-shaped mirrors and digital screens adorn the entrance, displaying colourful op-art-inspired visuals. Inside, a central open-plan area features the lab space, where large white desks (which can be reconfigured to benches) hold tablets providing access to banking apps. There is also an Amazon Alexa smart speaker, demonstrating voice-activated banking.
Private consultation rooms, a café and ATMs are arranged in a circular pattern around the central open zone, which is used to host events focused on “empowering customers to take control of their finances”. For instance, this month’s panel discussion is called Behavioural Change & Habits: Can We Teach an Old Dog New Tricks?
US deodorant brand Axe continues its mission to reframe masculinity for a more diverse world (see The Art of Rebranding) with its new Is It OK for Guys To? campaign.
The video shows scenarios based on typical male online searches, highlighting the fears some men have about sharing their anxieties openly. Questions include "Is it OK to not like sport?" and "Is it OK to be a virgin?"
The campaign was motivated by a statistic from gender justice organisation Promundo, which revealed 57% of men have been told how a 'real man' should behave. "We want guys to see there's no holds barred on what men can or cannot be," commented Rik Strubel, global vice-president of Axe. "We need to help more men by tackling toxic masculinity head on." In the era of Trump and the alt-right, toxic masculinity has become a key cultural issue.
In a further move, Axe's UK brand Lynx teamed up with Calm (the Campaign Against Living Miserably) to launch the Calm Photography Movement. Photographers were encouraged to upload images that, according to Simon Gunning, Calm's CEO, "tell stories about our experiences of masculinity, what it means to be a man, and how we can tackle that old stereotype of needing a stiff upper lip".
The winning pictures were displayed this week – Mental Health Week – at London's Getty Images Gallery. They were also curated into a catalogue available for purchase in support of Calm's work towards preventing male suicide.
At the London Motor Show, hosted between May 3-6, London-based design and innovation consultancy Seymourpowell launched its as-yet-nameless virtual reality (VR) tool for automotive design. The software enables collaborative 3D modelling, making this a game changer for car designers.
The tool allows designers to sketch three-dimensional, full-scale models in a virtual environment using a VR headset and handheld controllers. It gives them the ability to create complex curves and duplicate forms while constantly being aware of the car’s proportions.
In a video made by Seymourpowell, lead automotive designer Richard Seale describes the software – which was developed in house – as “the ultimate design tool, because it blurs the boundaries between styling, 3D CAD, clay modelling and engineering.”
Focusing on improved collaboration, the tool is a networked platform, enabling team members to work on a project remotely in real time. This means colleagues can dial in to the work in progress with either a headset to actively participate, or with a mobile or tablet to observe the virtual model as if it was in the room, aided by augmented reality.
Being able to see a car before it’s manufactured could be useful for marketers and customers alike, and opens up opportunities for bespoke design requests.
See Work Reimagined in which we explore how VR tools and holographic technology will change the way we work and communicate in the future. For more on performance-enhancing tools and technology, see our A/W 18/19 Design Direction Amplify.