McDonald's Green Restaurant
As explored in Packaging Futures 2019/20, consumers are increasingly expecting brands to offer eco-conscious packaging. Coming at this issue from a hospitality perspective, McDonald's Canada is opening two new green concept stores to trial its new sustainable packaging alternatives.
Located in Ontario and Vancouver, these restaurants will serve as incubators for new packaging, testing recyclable lids made from wood fibre and 're-pulpable' cups for cold drinks, as well as wooden cutlery and stir-sticks and paper straws. If successful, the packaging will be rolled out worldwide in 2020. The initiative is part of a push to switch all of McDonald's packaging to sustainably sourced, recycled materials by 2025.
John Betts, president and chief executive of McDonald's Canada, said: "Our Green Concept Restaurants are an exciting new innovation as part of our ongoing sustainable journey. They are an example of how we're able to use our scale for good, and keep raising the bar on what it means to be a responsible company committed to people and the planet."
The move follows the recent announcement that 84% of the fast-food giant's coffee is now sustainably sourced (aiming for 100% by 2020), and the introduction of its vegan burger option (read McDonald's Launches Vegan Burger). It's an exciting shift that proves the sustainability message is definitely going mainstream.
For more on consumer expectations in this space, see Game-Changing Fast Food Concepts. For a deep dive into the complex challenges presented by sustainability in the food arena, read The Post-Vegan Opportunity.
Our Pop Culture Close-Ups offer a regular deep dive into the drivers behind cultural moments – revealing which communities are fuelling the conversation, and what brands can do to harness the energies behind the most engaging issues. This time, we will highlight the impact changing attitudes around body norms have on entertainment and marketing.
- The Tipping Point
- 17%Revenue in the plus-size clothing category increased by 17% between 2013 and 2016, compared with 7% growth for all apparel
- The Future
- 1.8%Only 1.8% of characters in TV have a disability
- 15%Around 15% of the global population lives with some form of disability
- The Opportunity
- $21bnThe plus-size fashion market value is estimated to be $21bn
- 15%Only 15% of US employers say they would hire a fat woman
The Tipping Point
In the first chapter of her memoir Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman, US writer Lindy West says "as a kid, I never saw anyone remotely like myself on TV. [...] There simply were no young, funny, capable, strong, good fat girls."
In March 2019, Hulu's adaptation of the book, starring Saturday Night Live cast member Aidy Bryant, was the latest in a string of entertainment titles to start filling that void with fat lead characters. In the spring of 2019, Netflix released its original feature Isn't it Romantic and its adaptation of bestselling YA novel Dumplin', while last year, US broadcaster AMC adapted Dietland (see Pop Culture Round-Up: Spring 2018).
This slowly growing canon of sympathetic fat characters was ushered in by a groundswell of fat activists and fatshion bloggers (see A Fashion Awokening) on social media and the money channels they revealed. Revenue in the plus-size clothing category increased by 17% between 2013 and 2016, compared with 7% growth for all apparel (NPD, 2018).
Currently, body positivity often conflates addressing systemic disadvantages that fat people experience with encouraging individuals to practice self-love. The fat acceptance movement originated in the 1960s, largely among black and queer women fighting public discrimination at work or when receiving medical treatment. Fat positivity – which is a pushback against fat shaming, and body positivity – which is a more commercial self-esteem movement, followed.
Shifting a movement focused on surfacing and humanising marginalised bodies – people of colour, LGBT+, disabled, fat – towards individual self-love is potentially harmful. It tells those with marginalised bodies that the social problems they experience would vanish if they had a better attitude to themselves, instead of demanding society creates a space for bodies that have been sidelined. As body positivity influencer Megan Jayne Crabbe (1.1 million followers) told The Guardian: "If we're only having conversations about body image and not about body politics then we're not fighting for all bodies – just our own bodies."
- 2004 Dove launches its campaign for real beauty, calling out image editing in commercial photography
- 2011 US writer Lindy West publishes her piece Hello, I am Fat as a pushback to public conversation on 'the obesity epidemic'
- 2016 Mattel introduces a diversified range of Barbie dolls in a number of skin tones and body shapes
- 2018 Victoria's Secret chief marketing officer Ed Razek was broadly and publicly ridiculed for saying no one would be interested in seeing fat or trans women at the lingerie brand's hyped-up shows.
Fat acceptance is part of a more diverse struggle for improved body inclusivity, creating social awareness and representation for LGBT, fat, disabled and ill bodies.
- Disability Gap: A GLAAD report analysing diversity for the 2017-18 TV season found that around 1.8% of regular characters have a disability. This situation is even more dire in advertising. At Cannes Lions this year, the Gina Davis Institute for Gender in Media presented its latest data on inclusivity in ads, revealing that less than 1% of ad time portrays people with disabilities. Around 15% of the world's population lives with some form of disability (WHO, 2011), so this under-indexing presents a huge opportunity for growth in marketing.
- Expanding into Accessibility: In 2018, Microsoft made a substantial contribution to inclusivity with the release of a suite of accessible gaming controllers for its Xbox console (see Gamescom 2018). For last year's holiday campaign, the company distilled the point of inclusivity into the tag line for the controller: 'When everybody plays, we all win'.
In the summer of 2018, US lingerie retailer Aerie updated its online product pages to feature women with a range of disabilities, illnesses, ethnicities, ages and shapes. They sported wheelchairs, crutches, insulin pumps for Type 1 Diabetes, ostomy bags and mastectomies alongside the brand's full product range – from bralets to performance wear.
The change was executed quietly, without an accompanying campaign to demand attention for the company's inclusivity efforts. The move was lauded by advocacy groups, and still spread enthusiastically by customers on their own social feeds.
Ikea Israel's ThisAbles campaign is a great case study of a brand expanding its existing offers to include disabled customers, instead of creating a separate silo. Conceived by creative agency McCann's Tel Aviv team with help from local non-profit Access Israel, ThisAbles is a 13-item line of product extensions and add-on furniture hacks that make Ikea products accessible to a much wider range of physical abilities. The items are available as downloadable 3D printing files across the world. Ikea also offers in-store 3D printing in 127 countries.
Body positivity of the moment expects people with non-conforming bodies to hack their self-image. To build on the original intent of the body inclusivity movement, those with power should question the systems and attitudes that might drive someone to resent their body instead.
With an estimated market value of $21bn, plus-size fashion is an obvious engagement space. However, any brand can and should diversify the types of bodies that populate their marketing landscape.
- Diving Beneath the Surface: Fat acceptance started as a radical movement to dismantle social oppression on the basis of someone's appearance. To stay true to that purpose, brands have to look beyond surface-level beauty standards and acknowledge the impact of oppression that comes with inhabiting a 'deviant' body.
US plus-size women's retailer Eloquii referenced these issues with its May 2019 #ModelThat campaign, showcasing fat professional women. The brand nodded to data like the survey which found only 15% of employers would hire a fat woman in its own PR coverage of the campaign. Putting such insights at the centre of its message would have had more impact.
- It's Not an Individual Struggle: In March 2019, Unilever beauty brand Dove debuted Project #ShowUs, a collaboration with image agency Getty to depict women unretouched and unfiltered. The centrepiece of the initiative is a stock collection of more than 5,000 images shot by women and non-binary individuals.
The almost 200 women photographed in the collection to date tagged their own images for Getty's search engine. This task is usually completed by the photographer, but Dove gave the models the opportunity to choose their own labels. In addition to citing research that finds that over two-thirds of women don't feel represented in media in terms of age, shape, race and size, Getty said its own data shows searches for terms like 'women leaders', 'real people', 'strong women' and 'diverse women' are growing dramatically.
This is an insightful evolution of core brand messaging for Dove – one which turns its focus away from telling individual customers they need to find the strength to ignore universal attitudes about their bodies. Instead, Getty and Dove point the finger at narrow concepts of acceptable appearances, and challenge connected industries to spark change. It acknowledges that self-perception is influenced by external forces, and challenges those forces to change their messages.
P&G is similarly tackling cultural conceptions. The latest project out of its My Black is Beautiful initiative sees the brand campaigning to prioritise the dictionary definition of the word 'black' that relates to ethnic backgrounds over its use to describe things that are sullied or corrupted. The ideas that make up our cultural fabric inform how we think about reality – efforts to shift the way we contextualise and express these ideas can have long-term impact on behaviour. Dictionary.com has already committed to make the proposed changes, and to capitalising the word when used as a reference to people.
Pussypedia Plugs the Women’s Health Knowledge Gap
The free online encyclopaedia, which launched on July 1, describes itself as “a portal of rigorously vetted resources and original articles about all things vagina”. Created by Mexico City-based journalist Zoe Mendelson and artist María Conejo, the platform answers questions relating to the female experience through carefully curated written content, creative illustrations and 3D diagrams. With an approachable, conversational tone, articles (in Spanish and English) range from personal hygiene and the menopause to queer and trans experiences.
A recent study in the UK found that 59% of men, and 45% of women, could not correctly identify the vagina on an anatomical diagram (YouGov, 2019), demonstrating the need for modern knowledge-sharing platforms. Pussypedia’s launch comes only months after the publication of Vagina: A Re-education, a part memoir which decodes the misinformation women receive about their bodies, and unpicks taboos surrounding sex and the vagina. For more on the initiatives addressing sex education deficits, read 10 Teen Causes to Watch.
Beauty and wellbeing brands were among the first to react to the growing openness towards women’s bodies and provide products for those looking beyond mainstream healthcare (see V Wellness for more). Pussypedia and Vagina: A Re-education are part of a growing movement that celebrates female pleasure and sexuality, a shift we outlined in Female Sexuality in Focus.
Weekly Thought-Starter #033: Let’s Reframe Death
It does, inevitably, come to us all. And while it might not be the cheeriest topic for a Monday, death – from a design standpoint – is absolutely worth contemplating.
More of us are approaching it openly and, as a result, the experiences surrounding it – from the practical (funerals) to the emotional (grief) – are improving.
Dutch architecture studio Hofman Dujardin, for example, has designed a funeral centre with wide screens that allow mourners to share memories, celebrate life and collectively relive stories.
In its ceremony space, walls curve towards a panoramic window – a design that symbolises a flowing back towards nature and the closing of the circle of life.
A further practicality is how we dispose of and remember the deceased. With overcrowding and ever-rising plot prices becoming a particularly pressing issue in Europe’s cemeteries, will burials become a luxury product?
In Asia, we’re seeing the construction of giant mechanised columbaria, where advanced automated technology is used to store the remains of the deceased, which are retrievable with the swipe of an electronic card.
How should we say goodbye to our loved ones? The answer may be found in the first video game about death, set for release next year.
Spiritfarer, developed by Canadian studio Thunderlotus, sees players act as ferrymasters to the deceased, escorting spirits across mystical seas to the afterlife.
Our recent Product Design report, Reframing Death, makes sense of developments like these while unpacking the opportunities they present.
Opportunities that will only intensify given that, in 40 years, the number of people dying each week around the world will double. Will your business recognise death as a growth industry – and if so, how?
Sustainability Fever Hits Holland & Barrett
This is the year of sustainability, and British high-street retailer Holland & Barrett is ramping up its eco credentials in a big way. By diversifying its brand and product portfolio to cater to multiple sustainable touchpoints, and offering a one-stop shop for ethical premium and mass beauty, it’s repositioning itself as a hub for green living – shaking off its dusty health store image.
- Eco-Friendly Periods: The feminine care industry is experiencing a complete transformation, and bold indie brands are championing a sustainable revolution. Holland & Barrett is investing in companies that are reinventing sanitary products.
UK start-up Flux offers reusable leak and stain-resistant underwear with the aim of replacing sanitary products altogether. The underwear soaks up to around four tampons’ worth of blood thanks to a patented built-in technology that absorbs moisture.
- Plastic-Free Developments: The retailer has also added biodegradable glitter to its portfolio, due to growing concerns about the toxic impact of microplastics.
Glasgow-based Beauty Kitchen has launched the world’s first fully biodegradable glitter product. The 0% plastic Eco Glitter Balm is a multi-use product that can be applied as a highlighter, eyeshadow and lip balm. The formula contains British eco-friendly glitter brand Bioglitter’s Bioglitter Pure, which uses a patented coating technology to eliminate plastic and aluminium. The product went on sale last month.
- Eliminating Single Use: Holland & Barrett is also betting on beauty brands that are eradicating single-use products.
As an alternative to cotton pads, its own brand Zero-Waste Beauty is launching a washable version of this bathroom staple. Each pad is made from organic cotton and a biodegradable heat-sealed glue which holds the cloth together. Users simply wash and line-dry the pads to reuse them.
British brand LiveCoco’s Oral-B* Compatible Electric Toothbrush Replacement Heads are aiming to positively shift consumer behaviour. The brand encourages customers to recycle the plastic brush heads by sending them back to the manufacturing plant via post.
Female-Focused VC Fund The Helm Launches E-Commerce Site
US venture capital (VC) fund The Helm – a business focused on female-founded products and companies – has moved beyond offering standard investment opportunities. Its new editorialised e-commerce platform enables shoppers to support women-led endeavours, too.
The Helm was founded in 2016 by US feminist activist Lindsey Taylor Wood and VC investor Erin Shipley to support businesses with female founders and chief executives. While it has invested $1.5m in 11 start-ups spanning healthcare, fashion and tech since its launch; US female-run ventures received just 2.2% of all $130bn American VC investment last year, according to PitchBook.
Now, The Helm is moving into conscious consumerism by taking some of those 11 businesses, plus a curated assortment of more established female-led brands, directly to shoppers. It’s a shrewd commercial move considering 84% of US consumers want to buy from companies that support women’s rights (Sustainable Brands, 2018).
Curated by former Vogue fashion writer Rachel Waldman, The Helm e-shop is sectioned according to traditional editorial topics – such as beauty, fashion, food and travel – with the addition of taboo-busting themes like motherhood, sex, money, politics and power. There are interviews with inspiring female founders, such as Sallie Krawcheck of women-only investment service Ellevest. Each page contains shoppable links to products and services.
The platform currently features more than 80 labels, including US luxury fashion and accessories brand Mansur Gavriel, London-based luxury eveningwear label Galvan, and New York’s Haute Hijab. The Helm plans to feed some of the e-shop profits back into its round of investments next year, with $2m already planned to fund more early-stage start-ups.
For more on conscious consumerism, see Eco-Ethical Retail Tech, Communicating with Conscious Consumers (both part of our Towards Our Sustainable Future Macro Trend), and Etsy’s Good Store Advocates Conscious Consumerism.
A forward-thinking tranche of millennials are abandoning expensive city living in pursuit of creatively fulfilling post-urban lifestyles – and building networks to address the challenges they face in doing so. We highlight the opportunities for brands to get involved in this rural renaissance.
- 61%Property prices in cities across England and Wales have risen by 61% over the past decade, versus 25% in rural areas
- 37In the UK, the average age of people relocating from a city to the countryside has dropped from 47 in 2008 to 37 in 2018
- 27%In the US, 27% of those aged 30-49 would prefer to live in a rural area, compared to 13% who’d rather live in a big city
- $4.5bnIn 2017, the total VC money raised by Midwestern start-ups reached a record high of $4.5bn, up from $3.7bn in 2016
- $10,000Vermont's Remote Worker Grant Program offers workers up to $10,000 to move to the state
- 35The number of US farmers aged under 35 is increasing, for only the second time in the last century
- 75%Three quarters of US farmers aged 40 and under did not grow up on a farm
- 25%A quarter of rural Americans say that access to high-speed internet is a “major problem”
- $47bnUnlocking the digital potential for rural small businesses could add $47bn per year to the United States’ GDP
Escape to the Country
Although the prevailing global trend is towards urbanisation, a dynamic niche of creative millennials are abandoning city living and moving further afield.
- Millennial Exodus: Urban development doesn’t support all millennial lifestyles. Arizona State University professor Deirdre Pfeiffer has published research that categorises millennials as “attempting-adults” who are trying to achieve milestones such as starting a family, and “emerging-adults” who are rejecting those life goals. She found that urban developments fail to cater to the needs of attempting-adults.
Creative millennials in particular are finding urban environments challenging. In Austin, Texas, the city council’s 2017 Creative Space survey found that “artists and creative spaces are finding it hard to stay in Austin”, with 38% of respondents stating that they’ve paid for space they couldn’t afford.
- The Great Migration: Pressured millennials are abandoning urban areas. In the UK, property prices in cities across England and Wales have risen by 61% over the past decade, compared to just 25% in rural areas (Hamptons International/Countrywide, 2019).
Millennials are leaving London in their highest numbers for more than a decade (Centre for London, 2018), while the average age of people relocating from a city to the countryside has dropped from 47 in 2008 to 37 in 2018 – the first time it’s fallen below 40 (Hamptons International/Countrywide, 2019).
- Call of the Wild: Rural areas continue to hold a powerful appeal for millennials. In the US, 27% of those aged 30-49 would prefer to live in a rural area, compared to 13% who’d rather live in a big city; only 14% actually live in big cities. Similarly, 18% of those aged 18-29 would like to live in a rural area, while 17% prefer big cities; only 7% of this age group live in rural areas (Gallup, 2018).
These areas are keen to attract younger populations. A 2017 Survey of Rural Challenges found that retaining a young population was the second biggest concern among respondents, and attracting new residents was the fifth. And in a 2017 poll by US publisher Politico, 85% of American city hall leaders polled listed attracting millennials as a top 10 priority for their administration, with 41% listing it in the top five.
- Cash in Hand: Funds to revitalise the countryside are providing additional incentives for millennials to relocate. In the US, projects such as the Rural Innovation Initiative, the Rise of the Rest seed fund and the Comeback Capital venture capital (VC) fund are injecting investment into rural start-ups.
In 2017, the total VC money raised by Midwestern start-ups reached a record high of $4.5bn, up from $3.7bn in 2016. In May 2018, Vermont launched the Remote Worker Grant Program, offering remote workers up to $10,000 to move to the state. In China, president Xi Jinping launched a “rural rejuvenation” campaign in October 2017, with the aim of drawing entrepreneurs, skilled workers and college graduates to the countryside.
Building Creative Communities
Post-urban millennials are building creative networks that link the countryside with cities, while embracing activism in fields such as environmental and local issues.
- Fleeing Deurbanisation: Millennials moving to rural areas are establishing creative communities, as explored in Karen Rosenkranz’s 2018 book City Quitters – which profiles “creative pioneers pursuing post-urban life”. Rosenkranz draws attention to the creative stagnation of increasingly cookie-cutter urban environments – a process that sociologist Saskia Sassen refers to as ‘deurbanisation’. “People are realising they don't have to be in the city – they can have a more comfortable life in a location that suits their interests and lifestyle,” Rosenkranz told Stylus. Listen to our interview with Karen Rosenkranz on the Stylus Future Thinking podcast for more insights on the post-urban movement.
It’s not about saying cities are bad and they don’t want anything to do with them. It’s about building a bridge, taking what you’ve learned, applying it somewhere else and keeping a dialogue.
- Building Creative Networks: Post-urbanites are establishing networks of like-minded individuals. In the US, Rethinking Rural and The Rural Assembly’s symposiums address challenges faced by millennials outside of cities, creating a network to scale solutions across the country. In Canada, community network Rural On Purpose is exploring “what it means to be rural during the Fourth Industrial Revolution”. And in Australia, social enterprise project Big Sky Ideas has created the Smart Small Towns private certification to foster regional entrepreneurship, and runs a podcast focused on women in regional Australia.
- Progressive Values: Post-urban millennials are motivated by many of the same concerns as their urban counterparts. In a March 2019 New York Times op-ed, writer Michele Anderson noted: “I am more involved in social and racial justice, economic development and feminism than I ever was in a big city.”
As Madeleine Moore, co-founder of Rethinking Rural, told Stylus: “The issues are the same in every community. One is inaccessibility to basic, affordable housing. Another is high-quality local healthcare. The third is kids and childcare – creating a community that’s accessible for young families.” Another issue highlighted by Moore is the climate crisis: “Rural communities are going to be hit especially hard by climate change, and climate change adaptation is something that I'm sure will come up within our symposium conversations.”
- New Ways of Living: Newcomers to the countryside are pioneering new lifestyles – such as sustainable community Project Kamp, designed by Dutch creative Dave Hakkens. The concept proposes houses made from recycled and biodegradable material, a local plastic recycling facility, solar and wind inverters and crop plantation. See our A/W 20/21 Design Direction Grounded for more examples of activist rural design projects.
In Italy, the organisers of Rural Design Week are launching the Rural Design Lab, a permanent laboratory to “create relationships on rural territories and add value to human and natural resources”. And in New York’s Guggenheim Museum, Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas will explore the radical transformation of non-urban areas in the exhibition Countryside: The Future of the World, opening in February 2020.
The Post-Urban Opportunity
Post-urbanites are creating new products and services tailored to their needs, while savvy media are tapping into this emerging demographic.
- New Influencers: Media and influencer networks that cater to and represent post-urban millennials are emerging. Examples include US ecology, justice and culture title Southerly, founded by journalist Lyndsey Gilpin to “cover the nuances of [the South’s] environment, history, and communities without being condescending or stereotypical”.
Amy Westervelt is another such non-urban influencer. Based in Truckee, California, she runs podcast production network Critical Frequency and hosts the Range podcast, which draws on “weird, rural West stories”. Elsewhere, Nebraska agency Bailey Lauerman has launched the Everything In-Between influencer network, which showcases influencers outside of America’s 10 largest cities.
- Millennials Mean Business: Millennials are pioneering a wave of new businesses outside cities. A 2018 Texas Monthly feature highlights the “rural renaissance” driven by millennial-owned small-town businesses such as Chaparral Coffee and Loop & Lil’s pizzeria in Lockhart, Texas, and farmers’ market/biergarten hybrid Home Sweet Farm in Brenham, Texas. And in Pulaski, Virginia, a group of young entrepreneurs known locally as ‘The Tribe’ is rejuvenating the town centre with businesses such as New Orleans-style restaurant Crescent City Cafe and virtual reality studio Next Level.
- Down on the Farm: Other millennials are leaving cities to adopt more traditional careers; according to the 2017 USDA Census of Agriculture, the number of US farmers aged under 35 is increasing – for only the second time in the last century. Sixty-nine per cent of US farmers aged 40 and under have college degrees (a higher proportion than the general population), and 75% did not grow up on a farm.
These young farmers are driving the growth of a local food movement. A 2017 survey by the National Young Farmers Coalition found that 75% describe their practices as “sustainable” and 63% as “organic”, with the majority of their sales coming from community-supported agriculture and farmers’ markets. The phenomenon isn’t confined to the US, either. German search engine Ecosia highlights Spain’s new millennial farmers as part of a series of web videos, while in France, “agricultural incubator” Le 100e Singe provides training and resources for aspiring small farmers in an “agricultural co-working” model.
The Connected Countryside
New technologies, programmes and services are fostering innovation and connecting communities in the countryside, making them a more attractive prospect to creative post-urbanites.
- Fourth Industrial Revolutionaries: Internet connectivity outside of cities has historically lagged behind urban centres, with a quarter of rural Americans saying access to high-speed internet is a “major problem” (Pew Research, 2018). But that’s set to change thanks to new technologies.
US internet service provider Althea operates in locations such as Clatskanie, Oregon, creating high-speed mesh networks in which users’ routers pay for shares of bandwidth using the Ether cryptocurrency. A 2019 report by the US Chamber of Commerce and Amazon found that unlocking the digital potential for rural small businesses could add $47bn per year to the United States’ GDP.
In the UK, projects such as Superfast Cornwall and 5G RuralFirst are leveraging technologies such as fibre-optic broadband and 5G to roll out high-speed internet access beyond urban areas. And the EU’s Smart Villages project has placed a specific focus on connectivity in its action plan.
In the longer-term, projects such as SpaceX’s Starlink micro-satellite internet are set to provide fast, reliable internet connections to rural communities, removing a key pain point for would-be post-urbanites.
- Intelligent Infrastructures: Non-urban infrastructures are being overhauled, increasing their appeal to millennial consumers.
Drone delivery services promise to revolutionise rural living; US drone logistics company Zipline has announced plans to expand from medical delivery services in emerging markets to product delivery in the US. And in China, DHL has launched an autonomous drone delivery service that promises to reduce the time and expense of shipping goods to rural consumers.
Transport solutions are also emerging to meet their needs. As we reported on in The Individual Opportunity, part of our coverage of SXSW 2019, In the US, ride-sharing app Lyft has adapted its service for rural consumers through partnerships with transit agencies and scheduled ride services.
A 2018 report by global consultancy firm Roland Berger concluded that “autonomous vehicles will breathe new life into rural communities”. In Australia, German multinational Bosch is testing self-driving cars to “improve road safety and reduce road trauma on rural roads”, while in Japan, SB Drive Corp is engaged in a government-backed trial to boost limited public transport services in rural areas using autonomous buses. And in 2017, Chinese start-up Wheelys launched Moby Mart, a mobile, autonomous 24-hour grocery store designed to serve non-urban areas.
These regions are also pioneering new energy solutions. In Holland’s Aardehuizen ecological housing project, 23 earth-houses share their own generated solar power in a Smart Integrated Decentralised Energy (SIDE) microgrid. Dutch company EAZ Wind produces 15m-high wooden wind turbines that connect to their own energy meter, independent of the electricity grid.
Selfridges Imagines Digital Shopping Future
Brands and retailers are increasingly recognising the consumer pull of CGI and virtual reality beyond social media. As explored in Retail’s Unreal Opportunities, incorporating digital initiatives within the in-store environment allows customers to feel fully immersed in the brand experience. Selfridges’ project makes the most of this opportunity – tapping digital artists to extend both its online and in-store outreach.
The project launches with an installation by digital artist Jon Emmony, who was enlisted to create a 3D composition for the store’s swimwear campaign Dive In. The installation blends real-life models with the artist’s signature 3D rendered backdrops – viewable through customers’ phones across the store’s five floors.
Other featured artists include Cattytay – founder of womxn and non-binary tech community Digi-Gal, who will create a digital campaign for the A/W 19/20 ready-to-wear looks, launching in August. Meanwhile, 3D designer Ines Alpha has created Snapchat make-up filters and digital cosmetics, launching in September.
Avatars and CGI displays may have previously been the preserve of the online space, but shrewd brands and retailers would do well to recognise the unique and lucrative opportunity of the augmented flagship. Smart technology not only brings consumers in-store; it also makes them a vital part of the brand picture.
For more on digital technologies shaking up the fashion industry, see Fashion’s Digital Future.
A season of two opposing ideals, A/W 19/20 is both a celebration of natural, laissez-faire cool-girl styling, and the daring, extravagant and bright displays we expect of couture. Hot, chromatic metal foils and glitters emerge as bold eye make-up inspiration, while sleek, precision ponies offer refined commercial appeal.
Natural Couture Cool
- Undone is not a term typically used to describe a couture trend, but this season, stylists at key shows introduced a new ideal: natural, relaxed, and undone ‘weekend’ elegance.
- The big look driving this exciting new theme came from Alexandre Vauthier, where a no-make-up make-up look was accompanied by undone, loose waves, which seemed like they hadn’t been styled at all.
"The look is all about very clean and very fresh and simple skin," Mac senior artist Massimo Møller told US beauty magazine Allure. He achieved this by using cream-based Mac products and the same colours across the cheeks, lips and eyes. "That glow you see on the face is actually given by the moisture of the skin – it's the right mix of foundation and skincare, but there's actually no highlighter used."
- This ‘skincare over make-up’ directive permeated other key shows too, where natural skin shone after expert skincare prep.
- Elsewhere, the ‘cool’ element of this trend was seen at shows such as Zuhair Murad, where a thin, barely there line of black kohl accented the lower lash line. No make-up make-up, but with a whisper of rock ‘n’ roll.
- “It’s serious hair for serious bookworms,” explained British hair stylist Sam McKnight of his vision for Chanel’s showstopping precision ponytail. He used Modern Hairspray from his eponymous styling line to slick tresses back into a sleek, low pony, with either a perfect centre or deep side parting. While the look is elegant, it also conveys a masculine energy that perfectly visualises Chanel’s brand ideal.
- At Schiaparelli, the sleek pony was updated by Eugene Souleiman with sci-fi-glam spiked headpieces.
- See Precision Ponies from A/W 18/19 Couture: Hair & Beauty for previous manifestations of this trend.
- Continuing in Chanel’s wake and adding another layer to the refined, natural elegance theme permeating this season’s styling, the precision slick is key for A/W 19/20, with particularly strong bridal crossovers.
- The low pony is key to this trend, as is the low bun or chignon – both bringing hair tightly to the scalp to create mirror shine and a precise parting.
- Chromatic, light-catching metallics stand out as the strongest make-up takeaway for the season, with styling at Jean Paul Gaultier and Valentino in particular likely to serve as creative reference points in commercial and consumer endeavours for years to come.
- Make-up artist Erin Parsons created a rounded cat-eye shape onto which she layered a foil-like, duo-chrome product in rainbow shades that sparkled and changed colour with movement. Excitingly, she didn’t reveal its name or origin. “Honestly, I'm keeping this one a secret. I plan to do a lot more in the future with it!" she told Allure.
- Elsewhere, molten silver was a strong choice for key shows. At Ralph & Russo, graphic swipes of Mac silver pigment (applied by British make-up artist Sam Bryant) exude the opulence of Art Deco and 30s style.
- The other big show for this trend was Valentino, where British icon Pat McGrath painted glitter arches in rainbow colours beneath the brows. The brows themselves were blurred out with make-up to showcase the full impact of the colour and glitter.
- See Go Glitter from S/S 19 Couture: Hair & Beauty for more glitter-based couture references.
- Defying gravity in height, volume and movement, hair styling from many key shows served up the drama we’ve come to expect of couture.
- Givenchy’s aerodynamic twist on punk hair was a standout for the season, with visionary British hair stylist Guido Palau creating sculptural art with mid-length hair. The fan-like silhouette was inspired by birds of paradise, with Palau first blow-drying the hair into form, before fixing it with Redken’s Triple Take 32 Extreme High-Hold Hairspray. “It’s grand bourgeois with a punk attitude,” he said.
- Embodying this punk attitude, at Viktor & Rolf, big 80s volume was the order of the day, with big faux-hawk mullets volumised by brushed-out crimping. At Jean Paul Gaultier, height was achieved by piling curls messily onto the crown, and affixing ponytail extensions on the highest point of the head.
- See Architectural Angles from S/S 19 Couture: Hair & Beauty for more bold, experimental looks from the previous couture season.
- While metallics dominate the season’s most exciting make-up looks, paintbox colours were seen elsewhere across the eyes, face and nails.
- Minimal applications with one strong colour across the lid offer commercial cool (as seen at Maurizio Galante and Ralph & Russo), but more painterly expressions, such as the watercolour swatches at Dundas and DIY spatterings at Guo Pei, will inspire editorial.
Fendi’s Marble Bowls
- Bowl cuts were a strong trend from last season’s couture (see Bowled Over from S/S 19 Couture: Hair & Beauty). This season, McKnight brings them back for A/W 19/20 during Fendi’s couture presentation in Rome. The bowled bob wigs were dyed to match each outfit, with McKnight citing Roman marble as the inspiration for the moody pastel colourways.
Dior’s Smoky Halo
- According to Belgian make-up artist Peter Philips, the couture update to the classic smoky eye is to forgo both mascara and unblended liner, which typically add dramatic intensity. At Dior, he used the brand’s Couleurs Tri(o)blique eyeshadow palette in Smoky Canvas to create an unanchored smoky halo around the eye.
"I wanted to do a smoky eye that was not too sexy, so I did more of a poetic, but tough smoky eye,” he explained to Allure. “That's why I left out the mascara. Once you leave out of the mascara, it becomes less about seduction – it's more about a cloud of shadow.”
- See Super-Smoky from S/S 19 Couture: Hair & Beauty, and Shadow Play from A/W 18/19 Couture: Hair & Beauty.
Braids & Twists
- This season’s braid is the micro-braid, as seen at Dior and Valentino. According to Palau, who styled both looks, these youthful braids add a childlike naiveté to more elegant finishes.
- Elsewhere, complex swirled chignons, looping braids and interwoven twists offer strong styling inspiration for bridal.
Cutting Cat Eye
- The key cat-eye shapes were so sharp this season they look sliced. At Chanel, global creative make-up and colour designer Lucia Pica gave girls a "straight and strong" look using the Calligraphie de Chanel Longwear Intense Cream Eyeliner in Hyperblack, which deviates from the classic curved shape. At Armani, the shape was achieved with elongated false lashes, not liner.
- See Couture Cat Eye from S/S 19 Couture: Hair & Beauty, and Retro Cat Eye from A/W 18/19 Couture: Hair & Beauty.
- During the S/S 19 ready-to-wear catwalks, Prada introduced an oversized matador headband, which created an editorial storm and inspired most commercial accessories designers to create similar pieces. The influence of this headband is still felt, with new examples permeating Resort 2020 (see Sweet Schoolgirl) and now couture.
- We predict Dundas’s statement topknot headbands to generate as much clout and commercial excitement as Prada’s matador, thanks to its elegant appeal and versatility across materials, colour and pattern.
- Hot metals also offer key accessory inspiration for the hair and face, with experimental stylists for more avant-garde shows playing with studs, gems and metal forms for dramatic effect.
- Schiaparelli is the strongest showcase of this trend. Models wore golden studs and spiked brackets in their hair to toughen up ponytails and ballerina buns, while one wore a starburst of crystal decals (repurposed from the collection’s shoes) under her eyes, inspired by art deco.
- Elsewhere, Iris Van Herpen’s facial plates – also inspired by Howe’s kinetic sculptures – offer sci-fi quirkiness with elegant undertones
As the world’s cities become more congested and polluted, challenges around mobility are increasing. In order to solve additional issues, such as traffic accidents and access for people with impairments, designers and brands must rethink the way people, goods and services will move or be moved.
- 70%By 2050, nearly seven in 10 people will live in cities
- 93%Every day around 1.8 billion children under the age of 15 breathe air that is so polluted it puts their health and development at serious risk
- 272In Bogotá, drivers lost 272 hours due to congestion in 2018, more than any other city in the world
- 50%Half of today’s car owners will no longer want to own a personal vehicle by 2025
- 29%The percentage of men aged 17-20 in England holding a full UK driver’s licence fell from 51% in the mid-90s, to 29% in 2017
- £907bnThe global market for autonomous vehicles (AVs) is predicted to reach £907bn ($1.2tn) by 2035
- 30%Almost a third of riders report using e-scooters to replace car rides on their most recent trip
- $1bnBird and Lime are the fastest ever US companies to reach billion dollar valuations within a year of inception
- $30.8bnThe global value of the assistive tech industry is expected to increase from $14bn in 2015, to $30.8bn in 2024
- 83%The percentage of millennials that are willing to fly an autonomous aircraft
- 7mChina – the world’s largest electromobility market, which houses nearly a third of the world’s electric vehicles – aims to have seven million electric vehicles in circulation by 2025
The Green Last Mile
Today, just over half of the world’s population lives in urban areas, but this proportion is expected to increase to 68% by 2050 (UN, 2018). Consuming three-quarters of the world’s energy, and accounting for more than 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions, cities have an important role to play in tackling climate change (UN-Habitat, 2018). As eco awareness grows, companies are offering electric vehicles to make urban areas greener, cleaner and quieter.
- Electric Bike Evolution: A recent study by the World Health Organization (WHO) found that 93% of the world’s children breathe toxic air every day. Dutch company Urban Arrow’s bike caters to eco-minded young families on the school run. Its light frame and electric pedal assistance enhance agility, while the children’s seat – which includes three-point seat belts – creates a lower sense of gravity to improve stability.
Electric-assisted bikes can also help older adults stay active. They are proven to boost wellbeing and improve brain function, while producing better results than regular bikes due to more confidence when riding a motor-assisted vehicle (PLOS One, 2019). Based in the Netherlands, manufacturer Van Raam specialises in bikes for people with limited mobility; the lower step-through frames help riders get on and off more safely, while tricycles offer extra support and stability.
Regular electric bikes are getting a makeover, too. Aimed at style-focused consumers, French company Coleen’s bikes combine a classic, genderless design and high-tech features including geolocation, performance tracking and smartphone-activated ignition. Meanwhile, German cycling brand Komsa’s e-bike takes on a modern, sporty look.
- Last-Mile Collapsibles: Unburdening inner-city parking, portable vehicles are making commutes greener by fulfilling last-mile travel between car parks or train stations and final destinations.
As car sales slowed in 2018, foldable electric scooters rose to the fore, triggering car manufacturers to partner with micro-mobility companies to offer full-circle transportation. At only nine kilograms, BMW and British scooter brand Micro are launching one of the lightest micro e-scooters, which neatly folds to be carried on public transport. Due to release this September – just in time for the back to school season – this is a key product category for students.
British studio Layer and Chinese automotive company Nio have developed Pal – a micro-scooter designed to fit in the boot of a small car. The near-future concept uses artificial intelligence (AI) to learn a user’s preferred destinations and routes, so it can drive autonomously over time. It also responds to simple voice commands and boasts pressure-sensitive suspension, enabling the driver to lean forward to increase the speed, back to slow down, or left and right to turn.
Older consumers might benefit from a rideable partner robot. CanguRo by Japanese product designer Shunji Yamanaka draws inspiration from the relationship between man and horse as “a companion but also a vehicle”. Relying on AI technology, it assists its owner in ‘robot mode’ – for example, it could follow its user in a shopping mall, carrying purchases – then it transforms into a vehicle when a trip is requested.
At CES 2019, Korean car manufacturer Kia presented an innovative solution that allows city workers to live outside of urban areas. Its Mobility Dispersion Concept comprises an autonomous shuttle (dubbed the Bird car) and smaller four-wheel electric-assisted cycles (Seed cars). For longer journeys, the larger vehicle houses the bikes, and once within a short distance of its destination, the Seed cars are dispersed for individuals to complete their journey.
- Clean & Lean Delivery: Congested city centres are a particular pain point for delivery services. According to British manufacturer Electric Assisted Vehicles (EAV), last-mile delivery is one of the most polluting elements of the supply chain. As a zero-emission solution, the company has developed a new Project 1 quad bike; the pedal-powered vehicle can be ridden in a bicycle lane and hold 150kg of cargo. UK delivery service DPD has already purchased a fleet of the bikes in order to avoid London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone – a daily £12.50 ($15.60) charge for all vehicles (except those which meet the emission requirements) that drive within the specified area.
Also switching to pedal power is UK supermarket Co-op. It has launched an online delivery service with London-based e-cargobikes.com, enabling bike deliveries within four kilometres of its Chelsea branch. Meanwhile, Royal Mail is trialling partly solar-powered e-trikes in London, Birmingham and Cambridge.
Smarter & Safer Micro-Mobility
In the event of an accident, the fatality rate for motorcyclists is six times higher than that of car passengers (NHTSA, 2018). According to a 2019 study, 45% of electric-micro-scooter-related incidents in Austin, Texas, involved head injuries, yet less than 1% of injured riders wore a helmet. Safety should be a key priority when considering urban riders who need stylish, space-conscious solutions.
- Safely Connected: Despite smartphones being the biggest cause of traffic fatalities, 70% of scooter riders still use their phone (Etergo, 2018). Digital dashboards with full Bluetooth connectivity could help to alleviate the risks associated with using devices on the road.
Vespa’s first electric scooter Elettrica lets riders safely answer calls, follow GPS instructions and manage music with simple voice commands. Bluetooth helmets with integrated earphones and microphones also enable safe driver-to-passenger connection. The AppScooter by Dutch company Etergo features a touchscreen and special controls that facilitate hands-free phone use.
Fostering the potential of haptic technology, French OnTracks has developed motorcycle gloves that vibrate to guide bikers, enabling navigation without having to look at a device.
- Enhanced Helmets: To make motorcyclists more visible to drivers, US designer Joe Doucet has created a helmet with indicators. Similar to the brake lights on a car, an LED lighting panel flashes red when the driver slows down. Instead of patenting his invention, Doucet has decided to share it, allowing other companies to adopt the idea and reduce the risk of accidents.
The foldable Brooklyn-based Park & Diamond bike helmet, currently in production, resembles a simple baseball cap, yet it absorbs and dissipates elastic energy three times more efficiently than traditional helmets.
- Regulating Rider Safety: Shared electric micro-scooters are rapidly taking over city streets around the globe, but a related surge in traffic accidents is forcing cities to regulate their use. Israeli start-up Voom is developing on-demand coverage options to insure riders in the event of a crash or malfunction aboard a shared micro-vehicle.
Currently, helmets are designed to limit injury after an accident. I simply asked, what if helmets worked to prevent accidents instead?
Inclusivity in Infrastructure
By 2050, about six billion people will live in cities, 15% of whom will be people with disabilities (UN, 2016). As technology redesigns the cities we live in, ensuring streets and transport are accessible to everyone must be a key consideration.
- Everybody Drives: Determined that future autonomous vehicles should cater to people of all abilities, Volkswagen Group of America recently unveiled its Inclusive Mobility Initiative. It works directly with the National Federation for the Blind and National Association of the Deaf, amongst other groups, in the early design stages of vehicle technologies and mobility services to create new solutions for people who currently have limited mobility options.
- Chair-Based Mobility: The Toyota We concept, developed in collaboration with inclusive community Singular Entrepreneurs, IED Barcelona Design University and Leitat Technological Center (all Barcelona-based), aims to enhance mobility in domestic and urban environments. Toyota Me is a bespoke wheelchair-resembling device that memorises the layout of the home, enabling fluid movement through the home. The chair is compatible with Toyota Us, an autonomous electrical platform that transforms it for city streets, where an app enables the device to transport users around town.
At CES earlier this year, US company Whill debuted its shared fleet of wheelchairs to improve the movement of people with reduced mobility in large venues such as airports, theme parks and hospitals. Autonomous wheelchairs are hailed, then AI calculates the optimal route, and once the passenger arrives at their destination, the chair automatically returns to its base.
The freedom of being mobile is at the heart of being able to participate in society.
The Ride-Sharing Model Extended
Led by shared e-scooters, 2018 saw the advance of a micro-mobility revolution, with players like Bird and Lime becoming the fastest ever US companies to reach billion dollar valuations within a year of inception (Forbes, 2019). As mobility industries shift away from production towards becoming service-based, the sharing model is applied to a wider variety of transportation modes.
- Systems Suited to Sharing: With the astounding success of micro-scooters, a number of companies are working to make electric road scooters shareable, too. Netherlands-based Felyx is already available in several Dutch and Belgian cities, while Berlin’s mobility company Unu released a private vehicle last May with smart key sharing to simplify rentals.
One of the key issues of shared systems lies in the provision of helmets. Bosch proposed a solution at CES 2019 with a prototype for a connected, app-controlled helmet holder that sits on the scooter’s handlebar.
Based in San Francisco and Hong Kong, start-up Walnut Technology is bringing the peer-to-peer sharing economy to electric skateboards with Spectra X. Similar to Airbnb, owners have full ownership, but can rent it out via the eBoard Go app.
- License-Free Vehicles: As cities change traffic regulations, consumers adapt their vehicles. The Italian-made Biro – an electric micro-car that can be parked on sidewalks – has been gaining popularity in Amsterdam following a recent ban on scooters in bicycle lanes and helmets being made mandatory.
At this year’s Geneva Motor Show, Citroën introduced Ami One, a shareable minicar with two seats and a simple, yet tough build that can withstand casual urban use. “The young are connected to use, not ownership,” said Xavier Peugeot, Citroën’s senior vice-president of product and strategy. “There are people for whom mobility is not an object.”
- The Aero-Mobility Reality: According to Uber, in 15 to 30 years’ time transportation not only needs to be shared and electric but it needs to look to the sky, as the ride-sharing service prepares for urban aviation.
In 2019, Melbourne was announced as the third Uber Air pilot city, after Dallas and Los Angeles. Test air-taxi flights are planned for next year, with commercial operations due to commence in 2023. The Nexus, a hybrid-electric flying taxi with vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) capabilities developed by Uber’s partner Bell, was unveiled at CES 2019.
As the creative industries face increased environmental challenges, the next generation of inspiring designers are bringing sustainable thinking to the fore. We round up 10 noteworthy UK-based graduates who are critiquing and reassessing materials and current design practices to create innovative, eco-friendly solutions.
1. Elissa Brunato
Elissa Brunato turns her attention towards tackling unsustainable materials within fashion and textile production. As sustainable/biodegradable options are limited, most beads and sequins are currently made from plastic or synthetic resins. The London-based designer has developed an iridescent bio sequin using a crystalline form of cellulose, which can be built up in moulds to eliminate waste. Micro-structures within this abundant biopolymer refract light to create a shimmering, structural colour surface without the need for chemicals.
2. Mi Zhou
London’s Mi Zhou proposes an alternative to plastic packaging for toiletries. Her range of bottles are made from vegetable oil-based soap, dyed using natural pigments and cast in a mould. A thin layer of beeswax lines the inside to form a waterproof film that prevents the liquid contents dissolving the bottles. The Soapack packaging can be used as soap once the contents are finished, or dried and kept as a keepsake.
3. Ciaran Moore
Ciaran Moore, a Scottish designer, reimagines printed textile design and processing with his virtual reality (VR) experience and fashion customisation concept, B34. A virtual world inspired by liquid, minerals and natural light form the visuals for patterns. Users can explore the digital landscape through a VR headset and save scenes they like as prints. Direct-to-garment (DTG) printing technology allows the patterns to be printed onto garments and accessories on demand. This progressive, eco-friendly fashion concept aligns with themes we outline in Fashion’s Digital Future.
4. Lucy Hughes
British designer Lucy Hughes has developed a biodegradable, bioplastic film material using waste from the fishing industry. The locally sourced fish skins and scales are combined with a red algae biopolymer to create Marinatex. The material is consistent and transparent, and breaks down in soil in under a month, making it an appropriate alternative to single-use plastic packaging. See also The New Plastics Roadmap.
5. Benjamin Benmoyal
Central Saint Martins’ graduate Benjamin Benmoyal creatively repurposed industry waste into 20 sustainability-minded fabrics for his final university fashion collection. Recycled cassette tapes and leftover yarn were woven into striking tweed-like materials. For more textiles made from waste, see Material Direction: Elevating Textiles.
6. Diana Tso
Challenging single-use plastic products in the horticultural industry, London-based material designer Diana Tso has developed a series of biodegradable bedding trays and plant pots using kelp. Seaweed is a plentiful resource and is often used as an organic fertiliser. Recognising its potential, Tso liquifies the kelp and moulds it into shapes to create the pots. While functional, they can also be planted directly into the ground to fertilise the soil, resulting in zero waste.
7. Pierre Azalbert
Pierre Azalbert is challenging the problem of e-waste with his new approach to designing and manufacturing electronic components. Existing circuit boards are glued together, meaning the only way to recycle them is to destroy them. The London-based designer has developed a recyclable circuit board that can be broken using acetone. The process is safe and non-destructive, allowing electronic components to be efficiently separated and reused in new products.
8. Nathalie Spencer
Concerned with the textile industry’s contribution to global pollution, British material designer Nathalie Spencer has developed a vegan alternative to wool using pineapple leaves. Waste leaves are collected from local markets and juice bars, before being transformed into a sustainable and biodegradable yarn through traditional spinning. The finished yarn can then be woven or knitted into wearable textiles.
9. Ambra Dentella, Ewan Alston & Rafael El Baz
The GoodWaste initiative, a collaborative project between three Royal College of Art graduates, is a hyper-local and circular manufacturing model. Waste materials – such as marble, steel and Corian – are collected from manufacturers and transformed into furniture and homeware products for new homes in the same area.
10. Alvaro Curto
Alvaro Curto proposes an innovative and sustainable concept for the future of the medical industry that revolves around material-led design. The Glasgow-based designer’s circular hospital plan includes a dedicated farm for algae-based bioplastics, an onsite waste-to-energy incinerator and autonomous robotic transport.
NatWest Adopts AI-Powered Selfie Recognition
NatWest has become the first UK high-street bank to allow customers to open an account with just photo ID and a selfie. The move streamlines the normally time-consuming process by removing the requirement to visit a branch and wait for verification.
NatWest’s new biometric application process uses artificial intelligence (AI) to authenticate a customer’s selfie against their government-verified photo ID (such as a passport or driving license). This bypasses the need for people to visit a branch or trust the postal service with handling their sensitive personal information. It also enables NatWest to accept international ID documentation, making the banks’ services accessible to more people.
NatWest claims the process takes as little as four minutes, and can be paused and restarted at any time. Disruptor banks like Monzo and Starling already allow people to set up accounts with a short selfie video and photo ID. As the first high-street bank to do so, it signals a move away from traditional banking processes towards more user-friendly procedures. We explore the rise in biometric banking in Platforms & Services Reborn, part of our Spotlight Trend, The Future of Money.
The scheme was developed in partnership with British ID verification company HooYu. Emphasising the new system’s accessibility and security benefits, the company’s marketing director, David Pope, said: “Our work with NatWest balances the twin demands of compliance and convenience.”
The pilot, which involved 60,000 customers, saw significant reductions of fraudulent applications. As NatWest can track the location of a person’s application, it allows for further fraud checks compared to the traditional method.
With service providers simplifying onboarding, the use of facial recognition and other biometric verification processes will expand across a range of industries. For more on using data to streamline service, read our Embracing Onboarding report.
To maintain pole position in an omnichannel world, the quest for the most vital in-store tech remains key. Identifying updates in five categories – ambient and interactive screens, self-service tools, virtual-trialling solutions, IoT engagement and facial recognition – we spotlight the concepts enhancing consumer experience and delivering stellar ROI.
- Ambient & Interactive: Evolving Screens
- 50%At least 50% of all searches will be via images or voice by 2020, spotlighting the rise of conversation-led discovery and the need for ambient in-store tech
- 500mAround 500 million people use voice-activated assistants today via phones and smart speaker, a number predicted to rise to 1.8 billion by 2021 – a level of familiarity with voice tech is already influencing in-store tech expectations
- 86%Eighty-six per cent of people who engaged with H&M’s interactive mirror took a selfie and downloaded it, 10% also registered for the brand’s newsletter
- 88%At Max Fashion in Dubai, 88% of visitors who engaged with the displays scanned QR codes to access more information, with 20% of those people subsequently buying either in-store or online
- Virtual-Trialling Tech Gets AI-Upgraded
- 72%Seventy-two per cent of consumers want in-store beauty experiences to combine physical and digital elements to make it feel more believable
- 86%Eighty-six per cent of consumers would like in-store tech to help them visualise wearing products before purchase
- 48%The percentage of shoppers that would be more likely to shop at a retailer that uses augmented reality
- 50%Brands using magic mirrors witness a 50% increase in basket value, and 40% less time spent in a fitting room
- Fast-Track Tech on Steroids
- 50%Half of consumers think it’s important to solve product or service issues themselves, affirming the importance of self-service options in stores
- 95%Almost all consumers want to be left alone while shopping, unless, or until, they need an employee’s help
- 25%By 2025, a quarter of customer service and support operations will integrate virtual customer assistants or chatbots, a 2% increase since 2017
- 75%By 2025, automated checkouts could reduce cashier staff requirements by 75%, resulting in savings of up to $380bn a year
- 40-80%Automated checkouts could cut queuing times by 40-80%
- IoT-Optimised Stores
- $520bnThe combined market for IoT devices will more than double from $253bn in 2017, to roughly $520bn in 2021
- 27bnIn 2017, 27 billion devices were connected using IoT, a number expected to increase to 125 billion by 2030
- 50bnThere will be 50 billion connected devices by 2020
- The New Frontiers of Facial Recognition
- $65bnBy 2023, investment into emotion detection and facial recognition tech is predicted to be $65bn
- 40%Revenue improved by 40% when Vero Moda introduced facial recognition tech to its Shenzhen flagship
Ambient & Interactive: Evolving Screens
A new generation of interactive screens – often including ambient technology, such as voice control – is amplifying retail spaces and engaging more intuitively with consumers.
- Voice-Activated Style Walls Boost Customisation: In 2019, US made-to-order menswear brand Knot Standard rolled out voice-activated Style Walls at its product-free showrooms. Each screen wall (12ft x 8ft) understands more than 200 voice commands, like ‘show me all shirt cuffs’, and can surface life-size renderings of designs that change as customers select different features. The proprietary AI continually draws on the brand’s e-commerce data and stored consumer profiles (25,000+ client appointments since its launch) to suggest complementary styles.
- Supporting Sales Chat: This May, Malaysian network provider Maxis opened a flagship in Kuala Lumpur featuring giant LED screens, and 98-inch-wide interactive displays that recognise voice commands. Working as visual aids, Maxis staff can instantly summon images of products being discussed, helping them to compare devices or plans.
- Kick-Starting Conversations: Swedish technology company Ombori and Microsoft unveiled a motion-sensitive, voice-activated mirror in H&M’s New York flagship last year. The Magic Mirror, which ‘wakes’ when looked at, offers fashion inspiration (immediately shoppable by scanning a QR code), and invites selfie-taking by framing downloadable images in a magazine cover. Eighty-six per cent of those who took a selfie downloaded it, with 10% also signing up to H&M’s newsletter.
- The Omni ‘Hand-Off’ Continues Engagement: Also developed by Ombori, Middle Eastern brand Max Fashion has two bilingual (English/Arabic) mirrors in its Dubai store. Like H&M’s mirror, it establishes when people are close, and allows shoppers to scan a code to control the screen via their smartphones. This advanced interactivity creates a personal, store-mobile connection and reduces the pressure to buy instantly. Ombori’s founder and chief executive, Andreas Hassellöf, explained how this tech will evolve further: “The voice companion will be able to provide a map or instructions to the item or department desired, and using the ‘hand-off’ tool, travel onto your phone, so the voice will travel with you until your retail mission is complete.”
- Boosting Follow-Through: British video specialist Smartzer has brought shoppable film to stores through collaborations with Harvey Nichols (2018) and Italian luxury brand Emilio Pucci’s Paris pop-up (2019). Visitors can stop the films instantly to see product details, tapping their smartphones on near-field communication (NFC) on-screen hotspots to buy or wish-list items. During Pucci’s pop-up, around 50% of visitors clicked on products, while 60% scanned the QR code to open the product details on their device.
Virtual-Trialling Tech Gets AI-Upgraded
New AI-based virtual-trialling formats are adding fresh layers of seduction to the in-store experience, with hyper-personalised analysis and product recommendations that can be revisited.
- Mapping Individuality: Nike’s House of Innovation stores in Shanghai and New York use new, hyper-accurate, handheld foot-scanning devices (operated by sales associates) to reveal ideal sneaker fits and suggest relevant products. Recommendations can be saved to consumers’ online profiles, which provide Nike with general and personal data for product development.
- AI-Powered AR: At this year’s CES, Taiwanese beauty tech company Perfect Corp. unveiled Beauty 3.0 – advanced facial scanning technology and AI software for a smart mirror. The software instantly determines skin type, tone and facial contours to create personalised facial overlays on screen. It’s already being used by US cosmetics retailers Ulta and Estée Lauder, with the latter reporting a 9% increase in basket sizes.
- VR Test Hubs for Home Furnishings: US 3D-visualisation specialist Marxent has collaborated with John Lewis and Macy’s on in-store virtual reality (VR) interior design hubs across 90 locations collectively. Consumers enter the dimensions and details of their homes to see chosen products in-situ via a headset. A shoppable list of these products is emailed later. Since its launch this year, VR-influenced furniture sales at Macy’s have increased 60% in comparison to non-VR furniture sales, while return rates have decreased by 2%.
Fast-Track Tech on Steroids
With 73% of US shoppers preferring self-checkout systems (Sito, 2019) and the rising school of thought that good service doesn’t always mean human touch (see Brand Spaces: 10 Trends & Opportunities 19/20 for more on the allure of setting a personal pace), new fast-track scanning, payment and packing technology is booming.
- Fashion Self-Checkout: In 2018 Zara launched queue-skipping self-service checkouts at its Madrid flagship. Kiosks feature an RFID-scanner which identifies products held in front of it and adds them to a virtual basket (Zara has partnered with US security technology company Tyco for the microchip tagging system). Shoppers confirm the selection, and then swipe a credit card, Apple Pay or use their online Zara account to complete the sale. Consumers remove security chips with a dedicated tool after purchase.
- Eliminating Queuing & Grocery Packing: At Singaporean supermarket Habitat by Honestbee, shoppers scan their Honestbee ID QR code (part of the brand’s app) to deposit their grocery carts at an automated checkout and packing station. Rather than queue, they can enjoy the brand’s hospitality zones (restaurant, on-site library or florist), until receiving a ‘ready for collection’ notification, which is usually within five minutes. At a robot-managed collection point, they re-scan their payment-linked ID to complete the purchase, prompting the robotic shelves to hand over their goods.
- Smart Trolleys: US start-up Caper is currently trialling its smart shopping cart in two New York locations (Key Food Fresh and Pioneer Supermarkets). Built-in cameras scan items and a weight sensor confirms the items put into the trolley. Customers pay by card or Apple Pay before receiving an e-receipt. Both retailers report Caper has increased basket sizes by around 18% (TechCrunch, 2019).
The new age of retail will be ruled by AI and IoT technology that creates revolutionary communication pathways between store spaces, products and service systems. Linking behind-the-scenes and consumer-facing operations, these technologies will supersize data intelligence.
- AI Connects Store Dots: Earlier this month, Walmart opened its first Intelligent Retail Lab in New York equipped with advanced AI and IoT tech. Seven hundred IoT-enabled cameras and hundreds more sensors track data points, such as how long people are waiting in line, the speed at which products are selling and freshness information (pulled from sensors on products). The detailed, real-time communication, which is supported by AI analytics, generates the most effective next steps via a data dashboard.
- Just One Touch: In July 2018, Alibaba and US fashion brand Guess opened a smart pop-up in Hong Kong. Each item featured motion sensors and RFID chips, so when shoppers touched products, relevant information and recommendations were automatically displayed on a nearby screen. AI provided real-time recommendations generated from social media, Guess designers and Alibaba-owned fashion e-commerce platform Taobao stylists.
Additionally, the pop-up upsold by giving directions to the in-store location of add-on items. Scanning an on-screen QR code sent the information to consumers’ smartphones. Shoppers could also tap the screen to send merchandise to a fitting room. Following a successful trial, Guess opened eight similar stores in China this year.
The New Frontiers of Facial Recognition
Advanced facial recognition tech, which is already prevalent in China, is now primed to take the in-store experience to new heights globally.
- Pay by Face: In 2018, Danish womenswear retailer Vero Moda introduced facial recognition tech by YouTu Lab (owned by Chinese media giant Tencent) to its Shenzhen flagship. On entry, visitors’ facial profiles are registered on WeChat Pay’s AI Club – the app’s proprietary mobile wallet scheme – allowing customers to be instantly recognised at the checkout and automatically charged. On the first day it was used, more than 80% of sales came from customers who paid via facial recognition, improving revenue by 40%.
- Facial Onboarding: Last year, Japanese beauty brand SK-II and Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com opened the Future X pop-up in Tokyo, which used advanced facial recognition to create e-profiles for visitors. Once onboarded (see Retail: Embracing Onboarding for more), they could unlock personalised content and product recommendations at different in-store zones by looking at the cameras, which could determine the complete state of their skin.
Products could be added to virtual baskets by tapping a smart bracelet provided on entry on NFC hotspots located next to products or screens. Each bracelet was synchronised to an individual’s JD.com account.
- Expression-Responsive Shelves: In 2018, US supermarket Kroger and pharmacy chain Walgreens both unveiled camera-equipped digital shelves featuring facial detection technology. The shelves display animated pricing deals, advertising and product information based on facial expressions, age and gender. See also Emotional Retail Engagement.
Codex Beauty Taps into Global Skincare Rituals
New US skincare collective Codex Beauty is combining nature, science and tradition to create genderless products for all skin types. The brand is uniquely tapping into ancient rituals and harnessing ingredients from around the world for each collection – showcasing the importance of knowledge sharing within the industry.
The first launch from the collective is a five-piece Irish-inspired range called Bia, which utilises native botanicals and pays tribute to the country’s rich landscape. The Bia Facial Oil contains vitamin-rich ingredients, such as sea buckthorn and rosehip, to hydrate and brighten the skin. Meanwhile, bog myrtle keeps pores clean and prickly pear seed oil reduces pigmentation.
Bia uses bio-technology and green chemistry to produce efficient formulas – merging herbal knowledge with modern scientific tools. The brand uses methods to conserve the herbs’ potent medicinal properties while supporting skin health. The range’s plant-preservative system, also known BiaComplex, includes a blend of oils and water infusions to hydrate the skin.
As we explore in our Beauty Forecast S/S 20: Revive, beauty brands are bringing back healing remedies and forgotten recipes from the past. Codex Beauty is appealing to consumers who value this heritage in their products. In the future, the brand is planning to develop ranges that incorporate therapeutic herbs from India and Patagonia. We predict ingredients with extensive medicinal benefits will further infiltrate mainstream beauty offerings.
In addition, Codex Beauty is committed to minimising its eco footprint. To help reduce the amount of packaging waste in landfills, its airless tube is made from biodegradable sugarcane plastic (called green polyethylene). The brand’s labelling strategy also promotes transparency online and offline: all of the products’ certifications and ingredients are clearly stated on pack and on its website.
Everything you need to know about the Resort 20 womenswear catwalks – in terms of both Fashion and Beauty – delivered in an easy-to-navigate set of reports with super-commercial takeaways and insights relevant to a breadth of industries.