Inspired by old-school TV shopping channels and new-age live mobile game shows such as HQ, Gravy – the world's first live shopping mobile game show – turns buying online into addictive entertainment.
Airing daily at 8.30pm ET for around 15 minutes via its app, US tech start-up Gravy's mobile live shopping show enables consumers to get discounts on products, compete with other users in real time for cash prizes and raise money for charity.
A highly coveted product (such as Oculus Go VR headsets, iPhone Xs or North Face jackets) is presented by a host to a live audience. Viewers can buy the item at any time at a highly discounted price – but the quantity available is unknown. The longer they wait, the cheaper the item becomes or sells out.
Shoppers can also guess when the game will sell out to win cash prizes ($200) – a smart way to engage those who are not interested (at least initially) in buying. Echoing the activist mindset of younger generations (see Retail's Activist Brands), Gravy donates part of the proceeds to charities selected from a list by consumers.
Gravy aims to become the shopping entertainment platform for the youth – an audience that increasingly opts out of platforms interrupted by mobile ads. Currently, thousands of viewers tune in daily (80% are millennials), with the audience growing by about 20% a week (Star Tribune, 2018).
Department stores are facing a challenging time. To maintain its allure among other intriguing ventures, British retailer Harvey Nichols has refurbished its womenswear department to cater to modern luxury consumers.
The intimacy, sense of exclusivity and personal service standards of a luxury boutique are at the heart of the department’s redesign. Located on the first floor, the 22,000 sq ft space challenges the norm and deliberately moves away from traditional branded shop fits. Modular in its design, the open-plan space is furnished in marble, textured glass, pale blue timber and raw steel. Exposed original windows introduce natural light, adding a sense of domesticity.
All represented brands were invited to co-create the space, adding ‘soft touches’ such as furniture and décor. This soft personalised approach cleverly taps into the booming consumer interest in brand storytelling, to the extent that it’s almost as important as the actual process of buying products – something we’ve explored in Reengineering Exclusivity and Next-Level Department Store Strategies.
Chris Dewar Dixon, founder of British agency StudioFourIV, which designed the department, said: “It’s important to create a shopping environment where there’s more than a rack of clothes. The idea of intellectual shopping is becoming more important, and brands able to introduce additional value to the shopping experience are winning.”
There’s also an emphasis on improved service in Harvey Nichols’ new department. Consumers are rewarded for time spent in-store and online, while knowledgeable Style Advisers are on hand to offer advice on products, trends and styling. A digital tool by British start-up Hero (see here) gives remote online shoppers access to live-streamed guidance direct from the shop floor.
Convenience stores – and, most recently, drugstores – are the latest retail category to undergo a reinvention. We highlight an innovative concept that’s the result of an unusual partnership between France’s Casino Group and beauty giant L'Oréal: a new urban take on the convenience store.
Le Drugstore Parisien stocks everything from beauty and pharmacy products to healthy snacks and treats. It also provides free wi-fi, phone-charging points, water fountains, shoe-shine machines, parcel pick-up points, sinks and dressing tables, and even a “light therapy area”.
The target market of the new retail concept is the urban young, for whom “the lines between work, culture and fun are being blurred, creating a new way of living”, according to Jean Paul Mochet, chief executive of convenience banners at the Casino Group. Around 55% of products are priced at under €10.
The first two stores opened in late June in Paris on rue de la Chaussee d’Antin (360 sq m) and rue du Bac (150 sq m). A third is planned for the city, with a view to roll out the concept to other European locations and possibly even Brazil and Colombia, where Casino Group has subsidiaries.
Jean-Charles Naouri, chairman of Casino Group, hailed the launch as proof “that major companies are able to come together to invent and create unique, original places in line with contemporary lifestyles”.
A Chinese e-commerce giant that invented a shopping festival, ostensibly to celebrate the anniversary of the company’s launch, saw sales soar again this year. JD.com reported $24bn in sales for the 18-day event.
Chinese consumers’ enthusiasm for festivals and special events was highlighted again in June with the runaway success of the 618 Shopping Festival, created by JD.com.
The e-commerce giant reported RMB 159.2bn ($24.6bn) in sales for this year’s version of its annual shopping celebration – 37% up on the 2017 event.
The festival, which ran from June 1-18, neatly coincided with Father’s Day in China and the traditional Chinese Dragon Boat Festival. Top categories were mobile phones, PCs, air conditioners, other digital products, and food and beverages.
Rival e-tailer Alibaba’s shopping event Singles Day, held in November, reached sales of $25.3bn in 2017, up 40% compared to 2016 (NY Times, 2017). Meanwhile, in the US, Amazon is expected to run its annual Prime Day event in July this year.
Stefanie Dorfer, Retail editor at Stylus, commented: “These kinds of self-made events are producing exceptional figures. As a marketing exercise, they have proven to be outstandingly successful. The lead retailer’s partners and even its competitors are all able to benefit from these festivals.”
Convenience stores across the globe are undergoing a healthy transformation, becoming wellness havens that offer fresh, organic food and vegan alternatives. A new West Coast opening – The Goods Mart in Los Angeles – combines sustainability with activism.
Described as the ‘7-Eleven of the future’, organic home essentials are the key product at The Goods Mart – a convenience store that opened in May 2018 in Los Angeles.
The bright space with clean interiors carries 300 all-natural products free from artificial colours, sweeteners, flavours and growth hormones. Partnerships with local businesses result in high-quality items at lower prices, including eco-friendly boxed water for $1.25, and misshapen fruit and vegetables for 50 cents. iPads at the checkout educate consumers on the provenance of products, responding to concerns about transparency in retail.
This is a smart business opportunity, with 68% of US millennials willing to pay premium for organic food (Matchbox, 2017). “The fresh, organic and plant-based movement is not a fad by any means,” says Laura Swain, assistant editor of Food, Beverage & Hospitality at Stylus. “It’s a major trend.”
The Goods Mart also dedicates space to community events and donates food nearing its expiry date to the homeless. Consumers are also encouraged to support local charities by leaving tips at the till.
Serving as a test store, The Goods Mart plans to expand nationally in 2019.
A pioneering multifunctional luxury townhouse, 5 Carlos Place, is being opened by fashion e-commerce company MatchesFashion in the heart of upscale Mayfair in London this September. Here’s a preview of what will make it special.
The six-floor, 5,000 sq ft townhouse promises to expand the parameters of what a brand space can offer. It’s a big addition to MatchesFashion’s small bricks-and-mortar retail portfolio, which includes a much smaller townhouse, No. 23, in London’s Marylebone district, and five physical stores.
Speaking to Stylus ahead of launch, chief brand officer Jess Christie said the space aimed to “educate, engage and inspire our customers, and bring a sense of fun and enjoyment back into physical retail”. It will host a broadcasting studio as well as a year-round programme of events, evolving into a cultural hub.
The company sees 5 Carlos Place as “a blank canvas” where it can work with partners on all kinds of events. A blend of digital and physical is at the heart of the project. Christie said: “For us, the future of retail is to be even more personal, to use technology to really understand and serve our customer and make their life easier.”
Customers will be able to shop straight from their mobile, she added, “as technology in the space will link you directly to the product on-site to add to your basket or wish list”. Another option will be to book a bespoke private shopping appointment.
Roger Tredre, acting head of Retail at Stylus, said: “The early signs are that this is a thrillingly experimental project that will demonstrate how companies primarily operating online can raise their profiles, and strengthen their customer base through physical space innovation.”
Live commerce is maturing into a fully fledged phenomenon. Stylus outlines three ways the trend is developing, bringing together online consumers with sales associates, product launches and retail spaces.
Waiting in line for limited-edition sneakers is ingrained in sneakerhead culture. However, not every enthusiast is in the city of the drop, or has the time to physically queue. Nike Korea has tackled this challenge by transferring the ritual to the digital realm – making it a global happening.
In April 2018 over the duration of two weeks, sneaker aficionados waited online using avatars in the first ever hashtag queue on Instagram to buy Air Max trainers.
Nike Korea decided to make use of Instagram’s latest feature, which allows users to follow hashtags, by creating #AirMaxLine as a digital waiting area. Fans were invited to visit a website to create and personalise an avatar using hundreds of exclusive characters and items inspired by Korean street culture.
To join the digital queue for the chance to buy, people were asked to share a picture of their avatar on Instagram with the hashtag #AirMaxLine – each avatar doubled as a ticket for an online draw. All avatars were displayed in chronological order on the Instagram feed, as if waiting in line.
More than 80,000 posts were uploaded to Instagram, generating over 15 million impressions, and the sneakers sold out within minutes. See also Monetising Social Media ’18: Five Trends to Watch to find out how to drive purchase via Instagram.
The sneakerhead phenomenon is far from cooling down with sneaker sales constantly growing globally. To get a better grasp of what it is, where it’s coming from and what it will evolve into, check out our spotlight trend Sneakerheads Unboxed.
Are department stores dead? Not if you ask Dallas-based Neighborhood Goods, a 13,000 sq ft department store dedicated to pop-up shops. The concept astutely taps into key retail trends, blending experiential shopping with community space.
Neighborhood Goods, opening near Dallas, Texas this autumn, will feature up to 15 monthly pop-ups offering menswear, womenswear and housewares from both local start-ups and established companies.
This approach smartly targets consumers’ desire to feel in-the-know (or, put another way, their FOMO – fear of missing out). This is a key theme in the Expo Stores section of our report Beta Blends, which discusses strategies for nimble selling.
To navigate the store, customers download an app that allows them to chat with sales associates, make purchases and access branded content. Pop-up operators can use the app to track inventory and monitor shopper hotspots.
Neighborhood Goods is also differentiating itself with in-store lectures, product launch events and live podcast recordings. Meanwhile, a restaurant, bar and co-working space are designed to boost linger time.
This combination of events and community spaces is a smart tactic. As we explored in 2018 Look Ahead: Retail, a soft-sell approach can help to encourage a hangout culture that leads to repeat visits.
The first location will open in Plano, near Dallas, taking advantage of comparatively low-cost real estate and a relatively affluent consumer base. A pop-up approach to malls was highlighted in our report Modernising the Mall. Now it’s refreshing to see a start-up adapt the model into a standalone store that appeals to consumers’ craving for newness.
Already changing the retail landscape, automation is finding its way into banking, too. The world’s first bank fully operated by robots has opened in China – a country emerging as a digital leader thanks to an open approach to disruptive technologies, and low concerns about data privacy.
China Construction Bank has opened the branch in Shanghai, complete with two concierge robots, automated self-service kiosks and a full surveillance system.
Consumers are welcomed by Little Dragon – a friendly robot with a cartoon-like avatar face, designed to reassure visitors. As the entrance guardian, she comes with a PIN pad and talks to customers, takes bank cards, checks accounts and answers questions. Consumers enter the branch and pass through electronic gates by scanning their faces and IDs. For second visits, facial recognition is sufficient to open the barriers and access customer data.
Inside, visitors interact with automated teller machines to open accounts, transfer money and make foreign exchanges. A second robot is on hand for assistance, while a virtual reality room with a live video connection to a human is available if customers require face-to-face interaction. The space is monitored by eight surveillance cameras and human security staff.
China’s unmanned retail sector is expected to triple in size to 65bn yuan (£7.5bn) by 2020 (iResearch, 2017).
This innovative branch reflects China’s disruptive approach to retailing, which we’ve highlighted in our report Uni-Commerce: Chinese Retail Focus. If you’re a bank trying to reassure your role within the modern retail age, have a look at Reimagining Retail Banking.
Hyundai is redefining the prime purpose of the traditional dealership from sales venue to exclusive backdrop for brand storytelling, acknowledging shifts in consumer behaviour towards researching online and visiting stores for assurance and experiences.
South Korean luxury car brand Genesis – owned by Hyundai – has unveiled a pioneering flagship store in Seoul that conveys feelings of privacy and intimacy. It focuses on gradual discovery – the consciously cryptic façade only gives glimpses of vehicles peeking out between concrete walls. This runs counter to typical dealership design, which features large windows that disclose the entire store interior in once glance.
Meanwhile, a muted colour palette and minimalistic materials such as concrete, glass and steel create a dramatic interior ambience. Cars are displayed against grey concrete walls dotted randomly throughout the space, encouraging exploration. Technology takes a back seat, offered discreetly through an augmented reality app and self-service model configurator kiosk.
Designed by Dutch architecture practice AMO, the showroom is completely free of advertising messages and sales pressure. Consumers who want to buy a vehicle can do so via tablets in secluded coves.
Ninety per cent of today’s customers who visit a car store have already researched and sometimes chosen models online in advance – visiting flagships for assurance and exclusive brand experiences (AMO, 2018).
To connect with consumers who are intimidated by traditional dealerships, new challenger brands are creating ‘dwell, discover and buy whenever’ showrooms evoking the explorative nature of galleries. Explore Augmenting Automotive Retail for more on this.
See also Rise of the Exploratorium for more on consumers’ desire for discovery-led spaces.
China is the last major country to require animal testing on cosmetics and skincare before these items can be sold to the public – but one cruelty-free brand appears to have found a loophole.
LA-based skincare and nutricosmetics brand Ceramiracle has emphasised its cruelty-free ethos with inventory-free, digitally led pop-up stores around China.
The company has partnered with the country’s largest digital platform WeChat to enable consumers to make purchases by scanning a QR code, which leads them to the app’s e-commerce store. The products are then delivered to the customer within three days from a warehouse in Hangzhou, a free-trade zone in Eastern China. In this region, goods can be imported, manufactured and exported without direct intervention from Chinese customs.
Ceramiracle is also capitalising on China’s e-commerce opportunity – online sales increased by 32% and totalled $1.2tn in 2017 (China’s Ministry of Commerce, 2018). Stylus’ Retail editor Stefanie Dorfer said: “WeChat is one of the most dominant digital platforms in China, and the perfect gateway for brands wanting to expand into this booming market. A strategy like this should be explored by other cruelty-free brands as they can bypass the country’s animal-testing legislation.”
Forty-seven per cent of millennials check whether luxury brands foster sustainable values before purchasing (Deloitte, 2017) – indicating the importance of considering ethical sourcing and distribution methods. For more on this, see The Great Beauty Green-Up and Doing Good.
Cars are selling impressively fast online in China, the largest auto market in the world. Total vehicle registrations are predicted to top 200 million by 2020 (MMTA, 2017), and young consumers are most likely to turn to e-commerce to purchase a vehicle – prompting local dealerships to collaborate with e-tail giant Alibaba to transform into smart spaces.
Maserati is tapping into the Chinese consumer’s love of gaming by employing a mobile racing game to grow its loyalty programme and drive shoppers to its physical stores. Running on Alibaba’s e-commerce platform Mobile Taobao – China’s most popular shopping app – it automatically registers users for Maserati’s loyalty club, and encourages them to visit the Italian luxury car brand’s smart stores in Beijing and Shanghai.
Gamers are required to take a selfie to create an avatar in the game. The same selfie is then used by Alibaba’s facial-recognition tech at the stores, where an AI-powered receptionist kiosk scans each face upon entering, delivers a personalised greeting, and gives salespeople a detailed profile of the potential buyer who just walked through the door. This approach aims to maximise personal data to deliver personal service. For more on driving footfall via digital channels, head over to Social Media to Store.
To satisfy Gen Z’s desire for instant gratification, Ford partnered with Alibaba on an automated test-driving experience in March 2018. People can access various vehicles without supervision via a giant unmanned car-vending machine in Guangzhou, China, by taking a selfie within Alibaba’s Tmall app.
Our report Augmenting Automotive Retail explores other ways that car brands can engage with shoppers in the age of the sharing economy and e-commerce dominance.
Consumers are becoming increasingly conscious about their social and environmental impact, and are on the lookout for brands that are active in those areas. To support its sustainability credentials, US ice-cream brand Ben & Jerry’s uses blockchain to enable fans to offset their carbon impact by paying an extra penny at the till.
Ben & Jerry’s has collaborated with Maltese non-profit organisation Poseidon Foundation on an ice-cream parlour spot in London. Using blockchain tech, the brand is able to calculate the environmental impact of producing and purchasing a cone of ice cream, and gives consumers the opportunity to rebalance their footprint and actively support action on climate change by buying carbon credits. Ben & Jerry’s has pledged to buy credits for each cone and invites consumers to do so too – when paying at the checkout, the cashier asks consumers if they’d like to add an extra penny to their balance.
Carbon credits are tradable tokens linked to projects which offset the greenhouse gases created by organisations and are usually only sold in massive quantities to corporations. Poseidon splits them up into micro transactions, making them accessible to consumers. Ben & Jerry’s credits are used to support a forestry conservation project at the Cordillera Azul National Park in Peru. Since opening in May, the ice-cream parlour initiative has been able to protect more than 1,000 trees – equivalent to an area the size of 77 tennis courts.
A host of streetwear brands have opened outposts in the city, echoing findings on the projected growth of the market as highlighted in our Spotlight Trend Sneakerheads Unboxed.
New Cult Brands Land in LA
For more on Glossier, see Streamlined & Minimal: Fresh Beauty Directions.
Read Floristry x Retail: VM Trend for more on the rise of biophilia in-store.