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Published: 28 Apr 2017

Customisation-Courting Flagships, London (2017)

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Pepe Jeans

The booming consumer appetite for customisation is underpinning a new wave of flagship-store concepts in London – with personalisation stations driving both impulse buys and post-purchase upgrades.

It’s a strategy that’s especially important for engaging millennials – 70% in the US say they’d pay more for products or services connected to a highly personalised in-store experience, with 24% paying up to 20% extra (TimeTrade, 2017). 

  • New and Old: Cult British footwear and apparel brand Dr. Martens’ new Camden flagship offers a personalisation service for both newly purchased products and old Dr. Martens footwear.
  • Custom Adornment: British denim brand Pepe Jeans’ new Regent Street store has a denim-focused Custom Studio. Shoppers can choose from a range of embellishments including graphics, text or studs.
  • Artists in Residence: In Italian footwear brand Superga’s London store, local artists hand-paint purchased items with designs chosen by consumers for an additional £10 ($13). All artists’ bios and images of their work are displayed on a section of the brand’s e-commerce site dedicated to personalisation.

The concept mirrors fast-fashion giant Topshop’s in-store customisation service station. Launched for the Christmas 2016 shopping period, it played host to bespoke denim personalisation by local tattoo artists and illustrators for anyone spending more than £40 ($51). See also Instagangs: DIY Designers.

For more on the evolution of customisation, see Rapid Custom Retail: Yun Eyewear Flagship, Berlin, Luxury Product Customisation Boom and Product Playgrounds: Experimentation & Co-Creation.

Published: 25 Apr 2017

Sonos x Gorillaz Spirit House: Immersive Contextual Sponsors

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Sonos X Gorillaz

In a savvy vision of contextual sponsorship, last weekend, US audio brand Sonos collaborated with British virtual band Gorillaz on a hugely hyped pop-up concept called Spirit House in Brooklyn, New York. Visitors had to RSVP online, with the event reaching full capacity soon after launch.

Small groups of fans were given half an hour to tour the ‘house’ ­– a beguilingly immersive experience that showcased Sonos’s new Playbase home theatre speakers while promoting Gorillaz’ latest album. Once inside the intimate space, they could explore recreations of the kitchen and living room inhabited by the band’s animated characters in the video for the track Saturnz Barz (Spirit House), as Sonos speakers played two songs from the new Humanz album.

A fantasy home theatre filled the next room, where 180˚ projection-mapped animations of the Gorillaz characters were accompanied by two more new tracks playing from a prominently placed Sonos Playbase. The final room put the focus on Sonos products, including a one-off Playbase speaker custom-designed for the band.

The tie-in extends to Sonos’s New York flagship, which opened in mid-2016. The SoHo store is exhibiting artwork by Jamie Hewlett, co-creator of Gorillaz (alongside musician Damon Albarn). The three-day Spirit House activation is due to move to Berlin and Amsterdam.

Read Contextual Commerce for more on retailing that blends inspiration with relevancy, and Milan 2017: Brand Experiences for recent activations.

See also Retail’s Elastic Brands: Stretch & Diversify and Re-Engineering Exclusivity (publishing May 11) for more on Sonos’s canny contextual initiatives, including its Studio music pop-ups blurring the lines between professional practice and consumer culture.

Published: 25 Apr 2017

Retail AI Update: Rue21 Deploys Group Messaging Chatbot

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Rue21

US teen-focused fashion and accessories retailer Rue21 is deploying the new Extensions feature of Facebook’s Messenger artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot tool. The just-launched feature – which allows for group chats, not just one-to-one conversations – is being used as part of Rue21’s overall brand migration towards more youth-resonating digitally based communications.

Devised in partnership with Palo Alto-based technologists Mode.ai, the core tool allows shoppers to talk to an AI assistant on Messenger to receive styling advice and easily browse products according to preferences such as size, price and colours. The bot sends users a carousel of image suggestions from which they pick categories they would like to explore in more depth – selecting one of the displayed options or simply writing their response in the text box provided. 

Primed to add significant extra traction is the Extensions feature, which acknowledges the teen pack mentality – a desire to shop in groups, or to at least receive validation from peer circles. It allows users to chat with the virtual stylist alongside friends, including simultaneously sharing messages with them – a previously impossible task.

Chatbots and messaging apps in general are becoming the default mode of communication for younger consumers. In the US, 52% of teens spend more than three hours per day on messaging apps (Google, 2016). 

To read more on the evolution of personalised brand-consumer communications via the lens of AI, see Personalising E-Tail, Concierge Commerce: Upgrading Customer Service and AI-First Engagement.

For more on engaging teen consumers, see Teen-Targeted Beauty: Retail, Teen Retail: Missguided Flagship and The Pivotal Generation: Getting to Know Gen Z.

Published: 13 Apr 2017

Easter 2017: Best Brand Activations

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Selfridges

With high-street footfall over the Easter weekend forecast to increase 8.8% from 2016 in the UK alone (Springboard, 2017), Easter still represents a fruitful seasonal opportunity for retail.

We highlight the best brand initiatives, including interactive packaging, flash sales (see Cyber Easter Monday), virtual treasure hunts, brand academies and an upsurge of pet-powered initiatives.

Pet Power: Animals Channel Spring Message

  • Exploiting the global boom in demand for pet products/services (see Pet Parents), pop-up mall Boxpark Croydon in South London is catering to urbanites too time-poor or spatially restricted to have a pet by hosting a temporary petting zoo. 
  • American retailer PetSmart has installed photo booths in all its North American stores, inviting pet parents to take pictures with their furry companions and share them on social media. It also launched a capsule collection of Easter-themed pet apparel, accessories, toys and treats.

Also look out for Prestige Pets in Retail’s New Prestige Players, publishing May 11.

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Treasure Hunts of the Old-School and Virtual Variety

  • British shopping centre chain Intu has partnered with US children’s TV channel Nickelodeon on a Pokémon Go-inspired augmented reality (AR) game for its mobile app. Kids are invited to trawl the destinations to virtually ‘catch’ a series of Nickelodeon All-Star characters. Users ‘hunt’ by scanning semi-hidden images around the shopping centres with their smartphone camera.
  • Property developer British Land, which owns several UK shopping centres, has launched AR game Gnomee’s Egg Hunt in 18 of its malls. To play, shoppers download the free app and follow a five-step trail. Prizes include toys, vouchers and iPads.
  • South London department store Morleys is inviting shoppers to participate in a blindfolded hunt for hidden prizes in a 2.4-metre-high maze constructed from living hedges.
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Academies & Craft Workshops Tap Edutainment Dollar 

  • At US brand Toys R Us UK stores, children can partake in a movie-making class facilitated by toy manufacturer Mattel. Using the brand’s Movie Maker app, kids choose between three sections of footage from the movie Fast & Furious and create their own extra scene by adding sounds, visual effects and explosions from a menu.
  • British department store Selfridges is hosting bunny-themed costume creation and egg-decoration classes in-store, supported by its in-house designers. Additionally, Italian fashion brand Stone Island is running a DJ academy for kids alongside music school London Sound Academy within its children’s concession.
  • Ahead of Easter, British fashion brand Christopher Raeburn hosted a toy sewing class in its East London studio (on April 8). Participants chose their own fabric combinations, working alongside the designer and his team to make their own toy rabbit. 
  • Boasting an entire floor dedicated to chocolate eggs, UK department store Liberty is running chocolate-sampling classes championing luxury chocolatiers (April 4-15).

See also Kids-Centric Commerce, 2017, Active Flagships and Next-Level Dept. Store Strategies.

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Easter Egg Packaging Design Highlights

  • British department store Harrods has collaborated with London digital print designer Camille Walala – who specialises in textiles and interiors – on an exclusive, limited range of 12 Easter eggs. Boasting vibrant prints hand-painted by an artisan chocolatier, each egg costs £350 ($437).
  • Nestlé Confectionery’s Smarties and Milkybar Easter range includes tech-enabled packaging. Both contain colouring pencils to colour in a picture on the packaging, which subsequently appears in animated form when used in conjunction with a free app.

See also Packaging Futures 2016-17: Digital

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Retail Festivals: Cyber Easter Monday & Shopping Galas

  • Emulating the hype surrounding Christmas’ Cyber Monday, Amazon has launched an Easter Deals shopping festival, offering discounts of up to 50% in flash sales that surface every five minutes. Running from April 3-17 between 6am-6.45pm, quantities are limited, with Prime members enjoying a 30-minute preview.
  • Intu’s collaboration with Nickelodeon also involves the Nick Jr. All-Star Easter Takeover across all its locations (April 2-23), including themed photo booths, glitter tattooing, and ‘meet & greets’ with the All-Star cartoon characters. Merchandise is purchasable on-site.

See also Easter Retail: Personalised, Digitally-Enhanced Fun

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Published: 11 Apr 2017

Adidas Interprets On-Demand Retail

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Based in German shopping mall Bikini Berlin, Adidas’s pop-up store allowed visitors to custom design a sweater and see it produced by state-of-the-art knitting machines in under four hours. The move tapped into the booming on-demand economy discussed in Retail x Hospitality 2017.

  • Registration: Pre-kick-off, customers were given a booklet featuring a QR code that digitally stored details of each stage of the process.
  • Pattern Creation: Patterns (such as camouflage) were projected onto participants’ chests for 60 seconds while standing in a darkened room. Flanked by mirrors, the designs could be altered via hand gestures registered by surrounding sensors. Moving the right arm changed the pattern, while shifting the left erased part of the design. A specialist camera captured the evolving creation in increments.
  • Full Body Scan: Participants could have their exact measurements taken via a 3D laser scanner, requiring them to stand in a dedicated room in their underwear. See also Virtual Fit Tech for Fashion.
  • Customisation: An interactive screen displayed all captured patterns, from which shoppers could pick a favourite. The participants could then experiment with pre-set colour combinations, changing shades using RFID-enabled sample chips. Placing a chip within a ‘reading area’ triggered new combinations in real time.
  • Order: To order, participants pressed a ‘print’ button on the customisation station – handing a printed image of their design plus the QR booklet to staff. The employees then scanned the code to transmit the relevant data to the knitting machines. The 100% merino wool sweater cost €200 ($213).

See also Rapid Retail, Intimate, Democratic & Inclusive: New Brand Spaces, Experimentation & Co-Creation and Luxury Product Customisation Boom

Published: 7 Apr 2017

Retail: Workforce Tech Innovations, 2017

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Centring on boosting productivity, we highlight some of the key staff-focused tech innovations from Euroshop 2017. Key concepts include all-in-one mobile point-of-sale (POS) solutions, automated audit systems, warehouse robots, and augmented reality (AR) stock detectors.

Stock Searches & Rapid Service

  • Devised to combat long waiting lines and omni-channel friction, Panasonic has collaborated with French payment expert Ingenico on ‘Toughpad’. Measuring 7”, the lightweight, multipurpose, mobile point-of-sale device combines a tablet, card reader, pin pad, mini printer, barcode and NFC reader. Catering to “rapid retail environments”, it enables staff to access stock information, take and track orders, process payments and access in-depth product info and branded content. The ‘plug & play’ solution integrates with retailers’ existing customer relationship management and warehouse software systems within hours after set-up.

    Increasing stockroom efficiency, Swiss barcode scanner specialist Scandit’s multi-scan app for mobile devices lets staff log-in to several barcodes (such as an entire incoming palette of stock) while simultaneously searching for the location of single products. For example, hovering over a palette of boxes can pinpoint the exact position of a red shoe in a size 39. An AR-style image of the shoe will appear on-screen when the device hits the right spot.
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Automated Collection & Self-Auditing Fixtures 

  • German IT expert Salt Solution’s fully automated, modular “storage ecosystem” Logbase AutoStore supports e-commerce distribution staff. Standardised boxes housing small goods (up to 60cm and 30kg) are stacked in a cube. This is framed by a self-supporting aluminium grid, which serves as tracks for the wheel-enabled robot. When a customer places an order, the robot is prompted to locate the goods using an RFID tagging system; fetch the relevant box via a magnetic lifting mechanism affixed to the robot itself; and transport them to the staffed port, where products leave/enter the warehouse.

    German bicycle retailer Bike24 deploys 56 robots for 11 in/outgoing ports and 56 robots should that be deleted?. Its use of the system has led to a 95% reduction in energy usage, and a 75% reduction in storage space.
  • Retail tech specialist AWM has partnered with packaging company Westrock (both American) on an automated inventory intelligence solution that tracks products using super-wide-angle, low-light, high-definition cameras. Able to audit shelves remotely, the system provides near-real-time information on product placement or stock drift via a dashboard accessible via tablet or desktop – or, for in-store staff, via restock alerts displayed on an LED screen. Working via facial recognition and proximity sensors, the pre-saved faces of relevant employees trigger notifications when they’re close to the shelf.
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Data Insights & Visualisation

  • Microsoft’s Azure IoT Platform enables businesses to create an ‘Internet of their Things’ by offering a broad set of customisable solutions. These include remote monitoring and predictive maintenance – essentially by connecting brands’ existing data systems, products and fixtures.

    The platform has been deployed by the German division of Mars Drinks, which sells vending machines solely to office environments. Service staff responsible for restocking them receive remote, real-time data on machine performance, stock levels, and even suggested season-optimised menus based on consumer behaviour insights – such as localised drinking patterns and sales increases caused by weather changes.
  • Austrian shop-fitting company Umdasch’s in-store consumer behaviour insight tool ViBiz (devised to support visualising future store layouts, visual merchandising and marketing promos) encompasses four tools. The ‘people counter’ simply analyses customer flow to assess, for example, the periods when most staff are needed, or commissions should be set. The ‘gender recognition’ tool analyses gender and age, and their correlation with footfall. ‘CheckoutQueue’ gives insights into how many people are in line and the average waiting time, helping area managers discern how and when to distribute staff. Finally, the ‘Activity Tracker’ measures consumer dwell time. Retailers receive key metrics amalgamating these four areas of data via a bar-graph-style visualisation and a heat map, accessible via a dashboard.

See also Euroshop 2017, Retail Tech Trends 2017, Data Tracking & Human Response Monitoring and RBTE 2016

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Published: 5 Apr 2017

Ted Baker: 360° Interactive Campaign

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Ted Baker, Keeping Up With The Bakers campaign

Charming consumers from all angles, British fashion retailer Ted Baker is promoting its S/S 17 collection with a wryly-titled suite of interactive initiatives – Keeping Up With The Bakers. The campaign encompasses shoppable content, social media and interactive windows.

  • Shoppable Content: Running on its e-commerce site, Asos.com and Nordstrom.com, the brand has released a shoppable video, navigable by using a desktop keyboard’s arrows or tilting a smartphone screen. Styled like a 1970s-era American sitcom, users explore the fictional family’s house, buying items worn ‘on set’ as they roam. Shoppers could also collect a free Google Cardboard headset from selected stores to experience the video in (non-shoppable) virtual reality.
  • Interactive Windows: A partnership with British production company Nexus Studios delivered ‘Nosey Neighbours’ interactive windows at selected stores. Passersby place their hands on a dedicated spot, which takes their photo and places it into the partly digitised set. Photographs of the faces are displayed on a TV set or wall portrait. The pictures simultaneously feature in a gallery on Ted Bakers’ e-commerce site, and are sharable on social media.
  • Instagram Incentives: Collaborating again with British digital agency Poke (see Geo-Smart Interactive Window Display) for a limited period, Ted Baker’s Instagram followers were invited to complete daily challenges involving tagging or sharing to win prizes. Winners were announced via Instagram’s Stories feature which, supporting the sitcom theme, was also used to periodically publish fictionalised content regarding the Baker family.
  • In-Store Engagement: Translated in-store, shoppers could also interact with actors playing extras in the show – such as a milkman dispensing complimentary drinks.

See also Physi-Virtual Flagship: Ted Baker.

Published: 4 Apr 2017

Fighting Fakes: Retail’s Product Authentication Tactics

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La Maison Vestiaire Collective, Madrid

In a bid to instil confidence in luxury online shoppers concerned about the legitimacy of what they’re buying, retailers and start-ups are boosting their efforts to fight counterfeiting via a mix of digital tools and bricks-and-mortar tactics.

In the European Union, about 9.7% of luxury sales are lost annually due to counterfeiting, with €26.3bn of revenue lost annually (EU’s Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights, 2015). Meanwhile, 20% of Instagram posts in 2016 concerning luxury fashion brands featured fake products (Washington Post, 2016).

  • Authentication Workshop: French recommerce business Vestiaire Collective, which sells “pre-loved” luxury clothing/accessories online, hosted a series of consumer-facing product verification workshops in Madrid last month. Led by its head of authentication Victoire Boyer, the four-day pop-up taught consumers how to distinguish counterfeit bags from the real deal by assessing the quality indicators of a variety of fashion brands.  
  • Anti-Counterfeiting Codes: US technologist Hikitag’s anti-counterfeiting system works by attaching unique codes to products that correspond to, but are not the same as, their original serial numbers – effectively issuing a long-term digital passport. The two codes create what the firm’s co-founder John Candillier describes as “an unbreakable bond”.

    The codes can be used on a peer-to-peer basis for reselling sites (for brands, limiting the number of fakes in circulation; for consumers, delivering full transferral of ownership). However, they could also be used by brands that want to integrate the system directly into their own websites. The concept also gives brands valuable visibility on the rate of resales, and where they’re happening. 
  • Tapping Transparency: Amazon is launching a brand registry in April 2017, allowing brands that manufacture or sell their own-label products to register them with Amazon. This will allow the product detail pages for registered branded products to be automatically displayed – ensuring a consistency of titles, details, images and other attributes – within the brands’ selling spaces. 
    They’ll also be able to register their logos. This enables brands with registered products to use a ‘Report a Violation’ tool – allowing them to search via text and image to report any trademark or copyright infringements. The aim is for brands and consumers to be able to notify Amazon about suspicious listings more easily, expediting removal.
    Additionally, brands can also assign Amazon’s new ‘transparency’ labels to packages. Once scanned by consumers with the Amazon app, the labels state the product’s provenance and authenticity, and potentially include additional content such as information on materials used.

See also Retail Futures: Blockchain’s Trust-Boosting Opportunity, Positive Provenance, The Value of ‘Made In’, Brands Behaving Authentically and Decoded Milan 2015.

Published: 31 Mar 2017

Ikea’s VR Kitchen Experience

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Swedish furniture producer Ikea is offering its customers in Canada the opportunity to 'try before they buy', using the Vive virtual reality (VR) headset from Taiwanese tech company HTC.

Running until May 2017, shoppers at Ikea's Etobicoke store in Toronto can choose from two VR experience options. The Ikea VR Pancake Kitchen explores the brand's kitchen design solutions through the narrative of making pancakes, showing customers areas to consider when planning their kitchen in the most practical way.

Meanwhile, the VR Kitchen Visualizer allows potential buyers to experience a basic version of their own finalised kitchen design and show them how different solutions work in practice. This experience is designed to complement the online Ikea Home Planner tool, which allows customers to input their kitchen measurements to see what their final design will look like as a 3D model on screen.

For more on how tech is shaping our kitchens, see Kitchen of the Future. In particular, Activating At-Home Foodies and Self-Sustaining Spaces reveal the potential of digital integration into this environment.

Meanwhile, for more on how VR is being implemented in the retail space, read our report Retail Tech: Future-Shaping Tools & Trends, 2017/18.

Published: 30 Mar 2017

Reactive Retail: Sainsbury’s Weather-Responsive Fashion Ads

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Sainsbury's weather-responsive ad

Facilitating more locally relevant marketing, UK supermarket chain Sainsbury’s has unveiled a weather-responsive outdoor ad campaign for its clothing brand Tu’s Spring 2017 collection.

Located across the UK at high-traffic locations such as bus stops, the contextual ads are displayed on large digital screens and use data from the Met Office to update the images in real-time with looks appropriate to current weather conditions. Consumers will see long-sleeved clothes and outerwear when it’s windy or wet, and summery styles when it’s sunny.

Devised to reflect Britain’s erratic springtime weather conditions, the concept is a collaborative effort from UK creative agencies PHD, Seven and AMVBBDO, out-of-home media advertising specialists Talon, and production company Grand Visual. Currently, consumers are unable to shop directly from the ads – tempted onlookers only have the website details to spur conversion.

The concept responds not only to the consumer expectation for more relevant brand communications, but also the rise in ad blocking that’s dented blanket mobile targeting (see Beyond Ad Blocking) and a spike in on-the-move dialogue. American consumers spend 70% of their time outside the home – a 50% increase over the past 20 years (Kinetic USA, 2015) that’s diminishing the impact of traditional media channels.

For more, read Third Spaces: Targeting the Transitory in our Invisible Marketing Industry Trend, Commuter Commerce in Roaming Retail, and Local Matters: New ‘Glocalisation’ Strategies. See also Contextual Commerce and Reactive Retail: Dynamic Data Builds Brand Traction.

 

Published: 29 Mar 2017

Retail & IoT: Product Meets Service

The evolution of IoT technology, where devices and digitised products can communicate with one another, is creating a rich new world of brand engagement opportunities. Smart products are linking to reviews, content, rewards and provenance traceability – extending brand reach far beyond purchase. 

Smart Fashion:

Global labelling expert Avery Dennison has collaborated with three brands on smart products powered by its JanelaTM platform, with connected components by British IoT experts Evrything.

  • US brand Rochambeau’s NFC-enabled smart jacket (a chip is embedded in the sleeve) gives owners access to exclusive experiences in dining, art, retail and fashion when tapped with a smartphone. See also Digitising Luxury.  
  • British jewellery designer Sarah Angold’s RFID-enabled accessories trigger interactive in-store experiences, behind-the-scenes provenance-related footage and styling recommendations, which surface on a smart mirror by Oak Lab when the wearer is close by.

Sports Connectivity: 

Dutch IoT expert Smartrac has collaborated with American sports brand Spyder and Adidas on a connected ski jacket and smart shoe, respectively.

  • Spyder’s NFC-enabled jacket triggers social media content about the US ski team, plus geo-locative intelligence like trail maps and weather data when a phone taps the logo.
  • Adidas is linking owners of its Ultraboost Uncaged shoe with exclusive content produced by US sneakerhead magazine Hypebeast, with a microsite that emerges on phones when the chip-embedded sole is tapped.

See also Retail Tech Trends 2017/18 and Smart Packaging.

Published: 29 Mar 2017

Frazzled Cafe: Mental Health Drop-Ins

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British retailer Marks & Spencer has joined forces with author, comedian and mental health awareness campaigner Ruby Wax to launch ‘Frazzled Cafe’ mental health drop-ins at 11 M&S stores across the UK.  

The cafes will host fortnightly after-hours ‘talk-in’ sessions, where people who are feeling ‘frazzled’ can meet to share their personal stories in a safe, anonymous and non-judgmental environment. Led by trained volunteer facilitators, the meetings are designed not just for the one in four Britons who will suffer a mental illness at some point, but also the four in four who are feeling overwhelmed by the stresses of modern life (Health Survey England, 2016). 

“Ruby’s Frazzled Cafe is a simple, pressure-free way of tackling what can be a taboo subject – feeling stressed,” said Marks & Spencer retail director Sacha Berendji in a statement. Wax added: “We live in a time where to have a life crammed to the hilt is considered a success story. But with all this pressure, so many of us have nowhere to go to meet and talk about it. Frazzled Cafe is about people coming together to share their stories, calmly sitting together, stating their case and feeling validated as a result. Feeling heard, to me, has always been half the cure.”

For more on consumers’ surging interest in holistic and mental wellbeing, see Wellbeing Warriors

Published: 27 Mar 2017

Retail-Relevant Pinterest Updates

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Pinterest Shop the Look

Speaking at retail tech event DX3 in Canada, Pinterest’s head of marketing communications and industry relations, Eric Edge, detailed the platform’s three new visual discovery tools.

  • Offline-to-Digital Discovery: Beta feature Lens integrates users’ real-world inspiration with their Pinterest collections. Pinterest app users point their smartphone camera at an item, and the image-recognition tech surfaces relevant Pins. It’s currently best suited for home décor and apparel (to find styling ideas) and food (to see recipes using the pictured ingredient). While the Pins aren’t necessarily shoppable and brands can’t as yet determine how close to the surface their content rises, it does make the imagery feel more meaningful and relevant to consumers – making Pinterest a key space for brands.

    “The retailer challenge is not only to get their brand discovered but how to surface the right products at the right time,” said Edge. 
  • Adding Relevancy to Feeds: Further personalising the Pinterest experience, the Instant Ideas feature lets users tap a circle on a Pin to summon images from related themes – instantly reshaping the feed around these topics.
  • Path to Purchase – from Inspiration to Action: “When people discover you, how do you move them from inspiration to action in the shortest time possible?” Edge asked, spotlighting Pinterest’s keenest assault on immediate buying, Shop the Look. A blue dot signals which items in Pinned images can be purchased within Pinterest. Early adopters include US housewares brand CB2, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus and Target.

See also Monetising Social Media, 2016, Burberry’s Customised Pinterest Beauty Boards and Harness the Hunt: New Search Strategies.

Published: 22 Mar 2017

Lowe’s Haptic-VR DIY Skills Clinic

Lowe's Innovation Labs - the internal tech hub of US home improvement retailer Lowe's - has surpassed its in-store augmented reality simulator for home-improvement projects (initiated in 2014) with a new concept that guides shoppers through DIY projects using both virtual reality (VR) and haptic technologies.

Dubbed Holoroom How To, the highly immersive (still store-based) concept has evolved from a pre-purchase visualisation tool, showing consumers how a product would look in their home, into a programme grounded in learning key skills.

Visitors wear a VR headset to watch a DIY tutorial chosen from a menu of options, subsequently following instructions displayed in front of them by using a hand controller to mimic gestures such as painting a fence or tiling a wall. Adding realism to each task, the in-built haptic tech issues life-like vibrations such as drill movements.

Lowe's was inspired to create the concept based on its own research revealing many consumers lack the confidence and skills to embark on DIY projects despite wanting to get involved. According to the retailer, those using the tool have a 36% better recall of the task than those watching a regular video tutorial online.

For more on the skills economy and the value of brands becoming enablers, see Active Flagships and the section Service Commerce in Retail Week Live, 2017.

See also New-Gen Home Improvement Parts 1 and 2, Virtual Added Value (part of our New Era Luxury Macro Trend), Interiors Retailing Online and Here Come the Homebodies.

See also Lowe's Unveils AI Robot Concierge.

Published: 20 Mar 2017

Next-Gen Convenience: WeChat-Powered Store, China

Chinese tech start-up BingoBox has launched a staff-free, 24/7 store in Zhongshan City (Southern China) that's entirely facilitated by the country's biggest messaging platform, WeChat. The move confirms the power of social media (and the smartphone) as the axis around which many consumers now run their lives.

To enter the fully automated space, shoppers must scan a digitally displayed QR code on the door using WeChat's scanner feature. Inside, they can browse more than 800 products including daily necessities such as drinks, groceries and over-the-counter medicine. Items are paid for via WeChat at an automated self-checkout; scanning another QR code with their smartphone connects shoppers to their mobile wallets held within the WeChat system.

To exit, shoppers have to scan yet another QR code to reopen the door. This is connected to a 'virtual tagging' security system that verifies that all items have been paid for. If in need of assistance, visitors can press a button on the wall by the checkout desk to activate a real-time video chat with a BingoBox staff member, who helps remotely.

The compact unit measures approximately 15 sq m and is designed for easy relocation (see also Flexible Store Formats). It can be digitally programmed to lift itself and be pushed in any direction, thanks to foldout wheels in its base.

See also Amazon Go's Checkout-Free Grocery Stores, Staffless Smartphone-Powered Shop, Rapid Retail, Future Supermarket Strategies, Mobile World Congress 2016 and Mobile Payments Round-Up, 2017. See also Social to Store: Spurring Key Crossover, publishing on April 13.

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