A new partnership between UK business management consultants New West End Company and European/US pop-up specialists Appear Here is upping the transient retailing ante with the launch of Bird Street in London. The joint venture will see the conversion of a relatively quiet street nestled just behind the shopping mecca of Oxford Street into a technologically enhanced, sustainability-focused ‘intelligent’ shopping street.
Launching at the end of June 2017, it’s billed as a “sustainable retail and outdoor dining destination for the latest in technology, cutting-edge fashion [including wearable tech] and lifestyle”, and aims to present a vision of future retailing in the here and now.
Key ‘street-embedded’ technologies highlighting the sustainable mission already include British ‘clean tech’ experts Pavegen’s electricity-generating paving (which also provides key footfall data), and air-purifying paint by Italian manufacturer Airlite.
While all spaces have already been short-term leased in preparation for the launch (exactly which brands are involved will remain secret until its unveiling), the team are still actively looking for “interesting and innovative fashion brands” to join from late summer onwards. The project, which has been part funded by Transport for London, is currently scheduled to remain in place until end of 2017.
With Oxford Street attracting almost 200 million visitors per year, Bird Street provides a prime opportunity for brands looking to advertise their progressive credentials.
For more on smart cities, see Engineered Intelligence.
Highlighting Chinese consumers’ desire for convenience and relatively relaxed approach to privacy, use of facial-recognition tech in China is booming – as noted by The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which named it one of its 10 breakthrough technologies for 2017.
In other markets, however, consumers still find the technology unnerving. When asked about being identified as a high-value shopper in store via facial recognition, 67% of US consumers and 75% of UK consumers said they found it creepy (RichRelevance, 2016).
Responding to a cultural climate where it’s increasingly important for businesses to take a stance on social issues (see Brands Take a Stand), two major retailers have launched global talent incubators to bolster their ethical credentials.
As part of its wider mission to achieve ‘radical agility’ as a business (as first described in our coverage of Wired Retail 2015), German e-tailer Zalando has begun testing geolocation-tech-assisted deliveries in Belgium.
The concept, created in collaboration with Belgian delivery innovator Parcify, targets consumers that don’t want to have their purchases delivered to either their homes or their workplaces. In addition to giving shoppers an unparalleled level of flexibility, it also counters one of the most common frustrations with online shopping: missed deliveries.
The new service, available every day from 7am to midnight, will give cycle couriers direct visibility on where a customer is, thanks to a smartphone-enabled GPS tracking device. All consumers will need to do is download the Parcify app and enter their location along with GPS and Zalando references. Push notifications will be sent when the courier is close to arriving.
The beta tests, which are free for consumers, are being carried out until the end of June 2017 in the Belgian cities of Brussels, Ghent and Antwerp. They currently allow customers to receive parcels in any location, including coffee shops – no doubt music to the ears of an increasingly nomadic workforce (see also Commuter Commerce).
For more on the booming value of brand initiatives based on flexibility, look out for Reflexive Retail: Live & On-Demand – publishing on September 27 as part of our upcoming Liquid Retail Industry Trend.
Countering the prevailing notion that good brand experiences are always seamless, convenient and friendly, Nike’s latest footwear launch promo boasts a distinctly challenging edge.
Called NikeCraft Mars Yard 2.0 (a homage to Nasa’s Mars explorations and the extraordinary kit that went with them), the new trainer reunites Nike and American artist Tom Sachs, reprising the duo’s original 2012 launch of the shoe. Pushing to make it as covetable as it was initially, anyone wanting to buy it must literally work (out) for it.
Interested parties sign up for Tom Sachs’ Space Camp – a bootcamp-style brand experience currently on Governors Island, NY – the crux of which is a workout series including a deadlift course, a knot-tying challenge, push/chin ups, ab wheel rollouts and a balance-beam walk, culminating in jumping onto the roof of a pick-up truck. The toughness of the tasks all but ensures failure – a conscious decision to reveal participants’ coping mechanisms and thus the inherent link between physical and mental strength. Emphasising the hardcore endurance aspect of the experience, the space is littered with surly-looking Nike trainers.
The concept was apparently inspired by the paces Sachs puts his own studio team through tri-weekly to build mental endurance and agility.
Course finishers get the opportunity to buy the trainers for $200. Later, there will also be a chance to buy them online by undertaking “five tests of digital dexterity” – details to be confirmed.
Humanising the store experience with plant life may seem simplistic, but in an increasingly urbanised world – 54.5% of the global population were living in cities in 2016, a figure projected to rise to 60% by 2030 (UN, 2016) – it’s a practice that’s being used to progressively compelling effect. Offering not only a softening influence but also a sense of transition, we spotlight four brands recently deploying it with success.
Asics – Telegraphing Holistic Wellbeing: To communicate its wider ethos of merging sport, wellbeing and science, in May 2017, Japanese athletics brand Asics collaborated with UK-based living walls specialists and landscapers Scotscape. The company installed bespoke suspended ceiling planters and living walls in the brand’s global headquarters (Kobe, Japan) and in its Brussels and Amsterdam stores. The concept centred around a semi-hydroponic planter system with automated irrigation, which floated serenely above the store, creating a living canopy. See also The Supportive Sell in our Business of Wellbeing Macro Trend.
Seat – Nature Creates a Sense of Transition: Spanish carmaker Seat’s debut store in Intu Lakeside shopping centre in the UK takes cues from Seat’s native Barcelona – including trees, bird sounds and lighting inspired by dappled sunlight – to create a sense of transition from the frenetic mall environment. Mike Roberts, chief creative officer at British agency Green Room Retail, which designed the store, described the commercial rationale: “Feeling relaxed increases 56.1% in natural surroundings, automatically equating to more dwell time, and a 1% increase in positive dwell time equates to 1.3% increase in spend.”
Story – Bioorganic Flagged as Major Retail Theme: As of June 2017, rotating New York retail concept Story – which creates a new theme every six weeks – introduced its latest guise, Fresh, which focuses on a bioorganic offering. Developed in partnership with US e-delivery service Jet.com, the 2,000 sq ft store features an assortment of fresh vegetables (provided by Jet) and innovative eco-friendly products such as Click & Grow – an indoor self-watering home garden. Further emphasising the theme, an abundance of plants and artificial grass flooring are arranged throughout the store, which will also host events such as cooking workshops, skincare courses and discussion panels concerned with promoting organic approaches to urban living.
Apple – Big Business’s Back Garden: In May 2016, Apple used the launch of its San Francisco flagship to reveal its slowly evolving store blueprint. The subtly humanised, less corporate revision of its clinical-looking standard store formats feature interiors of stainless steel and glass with wood, trees and plenty of natural light. Echoed externally, the design’s key feature is The Plaza – a 24/7 outdoor ‘back yard’ area including a 50-ft living wall that serves as a backdrop for live weekly music performances and talks. It was designed by British architects Foster & Partners.
For more on how hospitality and home appliance-orientated brands are leveraging nature, see Wild Wanderers in Travel for the Agile Elite and Self-Sustaining Spaces, part of our Kitchen of the Future Industry Trend.
Also check out Nature Embracers for more on the blossoming consumer appetite for horticultural pursuits as an antidote to city-induced stress.
Smart brands are filling their own skills gaps by turning ‘edu-enabler’ – establishing higher education courses to meet their specific needs, and giving students a less costly, more vocational and perk-filled path to success than traditional programmes.
Here, we review a rising wave of ‘branded universities’ nurturing retail’s future workforce.
For more on this topic – specifically how brands are catering to consumers’ increasing desire for professional optimisation – see The Luxury Academia Playbook in Re-Engineering Exclusivity, Apple San Fran: Glocal Edutainment, The Future of Learning, Impatient Upskillers and Topshop Turns Educator.
Wholeheartedly embracing the rising consumer desire for brand initiatives with an ethical grounding is new luxury-focused multi-brand fashion e-commerce site, Olivela.
Launched on June 6, the business sells approximately 200 new and “just past season” items from high-profile international brands including Givenchy, Stella McCartney and Valentino. Its core USP is activism: it donates a portion of each sale to a non-profit organisation.
Organisations already lined up to benefit include American author and philanthropist Jessica Seinfeld’s Good+ Foundation, which provides basic items for impoverished US families; Pakistani human-rights activist Malala Yousafzai’s Malala Fund, which seeks to secure educational rights for girls; and the VH1 Save the Music Foundation – a US initiative devoted to bringing music programmes into American schools.
Notably, at the core of Olivela’s engagement strategy is an emphasis on transparency, with consumers able to access a personal dashboard that tracks exactly what the donation from their purchase constitutes in charitable terms. For instance, a pair of $835 Aquazzura sandals will provide 41 days of children’s essentials through the Good+ Foundation. The dashboard tool, echoing those used by sports brands such as US label Under Armour (as detailed in The Supportive Sell), is key to establishing a sense of trust and personal involvement.
Two high-profile department stores have launched brand new wellness destinations designed to mainline the booming consumer appetite for all things wellbeing.
Saks, The Wellery: Saks has created an expansive, long-term wellness pop-up in its Fifth Avenue flagship in New York – a 16,000 sq ft space occupying the entire second floor. Signposting the varying aspects of wellness, it’s divided into 22 separate sections straddling athleisure, fitness and beauty. It will offer new programmes such as ConBody – a workout plan improbably based on the founder's own experience of reconditioning his body while in prison – and ‘alternative' services including reiki and massage, in the Saks Studio.
Wellness Clinic, Harrods: Shifting up a gear from its existing Urban Retreat spa (a more conventional space focused on ‘maintenance’ services such as blow-drying and nail treatments), Harrods’ London store has unveiled a state-of-the-art wellbeing clinic grounded in the notion of transformation. Partnering with high-profile global guest practitioners, the fourth-floor, 10,500 sq ft space includes 14 luxury treatment rooms, two personal training studios and a cryotherapy chamber, which uses extremely low temperatures to treat skin tissue damage. Additionally, a skin-analysis room helps potential cosmetic surgery patients assess possible procedures.
Other services include bespoke nutrition planning, sleep-pattern tracking, DNA-based skincare testing, chiropractic, acupuncture and posture therapies, plus intravenous vitamin infusions administered by UK vitamin drip specialist The Elixir Clinic. There’s also a retail space.
For more on the value of tapping into the desire to self-optimise, see also Re-Engineering Exclusivity, Medi-Leisure: Modernising the Pharmacy and The Supportive Sell in our Macro Trend, The Business of Wellbeing.
UK fast-fashion giant Topshop unleashed a summer-centric virtual reality (VR) initiative at its London flagship last week. The move tapped into the trend for more immersive and sensorially engaging in-store experiences – a direct legacy of the rising experiential economy (see Active Flagships).
Topshop Splash was created with British digital agency Fat Unicorn and UK architects Your Studio. It followed a 2014 project with British technologists Inition, which transported visitors to the front row of its Unique catwalk show.
This time around, the store windows became a pool scene featuring a water slide.
Visitors sat on an inflatable at the slide entrance, donning an Oculus Rift headset to experience a twisting and turning CGI journey through London’s streets. Other sensory elements, such as the holiday-evoking scent of sun cream, deepened the immersion – and the connection to Topshop’s summer collections.
Ostensibly a soft-sell exercise – the VR visuals didn’t display product, nor any mode of linking back to e-commerce – Topshop capitalised on the brand buzz in store with additional waterslide props, micro pop-ups, an ice-cream stall and summer-themed hair and nail bars.
Translating that excitement to social media, for one Saturday only, it released a bespoke Snapchat lens featuring an aquatic-themed world, prompting its digital fans to migrate in-store – only those using the slide could access it. See Social Media to Store for more on connecting the behemoth of social media to in-store experiences – teens’ two favourite brand spaces.
For the definitive guide to retail’s VR-fuelled future, see Retail’s VR Future: Communal, Sensorial Digital, publishing on June 15.
In a bid to beef up its digital engagement, British DIY retail chain B&Q is focusing on browser-based geo-location, virtual reality experiences and in-aisle payments. It follows disappointing trials of in-store kiosks – which shoppers tended to use only when aided by staff – and a consumer-facing mobile app focused on in-store connections, underused because most B&Q shoppers visit the store infrequently.
Context-Aware Mobile Deals with Simpler Questions
While 81% of people use their phone in-store, B&Q discovered they’re more likely to use the mobile site than the app. It’s introducing geo-location technology to the site to help people find products via a store map sensitive to the shopper’s location. The aim is to free up staff, allowing them to assist on bigger, more expertise-necessitating projects.
Kirsten Taylor, B&Q’s head of digital experience said: “Customers ask a lot of questions in store, most often about locating products. We’re aiming to remove the simple questions by using these devices.”
The retailer has also rolled out an ‘assisted selling’ tool for staff, allowing access to in-depth product information. Next up is a new point-of-sale system enabling customers to pay in-aisle for products on a store tablet.
Hyper-Reality Store Inspiration
Echoing the ‘hyper reality’ of the tech-fuelled concepts described in Lowe’s Haptic-VR DIY Skills Clinic and US Homeware Brands Embrace AR/VR, B&Q is also developing more robust inspiration-based store sections to enhance more emotional, big-ticket purchases such as new kitchens or bathrooms.
Operating loosely on the ‘frenemy’ associations described in Renegade Retail – where competitor brands buddy up for mutual benefit – luxury brand powerhouse LVMH is launching a multi-brand e-commerce platform called 24 Sèvres. The platform hopes to satisfy the appetites of increasingly brand-disloyal consumers, since it includes brands that sit outside the LVMH portfolio.
24Sèvres.com will go live in mid-June, with LVMH’s new chief digital officer, Ian Rogers – formerly of Apple – at the helm.
End of Luxury Segregation
The new site is in fact a platform for the LVMH-owned department store Le Bon Marché. Nevertheless, it’s the first time the brand has allowed its undeniably segregated brands (Dior and Louis Vuitton, to name a few) to share retail space, let alone allow non-proprietary labels to the table. Of the 150 brands in total, approximately 30 will be LVMH-owned.
With its name taking inspiration from the store’s Paris address, 24 Sèvres will initially focus on womenswear. At the launch, there will be exclusives pieces from 68 of the labels on offer.
Image-Led Engagement Tools
In a bid to differentiate itself from the myriad of content-led competitors such as Matches.com, Net-A-Porter, Farfetch.com and Style.com, 24 Sèvres will set itself apart by using cutting-edge moving-image initiatives. From fashion film to visual merchandising tools – such as instantaneous styling-consultation videos – the platform is taking a bold step towards a more visual mode of consumption.
For more on the power of ‘live commerce’, see the Relationship-Led, Humanised Tech section in our coverage of Decoded Fashion London’s Summit, 2017.
See also Digitising Luxury.
Embracing an influx of travellers, especially from China (760,000 visited in 2016, up 44% since 2015 – Euromonitor, 2017), shrewd Russian retailers are investing in more conceptually exciting store designs.
While championing both local and international talent is key, representing Russia as a hotbed of fresh talent attuned to a new, modern attitude is high on the agenda. We spotlight some of the most significant examples.
See also Lifestyle Labs: Rethinking Categorisation in Rise of the Exploratorium.
See also Next-Level Department Store Strategies.
A hotbed of innovation merging fashion, retail and technology, Decoded Fashion’s London Summit welcomed a vast number of start-ups, all stating their cause. We spotlight our top four.
FMCG brands have long been deciphering how best to connect with consumers as their shopping behaviour changes. Working with Google, Coca-Cola has begun using browsing-history data on consumers’ smartphones to serve them real-time, personalised ads on digital supermarket signage.
The screens, owned by Coke, are placed at the end of the soft drinks aisle and can communicate with a shopper’s smartphone. They can access a phone’s IP address – which suggests a consumer’s location – as well as browsing data from Google’s DoubleClick ad-serving software. This provides the consumer’s approximate age and gender, and current shopping preoccupations.
The data determines the most relevant ad to show, subsequently displaying it on the digital screens as the consumer approaches. For instance, if a shopper is interested in health and fitness, the screens might show an ad for sparkling water or diet tonic instead of sugary soft drinks.
Coca-Cola has already reported that a 250-store US pilot with grocery chain Albertsons delivered a one-month return on investment (the outlay involved in the supermarket purchasing the screens to facilitate the programme). It’s seen an increase in sales of both Coca-Cola and other soft drinks, although specific figures haven’t yet been disclosed.
Notably, part of the concept’s apparent early success is likely to lie in its relatively non-invasive semi-subliminal nature, with the data not pulled from app information – only browsing history.