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).
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.
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.
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.
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).
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
Also look out for Prestige Pets in Retail’s New Prestige Players, publishing May 11.
Treasure Hunts of the Old-School and Virtual Variety
Academies & Craft Workshops Tap Edutainment Dollar
Easter Egg Packaging Design Highlights
See also Packaging Futures 2016-17: Digital.
Retail Festivals: Cyber Easter Monday & Shopping Galas
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.
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
Automated Collection & Self-Auditing Fixtures
Data Insights & Visualisation
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.
See also Physi-Virtual Flagship: Ted Baker.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
See also Lowe's Unveils AI Robot Concierge.
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.