The International Retail Design Conference (IRDC) is still one of the most significant events in the retail calendar. Hosted in New Orleans, the 2017 edition (September 5-8) will unite visual merchandising experts, store planners, architects and designers to explore the amplification of physical brand touchpoints.
From soft-sell strategies to embracing failure and how to cultivate a cult brand, here’s a rundown of our most hotly anticipated sessions.
Learning from the Cult Brand Rulebook
Global Aesthetics: New Store Trends
Hot Topics: Embracing Empathy, Inclusivity & Even Failure
See also Retail Design Trends: IRDC 2016.
As retailers vie for attention in the annual back-to-school spending season, US footwear brand Converse and Swedish retailer Ikea are appealing directly to young consumers with campaigns in web-ready formats.
Young English actress Millie Bobbie Brown (who plays Eleven in Netflix's series Stranger Things) has lent her talents to Converse's new First Day Feels campaign. Tapping into students' need for expression, Converse captured Brown emoting suitable reactions to the start of another academic year. Packaged into 32 gifs, the content is ready for sharing across chat platforms and social media. Gifs are a central part of online consumer communications, with gif-hosting platform Giphy currently valued at $600m.
Oddly Ikea is the furniture brand's attempt to reach dorm-bound college students with an autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) video series. ASMR is a tingly, semi-euphoric sensation some people feel when listening to repetitive, soothing sound effects. The Ikea campaign counteracts the stresses of starting a new school year with a narrator whispering about and smoothing out soft furnishings in an Ikea-outfitted dorm room. The slow nature of ASMR video also lets Ikea deliver a lot of information about its products – a rare opportunity in a digital information landscape that is otherwise starved for time and attention. However, the brand could have shown more due diligence by partnering with an influencer from the existing ASMR YouTube community.
Our monthly Pop Culture Round-Ups can help you stay up to date with online media formats. For more on gifs, see Five New Channels for Social Media Marketing.
British cosmetics brand Rimmel, owned by US beauty group Coty, is bidding to take the increasingly densely populated world of augmented reality-powered beauty apps to a new level. It’s doing so with a live, virtual visual-effects cosmetics concept that’s not only rooted in Facebook (the place 55% of Rimmel consumers apparently choose as their first stop for beauty inspiration) but is also amplified with voice activation.
The concept uses Facebook’s in-app camera tool and was designed to coincide with the relatively recent (March 2017) launch of Facebook Stories – short, user-generated photo and video collections that, echoing a format made famous by Snapchat, can be viewed up to two times but disappear after 24 hours.
Users can try on several Rimmel eyeliner looks direct from the in-app camera, subsequently sharing them on the main Facebook app via Facebook Stories, Facebook Live feeds or posting it on their timelines. Additionally, tapping into the Alexa era of voice commands (see Invisible Marketing for more), simply saying “Wow!” will trigger the three looks to surface, one after the other.
The tool was created in conjunction with British technologists Holition, and builds on Rimmel’s 2016 Get the Look initiative targeting teens keen to copycat other people’s make-up looks (from real life or as seen on screen – see full blog for more details).
It’s currently available in the UK, US and Middle East.
Teen-focused South Korean cosmetics label Etude House has transformed its flagship store in Myeong-dong, one of Seoul's key tourist magnets. Using customisation, it has modernised its cutesy "Sweet Dream" philosophy – aka "pleasant products for women who dream of a unique life".
Customisation remains a major retail lure. A 2017 global study by the IBM Institute of Business Value and the National Retail Federation reveals that 44% of Gen Z would like to submit ideas for product design, if given the opportunity.
Created by British design agency Dalziel & Pow, the three-storey store, which now bears an impossible-to-miss Disneyland-esque façade, has been restaged as an interactive beauty destination grounded in digital experiences.
On the ground floor, customers explore products while socialising around a large oval table. The mezzanine-level Personal Studio hosts the My Colour Finder and My Colour Draping "immersive tutorial" areas, where visitors can match their skin tones to the most suitable cosmetic colours, using a specialist face scanner. These are complemented by a Find your Look demo space providing how-to skincare and make-up application guides, assisted by staff.
Offering a more playful approach is the Colour Factory on the second floor. Its central feature is the My Lips Bar (designed and developed by Korean digital agency Innored) where visitors can blend lipsticks to achieve their colour of choice – an experience sealed with personally monogrammed (engraved) lipstick cases.
Indicative of the power of participatory retail experiences (see also Active Flagships), Etude House's flagship is already out-trading the brand's other stores.
The recent fashion-focused, retail-marketing trend for tongue-in-cheek infomercials reveals an appetite for humour and a degree of simplicity and humanisation often lacking in convoluted, app-based initiatives. Both brands and tech start-ups are getting in on the action.
This summer, the format has cropped up in two other key initiatives – linked to rebooting the perception of an eco-friendly lifestyle as hip, rather than worthy.
Technologists are also applying start-up thinking to the opportunity.
For more on humanising and adding humour to digital brand strategies, see Haute Humour: Visual Influence, Concierge Commerce, and Intimacy, Empathy & Solidarity in Retail Tech: Future-Shaping Tools & Trends, 2017/18.
Repositioning itself as a holistically minded sports brand, Reebok has opened a tiered-access Paris brand space designed to serve as a culturally astute temple to active lifestyles. Dubbed La.Salle.De.Sport (‘gym room’) the 1,700 sq m destination combines a gym, shop, event hub and culture/relaxation area.
Absorb the Culture: Tailored to its locale – Pinacothèque, a former art history museum in one of Paris’s liveliest shopping and dining areas – it’s also conceived to link sporting performance with Parisian art and culture. The hub will host product launches and trials, photoshoots and art installations, while the Social Club area invites visitors to relax, socialise, and meet Reebok's brand ambassadors.
Workout & Spend: The 250 sq m retail area is dedicated to high-impact fitness and features 500+ products. Meanwhile, the gym hosts small classes of up to 15 people, including Ashtanga yoga, barre and Thai boxing, plus workshops and personal training in CrossFit, boxing, cycling and yoga/Pilates. There are also masterclasses for specific goals such as Iron Man contests or marathons. Sessions are headed up by 40 instructors, while workouts are accompanied by DJ sets.
Tiered Access: Echoing the tiered structure of Adidas Berlin, visitors must purchase a 10-entry pass (€290/£259) or commit to either a sport-specific membership (€150/£134 per month) or access-all-areas annual membership (€165/£147 per month). For more, see Membership & Tiered Retailing.
LA-based streetwear trade show Agenda and New York fashion showroom Made have turned their respective B2B events into fully monetised lifestyle festivals. The moves affirm the trend for transforming industry-only events into consumer-facing happenings (see B2C Retail Trade Show Trend for more).
Combining live music with on-site shopping opportunities, both concepts trade on consumers’ booming desire for inclusivity and ‘professional-grade’ insights – an appetite detailed in Re-Engineering Exclusivity and Exploiting Insider Access.
Tickets for both festivals ranged from $20-60.
For more on democratising industry-insider-only happenings, read See Now, Buy Now: Spin-Off Concepts. Also watch out for our upcoming report Branded Festival Experiences, publishing in September.
Japanese lifestyle brand Muji has announced plans to open hotels in Japan and China in an initiative that builds on the notion of brands reaching beyond their traditional domains (see Elastic Brands: Stretch & Diversify).
The first will open in the financial district of the Chinese city of Shenzhen in late 2017, with 79 rooms, a restaurant, a fitness centre, and a Muji store on the ground floor. In spring 2019, the brand will open a hotel above its upcoming flagship in the shopping district of Ginza, Tokyo. Once completed, the store will be Muji’s biggest to date. The first six levels will be devoted to retail, with guest rooms on the top floors.
Continuing to trade on the backbone of its existing brand DNA, some of the furniture and products in the hotels will be available to buy online. This echoes US furniture brand West Elm, which is scheduled to launch 10 hotels across the US in 2018 featuring its own products as well as locally relevant pieces (see West Elm Goes Glocal with Hotel for more). Details on how Muji guests will be able to ‘shop the hotel’ are yet to be disclosed.
The move is likely to be a canny one, providing Muji with access to the booming hospitality market (global hotel transactions rose nearly 50% to $85bn in 2015 – JLL, 2016) and enticing customers who increasingly value the chance to try before they buy.
For more on the benefits of combining retail with hospitality, see Retail x Hospitality 2017: Mutual Brand Benefits.
The second annual Panorama Music Festival took place in New York from July 28-30. While it featured fewer brands than its inaugural outing (see Panorama Festival Brand Activations, 2016), it provided a serious PR platform for HP. The consumer-facing arm of US tech giant Hewlett-Packard showcased its “beyond-business” creative value to a largely teen and millennial audience.
American fashion brand Tommy Hilfiger has collaborated with French video-ad start-up Teads and San Francisco-based AI-messaging experts Msg.ai to extend its chatbot beyond Facebook Messenger into a video advert.
The bot is accessed via a call to action that pops up on TMY.GRL – an out-stream video advertisement (a native ad that auto-plays whenever a user actively navigates to it). It promotes its latest collection with US celebrity model Gigi Hadid. This stimulus is time-of-day sensitive and changes dynamically from ‘Good Morning – Chat to Us’ to ‘Hello – Chat to Us’ and encourages viewers to engage.
After tapping the call to action, viewers can browse the brand’s latest garments while receiving assistance from an AI bot. To stimulate engagement and provide a more personal curation of products, the bot initially asks a series of questions designed to identify a customer’s size and tastes. All have pre-set answers to choose from, keeping the process simple. To purchase products suggested by the chatbot, customers are transferred to Tommy.com, where the items have already been placed in their basket.
With online videos expected to generate $15.4bn in spending by 2019 (IAB, 2015), embracing personalised, relatively non-intrusive modes of conversational commerce presents a key marketing-to-commerce opportunity.
Rethinking the standard seasonal sales format, Australian department store Myer ran six-second video versions of its ads for its mid-year sale this year – driving interest by introducing a critical element of FOMO (fear of missing out).
The retailer worked with Google to run the short YouTube videos, which played as pre-roll ads – the promotional ads that viewers must watch before continuing to a selected piece of content. Viewers were only able to see each ad once, with Google algorithms ensuring no-one saw a repeat, meaning that consumers were prompted to act quickly for fear of missing out on a deal.
Those quick enough to hover over one of the ads were taken directly to a pre-loaded shopping cart on Myer’s website, featuring that specific item. Approximately 100 products were involved in the promotion overall.
YouTube’s six-second ad formats were launched in 2016 as an alternative to longer, skippable ads on its videos – a direct response to shorter attention spans among online viewers. This need for snappy, short-form content is particularly relevant to teens and millennials, who are too impatient for ads when watching videos on smartphones (see Destination Teen: Targeting Youth for more on this demographic and mindset).
For more on how to play on a sense of FOMO, see Frenzy's Phygital Drop-Zone App, Social Media to Store: Spurring Crossover Commerce and Reactive Retail.
Iconic German sandal brand Birkenstock has launched a versatile globe-touring retail concept that hooks up with the world’s most directional concept stores (and their brands) en route. Not only is its physical design reinvented to accommodate the nuances of each city, but the products shift between its host boutiques.
Conceived as a blank starter space, the purpose-built shipping container ‘boxes’ can be designed and furnished as desired by the concept stores selected to host them. Similarly, host retailers can flex their curatorial muscles at will, mixing limited-edition Birkenstock products (50%-60% of the pop-up’s assortment) with their own brands, rendering them wholly in sync with their clientele.
Kicking off in Birkenstock’s native Germany, the first box popped up at Berlin-based concept store Andreas Murkudis in July. Sitting just outside the store, two ‘boxes’ are arranged on top of one another, connected by an internal staircase and providing Murkudis’ store with a micro roof terrace. Designed for the store by local architects Gonzalez Haase AAS, the exterior is chrome metal and glass, while the interior boasts beautifully serene cork layering in reference to Birkenstocks’ soles.
Inside, a modernist plinth structure displays championed artisanal brands, with leather accessories, table art, ready-to-wear apparel and fine glassware sitting alongside custom-designed Birkenstock sandals exclusive to the store.
The box’s next stops are Berlin’s alternative shopping mall Bikini Berlin (end of July), Hamptons-based shop Kirna Zabete and Barneys NY in August, and Milanese store 10 Corso Como in September – coinciding with Milan Fashion Week.
Diverse in its discussions, the rise of exploration-based brand experiences, new payment innovations and agile supply chains look set to spark key discussions at the Retail Summit in Columbus, Ohio on August 9-10. We preview some of the most eagerly anticipated sessions.
Trading on the increasing value of taking an activist stance, British department store Selfridges is channelling a localised brand of social advocacy by temporarily transforming the 3,500 sq ft Ultralounge events space in its London store into a live music venue – a direct response to the capital’s dwindling club nights and live gig spaces.
With 40% of London’s music venues having closed in the last five years (LondonFirst, 2016), the space, sponsored by Russian vodka brand Smirnoff, presents an enticing alternative. At least until October 18, when it too will be transformed into something new again.
Part of a three-month campaign called Music Matters that extends to the brand’s Manchester and Birmingham stores and online, the 170-capacity venue will host ‘happenings’ for established artists every Thursday night (‘Selfridges Presents’), with new talent getting an opportunity to showcase themselves on Wednesday evenings (‘New Music Nights’). The futuristically restyled space will feature a central stage enveloped by transparent screens featuring cutting-edge visual content.
Embracing the wider brand shift from retailer to media entity (see Retail’s Brand Broadcasters), at least one track from each act will be broadcast live on Selfridges’ website.
The initiative entirely aligns with the brand’s long-held activist attitude, which has ranged from eco-activism (see Project Ocean, 2011) to the debate surrounding gender and identity (see Contextual Commerce). However, it also shrewdly plays on the booming experiential economy, where experiences are becoming as key to young people as products. For more on this, see Active Flagships and Music Meets Retail.
Japanese sports brand Asics’ new Berlin concept store boasts a notably holistic approach to sports-based wellbeing. In addition to hosting workshops, training sessions and try-before-you-buy spaces, there is also a space for external (non-Asics-affiliated) individuals such as trainers and physicians to use, free of charge.
Based on the overall premise of ‘sound mind, sound body’, the two-storey, 515 sq m concept is based on a mix of community, state-of-the-art technology and small homages to nature.
The entire footwear collection can be tested at a Motion ID running service point, where running experts advise on the most suitable shoes. Customers are provided with personalised training plans by linking them to the brand’s online fitness-tracking platform RunKeeper (see also Ultra-Life Retail in The Supportive Sell).
On the ground floor, 30 sq m of retail space is dedicated to a community-driven, expo-like ‘performance’ space. Anchored in offering complementary services rather than inviting ‘frenemy’ brands, sports professionals – mainly personal trainers, athletes and physicians not presently associated with the brand – are invited to present their take on a ‘sound mind and body performance’ to visitors.
Fixtures and hangers consist of 50% grass and 50% recycled wood – see upcoming report Reframing Sustainability (publishing July 27) for more on eco-conscious store design.