At the inaugural Esports Activate showcase in New York on March 6, panellists and presenters gathered to discuss the brands, technologies and tastemakers shaping the future of competitive video gaming. With global e-sports revenue expected to hit $905.6m in 2018 (Newzoo, 2017), the time is now for creative brands to move into this burgeoning market.
Retail Week Live (7-8 March), an annual conference for retail executives staged in London, saw a fleet of European retail tech start-ups pitching to attract investor interest and industry exposure. We highlight our favourites.
L’Oreal showcased a standout piece of beauty tech at South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas (March 9-18). The cosmetics giant’s Innovation Lab developed a dispenser that can create 8,000 bespoke blends of foundation.
Le Teint Particulier (LTP) uses artificial intelligence to formulate foundation tailored specifically to the user. An analyser comes into contact with three points on the user’s face at a short distance, so light is prevented from disrupting the colour-matching process. The data is picked up by an algorithm, which maps out the levels of cyan, magenta and yellow that are present to identify the customer’s skin tone. Before the machine blends and dispenses the precise shade, users can select the desired coverage and finish.
LTP was originally developed for L’Oreal’s colour cosmetics brand Lancôme in 2016, debuting exclusively at luxury US department store chain Nordstrom. L’Oreal shared the technology at SXSW because LTP is still the most advanced custom-blend foundation machine in the world – offering more shades than a supply chain could produce.
Shrewd brands such as Fenty Beauty and Huda Beauty have acknowledged the diversity of their consumer bases by launching foundation ranges of up to 40 shades, but L’Oreal’s device taps into a more valuable strategy – complexion colour matching. In 2017, Pinterest data revealed saves for complexion colour matching rose to a whopping 378% on the image-pinning platform, confirming the consumer desire for this bespoke offering.
Brits are concerned about sharing their personal information online and are more comfortable sharing data with organisations they know and trust, according to new research from UK non-profit Open Data Institute (ODI). Key highlights include:
For more on how brands can attain trust in the era of big data and artificial intelligence, see Tech for Trust: DLD 2018.
German car manufacturer Audi, European aerospace company Airbus and Italian engineering company Italdesign presented a new flying car concept called Pop.Up Next at the Geneva Motor Show 2018 (March 8-18). It's a hybrid between a car and a quadcopter, and is fully electric and autonomous.
Unlike other flying cars, Pop.Up Next consists of two parts: a two-seat car pod and a drone-like quadcopter module that attaches on top to transform it into a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) air vehicle.
The companies envision that when passengers travelling in the car get stuck in traffic, they can use an accompanying app to hail the quadcopter component, which will pick up the vehicle and fly it to its destination. These flying parts will recharge on top of buildings until they're summoned by a user.
Pop.Up Next is the evolution of Pop.Up, a concept Airbus and Italdesign presented in Geneva in 2017 without Audi. The new version is much lighter than its predecessor and has a redesigned interior. According to its creators, it aims to free commuters from the need to drive and offers a solution to growing traffic problems in city centres.
"Creativity is needed where new mobility concepts for cities and people's diverse needs are concerned," said Bernd Martens, Audi board member and Italdesign president. "Pop.Up Next is an ambitious vision that could permanently change our urban life in the future."
For more on the future of mobility, see Radical Transport. Don't miss our Geneva Motor Show 2018 coverage, publishing on March 22.
As discussed in our report Pop Culture Round-Up: Winter 2018, the values, desires and attitudes of Gen Z have recently been amplified by two very different experiences. One was the reaction to the tragedy of the Parkland high-school shooting in the US; the other was the success of a new generation of young, multicultural and LGBTQ athletes at the Winter Olympics.
The power of this Gen Z cultural moment comes as no surprise to anyone aware of this demographic's savviness, individuality and diverse outlook. But it underscores how important they're becoming as a consumer force. However, that's not to say they can be easily defined.
This year's Youth Marketing Strategies (YMS) conference (London, March 21-22) will gather social media experts, marketers, start-ups and young consumers to explore Gen Z trends and attitudes, and help brands better understand this complex generation.
YMS's parent company, youth insights business Voxburner, will be launching its latest Youth Trends Report at the event, "busting any misconceptions you may have on the attitudes, values and behaviours of this generation". Attendees will also hear from the likes of social media marketing firm Social Chain, Chinese digital agency Qumin, and marketing experts from liqueur brand Jägermeister and ice-cream giant Häagen-Dazs.
Stylus will also be participating. Christian Ward, head of Media & Marketing, will be chairing a panel with Sony, Three, BBC Radio, US entertainment company Refinery29 and UK production company Mad Cow Films on how to create truthful and innovative digital content.
If you'd like to attend YMS, we're offering a 20% discount. Use the code STYLUS20 when buying tickets here.
The stark realities of the crisis in media and advertising were faced head-on at this year's Guardian Changing Media Summit (London BFI, March 7). From the gender pay gap, to better representation of women and minorities and the ad world's battle with Silicon Valley, the BFI echoed with loud calls for change.
The #MeToo Revolution
There was anger from a number of panellists at what's been lost as a result of women feeling forced to leave the industry because of sexism and harassment. British media writer Jane Martinson pushed Martin Sorrell, chief of UK advertising giant WPP, on the need for change in his own business. "Women in our industry are more effective than men," Sorrell commented – prompting Martinson to ask: "Why don't you promote more women then?"
British advertising consultant Cindy Gallop saw this gap between words and deeds as a key problem. Gallop emphasised that the biggest issue facing the ad industry today is sexual harassment. "It keeps out of leadership and power the leaders who would make equality, diversity and inclusion happen," she said. She called for action through demonstration: "Don't do stunts about diversity, or create content about diversity – be diverse."
In the "fake news" era, the question of trust is crucial. Sam Baker, founder of UK female-focused platform The Pool, commented that "the only value you have is the audience's trust". Farrah Storr, editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan UK, agreed, pointing to the value of print in establishing that image of trustworthiness. "Advertisers are understanding the role that print plays in building trust," she said.
There was concern over the way social media forces people into "echo chambers", where they only hear opinions that they agree with. However, Matt Kelly, editor of pro-EU newspaper The New European, vehemently disagreed. "The media has never been more plural; the echo chamber has been completely blown apart," he said. "The problem is the fact-checking. We're suckers for a story, and journos have become lazy in grabbing onto tags [like fake news]. We need to be much better in establishing facts."
Kelly sees this as an opportunity: "Brands will gravitate to being trustworthy," he commented. Nick Robinson, presenter of BBC Today, agreed: "Brands will re-establish themselves," he said. "People will realise that they need to go to brands they can trust, because you don't have time to assess for yourself the truth of stories."
Brands Take Back Control
This idea of brands reasserting themselves as arbiters of truth and authenticity was important for many speakers, who believed that brands have for too long been doing whatever the tech giants demanded of them.
Sacha Berlik, managing director, EMEA of global programmatic agency The Trade Desk, said: "Advertisers can vote with their money. They can make a decision [about] if they want to fund unmonitored social media content, or fund quality journalism." He believes that "we need to be educating the advertising world" on the responsibilities they should be taking on to ensure trustworthy journalism survives.
Gallop came at the same problem from a different angle. "We have a responsibility to redesign the future of technology," she said. "The founders of the big tech companies hate advertising. When you hate advertising, you will never leverage your resources and talent to innovate completely new forms of powerful new advertising on your platforms."
Gallop views this as a massive opportunity for brands and marketers to take back control. "The future is not ad units – it's ad products," she said. "Things of utility and value that surprise and delight consumers in the way they're delivered. We have the opportunity to create those. Look at those platforms and decide how you'd like to use them."
As such, she advised brands: "Blue-sky it. Don't look at what exists now – project out five years down the line; go sci-fi and magical."
German supermarket chain Lidl has launched a new Facebook chat tool that can assist customers with choosing the right wine to pair with their meal.
To access the bot, dubbed Margot, consumers head to the Lidl Facebook page and click 'send message'. They then select from food-pairing advice, a wine finder, or an educational wine quiz. For the first two options, the user types in what they are looking for, for example a wine to be paired with a particular dish or a variety from a specific region. The chatbot then picks up on key words such as foods, grape varieties, countries, colours and even emoji, subsequently suggesting wines from Lidl's wine selection.
Alex Murray, digital director at Lidl UK, said: "Margot will ensure choosing the right wine is never a daunting process, and we hope this service – along with the existing in-store and online information we already provide – encourages customers to discover the perfect wine from our curated range."
For more on how supermarkets are using technology to create an interactive and seamless experience, see Future Supermarket Strategies, The Mobile-First Supermarket and EuroShop Follow-Up: The Tech-Powered Supermarket.
Samsung has launched an Internet of Things-powered pop-up store concept with data collection and analytics capabilities, available for retailers to hire.
Called Connected Spaces, it’s a collaboration with global shopper conversion specialist Barrows, which handles pop-up ideation, location scouting, logistics and fulfilment for renters.
Available in three sizes, the space comes outfitted with Samsung’s own retail tech innovations. These allow retailers to shed light on data darkness and gain real-time insight into shoppers’ needs by tracking consumer behaviours on a granular level. This can help them to make data-driven decisions and create consumer-centric experiences in the future.
Data is collected via sensors, cameras and connected devices such as digital interactive kiosks and mobile scanners. An analytics dashboard, linked to Samsung’s proprietary real-time behavioural sensing technology Nexshop, gives retailers an overview of metrics such as overall use of store, footfall, average customer dwell time and demographics (age and gender). Results can be filtered by store zone and time of day.
The flexibility is impressive. Staff can adjust the in-store experience in real time. Layout, product placements, staff scheduling and inventory management can all be adjusted promptly after analysing the in-store customer journey and sales figures.
While 47% of commerce leaders are planning to invest in in-store analytics technology (Forrester, 2017), most smaller retailers don’t have the resources to access such expertise. This short-term solution provides an attractive insight into the potential of data.
Sustainability was top of the agenda at Birmingham’s Packaging Innovations trade show (February 28 to March 1), with some of the UK’s leading retailers making emphatic pledges to become plastic-free and eliminate waste in as little as five years. Impressive start-ups showcased the latest in sustainable packaging solutions, while designers gave a lesson on tactility through e-commerce packaging.
Tech companies are responding to growing anxiety about digital saturation and gadget dependency by looking back to the exciting early years of high-tech goods and rebooting fan favourites. Tapping into consumer nostalgia in this way extends the mileage of established designs and secures sales.
US gaming console manufacturer Hyperkin announced plans to relaunch the Game Boy at this year’s CES. Named the Ultra Game Boy, the size and layout remain almost identical to the original in honour of the iconic gaming gadget. An internal battery enables the device to be charged with a USB-C port, while an aluminium case adds a sleek and modern finish. Hyperkin isn’t releasing any new games for the device, meaning it will only be able to play vintage cartridges.
Likewise, global tech company HMD – the manufacturer of Nokia phones – is rereleasing the 8110, also known affectionately as the ‘banana phone’. Its signature design has a slight curve and features a slider to answer calls and hang up. The device has been updated to suit contemporary use: the company has created a phone-specific app store to allow users to access Facebook. The move comes off the back of Nokia’s rerelease of the 3310 last year.
Read our CMF Industry View for the latest detail trends in personal electronics. For more on how brands are employing nostalgia to connect with consumer memory, read Nowstalgia Marketing. To see how designer labels are using trends of yesteryear to ease consumer concerns about an uncertain future, read our A/W 18/19 Fashion Forecast.
London-based production company Dotdotdot has launched an event called Somnai that lets participants dream lucidly and access their subconscious minds.
Somnai promises to "awaken all your human senses" through a layered-reality experience, with the first performances taking place in March 2018. During 90-minute sessions, participants engage with immersive technology to trigger lucid dreaming, allowing them to explore and control aspects of their dreams while in a semi-conscious state.
This will be made possible via interactions with live actors, virtual-reality (VR) technology and immersive media. Participants will wear a VR headset, but also experience stimuli from real-life actors and sensory elements to trigger taste and touch, altering their sense of reality even further.
"We can mess with you because we've got you in a digital environment," chief executive Andrew McGuinness told Huffington Post. "You feel the wind blowing up, you feel the spray, there's a smell of seaweed. So everything's there to convince you and immerse you really in that environment."
The event's theme is an indicator of how consumers are increasingly interested in exploring their unknown, possibly darker sides of their personalities – an idea unpacked in Shadow Selves: Tapping Consumers' Dark Sides. With an enhanced desire for introspection, consumers are seeking opportunities to access their subconscious as a source for greater meaning, creativity and self-care.
It also chimes with New Nightlife, which looks at how people are embracing immersive theatrical nightlife experiences that diverge from traditional forms of entertainment.
Sneaker giant Nike has collaborated on a geo-smart online flash sale hosted on Snapchat, considered Gen Z’s favourite social media app.
An exclusive pre-release promotion of its Air Jordan III Tinker sneaker (to hit stores in March) was tied to a location. People were required to attend the NBA All-Star game on February 18 in the Staples Center in Los Angeles to buy the sneaker in-app.
Powered by geo-location-triggered content – a geo fence was installed over the stadium – game attendees were able to unlock specially designed augmented reality lenses. Push notifications were sent to phones and included exclusive snapcodes. Consumers scanned them to be redirected to the in-app purchasing area.
The shoe sold out within 23 minutes as consumers responded enthusiastically to the promotion, which tapped the appeal of instant gratification and seamless purchase integration.
E-commerce platform Shopify managed order-taking, while on-demand fulfilment start-up Darkstore facilitated same-day delivery to consumers’ homes. Darkstore exploits excess storage capacity in malls and transforms them into on-demand fulfilment centres where brands can store goods for a small commission.
Snap, the owner of Snapchat, is exploring in-app e-commerce with a view to earning sale commissions. Brands should be encouraged to explore the potential of similar collaborations. With stories deleted after 24 hours, Snapchat champions instant and spontaneous content for consumers with short attention spans – the kind of consumer who also impulse shops.
See Harnessing the Hype and Nike Battles E-Purchasing Bots Via Geo-Smart Promos for more on Nike’s push into mobile flash-commerce experiences.
Chinese parents are prioritising their families over their careers and putting their children's needs before their own, according to findings from global market research firm Mintel.
Released in December 2017, the study surveyed young parents aged between 20 and 39, who have at least one child aged 17 or below. Key findings include:
For more on the attitudes of Chinese consumers, see China's Youth: Challenger Consumers.
From reviving the mall to targeting Gen Z, the annual GlobalShop trade show and conference (March 27-29) will tackle some of the biggest issues facing modern retailers. We preview some of the highlights – including a presentation by Stylus.
For more on unlocking internal innovation, see The Work/Life Revolution.