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Published: 15 Dec 2017

Christmas 2017 Confirmation: Kin


Our 2017 Christmas Direction Kin caters to minimal-minded consumers, taking notes from the Shaker movement to create a stripped-back, material-focused offering for the festive season. We explore how this wholesome design trend is being realised in current Christmas collections.

  • Materials from the natural world are reframed as earthy decorations. Christmas trees are left bare to celebrate natural form and foliage, dehydrated apple and orange slices are repurposed as handmade ornaments, and sprigs of eucalyptus feature on table settings and in wrapping to add sculptural interest.
  • Designers opted for timber neutrals as a base colour to create a softer and more natural look, while Yellow Pigment, Burnt Sienna and Rose Tint are employed as warming accents. 
  • With minimal added ornamentation, texture is enhanced to create a more rustic appeal. Christmas tree decorations feature uncomplicated designs and expose the timber’s natural grain to exaggerate tactility.

For more 2017 Christmas Confirmations, read Curio, and stay tuned for upcoming confirmations of Refract. To learn about our projections for next year’s Christmas Directions, read Fantasia, Archive and Frost. See Christmas 2018: Colour for more detail on the palettes and visual influences guiding each 2018 Christmas Direction.

Published: 15 Dec 2017

Earthcolors x G-Star Raw: Naturally Dyed Denim

Earthcolors Natural Dyes

A partnership between Swiss chemicals group Archroma and Dutch fashion brand G-Star Raw has resulted in a capsule collection of naturally dyed denim jeans – an initiative that promotes more sustainable alternatives to synthetic textile dyeing.

Available in green, brown and blue, the jeans are dyed with Archroma’s Earthcolors. These high-performance natural dyes are synthesised from non-edible agricultural or herbal industry plant waste, such as leaves or nutshells. Made using up to 100% natural waste material, the dyes can be used without generating any toxic wastewater. For more on responsible and innovative dye processes, see Considered Colour.

Earthcolors feature seven warm, earthen tones, including a brown made using almond shells and a sandy yellow made using residue from bitter oranges. The dyes are currently suitable for cellulosic fibres such as cotton, viscose and linen, with dyes for other fibres in development.

A rising awareness of the harmful effects of industrial dyeing pollutants is causing brands to consider eco-friendly manufacturing processes. At present, many colours are made using petroleum or sulfur dye, and most blue jeans are dyed with synthetic indigo – processes that damage the environment due to chemicals and pollutants in the wastewater.

Other clothing brands such as Patagonia and Kathmandu have also partnered with Archroma to bring natural, sustainably dyed products to market. See our A/W 19/20 Colour Direction Sacred Earth for more on raw and natural colour.

Published: 15 Dec 2017

Alcoholic Confectionery Brand Engages Senses Through Retail

Smith & Sinclair

British alcoholic confectionery brand Smith & Sinclair has launched an experiential retail concession in UK department store John Lewis’s London flagship. Built around discovery, the installation taps into the rising trend for explorative, self-steered brand spaces, as discussed in Rise of the Exploratorium.

Smith & Sinclair’s unique range of Edible Cocktails – jelly pastilles containing half a shot of alcohol – blur the lines between alcohol and confectionery, encouraging adults to ‘play’ again. The hyper-sensorial brand space features an interactive ‘discovery and experience’ wall that diffuses the scents of the Edible Cocktails alongside pastille buttons that release unidentified aromas when pushed. After exploring, shoppers are invited to create their own Edible Cocktails selection – an adult take on classic pick ‘n’ mix sweets – and enjoy a drink at a cocktail bar.

Smith & Sinclair has also launched The Flavour Gallery – a temporary “explosive multisensory art experience” in East London enabling visitors to “hear colours, smell sounds, and taste the paintings” according to London culture site The Nudge. Both concepts hold great appeal for millennials (aged 23 to 36): 72% of US and British millennials say they crave sensorial experiences (JWT Intelligence, 2013).

Spaces that simultaneously contextualise and thrill offer alcohol brands a chance to foster more intimate, controlled dialogues with consumers. As alcohol consumption declines – global sales fell 1.3% in 2016, led by a 1.8% decline in beer sales (International Wine and Spirits Research, 2017) – brands must look for new ways to drive trial and discovery. This is particularly important for brands without a permanent physical presence (see Amazon Explores Asian Alcohol Opportunity).

See also Alcohol Concept Stores.

Published: 14 Dec 2017

Battle of the Brands: Conquering Platforms

Burger King vs. Taco Bell

To see out the year, we are looking back at some of 2017's most impactful marketing campaigns. And, because we can, we're pitching brand competitors against one another to see who did it best.

In April, Burger King Spain added a team of professional video gamers to its food delivery service, bringing its product straight into consumers' nightly gaming sessions. The global fast-food chain's Burger Clan of nine professional gamers entered weekend online sessions of FIFA '17, Call of Duty and other popular titles, giving recreational gamers the honour of playing with them before taking their food delivery orders at the end of the session.

In July, Taco Bell went all out with a finishing touch for the late-night reveller's journey home. In collaboration with ride-hailing service Lyft, the US chain introduced Taco Mode to Lyft customers' riding experience. Passengers had the option to activate Taco Mode in the app en route, adding a stop at a Taco Bell to their journey – including one free taco.

Burger King's limited run was an elaborate project that built brand loyalty by introducing hobby gamers to pros. But Taco Bell's Lyft partnership came with a frictionless user experience that slotted more naturally into the customer's day – who wouldn't want a taco after drinks? Such consideration for an organic overall experience makes Taco Bell the winner.

For more on in-the-moment engagement, see Third Spaces: Targeting the Transitory. To stay up to date with digital platforms and gaming culture, follow our Pop Culture Round-Ups.

Published: 14 Dec 2017

Scent Republik: Perfumes for Positivity

Scent Republik

New British fragrance start-up Scent Republik promotes empowerment for pre-teen and tween girls through the power of scent. The essential oil combinations of its natural and cruelty-free fragrances are said to inspire confidence and positivity.

The three perfumes aim to trigger positive emotions and stimulate the senses. Chill is formulated with citrus, apple blossom and marine aqua notes to create a relaxed mood. Woosh is made from citrus, apple blossom and marine aqua for a self-esteem boost. Finally, Fab! inspires the wearer to “work your girl power” with sweet vanilla, mandarin and rich praline.

Scent Republik is not the first fragrance brand to tout feminist ideals. Reek from the UK is founded on feminist equality. This emerging trend showcases the need for beauty brands to embed their values with feminist philosophies – globally, 70% of women and girls say they are proud to be female and embrace it (Dove, 2016). For more on beauty’s feminist values, see Empowering Beauty.

The perfumes are also innovatively packaged like marker pens in brightly coloured Scent Stiks. Consumers can apply their chosen fragrance with a drawing-like motion on the neck or wrists. According to the co-founders, this creates a fun and interactive experience for pre-teens, as the marker-pen format (also used by cult US make-up brand Milk on its line of lip pens) makes it easier for them to play with the fragrances. See Brush-On Scents for more dynamic fragrance packaging.

Published: 13 Dec 2017

Christmas 2017 Confirmation: Curio


Our 2017 Christmas Direction Curio pays homage to the sculptural forms of brutalist architecture, employing heavy materials, strict forms and high-sheen metals to create sophisticated objects for the Christmas season. We highlight how this rich, bold trend is influencing home décor.

  • The rippled veins of marbled surfaces feature as a common decorative motif with festive wrapping, Christmas tree decorations and shop window displays all using this design to establish a luxurious look.
  • Classic emblems of the Christmas holiday – such as a tree and a star – are redesigned in strong, geometric lines to create impressive statuesque forms and establish a more modern and refined Christmas aesthetic.
  • The visual sense of weight and grandiosity that is established through the use of architectural materials is balanced with the inclusion of opaque coloured glass. Cherry red, Orange Oxide and Yellow Foil introduce a spectrum of rich colour that helps to marry the heavy, matte materials with the metallic sheen of polished gold and blue-silver.

Stay tuned for the upcoming confirmations of our 2017 Christmas Directions Kin and Refract. To learn about our projections for next year’s Christmas Directions, read Fantasia, Archive and Frost. See Christmas 2018: Colour for more detail on the palettes and visual influences guiding each 2018 Christmas Direction.

Published: 8 Dec 2017

Retail: New Store Navigation Tools

Gatwick Airport

With consumers turning to their phones for information (83% believe this makes them more knowledgeable than store associates – Tulip Retail, 2017), shrewd brands are making mobile the default in-store interface. We highlight 2017’s best innovations for product detection and route navigation.

  • Lowe’s In-Store Sat Nav: American home improvement brand Lowe’s has partnered with Google’s advanced augmented reality (AR) technology Tango to upgrade the indoor navigation tool on its shopping app. This uses camera devices to overlay images onto a physical space in real time.

    The Lowe’s Vision concept uses motion tracking, area learning (where the tech ‘sees’ and ‘remembers’ key visual features of a physical space) and depth perception to boost search in two US stores based in Sunnyvale, California and Lynwood, Washington.

    Users simply input products into the search bar; the phone then guides them to the right spot by overlaying directional prompts onto what they’re seeing in their camera’s viewfinder. This part of the app is only accessible to those with Tango-enabled smartphones (currently Asus ZenFone AR and Lenovo Phab 2 Pro).

    See also Gap x Tango: Advanced AR Dressing Room Concept and US Homeware Brands Embrace AR
  • Text, Visual & Speech-Triggered Search: American DIY brand The Home Depot has launched a search tool on its app that allows consumers to search its physical and online inventory in real time, guiding them to in-store items on a map. This means shoppers can buy the products online if they’re unavailable in-store. 

    It understands both text and visuals – pictures can be taken via the in-app camera function, or uploaded from the user’s camera roll. If there are no direct matches, it will recommend items closest in appearance. There’s also voice search; users can either say their requests as usual or, somewhat amazingly, mimic the noise the tool would make. See also Redefining DIY.
Lowe's X Google Tango
Lowe's X Google Tango
The Home Depot
The Home Depot
The Home Depot
  • Bluetooth-Enabled Self-Steered Shop Navigation: German electronics brand Saturn has also integrated in-store product locating into its mobile app. Powered by Bluetooth technology, a map shows users’ positions in real time and by choosing a specific product, offers a route directly to the right shelf. It’s currently being trialled in its Ingolstadt flagship in Germany.

    Similarly, in 2016, luxury London department store Harrods added a beacon-powered store navigation tool to its mobile app. It connects to a user’s phone or tablet through Bluetooth, highlighting their location on the interactive map. In this instance shoppers search by brand, with the software tracing a relevant line for them to follow through the store. It was developed by British technologists Pointr Labs.
  • Text-Based Wayfinding Tool: Also playing on the ability to navigate spaces autonomously is French DIY retailer Leroy Merlin’s Maia, launched in 2016. The text-message-based chatbot responds to customer questions about the location of products when a staff member isn’t available, or when shoppers prefer not to navigate the store alone. The helpline number is displayed on the brand’s website as well as on in-store graphics and staff jackets. The tech was developed by French digital agency Phoceis
  • AR Compass for Airport Retail: London’s Gatwick Airport has introduced an AR wayfinding tool to help travellers navigate its terminals. Also developed by Pointr Labs and currently embedded in the airport’s app, the phone’s camera is used to view directions laid directly over what they’re seeing on screen to find check-in areas, departure gates and baggage belts. A roll-out of the technology to other airline apps is planned for 2018.

    Powered by beacon technology, this presents a key marketing opportunity for retailers; its geo-aware capacity means it could send travellers that have opted in ads or real-time offers when sensing they’re close by. The concept is highly applicable to mall retailing. See also Travel Retail: Trends & Innovations and New-Wave Airports.
Leroy Merlin
Gatwick Airport
Published: 7 Dec 2017

Converse’s Climate-Proof Collection


Converse has become the latest brand to create a collection of climate-proof apparel and footwear.

Emphasising the importance of functionality as well as design aesthetics, the Urban Utility line was created in collaboration with American company Gore (known for its waterproof and windproof breathable fabric innovations and products), Italian streetwear retailer Slam Jam and LA-based artist/designer Cali Thornhil DeWitt.

The 17-piece collection consists of thermal technology-enhanced layering basics such as long-sleeved tees and hoodies, outerwear made from breathable Gore-Tex fabrics, and water-resistant footwear with Gore technology infused into the seams.

Silhouettes and colours are neutral, utilitarian and practical in feel, while print and pattern is punk-inspired – in keeping with DeWitt’s signature graphics.

Other brands – especially in the footwear market – would do well to follow Converse’s lead. Sales for waterproof footwear outside of the rain-boot category have seen double-digit growth over the last two fall retail seasons (NPD Group, 2017), and our increasingly uncertain climate means that brands must work harder to future-proof their products.

For further reading on brands attempting to combat unpredictable seasonality, see Fashion’s Workplace Challenge – part of our Work/Life Revolution Macro Trend. For more on pragmatic design, see Instagangs: Design for Purpose, The New Fashion Landscape 2017 Update and Design for Disability: Transformative Tech.

Published: 6 Dec 2017

Letterbox-Friendly Whisky Pouches

Whisky Me

London-based start-up Whisky Me has launched a new subscription service that offers whisky fans 'rare and exclusive' single malts, delivered in letterbox-friendly 5cl pouches.

For £7 ($9) per month, subscribers receive a new dram in the post every 30 days, including whiskies such as The Macallan, Royal Lochnagar and Aberfeldy. They also receive easy-to-follow tasting notes, background information about the whisky, and drone footage (accessible via social media) of the specific distillery where it was produced. As part of the subscription, members will also have access to one-off whiskies and rare malt varieties.

British founders Thomas Aske and Tristan Stephenson – owners of London's Black Rock whisky bar – said they were inspired to create the brand as a way to "reinvent the serious image of Scotch whisky with a fun and fuss-free approach".

Hot on the heels of Garcon Wines' letterbox wine packaging, Whisky Me plays into the trend for innovative alcohol packaging aimed at busy millennial consumers looking for high-quality products with a convenient edge to suit their time-poor lifestyles. See Alcohol Packaging Trends 2016 for more on how the alcohol industry is providing clever solutions to this emerging need.

See also Alcohol Trends 2017 and Alcohol's Healthy Future for more on the evolving alcohol industry, as well as Marketing Alcohol to Moderate Millennials.

For a deep dive into the latest in innovative packaging design, see Packaging Futures 2017/18.

Published: 4 Dec 2017

ScreenShop App Monetises Social Media Screen Shots

Billing itself as ‘Shazam for clothes’, new US-based app ScreenShop is looking to potentially transform the way social media users connect with brands. Using simple screen shots, it streamlines the process of buying direct from social media by turning any image into a point of shoppable inspiration.

Aptly supported by investment from one of social media’s biggest megastars, Kim Kardashian, the app works by simply uploading screen shots of posts from Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat. The visual-recognition-based software then matches the clothing in the image to similar products available online, with different price points. To make a purchase, users are redirected to the relevant retailer’s website. Brands simply need to be part of ScreenShop’s database to participate, with UK and US brands such as Asos, Topshop, Boohoo, Kanye West’s Yeezy, Saks Fifth Avenue and Forever21 reported to have already signed up.

While the concept is ideal for consumers seeking an instant solution in moments of inspiration, brands may have to hope that fans don’t always choose the budget option, leaving anyone with a more premium stance out in the cold.

With regards to assertions of the app being the new Shazam for clothes, there are other exciting tools picking up this mantle beyond social media – with artificially intelligent technology turning users’ smartphone cameras into real-time scanners. These systems enable users to simply point their phones at objects to search for similar products, without the need to take a photo or upload it. For details, see Solving Retail’s Search Conundrums.

See also Monetising Social Media 2016, Destination Teen: Targeting Youth and ShopStyle (Almost) Monetises Snapchat.

Published: 4 Dec 2017

Sous Vide Meal Delivery


San Francisco start-up FirstChop is launching a new meat-based meal-kit delivery concept for enthusiastic foodies that draws on the sous vide cooking technique.

As of this month, customers can buy a starter kit that contains a sous vide wand (a device that heats and circulates water) and ten frozen and vacuum-packed portions of meat.Choices include braised short rib (pre-cooked for 16 hours), black garlic pork loin, petit beef medallions and Peruvian grilled chicken.

To prepare the meat, home cooks simply need to place it in hot water along with the wand for the specified time.

The starter kit costs $139, while a family box of 24 servings costs $129 and a box of 14 portions can be ordered on a month-by-month basis for $79.

This is the latest in a series of new meal kits based around a specific device, with US start-up Tovala's cloud-connected countertop oven and meal-delivery kits offering another recent example of this thinking.

For more exciting kitchen-tech developments and meal delivery options for enthusiastic at-home chefs, see Activating At-Home Foodies – part of our Kitchen of The Future Industry Trend.

See also Meal Kits for New Mums, Hershey Taps US Meal Kit Growth and Natal Nutrition for more examples of brands tapping into niche consumer demographics to consolidate their place in a crowded meal kit market.

Published: 1 Dec 2017

Fashion Resale Market Gets Holiday Boost


Holiday resale opportunities are amplifying the already-lucrative thrifting market, with fashion consignment service ThredUp reporting a 34% increase in product arrivals between November 2016 and January 2017– likely due to unwanted Holiday gifts.

More than two million items were sent to the brand from its sellers during the 2016 Holiday season – 200,000 of which still had their tags on. Popular ‘return’ items included designer denim, North Face outerwear and fast-fashion pieces from brands like Missguided – while ‘simple styles’ were resold the least.

The surge in Holiday-focused resale goes hand in hand with a widespread consumer push for more resourceful fashion consumption – a key driver for Gen Z. Bolstered by cool recommerce sites like Depop, these consumers are increasingly utilising the new-found ease of resale – with the market forecast to grow by 11% a year, reaching $33bn by 2021.

For more on sustainable retail solutions, see The New Fashion Landscape 2017 Update: Sustainable 360, Retail: Reframing Sustainability and Redefining (Fast) Fashion.  

Published: 27 Nov 2017

Italian Restaurant Launches Pasta for Breakfast

Chez Frederic

Canberra-based Italian restaurant Chez Frederic has created a new breakfast menu featuring a range of pasta-based dishes.

Launched in October 2017, the morning meals put a twist on breakfast classics. Options include bacon and egg ravioli with hollandaise sauce (a homage to eggs benedict), and pappardelle with crispy bacon, mozzarella and smashed eggs (evoking a bacon and egg roll).

For customers with a sweet tooth, maple and ricotta ravioli with home-made ice cream and berry compote serves as a tantalising alternative to pancakes.

The breakfast/brunch menu is available from 11.30am until 2pm on Saturdays and Sundays, with prices ranging from $5.90AUS to $19AUS.

This new slant on the morning occasion is a further example of how it's evolving in culinary scope to incorporate unexpected, non-traditional dishes, as discussed in-depth in Breakfast/Brunch: The All-Day Opportunity.

For more on how lines between breakfast and evening occasions are being blurred, see Nightlife Eats: Dining After Dark. Meanwhile, Post-Kitchen Lifestyles, part of our Kitchen of the Future Industry Trend, explores the evolution of mobile and 'snackified' breakfasts.

Published: 20 Nov 2017

Saskia Diez x Uslu Airlines: Crystal-Inspired Nail Paints

Precious Nails

Jewellery design and cosmetics collide in German designer Saskia Diez’s collaboration with Berlin-based luxury make-up brand Uslu Airlines. Inspired by colourful jewels, the limited-edition Precious Nails collection delivers a translucent finish – signalling an exciting new nail colour trend.

The three paints are based on rubies from Mozambique, emeralds mined in the Muzo region of Columbia, and sapphires found in Kashmir, India. Each polish is also named after the regions’ local airport codes: the red is called BEW (Beira Airport), while the green is BGO (Bogota Airport) and the blue is IXJ (Jammu Airport).

Diez’s thin formulation creates a sheer finish similar to that of the gems themselves – an emerging trend that bucks the market’s current obsession with bold, opaque and matte colour (see S/S 18 Women’s: Nails). The launch also reflects the increasing consumer interest in gemstones – 10.3mn carats of ruby were produced in 2016, compared to 8.4mn carats the year before (GIA, 2016).

Only 100 units of this collection have been made available – playing on the messages of rarity and luxury conveyed by the jewel-inspired theme. In addition, the polishes also come with a selection of stick-on nail sequins made of 19ct rose gold – helping to redefine consumer expectations of luxury materials and mass-market beauty product. See The New Rules of Luxury for further cross-category developments.

For more on emerging nail trends, see Instagangs: Anarchic Nail Artists and Nail Art: Colourful Currency

Published: 20 Nov 2017

Halting Online Returns

Asos x Klarna

High product return rates are still dogging e-commerce sales: approximately 30% of all products bought online are returned, compared to 8.89% in bricks-and-mortar stores (Business 2 Community, 2016). As many as 75% of consumers report having returned a fashion item they bought online (Optoro, 2017). We reveal three tools/tactics halting the harmful slide back.

Live & Direct, from Web Browser to Store

As discussed in Reflexive Retail: Live, Emotional & On-Demand, British tech start-up Hero is a software tool that can be embedded into any brand’s website, allowing online shoppers to access in-store staff for viewing and discussing products in detail. Beyond spurring a 40% uplift in average order value, Hero is also reversing return rates. It’s currently working with British department store Harvey Nichols and US jeweller John Hardy.

“Because consumers can even ask the person in store to find someone of a similar size to try on items on their behalf, it stops consumers buying multiple sizes and then sending several back – giving brands a false idea of revenue,” says company co-founder and chief executive, Adam Levene. 


Try Before You Pay

Similarly focused on evading false revenue, UK-based e-tail giant Asos has launched a ‘try before you buy’ service that allows customers to try on items at home and only pay for what they keep. This differs to the current system, where payment is taken almost immediately and reimbursement happens anywhere up to two weeks after items are returned. Customers also have a full 30 days to pay after the order is dispatched, without incurring any interest or fees for the privilege. Asos nudges consumers about approaching deadlines with email and text reminders.

At present the service is only accessible via Asos’ mobile app, affirming the brand’s shift towards mobile-centric commerce: 58% of its orders globally are now placed via a mobile phone, a figure that shoots up to 80% in the UK. The feature is being supported by Swedish payments business Klarna.

For more on Asos’ latest e-innovations, look out for Solving Retail’s Search Conundrum, publishing November 23.

Asos - Try Before You Buy
Asos - Try Before You Buy

Advances in Virtual Fit Tech

With 49% of consumers citing not being able to touch, feel or try on a product as one of their least favourite aspects of online shopping (Big Commerce, 2017), advances in virtual fit tech also remain key to reducing return rates.

In 2016, Israeli technologists Fitfully revealed a consumer-facing measurement and calibration system primed for the sportswear market. Using the easy-to-access combination of a smartphone, a piece of newspaper and a credit card, footwear fit can be assessed in just 30 seconds. Fitfully’s app guides the user on how to scan their feet (the user needs to wear a patterned sock, allowing the software to recognise the shape of their foot), producing a 3D model from around 25,000 video-captured measurements. It then provides a coloured pressure map showing where the shoe fits well (illustrated in green) and where it doesn’t (demonstrated in red). The brand began beta testing the concept with Adidas last year.