We highlight a slew of fresh retail concepts that merge physical and digital commerce in highly personalised ways, offering consumers speedy product try-on and tailored recommendations.
To read more about how retailers are redefining personalisation for the modern cross-channel consumer and combining the best of the e-commerce and bricks-and-mortar worlds, see Service-Only Stores in Brand Spaces, 2018/19, Tech Flex and Omni-Interactive.
Livio uses directional microphones and binaural audio signal processing to amplify important sounds, such as a friend talking in a noisy room. A key innovation is its use of machine learning algorithms to optimise hearing in different environments, rather than relying on manual tuning.
It is estimated that 466 million people suffer from disabling hearing loss worldwide (WHO, 2018). However, only 40% of people who need hearing aids actually wear them (Action on Hearing Loss, 2017). One reason for this is hearing aids' negative associations with age and illness.
Starkey hopes that Livio's multifunctionality will help to alleviate some of the social stigma still surrounding medical devices. Beyond its hearing capabilities, Livio acts as a fitness tracker, recording the number of steps and time spent physically active, displaying the data in a linked app called Thrive. The wearable additionally logs the duration of social engagement and active listening, presenting the data as a mental health 'score' on Thrive.
Livio also incorporates real-time translation of 27 languages. The wearer's speech is translated on the screen of their linked mobile device, while the responses they receive are heard through the hearing aid.
As disabling hearing loss is projected to affect 900 million people by 2050, health tech companies would be wise to further develop designs that facilitate optimal living for the hard of hearing (WHO, 2018). As noted above, 60% of those in need of hearing aids do not wear them, demonstrating the effect social stigma can have on the adoption of health treatments. In our Tackling Taboos report, we highlight how businesses and platforms can integrate products with stigma-busting rhetoric to entice reticent demographics.
For its latest Brand Relevance Index, global marketing agency Prophet surveyed more than 12,000 consumers to discover the best-loved brands in the US, UK, China and Germany. The report highlights how marketers must shift away from a 'customer' mindset, to a 'user' mindset.
Apple is the number one brand in the West (Alipay rules in China), with the likes of Amazon, Netflix, Lego and Spotify all featuring in the top 10. For Prophet, the core strategy that links the most successful brands is a mindset shift away from treating people as buyers, and instead thinking about how to use marketing to curate communities for users.
"In the Lego Ideas online forum, for instance, users can voice ideas for new, innovative products, while PlayStation has opened up a digital community for gamers to connect with dedicated channels and a virtually unlimited capability and scale in user-generated content," the report states.
By focusing on creating user communities rather than driving customers down traditional sales funnels, marketers can build stronger relationships. This strategy is particularly crucial in attracting new consumers to your brand. "Initially, users might not even yet be customers," the report explains. "But the more data that is collected from these user bases, the more scope brands have to improve and develop other potential revenue opportunities, enticing engaged users to purchase."
Community-centric commerce is something we explore in more detail in Branding Change: Lessons From New Disruptors and SXSW 2018: Take Back Control of Your Brand. We'll be taking a closer look at community-building in our upcoming Macro Trend, The Kinship Economy.
Luxury food and beverage brands at this year's Speciality & Fine Food Fair in London pushed the boat out in terms of flavour, format and health credentials. Carefully considered left-field thinking delivered creative and fully-rounded products – from tea-whisky to CBD-infused honey.
Water pollution affects rivers, lakes and oceans all over the world, posing a threat to human health as well as the environment. Researchers at the University of Washington have developed a sponge-like material that could help address the harmful effects of industrial dye pollution, by quickly removing colour from contaminated water.
The new porous and reusable material, which is made from cellulose and palladium metal, works with reducing agents to help remove colour almost instantly. The large pores allow water to flow through easily, while the metal particles act as a catalyst. Existing reducing agents for chemical dyes can turn coloured dyes clear, but are slow-working and often inefficient.
Dyes are widely used in industries such as textiles, cosmetics, paper and plastics. After manufacturing, a large amount of effluent can bypass wastewater treatments, contaminating water for aquatic plants and animals. Even a small amount of colour dye can block out sunlight, preventing photosynthesis and damaging the aquatic ecosystem.
The team’s method of turning a coloured dye clear would allow plants to grow normally again. "This method could work well when you have low concentrations of dye in water that you need to take care of really quickly,” said one of the team members. For another dye-degrading technique, see Scientific Dye Developments in Considered Colour.
Last year, a lab in the US developed a material called Oleo Sponge that soaks up oil from water. The team have since conducted a successful experiment in real-world conditions that mimicked an oil spill. Read more about the material in our blog.
British shoppable video specialist Smartzer is to launch a self-service brand tool in Q1 2019 described as a digital dashboard powered by machine learning. It will consolidate all social media metrics regarding how a user’s content is performing – views, deeper engagement, full transactions – allowing quick assessment as to which channels are best.
The streamlining will likely dispense with the often-lengthy process of communicating individually with multiple media platforms. “The end goal is that brands will be able to apportion budget immediately, seeding their content out to whichever platform that’s working right then,” says founder Karoline Gross. “With so much more content, there’s never been a greater need for control."
Smartzer, which predominantly works with fashion and lifestyle brands, is also taking shoppable content into physical locations via large touchscreens. The move will beef up the kind of brand films that have been playing in-store for years, but were bereft of interaction or follow-through regarding product information or actual shopping.
To coincide with London Fashion Week this September, the company is working with a leading London department store (to be announced soon), creating shoppable films for display on all floors. It’s hoped this will deliver the kind of sales hikes Smartzer’s experienced by placing shoppable videos on brands’ websites. On average, it reports a 20% uplift in comparison to using videos with featured products sat in a static row below.
Visitors will be able to stop the films instantly to see more details or buy from them on-screen. They will also be able to use a scanner code, tapping their smartphones onto NFC-enabled hot spots on-screen to buy or save items to a wish list.
Brands are finding innovative ways to offer consumers realistic temporary tattoo products with long-lasting results, as the art of inking continues to grow in popularity among young people. Tapping into Gen Z’s fluid, short-term mindsets, Canadian start-up Inkbox has created realistic stick-on offerings in over 50 distinctive patterns.
The brand’s temporary tattoos, made with natural ink from Genipa americana (a plant sourced in South America), naturally fade between 12 and 15 days. Each design is applied to the desired area by soaking the application sticker with a damp cloth for 10 minutes – it then fully develops into a deep navy-blue hue the next day.
Users are also given the option to either upload their own designs via the brand’s online ‘Create Your Own’ function or draw directly onto the skin with a freehand bottle. These DIY options allow this pivotal generation to express their creativity and individuality, with approximately 87% of US-based Gen Zers considering themselves artistic (JWT, 2017).
With a tagline of ‘ink with confidence’, the painless application method offers a new mode of experimentation without feelings of regret – an appealing prospect for the 23% of Americans who are not content with their permanent ink (Harris Poll, 2016). To read more about the tattoo market, see New Ink: Millennials & Tattoos and The Future of Temporary Tattoos.
For deeper insights into short-term offerings for non-committal consumers, see Get Real: Beta Brandscapes. To read more about targeting Gen Z, see Teen Beauty 2018, 10 Youth Trends to Watch and Destination Teen: Targeting Youth.
10 Corso Como’s 28,000 sq ft store anchors the Seaport District and entices visitors with a mix of designer fashion, homeware and a gallery. There’s also a restaurant, hand-painted fixtures from US artist Kris Ruhs, and branded collaborations with companies such as Birkenstock.
American real estate developer Howard Hughes Corporation is leading the Seaport District’s regeneration, which complements the other mall-style zones popping up in the city. One such project, led by commercial real estate company Brookfield Properties, aims to unify Bleecker Street’s retail with a series of seven co-ordinated storefronts. There’s also Hudson Yards, which will include an indoor/outdoor shopping complex with the first New York location of department store Neiman Marcus, scheduled for March 2019.
Similar to London’s upcoming Coal Drops Yard (see blog), these areas are updating mall-style shopping with unique environments. To differentiate itself, the Seaport District emphasises its historic cobblestone setting, which 10 Corso Como founder Carla Sozzani says reminds her of Italy. Outdoor concerts and fine dining highlight the area’s relative tranquillity.
Other potentially destination-making features include the recently opened luxury hotel Mr. C Seaport, an upcoming food hall from French chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, and the first permanent location for American actress Sarah Jessica Parker’s shoe store SJP, opening in mid-September.
As discussed in our blog Modernising the Mall, shopping complexes are transforming as consumers shun impersonal retail experiences. High-profile stores, such as 10 Corso Como, are important for luring shoppers to new destinations. While its addition will likely attract visitors, we’re curious to see if it provides a sufficient linchpin to kickstart the area’s regeneration.
Adobe has pioneered a virtual reality (VR) system which tricks the brain into thinking the body is surrounded by infinite space.
A significant limitation of existing VR systems is that they're restricted by the physical space in which the user can move, or require participants to sit still and use a games controller, breaking the sense of immersion. But Adobe – in collaboration with New York's Stony Brook University and US tech company Nvidia – has developed a system which enables users to walk around in a confined physical space, while creating the illusion that the virtual one mapped onto it is much larger.
The system takes advantage of saccades – rapid eye movements that humans subconsciously make to take in their surroundings. Our brains ignore the visual feedback during these movements to prevent disorientation and dizziness. Adobe's VR system capitalises on this "saccadic suppression" and makes minute adjustments to the VR space, forcing the user to subconsciously adjust their position in response. This allows for the sensation of near-infinite movement within a limited space.
This technology has great potential for the world of gaming, but the developers believe it can also be used in architectural planning and remote education.
As discussed in our report on this year's Immersive Showcase at the Tribeca Film Festival, innovators are using VR to cultivate original experiences for consumers. Brands interested in using VR should take into account Adobe's new system when planning future applications.
As we begin to acknowledge how our material choices impact the environment, the quest for more ecological options continues. A Brazilian design duo are exploring cork as one of these alternatives, using the renewable, recyclable and biodegradable material for their latest furniture collection.
The Sobreiro Collection by Humberto & Fernando Campana is made almost entirely from cork, in a bid to promote its versatility to other designers. The range consists of an armchair and three cabinets, with each piece demonstrating a different tactile and visual quality.
The light-coloured chair is made using cork alone and has a curvilinear form, while the darker brown cabinets, which have a wooden structure, feature smooth, granulated or undulating surface textures.
Expanded agglomerated cork – created by steam-heating and compressing resinous cork granules – is used for two of the cabinets, while the third explores the material’s hybridity, combining cork agglomerate with natural clay. See Cork & Concrete Composite for a similar example.
“We’ve always been fascinated by cork, not only because it is an ecological material, but because of its lightness,” say the designers. “Cork’s texture, variety of applications and insulation properties enrich the possibilities of using this material in order to express new concepts and gestures.”
Cork is one of the most sustainable natural materials we can harvest. Coming from the outer bark of the cork oak tree, it’s obtained through a process in which the trees are not cut down. Instead, the bark is harvested by hand every nine years and after harvesting, the tree continues to grow new layers. Besides being light and sustainable, it’s also waterproof, fire resistant, flexible and durable, making it suitable for numerous products and applications.
As experience-hungry millennials come of age and start having children themselves, shopping centres are evolving ever more thoroughly into leisure spots for families. Two in Asia have repurposed under-utilised space as in-store amusement parks – playfully combining entertainment and education.
Nike and Levi's launched groundbreaking campaigns this week, with both taking defiant stands on controversial issues. Prepared to put their reputations on the line, and unafraid to alienate parts of their fan base, both companies have set a benchmark for purpose-driven marketing in this hyper-polarised age.
Nike celebrated 30 years of its 'Just Do It' mantra with a campaign featuring ex-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who caused controversy in 2016 by kneeling at games during the National Anthem in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. An emotive video spot and poster has social media all fired up, from those who support the brand's deal with Kaepernick (who's currently being shut out of the NFL), to those proclaiming they'll now boycott the brand.
It's easy to be cynical about such a marketing move – Nike can afford to lose a few fans and absorb a momentary four per cent drop in stock. But there's no denying that as an example to other brands who want to lead – not just reflect – the cultural conversation, the Nike-Kaepernick team-up has set a benchmark.
Despite the noise around Nike, it's Levi's that has really put its reputation on the line this week, launching a campaign for greater gun control in America. In an open letter for US business publication Fortune, Levi-Strauss CEO Chip Bergh wrote: "We simply cannot stand by silently when it comes to the issues that threaten the very fabric of the communities where we live and work. While taking a stand can be unpopular with some, doing nothing is no longer an option."
Levi's has established a $1m Safer Tomorrow Fund to "fuel the work of nonprofits and youth activists who are working to end gun violence in America." The brand is also forming a coalition of business leaders to tackle the issue, and encouraging employees to use their paid volunteer time to "get more politically active."
Both these brands are trying to change things, but you might say Levi's has really put its money where its mouth is – it's aiming for the kind of moonshot we outline in Experiments in Moonshot Marketing.
As mystical practices become mainstream, beauty brands are capitalising on this opportunity by creating products with a spiritual narrative. New launches in this category cite lunar inspirations as key.
Modern consumers are seeking total wellbeing with moon-motivated rituals, and the latest company tapping into this mindset is US subscription service MoonBox. Each monthly box contains crystals, tarot cards and four ethically sourced products – including essential oils, body scrubs and soaps. Together, these curated blends aim to detoxify body and spirit in alignment with the 28-day lunar cycle.
Launched in 2018, MoonBox’s subscription model and step-by-step guide inject mindfulness into users’ daily routines and create a more accessible route for them to practice new customs. It feeds into demand from millennials and Gen Zers – 69% of pivotals (aged 13 to 34) believe in a non-physical realm (BeautyCon Media, 2017). We explore how this cohort navigates today’s turbulent times with magic in our report Modern Mysticism.
In addition, the brand’s online platform offers information on meditation techniques and rituals for different periods of the lunar cycle. It also sends Google calendar reminders to subscribers, so they can incorporate these new practices at the start of the new moon phase.
Beauty brands are starting to acknowledge the importance of cyclical patterns when developing personal care products, as skincare and bodycare transform into self-care. A good example is Parisian brand Shigeta’s Luna Bath Salts, which harness the power of aromatherapy at each phase of the moon.
We predict an uptick in ranges that support consumers’ emotional needs – regardless of the scientific accuracy of these claims. To read more about this burgeoning trend, see Selling Cyclical Beauty and Serving the Self-Care Generation.
Girlguiding, the UK's largest female-only youth charity, has introduced new 'interests' badges for subjects including construction, conscious consumption and astronomy. The new badges are part of the biggest overhaul the organisation has undergone in more than 100 years, reflecting a "new programme for every girl".
Throughout Girlguiding's long history, its young members have earned badges by dedicating themselves to activities and interests, which historically centred around tasks such as cooking and sewing. In an attempt to move away from an emphasis on domestic life and traditionally gendered activities, the new badges reframe skills to appeal to Gen Z Girl Guides. For example, sewing skills are now part of the Craftivism badge, which shifts focus onto how the skill can be used to advocate for social change.
The badges have been redesigned to be more inclusive. Previously, the Dancing badge depicted an able-bodied girl, whereas the new version features footprints and musical notes to include Girl Guides of all abilities. They also acknowledge new skillsets that have emerged with the proliferation of social media, including badges for Vlogging and Personal Brand. This demonstrates Girlguiding's understanding of Gen Z (now aged nine to 23), who spend an average of over 15 hours a week online (Ofcom, 2017).
Meanwhile, the Saver badge reflects Gen Z's financial awareness. Eighty-five per cent of this generation believe saving money is important to achieving their life goals, and the badge recognises and rewards good saving practices (Charles Schwab, 2018).
Brands and organisations looking to connect with Gen Z should follow Girlguiding's lead by embracing and celebrating the diversity of Gen Z culture. For advice on how to do this, see Speaking Gen Z's Language.
Growth in the second-hand retail sector is faster than ever, from high-end to mass market. Here’s our update on a sector full of innovation.
Consumers are warming to second-hand as a more sustainable form of consumerism that enables them to score discounts and showcase savvy sourcing. The second-hand clothing market alone is growing 24 times faster than traditional retail (ThredUp, 2018). For more context on recommerce, see Pause & Pulsate (part of our Liquid Retail series), the fashion-focused A Sustainable Journey, and Budget Retail's Quality Drive.
Refining the Second-Hand Store: Brands are reimagining resale shops as lifestyle hubs in high-profile locales.
Strategies for Reclaiming Resales: Brands are starting to profit from the second-hand boom by pulling resales back in-house or partnering with recommerce platforms.