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.
The use of in-store facial recognition technology to target customers has moved on a step, although a welter of concerns about consumer privacy may make its broad adoption problematic. We expect it to be a talking point across retail in 2018.
In the latest move, Facebook has submitted a patent for in-store facial recognition tech that provides retail staff with customer information drawn from social media profiles, delivering a hyper-personalised service.
The biometric algorithm links to in-store cameras and matches their images of shoppers with those on Facebook in order to identify them. Retailers gather info about facially recognised shoppers via a dashboard. Facebook has also patented technology that can identify shoppers’ moods by their faces, analysing their emotions and sending push notifications to staff – see also Reflexive Retail: Live, Emotional & On-Demand.
Facial recognition technology is already used by some retailers, including American department store Saks Fifth Avenue, enabling the cross-referencing of shoplifters against databases.
Facebook is also currently trialling a log-in feature with US focus groups. Users who have forgotten their log-in details can scan their faces via smartphone cameras, with the results matched against profile images to grant access within seconds. It could be rolled out to Facebook’s two billion users (Facebook, 2017) from 2018.
But privacy legislation – as well as public wariness about data-capture technology – remains a major obstacle, with some 67% of US consumers finding facial recognition creepy (RichRelevance, 2016). Meanwhile, EU legislation is a barrier for adoption in Europe.
An ongoing American biometric privacy lawsuit is perceived as a major test case. If Facebook loses, it could have to seek users’ consent to make, use, trade and decode biometric data sets.
A remodelling of one of New York’s best-known sneakerhead stores creates an immersive experience for shoppers based on a cinema theme.
Extra Butter’s Lower East Side boutique has brought the owners’ obsession with the movies to life – complete with popcorn concession stand, drop-down screens and classic theatre seating for trying on shoes.
The retailer, which also has a Long Island store, has always explored cinema themes in its brand collaborations and its own collection. This redesign allows it to more fully realise these concepts. “It’s this completely holistic screening, product, collab, in-store activation,” says Jeff Staple, creative director of Extra Butter’s parent company TGS.
The redesign is the first US project for Japanese architect Nobuo Araki, whose credits include Tokyo streetwear stores The Park.Ing Ginza and Supreme Tokyo. Within his minimalist aesthetic, the theatrical theme extends from the outside in, around the clock. The exterior is adorned with a theatre marquee and ticket window. Inside, a concession stand sells vintage candies and cola, coffee and popcorn (it’s not the only local streetwear store to branch into snacks – Kith houses a ‘Treats’ café).
Overnight, when the store is closed, the space appears to passers-by like a stylised empty theatre. This is thanks to the centrally located theatre seats, red curtains that cover product displays, and a drop-down, two-way screen (facing the two entrances) showing movies or brand partner videos.
For a cross-industry perspective on the complex world of sneaker culture, see our Sneakerheads Unboxed series of reports.
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.
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.
This month, Estée Lauder is launching a new venture that will feed personalised beauty advice to consumers via Google Assistant on the voice-activated Google Home device, showcasing an interesting new retail and consumer engagement model.
The Estée Lauder Nighttime Expert app will offer a chat-based experience to establish a bespoke evening skincare routine through a series of questions and answers. It ends by encouraging users to try the Advanced Night Repair Synchronized Recovery Complex II serum for free at an Estée Lauder counter.
Offering 24/7 tailored assistance at home while simultaneously driving consumers in-store, the platform could be adopted successfully by wider beauty retailers, such as Sephora. Bespoke beauty concepts are known to work best when online and offline experiences are combined – see Decoded Beauty: Engaging Beauty Consumers and Bespoke Beauty: New Retail Strategies for more.
In a similar move, Amazon is partnering with mass-market derma brand Eucerin, helping consumers find the right product for problematic skin using its voice-activated Alexa home assistant.
Beauty brands that capitalised on personalisation in 2015 alone saw double to triple-digit growth, contributing to a 3.8% increase in sales of cosmetics and toiletries (Kline, 2016). For more on the importance of personalisation, customisation and diagnostic offerings in this industry, see Future Beauty: Perfecting Bespoke.
British lifestyle brand Cath Kidston’s collaboration with Pinterest leverages the latter’s visual discovery tool Lens. This uses image-recognition tech to directly match whatever a user points their smartphone at to on-site ‘Pins’.
As the first UK brand to use Lens, the move – which connects the brand’s physical spaces to its social presence – exemplifies the type of dual-platform engagement discussed in Social Media to Store.
Promoting the new Colour by Cath Kidston bag collection, Colour QR codes are found on in-store swing tags. Visitors simply hover their phone cameras over the code using the Lens icon in Pinterest’s app (no need to download a separate QR code reader) for redirection to a Pinterest board per bag. These feature styling suggestions and details on the design inspiration behind the entire range.
Adding a link to retail, the board Pins are linked back to CathKidston.com. Adding ‘Buyable Pins’, which allow Pinterest users to purchase directly from within the platform via a ‘Buy It’ button, would take this to the next level (see The Social Sell: Pinterest Reveals Buyable Pins).
Pinterest has become a valuable honeypot for brands, with 175 million global users and revenues projected to reach $500m in 2017 (up from $300m in 2016). Notably, 75% of Pins saved come from businesses rather than users’ own photo libraries, highlighting the appetite among consumers to draw inspiration – and buy – directly from brands.
Acknowledging the rising value of both an experiential and an assistance-based economy, British department store John Lewis is seeking to maximise the power of its physical stores by ramping up the services they offer.
Currently being trialled in its Oxford flagship in the UK (opened in October 2017), the brand is offering 22 key services, to which it’s dedicating around one-fifth of the store’s 120,000 sq ft floor space. All are managed from a centralised point: a ground-floor ‘Experience Desk’ where staff book consumers in for a pop-up barber or make-up masterclass, among other things.
Other experiences include weekly on-site technology classes in the consumer electronics department (see also Tactics for Retailing Tech), and an express nail and brow bar in the beauty section. Consumers can also enjoy complimentary one-hour express personal styling appointments, or two-hour wardrobe revamps.
As part of this new homage to the seduction of service, John Lewis has also supersized its training strategy. All menswear stylists have received one-to-one training by a tailor from London’s prestigious Savile Row – increasing their understanding of body shape, colour, dress sense and fit. Additionally, all 322 staff members have received voice and body language training from actors at the Oxford Playhouse theatre to boost their confidence and help communicate via “authentic and emotional storytelling” rather than the hard sell.
John Lewis plans to roll out the most successful services to other stores in 2018.
The constant need to revise the role of the physical brand space is spurring new forms of retail-tainment involving cinematic/televisual collaborations. These are primed to capture ‘crossover-consumers’ – for whom retail supported by a pop-cultural aspect provides a key hook.
Spy Blockbuster Used to Spur Tailoring Sales: British luxury menswear e-tailer Mr Porter has opened a sleek tailoring shop in London carrying 90 pieces from its exclusive Kingsman line. The luxurious collection replicates garments worn in the 2017 blockbuster spy movie Kingsman 2. The pieces were even designed in collaboration with the film’s acclaimed costume designer Arianne Phillips. Further pushing product placement into the retail domain, a box equipped with a digital screen reveals special elements of the Tag Heuer Connected Modular 45 Kingsman watch seen in the film.
Cult TV Attraction: Ramping up Halloween 2017, British fashion retailer Topshop partnered with Netflix’s cult show Stranger Things to turn its London flagship into a themed extravaganza. This included stage sets and a window display featuring a lab (staffed with actors). Championing cross-platform promotion, it also introduced a dedicated webpage on its e-commerce site hosting a trailer for the show’s new season, and a Stranger Things-branded capsule collection.
Geek-Girl Kudos: Moving from engagement into product, brands have been acknowledging the licensing opportunities for female sci-fi fans. US cosmetics brand CoverGirl released a collection inspired by Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), while Mac Cosmetics launched a Star Trek make-up line. See CoverGirl x Star Wars and Geek Beauty: 2016 Licensing Opportunities for more.
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.
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.
Perhaps not surprisingly in the era of globalisation, Western retailers have finally added China’s Singles’ Day (the biggest money-spinner on earth in terms of retail ‘events’) to their list of ‘holidays’ to target.
Invented eight years ago by Chinese e-tail giant Alibaba as an antidote to the disenfranchisement of Valentine’s Day, Singles’ Day – November 11 – now generates more instant sales than any other global shopping day. Alibaba took an astounding $25.3bn of sales this year (up 40% from 2016), while Chinese e-tail competitor JD.com amassed an impressive $19bn (90% of all transactions made on Alibaba were made via mobiles, Alibaba, 2017). In comparison, combined sales for Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the US amounted to $6.79bn in 2016 (Forbes, 2017).
Buoyed by these successes, Western brands are beginning to wade in on the event, including US fashion store Opening Ceremony, German luggage brand Rimowa, L’Oreal and Unilever. All collaborated with Alibaba on appearances during its shoppable See-Now-Buy-Now fashion gala (broadcast on seven platforms including local TV, reaching 100 million viewers), or by launching limited editions in 60 pop-ups in 12 Chinese cities.
Several independent Western brands hijacked the holiday to present global e-shoppers with another reason for pre-Christmas spending. Outerwear brand The Arrivals and lifestyle store Need Supply in the US as well as British fashion concept store LNCC all ran marketing campaigns, largely e-newsletters, containing promos anchored in being single – plus 11% discount codes. See also China & Beyond: Singles’ Day Goes Omni-Channel.
“With over 225 countries taking part in the festival this year, it’s clear that the world is paying attention from a shopping perspective,” says Gareth Ellen, chief operating officer and regional planning director of China at marketing agency Geometry Global. “Clearly there are some western brands ‘getting it right’ and winning big during this retail extravaganza. Three of the top 10 selling brands in this year’s Global Shopping Festival were Western; Nike, Uniqlo, and Adidas, while in the cosmetics category six of the top 10 brands were from outside China – including L’Oreal, Estee Lauder and Lancome.”
For more on rethinking retail’s shopping ‘holidays’, see Renegade Retail.
British concept store The Wedding Gallery has opened in London’s affluent Marylebone district, capitalising on soaring spending on nuptials. US wedding-planning website The Knot’s 2016 annual survey revealed that the average cost of an American wedding is now $35,329 – an increase of over $2,500 compared to the previous year and, notably, a larger year-on-year hike than any previous period.
Conceived as a one-stop department-store-meets-trade-show for all things wedding related, the 20,000 sq ft space offers dresses and suits (from prestige brands including Temperley London, Oscar de la Renta, Thom Sweeney and Gieves & Hawkes), cakes, perfume, jewellery, wedding gifts, floristry and expert-led hair and make-up advice. Visitors must book £50 ($65) 75-minute ‘tour’ appointments, which begin in a dedicated area showcasing the latest wedding trends. On finishing the tour, participants are handed a list of everything that has caught their eye on the way through.
Acknowledging The Knot’s findings that “total personalisation” is driving the US spend on celebrations, visitors can also begin working on bespoke projects with in-house wedding planners.
While UK wedding spending doesn’t yet match the US – average costs are £15,000 ($19,000) (Confetti, 2017) – savvy British high-street fashion brands are already getting a slice of the action. French Connection is the latest to launch a bridal range. Its inaugural range will hit stores in February 2018 – following Asos, Topshop and Whistles (all British).
Understanding that even the most powerful e-tailers can benefit from physical touchpoints to retain consumer hearts and minds, Amazon is re-exploring the pop-up scene with a premium bar in Tokyo.
Based in Ginza – Tokyo’s most upscale shopping, dining and entertainment district – Amazon Bar aims to both familiarise Japanese drinkers with the brand’s online offer and push a more premium perception of itself (see Amazon Repositions Via Dazed Mag for more on how it’s tackling this with fashion).
Showcasing 5,000+ bottles of liquor, wine, beer and sake, the 78-seat bar offers an intimate opportunity to explore the expansive portfolio of alcoholic products sold on Amazon’s Japanese e-commerce site. Subtly underscoring the digital/physical overlap, visitors use tablets at the bar to obtain drinks. Rather than ordering from a menu, they receive recommendations based on questions concerning their alcoholic preferences and mood (for more on ‘mood’ retailing, see Reflexive Retail: Live, Emotional & On-Demand).
It’s not the first time Amazon has targeted Japanese drinkers. In 2016, it launched a free sommelier phone-call service delivering speedy wine suggestions to suit both budget and food. As the sixth largest consumer of alcohol in the world (Statista, 2017), Japan represents a major opportunity for brands – especially with wine drinking among Japanese women rising 4.5% in the past six years (Euromonitor, 2017).
US payment-processing tech company Square has also opened a store to help communicate its relatively intangible services – see Square’s Support-Centric Store for more.
Catering to a price-conscious and experience-loving audience – largely millennials looking for personalised engagement rings – it focuses on inclusion and personalisation, at prices around 50% lower than Tiffany & Co. Echoing its tag line of “Make a diamond ring like no other. Made by you”, visitors can compose bespoke designs for diamond rings but also for necklaces, earrings and bracelets. The focus on relatively intimate involvement is a shrewd strategy: 35% of women and 40% of men in the US believe that purchasing an engagement ring should be a collaborative effort for a couple (Forbes, 2017).
Central to the retail experience is a creation process supported by craftspeople and gem specialists that takes place in a subterranean lab equipped with microscopes, lasers and workshop tables. Visitors initially create digital moodboards on tablets, then work with the experts to polish and set stones.
More unorthodox still, Vashi also offers live-streamed footage of the jewellery-making process for friends and family unable to attend the appointment, and/or a coffee-table book documenting the process.
Spanning two floors, the industrial-looking 1,500 sq ft store boasts floor-to-ceiling windows and an aluminium counter that doubles as another workshop table. Neon signage adorns rough whitewashed walls, with seasonal collections displayed on cherry wood shelving.
For more on the brands disrupting traditional jewellery retailing, see Jewellery Retail’s New Horizons.
At IRDC 2017, several retail design agencies revealed concepts conceived to elevate the traditional grocery store experience.
See also Future Supermarket Strategies.