British department store chain Debenhams has launched a beauty initiative designed to improve its appeal among Gen Z and millennial consumers. Taking an omnichannel approach, it fuses online and offline channels via a loyalty-based digital social platform and two new discovery-led store concepts.
The new store departments, called Beauty Halls of the Future, are designed to provide consumers with an interactive, Instagrammable space. Located within the newly renovated Meadowhall store in Sheffield and Debenhams’ flagship store in Watford (just outside London), they take over a large proportion of the stores’ overall footprint (15% at Watford).
Tapping into consumers’ appetites for softer retail (for more, see Soft Sell: The New Retail), the new departments feature a Beauty Club House, which hosts demonstrations, workshops and events. Situated around the Beauty Club House are themed zones, such as the Skincare and Colour Lab, where new innovations in skincare, hair and make-up are presented.
An area called the Mini Bar takes advantage of the still-booming customisation trend, allowing shoppers to mix and match travel-sized products across all categories. A host of beauty services are available at the Beauty Bar, which is powered by London blow dry brand Blow Ltd and offers manicures and blow dries. The concept spaces were designed by British creative studio Checkland Kindleysides. For more on Instagram-led beauty stores, see our blog post on New York brand Winky Lux’s experiential retail space.
Debenhams has also unveiled its new loyalty programme Beauty Club Community. This digital social platform enables users to give and receive real-time peer-to-peer beauty advice and discuss beauty trends with Debenhams’ 6,000-strong beauty adviser network. Users can earn loyalty points and badges in return for their engagement with and contribution to the forum. For more on this topic, see Supercharged Loyalty Schemes.
To learn more about millennials’ beauty spending habits, see Millennials Beauty Buying: In Numbers.
Luxury ethical fashion label Maiyet is behind The Maiyet Collective, a new concept store opening in October inside a London members’ club dedicated to positive social impact. It will feature talks, activities and over 50 like-minded brands – just not its own.
Studies suggest almost 20% of millennial luxury spenders always take ethics into account (Statista, 2017). Responding to such trends, New York-based Maiyet is launching landmark part-time concept store The Maiyet Collective, housed in The Conduit – a new social ethics-focused members’ club in London’s prestigious Mayfair district.
Co-founded in 2011 by three entrepreneurs – including South African Paul van Zyl, a former human rights lawyer – Maiyet partners with artisans in developing economies such as Kenya, India, Peru and Mongolia.
The Conduit and its new store are intended to be a beacon for design, commerce and wider discourse on politics and entrepreneurship with a positive social purpose. The department store-like space aims to host over 150 events including talks, workshops, performances and exhibitions (see also Soft Sell: The New Retail).
The store will stock approximately 50 UK-based “positive impact” brands (although not Maiyet’s own label) – including denim brand M.i.H Jeans; accessories label Elvis & Kresse, which rescues and reforms raw materials; and Ishkar, a business that works with craftspeople in war zones.
The 5,000 sq ft space will function as a monthly pop-up, open from Thursday to Saturday. Thursday is exclusive to Conduit club members as a preview perk, while Friday and Saturday are open to the public but by appointment only – a strategy that ensures visitors are provided with a suitably attentive tour of the space and can learn about the manifesto. This echoes London-based concept store Blue Mountain School’s attempt to establish an intellectual approach to luxury by guiding visitors around the space – for more, see Retail City Guide, London: May 2018. See also Re-Engineering Exclusivity.
The fine lines between selling, guidance and entertainment are being blurred, with brands now behaving like media entities to stand out and provide a more engaging route to consumption. Tapping into this trend, US beauty, wellness and athleisure subscription box FabFitFun (FFF) has launched a shoppable live show on Facebook to generate more digital interaction.
Running for two weeks until October 5, FFF Live airs daily between 11am and 1pm and is available to all active Facebook users. Marrying commerce, entertainment and content (see Contextual Commerce for more), the schedule ranges from expert-led advice and educational sessions, to QVC-style product showcases and entertainment.
Industry experts explain how to use beauty products, while hosts demo items from the current Fall Edit box, with viewers able to interact with them in real time via the comment section. Viewers can also win prizes via a game show titled The Fab Challenge – such as Win in 60, where a caller has 60 seconds to match the right price to a corresponding product. If they match all five, they win all the prizes on display.
The launch ties closely with the brand's ongoing content creation strategy. This already includes a series of Founder Chats with partner brands, hosted by FFF co-founder and editor-in-chief Katie Rosen Kitchens; and an exclusive members TV channel (updated monthly) on FFF's website, where subscribers get on-demand access to fitness tutorials from LA's top trainers. See also Subscription E-Tail Gets Experiential.
The show will return in Q4 with the release of the winter subscription box and an updated schedule, which will be altered according to consumer feedback gathered from the beta launch. See also Retail's Brand Broadcasters, Interactive & Shoppable: Live Video Shopping Platform and Monetising Social Media '18: Five Trends.
An insatiable, social-media-fuelled appetite for everything new is driving the value of store concepts that resemble micro exhibitions of hyper-curated edits. Along these lines, Amazon is re-entering the physical retail space with a 370 sq m Manhattan store that makes high online ratings a key selling point – keeping consumers ‘in the know’.
Using its vast database on what’s trending and what shoppers are buying (and liking) recently, Amazon 4-star only sells merchandise that’s rated four stars or more, is a top seller, or has been added to its e-commerce site in the past three months.
Arranged as a sort of expo store showcasing the trendiest things on Amazon (see also Beta Blends), the 2,000-piece product range includes books, games, household goods and toys, as well as its own range of Echo speakers and Kindle e-readers. A dedicated section titled Trending showcases a rotating mix of products, while a table of Most Wished-For items aims to offer inspiration for the upcoming Christmas season.
A digital price tag in front of the items displays consumers’ online reviews, with prices mirroring those on the website (Amazon operates a fluid pricing model, so prices change constantly). The tags also often include both a listed price and a cheaper one for Amazon Prime users – an incentive to sign up for membership on-site.
Amazon has been experimenting a lot with physical retail lately, with storefronts allowing the e-tail giant to get a bit more hands-on with consumers. Concepts include its Amazon Book stores, its innovative automated self-checkout concept Amazon Go, and click-and-collect centres on university campuses. The heavyweight also bought Whole Foods in 2017, and now operates 460 Whole Foods supermarkets, in which it has also added Amazon Fresh grocery pick-up stations. See also Last Mile: Retail Delivery Focus.
For more on how brands are helping consumers find the right products for them, see Solving the Search Conundrums.
Many millennials expect sustainable practices from brands – arguably even more so when purchasing goods for their kids. Targeting an eco-conscious generation of parents, a soon-to-be launched on-demand toy library leverages the power of sharing through an easy-to-use website.
Set to beta launch in November 2018, UK subscription-based toy library Whirli aims to make children’s playtime more sustainable. Based on a sharing model, Whirli wants to lessen the waste generated by a sector well known for its heavy use of plastic.
In the US, around $3.1bn is spent every year on toys specifically for infants and pre-schoolers. In the UK, the toy market is worth around £3.5bn ($4.6bn) annually.
As Lego looks to phase out plastic (see blog), could the toy sector be about to become sustainable? Whirli works like this: for a fixed monthly price, parents can curate a toybox from an online collection, with the box then delivered to their home. The current beta launch experiments with three different subscription tiers that will be altered according to customer feedback. A full launch is planned for February 2019.
Kids can keep the toys as long as they like, but when they get bored, parents can return the items to Whirli to exchange for another product in the catalogue. Returned toys will then be sanitised and made available for other children.
Usage that extends beyond nine months results in children getting to keep the toy for free. Although covering most toy brands, Whirli doesn’t offer toys from brands such as Lego because of the problem of missing pieces and the logistical implausibility of refunding entire sets. After an initial three-month introductory period, users can cancel or change their membership tiers anytime.
Trendy health-focused New York beverage brand Dirty Lemon has opened a checkout-free store in Manhattan's Tribeca called Drug Store, where it's trusting consumers to grab a drink, leave, then pay later by text at their convenience.
Anyone can enter the store – there is no need to scan your phone as in the case of the Amazon Go format. Consumers are expected to text the company once they grab an item, with drinks costing around $10 and the phone number being provided in-store. A 24-hour customer service team replies within five minutes with a link for users to enter their card details (the info is not stored in the system), along with "let us know if you need anything else x", and confirmation of payment.
New customers are prompted to set up an account, also by texting the same number. This strategy mirrors the text-based payment system the brand already uses online, with shoppers ordering products for home delivery via its website and similarly paying by text.
"I do think a majority of people would feel very guilty for continuing to steal," says Dirty Lemon's chief executive Zak Normandin. However, the Tribeca space does feature a safety system, with monitoring and heat mapping tech showing how many people are inside, plus RFID tech tracking when products are taken out of the fridge. The brand says any losses will be classified by the company as sampling costs.
Dirty Lemon is planning to add a private bar space to the experience later this year, which will be aimed at its VIP consumers (those who buy at least one case of drinks a month). It is also planning to open up stores in Chicago and Miami in 2019.
The new service uses Aira's app to connect consumers to a remote agent when they arrive in-store, verbally navigating the user around the store and helping them to locate items via live streaming on the shopper's phone camera. The Aira technology also uses GPS, maps and information sourced from the web to help the customer. Free to download, the service is available across all Wegman stores.
Users also have the option of paying for a subscription plan for a pair of smart glasses with an in-built camera, enabling the remote agent to 'see' the store from the user's perspective.
The number of people in the US with visual impairments or blindness is expected to double to more than eight million by 2050 (US Department of Health & Human Services, 2016). Services like Aira are becoming increasingly important in aiding consumer mobility, providing reassurance and offering a more sensorial experience. See our Spotlight Trend The Sensory Opportunity for a deep dive into leveraging the senses to engage consumers on a deeper level.
Roger Tredre, acting head of Retail at Stylus, says: "This move reflects a growing emphasis from retailers on empathetic engagement strategies – in particular, acknowledging the needs of consumers beyond the mainstream."
Other projects to explore include: Assured Living by Best Buy, which helps families take care of their elderly relatives, and lifestyle website Wolf + Friends, which aids parents in designing spaces for their autistic children.
See our report Empathetic Brand Engagement for more on this strategy.
Consumers can't smell perfumes online. But an AI-powered fragrance finder, created by beauty giant Coty for UK retailer Boots, is finding a way around the problem – and reporting very promising results.
Multinational Coty has unveiled initial feedback on its artificially intelligent Fragrance Finder, launched on Boots.com in early 2018. Coty's e-commerce director Jamie Parker recently spoke at Tech., the new retail technology show staged in London (September 12-13).
Coty began with a question, said Parker: "How do we connect people with the fragrances they love?" Interviews with 5,000 people provided the core data for the tool, improved through machine learning.
By asking a series of questions of the online shopper, the company has created an effective solution. Intriguingly, as Parker highlights, the most predictive questions are not about preferred olfactive families (consumers often don't know what they want) – but about colour, architecture or lifestyle.
The Fragrance Finder represents a new take on the Scent Finder pioneered by San Francisco start-up Pinrose in 2014. This was based on a special algorithm developed as a result of a collaboration between Christine Luby, who studied the psychology of scent at college, and US olfactory expert Alan Hirsch from the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago.
Since a low-key launch with no media support, the Boots.com finder has logged 200,000 sessions, with consumers guided through a seven-stage process. Seventy-five per cent of all sessions have been completed, with 94% undertaken for self-purchase. Details of the uptick in sales were not revealed, but Coty believes it has developed a tool that has potential right across the fragrance category.
Also developed by Coty is an AI CoverGirl 'shop the look' feature for Walmart in the US which, unlike most other similar tools, does not require the consumer to download an app – it's offered in-browser. Coty says traffic has doubled, with sales enjoying a very significant spike. Next up for early 2019: a virtual make-up artist.
For more on personalised beauty, see our report Future Beauty: Perfecting Bespoke.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Levi’s is targeting custom-hungry customers at its 10-week, invite-only pop-up in Los Angeles. Shoppers use the brand’s FLX laser-printing system to design their dream jeans in minutes.
The pop-up smartly plays to consumer demand for semi-bespoke products – 70% of US shoppers will pay more for personalised goods (TimeTrade, 2017). Shoppers use an iPad app to arrange their desired design features, such as fading and rips, onto the denim. The FLX laser printer creates the order in minutes, and the jeans are then washed and ready within an hour.
The process resembles Adidas’ Knit For You pop-up in Berlin, where shoppers worked with designers to create an entirely unique sweater (see blog). But Levi’s limits personalisation to embellishments only, making the technology easier to scale. The denim company hopes to install customisation kiosks in its stores for 2019, and it’s not the only name making such a move. Earlier this year, Danish shoe brand Ecco launched in-store 3D-printing for personalised insoles (see blog).
As highlighted in our report Democratised Design, the introduction of creative technologies, particularly in-store, offers brands unique opportunities for consumer engagement. But by allowing shoppers to design their own jeans, Levi’s also offers a more sustainable product.
As discussed in the Finishing Salons section of our report Brand Spaces, 2018/19, on-demand personalisation concepts reduce waste by letting consumers determine what they want on an as-needed basis. Laser printing also cuts down on harmful dyes, which account for 31% of emissions in denim production (Levi Strauss, 2018). The denim industry is projected to be worth $87bn by 2023 (PYMNTS, 2018).
Consumers are demanding swift deliveries, as explored in our report Last Mile: Retail’s Delivery Focus. To speed up local transactions, retailers are tapping citizen shoppers to make deliveries on behalf of their neighbours, using karma and commissions as incentives. We highlight four key companies.