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From recession into a prosperous new normal

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Entrepreneurialism is about tackling fundamental problems and trends that the world faces today, says billion dollar investor and leading internet entrepreneur, Kevin Ryan, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast.

Ryan has founded and sold several billion dollar businesses, including Gilt Groupe, Business Insider and MongoDB. He credits his success with taking a problem-centric approach, directing his attention next to crystal meth, autism and maternal health with his new ventures. He advises entrepreneurs and business leaders to do the same – focusing on long-term trends, great products and consumer needs, as opposed to short-term pressures, something he believes traditional retailers have failed to address.

“Creative destruction is an important part of our economy. And it’s working,” he explains. “If you’re in football, and you’re down two touchdowns, you’re gonna have to throw the ball. You may not win, but it’s the right move to start throwing the ball. And Macy’s didn’t throw the ball. And so I think they really deserve where they are.”

Moreover, during a time when we’re surrounded by stories of retail’s struggle to adapt – it’s easy to feel despondent. But as long as you focus on creating a great product, you will win in the long term, he notes.

“The number one priority is don’t run out of cash. […] The reason that traditional retailers don’t win is their products are not very good. And so that’s what they didn’t focus on – the basics. Batten down the hatches, get through a difficult year, because next year, we’ll be back.”

During this conversation, Ryan explains why, in light of the global pandemic, creative destruction is an important part of our economy, how businesses can survive by focusing on building better products, and despite feeling like life is contracting, we’ll actually end up with more choice.

Catch up with all of our episodes of the Innovators podcast here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. Get in touch to recommend a guest you’d love to hear from. 

 

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Podcast Retail sustainability technology

A look to the future

We have the tools today to make the change the world needs, says engineer, author and futurist, Peter Diamandis, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast. 

Speaking from Summit LA19, an annual gathering of today’s brightest leaders, he explains why we must remember that our mindset matters more than ever before as we head into 2020. 

“I think this is the most extraordinary time ever to be alive. I think that we are living in a time where if you want to make a difference in the world you can. You’re more empowered as individuals to take on the world’s biggest problems than heads of nations and kings and queens were just decades or centuries ago,” he explains.  

During a time when we’re surrounded by negative news – something we pay 10x more attention to than anything positive – it’s easy to get dragged down. But it’s time to feel optimistic, he notes. We have a new decade ahead of us, which presents more opportunity than ever before. 

“I’m more bullish than ever before. Yes, we have problems. Yes, we have environmental problems. Yes, we have political problems. Yes, we have all those things. But the fact the matter is, we also have the tools to challenge them and change them and make the world a better place. We’ve romanticize the past, but the past was pretty brutal, pretty brutal compared to today.” 

During this conversation, Diamandis explains why there’s a crazy idea behind every breakthrough innovation, how the next decade will be a critical time to reinvent much of humanity, and the one thing you need to know to prepare for this future.

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Catch up with all of our episodes of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by the Current Global, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more. 

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business e-commerce Podcast product Retail technology

Creating experiences beyond transactions

Mastercard is on a mission to curate and create priceless experiences that money cannot buy, says Raja Rajamannar, CMO of the company, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast.

While credit cards have historically been about giving consumers speed and convenience, over the past couple of decades they have made strides into becoming an integral part of how consumers live their lives.

“We are a lifestyle brand. Lifestyle doesn’t mean it’s lifestyle for the rich and famous -lifestyle for everyone,” explains Rajamannar. “Everyone deserves to lead a beautiful life and to grow.”

On the one hand there’s the fact the technology is more seamless – gone is the swiping and signing, and in is the tapping and dipping. And if you’re shopping online, digital wallets mean you don’t even need to remember your password.

But on top of that today are perks focusing on giving consumers exclusive access to events, services and treats that help create an even deeper emotional connection between brand and participant.

A few years ago, Mastercard noticed a change in consumer behavior and strategically shifted its advertising spend into experiences. It now hosts over 750 experiences on any given day globally, from recreating the iconic The Rock restaurant from Zanzibar in NYC’s Tribeca, to enabling card holders to shadow Cirque du Soleil cast members in Canada. This strategy is based on addressing key consumer passion points, ranging from music and sports to the environment and philanthropy.

During this episode, Rajamannar explores creating emotional connections, gives advice to brands on how to drive loyalty through having a clear purpose, and reveals an industry first: why the brand is launching a sonic identity.

Listen here: Entale | Spotify |  Apple Podcasts | Android Google Podcasts | Stitcher | RSS

Catch up with all of our episodes of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by the Current Global, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more. 

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e-commerce product Retail technology

Enhancing customer experience through tech

The only way to embed technology in the store is to think about it in a meaningful way focused on what will benefit the customer, says Holli Rogers, CEO of Browns Fashion, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast.

On top of that, it’s been about how it can help connect the physical and digital spaces together. “We want to be able to bring the online and offline together. Because I think that’s actually fundamentally where we’re all going from a retail standpoint. Because people give you their time, physically, a little bit less than they used to, so it needs to be very engaging when you do get their time,” Rogers explains.

The British luxury retailer, which sits within the Farfetch stable of businesses these days, has been experimenting with the e-commerce company’s Store of the Future strategy since it was first announced in 2017. News here has been relatively quiet in terms of what all has been included as well as how well it is or isn’t working, but Rogers reveals the main thing it has focused on has been around how to use technology in a way that is enhancing to the sales associates. 

Browns has fully focused on this strategy through its Browns East store in London’s Shoreditch, but also has big plans for its upcoming new space on Brook Street in Mayfair. 

Co-founder and chief innovation officer of Current Global, Rachel Arthur, with CEO of Browns Fashion, Holli Rogers

One thing that’s clear across the industry is that brick and mortar stores aren’t as cut and dry as they used to be – there’s no more of the simple “build them and they will come” philosophy. But it’s also not just about going all in on tech or all in on bells and whistles experiences. Somewhere in the middle is this little thing called the customer, which is where Browns says it is concentrating. 

During this episode we also talk about the forgotten virtue of product, Holli’s experience being one of the first employees at Net-a-Porter and what out of the box thinking she’s also applying to the brand’s sustainability strategy.

Listen here: Entale | Spotify |  Apple Podcasts | Android Google Podcasts | Stitcher | RSS

Catch up with all of our episodes of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by the Current Global, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more. 

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business e-commerce Podcast product Retail sustainability technology

Taking risks for long-term return

The most important question everybody needs to ask themselves relative to a more sustainable fashion industry is around cost and long-term thinking, explains Nicolaj Reffstrup, founder of Danish fashion brand, Ganni, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast.

“If you really want to do something, you need to look at the fabrics that you’re using and see if you can convert those to recycled fabrics, or at least organic fabrics. But that comes with a cost. So the biggest and most important question everybody needs to ask themselves, is literally how much are we spending on converting our company or our brand and our product towards a more sustainable future?” he asks.

Oftentimes, the immediate follow-up query to what is the cost, is who is going to pay for it. The majority of brands in the space – including those actively making moves towards adapting their business processes – are measured on short term returns. And yet sustainability is not an overnight fix. To make the changes that are really necessary throughout the supply chain is a big and long-term investment.

So how do we convince CFOs and shareholders that it’s worthwhile – that we have to take a hit now in order to benefit in the future. Or more importantly, that there is indeed a business case there to do it full stop?   

Ganni is one exploring it from all angles. The fact it’s small and agile means it has more ability to do so, but it also means it relies entirely on an outsourced supply chain to drive the agenda forward. Power is therefore limited, but ambition is not.

Rachel Arthur, co-founder & chief innovation officer at Current Global & Nicolaj Reffstrup, founder of Ganni

Join us as we discuss with Reffstrup how the brand is flexing its muscle as well as making investments to drive towards a more sustainable future. We also explore how he’s watching innovation from other industries like food, the new rental business model he’s testing, and why he believes sustainability and fashion is a contradiction that needs to be faced by all brands.

Listen here: Entale | Spotify |  Apple Podcasts | Android Google Podcasts | Stitcher | RSS

Catch up with all of our episodes of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by the Current Global, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more. 

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business Podcast Retail social media technology

Why retail ‘experience’ is jargon

Creating retail experiences is essential for successful brick and mortar today, but it’s not a silver bullet, explains Jess Christie, chief brand officer of MatchesFashion.com, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast. 

This is a luxury retailer that opened a new physical store in London’s Mayfair last year and hosted more than 100 different events in its first 9 months. If anyone knows what it takes to pull this sort of thing off, it’s Christie. 

“I think everyone should be doing it, but I think the problem is that you can’t just say we’re all going to do experiences, and then say that means we’re going to do loads of ‘in-conversations’ and that’s what an experience is, and then be cookie cutter. You have to really challenge yourself to know what your brand is, who your customer is, and what would engage and inspire them,” she explains.  

Indeed, by not thinking like this, the word ‘experience’ in itself has become almost meaningless, Christie suggests. It’s overused and often without direction – believed by many to be the answer to saving a challenged industry. Which is why we see everything from yoga classes to floristry workshops and ball pits taking over shop windows. 

A recent study shows that one-third of chief marketing officers will dedicate up to 50% of their budgets to experiential marketing over the next five years. The winners will be those who, as suggested by Christie, don’t just think of it as a silver bullet. 

There are of course examples of this truly working in the market. Apple, Nike and Lululemon have all made a name for themselves for their approach. MatchesFashion.com is now taking its strategy on tour around the world. 

Jess Christie, Chief Brand Officer at MatchesFashion.com & Rachel Arthur, co-founder & chief innovation officer at Current Global

Join us for this live conversation with Christie held at a FashMash event in London as we explore her view on all things experiences, as well as what it means to think about personal shopping through the eyes of technology today, and the role content plays in connecting online and offline together.

Listen here: Entale | Spotify |  Apple Podcasts | Android Google Podcasts | Stitcher | RSS

Catch up with all of our episodes of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by the Current Global, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more. 

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Podcast technology

Nick Knight on why AI cannot simulate creativity

Artificial intelligence is not yet good enough to simulate creativity, says British fashion photographer Nick Knight on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global.

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Speaking live at a FashMash event in London, he explained that AI as it stands today, is a long way from what creativity is: “When you create a picture, it is done through desire, accident, failure, fear, love, and arousal. Predicting what I will do by how I did past steps is not a good way to create my next piece of art; it’s not a good way to simulate creativity.”

He was referring to the way in which AI looks back at past behavior in order to work out what is probable next. But that doesn’t mean that it won’t one day figure out how to do so, he noted, adding that he is working on new projects that will keep him on the frontline of it so as to have a say in what it could look like down the road.

Knight has built his career on pushing the boundaries of image making. He has photographed some of the world’s biggest celebrities and models – from Lady Gaga and Bjork to Kate Moss and the late Alexander McQueen. Almost two decades ago, he launched SHOWstudio, an online platform celebrating fashion film, and changing the way fashion was consumed through the internet.

Now his next act is understanding how technologies like AI and robotics will impact creativity, and how he can become a part of such a movement.

During this conversation with guest host Rosanna Falconer, Knight explains what the smartphone has to do with Shakespeare; how SHOWstudio broke the internet but created history with the first ever live streamed fashion show for Alexander McQueen in late 2009; and why he is an eternal optimist about the future.

Catch up with all of our episodes of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by the Current Global, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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e-commerce Podcast Startups technology

Warby Parker on why technology is the lynchpin to customer service

Technology can enable us to do great things, says Warby Parker co-founder and CEO, Neil Blumenthal, with regards to the brand’s meteoric rise in the direct-to-consumer space, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global.

Speaking to Liz Bacelar at this year’s NRF Big Show in New York, Blumenthal explains how technology is critical to making customers’ lives easier.

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Warby Parker sees itself sitting at the intersection of three communities – tech, fashion, and social enterprise, he notes. It’s both a tech company and a retailer focused on creating products and services that tangibly impact consumers every day.

Warby Parker is one of Silicon Valley’s first so-called unicorns, a special group of startups that exceed expectations to pioneer within their own category by hitting over $1bn in valuation – including Airbnb, Uber and WeWork.

The nine-year-old company has paved the way to creating a great retail experience that transverses seamlessly between online and offline, and as a result, inspired the business model of many single-product focused startups known to consumers today – from suitcases at Away,  to footwear at Allbirds.

But from its scrappy beginnings hosting a showroom at Blumenthal’s New York apartment, to being one of the first DTC brands to launch a brick-and-mortar retail space, the eyewear company has had a razor sharp focus on treating the whole experience of buying glasses as a single product – from trial to wear.

From its successful at-home trial program to digital eye tests, Warby Parker works with a team of in-house technologists to constantly iterate its approach to better serving the customer. For example, after receiving feedback that it was inconvenient for customers to take time off work to get an eye exam, it developed a prescription app that pairs an iPhone to a second screen to test the user’s vision. Recently, it then deployed Apple’s new AR technology to launch a virtual try-on feature.

During this conversation, Blumenthal also shares how the brand has been built to resonate with multiple consumer segments, the importance of the social aspect of the company, and why he sees Amazon more as inspiration, rather than threat.

Liz Bacelar and Neil Blumenthal Warby Parker
Liz Bacelar and Neil Blumenthal

Catch up with all of our episodes of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by the Current Global, a consultancy transforming how consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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business Editor's pick Podcast Retail technology

Retailers are holding back real innovation, reveals departing leader of Neiman Marcus iLab

The head of the Neiman Marcus iLab, one of most established retail innovation programs in the world, no longer believes internal teams can deliver the results needed to drive the industry forward.

Incubation units dedicated to innovation through technology are held back by the culture of the legacy organizations in which they have been built, and the cumbersome procurement processes that surround them, Scott Emmons highlights.

Emmons is backing his statement by departing the lab he founded in 2012 to take up a new position as Chief Technology Officer at TheCurrent Global, a consultancy transforming how fashion and retail brands intersect with technology.

“Corporate innovation programs seem to start strong and sharp, but over time, they are devoured and diminished by surrounding day-to-day business processes, making it nearly impossible to maintain momentum. It’s one thing to talk to agility and risk, but when you’re not built for either, measured by cost reductions and operating within a silo, results tend only to be incremental. It’s time for that to change. For fashion and retail brands to succeed, they need to shift from an internally driven culture to one focused on open innovation with the world’s top technology and talent,” says Emmons.

The move marks a new era for retail innovation. Traditional businesses introduced internal innovation teams at a time when digital transformation was the primary goal. Increased competition from nimble digital players, or those willing and able to take risk, resulted in a need for experimentation.

The promise of these incubation units was around driving change from an operations, marketing and corporate culture standpoint in the context of toughening market conditions and ever-increasing consumer expectations. But with the majority of retailers focused on solving and building solutions internally – instantly limiting them on resource and breadth of expertise – successful results have been relatively sporadic.

Neiman Marcus has always been a frontrunner in the retail innovation space, largely thanks to the work Emmons has done. This has included a memory mirror, 4K touch table lookbooks, store associate IOT communicators, intelligent mobile phone charging stations and new fitting room technology.

But Emmons now believes corporate culture and processes are counterproductive to recruiting, onboarding and maintaining relationships with startups or innovative solution providers. He joins TheCurrent Global to focus on that aim alongside founders Liz Bacelar, Chief Executive Officer, and Rachel Arthur, Chief Innovation Officer. Founded in 2017, TheCurrent Global has worked with clients including Gucci, Burberry, Tiffany & Co, Mulberry, Shiseido, Swarovski, LVMH and the British Fashion Council to bring open innovation and actionable insights to fashion and retail brands.

“I am honored to join the team at TheCurrent Global to integrate top technology solutions from around the world into a multitude of retail and brand partners. This methodology is what the industry needs – an agile workforce that can act as an extension of your team,” says Emmons.

Liz Bacelar, CEO, TheCurrent Global, comments: “Real innovation can only happen today by tackling problems in a new way. We all know it is insanity to expect different results using the same approaches. With the help of outside experts, businesses can achieve growth in a new way, with both speed and efficiency. What TheCurrent Global brings is the ability to take the incredible work Scott has done at Neiman Marcus and take it to CEOs who want to lead the innovation conversation. We do that by relying on our industry expertise and access to an ecosystem of thousands of curated startups, technologies and entrepreneurs from around the world.”

UPDATE: Emmons’ story has hit headlines this week, including in WWD, The Business of Fashion, Glossy, Fashion United and more. Before this amazing press coverage, we sat down with him for our Innovators podcast to discuss his reasons for leaving Neiman Marcus, and exactly what he’s going to bring to TheCurrent Global. You can listen to it here or via the links below.

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