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business data Podcast product Retail Startups

Making retail relevant

Physical retail traditionally exists in a vortex of information, which doesn’t make sense for brands these days, says Matt Alexander, co-founder and CEO of new department store Neighborhood Goods, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast. 

The company’s inaugural space, which launched in Plano, Texas, in late 2018, carries a selection of new and established brands in an environment that is hyper relevant to both its location, and its customer, through the use of data. 

Alexander’s view? Success lies in information. “If you’re a direct-to-consumer, digital-native brand, you’re going to look at this world, and you’re going to say: ‘We should be able to capture a certain amount of informative data to dictate how we should run that store, and how we should merchandise [it]’.” he explains. “That’s what they do on the web all day long. The moment you land on any of their websites, they know a huge amount about you, and exactly how you’re interacting with that site. And they optimize around it.”

His brilliant phrase: it’s all about operating in an economy of relevance. 

It’s for this reason many legacy retailers are otherwise struggling, he explains. In a basic sense it comes down to them not creating the goods, services and experiences that they know for fact the consumer wants. There is therefore a lot for them to learn from D2C incumbents – from Everlane to Casper – who have placed this front and centre in their strategies. 

Join us for this episode as we also explore why experiential retail needs to go beyond just putting a ball pit in the store, how modern brands are using the physical space for entirely new reasons, and why Alexander believes legacy retailers may still have the ability to play catch up after years of ignoring consumer needs after all.

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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 Podcast product Retail

Choosing authenticity over hype

A brand’s success depends on authentic relationships and good design over hype, says Rodrigo Bazan, CEO of designer label Thom Browne, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast. 

“I tend to like less anything based on hype or cool, or the hot thing of the moment, because by definition that’s going to cool down at some point. So I still believe that the big things that are happening are led by a very, very strong design idea,” he explains.

It’s for the same reason that dressing rapper Cardi B for this year’s Met Gala in a larger-than-life ruby ballgown made sense for the luxury label, he notes. 

The Thom Browne team does little PR and has no internal VIP team, meaning the relationship with Cardi, as well as sports superstars like basketballer LeBron James, happen organically.

Since launching in 2004, the brand has gained a loyal audience that appreciates its modern take on classic silhouettes. The designer’s discrete nature (he himself is not on social media) and timeless designs mean it has managed to stand out in a world of overconsumption and celebrity designers that rule social media, from Virgil Abloh at Off White and Louis Vuitton to Olivier Rousteing at Balmain. 

Bazan explains how the brand is averse to overexposure and flashiness, instead focusing on creating more of these meaningful partnerships, from dressing Barcelona FC players off the field to creating bespoke tailoring with Barneys. As a result, it is steadily growing a business aiming to survive the influencer fatigue that is starting to pick up speed. 

Join us to learn more from Bazan about what that means in practice, including how music and celebrity help fuel its success, why the brand believes in sportswear over streetwear, and just how its thinking about the balance of data and design today.

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 Podcast

Why Pinterest pushes shopping over commerce

There’s a big difference today between the role of commerce, and that of shopping, says Tim Weingarten, head of shopping product at Pinterest, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast by the Current Global.

“Commerce has this implication of pushing for the transaction – about reducing friction in the conversion. Whereas shopping is one of joy. It’s one of serendipity, it’s one of discovering something you didn’t know existed,” he explains.  

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It’s that mentality that underpins everything his team does at the company, focusing primarily on how to better the user experience with discovery and personalization at its core. This includes the introduction of a series of tools that filter and predict needs – from Pinterest Lens, which allows customers to find items from the database by photographing similar ones, to the newly announced Catalogs feature, where brands can upload their entire product catalog as shoppable pins.

What makes Pinterest stand out among its competitors, is that its users navigate the platform for entirely personal reasons, such as renovating their kitchens or achieving the perfect hairstyle, as opposed to pushing aspirational content to followers, Weingarten comments. Being able to capitalize on that then comes down to having the right algorithms in place.

“The more data you have, the more you can personalize. But on an e commerce site, the only data they have is based on prior transactions. That’s a very sparse dataset and it happens very infrequently. If you switch gears to Pinterest, what you have is someone visiting every day doing this authentic thing – saving things for particular use cases. This engagement signal can be applied to all products… And because we have this authentic form of engagement, we’re able to understand what you’re trying to accomplish, and actually personalize it to your tastes,” he says.

Pinterest has been around for nearly a decade with a quiet yet steady climb to the top. As of 2018, users on the platform had pinned 175 billion items on three billion virtual boards. The company is now on track to top $1bn in revenue, and is rumored to be moving forward with an IPO this summer at a valuation of $12bn.

During this conversation recorded at Shoptalk with the Current Global’s Rachel Arthur, Weingarten dissects how Pinterest is only getting better at predicting consumer needs before they’re voiced; shares how the platform balances being commercial with keeping the joy of inspiration alive, and hints at the types of technologies he’s looking at to further personalize the shopping experience.

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 Editor's pick Podcast

NET-A-PORTER on personalizing the customer experience

Rosanna Falconer and Matthew Woolsey

The future of e-commerce may not be about a traditional website at all, but about existing on multiple other platforms, expresses Matthew Woolsey, managing director at online luxury retailer, NET-A-PORTER, on the latest episode of the Innovators podcast by TheCurrent.

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The company sees many of its big customers making purchases over platforms including Whatsapp, iMessage and WeChat, which have become their primary entry point to e-commerce through their relationships with personal shoppers, he explains.

“We want to be in the platform where our customer is engaging with content, seeing the product or speaking with the personal shopper. It’s about what’s best for her. We never want to be in a position where we are forcing or imposing a platform or methodology on our customers, because that’s the opposite of customer centricity,” he explains.

“It’s very easy to imagine a time when NET-A-PORTER doesn’t even have a website, in the traditional sort of desktop sense, and really what it exists as is more of a concierge, on-demand, service offering. I think that’s the future of where this industry is headed and it’s something we are really well suited for because we have that infrastructure, we have that service component but we also know a lot more about our customer than just what she is buying.”

Data is central to being able to personalize the experience for individual customers in this way, he explains, outlining how the company is constantly looking at how to give its personal shoppers greater tools through technology.

The company is currently experimenting with how it can use artificial intelligence to merge data between purchase history and fashion trends to give personal shoppers recommendations and ideas in advance that are personalized to the customer, for instance.

Eventually the idea is for this to be scalable across the seven million consumers NET-A-PORTER talks to, but hitting its EIPs, or extremely important people, is the core focus, given the fact this 3% of its customer base, make up 40% of its revenue.

Speaking with Rosanna Falconer at a FashMash event in London, Woolsey also reveals why the most expensive item ever bought via a messaging app is so significant, whether NET-A-PORTER would ever think about physical retail, and how to manage the modern day tension between algorithms and inspiration.  

Catch up with all of our episodes of the Innovators podcast by the Current 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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data e-commerce Editor's pick Podcast Retail

Farfetch on the store of the future

Rosanna Falconer and Sandrine Deveaux
Rosanna Falconer and Sandrine Deveaux

The store of the future is about solving the problems of today in an innovative and meaningful way for the customer, says Sandrine Deveaux of Farfetch, on the latest episode of TheCurrent Innovators podcast.

Speaking to guest host, Rosanna Falconer, at a live FashMash Pioneers event in London, the managing director of the e-commerce company’s store of the future division, explains that her focus in not just on new technology for the sake of it, but on creating better shopping experiences driven by personalization.

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Following the announcement of Farfetch’s Store of the Future concept in April 2017, Deveaux has been building a series of beta tests in place in Browns East in London, Thom Browne in New York and Chanel in Paris. But the result doesn’t mean big flashy screens or variations on augmented reality, as she is so often asked about.

Instead, it’s about better servicing the customer; understanding what they want when they walk into stores thanks to data, but also making things like the payment experience a much more seamless one.

She says the store of the future is really about offering the experience of Apple, but the convenience of Amazon, so as to keep in line with increasing consumer expectations.

And so the end goal,for her team, she says, is to provide brands and boutiques with full visibility around customer behavior and customer intent, mirroring what’s possible online in the offline space.

“85% of customers, we don’t know anything about them. So that’s what the store of the future is really getting to – it’s about how we leverage the platform we have with Farfetch, and try to really look at online behavior and take that online behavior into an in-store context,” she explains. This is something Farfetch calls “enabling the offline cookie”.

On this episode, Deveaux also talks to driving disruptive innovation through healthy internal tension, how she’s changing the way luxury brands think, and why the ultimate sales associate for the store of the future might just be a unicorn.

Catch up with all of our episodes of TheCurrent Innovators here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by TheCurrent, 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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data Editor's pick Podcast

Facebook’s data scandal: Amnesty International on the future of regulation

Amnesty International's Sherif Elsayed-Ali - Facebook
Amnesty International’s Sherif Elsayed-Ali

According to Amnesty International’s Sherif Elsayed-Ali, brand transparency and regulation are key in light of the recent Facebook and Cambridge Analytica news, which saw over 87 million individual user accounts improperly shared.

Speaking on the latest episode of TheCurrent Innovators, which was guest hosted by Rosanna Falconer at a live FashMash Pioneers event in London, Elsayed-Ali, the human rights organization’s director of global issues and research, said data protection and privacy have never been more pertinent topics.

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“In the atmosphere we are in, where this is this kind of diminishing trust in technology, creating transparency adds to the trust that people will have in any company or brand in a way that can be very positive… There’s something about empowering people, empowering consumers, to be able to say ‘I know what’s happening to my data, I know how it’s used, and I know how it’s protected’,” he explains.

For that to happen, there needs to be regulations in place for brands however, he added. By building a basic framework of minimum requirements, it will level the playing field, which is essential.

The advent of GDPR in Europe – the General Data Protection Regulation proposed by the European Commission and due to kickstart in May 2018 – will help facilitate this, he notes, explaining exactly what it means for marketers within the fashion and retail industries still looking to drive microtargeting and increasingly personalized campaigns.

Consent is a crucial focus he said, but so is removing lengthy jargon that makes it difficult for users to understand what they’re signing up for.

During the episode, Elsayed-Ali, who established Amnesty’s technology and human rights program, also talks to what artificial intelligence means for the future of the fashion industry – exploring the role of automation in manufacturing for instance, and just when we can expect this to become a reality. “We’re not talking decades, we’re talking just years,” he notes.

Catch up with all of our episodes of TheCurrent Innovators here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by TheCurrent, 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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data Editor's pick Podcast technology

How Google Zoo is thinking about machine learning

Tomas Roope and Rachel Arthur

There’s a very simple filter that comes with working at Google, and it’s about putting the user first, says Tomas Roope, creative lead at Google Zoo, the tech giant’s think tank focused on pushing the limits of creativity through technology.

Talking to Rachel Arthur in a live recording of TheCurrent Innovators podcast from the FashMash Pioneers event in London, he said: “The way we think is always user-first. Are we really solving something for somebody here? …At Google we’re about solving problems at scale.”

That attitude should be applied to every business, including those in the fashion and retail vertical, he explains. The Zoo is a small team that is designed to be a conduit between creative agencies and Google’s own products, its engineering teams and its data. The result is all manner of both creative and technology-driven projects for different industries, from a coded couture dress for H&M’s Ivy Revel brand, to an advertising campaign redefining what masculinity really looks like today from Axe.

While Roope admits some are more PR or headline-driven than others, his process, whether the result incorporates buzzworthy terms like augmented reality, artificial intelligence or beyond, always comes back to whether the solution is something that answers a consumer need. “What shifts the bottom line is making things more relevant, and making them simpler. [It’s about answering] what do people really want?” he asks.

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Anchoring much of that work these days however, comes data. “[At Google], we have seven to eight products that have over one billion users monthly, and so we have a really great understanding of what people are doing… and what they’re thinking,” he explains.

That insight is what informs the work his team does as a result, while machine learning (ML) then takes it to the next level, Roope notes. He refers to ML as an area that’s not yet being explored to its full potential.

“We’re in the middle of two massive revolutions – one of which is still the smartphone coming from 10 years ago, and now the rise of machine learning.” He refers to this as not only a powerful and extraordinarily interesting tool that allows you to fix problems in a way you couldn’t have done before, but as the most exciting underpinning to the future we’re currently building.

It’s completely reshaping what our world looks like, and what opportunities there are for brands in it as a result, he explains.

To get there, he says experimentation for all industries – including fashion and retail – is key. “For me, you’re not going to sit and discover the future by dwelling on it… it’s all about test and learn,” he explains.

As to where it will take us, he adds: “There’s a great quote by Bill Gates that says we tend to overestimate what’s going to happen in two years, but underestimate what will happen in the next 10. If you look back 10 years, we didn’t have smartphones, but in two years nothing’s happened. Only when we look over a good chunk of time do we see how much it’s changed.”

Catch up with all of our episodes of TheCurrent Innovators here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by TheCurrent, 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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data e-commerce Editor's pick Podcast Retail

Yoox Net-a-Porter on nailing the basics of e-commerce

TheCurrent's Rachel Arthur and Yoox Net-a-Porter's Paolo Mascio recording TheCurrent Innovators podcast - e-commerce
TheCurrent Innovators: Paolo Mascio with Rachel Arthur

There’s little point in looking at all of the innovation surrounding e-commerce today, if you don’t first have the basics in place, Paolo Mascio president of online flagships at Yoox Net-a-Porter Group, explains on the most recent episode of TheCurrent Innovators podcast.

“If you can’t get the fundamentals right, forget about artificial intelligence,” he says. “Really, execution is the key word. It’s very easy to mess up with your customers… A bad customer experience is even worse than not giving [them] an experience at all. It’s better not to open Russia or China if you can’t serve them in the proper way. Discontent spreads… which is setting the base for a failure in the future as well.”

Both Yoox and Net-a-Porter are businesses known for their innovative approaches to e-commerce – the former for supporting brands on running their own operations, and the latter for its first-rate customer experience. While together they’re focused on maintaining their market leading position, many of their partners and clients by comparison represent an industry still getting to grips with how to handle multichannel commerce.

Mascio references the shift to convenience, or of frictionless customer experiences in an omnichannel world, as the foundation of e-commerce expectations today. But it’s service, he says, that can be the key point of differentiation for brands – especially those in the luxury space – comparative to multi brand retailers.

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Underneath that, what’s driving brand growth and loyalty today, is data, he notes. “Data is one of the fundamental things around which, not only our company, but the brands themselves are going to build their future.”

This is the big shift still taking place in luxury, he adds. “Most brands up to a few years ago thought they were all unique, now they’re all struggling to distinguish themselves in the digital space.”

“For decades the brands have built their success around their collections, around the designers’ names, and the designers’ abilities, around advertising, but they haven’t tracked down what the customer’s behavior was,” he explains, noting that today, it’s the customer that has the biggest voice.

Those who can understand their customer and use analytics to better serve them, are the ones who will win. On top of that, and only then, comes the next step forward, he explains. Personalization, for instance, is something Mascio is watching closely. Artificial intelligence (Yoox Net-a-Porter is working with IBM Watson), is going to be the facilitator that transforms how people shops for the very reason it enables the brand to manage customers on a one-to-one basis at scale, he says.

In terms of the user interface, another area he’s keeping an eye on, is that of voice technology. “I believe voice controlled systems [will] play quite a fundamental role in the future,” he says. “It will take time… but then there will be a need for a brand to evolve their interfaces, so that customers can use voice to search for products in a much easier way.”

Catch up with all of our episodes of TheCurrent Innovators here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by TheCurrent, 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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data Editor's pick Podcast product technology

How Levi’s is thinking about data to combat obsolescence with Google Jacquard

The Levi’s Commuter x Google Jacquard jacket
The Levi’s Commuter x Google Jacquard jacket

The Levi’s Commuter x Google Jacquard jacket is the first of its kind – a commercially ready piece of wearable tech that’s both fashionable and washable.

But more than that, it’s one of the only “devices” out there aiming to tackle the idea of obsolescence, Paul Dillinger, VP of global product innovation at Levi’s, told us on our latest episode of TheCurrent Innovators podcast.

The jacket itself is designed for urban cyclists, or as Dillinger refers to it, “for people who live in the city and need to get around”. It’s based on the existing Levi’s Commuter Trucker jacket, but embedded with technology in the sleeve in order for it to operate a number of useful functionalities for wearers. It launched to the public in September 2017 for $350 in stores and online.

“It’s a classical denim trucker jacket that is designed to make an urban cyclist’s life a little safer, a little lighter, a little better. To that we’ve then added about 15 rows of capacitive yarn in the left cuff, that forms an area that is capable to be touched.”

Users can tap or swipe in that spot to then control various utilities including playing music, getting GPS directions, answering or rejecting calls and more. It is connected via Bluetooth to your phone to do so.

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The key, according to Dillinger, was about making it still feel like a fashion item. “(The jacket) had to feel like a Levi’s product not a piece of Google technology,” he says. But it had to function to the same level of a Google technology too. We had to take a lot of time to weave it in so that it was working but not visible, trying to make it look and feel right.”

The aim now is to constantly improve on that functionality to make it increasingly more useful to the user too. “The spring [update] of this product won’t be a new object, it will be new abilities. We built digital platforms so that the jacket never gets obsolete,” Dillinger explains.

In partnership with Google, the team studies user behaviour data to gain indications of how they should be improving.

That approach is a marked difference for the two industries involved. Tech is usually designed to be replaced. It’s the reason we all upgrade our iPhones. By comparison, in fashion – despite the shift towards disposable clothing at the cheaper end of the market – the ideal is for longevity. Denim from Levi’s frequently falls into that latter category.

Liz Bacelar of TheCurrent and Paul Dillinger of Levi's recording TheCurrent Innovators podcast
Liz Bacelar of TheCurrent and Paul Dillinger of Levi’s recording TheCurrent Innovators podcast

“The challenge is to make it something that people will want to wear, and something that is more like a platform, that can improve itself,” Dillinger notes.

This is a jacket that’s essentially a piece of software more than hardware then, with upgrades that install automatically. “We started selling in September. By the holidays the users got a notification on their app saying, your jacket just got better, we have capabilities that are improved,” he adds.

“We’re giving people a reason to keep a garment longer, not less, and we’re giving them an improved version of something they already know. So rather then giving you the bad feeling of something going out of fashion, we’re giving you the opposite feeling by improving over time what you already bought.”

TheCurrent Innovators is a podcast about the leaders pushing the boundaries of fashion, beauty, and retail. Hosted by Liz Bacelar and Rachel Arthur, and distributed by MouthMedia Network, each episode is a frank conversation about the challenges and opportunities faced by top brands and retailers around the world today, through the lens of technology. Check out some of the other highlights, including an interview with Stefano Rosso, CEO of Diesel, and William Tunstall-Pedoe, founder of the tech behind Amazon Alexa.

Catch up with all of our episodes of TheCurrent Innovators here. The series is a weekly conversation with visionaries, executives and entrepreneurs. It’s backed by TheCurrent, 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.