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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 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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Editor's pick Podcast Retail technology

How Tim Kobe shaped Apple and the future of retail

Rachel Arthur and Tim Kobe
Rachel Arthur and Tim Kobe

The type of experiences a retailer brings to their stores shouldn’t be determined by what the competition is doing, but ultimately what’s relevant to each brand, argues Tim Kobe, founder and CEO of strategic design firm Eight Inc, on the latest episode of TheCurrent Innovators podcast.

Kobe is known as the designer behind the original Apple store, which arguably paved the way for what modern day customer experience in retail looks like. But his view is that too many brands are jumping on the “experience” bandwagon because their peers are, and not thinking about how important it is to be sincere to their values.

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“People have started to expect that the values that the brand is standing for, the thing its known for, is going to come through in the experience,” he explains. It’s only by doing so that will you create experiences consumers want to share, he notes.

He’s been doing that since he founded Eight Inc in 1989 and first worked with Apple, under the direction of late founder Steve Jobs, in 1996. His focus was on moving the store from “a transaction space into a culture space”.

Retail has of course evolved significantly since then, largely thanks to the evolution of technology, e-commerce and the mobile devices shoppers now carry everyday. But what hasn’t changed is human connection, Kobe explains.

“To me the human interaction supercedes all of the tech, all of the AI… I use the iPod as an example. No one remembers how much memory it had, no one remembers how many centimetres thick it was, or millimetres – what they remember is a 1,000 songs in your pocket. It goes back to, ultimately, any product has values if it delivers on human outcomes.”

It’s for that very reason, he argues that the future of retail has to be about the future of human interactions. “[It’s about] understanding what people are doing and how they’re interacting with one another… We have to get back to understanding a bit more about the most successful human interactions that you can create. Put the technology in the background, put it behind, but let the human interactions and that contact be the thing that we get smarter at, the thing that we get better at.”

In this episode with TheCurrent’s Rachel Arthur, he also talks about the idea of “monochannel retail”, which is all about using digital and physical spaces simultaneously, dives into his work in China with brands including Xiaomi and Lincoln, and explains just how brands can get past the format fatigue we’re seeing in stores worldwide today.

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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Editor's pick Podcast

HBO on how Westworld engages with superfans

Liz Bacelar and HBO's Steven Cardwell
Liz Bacelar and HBO’s Steven Cardwell

At the core of the success of Westworld – HBO’s hit show that has had the most successful series debut in its history – is its engagement with fans, says Steven Cardwell, director of program marketing at the network.

By creating a series of immersive and interactive experiences to promote the show, HBO has found the secret sauce to engagement. “The fanbase are going to be your biggest evangelizers. They’re the people that you want to make sure you’re treating almost as partners in a way to help really amplify your messaging,” he says on the latest episode of TheCurrent Innovators podcast. “Give them the keys to the car and let them drive it because they’re going to be able to speak organically to that fan community.”

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Following this year’s SXSW festival, where Westworld arguably hosted the most buzzed about brand activation, Cardwell speaks to our founder Liz Bacelar on how important it is to keep the conversation going with fans in-between seasons, which in Westworld’s case, has been an 18 month-long wait. In a media space so cluttered with scripted and reality programming, it is important to find other avenues to engage with fans before and after the episode has aired, he notes.

That theory resonates heavily with the fashion and retail space, where a multitude of stores are fighting for relevance in tough market conditions. Focusing on superfans and driving experiences that engender engagement, is key to advocacy and loyalty, Cardwell says.

For those unfamiliar with Westworld, it takes place in a fictional Wild West-themed amusement park titled Sweetwater, where hosts are androids who allow paying guests to engage in whatever activity they want with no retaliation. The SXSW experience saw a recreation of said amusement park in deserted land outside Austin, Texas, where guests who managed to snag coveted tickets were fully immersed in the Westworld universe for three hours.

The experience was undeniably HBO’s moment in the spotlight at a festival that is slowly evolving as a platform that mirrors culture, rather than glorifies tech. It also taught many brands attending, including an unprecedented number of fashion and beauty players, that if you build an experience that satisfies the need for escapism, consumers will come – even if that means queuing with strangers for a bus to an unknown destination.

On the podcast, Cardwell also talks about why shiny new technology wasn’t central to the experience, despite it being at the crux of the show’s concept, and why authenticity in building brand moments is key.

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.