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Newsletter Archive: March19

IFAB Curated: Sneakers, individuality & community

For this (mammoth) newsletter, I've reflected on conversation and have made a few notes on the pertinent themes in retail.  I'm not even going to say emerging because this stuff isn't new. Or that the future is tech in retail, because we're already living in the digital era.  I do believe that the future is ever-evolving/transforming.  Taking something that already exists, perhaps in other industries or markets and moulding it to suit retailers and their individual business objectives, offering and audience. 

Technology is always getting smarter.  But, it's how we integrate digital solutions for it to be unnoticeable to citizens during their decision making process.  Focus should be more on psychology, sociology and observing shopper journeys, than tech for the sake of tech and getting that quick transaction.
The younger generations who have been growing up with smart devices in their hands see technology entirely different.  It's not considered "high tech" to them, it's well and truly embedded in how they go about life.  A clunky and illogical [tech] experience and they've disengaged within a matter of seconds.

Let me frame this up by saying there are so many different types of retail, with no one-size-fits-all strategy.  Some compete on selling the cheapest products, mom & pop stores adequately making ends meet, manufacturing on-trend product for the masses, others are catering to niche audiences and looking at new ways to improve their business inside and out.  What the future of retail means to these businesses differs also, and it comes down to attitude, understanding, motivation and action.  And, some inevitably won't make it.

Key Topics
Three key topics emerged as the two hosts and I chatted about the future of retail: exclusivity & limited edition, the movement to 'make it your own' and strength & power in community.  

Sneaker Culturebrands want in on the street cred and consumers want to call themselves a sneakerhead. 
This subculture was born during the early days of Michael Jordon's career when he rebelled as a basketball player choosing to wear sneakers he wanted to wear and not the ones prescribed by the NBA.  
Sneakers then spilled over into music as hip hop was emerging.  So, were the expectations of looking fresh at all times wearing new kicks that matched your outfit.  The type of sneakers you wore said it all.

RUN DMC - My Adidas  recorded in 1985

Sneaker culture is the epitome of exclusivity - limited supply to massive demand paired with the influence of celebrities like Michael Jordan. An example of a brand paying for hype is the Gatorade ad in 1991 "I wanna be like Mike."  
At the core of the subculture are shared values, risk-taking and an entrepreneurial spirit, which sparked the creation of new business models to cohesively blend with lifestyle.  For when you deliver on fulfilling lifestyle aspirations, the transactions, respect and repeat business will follow.  

Tech in the background.  Identifying counterfeit product is a huge challenge in the premium goods industry.  Especially when there's an exclusive sneaker drop or limited release streetwear collection.  
AntiSocialSocialClub released their latest collection mid March and sold out within hours.  Shoppers were encouraged to download their new app, which could be used to verify authentic ASSC gear when held close to the product tag.  

Battle of Supremes: How 'legal fakes' are challenging a $1B brand

Highly recommend this YouTube vid.

 
 

Individualityhow the same product made thousands of times can change in an instant by adding a personal touch. 
Louis Vuitton have been monogramming for years, The Daily Edited at a more economical price point offer personalised lettering on products.  Switch to apparel and a different example is Arnsdorf provide alterations and repairs on all their garments.  Ensuring it fits you properly and lasts the distance throughout your life.  Similarly with Citizen Wolf, the custom-fit tee brand sourcing sustainable fabrics and made in an ethical manner.

Coachella 2016, Levi's rolled their Airstream Tailor Shop to the desert, giving festival-goers the opportunity to customise their own jeans and jackets.  
Levi's - Denim: It's getting personal

Closer to home, Sydney lad Lloyd Boolkin, founder of Method of Denim has created a fully customisable, made-to-measure denim label for men and soon to be launching a full women's line.  

If we take a look over at the beauty industry, things are moving rapidly as the messaging around individuality is on loving your self, flaws and all.  Take Glossier and It's All Fluff for example.  They're highlighting less is more and throwing shade at photoshopped editorials.
Brands in the slow lane are coming up fast, and it's all about being purposely driven and making it personal.

Tech in the background.  Custom patterns at scale using specially designed technology helping designers and pattern makers overcome the dilemma of standard sizing. Bespokify convert patterns and customers can then customise and purchase items direct from your website.  Bespokify will deliver order details and patterns to your manufacturer.

I'm all about individual style and making a few changes to make it my own.  Below is my most recent project - a Sass and Bide blazer, which had a large water stain on it. 

upcycledsassbide.jpg

Community and the power to connect
The advantage bricks and mortar have over eCommerce is their physical location within communities.  Business owners have a huge opportunity to create and nurture long-lasting relationships with their shoppers.  

Glocal - 'reflecting or characterised by both local and global considerations'. 
Fashion retailers in Australia can reclaim their piece of the pie by ramping up marketing efforts to connect physically with the local community.  The global part comes into play by communicating awareness of international trends, new products in-store similar to what's seen during fashion week, or worn by celebrities and fashion bloggers.

The blend between shopping and hospitality is absolutely in play already.  When people throw around terms such as 'experiential retail' this is what they mean - everything else a shopper can do in the store excluding product interaction that creates a delightful and memorable experience, which differentiates the store from others.
What does experiential retail even mean these days?

Rebecca Minkoff in LA is a brilliant example where shoppers are invited to special networking events, browse the store with a glass of bubbly, and interact with magic mirrors.  This, very simply creates community, exclusivity and a sense of new.  Shoppers start to think "wow, Rebecca Minkoff is cutting edge, they're ahead of the curve, they know what they're doing to stay relevant."
How retail chains are reinventing the shopping experience and getting customers off couches and into stores

Another example is Nike by Melrose, the first "Nike Live" concept 'built on data and driven by digital.'  Product chosen for the store is specifically influenced by Nike digital commerce data gathered from the surrounding area.
Nike Live Shows Physical Retail Is Far From Dead

Tech in the Background.  Magic mirrors are increasing as the operating system interface and user experience is continually improved as it reflects the true needs of what a shopper would expect it to help them with. 
Paired with magic mirror technology is RFID (radio frequency identification), a number of retailers have implemented RFID technology to help streamline bulky and labour intensive parts of the business.  Such as supply chain transparency, stocktake, and movement of product.  
Seafolly has launched a 'Magic Mirror'.

Take a moment to think...

Where are you in your retail business lifecycle?

This was Ronnie Fieg's (founder of KITH) answer when asked during a Complex Blueprint interview:
"I don’t see a lifecycle for the brand, all these terms and how things are usually explained, are based off of the way things were done in the past.  the way things are usually done.  But, there isn’t anything usual about what we do.  We’re just who we are. It’s not a business built off of a business model of someone else’s.  we’re writing our own book."

And if that question starts to boggle your mind, then keep digging.  This video from Berlin Fashion Tech conference with Hyper Island CEO Sofia Wingren will help you to see things differently and figure out some of those answers.

No matter what you do, there's pressure coming from every direction, it's constant and distracting.  Always do what's best for you and your customers, make decisions based on data, gut feel and feedback and at the very least try new things. 
The future of retail isn't decided by a consultancy,  conglomerate or thought-leader.   It's what we all make of it, with the tools and resources we have to create really #$*%ing amazing experiences for humans.  

Saskia Fairfull