Side-stepping the painfully familiar conference topics of consumer-centricity (when wasn’t that imperative?) and digital disruption (now practically a default setting across the board) here’s nine key bigger picture trends, innovations and strategies for 2020 success. From unleashing the unreal to capturing the (eco-smart) post-purchase opportunity, regard the forerunner brands and opportunities to get ahead of the pack:
1. Unleash the Unreal, Cash-In on Phygital Life
The world’s first piece of bespoke digital couture, which sold for $9500
The Fabricant / Dapper Labs / Johanna Jaskowska
2020 will thrive on illusion. From gaming culture’s mainstream maneuvering (see 2019’s inaugural Fortnite World Cup) to selfie-editor app Facetune boomeranging back into the top paid app slot of 2019 living your best IRL experience is an increasingly digitally manipulatable past-time and the ramifications for retail are manifold:
Firstly, there’s digital clothing – blossoming via the appetite for avatars and in-game spending, a rumoured $50bn sector. After Gucci’s digitization of 200 pieces for messaging app Genies, where users clothe mini clones of themselves for online LOLZ, 2019 saw a piece of bespoke digital couture (co-created by Johanna Jaskowska, author of cult face filter Beauty3000, The Fabricant and Dapper Labs) sell for $9500. Not forgetting Louis Vuitton’s virtual collection for League of Legends, mirrored by real-life garments. It’s a trend that transcends luxe: Danish brand Carling’s phygital protest tee co-opts Facebook’s Spark AR face filter software, allows fans to reboot a Carlings t-shirt design, when seen on Instagram, as often as the brand dictates.
Secondly, look to physical spaces selling digital stuff. A Hot Second, a proto-flagship for digi-fashion in London (coming soon to Berlin, with blockchain-buyable items) reported huge interest in accessing pieces unattainable IRL. Anticipate illusory brand environments in which to wear/use digital items to follow with the best mainlining traits surrounding community and exploration so richly ingrained in gaming; Gucci’s forthcoming social media accessible scenescapes present some clues.
Thirdly, deepfake tech teases massive bottom-line benefits for e-commerce. See the Fashion Innovation Agency’s ‘digital doubles’ work with technologists Proactive Reality or ‘face-swapping’ app Superpersonal, which allows users to convincingly morph themselves into models – a triumph of AI-meets-animation as narcissistically seductive as it is practical (for virtual fit).
2. Go Live to Harness Hype
H&M brand Monki began live-stream selling fashion in December 2019.
Live commerce will deliver increasingly emphatically for brands in 2020, driven by the craving for direct connections and the thrill of perishable moments. Hype is the common denominator, but it’s as applicable to food as fashion.
Testament to its power, next-gen TV-retail app NTWRK’s collaboration with Nike and US fashion designer Jeff Staple sold 20,000 units in just 10 seconds last summer while H&M brand Monki’s new partnership with Swedish live stream start-up Bambuser professionalizes the haul video. Monki staff present, fans can buy as they watch near instantaneously. The genre is eco-valuable, too – see Chinese live-streaming e-tailer, Mogu which only produces the products that pique consumer interest – while Youtube and Instagram have just added AR trialling to shoppable beauty videos, amplifying the value of tutorials.
While low-fi may seem appealing, look higher. According to Jenny Quigley-Jones, managing director of UK YouTube influencer marketing agency Digital Voices: “Brands are missing out by thinking that things need to be all hype or utterly ‘authentic’. What young people actually want is well-constructed content. They’ll happily watch for a long time if it’s well produced.”
3. Shake-Up Service: Upskilling Vs. Delegation
John Lewis’ new service strategies combine the allure of connoisseur-style knowledge with the … [+]
Winning service strategies will fall into two camps for 2020. Firstly, personalized up-skilling combining connoisseurship with experiential satisfaction. For the high street, see British department store John Lewis’ beauty and menswear revamps: associates, who consumers choose from online bios, become brand-agnostic tour guides. Or Adidas’ customisation spaces for citizen creators. For luxury, regard Italian house Ferragamo’s partnership with German camera expert Leica on ‘workshops by foot’ guided by an ‘internationally renowned photographer’.
For others, high maintenance and low patience is the mantra to manage – making retail services that facilitate outsourcing tasks key (even better if they make consumers a little money on the side). Ikea’s partnership with TaskRabbit, connecting DIY-averse consumers with amateur furniture builders (via Ikea’s website) kick-started the trend. Now, look to concierge concepts like Canadian fashion site Boro, which lets fashionistas lend their clothes to others; for a commission it curates an edit, arranges cleaning and makes the exchange.
4. Advocate for Introverts
Advocating for introverts, Brown’s app includes a feature allowing fashion fans to message … [+]
Browns / Farfetch
Service in 2020 must also realign with a booming self-service mindset, evidenced by the surge of positive social media feedback last year when Sephora offered different coloured baskets to shoppers depending on their appetite for intrusion.
Sports brands have game: Adidas’ geo-smart app lets visitors to its new London flagship scan products to check stock, request sizes and buy without staff piercing their personal browsing bubble, while Brown’s East has developed an in-app feature that lets fashion shoppers message staff while in-store – to swerve spoken language barriers, or leap-frog the luxury upsell. Also see Chanel’s Atelier Beauté, NYC, for a largely app-controlled, experience-logging brand space that lets the uninitiated play while aficionados assert control.
5. Power Up Sustainability with Post-Purchase Opps
Carlings phydgital t-shirt, an homage to making topical statements at speed, exemplifies a future of … [+]
Not a trend but a paradigm shift, eco-ethical credentials will define 2020’s winners, with post-purchase initiatives providing big opportunities.
Repair will become a core sales revenue (see the Restory renovation specialists work with department store Harvey Nichols) while special kudos will go to brands who actively discourage bulk purchasing. Beyond superior style, London’s denim label Blackhorse Lane Atelier is elevating itself to cult status via lifetime repair guarantees, jean-creation workshops and a discretionary ban on buying more than two pairs at once.
Digital innovation will drive vast change. Carlings aforementioned digital t-shirt, an homage to making topical statements at speed, exemplifies a future of monetising access (here, to new designs) over things. Or resales, where advanced authentication tech is pumping legitimacy into a once-shadowy sector – powering a full-scale revolution.
Also look to digital wardrobe-monitoring concepts. Save Your Wardrobe – fashion’s brand-integrated answer to Fitbit, which adds old clothes (via photos) and new purchases (via receipts) into one virtual closet connected to repair, donations and resales – busts out of beta in 2020. Here, eco adds rocket-fuel to enterprise – such circular systems will give brands unprecedented visibility on the full spectrum of consumer behaviours.
6. Support the Brand of Self
Exemplifying ‘Brand of Self’ strategizing e-tailer Beautonomy gives fan the opportunity to turn … [+]
Brand support/enablement will be commercial gold in 2020, especially for those with a youth-centric gaze; agile and ambitious yet intensely security-seeking in comparison to their ultrapreneur predecessors, Gen Z clamour for cold hard reassurance when it comes to their side hustles or professional prowess (as well as personal and social pressures).
It’s underpinned the exponential success of Depop, where users can create small-scale resale e-shops in just a few clicks – it’s stores in LA and NY include a photo/production studio delivering technical and creative support to improve fans microsites. See also the glowing rebirth of America’s Ulta Beauty, which last year partnered with US magazine Essence on an industry-cracking mentorship scheme for young girls.
It’s a halo of help with unlimited roadmaps for brands but which will certainly alter the complexion of collaborations, a landscape where visual representation alone already feels flat. Take a look at British e-tailer Beautonomy; aside standard shopping it invites fans to create their own ranges – micro brands if you will, to whom success means commission.
7. Bond Via Biometrics
Biometric brandscapes will be key to creating more personalized, perceptive forms of brand … [+]
The consumer pursuit for more meaningful, individualized, perceptive forms brand connection/communication will raise another bar in 2020, as they demand more bang for their buck for using their data, and to be seen as clients rather than targets. Enter: biometric tech, capable of boosting everything from payments (think palm-vein reading ID tools) to store spaces (consider the sentient supermarket) to at-home experiences (enriched by bespoke sensory VR).
Already in play in the beauty sector (see SK-II’s Future X Tokyo pop-up, which used advanced facial recognition to create skin diagnostic e-profiles for visitors) travel is now also getting on board – British Airways is already exploring seats containing biometric scanners to analyse travellers’ physical and nutritional wellbeing, with the aim of delivering on them while still in-transit.
Wellbeing is the salient sector; such transformational tech will accelerate both self-care and personal performance. Vicki Dobbs, executive director of ILMxLab – the immersive entertainment division of Disney’s Lucasfilm – reveals it’s toying with mind-steering technology such as Healium, created by US brain-computer-interface specialists StoryUp. According to Dobbs, “learning to control your heart rate or brain patterns will unlock certain experiences within the VR scenario”– a concept transferrable sports flagships where amateurs want to test their edge.
8. Reinvent Heritage via Next-Gen Archive Culture
Virgil Abloh’s Figures of Speech, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.
Virgil Alboh / MCA (Chicago)
Luxury brands, fearing for their pole positions in an era rife with hierarchical shake-ups , exhibited more than a marginal penchant for digging into their archives (elite and pop cultural) in 2019 to reassert authority. In 2020 expect such legacy-based retailing to kick into top gear.
Sustainability will help propel the trend (those buying less will prize the extra investment value such context affords), but cleverly framed, unusual connections and initiatives promoting creative opportunity diversity will be key to finding full buoyancy – see Virgil Abloh’s many projects toying with high-low cultural overlaps/overhauls (via Louis Vuitton) and Maison Margiela’s temporary NY flagship featuring a rotation of artist-in-retail-residencies.
Consider, too Gucci’s new @guccibeauty Instagram account – a marketing exercise-meets-history lesson, revealing the (supposedly) decadent references fuelling contemporary trends.
9. Recalibrating Community: Scenes, Sources & Special Access
Alexander McQueen’s collaboration with British experimental fashion film platform SHOWstudio – a … [+]
SHOWStudio / Alexander McQueen
Community and scene-making will also be a make-or-break mission in 2020, as commerce shapeshifts to accommodate a new cultural climate and sensitivities.
Mirroring the trend for support, access will be a hot topic, as illustrated by American womenswear brand Universal Standard’s new NY apartment flagship that customers can borrow to host their own events. Or Alexander McQueen’s collaboration with British experimental fashion film platform SHOWstudio, whom creative director Sarah Burton recently gifted a downloadable pattern from the brand’s SS20 collection – a formerly inconceivable gesture of design-community inclusivity redefining modern education.
It’s a new vision of more ethical marriages of collaboration, kinship and commerce also being observed in next-gen lifestyle festivals such as SOLE DXB (an operation using brand culture to reclaim identity for geographical underdogs) and hybrid brand spaces such as Lululemon’s new Chicago flagship that can switch to operating solely as a gym, no merch required.
2020 will also see a re-examination of fandoms – how to mobilise, infiltrate and support them, spurring new agencies along the way; see Duel, a new British business that’s moving the dial from influencer agency to ‘advocacy’ management.