August 22, 2013

Retail Science

New concepts concerning technology, community, transparency, luxury, and new work spaces are driving rapid change and preparing us for future challenges we may eventually face. Both brands and consumers are ready as more questions are being asked and more answers given.

photo via ecouterre

One of the most talked about topics right now is transparency and traceability across the supply chain. From small to large brands, it is becoming more acceptable industry-wide for companies to brace these ideals before it is established mandatory. And if you're not a believer, just look at what's happening right now as cost break downs become more detailed than ever before, platforms like Making and Durated inform us about how to be sustainable, and more designers open up about the inner-workings of their production processes. In the very, very near future, transparency will become one of the mainstream factors deeming a brand credible or not.

photo via StyleSaint

With all these new additions and demands, businesses have to look to new ways to update their models. LA based startup, StyleSaint is focusing specifically on content, community, and commerce by producing in LA, allowing users to create and share "visual tear sheets," as well as featuring their very own online magazine. This seems to be the direction many online retailers are taking as they learn to virtually connect with consumers despite having no "real" contact like that of brick and mortar stores.

photo via Guest of a Guest

Others like STORY, completely renovate their space every four to eight weeks with its current theme "Color," organized by different shades of the spectrum. According its Founder Rachel Shechtman, "STORY is a space that has the point of view of a magazine, but changes like a gallery and sells things like a store." Not to mention, the shop located in the Meatpacking district also hosts everything from fashion events to book readings, to mimosa parties.

photo via NY Times

Not only are business models changing but so is the work we do and where we do it. More Made in the US brands are emerging revitalizing American craftsmanship. From luxury watches by Shinola to workwear by Pointer Brand, these products are bringing life back to our cities, workforce and wardrobes by creating well made products produced by people who love what they do. These companies not only establish a sense of community among the workplace but really value the faces behind the brand.

photo via

Overall, things are definitely getting a bit more authentic and Ikea's new app is nothing short of the real thing. After scanning a page out of their new catalog with a tablet or smartphone, users can simply place the book anywhere in their home and that piece of furniture magically appears on screen. We're not sure about you but we are so ready to redecorate now!

photo via ModCloth

While tracking customer analytics has been a touchy subject as of late especially with retailers like Nordstrom tracking customers via smartphones without their awareness, the things companies can do with this information to better the supply chain is absolutely phenomenal. The ever popular ModCloth, is using data to predict how fast inventory will sell and which type of products will do best in order to buy smaller quantities up front and adjust supply levels as customers purchase. The online retailer also runs a program, "Be the Buyer" that let's shoppers vote on designs they would like before the company actually buys them. All of this insight allows for ModCloth to make quick decisions and focuses more on what customers actually want and need versus what the company thinks they do.

photo via Mashable

With that said, retailers really need to master how to affectively engage with their online community of consumers and fast. Neiman Marcus is experimenting through Pinterest by offering an exclusive Rebecca Minkoff handbag only available on the social pinning platform. As is J.Crew with the debut of their Fall catalog on Pinterest, Oscar de la Renta with their Fall campaign on Instagram, and Kate Spade with combination of a third party app and Instagram. This method of using visual marketing is a great way to capture and create interest, exclusivity, and buzz via their social media platforms because that's where the customer is now.

If we look back just a few years ago, we've made remarkable growth and we will continue to do so as our imaginations continue to evolve. As communal workspaces increase in numbers, the supply chain becomes more sustainable, and the lines between industries further blur, we will find new ways to work together to make our companies, employees, and products be the best they can be for consumers. At this point, all we can do is continue doing what we are already doing...trying. While we will face many challenges moving forward like balancing the online and offline worlds and making our production processes safer and more sufficient, we will also reach many amazing breakthroughs, specifically through the help of technology and learning to track and analyze emotional data. The real science of retail has to do with more than just the math of things, but building brands that not only bring people together, but stand for something more than just a dollar symbol. 

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