3 next-gen retailers on the rise

For more from NRF 2018: Retail’s Big Show on January 14 – 16 in New York City, visit the official recap.

For more from NRF 2018: Retail’s Big Show on January 14 – 16 in New York City, visit the official recap.

Retailers are constantly watching what their competitors are doing, but in today’s world, the retail competition sometimes doesn’t even look like retail, and the new kids on the block are often the ones leading innovation in the industry. At the upcoming event NRF 2018: Retail’s Big Show, we’re highlighting three companies in the session “On the eve of disruption: Meet next-gen retailers on the rise.” Here’s why you should be watching them.

Tomes have been written on the best way to target the next generation of shoppers — be they millennials, Generation Z or the even-younger children already influencing their parents’ purchases. Many successful businesses began by identifying what’s not working in an existing system and developing a way to fix it, but that’s often not enough: Businesses like Zola, Capsule and Brandless identified a way to stand out even more.



Many gift registries these days allow couples to register for gifts, experiences or cash. Where Zola, founded by former Gilt Groupers Shan-Lyn Ma and Nobu Nakaguchi, stands out is what happens once a gift is purchased: Couples can exchange gifts digitally before they arrive — and schedule shipping for when it’s most convenient.

When it comes to which gifts to add to a registry, the Zola Townhouse offers a curated showroom where couples can see, touch and experience gifts for their registry; the company also launched a full suite of wedding planning tools. Zola, whose tagline boasts that it will “do anything for love,” has also collaborated with the New York Times Modern Love podcast — couples can record their personal stories for a chance to win Zola credit and be featured on the podcast.

The “Registry on Wheels” mobile recording studio offered more than a place to tell love stories; hundreds of items were available for couples to get a taste of the more than 50,000 gifts available at Zola, along with Zola Advisors to help couples at every step of their wedding planning journey.



Capsule, meanwhile, reimagines the drug store experience. The inspiration for Capsule came after founder Eric Kinariwala stood in line for an hour waiting for a prescription to be filled, only to reach the front of the line and discover the medicine was out of stock. Capsule removes that inconvenience, allowing doctors to send prescriptions directly to its pharmacists and customers to receive their medications by delivery within two hours.

The real distinction comes from the adherence reports Capsule makes possible, providing better insight into what happens after medications are prescribed — essential for conditions like depression where medications can take weeks to take effect. Targeting an older market rather than Millennials and Generation Z, Capsule invests profits in services like live chat and delivery instead of traditional drug store offerings like magazines and candy. Even the delivery services are proprietary, ensuring the brand experience stays consistent every step of the way.



With Bloomberg reporting that private-label clothing is now a bigger seller in the United States in aggregate than any single apparel brand, Brandless embraces the “rejection of legacy brands and institutions by the ‘new consumer,’” says founder Tina Sharkey. Forgoing the traditional retail model by selling direct to consumers, Brandless is reimagining the essential items consumers use every day, and how those items are manufactured and packaged.

Brandless removes the hidden costs customers pay for national brands — what the company calls BrandTax, an amount it says can range from 40 percent to 370 percent more than Brandless’s products. Everything Brandless sells is $3 — even the monthly membership fee, which provides members free shipping. BrandTax is calculated quarterly by the company, with members seeing savings on their account pages.

The company only sells non-perishable items right now (food, of course, but also health and beauty products); all products are non-GMO, organic, fair trade, kosher, gluten-free and have no added sugar. Brandless, which also works with suppliers to create packaging that’s easy to understand and limits waste, is garnering notice from some big names: A-list investors jumping on board include NBA star Steph Curry and Zuckerberg Media founder Randi Zuckerberg.

Tapping into millennials’ desire to shop with companies that contribute positively to the greater good, Brandless has partnered with Feeding America to donate one meal for every order placed — two meals for orders placed by members. 

Learn more about the ways Brandless, Capsule and Zola challenge the traditional retail model through smart strategies and innovative thinking at NRF 2018: Retail’s Big Show, January 14-16 in New York City.