Better, Faster and the Future of Retail

The first two keynotes at NRFtech 2016 focused on separate but similar concepts: opening our minds to unexpected experiences and unstoppable ideas.

The Future Laboratory CEO Trevor Hardy cited stats from the Pew Research Center on U.S. smartphone use to paint a picture of Americans’ “filter bubble.” During one study period, 47 percent of young smartphone owners used their phone to avoid interacting with the people around them at least once. And when you consider that five apps — Facebook, YouTube, Netflix, Instagram and Snapchat — make up two-thirds of all mobile app traffic in the United States, it means the apps we use create a bias around the way everyone consumes news and information. This bubble puts pressure on brands to figure out how to help consumers find things they didn’t know they wanted or existed.

Embrace Chance and Randomness

Hardy pointed to several concepts that may sound futuristic but are being implemented by retailers right now.

  • The Experience Economy. This February, Samsung’s first flagship retail space opened in New York City. The 55,000-square-foot space isn’t a typical retail store at all, though, instead incorporating experiences from a VR tunnel to a selfie station — the only thing available for purchase inside is food. Brands are becoming places of learning and not places of transactions, Hardy said.
  • Geo-quests. GPS can be a tool of wonder and discovery, as shown by campaigns that force consumers to go outdoors and create experiences in an un-technological way. Catch Magic Hour by Peak Performance does just that, creating virtual pop-up shops in the outdoors with limited-time deals based on the customer’s location.
  • Mood Retail. Products are being organized and marketed in real-time based on the emotions they can provoke. “UMood” at Uniqlo’s Sydney flagship recommends clothing based on the emotional stimuli customers are reacting to, and women’s wear brand Finery’s microsite lets people browse and shop by mood.
Trend Hunter CEO Jeremy Gutsche

Trend Hunter CEO Jeremy Gutsche

Creating Change Through Chaos

Innovation expert Jeremy Gutsche has spent more than a decade studying ‘chaos’ and helping hundreds of brands adapt to rapid change. He has crowdsourced hundreds of thousands of different ideas and concepts on Trend Hunter, and claims the propensity of companies to stick with the status quo is true across every industry. His bold prediction: “Within 15 years, half of the Fortune 500 will not exist.”

As farmers have done for thousands of years, Gustche says, companies can be caught up in past performance, believing what happened in last year’s “harvest” will continue in the future. Complacency with success, repetitiveness and protectiveness of egos within an organization are the common “traps” of these farmers. In contrast, “hunters” of industry are competitive, insatiable and willing to destroy norms. He pointed to Zara’s Amancio Ortega’s drive to move fashion from design to stores in 14 days as a hallmark of being a hunter. “The daily task is marked by self-improvement and the search for new opportunity,” Gutsche said, quoting Ortega.

In searching for new opportunities, Gutsche challenged companies to think about what people hate about their industry and find chances for innovation. Red Bull’s constant push to disrupt the soft drink market — from can size to price point and unparalleled approach to marketing — is a classic case of creating and winning with chaos.