Nobody needs to be reminded that, like everything else, 2020 has caused havoc on retail and brand culture. But the seismic shake-up has also sparked crucial epiphanies, expedited platforms, and allegiances long considered gimmicks or slow burners and given rise/credibility to trends, methods, and inventions that may make 2022 a particularly revolutionary year. See new innovations in the North Carolina office also. From there you can get the money that can help you to succeed in the 2022 year.
From embracing ‘experiences’ and taking XR seriously to making moves in the metaverse, lubricating localism, and forms of positive impact purchases with much more clout than ever before, here are nine must-know tales to get you started in the new year:
1: Phygital Refresh (Contact-Lite, Sensory Heavy)
Consumers’ ongoing desire for reassurance will make 2022 the best year to invest in omnichannel, contact-lite experiences that comfort by giving them a feeling of control without sacrificing style or pleasure. Recognizing that high service doesn’t have to equal high touch, they’ll also show how ambient technology is already a force to be reckoned with.
Look to Showfield’s Magic Wand app allows users to scan items for information or add them to a digital basket, then retrieve their loot duty-free. Also, Amazon’s new Fresh store concept, in which Alexa stations provide voice help and smart trolleys ready visitors’ shopping lists (navigating appropriately) while also identifying what’s put inside, eliminates the need to risk waiting in line. Burberry’s content-connected swing tags at its Shenzhen flagship are even sexier; scan a label to see relevant info and precisely represent the item on a mannequin.
This new gentler-touch environment and next-gen interfaces will open the floodgates to deeper sensory branding, using tech that can fulfill the desires for physical stimulation repressed during separation without relinquishing the halo of safety. Ultraleap is at the front of the pack, with its USP – precise gesture tracking + ultra-haptics – enabling consumers to feel physical sensations (pressing a button, twisting a knob, touching a rough surface) while viewing or moving content, ushering in a new age of haptic branding.
2. Lean into the Art of E-Persuasion: Live and Unchained
The rise in e-commerce in 2020 (global e-tail sales have stabilized mainly at 7% higher than a year ago) will raise the value of businesses that can build more intimate, individualized digital worlds, putting the art of e-persuasion at a premium.
It’s been brilliantly served up by companies like Hero and Go In-Store (video-based concepts that allow brand ambassadors/associates to see from anywhere that works, flexing to brands’ now faster-moving agendas) and the consciously unscripted chat apps of clienteling specialists like Proximity Insights, whose scalable, WhatsApp-aping forms of conversational commerce generated significant success).
Threads Styling, an e-commerce app that engages with its “extremely peripatetic” youthful consumers primarily via the informality of messaging platforms and frequently sells pieces of jewelry for $30k and more, demonstrates that wealth is no barrier to success.
3. Use the Metaverse to your advantage (& Blended Realities)
Before the epidemic, the gaming industry was a massive, Hollywood-dwarfing industry. But two key things mean they’re no longer a tangential influence: their transition into mainstream social venues during distancing (see Animal Crossing and rapper Travis Scott’s record-annihilating performance in Fortnite as two pivotal playmakers) and the use of gaming engines (primarily Unity or Unreal), 3D artistry and audience-seducing gaming mechanics within online brand experiences.
The metaverse is already converting once marketing-only playscapes into transaction-capable brand domains. Think of it as an advanced version of the internet, including collaborative, interactive virtual environments. The wildly creative, catwalk-presentation-reimagining settings of The Fabric of Reality VR experience by Ryot (Verizon Media’s immersive content division), in which avatar-upped VR users could talk with one another as they would IRL, explore designers’ worlds across diverse room/club settings, and try virtual garments, are among the frontrunners.
The greatest is now available in (at least) two forms: VR headset-enabled immersion vs. browser-based enjoyment to avoid alienating people with limited access. See pioneering eco-materials brand/fashion label’s Pangaia’s virtual window into Antarctica with AnamXR and the Fashion Innovation Agency (visitors may wish-list or purchase products from this by spring) (visitors can wish-list or buy items from this by spring 2022) Balenciaga’s Afterworld: The Age of Tomorrow is a high-production, desktop-accessible love letter to Gen Z, complete with an unsettling urban dystopia, nineties-inflected party scenes, and an avatar-centric look book that allows fans to absorb the ensembles in depth.
Complexcon’s virtual masquerade, ComplexLand, for 2020, foreshadows the approaching era of integrated encounters (created by Canadian agency Jam3). Visitors entered as avatars, purchased from branded in-game stores, attended live performances, and ordered street food for real-world delivery at the ultimate streetwear event for ardent hypebeasts.
Numerous essential questions will need to be examined in this emerging genre connected to a new age of chameleonic online personas. How will people interact with brands and with one another? Whose point of view is it? And how do these computerized alter egos’ fantasy worlds affect users’ real-life actions, health, and social prosperity? For a crucial group mining this critical seam with sensitivity and depth, turn to the Institute of Digital Fashion — a collaborative band of innovative digital producers working to “create a new inclusive, varied, and sustainable IRL x URL reality.”
4. Pay attention to XR, especially AR.
XR – extended reality technology (virtual, augmented, and mixed – VR, AR, MR) will become a vital power play, backed by gaming’s storming of mainstream pop culture and the need for frictionless connections.
AR, in particular, which is the most accessible of the bunch and has been underappreciated for far too long, will be immediate commercial gold and the entrance to more daring mixed experiences. Take, for example, Holition’s idea for Coty. Instant face-scanning takes place on mirror-like retail displays, layering make-up looks onto fans’ faces in augmented reality – styles that can be transferred to smartphones through ‘hand-off’ technology for later evaluation or purchase. Check out Lush Lens, an AI-based image recognition tool that displays essential information as an AR interface through a single scan for packaging. In-app purchases are presently being worked on.
In terms of fit tech, it’s a no-brainer: Wannaby collaborated with Farfetch and Gucci in the last year to enable instant virtual try-on for sneakers (its software detects users’ feet, generating a 3D overlay simulating how they’ll look on foot) and Burberry collaborated with Google Search in early 2020 on a tool that shows an AR version of the product at scale against other objects in their vicinity.
Car companies ranging from Koda to Porsche have used contextualizing apps to help potential buyers visualize vehicles in their driveways. At the same time, Verizon’s WebAR technology provides AR ad formats to online publishers, allowing fans to view a car that is scaled to fit their surroundings by simply launching it from the on-page advertisement itself.
5. Be open to new experiences
‘Experiences’ may seem like one of the most pompous pieces of epidemic speak to emerge since Covid. Still, it’s a thriving industry (88 percent of British stores have reported desire for them this year) that’s poised to outlast a year of zoom-enabled naffness.
Workout is a sure-fire way to make money, as seen by Lululemon’s $500 million purchase of MIRROR (live-stream screen technology that can ‘transform any area into a personal fitness studio’). Beyond “strengthening our community, loyalty, and relationship with our guests and memberships,” chief executive Calvin McDonald hasn’t said how it’d be used. Still, super gym Equinox has one possible model: instructors on its members-only fitness app wear clothing from its store, tagging with e-commerce links for post-class shopping.
But it’s also an excellent place for food and kids. To market their culinary ties, everyone from mainstream players (Wagamama) to Michelin-starred gastro gods (Massimo Bottura) participated in live-streamed cook-a-longs. The upcoming Holiday season of 2020 inspires the latter; FAO Schwarz’s Academy of Wonder website offered virtual magic or science class focused on their STEM and magic toys, led by a ‘professor’ or magician.’ It shows the emerging strength of the product + (remote) experience brand combination at $60 a pop (toys included).
6. Make Your Way to Success by Frenemizing
Another positive sign of the pandemic is collaborative entrepreneurship, notably ‘co-opetition,’ with frenemy notions — competing companies working together for a better cause – seeing a welcome return in 2022 for a solidarity-appreciating consumer attitude.
It’s most overt in commercials, in response to the growing need for firms that can meet various eco-ethical standards (much beyond virtue signaling). A Burger King UK commercial in November 2020 contained the bold call-to-action ‘Order from McDonald’s’ (and several other fast-food chains in smaller text) as a rallying cry to defend Europe’s embattled hotel economy. Its Finnish subsidiary had just released a poster to commemorate the Helsinki edition of Gay Pride, which featured the two rivals’ male mascots kissing in a heart-shaped silhouette over the motto ‘Love Conquers All.’ Notably, both brands are among US teenagers’ top five fast-food choices.
It reflects a natural yearning for greater compassion, as seen by Netflix Brazil’s April (tweet) suggestion of material from rivals for locked-down customers who have exhausted their Netflix alternatives. Still, it’s far from a one-poster/social-media cure. It’s also becomingly increasingly critical to the sustainability mission; H&M and Adidas recently jettisoned old grievances to join the New Cotton Project global consortium (a multinational group straddling waste management, recycling, retail, manufacturing, and academia) in a three-year project to create a trial at the scale needed to catalyze significant change.
7. Lubricate Localism
Local retail has increased as a result of the pandemic, driven by homeworking, travel limits, and a more survivalist desire to support the nearby community, as well as a new affinity with regionality attributable to a boom in’micropolitanism’ (a significant city exodus) that was already in motion pre-pandemic.
It’s solidifying the trend toward a decentralized brand culture with many threads. There’s regional resonance (since broadcasting from its ‘dark’ stores during the lockdown, Brazilian footwear brand Melissa has seen significant sales hikes from localized commissioning and scheduling); hometown heroism – flagships from Nike, Foot Locker, and Carhartt, among others, that give back to the communities that raised them (via sponsoring creative collectives, localized employment, and more); and even concepts that give kudos to the charms of suburbia; see the Fred Perry X Random Studio was in charge of the design. It’s impossible to go incorrect with 30,000 product views in the first week.
Another pillar of this transformation will be brand-backed, intelligent city-style digital networks, which will enable consumers to connect while companies serve as powerful facilitators. While Nike has been expanding its local shop network to flex a hyper-targeted phygital muscle (its Live and Rise formats both use real-time local data to assure customer relevance), ordinary brands play an important role here. Consider Walmart’s cooperation with Nextdoor, the widely used social exchange-based app (25 percent of all US homes use it), allowing quarantined folks to seek assistance from Walmart-going neighbors through the app or Nextdoor.com. To capitalize on the profitable new high-tech localism, think e-tail meets Neighborhood Watch.
8: Increase Purpose – Environmental, Ethical, and Social
Where formerly taking a stance was seen as a dangerous strategy, the upheaval of 2020 has pushed it closer to necessity. The need for measurable allyship in diversity and inclusion is already at an all-time high, making 2022 the year when brand rhetoric must connect with long-term action, frequently to the tune of systemic transformation.
Brand-backed programs that open up access to skills, education, and even inter-community ties will be crucial. One example is neo-education and incubators. Take, for example, The Face magazine’s Future Academy with Moncler, a ‘360° crash course into the world of media and design’ that offers paid chances to underrepresented persons ranging from “neuro-diverse” people to those from poor socioeconomic backgrounds. Or Best Buy’s decision to expand its decade-old IT Tech Centers — after-school places where kids can get a head start in the tech industry – with another 35 hubs next year (venues the company hopes will help diversify its employment pool).
As a long-time proponent of leveling up with authenticity, Vans also deserves mention. Its most recent ad campaign for its Off the Wall series collaborates with The Skate Witches — an American zine by and for women, trans, and non-binary skateboarders – to let fans produce their skate material, ranging from cinematography to zine writing. Meanwhile, Tracksmith, an ‘elite amateur’ running-gear manufacturer, is giving fellowships to budding creatives who are also runners, putting to rest common misconceptions about the running community (see HOKA ONE ONE for another brand doing this excellently).
No fad, sustainability must also be tackled at a whole new level – public and personal. From eco-friendly light brand spaces to a self-auditing tracker (as applicable to supermarkets as it is to fashion – check the digital closet app), there’s something for everyone. Allow individuals to watch their own frequently undetectable habits and make superior choices (like in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe).
9. Harness Prestige Consumers and Democratize Luxury
Exclusiveness will be crucial for luxury brands in wooing a new generation of customers without ruining the shine in 2022, when the sector’s pickings will be tighter, giving it a perfect moment to concentrate on developing extensive fandoms.
The ADA mentioned above is a prime example – a gamified online space where users can create look-books in-game, shareable on social media (while sampling digital looks inaccessible to their wallets IRL). At the same time, Drest allowed users to be pro stylists or creative directors via a painless online experience. The urge to see but also to be seen has never been more important at a time when so much of life has been disrupted.
The possibilities, and opportunities, will increase enormously as the market for digital fashion evolves (see out The Dematerialised, a blockchain-backed platform that allows fans to buy digital clothing that they can transport into a variety of different digital environments).
Look at apps like THE LIST. It distributes in-demand items from premium companies for a short time. It was first released in 2018 but modified last month with a sophisticated new marketing-scraping algorithm. Prices start low and change according to demand in real-time, establishing a euphoric feeling of fairness. It’s also revealed that an increasing percentage of brand-averse customers are chasing individual things rather than brands. This critical mentality change might lead to discovering profitable micro-communities.