This week we’re excited to be in New York for the annual Fast company Innovation Festival. The purpose of the 5 day event? To understand how retailers can embrace change, blaze new trails and move their world forward.
The Fast Company Innovation Festival isn’t like your typical conference. Unlike many other conferences that see you locked in a conference room for days, with the Fast Company Innovation Festival we get to personally visit some of New York’s leading companies to meet with their senior leadership team and see first-hand how they operate internally.
So of those retailers we visited on day 1, who did we find of particular interest?
Brandless is a relatively new e-commerce startup offering a wide assortment of own-brand household and food items, each at the fixed price of $3. Brandless was created as an anti paradox of choice. How many times have you gone into the supermarket and been overwhelmed by multiple options of the one product? Brandless offer a simple range curated to be of the best quality and product.
Starting as an online pure-play, the company is now about to launch their second physical pop-up store (and their first store in New York). Although the store is a few days away from opening to the public, we got a personal tour with CEO Tina Sharkey who talked us through what the brand stands for and how this flowed through to the physical store environment.
Brandless is transparent in all their values, starting with ensuring the people they hire have values aligned with the overall company. Brandless’s goal is to not tell consumers how to think, rather present them ideas and inspire the community. The purpose of the company is not about the product, but humanity.
Everything purchased acts as a souvenir of the Brandless movement and the pop up store is designed to create an opportunity for consumers to personally step into the brand. The store is designed to be similar shopping experience to the website (ie. how consumers browse the shelves is similar to how they would be exposed to online). But the ultimate goal of the store can be easily summed as to have consumers leave the store happier than they came into it as.
We’ll try and get back when the store opens officially and give our final thoughts.
Drone Racing League
We also got to meet with Nicholas Horbaczewski, founder and CEO of the Drone Racing League. Drone racing League is attempting to bring the sport of professional drone racing to the masses, which is pretty innovative given the sport only started in 2010 (in Australia of all places). This makes it one of the newest sports on the planet!
We got to hear how the sport was developed commercially – for example how it takes innovation from Star Wars, sci fi and video games (interesting as most professional pilots are heavy video gamers). Furthermore, Nick talked to the future of technology in general, which Nick see’s as the move to more autonomy and into advanced AI. Rather than a scenario of AI vs humans, Nick see’s both working together and AI providing new ways to fix problems never thought of before by humans.
And as for drone deliveries? These are a few years off. We don’t even have driverless cars yet and an automated drone is much more complicated to build.
The Bleacher Report
Whilst ESPN has dominated sports on TV for decades, the same can’t be said for sports on social media. The Bleacher report is the number 1 sports brand on social media. The Bleacher Report is a sports site that attracts 10 of millions visitors each day, many of them from the hard-to-reach key demographics that advertisers covet, 18-35 year-old men.
So how do we understand the millennial consumer?
Whilst the Bleacher Report uses a mix of art and data in it’s strategy, every decision is underpinned by data and insights. Millennial’s are connected like no other generation before and think very different to previous generations. 99.5% of people between 16-34 are on some from of social media and they’ll spend a staggering 8 years of their total lifetime on social media. Additionally 94% will be using a phone whilst watching TV. The company talked through the importance of setting up methods to collect 1st party data to better understand these customers, for example the Bleacher Report use their own app platform to build rich profiles of their consumer.
Furthermore understand the importance of being original and not being afraid of changing from your brand origins to succeed. In a very competitive market, brands need to be different.
So that’s a wrap for day 1, but stay tuned over the week as we recap each day. And if you don’t already, follow us on instagram @RetailOasis for live updates from the festival.