This week's pattern recognition from PSFK 



This week, I've tried to cut the analysis into three pillars of customer experience (Retail, Advertising & Design) as we've been talking to a bunch of you and the feedback is that we can provide the most value if we focus on these topics across various key industry verticals. You'll start to see our content more and more categorized in this way and hopefully, and at the very least, it will help you explain what the heck PSFK is about when you recommend to someone they should read our newsletter(!).



From the content on the site, the big themes in retail innovation connect to automation and augmented reality. Both provide shoppers with a greater level of support, while allowing staff to focus on creating a genuine human connection.



As we mentioned in our Future of Work report, if retailers discover new ways to relieve staff of mundane work, associates can better focus their efforts on customer service and sales. Recently, we've seen some future-forward experiments with robots that achieve this, such as a  bag packer, pint-pourer, coffee-frother, or even a door-to-door deliverer.  


Soon to be seen in a store near you: Drone Sweaters ??



Augmented reality is arriving in our stores in multiple formats: a Coop store in Milan is using smart-mirrors to provide extra information about fruit and groceries. Nike has unveiled an AR experience that projects custom designs onto sneakers and makes them viewable to shoppers in real-time. Gap has a new app that lets shoppers try on clothing without needing to step inside a store. Connected inspiration: Google is enhancing the DIA museum experience in Detroit by adding augmented reality interactivity, and this AI infused doctor's office learns about your particular health needs over time and provide better service with each visit.


Idea: instead of wondering whether to allocate a sale to digital, mobile or offline store, match your customer to a zipcode/postcode on their first purchase and the store gets rewarded on every subsequent sale, no matter what the channel. Then brands and retailers have new metrics that allow them to invest in physical as a marketing experience.



Voyeurism To Your Door

In our VR Debrief from 2015, we noticed a growing trend around empathetic storytelling. This idea continues to be explored: Expedia has released a new virtual reality film that gives travelers a taste of Norway or this travel-agent helps Chinese tourists preview their tour in VR. This media-company helps people understand the news better in recreated VR scenes. Also, now you can walk the abstract art of the late, great Zaha Hadid, or take a lighter stroll with artist KAWs courtesy of M&Ms.



Maybe we see a real-world response to all this virtual adventure with impactful art: the El Portal sculpture uses mirrors to help you reflect on nature and this underwater museum lets you swim through a real-to-size world.


Inspiration: Can any of you creative kids get inspired by the shapes this robot makes? Or the way light mutates this sculpture?


Peace Out

We wrote about some interesting ideas where brands are trying to create more relaxing experiences. Lululemon has been running Calm Rides, and IKEA has built these playful co-working spaces. Elsewhere, Aesop is turning its office into a temporary spa.


Connected: I love how these subscription services are trying to deliver positive immersion: Amazon is shipping STEM books for kids each month and the Noir Reads service celebrates black excellence in literature.




Sometimes even PSFK spends too much time talking about VR, Robots,  Chat and AI, and when we do, you have to look between the lines for some gems — examples of brands thinking differently. And we know it can be hard to think 'differently' when it's easier just to tweak a product line ad infinitum, or quicker to offer the customer every flavor your international trend scouts can find, or  faster to just copy the competition. But some brands and services are finding new ways to rethink their approach. We love the Birkenstock (shoe) bed, the dry cleaners for sneakers (oldie but still a goodie), the airline ticket which is a multi-city aircruise. Check also IKEA's nomad range for people who don't really want to stay at home. Also note how brands are becoming platforms: Hasbro has a new lifestyle brand and Lego has a social network.



Obviously, voice continues to be one of the key interfaces that everyone is exploring. We're definitely seeing how intelligent voice systems can help folks overcome hurdles — whether that's software familiarity (with this photo editing software), at story time, or just ordering coffee through voice and Starbucks AI. Take it a step further and one day we could have a Starck designed screenless phone that just responds to voice!



In our Forecast 2020 report, we talked about the shift in manufacturing to the home. Over the last few weeks, we've seen a number of kitchen machines that help us make DIY products: the device that turns fruit into cider or IoT home-beer-brewing. Also check this composter and this espresso anywhere machine.



There have been a lot of upcycled products in the newsletters and on the site. Headphones from old truck tarp, a bike from paper, shampoo bottles from beach plastic, airline blankets from plastic bottles, and recycled kitchen doors from bottles. I do think brands need to be careful in this space, though. Is something truly recycled if the consumer is the ultimate user? I don't know if people really want a product made out of ocean plastic if they can't recycle itback into the system later themselves.


OK - that's enough for now. You saw the Entertainment Debrief, right?


Until next week…


Piers Fawkes

** Learn how to create content and experiences for next-gen audiences by downloading PSFK's Entertainment Debrief today. **

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