Pley is a Netflix-esque service for LEGO fans

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A new rental service called Pley allows customers to rent and return LEGO sets. The service is perfect for those who love the challenge of building a set, but don’t care to keep it around the house.

Users set up a queue of the sets they’d like to rent, and the price varies from $15-39 based on the size of the set. Play sets are sanitized and shipped with the official instructions and a shipping return sticker. Those who decide to keep the set can be billed for it at a discounted price.

Why I’m Curious

As an avid fan of The LEGO Movie, Pley’s appeal to nostalgic Millennials is not lost on me. I’m sure the service is marketed to mothers and their children, but it’s a valuable service for any 20-something who’s strapped for storage space.

via LifeHacker

Under Armour’s Immersive Retail Experience

Redefining the retail experience, Under Armour’s new flagship store in Shanghai devotes more than 80% of its store to an immersive digital experience in an effort to break into the Asian market and launch with a brand story that aims to break through the clutter.

Visitors enter the store and are greeted my Michael Phelps and other athletes who share their training experience. It’s a 6-minute video on a 270 degree screen. After they complete the video, they are led to a smaller retail area, where instead of racks of clothing, shoppers will find a selection of clothes built out in a minimalist museum-like space where they can shop.

<via Contagious I/O>

Why I’m Curious

Fashion brands have been leading the charge with adding digital to their in-store retail experiences, whether it’s showing the number of likes for a particular item, providing interactive mirrors where they can try sizes and colors, or adding video to showcase their stories. Burberry has been the leader of the pack, but Under Armour one ups them by dedicating more of their store to the experience and brand story rather than providing utility.

One missed opportunity, though, is to add more interactive elements into the Under Armour experience such as integrating social to share parts of the vignette or to explore more stories from specific athletes.

Further, most of these experiences have been created abroad. I’m curious to see if the same trend will appear in the US where most of these brands already have such great brand recognition. Could these brands create more awareness and brand lift through one of these immersive experiences?

Order Groceries with Instant Delivery

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Pocket Shop is a new app may disrupt the grocery, convenience store, and take out categories, making obtaining a fresh back of groceries easy to shop for and delivered right to your door.

When users notice that their cupboards are running low on supplies, they can upload a grocery list to the app. The app will ping one of their 20 freelance grocery shoppers via text to head to the nearest grocery. The app also tells the shoppers the quickest route to the grocery and how to most efficiently navigate the aisles within the grocery. Food should be delivered within the hour.

This app competes with services like FreshDirect, which provide grocery delivery direct to your door. But users generally have to wait for a designated delivery time, whereas with Pocket Shop, groceries are delivered when you need them. This might also eat away at the Seamless and Grubhubs of the world, where prepared food is delivered.

Why I’m Curious

There are two trends this app is capitalizing on:

Convenience Trumps Everything

This is evidenced by

  • Crowdsourcing small tasks to save time
  • Desire for instantaenous results
  • Desire for services to fit my schedule

Second, this app brings much utility to the table, saving time, simplifying the shopping process, and solving for laziness.

J.Crew previews entire fall catalog on its Pinterest page

J.Crew, which built its business via glossy mailings, just took a crack at catalog 2.0. They are looking to build buzz for its fall line by posting the entire line on its Pinterest page before it appears on the company website or in its printed catalog.

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Read more here.

Why I am Curious

A 24×7, large scale focus group (+60K followers on Pinterest + anyone else who stumbled on the platform): The move is also aimed at giving J.Crew insight into which items are likely to be popular based on repins and comments.  It gives the company its own sneak peek at which items will sell well.

What color underwear are you wearing?

Hanes is asking [female] Twitter users to post tweets revealing the color of their underwear, along with links to cheery color-specific pages from a campaign website. The website also showcases underwear color trends by region and individual color pages for yellow, orange, red, pink, purple, blue and green.

#undercovercolor

Branded content: 

Hanes

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User generated content: (140 characters would have been sufficient!)

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Why I am Curious:

Purple is trending in NYC today!

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The Undercover Color campaign is about looking for a fun, easy way for women to get involved. It is a great conversation starter, captures the attention without being disruptive, and offers an excuse for users to engage.

Missed opportunity: they did not include the campaign hashtag on the TV spot:

Augmented Reality Furniture Shopping With IKEA

IKEA-2014-catalog

In 2014, IKEA will release a new catalog that allows its consumers to augment reality with their tablet or mobile device and view the brand’s furniture in their home – right then and there. By placing the magazine in the chosen location for the piece of furniture, the buyer can use their device to test out different models, colors, and other products until they find the one they like.

From The Huffington Post,

“There are 90 products available to try, letting you get a rough idea of the size and dimensions of whatever you’re going to buy. All they need now is a version that will help you work out if the flat packs are going to fit in your car to get it all home.”

IKEA

Why I’m Curious:

Virtual shopping is a curious subject because it allows the consumer to make purchase decisions in the comfort of their own home. Augmented reality allows the consumer to manipulate their space, which opens doors to other categories of shopping – for instance, apparel brands. I predict other industries will get involved in augmented reality mobile apps, for example clothing brands, shoe brands and even jewelry designers. Perhaps one day we won’t even need to leave our homes to go shopping – all thanks to the nature of digital and its ability to create immediacy and efficiency in our everyday tasks.

Introducing HotMalm.com

The always-clever IKEA is at it again. With help of agency Droga5, a “racy” website was launched that shows Ikea’s best-selling MALM bed frame in various compromising positions.

From PSFK,

HotMalm.com is patterned after a typical porn site and features photos with titillating captions like ‘Hot Malm’s Bottom Stuffed,’ ‘Hot Malm From Behind,’ and ‘Big Beautiful Malm Strips Outside.’ The website also organizes Malms in categories such as ‘Big Beautiful Malms,’ ‘Mature Malms,’ and ‘Twin Malms.’ There is also a page where visitors can view a live feed of hot malms.

Although the captions and even the background music are very suggestive, the entire site claims to be safe for work.

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Why I’m Curious

Ikea always has great digital ideas and most serve a purpose for customers. However, even if the main goal of this website is hilarity, it’s succeeding. Some brands try to be risqué and funny, but sometimes at the risk of their objective. I’m curious where the line actually lies or if it’s always going to be a test and learn approach.

Kate Spade and eBay Partner for an Interactive Shopping Experience

Kate Spade Saturday’s and eBay have joined forces and turned to tech, creating an interactive shopping experience for consumers. They have launched four 24-hour Window Shops in Manhattan. Each interactive storefront allows shoppers to select and order  merchandise from Kate Spade Saturday, Kate Spade’s new weekender line, on a touchscreen, schedule a free one-hour delivery to anywhere in the city, and pay with PayPal Here upon delivery. This partnership brings the best of online shopping into the physical world, and rolls mobile technology, same-day delivery, and seamless digital payments into one end-to-end customer experience.

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Why I’m Curious

I think this is a very interesting way to replace a brick-and-mortar shopping trip with an interactive experience. I’m curious to know if this will be successful – if you are already making the trip to go shopping and try new clothes on, what are the benefits to this interactive store front?

Ikea in Swedish

ikea imageA small group of consumers (read: friends) have created ‘Ikea På Svenska,’ an online guide that provides audio recordings of popular Ikea products. It’s a very simple tool but one that could provide a use for curious/clueless customers.

Why I’m Curious: I’m surprised that Ikea hasn’t done something to address this issue on their own. But I’m even more impressed that Ikea-loving customers would take this task on themselves. While I don’t think this is a critical consumer need for Ikea customers, it does provide some emotional value. And if Ikea had done this on their own, they could have used this as a guide to drive to their products, too.

Boycotting Made Easy

Buycott

The Buycott app allows consumers to identify if the products they’re purchasing are related to any organizations/causes that they oppose or support.

How it works: First, users determine which campaigns they are for or against. There are several existing campaigns, including “Say No to Monsanto”, “Avoid Sweatshop & Child Labor”, “Support Veterans” and “Equality for LGBTQ.” When the user scans a product with the app, Buycott will up the product, determine what brand it belongs to, and figure out what company owns that brand (and who owns that company, ad infinitum). It then cross-checks the product owners against the companies and brands included in the campaigns the user has joined, in order to tell them if the scanned product conflicts with one of their campaign commitments.

Why I’m Curious:

This is a simple concept that many people would find quite useful. For instance, the US government doesn’t require any GMO items to be labeled; and big food corporations actually spend millions of dollars to keep this kind of information off their packaging. This app is a great example of how technology can be utilized to empower people to intelligently make decisions about issues concerning their values and livelihoods. If successful (and technically sound), I think this app has potential to inspire an environment that would hold many corporations increasingly accountable for their actions, as the knowledge gained will directly influence consumer perception and ultimately demand.

Campaign Mocks A&F While Dressing Homeless

A quote by the CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch has not only gained a lot of attention, but has also sparked a larger Internet campaign. The campaign, started by LA-based writer Greg Karber, is attempting to “rebrand” Abercrombie & Fitch by donating the company’s clothing to the homeless.

From Mashable,

The video, which has since attracted nearly 400,000 hits, Karber encourages viewers to donate their Abercrombie & Fitch clothing to a local homeless shelter, and then share what they’re doing on social media. His goal? To make Abercrombie & Fitch “the world’s number one brand of homeless apparel.”Some commenters have criticized the campaign for objectifying and demeaning homeless people, but Karber said this was not his intention.

Why I’m Curious

I initially agreed with some of the critics, saying it objectifies homeless people, but I think that only came across in the video due to their reluctance of taking the clothing. What I’m really curious about is how this campaign was started when another writer reignited an article written in 2006 by commenting on it. There is no cause or brand behind the campaign, it is fueled by social media and people. There have already been over 7,000 uses of #FitchTheHomeless and over 4 million video views. I’m eager to see if this will ignite a change in A&F.

Is the JCPenney Ad Too Much?

 

JCPenney has launched a new YouTube ad with hope that it will bring customers back into their stores.  JCPenney took a hit with CEO Ron Johnson running the show but recently brought on Mike Ullman, who seems to be turning things around.  The video begs customers to come back and lets them know that they heard their complaints.

Why I’m Curious?

JCPenney’s approach and call to action is quite strange and actually made me feel uncomfortable.  It seemed to be a bit embarrassing even watching the video.  I am curious to see if this will this perform well and actually increase profits for JCPenney in the end.  One thing is for sure, they laid it all down on the table and are very vulnerable at this moment.  It is now up to the customer to decide JCPenney’s fate and will be interesting to see if their perception of JCPenney changes.

Design Your Sneakers Using Instagram

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Instead of looking through Nike’s online color options to customize a new pair of kicks, Nike is inviting consumers to use their Instagram photos. The new PHOTOiD web app, combines filtered Instagram photos with Nike’s custom ordering process: First the user grants Nike permission to access to their Instagram account. Once a photo has been selected, the software applies the color palette to a pair of Air Max 1, 90 or 95 sneakers (based on the available color library for each footwear option). Designs can then be purchased and/or shared with your social network.

Why I’m Curious:

With all the data/content generated online every day, there’s a persisting question of, “Now what do we do with it?”. This is one of the reasons why I think this program is noteworthy – it recycles pre-existing UGC content to get people to interact with the brand. With a wealth of Instagram photos to utilize, on top of a fairly simple user flow, users are encouraged to spend time on the brand site and try out multiple designs with their photos. And for what it’s worth, there’s the potential to create a truly personal tangible product, inspired my emotionally resonant moments in consumers’ lives.

As far as I can see, it’s unclear if Instagram is making anything off this partnership with Nike, but this could be a viable revenue model for the platform. At least for Nike, it’s a clever mechanism to determine ROI from social media. I wonder if Instagram plans to build similar revenue-generating partnerships with brands in the future.

Magical Machine Finds the Perfect Pair of Jeans

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The days of tirelessly looking for the perfect pair of jeans are gone! Me-Ality is a machine that takes 10 seconds to tell you exactly which brands, styles and sizes are your perfect match. Bloomingdale’s recently installed Me-Ality sizing booths in the women’s denim departments of several of its locations.

The shopper enters a large white, glass-windowed booth and a big wand passes by twice to collect 200,000 measurements. The booth uses light radio waves (the equivalent of 1/1000th of a phone call, according to Me-Ality) to detect the moisture in your skin to sniff out your size. After 10 seconds, a kiosk on the side of the machine gives the shopper a custom barcode that holds all of their size data. When the barcode is scanned, a screen will show all the jeans that are supposed to be the right fit.

Why I’m Curious:

I think this is valuable technology for Bloomingdale’s and its customers. The customized results saves shoppers time and emotional burnout caused from shopping for jeans, and it’s a great way to drive people into the store. More importantly, when a shopper finds clothing that fits them, the more likely they are to make a purchase. Additionally, less time spent trying on jeans may translate to more time spent shopping for other items. The ultimate test will be to see if the results are accurate. Depending on its success and popularity with consumers, perhaps Me-Ality will consider creating a machine for finding the perfect swimwear.

Lighting The Way To Sales

South Korea’s largest retailer, E-mart, has rolled out new technology, called E-mart Sale Navigation, to help shoppers find discounted items in its often gargantuan stores. The feature has been incorporated into the retailer’s app and uses Visual Light Communication (VLC) technology.

Shoppers inside E-mart stores install the retailer’s app on their smartphone and then place the smartphone in a holster attached to each shopping cart’s handle. From that position the smartphone receives signals from the store’s LED lighting, directed through a lens in real time. Shoppers see a map of the store and their location, along with directions to nearby discounts. When the cart approaches an on-sale item, the app flashes the coupon on the screen to alert shoppers of the deal.

Why I’m Curious:

I think this is a valuable utilization of VLC technology for marketing purposes. This in-store applicability is a creative way to draw more users to the store’s app. As this technology expands to use in individual stores, perhaps it will show up in malls and shopping centers as a means to attract shoppers looking for a deal.

Shazam Can Now Identify Clothing

Shazam, an app designed to identify songs by listening to them, will now be able to ID clothing seen on television. It would capture the outfit on the screen and direct the user to a site for purchase.

Street Fashion - Day 1 - Spring 2012 New York Fashion Week

Source

Why I’m Curious: I am a big Shazam user. Blame it on my hometown radio DJ for not doing a good job of identifying songs while I recorded them to my mixtape or the age I grew up in when the car dashboard didn’t display the artist and song title. I blame these reasons for why I have no mental database of song titles and artists, which is why Shazam is my best friend. Now pair my need to identify music with my love of all things fashion and you have revolutionized my world, yet again. I’m curious to see if this would help boost retail sales by providing this knowledge, like it does with music purchases. I think every girl has been waiting for an app that is able to identify clothing on the streets, but TV is a great place to start. Celebrity style is becoming more accessible and affordable so it makes sense that there would be a large audience interested. It would also save time trying to search for a similar item online. If they ever come up with an app that identifies “street style” and saves you that awkward moment of having to stop them and ask where they got it, you will have made many wishes come true. However, doesn’t everyone secretly love the positive recognition of their personal style? (They do.)

Target Launches Retail Accelerator Contest

Target announced a contest called “Co. Labs & Target Retail Accelerator” that asks developers to create the best new mobile experience for the company, and they’ll reward you with $75,000.

From brandchannel,

Seven finalists will be chosen next month and each will receive $10,000 to develop their prototypes. After presenting their ideas to the company, a grand prize winner will be announced. They’ll receive the big check and work with the company to bring their idea to life.

CMO Jeffrey Jones stated, “Target is using QR codes and mobile gift cards with its mobile app to increase loyalty and value for their customers and hopefully make shopping there a whole lot easier and enjoyable. “Ultimately, to be able to engage a brand wherever and whenever you want is where we’re headed.”

Why I’m Curious

Nike and BMW have recently launched similar campaigns where they create a bit of competitiveness among consumers and it kind of makes sense for lifestyle and luxury brands, but I also think it’s interesting how Target likes to position themselves that was as well.

I’m really interested to follow along with this campaign and see what technology developers will use to try to win. Even more, I’m excited to see how adaptable the winner’s app is, and whether or not it will take off and impact retail, or just a fun campaign for Target to get inspiration for something bigger.

Super-Power Your Photos with Stipple

Static photos could soon go way of the buffalo because of Stipple, a tool that makes photos interactive. From a single photo posted on either Facebook or Twitter, users can surface videos, other photos and links to external sources.

 

Why I’m Curious

This tool has the potential to generate a lot of revenue for retailers because multiple links can be embedded for users to purchase many items from a single image. This tool could also be used for a digital scavenger hunt and exist on current social channels without having to include many links in the copy.

Google & Adidas to Create a Talking Shoe

Google partnered with artist Zach Lieberman and interactive collective YesYesNo to explore connected objects by creating an Adidas sneaker that can talk and share activity online.

From PSFK,

The shoe works similarly to a fitness tracking device, using an accelerometer, gyroscope, Bluetooth and other off-the-shelf technologies to analyze the wearer’s movements and offer motivating and timely commentary. It might tell you to get going if you’ve been idle for too long or cheer you on if it senses you being very active. Its comments can be posted to Google+ by the user, sent to real-time ad units, or broadcast via onboard speakers.

Why I’m Curious

Adidas isn’t the first brand to have the idea of merging technology and clothing. Just a few weeks ago we discussed Under Armor’s smart shirt, and the Nike FuelBand has been leading the pack for a while. It seems we want our clothes and accessories to do more than clothe and accessorize us.

I think it’s important to note that the shoes are not for sale, but I’m curious to see where Adidas takes this next. I have a feeling it wasn’t just for a SXSW stunt, but that they will eventually launch a shoe, a shirt, pants or something that incorporates technology.

Hermès Creates Stop-Motion Videos

The French luxury brand Hermès launched its new campaign ‘Vive Le Sport’ (long live sport). To help celebrating the sporting life, Hermès created an interactive website that features stop-motion videos where their accessories and homeware come to life and spend a day in the park.

Hermes Vive Le Sport

From PSFK,

The interactive site lets you click on different activities: you can watch pillows relaxing with pétanque balls, fancy ties acting as croquet hoops, shoes playing leap frog and their famous bags watching tableware play ping-pong. The videos are playful and light, and exude the essence of the brand as confident and quirky.

Why I’m Curious

I really like that despite Hermes being a luxury brand, they were able to create something fun, not stuffy yet still showcased product. I seems like there’s been a consistent trend for brands to start creating personalities that even have human-like qualities. I’m interested to see how much further this goes and hope to create ownable characteristics in social for our clients.