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digital wellbeing labs http://digitalwellbeinglabs.com/dwb we tune technology to create harmony in your life
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Sun, 01 Jun 2014 17:03:33 +0000
http://wordpress.org/?v=2.8.4 en hourly 1
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Dispatch from 2024; London High Street reimagined
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http://digitalwellbeinglabs.com/dwb/dispatch-from-2024-london-high-street-reimagined/
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Sun, 01 Jun 2014 17:03:33 +0000
agrunsteidl http://digitalwellbeinglabs.com/dwb/?p=822 Dispatch_splash01-03

Time In: Disney’s Global resort brings London High Street to India

Tomorrow the latest Disney Global Resort opens in Noida, India, along with its awaited top attraction – the “Modern London High Street” – a late twentieth century replica of shops, cafes and workplaces of times long gone.

At the press preview, Disney’s Resort CEO explains over Skype how much of the collection had been donated by eBay, the exhibition partner, which a decade ago started recovering unwanted goods from auctions –particularly artefacts Google glass rendered redundant as we started to superimpose digital furniture and art onto our blank home walls.

To enter the high street we receive a printed replica of a British Airways ticket. A rare piece now that most airlines have collapsed following the rise of online immersive meetings, which made business trips redundant and leisure travel in turn prohibitively expensive, leading to a boom in virtual local resorts.

We pass through a decommissioned Airbus 380 business class deck and get to the High Street, where we find a replica of a luxury Oxford Street Wedding shop. Featuring a dressing room complete with real mirrors, a leather stool and hooks, the shop talks of a time before online body-metric avatars, social network recommendations and instant customisation – a time when brides-to-be had to go to shops like this with their friends to try things on and get their opinion. Upon leaving the shop, the smell of real flowers reminds us of those archaic, tangible presents of love we used to buy before virtual gifts became the norm.

Next stop takes us to an originally restored Hackney coffee shop, where Arthur Carpenter, a recent immigrant and Cast Member playing the role of a former Shoreditch Hipster, offers us a flat white and then drives us in a chauffeur driven, not a robotic, black cab to a replica post-industrial warehouse, similar to the one he used to work in before the 2018 crash. Inside, an advertising workspace with an office desk, an Aeron chair, complete with a cabinet, computer, keyboard, mouse and monitor. This is truly a unique piece, and a stark reminder of how, not that long ago, people actually ‘went’ to work.

The tour finishes at the “Jamie Oliver Cooking with Friends” restaurant. Amused by the paper-menus and the presence of real waiters, we struggle to understand what the point of restaurants once was. Difficult to figure it out now we all get our chef-market meals delivered by drones at home.

In any case, the resort is diverse, entertaining, and at times, challenging. A good family day out that makes you wonder how we could have ever lived in an imperfect, analog world. The next Global resort – the Olympics unplugged village – will open at the end of the year in Kenya – surely one not to miss with your remote personal Google Glass proxy-assistant.

Written by Alexander Grünsteidl, edited by Carmen Marrero, published July Wired UK Magazine 07.14
As part of a feature on journalistic dispatches from 2024 written as a series of contemporary news items by a range of writers, artists, industry experts, academics, philosophers and futurologists, to creatively interpret some of the social, political, technological or cultural changes they see coming, built around an informed forecast of how one or more aspects of life will have changed by 2024.

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Retail and the City
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http://digitalwellbeinglabs.com/dwb/retail-and-the-city/
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Mon, 13 Jan 2014 15:53:54 +0000
agrunsteidl http://digitalwellbeinglabs.com/dwb/?p=762 OneLineModel01

Historically cities emerged around centralised marketplaces on the intersection of supply infrastructures.
But as most transactions are shifting online and our perception of value changes, these infrastructures become obsolete. What will shape the city of the future? How will our buying choices, whether we buy from Amazon or we visit farmers markets impact the city of the future? …

This talk was presented on 6 December 2014 at TEDx London, City 2.0 and explores three urban scenarios based on existing technology trends and discusses what possible changes to the urban fabric we can anticipate from each one.

The One-Line City – A place where people live exclusively through online lives at home. All transactions take place online, physical meeting places and the high street have disappeared, there is limited requirement for mobility, augmented reality reduces the need for furniture and fashion; we are left with a city built along the connectors between hubs for distributing the few remaining physical goods.

The HyperLocal City – Where people live and thrive in their local communities which are enhanced through social and sensor based networked technologies. The city becomes a collection of neighbourhoods, booming in themselves, but isolated from each other.

The Aspirational City – A global network of city zones that are identical despite being geographically distant. Lifestyle and opinion, and the amplification of those via global social networks create environments of identically branded communities thriving on shared experiences.

The future city is up to you; the choices between your day to day online and offline transactions, not a master plan, will shape the cities to come.

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NAA8 beyond disco
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http://digitalwellbeinglabs.com/dwb/naa8-beyond-disco/
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Sat, 20 Apr 2013 09:36:50 +0000
agrunsteidl http://digitalwellbeinglabs.com/dwb/?p=774

NAA8_01

If all the ways we consume media is changing, driven by the seamless and continuous access to content from the internet, which used to be delivered through TV and radio broadcast, cinema, CDs and books, how does this affect the experiences in places we go to listen and dance to music, not necessarily live instrumental, but curated by DJs?  The disco, music club format has essentially not changed since its emergence in the sixties and seventies.

Business models drive producers to promote music events in very narrow genres. Events, at last to my ears have become rather boring. I became interested to try creating a new dance music format driven by theatrical principles with a defined start and end, hence the name No Admission After Eight.

Below are a few different write ups and some documentation of the first pilot event on 8 March 2013 together with 450+ audience.

NAA8, a musical journey

NAA8, No Admission After Eight, is a multi-sensory musical journey through the night, a new take on DJ dance events, bending and blending different music genres.
The journey passes through 5 sets, building up from an ambient soundscape, through classic and dance, trip hop to hip hop, mixing games soundtracks, electronica, hardrock, a touch of metal and climaxing on heavy beats and dubstep to end in downtempo chill out. The show is produced by a collaboration of DJs and set designers with a shared love of creating magical experiences. The world renowned lineup of DJs includes Duncan Brown, Felix Buxton of Basement Jaxx, Mira Calix, SuperTanker and DJ Koggi.
Each set expresses one of 5 different musical moods, matched with specially mixed drinks – Walk, Pulse, Bounce, Shine and Breathe. The music is synchronized with an amazing immersive sculptural white lightscape created by Tupac Martir of Satore Studio.
The journey starts in near darkness with an ambient soundscape leading to a scene of shadows moving from classical music to dance. As the music on one of the best sound systems in London intensifies, the space will be defined by a low ceiling of pulsing light planes. An intense fog of bright light will introduce the climax.Towards the end of the journey the space returns back into darkness immersing the audience in an ambient chill out soundscape that stays longer than the early morning end.
more on http://naa8.net

Thinking About User Experience In Clubland

http://thecreatorsproject.vice.com/blog/thinking-about-user-experience-in-clubland
By : Robert Urquhart
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Alexander Grünsteidl, director of user experience at Method, London and owner of maverick digital think tank, Digital Wellbeing Labs, is a man on a mission. Passionate music lover and vastly knowledgeable in the power of a seamless digital and physical hybrid world, Grünsteidl recently brought his experience to bear in order to rethink the way we interact with our nightlife.
Not for the first time Grünsteidl left the safety of the studio behind—the Post-it notes and wireframes—and stepped out into the night to produce a club night at the Village Underground, a performance space in the East End of London. The night, austerely called No Admission After Eight, or NAA8 for short, was billed as “a multi-sensory musical journey through the night”—but it was more than digital hyperbole. Behind the—admittedly difficult—PR was a promise to prototype a new way in which we relate to clubland and the music industry at large.
Five DJs formed the backbone of the narrative—a concept that Grünsteidl pays particular interest to. The moods entitled Walk, Pulse, Bounce, Shine, and Breathe were played by Duncan Brown (sound engineer for Basement Jaxx), Felix Buxton (Basement Jaxx), Mira CalixSuperTanker and Koggi. The lighting atmosphere was provided by Satore Studio’s Tupac Martir and Grünsteidl became mixologist for the night, producing five different cocktails to round off the multi-sensory experience.
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The NAA8 project, in many ways, is not dissimilar in ambition to The AppLounge, a prototype retail space that Grünsteidl initiated during the London Design Festival in 2011. There, Grünsteidl pondered on the relationship between online and offline consumer retail—could you feasibly buy an app from a physical store? For Grünsteidl it was about anticipating rapidly changing retail requirements. And the motivation for involvement in the music industry? Much the same, as he explains, “What we’ve learnt from some of the projects we’ve been doing recently [is] most people consume, or enjoy music these days only through their headphones. Many people don’t even have a stereo system anymore, perhaps a block where they can plug their iPhone in, but that’s about as far as it gets”.
So is this penance for his day job? (Grünsteidl is a former interaction designer for Apple).
“When I grew up you had the mods, the rockers, the punks—they were all segmented because people had only limited spending power, they could afford to own about 10 LPs” he explains, “now the kids actually listening through Last.fm or Spotify have access to an enormous amount of music, so music styles and appreciation are becoming more eclectic and nobody is catering to that. So imagine taking an audience on a musical journey through genres and styles throughout one evening. It’s about encountering a narrative.”
<image>
Mira Calix explains her view of where Grünsteidl may be heading. “There may be an overall aesthetic, but there is much more differentiation between acts. Alexander’s approach was much more holistic than the norm. It was very important to him to create a narrative through the night as well as control the overall atmosphere. I think there is room to take this further. Furniture and product design are things that springs to mind—a more custom made lounge space and, knowing him, he’s probably thinking in this direction.”
Intriguing to say the least, but it may be some time before we see the fruits of his labor, as Grünsteidl states: “My interest is in creating these moments and learning from them and letting them inspire opportunities. We are still creating opportunities on stuff we’ve worked on in the past. I’ve just come back from Vienna and I saw that over there McDonald’s have installed Bouncepad [the iPad kiosk] which was an outcome of the prototype we built at The AppLounge back in 2011. So it might take a while, I might not be involved with the final product, but I like to initiate these kinds of things.”
<image>
The music industry, and in particular the world of nightclubs and promotions, are a shaky business and Grünsteidl admits to a certain naivety about it all. Questioning him on narrative and creative direction, I ask him whether this may not just be simply perceived as theatrical performance, along the lines of English group Punchdrunk, for example. He agrees that there are similarities and that it’s sometimes difficult to communicate the full agenda and scope of thinking. When asked about her own experience of uniting music, art, and design in live performance Mira Calix picks up the thread and summarises for Grünsteidl instead. “I think they always converge, even in an old warehouse rave all those elements are present. But of course in this case, all areas were considered equal from the off. This was the difference, he tried to transform the space.”
Lending a wider context to his work Grünsteidl stops for a moment and then makes his own, almost shamanic, assessment. “I think tribes are vanishing, we live in a very eclectic, post-genre world. There are so many variations out there it’s hard to keep track. Even naming conventions in metal music are becoming close to ridiculous, so I think we are getting to a point where we are going to listen in a different way, we are going to promote in a different way, we are going to engage in a different way, especially in a public, live setting.”
<image>
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I ask whether people enjoyed the event. Grünsteidl grins and opens his arms wide, “In the Shine element of the night we blasted the place out with light, to the level where you have to wear sunglasses”. Thus blowing away the final former requisite of a nightclub: the dark.
Photos courtesy of Alexandre Marc
@robert_urquhart

<slideshow of NAA8 show>

<slideshow of org proposal>
<video VillageUnderground link>

No Admission After 8 from Village Underground on Vimeo.

more on http://naa8.net

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Evolutionary forces
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http://digitalwellbeinglabs.com/dwb/evolutionary-forces/
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http://digitalwellbeinglabs.com/dwb/evolutionary-forces/#comments

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Sat, 10 Mar 2012 14:05:39 +0000
agrunsteidl http://digitalwellbeinglabs.com/dwb/?p=706 evo_chartThe rise of disruptive digital business models; Darwinism goes digital – how will businesses adapt or die?

In the past designers made products useful, usable and delightful. If we adhered to these principles we believed products would sell. The business factors were mostly external to the product. Now the business model is an integral requirement that shapes digital design.

The consumer electronic products we used to own were the embodiment of access to entertainment, personal media and communication. The past decade witnessed the demise of products we own to the explosion of services, enabled by the internet, we use. Value perceptions are shifting from ownership towards seamless accessibility and habitual choice. Technology convergence affords ever new interactions between context, content and social relationships and consequently value perceptions are in perpetual flux. We’ve become aware, in retrospect, that business models driven by the internet and reacting to this flux seem to follow evolutionary tendencies.

- A look at a brief history of business models on the internet affected by evolutionary forces.

- Is it all about the survival of the fittest? And are there successful niche opportunities?

- Although evolution is inherently non-deterministic it doesn’t harm to ask the question: what lies ahead and where are we going? Can products and services be designed to become more adaptive to evolutionary requirements?

Talk given at LBi symposium “What’s next in Experience design, digital leaps forward” February 29th 2012

The rise of disruptive digital business models; Darwinism goes digital – how will businesses adapt or die?
In the past designers made products useful, usable and delightful. If we adhered to these principles we believed products would sell. The business factors were mostly external to the product. Now the business model is an integral requirement that shapes digital design.
The consumer electronic products we used to own were the embodiment of access to entertainment, personal media and communication. The past decade witnessed the demise of products we own to the explosion of services, enabled by the internet, we use. Value perceptions are shifting from ownership towards seamless accessibility and habitual choice. Technology convergence affords ever new interactions between context, content and social relationships and consequently value perceptions are in perpetual flux. We’ve become aware, in retrospect, that business models driven by the internet and reacting to this flux seem to follow evolutionary tendencies.
- A look at a brief history of business models on the internet affected by evolutionary forces.
- Is it all about the survival of the fittest? And are there successful niche opportunities?
- Although evolution is inherently non-deterministic it doesn’t harm to ask the question: what lies ahead and where are we going? Can products and services be designed to become more adaptive to evolutionary requirements?
Talk given February 29th 2012 at LBi symposium
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Filters vs. Serendipity
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http://digitalwellbeinglabs.com/dwb/filters-vs-serendipity/
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Wed, 01 Feb 2012 23:49:22 +0000
agrunsteidl http://digitalwellbeinglabs.com/dwb/?p=639 filter-bubble

Whatever you’re looking for on the Internet—entertainment, a product to purchase, a connection to a community—in most cases, you’re likely to receive an overwhelming amount of results to choose from. These relevant search results are valuable to you… Or are they?

Published on : http://method.com/

More and more commentators are wondering if the tools we create to give us more choices—such as search engines—are delivering less variety, ultimately limiting chance discoveries and exposure to new ideas.

On the BBC’s The Culture Show, Aleks Krotoski recently examined the role of serendipity as an online commodity, questioning whether the Internet is as innovative as we think. She points out that computers have the unique ability to make valuable, unseen connections for us. Instead of maximizing that potential, our search filters keep us focused on only the most relevant information.

Alex explains, “We will never have the opportunity to bump into something truly new, because the machines are predicting our futures based on our past preferences, creating an infinite loop of cultural homogenization.”

The concern over the consequences of homogenized choice is not entirely new. David Byrne noted in his book Bicycle Diaries, that in many urban developments gentrification leads to separation, rather than integration, of different social and cultural groups. This separation leads to less collisions between ideas and the stifling of creativity.

David describes, “I think online communities tend to group like with like, which is fine for some tasks, but sometimes inspiration comes from accidental meetings and encounters with people outside one’s own demographic, and is less likely if you only communicate with your ‘friends’…”

Other commentators also question if recommendations based on a combination of one’s preferences, social profile, and history of consumption really offers new opportunities. In an article for Design Week,Steve Price discussed how the role of media retailers is changing in the age of the “Filter Bubble.”

“Google, as amazing as it is, can only answer the questions you ask it,” he states. “It cannot tell you which questions you should be asking. Search results and news feeds are all now influenced by engines that take as a point of entry all that they know about you and spit back the information they think you’ll want. What is on the screen when you open Spotify? Recommendations on new music based on its knowledge of you. What happens if you visit Rough Trade Records? You often leave with albums and music from artists you’ve never heard of, having heard it played in the store, or from talking to one of the employees who clearly live and breathe music.”

Concerns aside, the tech community seems to be moving in the direction of “smarter” recommendation engines. For example, The Filter founded by Peter Gabriel. These developments suggest we might soon see recommendations for vacuum cleaners based on one’s music tastes. For example, a robotic system called HyperActive Bob has been developed to anticipate customer behaviors in fast food restaurants. This includes correlating a customer’s type of car with what he or she might order, but this particular filter has failed to prove successful so far.

When the self-referential nature of media increases the speed of recycling ideas in film, design, music, fashion and global culture as a whole, what will it take to receive truly original recommendations? What can we design into user experiences that will allow for the unexpected?

Imagine the possibilities of using “dumber” algorithms that will allow us to be pleasantly surprised by serendipity wherever we are…and whenever we “don’t” expect it.

If you liked this article we recommend: http://youtu.be/9ZlBUglE6Hc

Alexander Grünsteidl & Nikki Roddy @ Method

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Retail experiences reconsidered
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http://digitalwellbeinglabs.com/dwb/retail-experiences-reconsidered/
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Thu, 28 Jul 2011 13:46:13 +0000
agrunsteidl http://digitalwellbeinglabs.com/dwb/?p=733 Google_Goggles_mockup

Following up on Changing Retail Currencies in more detail with examples of great innovative retail concepts which have emerged in recent years to address contemporary retail requirements.

ECOMMERCE + IN-STORE: DESIGNING ‘COMPLETE’ RETAIL EXPERIENCES
Changing customer behavior and heightened expectations are reshaping how we design retail experiences. The in-store and online e-commerce experiences now work together—successful store design leverages the strengths of the digital and physical retailer to create a “complete” retail experience that considers the entire sales cycle. This presentation investigates what design factors must be considered, and why it’s critical for designers to innovate the retail experience.

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The AppLounge
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http://digitalwellbeinglabs.com/dwb/the-applounge-2/
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Sat, 06 Nov 2010 13:41:36 +0000
agrunsteidl http://digitalwellbeinglabs.com/dwb/?p=683 AppLounge_img01

After the Digital Wellbeing Showroom we developed The AppLounge, an innovative concept reacting to, and anticipating rapidly changing retail requirements driven by the shift from selling consumer devices, to marketing the content delivered by an emerging category of apps and online services on mobile devices like the iPod and at the time new iPad. The AppLounge casestudy

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Changing Retail Currency
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agrunsteidl http://digitalwellbeinglabs.com/dwb/?p=619 Changing_Retail_Currency03


As part of the 10×10 series by Method, we contributed the article “Changing Retail Currency”. It’s a companion piece to The AppLounge.

“Changing Retail Currency” is about the new role of the store, and the opportunities this creates for retailers.

Take a read: http://method.com/

As e-commerce continues to shape the retail experience, new and exciting opportunities for retailers and customers are emerging. The transactional value of the storefront has a different currency than the value that online shopping offers. We are witnessing a transformation in business models for retailers, opening up possibilities for more fluid and convergent retail experiences.

The article is build around 4 insights from different market sectors that have witnessed commoditisation and margin pressure in the recent past, and highlights a few cases that adapted successfully to new customer experience requirements.

01 Think Like an Editor

02 Learn from the Fashion Industry

03 Embrace Hospitality in Your Brand

04 Own Your Community Network

Method has co-published this piece with Fast Company’s Co.Design.

Check it out online here: http://www.fastcodesign.com/1662269/four-keys-to-surviving-the-future-of-retail




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The AppLounge
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agrunsteidl http://digitalwellbeinglabs.com/dwb/?p=608 AppLounge_Flyer
A place to meet and discover great apps matched with accessories that fit your mobile life.

The AppLounge is a hybrid space, featuring a selection of well-crafted mobile applications and services. It opens from 15 September 2010, at 100 Wardour Street for coffee during the day and cocktails at night, encouraging people to discover and sample exciting new mobile and tablet applications, digital content, including eBooks, eMags, and useful online services. During the London Design Festival, the AppLounge will also conduct inspiring AppTasting events and AppHealth workshops.

This first-of-its-kind ‘pop-up’ space was has been designed to facilitate discovery, education, and engagement. The AppLounge is an innovative alternative to the traditional retail environment, converging the best of in-store and online retail experiences. This unique collaboration between Digital Wellbeing Labs, Method, App.itize.us, Spotspot, and D&D London, celebrates the best in contemporary design languages from around the world and aims to answer the challenges that retailers face as e-commerce reshapes the retail process and consumer behavior. Says Grünsteidl: “The value of the storefront is changing from one of transaction to experience. We are witnessing a transformation in business models for retailers which is opening up possibilities for convergent retail experiences. The AppLounge is a pilot store that aims to bridge the gap between the in-store and online retail experience. The space is designed to encourage customers to slow down, have a drink, and sample a variety of applications and accessories on display.” The Applounge serves as a conduit between producers and customers and is not necessarily involved in any transactions.

Conceived by Alexander Grünsteidl, together with a collective of design agencies and a hospitality group, the AppLounge proudly presents a new retail concept, bringing together hospitality and the latest in physical and digital products under the umbrella of Mobile Lifestyle. Mobile Apps, accessories and content, like music and iBooks are presented as collections that will enrich daily life and resonate with consumer lifestyles. The first Digital Lifestyle Showroom made its debut during the 2006 London Design Festival to critical acclaim. Grünsteidl has also written a thought piece on the topic of retail convergence, titled “Changing Retail Currency” for the 10×10 thoughts on design series published by Method.

The AppLounge is open from 15 September through to 2 October at Meza, 100 Wardour St, London W1, UK.

Hours of Operation:
Monday – Saturday 12pm – late

Location:
The AppLounge at Meza
100 Wardour St
London, W1F 0TN UK
http://www.mezabar.com

For more information please visit www.theapplounge.com

About the Sponsors:

Method
Award-winning product, service, and experience innovation firm Method proudly sponsors the AppLounge. Method designed AppLounge materials and lead execution, from the brand identity and mark to the website, in-store displays, posters, and promotional material. Additionally, Method has provided direction on marketing strategies, event production, and the retail experience.

Alexander Grünsteidl is the Senior Director of User Experience at Method, and the author of a thought piece for Method’s 10×10 series, “The New Retail Currency.” Learn more about Method and read Alexander’s 10×10 piece at www.method.com.

To get in touch with Method, please email inquiries@method.com.

app.itize.us
Jason Fields founder of app.itize.us is happy to have provided guidance and curation for the carefully selected applications and services available at the AppLounge. Find out more about app.itize.us at app.itize.us.

Spotspot Creative & Engineering
Spotspot proudly participates in the AppLounge concept development and design of the pilot shop. Spotspot creates interactive objects for public and commercial spaces that link physical and digital customer experiences. Learn more about Spotspot at www.spotspoton.com

Meza and D&D London
D&D London is the UK’s leading high-end restaurant group with an annual turnover of more than £70 million and 20 individual restaurants across London, including Meza in Soho, which plays host to the AppLounge this September. www.danddlondon.com.

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Are we ready for Webfronts yet?
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Fri, 30 Oct 2009 18:08:22 +0000
agrunsteidl http://digitalwellbeinglabs.com/dwb/?p=503
webfront_harrods_dixons

Is the time right for the emergence of the Webfront showroom? A place that links the high-street to online retail but does not necessarily depend on traditional retail margins to be profitable. A space that allows you to discover products and services, follow demonstrations and then try them out for yourself. You then are able to order products or sign up to subscriptions directly in the showroom or postpone this decision to a later moment at home or on the road.We recently wrote in “The Last Click” article how business models for the high street have to change in response to online commerce and will give rise to new retail formats.

Ian Yolles of NAU discusses in the BusinessWeek article Retail2.0

“Of course, for many shoppers, online research of prices or customer reviews is the first step towards a store purchase. Others survey products in a store to decide which they want and then find the best deal online. In others words, for many consumers the Web and the mall are both parts of a larger shopping experience. “Nobody has really done anything to connect the dots and take discontinuity out of customer behavior [online and offline],”

Webfronts, coined and trademarked by NAU, are places which only showcase products and services whilst purchases are completed online and products then are shipped directly to the customer within a couple of days. These places have little or no merchandise for on the spot sales, in order to reduce inventory and distribution costs. Instead they offer hands-on demonstrations of services, or allow customers to try items, like garments, for size. Typically self service or managed kiosks are available to place an order online.

Over the past years quite a few instances of these innovative retail formats have emerged. But for various reasons many of them, after having been launched in a PR cloud of pioneering optimism, have failed to become economically viable.

It’s clear that these hybrid retail formats are not suitable for all types of merchandise and transactions especially in the FMCG and perishables sector, but then again, each sector is currently experimenting with internet integration.

We would like to understand why some hopeful integrated retail formats failed and others became successful, and how we can make this formula succeed in future development. There is only little data available but we can at least bring together a selection of examples to compare different emerging models and look at the pros and cons.

At the core of the debate on integrated internet retail innovation is the uneasy diversion from established, well proven, retail formats. These formats are based on common sales practices:

  • Setting conditions for impulse purchases, by attracting customers with aggressively priced, loss-leading merchandise.
  • Various forms of price perception manipulation based on artificial sales offers and staged price reductions that lead to price erosion of products. As recently reported in | Never-ending sales “have to stop” | BBC | October 2009 |
  • Up-selling by applying perceived quality differences within a family line of products to obtain higher margins.
  • Creating cross-selling situations that tempt customers to add more items to their shopping basket.
  • Negotiate unique and exclusive products with suppliers that allows the retailer to command the price with the highest margin, whilst telling the customer you are offering better service by helping to select the otherwise incomparable product.

Retail is about only two things; sell more items with low margins or few items with large margins. The whole design of retail environments online or offline is based on these few principles.

Customer behaviour proves these business models to be very successful. Though at a time when consumption patterns are changing as we exit the industrial- and enter the information-society, we should consider different sustainable models to manage customer relationships. One form will come from the fact that the nature of connected products is changing value perception of transactions.

Customer expectations are driven by a whole range of psychological factors. We don’t know how much we can manage these motivations and delay for example instant gratification of an impulse purchase and supplement it with something else. It will be at the core of these hybrid retail experiences that service design solution will have to be developed to satisfy customer needs and keep shoppers returning.

The increasing dominance of some (global) brands have lead to the Flagship-Store, which in effect is more about maintaining a brand image and fostering customer relationship rather than promoting instant sales. The question is if department like stores and curated boutique sized shops can offer profitable services based on business models which link smaller scale producers to their customers without necessarily providing direct sales?

Here is a selection of different approaches to the Webfront retail format, some more explicit and others almost transparently interwoven into the existing context.

Starbucks and iTunes

Starbucks was already a very successful vendor of music compilations cds, when it hooked up with Apple iTunes, offering wireless access to the location’s playlist from within the iTunes Application on for example an iPhone. A customer can see the current song playing and download it for the usual price. In addition a free song of the day is given away with a purchase coupon. Each Starbucks location becomes in fact a Webfront for the iTunes Online Store. It demonstrates that music stores don’t need to look like “traditional” music stores.

Apple and Starbucks iTunes WiFi integration hands-on | endgadget | Nov 2007 |

Shazam

Shazam turns any location that plays music into a Webfront. The customer uses his/her phone to transmit a sample of the music playing in the space, to a server and receives details about the song, album and artist, including a link to purchase the song from iTunes. Dj Clubs, Bars, Shopping-malls, Cars all become locations that can act as instant Websfronts.

The store in this case is often formed by the social context in which music is consumed. The crucial question is if Shazam would be willing to share in the revenue as the location and time of exposure is known to the application.

NAU Webfront stores

Nau was an apparel company with an environmentally aware, sustainable mission, based around a disruptive business format. It aimed at fundamentally reinventing its relationship with customers. One of their many innovations was the design of their retail space, which they don’t call a “store”, but rather a Webfront. It combined the efficiencies of the Web with the intimacy of the boutique. At a Nau Webfront, one sample of every piece in the collection and every available size hangs ready for visiting customers to try on. The company encourages shoppers to use the Webfront just as a testing platform for the clothes. The central mechanism is a self-serve kiosk that transfers the online shopping experience to an on-site touch screen kiosk and encourages customers to have their purchases sent home, with the incentive of a 10% discount and free shipping. By running retail this way, Nau dramatically decreases the regular inventory required at its multiple physical locations, thereby reducing the impacts of freight and lengthy supply chains.”

summary articles:

In a Search for the Authentic, I found nau|TrendBites | Jan 2008 |

Leap Of Faith | Fast Company | POLLY LABARRE | Dec 2007 |

about the customer experience:

Nau in Chicago: an interactive, sustainable, apparel store | Team Kane Street | Sept 2007 |

Unfortunately the company had to close a year after opening after failing to raise the next level of funding, and is currently re-launching as a web only store.

Sustainable clothier Nau pulls the plug | Jerry Casey | The Oregonian | May 02, 2008

What Nau? | Good magazine | Luke O’Brien | October 2008

Analysts consider the failure after just one year of operation due to trying to reinvent too many retail practices simultaneously, whilst not being able to create enough storefronts and develop parallel sales channels to become profitable. We would be interested to learn more about how customer behaviour had changed in reaction to this new off-hybrid format. Apparently about half the customers, many more than the 10% predicted, choose to have purchases sent home. Although undoubtedly at the heart of the customer experience, the apparently pricey to develop website struggled to become usable soon enough.

Various technologies are being brought together to facilitate these new environments. A summary of these can be found in this The New York Times article | Thinking of Going Blond? consult the Kiosk First | March 2009 |

Intel shopping kiosk prototype with Frog Design video of the prototype

The question is not if we can make the technology work, but how far existing retail infrastructures need to be adapted, if the cost of implementation offers sufficient ROI and most importantly if it can be made acceptable to customers.

Oki-Ni

Oki-Ni has been operating a similar retail format before NAU, featuring temporary gallery type shopfronts in different locations.

Images of the Gallery Shop

Their concept is based on offering exclusive products sourced from global renowned brands to unique collaborations with a range of niche brands, combined with the accessibility of on-line retail. The physical gallery is a place where consumers can view and try clothes. These outlets don’t sell any of the products, which must be ordered directly from the internet for delivery within a few days. Interestingly these pop-up galleries are seen as temporary marketing tools “We always see the galleries as a springboard to the internet. They are a marketing push in each territory where people become aware of the brand but then are happy to go online. Once we’ve become established in a territory, the galleries are not as important and then our focus as a retailer is online,” says Paddy Meehan.

UK RETAIL: Window shopping with a difference at Oki-Ni. | Goliath | February 2005

eBay Drop Off stores

Initially hyped as a new successful business opportunity with low start-up costs and growing returns. The format is based on branded high-street locations which accept and manage items to be auctioned on eBay and share in any profits made from a deal. After few initial success stories, many franchises failed. It turned out that location overhead, services costs which included labour to research products, create suitable images to present an item online, and writing descriptions were too high in relation to the deal margins on most low cost auction items. At the same time some more expensive items like cars were prohibited unless the franchise would obtain specific trade licenses.

http://tradingassistantjournal.com/2008/03/ebay-franchise-drop-stores-why-they-failed/

Evans cycles

Evans Cycles makes use of in-store sales kiosks to aggressively expand business across London.

So called “Info Hub” kiosks are prominently placed on the shop floor and allow online browsing as a shared activity between staff and customer, ordering anything from their online catalogue and then have it send for pick-up at the store or delivery at home. Employing instore online sales kiosks allowed Evans to rapidly open new locations, even settling for smaller, less suitable shop properties, in close proximity to their competitors, whilst overcoming limitations of having not enough space to stock the complete range, and instead only displaying items suitable for the target audience at each location.

Evans Cycles buying options

Apple Flagship stores

Brand Flagship stores are in fact nothing but Webfronts. We always wondered how far for example the Apple Stores are designed to be Webfront locations. The Apple high-street stores are intertwined with the Online Apple Stores. They have been the game changers in the consumer electronics sector, allowing people to touch and tryout products before buying. It is claimed that Apple Stores have some of the highest retail turnover per square meter in the industry. But surely (even if we can’t prove it) the salaries of the numerous staff must be paid by more than just in-store profit margins.

“Retail Analyst: Apple Store Regent Street most profitable for size in London “To make £60 million a year from a shop of Apple’s size is absolutely phenomenal””

The figures in this analysis seem way over the top, but then again it’s within the range of the possible; over £150k average a day and £15k an hour. Lets assume they process consistently 100 paying customers an hour that would create an average spending amount of £150. Sure enough this calculation is to simplistic. It would be interesting to learn how sales are divided between core Apple hardware, third party products, software and accessories?

But what surprises me that although many have studied the Apple Stores since their first opening in 2001, no-one has been able to successfully emulate the formula. Even in London, the Nokia flagship store, across from the Apple Store on Regent Street, both, not quite incidentally, designed by the same company, Eight Inc. seems to completely miss the point. This showroom really can’t be more than an advertising space, in an environment when most handset sales are tied in with the service providers.

We wonder if it is about the presentation format, or about the choice of products which are out of synch with requirements in multi-channel customer relationships? Incidentally Microsoft just opened the first store this week copying many successful elements from the Apple formula.

It seems like this formula only works for brands that can offer a complete package; in Apple’s case, everything from hardware to software, to content. It makes us question if these type of stores actually can be developed in a different consumer sectors and with merchandise sourced from different brands without a core brand forming the central organising principle.

Perhaps the food sector can offer some insights?

webfront_tesco

Ocado the only way to shop for groceries.

Tesco, Every little helps and Tesco direct

We are really interested in the relationship between groceries bought the traditional way in Waitrose supermarkets and products ordered online. Or for the same reason how customers both shop online on Tesco Direct and Tesco.co.uk and Sainsbury’s online whilst having visited the comparable local supermarket locations. How much are the items chosen on the Webshop, depending on initial discovery on the physical shelf. On the other hand, how many products in the online shopping basket come from cross selling opportunities, for example by offering ready shopping lists based on recipes, which would have be difficult to realise on a physical shelf? How much is Waitrose a Webfront for Ocado.com? Instead most online discussions are about how much they compete on product ranges and prices.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ocado

De Kijkshop

Just as a curiosity to include in this list is the 35 year old Kijkshop. (literally translated Look-Shop) A unique shopping format from the Netherlands. Initially the stores were located off main shopping locations but easy to reach by car. The shops were mostly designed with dark walls and flooring, with spotlights highlighting merchandise locked inside glass showcases. Each items was provided with extensive printed descriptions. Customers note down the product numbers selected items and pass them to a cashier. Merchandise is then delivered boxed up straight from the warehouse. When the the chain changed ownership a few years ago, a more conventional format, with products openly accessible to the customer, thought to provide incentives for impulse purchases, was tested in one of the locations. After failing to achieve the intended effect, the company has decided to remain with the proven format.

First was the announcement of the change

Kijkshop stopt met vitrineformule | Nieuwe eigenaar verwacht omzetstijging door ’open aanpak’ | Trouw | August 2007

Then came the “disillusioning” insight after a year of trials, that the original formula was still pretty effective.

Aanbod Kijkshop blijft achter glas | de Ondernemer | April 2008

Similar to Argos in the UK, the Kijkshop has increasing web presence, although it’s arguable how far the relationship with the high-street showrooms goes.

Wired Store Christmas Pop-Up

Here the well known magazine “Wired” lends its brand to endorse the selection of gadgets for a pop-up store during the holiday season. It is a yearly pop-up store in New York, “curated” by Wired staff, but as some commentators note, more likely driven by lucrative sponsorship deals. It’s a place where you are actually able to touch products you otherwise only encounter in blogs and magazine articles. A range of advertorial events and charity games are hosted on site during this period. Customers don’t purchase directly but from internet kiosks around the store. Items are then shipped to their homes in time before Xmas. The main aspect of this format is similar to Oki-Ni but to the level that Wired only takes a fee from sponsors to offset the cost for product placement and does not take a percentage of the sales revenue. The inaugural Wired pop-up store sold $9 million worth of merchandise,65 gadgets in all, and attracted 14,000 visitors. As such the Wired store becomes a trusted mediator between companies and customers.

related articles:

photos of example products in the store by Digital Lifestyles

Wired Magazine Becomes Holiday Retailer | Phil Wahba, | Special to the Sun | November 2006

Some critical notes by PFK.com

Sample Lab

The obvious conclusion to where contemporary business models, in acknowledgement of the relationship between the high street and online retail, are heading is the Japanese Sample Lab franchise. It’s a true try-vertising space where potential consumers, called try-sumers come to test and experience products for free, before buying them elsewhere. The model evolved from the mostly unwanted, in-your-face free samples, offered at inopportune moments in the street or whilst browsing in department stores. The business formula is build on product placement and includes demonstrations in a stylish but neutral environment creating a unique retail experience. Customers become members for a nominal yearly fee. At each visit they can try everything on display and then take 5 items home. Before being able to return to a store try-sumers are requested to fill out a questionnaire, either on the spot or in their own time online or on their phone. Companies who place products will receive information from in-store surveys and at same time will gain wider awareness of their products and services by word-of-mouth, spread in the social network of the Sample Lab members.

sample_lab03

It is an alternative to the free-samples, often packed with print magazines, now with a vanishing role in competition with content on the internet. The model is probably best oriented to FMCG products but we are wondering how far this could be stretched to introduce online services and for example specific mobile phone apps. In the case of some consumer electronic products it has already proven to be a suitable place to gain exposure with people that otherwise would not be inclined to visit their a brand flagship stores related to the product. “…By renting lab space, Sony was able to put Playstations into the hands of women, many of them for the first time…There are a lot of people Sony can’t reach with their regular promotional events. Sony marketing thought this would be a way to access customers who normally wouldn’t visit game software shops or electronics stores…”

It’s All about the Freebies | American Way | Ethan Rouen | May 2009

A Trip To The Sample Lab | Nightly Business Report | March 2008 |

sample_lab01

Conclusion

This is only a small selection of the most prominent cases exploring hybrid business models, combining brick and mortar and online retail. It will require more than just placement of CRM technologies within existing retail environments to achieve customer acceptance, what we call a new Culture of Use, and satisfy underlying consumer needs. The question still is how far places on the high street need to evolve to adjust to these changes and what completely new formats will arise. What mechanisms draw people into shops on the high-street, compared to access to stores on their mobile phone in their hand? How can we create enough stickiness that people want to return to destinations on the high-street?

E-tailing – has the revolution arrived? BBC January 2009

High street reaction to online march too slow, says George Davies Retail Week September 2009


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