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Need to Know 08 : 08 : 17

08.08.2017 Retail : Food & Drink : Luxury

In today’s daily digest: Alibaba’s car vending machine, the revival of African coffee, Tuft & Needle adopts Amazon's technology and other top stories.

1. Alibaba launches luxury car vending machines

Automotive Vending Machine by Alibaba, China

China – Tmall, a subsidiary of the e-commerce giant, is to introduce its Automotive Vending Machine later this year. Consumers will be able to use a smartphone app to browse and buy the available cars.

While not the first of its kind – Autobahn Motors launched a similar automobile vending machine model in Singapore earlier this year – the involvement of Alibaba, which boasts about 454m active buyers according to Statista, will move the retail model towards mainstream adoption.

The e-commerce brand internally credit checks potential buyers, after which consumers will make a 10% down payment, paying the remaining cost in monthly instalments through Alipay. As noted in our Retail Week Live 2017: Show Review, Alibaba continues to evolve and expand its e-commerce eco-system.

2. Artisanal coffee is reviving the African market

Blend Station by Futura, Mexico City Blend Station by Futura, Mexico City

Africa – Coffee producers across Africa are benefiting from the growing Western interest in good coffee, which has resulted in premium prices for African beans. Traditionally, Ethiopia has been heralded as an important source of good-quality coffee, but this accolade has now extended to countries such as Kenya and Rwanda, and consumers are now willing to pay up to £3 ($4, €3.40) for a cup.

Coffee-growing across Africa has suffered in recent times from the rise of growing markets such as Vietnam, which is able to produce the beans at a much lower cost price, but the increasing demand for single-origin brews is set to help revive the African market.

For more on changes in coffee consumption, see the Cool Caffeine Focus section of our Food and Drink Futures Report 2016.

3. Major step for social virtual reality

VR World by VR Worldwide, New York. Photography by Kenny Rodriguez VR World by VR Worldwide, New York. Photography by Kenny Rodriguez
VR World by VR Worldwide, New York. Photography by Luis Nieto Dickens VR World by VR Worldwide, New York. Photography by Luis Nieto Dickens
VR World by VR Worldwide, New York. Photography by Kenny Rodriguez VR World by VR Worldwide, New York. Photography by Kenny Rodriguez
VR World by VR Worldwide, New York. Photography by Kenny Rodriguez VR World by VR Worldwide, New York. Photography by Kenny Rodriguez

New York – VR Worldwide has transformed a former retail space near the Empire State Building into a social virtual reality (VR) environment. Given its central location, the interior is designed to appeal to both tourists and dedicated gamers, offering a ‘Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) meets K-pop’ aesthetic.

‘We stayed away from the arcade, Tron-like gaming aesthetic. We love those cultures, but we also want to talk to people who are coming in from Times Square,’ Drew Arnold, chief creative officer at VR World, told Creators.

The VR experiences on offer include short films and puzzle, boxing and racing games, as well as experiences with real-world applications, such as a flight simulation exercise machine and medical VR equipment. As LS:N Global explored in our Virtual Reality Arcades microtrend, VR experiences in social settings will revolutionise the entertainment industry.

4. Tuft & Needle embraces Amazon

Seattle – The mattress start-up, which reportedly gets 25% of its sales through Amazon, will open its first physical store in the mega-system’s home town later this year.

The space will feature tablets that enable visitors to read Amazon reviews, Amazon Echo devices to answer customers’ questions and QR codes on products to enable seamless payments through the Amazon app.

‘We focus on what we are good at,’ says Tuft & Needle co-founder Daehee Park. ‘Then we plug in Amazon technology for the rest.’ As brands such as Walmart develop new systems to limit Amazon’s sphere of influence, brands such as Tuft & Needle highlight the potential of tapping into mega-systems to provide a more comprehensive, seamless service. For more examples of brands that are transforming their physical stores into showrooms, download our free Future of Service Report 2017.

Tuft & Needle rendering, Seattle Tuft & Needle rendering, Seattle

5. Three advert encourages binge watching

Telecoms company Three has launched a new ad campaign to promote its Go Binge service, which taps into the rise of mobile viewing by allowing customers unlimited monthly data usage. The brand aims to cater for the 46% of viewers that binge watch programmes on platforms such as Netflix rather than spacing out their viewing. For more on changes in online consumer behaviour, see our macrotrend The Focus Filter.

Thought-starter: Can you buy downtime?

As workers face longer commutes, hospitality spaces are emerging that are designed to enable workers to make better use of the time spent travelling between the home and office.

Third spaces have commonly been associated with coffee shops, an extension of the home where customers could settle down with their laptops and while away a few hours. But as employees’ commutes become longer hospitality spaces are prioritising people’s rest and rejuvenation.

Hotels, which traditionally operate on a strict check-in, check-out schedule, face pressure to become more flexible. Brands are struggling to fill vacant rooms and remain relevant in an industry suffering from the disruption of Airbnb, which is driving a shift towards pay-as-you-go pricing strategies that enable guests to book a room to freshen up, shower or nap.

Rather than seeking physical rejuvenation, some consumers are looking for third spaces that promise heightened mental clarity. As the open-plan office proves itself inefficient, workers are seeking on-demand private spaces to foster productivity free of distractions.

To read more on how on-the-go consumers are seeking new sanctuaries, read our microtrend Downtime On Demand.

Breather, New York