News 13.05.2024

Need to Know

Penguin Random House Canada makes bedtime stories more immersive, NYC restaurants hire remote cashiers to cut costs, and how e-commerce platforms drive beauty sales among affluent earners.

Penguin Random House Canada transforms bedtime stories into immersive experiences

Living Stories Campaign, Penguin Random House, Rethink, Canada

Canada – Canadian publishing company Penguin Random House Canada, in collaboration with creative agency Rethink, has unveiled a ground-breaking smart home app called Living Stories. This app aims to transform bedtime stories into immersive experiences, enticing digitally native children to engage with literature in a whole new way.

The Living Stories app leverages voice recognition technology to synchronise with smart home devices, such as Philips Hue lights and speakers, creating an interactive, multi-sensory experience tailored to each story. As parents read aloud, the app triggers dynamic lighting effects and custom soundscapes, enhancing the narrative and creating deeper engagement.

The experience brings a sense of magic to the ordinary bedtime story routine. This heart-warming technology also highlights the importance of preserving the connection between parents and children through storytelling. The app beats Gen Alpha’s screen addiction by enhancing real-life experiences and encouraging child’s play. In our AI Edu-play-tion microtrend, we highlighted innovators attempting to bring artificial intelligence to educational playtime away from screens.

Strategic opportunity

To improve the customer experience, consider going beyond visual stimulation by incorporating elements such as custom lighting effects and soundscapes to enhance storytelling and captivate the user

Professional surfer Kelly Slater launches Freaks of Nature skincare

Freaks of Nature, US Freaks of Nature, US
Freaks of Nature, US Freaks of Nature, US

US – Professional surfer Kelly Slater has launched Freaks of Nature, an eco-conscious skincare brand for outdoor athletes.

Formulated to withstand harsh conditions such as wind and sun exposure, the skincare line promotes a healthy and balanced skin microbiome, launching with the Deeper Dive Moisturiser and Daily Defender SPF30 Sunscreen.

Inspired by nature, the collection looked to biosynthesis to formulate ingredients such as fabricated Squalane, B-Silk and a postbiotic bacillus ferment, which help to increase bacterial diversity and improve the skin barrier function.

Freaks of Nature also uses consciously designed packaging, including an airless pump with 100% upcycled plastic, in collaboration with plastic action platform Oceanworks. A Squared Circles brand, Freaks of Nature has attracted investment from Casamigos founder Mike Meldman and actor Jonah Hill.

In our Riding the Wave of Surfing Futures report, we explored how surfing is becoming a more inclusive sport as people seek out new Mass Movement activities, creating new cross-sector opportunities to serve this growing audience.

Strategic opportunity

As we head towards The Olympic Games, sportsmania is taking over. How can your brand tap into the audiences of high-profile sporting figures through brand collaborations, endorsements and sponsorship deals?

NYC restaurants turn to Philippines-based remote cashiers to cut costs

Coqodaq, US Coqodaq, US

US – As New York City's restaurant industry grapples with soaring labour expenses, local chains are embracing innovative solutions to cut costs. A cadre of eateries, including Sansan Chicken in Manhattan’s East Village and Long Island City, Queens, is deploying cashiers via video call from the Philippines, paying them significantly less than American workers.

Sansan Chicken utilises a large screen where remote cashiers greet customers and handle inquiries about the menu or orders, relieving pressure on in-person staff. This initiative is driven by Happy Cashier, a New York-based firm led by Chi Zhang, aiming to 'empower small businesses by providing exceptional virtual cashier services', Zhang told Fortune.

Drawing from the Philippines’ vast pool of 1.3m business process outsourcing (BPO) workers, Happy Cashier taps into a thriving industry generating billions in revenue. While the practice raises eyebrows regarding wage differentials, Zhang emphasised fair compensation, claiming to pay 150% more than the average Filipino cashier's wage.

Planning to launch officially by the end of June 2024, Zhang aims to revolutionise restaurant operations while navigating the complexities of a globalised labour market. In our analysis of CES 2024, we highlighted how automated retail and hospitality, including coffee shops run by robo-baristas, are already a reality but bring up many ethical reservations.

Strategic opportunity

While exploring cost-saving measures, prioritise fair compensation and ethical labour practices to avoid backlash and maintain brand reputation

Stat: E-commerce platforms are driving beauty sales among affluent earners

Prada Beauty Paradoxe pop-up store, China Prada Beauty Paradoxe pop-up store, China

US – Affluent consumers are turning to e-commerce for personal care shopping, according to a new report from e-commerce platform Nosto and consultancy firm 2 Visions.

Surveying 2,259 US consumers between February and April 2024, the 2024 Personal Care & Beauty E-commerce Market Research Report found that 55.56% of those earning more than £80,239 annually ($100,000, €124,628) enjoy omnichannel shopping, yet make 43% of their beauty purchases online – the highest among the income segments in the report. Quality, product variety and convenience are cited as determinants of this decision.

The report also found that while older consumers regularly shop for personal care products, only 80.5% of Gen Z respondents reported purchasing a beauty or personal care product since 2022. For those who buy beauty products, 52.7% preferred shopping in-store, bucking the older generations’ trend towards hybrid and online shopping options.

We first identified the shift towards hybrid-normative shopping culture in our EQ Commerce macrotrend report in 2023. Brands must look to technology to introduce interconnected, personalised experiences that facilitate these blended new shopping habits.

Strategic opportunity

If consumers are increasingly shopping online, consider how to repurpose your physical store. Host events and workshops and launch click-and-collect services to build brand presence while maintaining e-commerce sales

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