In reality, Alibaba is much more than a retail platform. Its vast network incorporates social platforms, a Cloud service, an innovation centre, education system, and – as the world’s largest e-commerce system – its extensive logistic network links cities and ports across the world.
At Dutch Design Week 2018, nine multidisciplinary Design Academy Eindhoven graduates, in collaboration with Van Abbemuseum, addressed Alibaba’s global influence through a series of exploratory installations. As e-commerce is still not widely accepted in Uganda, E-Hustling East Africa Online by Leif Czakai and Timm Donke questioned whether online vending can become an alternative business platform for the country’s street vendors, with the potential to grow them into local online businesses by implementing the Chinese e-commerce model.
Elsewhere, Irene Stracuzzi's four-metre, custom-printed inflatable globe visualised Alibaba’s online data and global infrastructure. Stracuzzi gathered data from the AliResearch institute established by Alibaba in 2007, alongside geographical information relating to its production, logistics network, e-commerce sales and Cloud infrastructure to encapsulate the entire Alibaba eco-system.
For more from Dutch Design Week 2018, look out for our forthcoming review of the future-facing themes emerging from the show.
Teatulia transforms tea-drinking into a social activity
Teatulia, London. Photography by Louise Long
Teatulia, London. Photography by Louise Long
London – Designed by Russell Sage Studio, Teatulia is a new bar, library and retail space that turns tea-drinking into a more considered experience.
Serving six types of tea by day and a variety of tea-based cocktails at night, this café and social space in Covent Garden is the first in London to have complete ownership of the provenance of its tea leaves. Each leaf is hand-picked from the brand’s garden in Tetulia, northern Bangladesh, located between the globally recognised tea regions of Darjeeling and Assam.
With space limited to just 16 visitors at a time, Teatulia encourages guests to interact with the space. They can choose a record to be played via the in-store record player, or peruse the teashop’s bookshelf, which features a rotating selection of titles guest-curated on a monthly basis.
As explored in our Tea Market, the global appetite for tea remains strong, however brands are being challenged to present the drink in new and engaging ways to ensure it remains relevant amid the continuing growth of coffee culture.
Revolutionising public transport through technology
Ontario – In a bid to stave off competition from brands like Uber, the local public transport provider in Belleville, southern Ontario, is piloting a programme for on-demand night buses.
By using similar technology to ride-sharing apps, the service enables users to schedule journeys either days or minutes before their trip through a dedicated app. Once booked, users receive confirmation and the scheduled ETA for the bus. Alternatively, they can track the bus’s route, and hail it during its journey, with the driver able to register the ride on the spot.
The on-demand service aims not only to offer greater convenience for Belleville residents but also acts as a money-saving measure by ensuring that buses are only dispatched when they are needed. ‘We don’t have to do a full loop around the city hoping somebody gets on board,’ Paul Buck, manager of transit services of the city of Belleville, tells MotherBoard.
For more on how technology is driving innovation in our cities’ transport systems and infrastructure, see our Branded Cities report.
Volvo 7900 electric bus
A pillow spray for daytime power naps
This Works Sleep Power
UK – Amid a global sleep deficit, This Works has launched Sleep Power, a new range of pillow sprays and face masks formulated to optimise post-nap performance.
Containing all-natural ingredients including lavender, chamomile and vetiver, the pillow spray has been created to assist with falling asleep but also to help users feel revived post-nap. In clinical trials of 100 consumers who regularly nap during the day, the brand reports that 93% felt they performed better mentally, physically and were more able to control their impulses after using the spray during rest.
With consumers’ always-on lifestyles affecting their ability to sleep, insomnia and tiredness have become global wellbeing issues. In response, brands are launching products and services that take a more holistic approach to downtime. At the recent Global Wellness Summit in Italy, Maria Mu launched Bellumo, a mobile lamp that helps users to reach a restful state by slowly brightening and dimming as a prompt for them to breathe in and out.
Stat: Brand names have greater currency for Generation Z
The investment bank Piper Jaffray's semi-annual Taking Stock With Teens report has found that Generation Z are more enticed by brand names than their Millennial predecessors were at the same age.
Of the 8,600 US teenagers taking part in the survey, nearly half (45%) said that brand name was the most important factor for them, up from 33% in 2012.
The report also found that among Generation Z’s female population, buying preferences differed from those of their predecessors, with greater emphasis placed on personal care than the previously popular fashion accessories, as teens prioritise self-care. The majority (91%) of respondents also preferred to shop for colour cosmetics in-store rather than online.
Launching soon, our new Youth macrotrend The Anxiety Rebellion will provide global insights into what is driving this new generation of teens.
Thought-starter: Can brands promote life-long body confidence?
From adolescence to menopause, brands are helping to alleviate the biological inconveniences of being a woman.
Puberty is a difficult time for teenage girls, with a study by Blume, a subscription service for puberty products, reporting that 60% of girls and women said puberty was the moment their self-esteem plummeted. ‘That really showed us that we could pinpoint the exact time that girls felt their confidence drop, and we wanted to do something about it,’ says Blume co-founder Bunny Ghatrora.
Elsewhere, brands are working to demystify and destigmatise fertility and the menopause. Kindbody is a company that offers egg-freezing services to young Millennial women who don’t yet wish to become mothers, repositioning egg-freezing as an accessible lifestyle choice rather than a medical procedure.
Icon, the sister label to period-proof underwear brand Thinx, released an unapologetic campaign in 2017 for its pee-proof underwear. The Piss Off campaign heralded its customers as unruly women in unruly bodies and was brandished over New York’s subway system in order to encourage more honest conversations about incontinence.
For more on Life-stage Brands, read the full microtrend here.