Consumer sentiment analysis shows purpose-driven brands creating positive impact are seen as most innovative, by using their platforms to harness the power of global perspective through their local strategies

In our latest results from our Retail Innovation Tracker, which ranks experts’ perceptions of 150+ well known consumer-facing brands, PSFK researchers found that the most innovative brands, whether upstart or established, are increasingly positioning their products and services alongside purpose-driven initiatives that simultaneously elevate customers' perceptions and accomplish global good.

The survey ranked retailers across the verticals of fashion, hospitality, home, beauty and beyond. Ranked most innovative (once again), the eCommerce and Automotive industries showed similar results to the October survey, with Amazon (86) and Tesla (97) leading. For the rest of the industries, here is a topline analysis for other key sectors in order of their overall innovative rank:

Hospitality & Travel: Airbnb Encouraging Shared Spaces Through Hospitality

Within the hospitality category, Airbnb (71) was ranked the most innovative hospitality service and online marketplace, and recently announced a new initiative called Backyard, an endeavor to design and prototype new ways of building and sharing homes in 2019. Backyard was initiated as part of its Samara, a futures division of Airbnb, which was made to develop new products and services for the company.

Airbnb also released its navigation tool that helps travelers locate off-trail stays. Through a partnership with geocoding system What3word, the tool helps its customers hunt down unique or hidden lodges not easily found through other navigation services, such as a tent in a Mongolian forest. Airbnb is hoping to use it to offer its customers more exotic and off-trail locations, as well as lodges with unusual addresses, which can still sometimes be tricky for customers to locate.

Airbnb’s initiatives towards enabling consumers to share spaces across countries, encouraging borderless lifestyles and building inclusive and diverse living communities reflect a dedication to being a force for good. By building communities beyond its platform and providing network impact, Airbnb is establishing itself as an impactful industry leader.

Related Research: The Travel Debrief


Retail: Warby Parker Enabling Everyone Access To Eyecare

The results from the latest update of the Retail Innovation Tracker shows that Warby Parker (71) ranked as the most innovative retailer in the retail category. Warby Parker’s convenient model for buying glasses online and innovation across the retail experience is only one aspect of Warby Parker’s success. Since day one, over 4 million pairs of glasses have been distributed through their Buy a Pair, Give a Pair program, which is a social healthcare initiative at Warby Parker’s core—and bottom line.

Related Research: The Future of Retail 2019


Sports/Fitness—Lifestyle: Nike Using Human-Touch To Integrate Into Daily Lives

Survey results for the Sports/Fitness—Lifestyle industry show Nike (71) leading the way.  In November, Nike put on an exciting “Playkits” interactive exhibition in Hong Kong, which highlighted a range of female athletes and creative, along with its sustainability efforts (such as the fact that 75%  of all Nike shoes and apparel now contain some recycled material.) Through its brand expressions of taking actions towards environmental sustainability and social empowerment, Nike is making itself an industry leader that integrates into customers’ daily lives.

In terms of customer experience, Nike is creating a one-to-one experience with its customers in its Shanghai House of Innovation, which features an Expert Studio in an area that is restricted to members. Shoppers can pre-plan visits through the mobile app, making an appointment for an expert consultation with a store associate or reserving products for in-store try on, enabling them to have more seamless, informed and personalized shopping experiences.

PSFK’s Future of Retail 2019 also spotlights how Nike’s mobile experience extends to the retail locations, creating a shopping ecosystem that empowers shoppers take control, with minimal, yet more efficient, assistance from store associates.

Related Research: The Future of Retail 2019


Home: IKEA Making Sustainable Living A Possibility, Especially In Cities

Swedish big box retailer IKEA (70) was ranked the most innovative company within the home retailer category. It latest  developments include a partnership with Tom Dixon, a British furniture brand that specializes in lighting and home accessories, to explore the future of urban farming. Their goal through this collaboration is to encourage people to experiment with how their home space can also be used for agriculture. Additionally, IKEA opened a supplemental shop in London called the Planning Studio, which is the first of its kind and will be staffed by advisers, rather than salespeople, to advise shoppers on bedroom and kitchen planning. Lastly, IKEA is planning on opening small-format stores that cater to urban consumers with curated merchandise for city living.

By launching these initiatives, IKEA is extending its brand to solve environmental issues and creating positive impact, offering customers added-value services, as well as makings its product and customer experience more flexible to serve the needs of urban shoppers.

Related Research: PSFK’s Future of Retail 2019


Beauty: Glossier Empowering Women To Feel Naturally Beautiful

Within the Beauty industry, Glossier (68) scored the highest. The beauty brand’s blog, Into The Gloss, became a mecca for women curious about the latest skincare and makeup products. It also provided a forum for them to communicate with other beauty fans. As a result, Glossier is really one of the first socially driven beauty brands, both digitally and physically.

Glossier is one of the best examples of how brands and retailers are becoming lifestyle partners that integrate into people’s daily lives, sharing with consumers a sense of presence, camaraderie and authenticity towards creating a community of women and like-minded people who empower each other.

Related Research: Content & Commerce


Entertainment: LEGO Globally Inspiring Children To Build A Better Future

Denmark-based toy company LEGO (61) was ranked the most innovative company within the entertainment category. Recently, LEGO opened its first flagship store in China, which features an interactive play area that encourages children to build their own cities of the future, where kids can learn about modern architecture and environmental impact. This is not the only hands-on educational experience that Lego has implemented lately. In fact, the LEGO Foundation, in partnership with NGOs Porticus and BRAC, has funded more than 513 “play labs” in Uganda, Tanzania and Bangladesh, which allow kids to participate in a child-centered curriculum built by a team of global play scholars.

PSFK’s Building the New Toy Experience explores more ways brands are creating opportunities for children to have hands-on learning experiences that enable them to learn, grow and develop, while still giving them optimal playtimes.

Related Research: Cultivating & Encouraging Digital & Physical Fan Communities (Publishing in Early January 2019)


Outdoor Apparel: Patagonia Teaching People to Appreciate Their Environment

This month, Patagonia (60) ranked as the most innovative Outdoor Apparel Retailer for another month in a row. Our October post included a deep-dive into how this brand was founded on principles and values, such as authenticity, sustainability, social impact, customer-centricity, and loyalty.

A prime example of this is Patagonia’s Action Works digital platform, which connects people and environmental non-profits, helping them get involved through events, petitions and volunteering in their community. Additionally, its Worn Wear program increases the longevity and sustainability of the brand’s clothing by offering repairs in select stores and incentivizes donation of old products by offering discounts for future purchases. By enabling people to act on their broader missions, Patagonia has established itself as a direct influencer creating positive impact on a global level.

Related Research: PSFK’s The CX Playbook


Food: Brandless Helping Anyone To Eat Healthy

Direct-to-consumer company Brandless (57), known for selling quality consumer goods for $3 or less, was ranked most innovative in the Food category. Not only does Brandless have a strong focus on building relationships with customers, by powering one-to-one relationships and giving customers a sense of ownership, but it also has business model that enables customers to become donors through its platform. Brandless was designed to be a company that gives back; since its launch in 2017, the company has donated over 3 million gifts. Additionally, as part of its B.More Membership program, Brandless donates 10 meals on customers behalf to people facing hunger when they sign up and 2 more every time they shop.

As a way to bring to life its brand narrative and values to audiences, Brandless’ recent Pop-up with Purpose activation in New York City spotlighted its mission of giving back to communities and practicing kindness was the spotlight. For every social post tagged #BrandlessLife during the pop-up, the company donated one meal via a partnership with Feeding America.

Related Research: PSFK’s The CX Playbook


What This Means Now & For The Future

PSFK’s Tracker results reveal that brands and retailers that prioritize sustainable profitability, collaborative spirit and shared human and environmental values of integrity and equality establish themselves as being capable of building a purpose-driven ecosystem.

However, in order for brands to first develop their brand platforms, they are challenged to problem solve with creative solutions for overcoming a fractured media and retail landscapes with distributed model for consumer attention. Specifically, how brands engage with audiences is a critical element in achieving a crucial element/layer of true authenticity. Whether that means becoming a bridge to community on a local level, providing network impact on a global scale, or simply amplifying voices in digital channels to align with consumers’ growing demands, the most innovative brands are building or leveraging their existing platforms to expand into new verticals, spaces and initiatives that are touching the lives of more people in authentic ways.


Looking Ahead

The past year has been one of global turmoil and introspection; as consumers have increasingly examined their own values, they have likewise caused brands to reconsider their stances as well. Consumer shifts towards health-consciousness, sustainability and equality/inclusion have caused a domino effect of disruption across the industries of health, automotive, food, fashion, entertainment and retailers across the board. It is now clear that many innovators that have collaborated to create sustainable and integrity-based solutions have successfully tipped the scales, causing traditional companies and business leaders to rethink their practices and norms, as well as where and how they engage with consumers at the top of the funnel.

In 2018, we have seen innovation and massive disruption take place across all industry verticals. Wellness trends have disrupted, and will continue to disrupt, across categories in products and services. Evolving business models have enabled new economies. Brands have increasingly fostered ecosystems, creating communities where people can interact with each other and their physical environments. Meanwhile, collective consumer sentiments have increasingly proven that consumers are looking to brands, specifically purpose-driven brands, to serve as policing forces that impact and benefit their lives, both in local communities and on a global scale. Many brands activations, immersions and initiatives over the past twelve months have brought to life brand values centered around honesty, integrity, empowerment and beyond.

However, if 2018 has shown that consumers clearly expect brands to be or become purpose-driven (and fast), we are curious: what will consumers demand from brands and retailers in 2019? How can brands incorporate integrity and sustainability, and overall purpose-driven strategies, into their tech-enabled experiences? And how will the concept of purpose evolve?

Related Reports:

The Future of Retail 2019 unpacks the Direct-To-Consumer opportunity, covering enterprise-critical strategies around supply chain and technology infrastructure, store design and service, and CRM and loyalty systems.

PSFK’s The CX Playbook presents a new vision for the customer-brand journey, one where customers’ lives and goals are authentically empowered and bolstered by their favorite brands. The playbook presents readers with an actionable, trends-inspired framework that will attract customers through value-driven brand perspectives and cultivate long-term loyalty by nurturing their progressive lifestyle.

Cultivating & Encouraging Digital & Physical Fan Communities (Publishing in Early January 2019)

Each month, PSFK surveys progressive consumers about their impressions of retailers and DTC brands. The results are published in a Retail Innovation Tracker which can be found here.