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Exploring All The Angles

While the majority of our work focuses on retail, we always advise our clients to seek inspiration from outside of their industry or category in order to find emerging opportunities for innovation. With this newsletter, I’m hoping to do just that, look between the cracks to offer a slightly offbeat angle or insight that helps brings something new to light for you. Needless to say, I’m enjoying the process. Sadly, science’s ability to establish two-way communication with lucid dreamers didn’t make the cut this issue but I’m excited to share the rest.

Real Estate Redux

At PSFK, we talk a lot about the evolution of the store and what role it plays in an increasingly at-home, digital-first economy but it turns out that those same forces are wreaking havoc on the entire world of physical real estate. Regardless of what industry you’re in when people don’t want to go out en masse, what do you do with all that space?

With the bustling culture of internet cafes on hold minus groups of gamers and wayward travelers looking to get online, some enterprising owners in parts of Asia are putting their latent CPUs to work and converting their businesses into cryptocurrency mining farms. In South Korea, the country’s largest cinema chain, CGV, is renting out its theaters to small pods of gamers for as low as $90 for two hours, allowing these players to take their button-mashing sessions to new heights on the big screen.

Few industries have been hit as restaurants with many turning to improvised outdoor dining and takeout and delivery as lifelines to keep their doors open. While indoor options are beginning to open up again, many patrons still aren’t willing to take the risk. Facing the dual challenge of vacant rooms and restaurants, some hotels offering up their unbooked suites as private dining spaces for small groups.

In the midst of the rampant shuttering of businesses of all stripes, walking down ‘Anywhere Main Street’ can be a truly bleak experience as you’re confronted with the havoc that the pandemic has wrought. In an effort to beautify the visual landscape in spite of the closures, the village of Southampton in New York is requiring empty storefronts to display public art.

How can your physical footprint be used to benefit local communities? Are you missing any new business opportunities?

Living La Simulacra

The comic books and trading cards of my youth were cherished possessions. Beyond pouring over the stories and stats there was the hope that they could one day be sold for some unfathomable sum. While these untapped treasures remain protected in plastic sheathes in a corner of my parents’ basement taking up real space, the world of collectibles has taken a decidedly digital turn. Enter the world of NFTs or non-fungible tokens, unique digital assets running on the blockchain that can be bought and sold on the open market for the kinds of prices I used to dream about as a kid. And if you don’t believe this is a thing, the value of the NFT market tripled in 2020 to $250+ million.

Back in May of 2017, Mike Winkelmann, better known as the artist Beeple, began posting a new piece of artwork online each day. The result of his efforts, EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS has become the first purely digital artwork ever auctioned off at Christie’s. As of this writing, the current high bid for the collage was $3million with 11 days remaining.

Not surprisingly, the sports world has been quick to jump on this trend with a variety of offerings. NBA Top Shot, the work of Dapper Labs, the company behind the popular CryptoKitties game, is a marketplace for digital basketball highlights where a Lebron James dunk recently sold for $208K. The site currently boasts more than 350,000 active users with 100,000 of those making purchases. Meanwhile, Sonare, the European football equivalent, aims to take fans’ investment a step further with a competitive fantasy element in addition to the ability to buy and trade digital trading cards.

What unique digital assets can you offer to your community of fans? How can this play into ideas of membership and ownership?

Only The Lonely

The hidden toll of the coronavirus has been the mental and emotional impact of people struggling with life in lockdown. An October study conducted by Harvard’s Graduate School of Education found that more than one-third of Americans reported “frequently’ feeling lonely in the previous four weeks. It’s a global issue. People are stressed, anxious, and missing some semblance of normalcy. So much work to be done here as we continue collectively muddling our way through quarantine. Why not reach out to someone you haven’t spoken to in a while to check-in?

The situation is so concerning in Japan that the Prime Minister appointed a ‘Loneliness Minister.’ The newly named official hopes to “carry out activities to prevent social loneliness and isolation and to protect ties between people.”

In China, young consumers are engaging the services of ‘virtual mates,’ to cope with their lack of connection. These very real people who sell their companionship on digital marketplace Taobao can be engaged via text or phone for things like conversation, flirtation, and even fashion consultation.

Meanwhile, the Trevor Project, a hotline for LGBTQ youth, is enlisting the help of a sophisticated AI chatbot to train its volunteer counselors in simulated roleplay scenarios to better deal with troubled teens. Previously this training required staff members with limited time to participate and could only take place during normal working hours.

How do compassion and empathy come to life for your brand? How can you offer meaningful support to your customers?

If you’ve enjoyed this free newsletter, why not check out our Weekly Debrief for insights in the retail industry?

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