Has Showfields Reinvented the Mall?

Has Showfields Reinvented the Mall?

Showfields is a new retail concept that boldly totes itself as “The most interesting store in the world”.  Somewhere in between a pop up exhibition space and permanent mall, this ambitious venture has the potential to be the paragon of brick and mortar retail.

Airbnb: A role model in this age of experience.

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Airbnb: A role model in this age of experience.

The L.I.S.A. Project (Little Italy Street Art) has made Little Italy a destination for street artists since 2012. Founded and led by local Comedy Producer and art collector Wayne Rada, the project started as a happy accident when Rada was creating the “Art of Comedy” through the creation of 7 murals for the 2012 New York Comedy Festival. During the recovery from Hurricane Sandy, which devastated lower Manhattan, local merchants noticed people taking an interest in the art, so Rada asked to coordinate more. Since this moment, the L.I.S.A. project has created more than 40 murals throughout downtown New York. The art has an economic and educational motive. It not only brings people back to Little Italy but has also received national and international acclaim.

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I stumbled on this program while discovering Airbnb’s brand extension into the experience business. As a former Airbnb host, I am intimately familiar with the platform and the Airbnb community. This extension made a lot of sense to me. I’ve also been working with a client on creating experiences hosted by locals, so I have been studying up and have become a bit of an expert in this field. I was very interested to see how Airbnb was executing the program.

My two Airbnb and my Meetup experiences made me wonder: how is the role of the brand changing in the Age of "Experiences"? How will creative, professional talents continue to lead brands while collaborating with communities at large? And how will it change the coolest parts of our cities as we know them?

What struck me immediately when I landed on the Airbnb Experience platform was the uniqueness and quality of their events. Other platforms have let me down. Meetup, a similar service, seemed like a great idea when it first emerged. I was excited to sign up but I quickly lost interest. The rouge nature of Meetup left me feeling like I would waste a lot of time and potentially money on the platform. I was always concerned the quality of the event would be poor or I would be stuck in a situation I would want to exit. Too many unknowns left me standing on the sidelines.

However, with Airbnb, I jumped right in.

Later, after exploring what Airbnb requires to be an experience host, I felt even more confident. It all made sense. Anyone can apply but not everyone will be approved to host. Airbnb has done a thorough job fleshing out what a good vs. a bad local experience looks like. They walk potential hosts through the process of creating an experience, helping them think through every important detail and laying out their standards for a great experience.

While I didn’t know all of this prior to attending two experiences, Airbnb’s careful groundwork panned out. The two experiences both lived up to Airbnb’s hopes for great events, in my opinion.

Airbnb’s platform encourages people to make extra money, or even a living, by sharing their homes and now their talents and passions with the world. As a former host, I lived for great reviews. My success depended on it, and Airbnb rewarded me for achieving high guest scores. This is the critical ingredient for ensuring everyone has a great experience.

It’s another example of a brand that’s great at what they do expanding into a new frontier while remaining true to themselves. Airbnb already had that “special something” when it came to room and board… and they expertly transferred all that credibility, value and coolness into the local experience game.

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My only hesitation during my two activities was feeling a part of that double-edge sword of gentrification. In my case, I was learning so much about street art and jazz in my own city. At the same time, I felt herded in as an outsider, not an insider, looking at these scenes as if they lived in a fish bowl. I started to wonder as I sat and listened to this great jazz set, “is everyone here from Airbnb?” Did they create this show just for us? At that moment I felt a bit disappointed, perhaps in myself. It certainly did not replace all the times I had stumbled upon a cool place from my own explorations… or from really living life as a local, learning about all the great hidden spots almost by accident. Does this new Airbnb program expose all that awesome, local stuff in a way that will ruin what is so special about it? Have we just ramped up turning our own local culture into an amusement park for tourists?

At the same time, these experiences are a great boost to the local economy. Plus, they give these talented, passionate people a way to make an income on their talents, educating and inspiring others with their gifts.

I want to be clear: the jazz band and our host did not disappoint. They were amazing. It just made me think.

In my street art tour, I learned about the art. But more importantly, I learned about many of the world’s most important street artists and the non-profit group called the L.I.S.A. Project. What happens on the street drives fashion trends, which in turn drives a big part of the economy. These artists are a critical part of our cultural ecosystem. Since they usually do not sit in museums and are typically not represented by a gallery, they do not get the credit and exposure they deserve.

The L.I.S.A. project tour I took was an important educational tool. Thanks to the experience, the artists gain exposure and the program gains exposure. Plus, the tour guide makes some money, I gain knowledge and Airbnb grows their community and brand value (and makes 20% of the fee for an experience). That’s a win/win/win for the three of us.

Hopefully, for the local culture, it’s more of a win than a loss. Only time will tell.

That said, the Airbnb platform seems to be promoting a great standard and curating a great collection of experiences in a way I have not seen other platforms pull off. It takes a high level of creativity and a unique-enough twist to make an experience truly special.

As brands push into creating with communities, instead of for them, there is always the risk of it becoming amateur hour. Experiences are on the rise and people are less interested in being told what to do by brands. Instead, they are wanting to participate with brands. Still, trained and talented creative professionals play a key role in helping to inspire and push us forward. Without these creatives, the unique experiences we are seeking will be reduced to the same cookie-cutter experiences we have been rejecting.

This move into experience marks a shift in role between consumer and brand. But one thing is for sure: The creative talent, no matter what side they’re on, must be a part of this equation to make something great.

It’s up to brands like Airbnb to put standards in place when empowering local talent to teach, or conversely, in the case of Nike’s Innovation Store, bring the teachers and creative structure in to inspire the local community. Different approaches, but the same end game: a great, locally collaborative and personally rewarding experience.

I get a hollow feeling when I think of Meetup. I think the lack of brand leadership is the difference. Does anyone care to manage the creativity required to consistently make a great Meetup? There is probably value in having Meetup be the “open system” that sits opposite Airbnb’s “closed, controlled system”, much like Microsoft vs Apple. But for me, the Airbnb user experience wins. In my opinion, the brands that value creativity and continue to lead us through it will continue be the brands we love. Their role might be changing as consumers demand more collaboration, but their responsibility is still the same: to lead us, by inspiring us.

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A big thank you to our Airbnb Experience Hosts:

Audry - L.I.S.A. Street Art Scene Insider

https://www.airbnb.com/users/show/140815869

Gordon - Harlem Jazz Singers Showcase

https://www.airbnb.com/users/show/131071475


Lower Manhattan Murals



Artist Credits: My apologies for not knowing exactly which pieces are by which artist but here is a list of Lower Manhattan Mural Artists represented in these photos. Please feel free to clarify or correct or credit the artists in the comments.

#Stik #SaraErenthal #DanWitz #ClawMoney #Unkolordistinto #KeyDetail #JuliaYobaba #MattGondek #FernandoLeon #DJN3FF #Outersource #Himbad #RaddingtonFalls #MarzipanPhysics #SkewvilleBros #Kanokid #NickWalker #Stikman #CalebNeelon #Kobra #Antennae #xoxohomeless #GianniLee #Uncuttart #Phoebe_ny #BuffMonster #GemmaGene #ShepardFairey #AlDiaz #AnthonyLister #Thedrif #DannyMinnick #Vhils #FelipePantone #KennyScharff #TristanEaton #B.D.White #BeauStanton #AlicePasquini #SpaceInvader #Dain #lisaprojectnyc #bytegirl24


Jazz Performers


Thank you to the artists and our host:

#ShareefClayton #BarryStephenson #AddisonFrei #NormanEdwards #AlinaEngibaryan #bigapplejazz




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A lunch experience raises our consciousness around Zero Waste.

A lunch experience raises our consciousness around Zero Waste.

This past month we were lucky enough to attend a lunch hosted by Package Free Shop and Britain-based #zerowaste restaurant Silo.  Lauren Singer of her blog, Trash is for tossers and CEO of Package Free, found a friend in Silo’s Douglas McMaster online, bonded by their mutual passion of contributing less waste to our environment.  

After years of online communications they finally came together at the Ftizcarraldo in Brooklyn for limited seatings of a 6 course plant-based meal. Prepared by the Silo team, they used fresh and local ingredients sourced from Brooklyn Grange and Blue Hill Farm.

Throughout the meal we were educated on how the dishes were prepared using only a handful of elementary ingredients, that were then transformed into complex and rich bites.  This evolution was made possible through chef McMaster’s innovative techniques - i.e. our third course was lined with a compost treacle; created by reducing composted unused vegetables down to their natural sugars.  Each course was not only waste free but carbon negative through offsetting efforts.

Package Free contributed repurposed Eileen Fisher textiles for the napkins, bathroom towels, and each diner would only have one fork and knife to reduce water usage.  The beautiful tulips decorated above the dining tables were eventually consumed, paired along with homemade cheese curd in the last seating. As Mcmaster stated, “Humans must be tactful to use the same creativity that caused waste - to reduce it”.

Besides a delicious lunch, we weren’t sure what to expect.  How do socially conscious retailers like Package Free make more of an impact in their community outside of their brick and mortar/online presence?  In this case, the combined knowledge and passions of Silo and Package Free Shop partnership created a truly unique, enlightening and inspiring meal.

Click through each photo block to relive the experience with us!













Will Art Save The Store?

Will Art Save The Store?

The Color Factory, a NYC “Experience” set out to explore the colors of the big city. Was the experience just plain fun… or pushing us to see our world differently and expand our horizons?

Glossier’s Millennial-Pink, Tech-Based Beauty Community Really, Really Works

Glossier’s Millennial-Pink, Tech-Based Beauty Community Really, Really Works

Tech is changing everything, retail included. At Riley Group, we’re always studying retail technology and how it enables ecommerce brands to really make a splash in their brick-and-mortar locations. This week, retail guru Olivia Horvath will walk us through cult-like beauty startup Glossier’s tech-driven path to cosmetics queendom — and a breathtaking showroom in downtown Manhattan. 

Step Into Glossier’s World: The Showroom


When you first enter Glossier’s showroom at 123 Lafayette Street, you’re greeted by a young woman dressed in a millennial-pink jumpsuit. The employee “showroom editor” guides you up an elevator to the brand’s penthouse showroom. 

Already, the experience is unique. I know I’m going to encounter something special . 

When the elevator doors open, I step into Glossier’s world. It feels like I’m inside the mind of a beauty-lover’s fantasy land — and I am. The space is bright and white with a minimalist design. There are accents of Glossier’s brand colors, millennial pink and bright red, throughout the store. 

Entering Glossier is a multisensory experience. I smell fresh rose, thanks to scented Byredo candles. The music is familiar and makes me feel comfortable and a part of. 

Of course, this is all by design. Glossier’s business model is all about building a community around its products. 

A Community Steeped in Self-Love and Shelfies

Glossier, a beauty brand launched in 2014, was started by Emily Weiss, who’s now the company’s Insta-famous CEO. 

Weiss started the very successful beauty blog, Into the Gloss. Into the Gloss launched in 2010, showcasing the beauty routines “Top Shelf” of diverse, successful women.
The online blog series focuses on the beauty products and routines that make women of all shapes and sizes and skin colors feel beautiful. Requisite pics of well-stocked medicine cabinets are adorably called “shelfies”, a play on pop culture’s “selfie”. 

Weiss crowdsourced knowledge from her blog and infused it into every aspect of the makeup and beauty brand we now know as Glossier.  When the company first launched, it began with a totally-perfected, quite small line of products. For sale were a moisturizer, lip balm, a tinted moisturizer, a concealer, and beloved eyebrow gel “Boy Brow”. 

By keeping the product list short, Glossier redefined essentials. The products became must-haves with the help of targeted social media advertising and a rapidly growing, cult-like following. 

The line has expanded to include lip stains, eyeshadows, a perfume, night serums, and other products. Still, the collection is well-curated and quite small when compared to competitors’ offerings. And the price point is moderate. While not drug-store cheap, no one item breaks the bank. 

The brand eagerly interacts with followers on Instagram and Twitter, and has built a community there. Some Glossier fans are famous (think Beyoncé), but many others are just like me. We are all give the same attention and clout. 

Glossier has mastered — and perhaps even helped define — millennial aesthetics, both online and in-person. I really felt that come to life as I wandered the floor of their flagship showroom.

Makeup as Something Worth Showcasing 

The Glossier products themselves are perfectly merchandised on top of acrylic and glass displays, surrounded by unobtrusive mirrors. You can view and test the products right on the showroom floor, but it doesn’t feel like a regular department store. It feels like you’re in an unpretentious, interactive art gallery. It’s fun, it’s special, and it’s tactile. 

Display cases for the brand’s products are simple but stylized, and surrounded by BRRCH floral arrangements. Soft pink, white, and bright red flowers add a vibrant-but-feminine touch to the intentionally understated showroom.

Glossier, in its spirit of community and womanhood, often collaborates with other female designers when designing its space. BRRCH’s principal, Brittany Asch, has long worked with the brand, and the two companies have a mutually beneficial, publicized-on-Instagram relationship. 

Sales Associates Rely on Tech, But Know Their Makeup


The showroom “editors”, clad in their pink jumpsuits, eagerly chat with customers about their beauty needs and wants. They’ll aide you in crafting your own haul of products via handheld tablets. I feel like I’m in a fancy pharmacy. 

While tech moves the customer through the purchasing funnel, it does not dominate the conversation. It is used by the sales associates as an aid. I still feel the human touch to my in-store experience. 

Upon Checkout, An Iconic Shopping Pouch

Once I am done exploring, shopping, chatting, and testing, I can check out using my online profile. All of the products I’ve added to my virtual cart are then pulled, prepared, and given to me in the signature pink, bubble-wrap style pouch.

This pouch is so much more than a shopping bag. It is a symbol that proves you’re part of Glossier’s network of confident, beautiful, diverse women. This little pouch has helped shape the Glossier community.  Around since 2014, it is adored by consumers for its plethora of uses. Glossier lovers use the pouch as a toiletry bag, handy wallet, even a fashion-forward clutch.  

Also provided upon checkout: Stickers! These cute, playful stickers are half-branded, half-just-plain-fun, and are more free marketing for Glossier. They’re always adorned on my phone phone case. I want to be a part of Glossier’s club, and the brand makes it easy, fun, and cute to join. 

Glossier For All 

While Glossier is intune with the millennial lifestyle, the brand is neither ageist nor close-minded about beauty ideals. The products are streamlined and classic, but still fun and modern. I use them, and so does my mother. 

Anyone can. That’s the vibe the brand gives off. 

Glossier has long-supported women of all different backgrounds, ages, and shapes. I really feel that when I shop, whether it’s online or in-store. Glossier promotes self-love and body positivity through carefully executed campaigns, but I also feel it in the showroom and in every last detail.

#Glossier isn’t just a hashtag, it’s a community — and a damn good business model.