Trends like social commerce and gamification will lead the future of retail for Gen Z, and brands like SUNNEI are paving the way

If you are unfamiliar with SUNNEI, it is an Italian fashion brand that started on Instagram in 2015 and is definitely worth checking out regardless of your interest in fashion. I discovered the brand on Instagram via the Business of Fashion tagging it as a brand to watch out for last year, and according to the creators of SUNNEI in this Forbes article, this is how most of the brand’s customers have found it.

What caught my attention with SUNNEI was both it’s social media presence and its fun and often unisex designs not often seen coming from a city such as Milan. The brand caters to a younger audience, but no so young that the pieces can’t be worn professionally. I also highly value that I can shop SUNNEI directly from its Instagram, or via other e-commerce channels such as Farfetch, Ssense, or YOOX. With only two collections releasing per year with limited designs, I trust in the sustainability of this model and respect that pieces do go on sale, even on SUNNEI’s website, as the seasons change.

Last year, for SS21, SUNNEI showcased its collection in a way that no brand had done before. SUNNEI turned the designs for the season into blank pieces of clothing on simulated avatars that users could play around with, choosing the colors and patterns that would be available once the collection hit stores/online and was available to purchase. I believe that this release was only available to other brands/retailers, but for AW21, anyone can adventure into the world of SUNNEI Canvas, pick an avatar and its outfit, and then play games against other CI avatars. After the user “battles” another avatar, they are prompted to play again or preview the AW21 collection. Most importantly, this entire collection campaign has only been advertised on social media, and users can play with the avatars directly from their phones or laptops. This is commerce that meets you where you are (social media), grabs your attention (with strange-looking, SIMS-reminiscent avatars and the proposal of a game in order to view the new collection) and sucks you in (being able to pick new avatars with new outfits and colors and patterns and “moves”) until you just can’t wait to buy the products.

This combination of social commerce and gamification will be the future of retail, especially for Gen Z. SUNNEI has adapted to the changing retail and fashion landscape by providing a new way to discover and shop for products. Even better, SUNNEI still feels like a small, secret, and personalized community accessible only by those who just so happen to find it, and these are the types of things I look for when I am trying to discover new brands to be a loyal follower of. I have never been a fan of video games, yet there I sat on my couch this morning playing with an avatar that was wearing a duvet for a puffer coat that deflated due to getting hit with some lasers.

Published by Emma Irwin

Emma Irwin is a passionate student of the retail industry. Freshly graduated from the University of Minnesota with a B.S. in Retail Merchandising, she will be pursuing an M.S. in Apparel Studies with a concentration in Retail and Consumer Studies in fall 2020. Career ambitions include writing a formal research paper, becoming a retail writer and reporter, and maybe being a CEO someday.

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