David Blecken
Mar 17, 2017

Uniqlo unveils steps to becoming a "fully global marketing company"

The Japanese clothing giant plans to work with its consumers for better product development.

From left: John Jay, Brad Cloepfil, Tadashi Yanai, Nozomi Sasaki, Rei Inamoto, Dai Tanaka
From left: John Jay, Brad Cloepfil, Tadashi Yanai, Nozomi Sasaki, Rei Inamoto, Dai Tanaka

Uniqlo yesterday unveiled its new global headquarters in Ariake, near Tokyo Bay. At a media briefing at the new premises, Uniqlo City Tokyo, Tadashi Yanai, president of parent company Fast Retailing, said it represented the brand’s creative centre “for the sake of customers, vendors and society”.

The space is designed to feel spacious and promote freedom of movement. John Jay, Fast Retailing’s president of global creative, said the primary reasons for the new development were to show respect to staff and inspire creative thinking. “We must respect our people and we must give them a beautiful place to work,” he said. “How can we ask them to make beautiful things if they don’t work in an environment that’s beautiful itself?”

The sprawling office space will also serve as Uniqlo’s innovation centre. Designed by Brad Cloepfil of Allied Works Architecture, who has also worked on spaces for Wieden + Kennedy and Pixar, the facility aims to foster closer interaction between divisions within the company and a more efficient style of working focused on digital commerce.

The marketing department at Uniqlo's Ariake office

At the conference, Dai Tanaka, group SVP of project management for Fast Retailing, said Uniqlo intends to become a “digital consumer retail company”. What that means in practice is listening more closely to customer feedback and acting on it for product design.

“We want to eliminate boundaries between clothing creators and those who wear the clothing,” he said. “From here on we want to work together with consumers by listening to them well so that their voices will be reflected in production.

“In the past, we were all about pushing the products we produced. Now we will only produce products that customers want…Everything will be based on the information that customers provide so the planning phase will be much quicker…The monthly production cycle will be converted to a weekly cycle. We also want to keep tweaking products with customers as they evolve.”

He said that required a change in working style from a sequential process to a real-time one. The new Ariake office is “part of an attempt to drive that change” by making it easier for people to connect with each other.

Jay, who has been closely involved in the Ariake Project, said Uniqlo is “not yet a fully global marketing company”. “This is our evolution point,” he said, but added that the marketing side of the business “has to grow tremendously”.

Uniqlo demonstrated an upgrade to its online store in Japan to offer a more intuitive mobile shopping experience, more products and customization facilities. It also showed an experimental AI-enabled chat function. Rei Inamoto, of Inamoto & Co, formerly AKQA’s global creative head, demonstrated the new Uniqlo.com service with brand ambassador Nozomi Sasaki. Uniqlo is also enabling customers to collect product orders at 43,000 convenience stores around Japan under Seven-Eleven, Family Mart and Lawson.

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