1) Disney brings Star Wars to Hollywood Studios and Muji opens more hotels, inviting visitors to live in their brands.

What happened

  • A little over a month after debuting Toy Story Land at Hollywood Studios Park, Disney is bringing Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge to its parks in Florida and California. Meanwhile, the Japanese retailer Muji known for its household products, furniture and toiletries is expanding its hotel brand from Shenzhen to Beijing and Tokyo.

Why it matters

  • Though Disney’s foray into theme parks and resorts began a decade before Muji even existed, both are in the business of immersive branded experiences. Disney’s vast cast of characters and landscapes translates directly into themed attractions, and its updates to Hollywood Studios are letting visitors inhabit the same worlds it puts up on the silver screen. As far as Muji goes, it’s not the first brand to make a foray into hospitality, but the hotels allow guests to enter a world that showcases more than 700 of the brand’s products.
  • In bringing animation and movies to theme parks and a household brand to hotels, Disney and Muji are both thinking through the transferability of their products and services to other industries. In turn, this can enhance consumer attachment to the brand itself. Delving into the brand’s world allows customers to experience the brand as fully as possible, meaning they’re more likely to walk away with memories and emotional attachment to the brand—a far cry from the transactionality of making a purchase online.

2) Aday, an apparel brand, grows its “wear-testers” program to simultaneously fight online returns and build customer loyalty.

What happened

  • Aday’s “wear-testers” program now boasts a waitlist of 5,000 consumers interested in testing out new products pre-launch and providing feedback to the brand. The company, which seeks to create long-lasting and technically-advanced apparel, sees the program as a “focus group.”

Why it matters

  • With ecommerce’s returns problem showing no signs of stopping, more companies are experimenting with ways to satisfy customers with what they order online. Prime Wardrobe, Amazon’s “try-before-you-buy” program allows Prime members to order a number of apparel items online and send back whatever they don’t like within seven days. The company is also exploring 3D body scanning to collect data about how bodies evolve over time, which it hopes will reduce the number of returns.
  • In departure from Amazon, however, Aday’s “wear-testers” program is a hybrid that mixes customer feedback with customer loyalty. The program seamlessly creates a long-term relationship with consumers—newcomers endure a four-week digital survey process, and the company reaches out for more feedback after products go to market in order to see how the products wear and tear over time. Over time, the brand is striving not only to reduce returns but to retain and grow its customer base.

3) Peloton acquires Neurotic Media, a music startup, as it continues to build a vertically-integrated fitness brand.

What happened

  • Neurotic Media, a business-to-business startup that helps brands build relationships with customers through music, brings 20 years of experience in the industry to Peloton—a rising star in the cycling space.

Why it matters

  • Peloton made its name as a product and tech company that provides the tools—bikes, and now treadmills—and the training—class live streams—for the best stay-at-home fitness routine. With music central to fitness, the merger will bring new content—and new discovery—to cyclists, which is likely to bolster membership. It may also bring new features to its Chelsea studio and its new subscription-based app, Peloton Digital—a separate streaming subscription service for classes. Though Peloton will probably still have to pay licensing fees for the music tracks it uses, the vertical integration of media under Peloton’s wing will continue to differentiate the brand from other bikes and fitness brands on the market before a potential IPO.

4) WeWork invites members to WeShop, debuting an in-house retail market.

What happened

  • The retail concept, WeMRKТ, will sell products made by WeWork members—snacks, office necessities and apparel—at one of the company’s New York locations, with plans to expand across the WeWork network.

Why it matters

  • With WeWork in 74 cities and 22 countries, a retail concept like WeMRKT can propagate quickly across its network—similar to Netflix going live in an additional 130 countries in January 2016. While WeMRKT currently sells items relevant to office needs, the company could easily install other brick-and-mortar concepts in its offices, which raises the question of what types of products people would shop on their lunch break or after work. Plus, with its acquisition of Case Inc., a building information and technology consultancy, WeWork also has the construction expertise to build spaces out more cheaply.