Neil Cole has moved on to what’s next.
The brand management maestro and founder of Iconix Brand Group Inc. is at it again with Next Retail Concepts.
The new venture is billed as both a retail technology and a brand management company and is putting a modern spin on the asset-light business model Cole helped pioneer at Iconix, which he left in 2015.
Cole, who serves as Next Retail’s chairman and chief executive officer, is once again on the hunt for lifestyle brands ready to scale — but this time in both the real and the virtual worlds.
Much of the action Cole sees in the future will take place on mobile devices, which are growing more capable of creating immersive experiences through augmented and virtual reality.
“We see something happening with this new computing platform that we want to be a part of and we want to lead,” he said. “So much of retail is going to change and we want to be a part of making that change.”
Cole’s come full circle — he is again at the helm of a start-up. And Next Retail rings familiar given that, in 1986, the entrepreneur launched New Retail Concepts Inc., which created the jeans brand No Excuses.
But Next Retail has a very 2017 feel.
Under the Next Retail umbrella, Cole has cofounded NextRev Commerce with Google veteran Serge Kassardijan to focus on immersive shopping experiences. NextRev is billed as an XR company, a term that encompasses virtual, augmented and mixed reality as well as artificial intelligence and analytics.
The idea is to use XR technologies to build consumer experiences and engagement and disrupt e-commerce. Kassardijan, formerly global head of media apps for Google Play and Android, serves as chief operating officer of NextRev and is a cofounder.
“With the rapid advancements in a range of emerging technologies, we see an incredible opportunity to improve the shopping experience for both retailers and consumers alike,” Kassardijan said.
And NextRev is betting that XR technology helps double the size of the $2 trillion global e-commerce market by 2030.
Cole noted: “A lot of brands today are being commoditized and when you go online and you go on Amazon you really can’t get the heritage or where the brand is going. We think there’s going to be a new computing platform where you’re going to be able to put on a pair of glasses in the future…that will take you anywhere. We think it will be more immersive, which will be wonderful for brands. You’re going to really be able to understand the story of the product and understand what the product is doing and immerse celebrities with the brand.”
Cole said NextRev would be creating its own technology — a first look at its efforts should be ready by spring — but also partner with other key players to curate and bring new solutions to the commerce market.
Next Retail’s brand management business will operate out of its NextBrand Group division, which will focus on the “monetization, acquisition and growth of consumer lifestyle brands.”
Cole said his new take on brand management would have a particularly global perspective and also take advantage of the firm’s tech push.
“We’re going to be leveraging a lot of great technology that we’re going to be creating and developing on the other side,” Cole said.
The company is still working on lining up deals, but clearly Cole is relishing this opportunity to look out farther into the future as he plans.
“I’ve been a public ceo I think for 32 years, having to deliver every quarter — every quarter — and now we’re kind of thinking long term, which is a novel idea,” he said.