Editor's Perspective

The editors of Retail TouchPoints spend most of their waking hours exploring, learning and studying every aspect of the retail industry. To that end, they are bringing their unique insights and outlooks to a special Editor’s Perspective column each week on the RTP site. The pieces could include personal experiences, new takes on the latest world news, or a different look at how technologies may impact the future marketplace.

How To Get Innovative About Innovation

For me, the days following the NRF Big Show are always a jumble of impressions: cool technologies, interesting new people I’ve met, old friends I’ve run into, and phrases that perfectly capture a concept. One that’s stuck in my mind since the event ended last week was uttered by Bill Lewis, EVP, Consumer Products, Retail & Distribution, Capgemini Consulting: “Retailers need to make innovation a repeatable, predictable process. It’s not just ‘fail fast,’ it’s 'learn quickly.’” The phrase is memorable to me for a couple of reasons. For one thing, “fail fast” always seemed like an odd goal. (I get that it really means “fail fast, learn from your mistakes and move on to the next iteration,” but still.) But to me, “learn quickly” puts the focus where it needs to be — on extracting the lessons from your experiments, no matter how big a flop they seem to be.

Neiman Marcus Shows Why Retail IPOs Are A Risky Business

Nearly 18 months after filing for an initial public offering (IPO), Neiman Marcus has requested to withdraw the registration. Like many other department stores, Neiman has had to amend its plans to adapt to declining sales and foot traffic within its stores. While the move signals that the brand isn’t confident in its ability to stay afloat as a publicly traded company, it also shows just how difficult it will be for any retailer to file an IPO going forward.

NRF 2017: Personalization, Deep Analytics And Talking Robots

This year’s NRF Big Show did not disappoint. The show floor was busy and energetic from Sunday through the end of the show on Tuesday. Sessions were packed and the Innovation Lab area was impressive. As usual, Retail TouchPoints sent a strong contingent of editors to cover sessions, attend briefings and record video interviews with retailers, solution providers and other industry experts. Read on for our six editors’ perspectives on key takeaways from #NRF17.

My Last Great Customer Experience: 5 Ways REI Is Saving The Store

I just experienced my first backcountry camping trip a few months ago, and REI helped to make it a fun, safe adventure. REI is one perfect example of why stores are not going to die. In this article I’ll share five reasons why the store is here to stay based on my experience with REI. And these tips really can apply to all retail brands.   I know that most retail brands don’t have the advantage of selling products that motivate adventure and help people stay safe while having fun. But I still think the REI model can motivate and inspire all retailers to rethink their store business model.

Why Retailers Should Beware The Influencer's Wrath

I don’t want to brag, but I have a friend who is an “influencer.” She is a powerful force in what I only half-jokingly refer to as the KC, or Knitting Community. This is a loosely stitched-together (sorry, couldn’t resist) group of people who knit, crochet, sew, and generally blanket the world with fabric-oriented crafts. I’m not a member of the Community myself — my dexterity is limited to typing, and filling in the blanks in a crossword puzzle — but I’ve seen how fiercely dedicated these people are. My Influencer friend recently used Facebook to vent her displeasure with a retailer that I will be kind enough not to name. Here’s what she said:

Fashion Brands Dior, Rag & Bone Move To VR’s Cutting Edge

This year has introduced retailers to a variety of unique, technology-driven opportunities to engage with consumers. Ever since the Pokémon Go craze, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) have been hot topics in the industry, although only a few brands have been actively experimenting with the technologies. The fashion industry, in particular, is already dabbling in VR by offering customers high-end, hyper-personalized luxury experiences. “[Fashion brands] will likely continue to invest more in VR in the upcoming year, because it’s creating a place to make a much more intimate connection with consumers,” said Roy DeYoung, SVP of Creative Strategy at PMX Agency. “VR really came to life during the fall Fashion Week, via partnerships like Intel and the Voke app, bringing the normally more exclusive experience to many more, and creating substantially more exposure for the brands.”

3 Lessons From Rent The Runway’s New Futuristic Flagship

With its new flagship store location that opened in Manhattan on Dec. 6, fashion rental retailer Rent the Runway is the latest signal that the “store of the future” is here. With a “Dream Closet,” its own bar-like concierge and a personalized Style Studio, the 5,000-square-foot storeis three times the size of any of the retailer’s existing stores and rotates the merchandise that appears on its floor daily. Last Friday, Dec. 9, I had the opportunity to take a tour of the recently opened store to capture the experience firsthand. Given the constant struggle retailers face in building out omnichannel experiences, the Rent the Runway flagship offers three key lessons for brands seeking to further engage consumers: Leverage full inventory visibility to extend store experience value; Cater to on-the-go shoppers via mobile and open communication; and Emphasize striking visuals within the store.

Organized Retail Crime Hurts You (Even If You're Not CVS Or Walgreens)

I’ve been covering the retail industry for a long time now, but just had my first truly intensive lesson on Organized Retail Crime (ORC) and its effect on the industry — and economy — as whole. I admit that at first I wasn’t fully engaged when Tony Sheppard, National Manager of Organized Retail Crime for CVS Health, stepped onto the stage at a recent event. But Sheppard’s enthusiasm for his job — and his dedication to putting a stop to this rampant criminal activity — grabbed my attention. The most important lesson I learned from the talk is that even if your business is not directly affected by ORC activities, the significant amount of loss from these crimes can have an indirect effect on business and the economy as a whole. Besides hitting the bottom line of affected retailers and raising the cost of legitimate goods for consumers, the diversion of sales tax revenues cheats cash-strapped local and state governments.

5 Ways To Maximize Influencer Marketing Impact

While influencer marketing is a relatively new phenomenon, it's already demonstrating its worth. Birchbox, for example, credits its influencer marketing program for a whopping 258% increase in sales when it launched its color cosmetics brand. You can’t argue with these types of results. No matter what vertical you’re in, an influencer marketing program can be the ticket to higher conversions and deeper engagement with customers.

Starbucks Safe Place Initiative: A Model For Retail-Community Connections

Seattle Police Department LGBTQ liaison officer Jim Ritter Amid images of street protests flooding the news since the Presidential election as well as reports of a rise in hate crimes, it was nice to see something positive pop up in my Facebook feed. As a bonus, it ties in with ways that retail stores can better relate to their communities. The story was about a Safe Place Program, initiated last year, that has rolled out to 97 Seattle-area Starbucks stores. Run by the Seattle Police Department (SPD), the program is designed to identify secure places for victims of anti-LGBTQ-related crimes and harassment. Rainbow-colored window stickers identify the locations, and Starbucks store personnel receive training from the SPD. They can call 911 and allow the victims to remain on the premises until police arrive.

The Race For Relevance: Top 3 Takeaways From Revionics Insight 2016

Relevance is something that is on every retail executive’s mind today. Well, at least it should be. It’s common knowledge that consumers are more empowered and informed than ever before. But the onslaught of new technologies and disruptive brands are forcing retailers to put up their defenses, break free from the status quo and truly stand out from the pack.  Because achieving relevancy is such a universal topic in this day and age, I was thrilled to see that it was the theme of Revionics’ annual customer forum – Insight 2016 – where the company’s customers, prospects and industry experts gather for retail insights, education and peer-to-peer discussions. As a solution provider focused on pricing and promotions optimization, the event really zeroed in on one overarching takeaway: Regardless of your role in the retail organization — whether you’re in pricing, promotions, marketing, merchandising, store operations or e-Commerce — you should be exploring new ways to refine and optimize strategies so they’re more relevant to target consumers. 

Macy's Commits To 100% RFID Tagging: Will Others Follow Suit?

The application of radio frequency identification (RFID) tagging within retail has been a major discussion point for industry analysts for seemingly years now. But while you could argue its role has been  overshadowed by the recent excitement around beacon technology, RFID has been making a major impact for big brands behind the scenes. In fact, Macy’s brought attention back to the technology in a big way with its decision to tag 100% of its merchandise with RFID by the end of 2017. The retailer’s decision will have an impact well beyond its own four walls: Macy’s is asking all of its product vendors to supply merchandise already fitted with passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags, based on the EPC Gen 2 standard.

Girl Power: Women Helping Women In Retail

I’ve been having issues with a large number of news items related to women lately. From Trump’s obscene comments about women and Kim Kardashian being blamed for her attack in Paris, to female-related news in retail such as the pink tax and the plus-size debate, women just can’t seem to catch a break. As a woman, it’s distressing for me to see our beliefs, looks and even shopping habits being either ignored or attacked outright.

Container Store Co-Founder: 5 Ways To Make Sustainability Practical

When people think about shrinking their carbon footprint, the image that comes to mind is going “off the grid”: raise (or kill) your own food, fill your car’s tank with old French-fry oil, home-school the kids. Since this extreme lifestyle isn’t desirable for most of us in today’s highly connected society, many people just shrug their shoulders and do the minimum required. Not Garrett Boone. He is deeply involved in making the sustainable practical — and potentially profitable. You may know Boone as one of the co-founders of The Container Store, but while he’s justly proud of his work building that unique retail experience, Boone’s latest project is also out of the ordinary. It’s TreeHouse, a home improvement and design store focused on the idea that all homes should be sustainable, beautiful and healthy. The retailer’s products are non-toxic and manufactured with minimal environmental impact, and the overall goal is to make customers’ homes as energy-efficient as possible.

How To Turn Personalization Into A Real Strategic Asset

In retail, we like to throw terms around like they’re magical words. “Personalization” was the term of the moment during the Digital Summit (#ShopOrg16) in Dallas last week. But just saying it doesn’t make it relevant and strategic. That was the conversation I had with several executives during the event: How to turn the word “personalization” into a real, working strategy. Similar to the discussion we’ve had during the past several years about “Omnichannel,” now that we know we need personalization, we need to figure out how to execute on the imperative. As with most of today’s business goals, accessing, analyzing and using the right data is going to be the key to executing on the strategy.
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