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Special Reports

Retail TouchPoints Special Reports provide a comprehensive, detailed look at a specific industry trend or topic. Each article features industry insights, statistics, expert quotes and case study examples. Topics include Omnichannel Customer Service, Social Media, Retail Payment, Next-Gen Technologies and much more.

14 Retailers Win 2014 Store Operations Superstar Awards

shadow RTP RT025 AWD StoreOpSuperstars Aug 2014Successful store operations improve the customer experience and ultimately, the bottom line. But today’s store operators are constantly juggling numerous challenges, from managing mobile technology to motivating employees.

As competition continues to heat up, along with pressure to hold the line on expenses, store operations executives are faced with an uphill battle.

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Exclusive Survey: Keeping Up With The Next Generation Of Store Operations

Shadow RTP RT022 SURV StoreOps DESIGN FinalDespite the ongoing rise of e-Commerce and m-Commerce, the store still plays a critical role in consumers’ everyday lives.

To boost store performance, managers are tasked to create an exemplary customer experience. However, as consumer demands have heightened, managers’ to-do lists have evolved and expanded to include: Hiring and empowering employees; testing and rolling out new technology; and keeping tabs on omnichannel ordering and pickup operations.

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Retailers Take Control Of The Path To Purchase With New Technologies

The shopper journey can vary from consumer to consumer depending on multiple factors, including the first point of retailer contact, initial purchasing desires and point-of-purchase. Since consumers have so many options at their disposal, retailers need to think outside of the box in order to motivate a purchase.

Retailers such as Cole Haan, La-Z-Boy, Fred Meyer, Nordstrom and The Container Store have sought out and successfully implemented new technologies designed to successfully reach and engage customers during every facet of the shopper journey.

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Innovative Technologies Revolutionize The Shopper Journey

FEAT Technologies imageThe retail industry is undergoing a revolution, with groundbreaking technologies guiding both the consumer and the merchant throughout the customer journey. Whether the shopper is at home using a PC, searching for a product on a mobile device, walking nearby a store, or browsing the aisles in the store, retailers have access to a number of new technologies to enhance the experience at every touch point.

In 2014, retailers are tapping a variety of new technologies covered in this report:

  • Personalization solutions;
  • Wearable technology;
  • Visual search; and
  • Augmented reality.
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Back-To-School Spend Trends: Sales, Social Media And Starting Early

BTSgraphicAs the summer season nears the end, families will venture home from their vacations and head straight to the stores for their annual back-to-school shopping spree.

In 2014, families are expected to spend more on school supplies compared to last year. The average family with children in grades K-12 will spend $669.28 on apparel, shoes, supplies and electronics, up 5% from 2013, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).

The NRF 2014 Back-To-School Survey, which was conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, indicated that total spending for back-to-school and back-to-college shoppers will reach $74.9 billion this year.

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GameStop And Hard Rock Take Omnichannel Approach To Loyalty

Shadow RTP RT023 SR CustomerLoyalty Final

Today’s savvy consumers are demanding more relevant and seamless brand experiences.

Although discounting strategies, such as points programs, coupons and punch cards, may help acquire new customers, it takes far more to retain customers and turn them into loyal brand advocates. In fact, consumers today are seeking a healthy mix of personalized messages and offers, as well as VIP access to products and events.

Retailers across verticals, including GameStop, Hard Rock and Ace Hardware, are taking an omnichannel approach to their loyalty programs, and are offering a broader mix of incentives and unique experiences to not only acquire customers, but also engender long-term loyalty.

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Relationships, Not Rewards, Are Key To Successful Loyalty Programs

FEAT Customer Loyalty imageConsumers' overall engagement in traditional loyalty programs has declined consistently over the past four years and retailers are looking to refocus their loyalty initiatives to compete more effectively.

While total loyalty program subscriptions peaked at 2.65 billion in 2012, the overall percentage of active memberships slipped from 46% in 2010 to 44% in 2012, according to COLLOQUY research. The average U.S. household participates in 21.9 loyalty programs, but less than half, or only 9.5 of those memberships, are active, COLLOQUY reported.

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Top 10 Mid-Year Articles: Social, Mobile And Wearable Tech Are Hot Topics

FEAT Midyear imageThe retail industry is currently undergoing a transformation, as merchants leverage new channels to engage consumers, including mobile technology and social media. 

Mobile and social have empowered consumers to shop wherever and whenever they want, and provide real-time access to reviews, recommendations and information before completing a purchase. As a result, retailers are under more pressure to keep pace with the wants and needs of tech-savvy omnichannel consumers.

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Holiday Planning Heats Up As Summer Sets In

2014-holiday-outlook guide animatedThe retail industry is gearing up for another competitive holiday season in 2014, facing another compressed calendar and data breaches fresh on everyone’s minds.

To help kick off holiday planning as the summer heats up, Retail TouchPoints has compiled a 12-part Holiday Guide designed to provide insights and direction for all retailers. The guide includes comprehensive topic-specific articles, real-world retail examples, and insights from leading industry experts. It’s a must-read for merchants looking to construct successful holiday strategies.

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IRCE 2014 Recap: Key Announcements

irce-internet-retailer-conference-exhibition-brafton-content-marketing-350x233Last week in Chicago, more than 10,000 retail executives attended the 10th annual Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition (IRCE) at the McCormick Place convention center. A number of companies announced new products and success stories during the event (listed below in alphabetical order by company name).

Tag management company BrightTag has rebranded as Signal to represent its focus on helping marketers strengthen the signals between brands and customers. The solution provider also unveiled the Open Data Platform, which is a suite of products designed to help brands drive increased engagement, loyalty and conversions. New capabilities in the Open Data Platform enable marketers to collect, connect and act on customer engagement data access channels and devices in real time.

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Retailers Use Social Media To Build Communities And Strengthen Consumer Connections

Screenshot 2014-06-17 09.31.09Social media has evolved into more than just another advertising channel for retailers to showcase their products.

In addition to solidifying their relationships with existing customers, retailers are increasingly using social media to attract new buyers. More than half (55%) of retail leaders have successfully expanded their customer base using social media, according to a report from Aberdeen Group.

Innovative retailers such as Belk, C. Wonder, Glam Grab and Threadless are incorporating social media into all aspects of the shopper’s journey. These retailers have implemented new social media strategies to better understand their audience, form branded communities and — ultimately — boost sales.

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C. Wonder Uses inSparq To Gain Insight, Leverage Shopper Spontaneity

Shoppers have become more spontaneous, and social media has given retailers the ability to benefit from these behaviors online as well as in the store.

Women’s apparel retailer C. Wonder specializes in creating an experience that transports women into a world of luxury and surprises. The retailer uses the Social Merchandising Suite from inSparq, a social merchandising platform, to create a fun and dynamic e-Commerce site that matches the in-store experience. Features such as the Trending Product Feed allows C. Wonder to analyze its audience’s social conversations in order to provide relatable product recommendations.

Since implementing the Social Merchandising Suite, C. Wonder has seen a three-fold increase in social sharing and a four-fold increase in conversion rates for customers who visit the company’s trending products page.

As with any new technology, certain drawbacks prevent retailers from implementing social in different parts of the company. Retailers often are unable to control what was said and shared about their brand, according to Veronika Sonsev, CEO of InSparq.

But “retailers now understand that it’s much like in-store experiences — they can’t control who walks through the door,” said Sonsev in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “Retailers now know to embrace customers no matter how they engage with the brand; and once it’s done well, it pays huge dividends in terms of finding and retaining customers.”

Glam Grab Bridges Social Media, e-Commerce Gap With Soldsie

In the early era of social media, many retailers tested the channel in different areas of their marketing strategies. Now retailers are not only using social media to engage customers, but also allow shoppers to complete transactions through social selling.

Online jewelry retailer Glam Grab currently is using Soldsie, a platform that allows retailers to sell products through Facebook and Instagram, to boost social engagement and sales. Using Soldsie, the brand holds weekly flash sales via Facebook, offering online shoppers the chance to bid on products and complete transactions.

Glam Grab has seen a 355% growth in sales since leveraging social selling. In addition, the company’s Facebook page now has more than 30,000 likes compared to the 2,000 it had prior to implementing Soldsie.

“All social media sites are capable of effectively executing a social selling strategy,” said Bennett of Soldsie. “Many social media sites have gotten a lot more visual, which is a major piece to successfully sell on social media.”

On average, users of the Soldsie platform see a 70% conversion rate for shoppers who comment on social posts and claim an item, and more than half (60%) of the checkouts happen within 30 minutes after the claim, Bennett noted.

Belk Promotes 125th Anniversary Through Multichannel Campaigns

Department store chain Belk worked with HelloWorld, a multichannel, interactive promotions and loyalty solutions provider, to promote its 125th anniversary. The "125 Days of Prizes" campaign included web, mobile and social channels, where consumers were encouraged to participate in a sweepstakes for a chance to win one of 200,000 prizes during the 125-day event.

Belk saw a significant increase in mobile interactions, with 13% of registrants opting in to receive exclusive offers via text message. Social engagement also increased, with Pinterest followers doubling from 7,000 pre-launch to 15,000 post-campaign. More than 61,000 posts about the campaign were added to Facebook. Overall, the campaign saw a significant social lift, gathering 220,000 registrations for the sweepstakes — 80% of those opting in to receive additional information on future promotions.

“Mobile has made social media a form of real-time marketing,” said Matt Wise, CEO of HelloWorld. “Retailers need to have the right message at the right time in order to get shoppers to engage and participate. When done correctly, however, the user-generated content created will make it much easier.”

Threadless And Wanelo Focus On Social Communities

While social media was first used to help retailers deliver messages to their target audiences, it currently is allowing shoppers to have a voice on topics revolving around the brands and products they care the about most. Each social media site has a different audience for each retailer, but the collective feedback is invaluable, according to Kyle Geib, Marketing Coordinator at Threadless.

Threadless is an online retailer that uses the community to create new products and offerings for its shoppers. Artists are able to submit design ideas for various styles of men’s and women’s apparel, as well as iPhone cases and traditional art prints.

Threadless is “based around the artwork, and the brand is lucky that social media has gotten a lot more visual,” Geib explained. “When images are posted through social media, they are performing far more efficiently when it comes to creating the right engagement with each particular audience.”

In the last year, Threadless has had “hundreds upon hundreds” of social interactions through Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram and other social channels, according to Geib. The online community submitted more than 32,000 designs throughout the year, and averaged approximately 34,000 votes per day on designs in order to select the products to be produced and sold.

“There’s more to the web site than just T-shirts,” Geib said. “We’re not only sharing designs, but making sure that these artists get the promotion they deserve.”

Another popular online community is Wanelo, which considers itself the “new digital mall.” With more than 11 million members, Wanelo offers shoppers a chance to discover and buy products from more than 300,000 stores — all recommended from other members of the community.

The retail industry is evolving much like the news industry did, according to Rachel Youens, Social Commerce Evangelist at Wanelo.

“Anybody can run an e-Commerce site now, much like how anyone can run a blog,” Youens said. “Social media isn’t traditional anymore, so Wanelo gives users the ability to follow their favorite brands in a single location.”

Of the 300,000 participating retailers, Nordstrom and ModCloth have seen great success using Wanelo in various social media campaigns. In one campaign, Nordstrom asked popular bloggers and Wanelo influencers to create stories on Wanelo with their favorite picks from a recently released Kate Moss collection. The stories would then be curated and reposted to spotlight key influencers and boost their credibility.

ModCloth held a similar campaign, asking bloggers to create stories on Wanelo around an eight-piece outfit. Stories — a great method for promoting new products and enhancing brand awareness — would then be re-shared, much like Nordstrom’s campaign, in order to promote conversation and provide influencers in the community well-deserved exposure.

Social has become an integral part of retailers’ marketing strategies. From providing valuable behavioral data to serving as a transactional platform, social media has the potential to play a positive role at every stage of the shopper’s journey, and ultimately enable retailers to take their customer experience to the next level.

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eBay Enterprise Exec Provides Tips For Omnichannel Execution

TobiasHartmann headshotKate Spade & Company, The Jones Group, DXL, DSW and Guess are among the elite brands partnering with eBay Enterprise to offer their customers more flexible order delivery options such as buy online, pickup in-store and ship-from-store.

These retailers are walking the line between the brick-and-mortar and online worlds, offering their customers more flexible and enjoyable brand experiences.

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