Retail TouchPoints - Your Source For The Latest Retail News And Trends Wed, 07 Dec 2016 03:23:15 -0500 RTP en-gb IKEA, Best Buy And Amazon Make '25 Worst Companies To Call' List IKEA, Best Buy And Amazon Make '25 Worst Companies To Call' List

Being stuck on hold is a drag at any time of the year, but it's particularly irksome during the holidays, when demands on consumers' time multiply. So it's not good news that complaints about long hold times tripled over Cyber Monday and have remained high since then, according to data from the web site, the brainchild of cloud-based call-back solution Fonolo.

The site, which scans Twitter for on-hold complaints, has published its list of the Top 25 Worst Hold Time Offenders of 2016, and several well-known retail and hospitality brands are on this dis-honor roll. The site found that out of 600,000 tweets containing the phrase "on hold with," 25 companies were the most frequently reported — and Apple took the number one spot.

{loadposition GIAA}Others in the sector included:

PayPal (in the #12 spot); IKEA (#13); Best Buy (#18); Domino's (#21); and Amazon (#25).

The rest of the list is populated with many of the usual suspects, including telecom companies, airlines, cable TV providers, and everyone's favorite government whipping boys, the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Motor Vehicles.

"These organizations are letting loyal customers slip through their fingers because of long hold times," said Daniela Puzzo, Marketing Director of Fonolo, in a statement. "Hopefully these new findings will motivate companies to rethink how they deliver customer service."

0aholidayhubThe complete list follows:

1. Apple

2. Verizon

3. Bank of America

4. Comcast

5. Sprint

6. Southwest

7. United

8. Delta

9. IRS

10. AT&T

11. Expedia

12. PayPal

13. IKEA

14. T Mobile

15. DirecTV

16. American Airlines

17. DMV

18. Best Buy

19. Telus

20. UPS

21. Domino's

22. Ticketmaster

23. Citi

24. Time Warner Cable

25. Amazon

]]> (Adam Blair) News Briefs Tue, 06 Dec 2016 16:21:30 -0500
Goldman Sachs Leads Latest Hubba Funding Round Goldman Sachs Leads Latest Hubba Funding Round

Hubba logoHubba, an online destination for brands to showcase their wares to retailers, has secured a significant minority investment from a group led by Goldman Sachs Investment Partners. While Hubba has not released the amount of the investment, sources told the Wall Street Journal the figure is close to the $45 million Hubba was on track to raise earlier in 2016. This Series B funding follows an $11 million Series A round that closed in 2015.

With a network of more than 40,000 companies, Hubba helps retail buyers discover the growing number of niche products in the marketplace. In addition, it features highly engaged influencers who partner with brands and retailers to promote products to their follower base.

{loadposition GIAA}Hubba will use the proceeds of the Series B funding to provide greater value for its community members, including developing new products and features to help drive new business for users and expanding Hubba's geographic footprint to other international regions.

In addition to Goldman Sachs, funding participants included existing investors Real Ventures, Kensington Venture Fund and Brightspark Ventures.

]]> (Adam Blair) Financial News Tue, 06 Dec 2016 16:07:50 -0500
Toshiba Appoints Stephen Markham SVP Of Portfolio Management Toshiba Appoints Stephen Markham SVP Of Portfolio Management

1-ToshibaToshiba Global Commerce Solutions has appointed Dr. Stephen K. Markham Senior Vice President of portfolio management. Dr. Markham will be responsible for product planning and execution of the Toshiba POS product portfolio as well as process management throughout the company, reporting to President and CEO Scott Maccabe.

“I am very excited to have Stephen join us as part of the leadership team,” said Maccabe in a statement. “Stephen is a recognized expert in the fields of product development, innovation and technology commercialization. I have great confidence that his insights will continue to accelerate growth, keeping Toshiba at the forefront of retail technology for a long time to come.”

Prior to joining Toshiba, Dr. Markham was a professor at North Carolina State University’s Poole College of Management. He is President of the Product Development & Management Association (PDMA) Research Foundation and Founder of the PDMA New Product Development Professional Certification Program.

]]> (David DeZuzio) Retail Movers & Shakers Tue, 06 Dec 2016 15:02:28 -0500
Shopify Acquires Tiny Hearts To Broaden Mobile Offerings

1shopifyTHE-Commerce solution provider Shopify has acquired Tiny Hearts, a digital product studio and creator of consumer-facing apps such as Quick Fit, Next Keyboard and Wake Alarm. The acquisition will include the company’s apps, online store and brand, called Busy Building Things.

Tiny Hearts' six-person product team will be joining Shopify’s Toronto office, according to a blog post. With Tiny Hearts’ mobile talent on board, Shopify will be able to enhance its mobile product offerings. The two companies have already collaborated on multiple Shopify products, including a pop-up shop called Popify, and apps such as Frenzy (a flash sales app) and Shopkey (a keyboard app).

Founded in 2010, Tiny Hearts has worked with clients such as Philips and Wealthsimple, in addition to Shopify. According to the blog post, the company’s apps have been downloaded by more than six million people and have won multiple awards. 

]]> (Klaudia Tirico) Mergers & Acquisitions Tue, 06 Dec 2016 14:47:58 -0500
Vantiv Offers Alternative Cross-Border Payment Methods Vantiv Offers Alternative Cross-Border Payment Methods

Vantiv, a payment processing service and technology provider, has partnered with cross-border online payments provider PPRO Group to offer international alternative payment methods (APMs) to its retail merchant clients.

Through the partnership, Vantiv’s customers can:

  • Offer non-card payment methods such as direct debit, bank transfers, cash-based e-payments and e-wallets to international consumers, through a single integration and customer service experience for both domestic and international payments processing;

  • Add preferred local payment methods to reach new customers in Europe and Asia; and

  • Combine data from these international alternative payment methods with business-impacting analytics and reporting capabilities of Vantiv iQ for e-Commerce.

This combination is designed to provide merchants with a comprehensive, global view of all their transactions.   

“Countries and cultures greatly differ when it comes to payments behavior. There are large groups of consumers who either prefer APMs over credit and debit cards, or do not have access to card payment methods,0avantiv” noted Sayid Shabeer, VP of Merchant Product at Vantiv in a statement. “We understand the importance of offering alternative payment methods, which in some regions account for 30% or more of all online spending.”

]]> (Glenn Taylor) News Briefs Tue, 06 Dec 2016 12:54:36 -0500
Supervalu Officially Sells Off Save-A-Lot For $1.4 Billion Supervalu Officially Sells Off Save-A-Lot For $1.4 Billion

Supervalu has finalized the sale of its discount grocery brand Save-A-Lot to an affiliate of private equity firm Onex Corporation for $1.365 billion in cash, earlier than the initially anticipated closure date of Jan. 31, 2017. Upon the closing, Supervalu will continue providing back office services to Save-A-Lot as part of a five-year professional services agreement.

The supermarket confirmed that it has used $750 million of the net proceeds from the sale to prepay a portion of its outstanding term loan balance. The company plans to use the remaining proceeds to further reduce debt, improve its capital structure, contribute to its pension plan and fund corporate and growth initiatives.

{loadposition GIAA}“With the successful completion of the Save-A-Lot sale, we are well positioned for the future with a stronger balance sheet, the opportunity to more strategically invest in our business, and the ability to more keenly focus on our core business as a leading grocery wholesaler,” said Mark Gross, President and CEO of Supervalu.

Like discount competitor Dollar General, Save-A-Lot has felt the heat in 2016 from a combination of reduced SNAP benefits in various states and food price deflation. Since Save-A-Lot had accounted for 26% of Supervalu’s $17.5 billion annual revenue, the sale eliminates the added burden of operating a discount retailer. Prior to the sale, Supervalu had initially sought to spin off Save-A-Lot as its own independent brand, to focus further on its Farm Fresh and Cub Foods chains.

Through the sale, Save-A-Lot can develop further as a private company under Onex. As of June 2016, Save-A-Lot operated 472 corporate stores, and it services and supplies another 896 licensee-owned stores across the U.S.

As of the closing, Supervalu is now organized into two primary business segments, Wholesale and Retail. 

]]> (Glenn Taylor) Mergers & Acquisitions Tue, 06 Dec 2016 12:40:25 -0500
How Virtual Reality Is Transforming The Retail Industry How Virtual Reality Is Transforming The Retail Industry

0aPieter Aarts roOomyIn a world where physical and virtual environments are rapidly converging, industries are looking to find an effective touch point for marketing products to consumers. It is becoming increasingly necessary for retailers to provide customers with experience-based platforms that spark e-Commerce conversion rates.

Virtual Reality And Branding

{loadposition GIAA}With augmented and virtual reality revenues projected to top $120 billion by 2020, retailers are looking to capitalize on software solutions that function seamlessly with today’s hardware, and the current integrative technology is positioned for new and impressive advancements. Businesses and brands are starting to engage consumers with story-driven VR experiences that educate and entertain. This will create a new kind of relationship between brands and audiences, as they move away from observing companies and begin interacting with them — evoking a personal connection unlike any other branding experience.

Empowering The Customer Experience

Virtual marketing and sales channels provide customers with an interactive and highly personalized experience that has plagued the sales conversion of online shopping. Advances in the use of virtual reality in e-Commerce provide the treasured ‘try before you buy’ experience for shoppers, previously only available during brick-and-mortar shopping excursions.

Home Furnishings

Through virtual staging platforms like roOomy, consumers are empowered with unlimited personalization options for redecorating the home they have today — or the home they are looking to move into tomorrow. The interactive nature of virtual e-Commerce programs presents great opportunity for retailers to showcase their products and capture an audience in new and creative ways — like virtually staged real estate listings, and a platform that allows interior design enthusiasts the freedom to upload a photo of their ‘actual’ home and furnish it with ‘actual’ products by their favorite retailers. Making the visualization process tangible to furniture buyers in a virtual realm fosters an emotional connection to the pieces that is not even achieved in a brick-and-mortar store.  

Home Improvement

Moving beyond interiors, virtual reality also takes aim at larger and more structural home improvement projects, such as new flooring and remodeled kitchens and bathrooms. Retail giant Lowes has implemented a virtual reality visualization tool called the Holoroom, enabling shoppers to see a 3D mockup of their renovation plans. The LA Times reports that with virtual reality, people are able to take an immersive view of “how a slab of marble or different paint color can change an entire room — drastically increasing the likelihood that they will go with Lowes for their project.”


Clothing retailers are taking a lifestyle approach in utilizing VR to engage customers with their brand. Leading the charge is The North Face. Known for their quality clothing for the great outdoors, North Face provides an in-store experience that appeals to the adventurous spirit of their target demographic. Select stores are now equipped with VR headsets, taking viewers on rock climbing expeditions in Yosemite and the Moab Desert in Utah. “Taking the approach a step further, they partnered with Outside magazine to issue Google Cardboard to subscribers so they could view shots of Nepal on their smartphones.”   

The Benefits Of Virtual Reality On The Retail Industry

 Recently, Entrepreneur emphasized the need for retailers to provide their customers with a content-rich experience. Today’s savvy consumers have evolved in the Internet age, putting their trust in data, detailed descriptions, video reviews and social proactivity prior to purchase. Top e-Retailers have implemented a content-rich experience for their audience, and they are seeing enormous profits as a result. A comprehensive omnichannel strategy with an emphasis on user-experience solutions is a major contributor to significant sales gains across all brands, with a return on investment of tenfold or more.

Implementing a virtual experience to consumers benefits retailers in several ways:

  • Cuts Marketing Costs

Product visualization cuts the time, money and labor involved in traditional product marketing. Incorporating a VR platform into a retailer’s e-Commerce solution captures the imagination of consumers with 3D models. This interactivity offers a more realistic and engaging presentation than normally experienced online.

  • Reduces Returns

Virtual 3D product modeling offers a significant reduction in the rate of returns, as consumers can, for instance, place an ‘actual’ piece of furniture in their ‘actual’ home. This provides a valuable ‘green’ benefit in line with the reduction in transportation, packaging and related costs.

  • Sophisticated Analytics

One of the greatest benefits of a virtual reality customer interface for retailers is intuitive and advanced analytics. Virtual platforms collect data on the way customers interact with products, providing brands with valuable directives for focused marketing efforts.

Dawn Of The Virtual Age

The excitement surrounding consumer-centric virtual reality software and related hardware is more than mere hype. VR is set to change the way we interact with the world. It will have a tremendous impact on all marketplaces, and leave a long-lasting effect on consumer behavior.


Pieter Aarts is the Co-founder and CEO of roOomy, the world’s leading 3D VR/AR technology company in the interior decorating space. He has over 25 years of diverse industry experience in virtual reality, e-Commerce, 3D, mobile, and SaaS. 


]]> (Pieter Aarts, roOomy) Executive ViewPoints Tue, 06 Dec 2016 09:58:48 -0500
Why Conversational Commerce Is The Biggest Transformation In Retail Why Conversational Commerce Is The Biggest Transformation In Retail

0aSam Vasisht MindMeldThe physical retail shopping experience has remained pretty consistent over the past few decades, other than cosmetic changes to store layouts and signage. Some argue that the experience has actually declined since department stores and category killers have dominated foot traffic, and products like electronics and appliances have gotten more complex. Finding a store associate — and one who is knowledgeable — is consistently among the top dissatisfiers of retail shoppers.

Meanwhile, online shopping has readily adopted new technologies and shopping aids, such as reviews, recommendations, site navigation, fast checkout and more. Moreover, online retailers can easily gather highly detailed data on customer preferences and behavior throughout their shopping journey, providing them with better opportunities for loyalty programs, cross-selling and upselling and retargeting.

{loadposition GIAA}When — and how — will physical stores gather and make use of data to a comparable degree? It turns out a few tweaks to the shopping experience could do it, driving massive opportunities for engagement and loyalty, as well as the potential to richly map a shopper’s journey from store arrival to departure.

Imagine this: A shopper enters a retail store and instead of wasting time hunting for the desired department/product, a personal concierge attentively guides her through the shopping experience. The concierge is not a human; it is artificial intelligence (AI) “living” inside of the brand’s smartphone app. Whether the shopper wants to know where women’s shoes are located, if a dress is available in a different size, or where the fitting rooms are, this concierge is eager to help.   

The process of selecting and trying on items is made much smoother. Merchandise — whether displayed on mannequins, signage, or via holograms — can be quickly scanned via the smartphone camera, then display all the sizing and color options, as well as similar items and recommended merchandise to pair with it. If the shopper wants to try something on, she can simply tap a button and a store associate will place the item in a fitting room for her. Inside the room, a smart mirror shows how the outfit would look in a different color, how similar items might look on, or how the dress would pair with different shoes.

When the shopper wants to buy, she can scan the tags and tap a purchase button in the app, readying the contents of her virtual cart for pickup at the register. Alternatively, she could opt for home delivery instead. This would allow her to switch to an e-Commerce mode, except with the ability to try things on before making a purchase.

All of this may sound like sci-fi, but this is the direction retail shopping is already heading, thanks to the fast spread of AI-based technologies. Numerous retail brands are reworking their in-store shopping experience — from big box retailers to home improvement chains, department stores, grocery chains, restaurants and designer boutiques.

In less than a decade, machines that understand human language and are capable of continued learning went from fiction, to technology siloed in companies like Google and Facebook, to a solution available for all major consumer-facing retail brands.

This is a boon to both shoppers and businesses. On the consumer end, a shopper can receive quick and satisfactory answers to all their brand-related inquiries — color, size, availability, recommended accessories, etc. It’s a pleasant experience; conversations are generated dynamically (like a dialogue between humans) instead of being restricted by pre-programmed scripts.

Better yet, the AI-based assistant continues to learn more about language, humans and each individual shopper upon repeated exposure. In other words, the more often the conversations take place, the more sophisticated those conversations get. The assistant tracks each customer’s location, measurements, prior purchase and browsing history, and generates spot-on recommendations and useful tips.

Meanwhile, retail brands can better respond to customer demands both individually and in aggregate, tracking all the steps in a customer journey from start to finish (unsatisfied requests, clothing that was tried on but not purchased, etc.). A lot of data is captured in a long-tail natural language query; brands will learn whether there are products they should stock that they are not, where good opportunities for cross- and upselling lie, how to better manage their allocation of existing products across stores, and create a cohesive experience that unifies online channels with the offline in-store experience.


Sam Vasisht is CMO at MindMeld, a leading Silicon Valley AI company powering conversational interfaces for some of the world’s largest retailers, media companies, government agencies and automotive manufacturers. As a hi-tech product and marketing executive for the past 15 years, Vasisht has led marketing and product development for various large brands, including Motorola, Bose, Real Networks, TiVo and On2 Technologies (Google). He has been instrumental in the launch, growth, turnarounds and exits of various venture backed startups. Vasisht is a frequent industry speaker and has appeared in the Boston Globe, USA Today, Fox Radio and NPR Marketplace, among others.

]]> (Sam Vasisht, MindMeld) Executive ViewPoints Tue, 06 Dec 2016 09:45:18 -0500
Retailers Increasingly Embrace Online Loyalty Programs — For Good Reasons Retailers Increasingly Embrace Online Loyalty Programs — For Good Reasons

0aaTom Caporaso Clarus CommerceAmazon’s dominance in the online retail world has had serious consequences for traditional brick-and-mortar retailers. Due in part to the “Amazon Effect,” a variety of brand-name stores, from Macy’s and Kohl’s to Nordstrom and more, have seen their in-store traffic drop significantly. With Amazon Prime’s membership base projected to comprise half of all U.S. households by the end of 2016, legacy retailers — indeed, all retailers — need to take steps to keep and expand their audiences, which is why many of them are offering e-Commerce loyalty programs of their own.

Prime, of course, is the current gold standard for such programs. After launching in 2005 with just one benefit — free 2-day shipping on millions of Amazon-sold items — Prime added a Kindle lending library and online streaming video in 2011, which substantially accelerated its membership growth. Since then, it’s continued to add benefits and services such as online streaming music, Prime Now same-day deliveries, and more. This expansion has helped Prime achieve a 33% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in enrollments from January 2013 through August 2016. As a result, Amazon now has an enviable base of highly engaged shoppers:

  • In the last 12 months, the average Prime member spent about $2,500 at Amazon — which is nearly five times more than a non-Prime customer.

  • 91% of first-year members renew for a second year, and 96% of those members return for a third year.

  • The longer they’re in the program, the more members spend; members who joined in January 2012 spent $3,091, on average, in 2015, while members who joined in January 2014 spent $2,147. 

{loadposition GIAA}Given all that, it’s not surprising that Amazon’s competitors would pursue similar online solutions. Quite a few retail outlets, such as Best Buy,, and Sephora, have offered loyalty rewards for some time, while others are new to the field. In September, for example, Bed Bath & Beyond began testingBeyond+, which charges subscribers $29 per year in exchange for 20% discounts and free standard shipping on all online orders. After seeing flat sales growth in Q2 2016, the retailer is hoping to reap the rewards that branded loyalty programs provide:

  • 81% of consumers are more likely to make repeat purchases with a brand that offers a loyalty program;

  • 73% are more likely to recommend a brand that offers a good program; and

  • 67% will modify their purchasing habits with a brand to maximize their program points.

As with any customer-focused initiative, the key to success is to create an appealing offering. U.S. consumers currently subscribe to 13 programs, on average, but they actively use only half of them. They’re typically drawn to programs that provide the greatest value:

  • 57% want to save on purchases, usually right at checkout;

  • 38% want points, or other rewards that can be redeemed for free products; and

  • 3.6% want to receive VIP-type perks; while

  • 1.6% join to gain social recognition or for similar reasons.

The most popular programs tailor offers around their customers’ demonstrated interests. Even today, most Prime members join the program primarily to take advantage of the free 2-day shipping offer, but Amazon, as noted earlier, continues to expand the program’s roster of products, benefits and amenities in order to maintain and grow its membership. The online retail giant relies on an ongoing, detailed analysis of its massive database of customer behaviors, together with its knowledge of larger market conditions, to determine what add-ons to offer. Other retailers likewise need to scrutinize their data, along with external factors, to determine the experiences, benefits, offers and messages that will best satisfy their customers.

Catering to their mobile interests is a great way to do that — and stay current with a growing trend. Smartphone traffic to retail sites recently surpassed traffic from computers for the first time ever; as consumers get increasingly comfortable with shopping from the palms of their hands, this behavior will only increase. Well-designed mobile apps that offer customers ease and convenience — in stores as well as online — can help retailers with physical outlets stand outin a crowd; boost engagement and sales; and even drive foot traffic.

Shoppers’ tastes and loyalties have always been moving targets. Nevertheless, to survive and thrive in the increasingly e-Commerce — and m-Commerce — retail world, brick-and-mortar stores need to create online programs that continually fulfill those evolving desires. Amazon Prime has shown that today’s consumers appreciate e-Commerce subscription programs that address their needs and interests. By constantly focusing on their audience’s proven preferences, retailers can develop and adapt benefit packages that keep them front of mind with their best customers.

Tom Caporaso is the CEO of Clarus Commerce, a recognized leader in e-Commerce and subscription commerce solutions. Among its various properties, Clarus Commerce owns and operates, the pioneer of the pre-paid shipping and cashback movements, which saves members time and money through benefits such as constant 10% cash back, shipping rebates, free returns, and instant price comparisons at 1,000+ retailers. In addition to providing turnkey, white-label subscription loyalty solutions, Clarus Commerce creates and manages customized programs for clients across a wide range of industries, including Return Saver, which it co-developed with FedEx, and 2-Day Shipping by MasterCard.

]]> (Tom Caporaso, Clarus Commerce) Executive ViewPoints Tue, 06 Dec 2016 09:30:45 -0500
SOTI Releases MobiControl 13.2 For Enterprise Mobility Management SOTI Releases MobiControl 13.2 For Enterprise Mobility Management

0aSS MobiControl ImageSOTI introduced the newest version of its mobility management platform, MobiControl 13.2. The solution offers users enterprise-ready benefits, including APIs that are designed to empower brands to integrate custom mobile management functions into their business workflows.

The enterprise mobile management solution now comes with three new features:

SOTI Surf, which is designed to enable IT administrators to control the browsing experience and maximize mobile security. It is an ideal solution for retailers that provides access to sensitive intranet content to mobile users via mobile web browsers;

SOTI Hub, which includes search and filters, and an integrated viewer for common document types. Authorized users can securely print documents directly from their mobile devices. SOTI hub implements security improvements, data loss prevention (DLP) features, and a variety of interface and user experience enhancements including SharePoint integration, Search on Server improvements and a new Download Manager; and

Android for Work Enhancements, which is designed to enable IT administrators to diagnose and fix user device problems and Android for work applications in the field using new remote control capabilities.

]]> (Glenn Taylor) Solution Spotlight Tue, 06 Dec 2016 09:20:10 -0500