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Blink Inc. Raises $3.6 Million To Expand Affordable Omnichannel Photo Studios

1blinkincBlink Inc., a photo shoot studio that offers affordable, professional digital photography delivered in real time, has raised $3.6 million in series A funding to accelerate expansion plans. The finance round was led by Chris Cook and partners from Riata Capital Group, Chris Hansen of Valiant Capital Partners and David Zoba, former Head of Global Real Estate at Gap Inc.

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#RIC16 Spotlights Retail's Most Creative Disruptors

The retail model that has held sway for the last 2,000 years — build a store, stock it with appealing products and wait for customers to come in — is broken, and Ken Hughes knows who broke it. The consumer and shopper behaviorist was the keynote speaker at the second annual Retail TouchPoints Retail Innovation Conference, held May 9-11 in New York City.

Hughes identifies the "Blue Dot" consumer as the culprit behind today's industry upheaval. To make his point he spread out a paper road map and noted that in order to use one of these, an individual had to know where she was in relation to the wider world. But smartphone map apps now do this for us automatically, creating a "you are here" Blue Dot. "That consumer is not a small part of a big world; they are the world, and they are at its center," said Hughes. "Today in retail, everything is about the shopper."

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Top Takeaways From #RIC16 Innovation Labs

This year's Retail Innovation Conference, held May 10-11 at Apella in New York City, brought together 185 of the industry's most innovative retail executives, who shared uniquely valuable retail disruption and innovation trends.

Also featured at #RIC16 were eight Innovation Labs, highly focused workshop sessions covering a wide range of current "pain points." Presentations were led by the industry's leading solution providers and their customers.

Here are some key takeaways from these sessions:

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True Religion Adds Clienteling to Associate-Facing Apple Watch Experience

It’s easy to get lost in the glitz and glamour of new technologies and engagement touch points. While the latest gadgets may look great on the surface, they may not be appropriate for a retailer’s brand image, business goals or even their target audience.

With its associate-facing Apple Watch App, True Religion has somehow managed to have it all: Robust functionality, a powerful user interface and accessible back-end data to improve customer experiences. During Aptos’ inaugural ENGAGE user conference in Las Vegas, John Hazen, SVP of Direct to Consumer & Omnichannel for True Religion, took the stage to reveal the next phase of the brand’s Apple Watch experience: CRM and clienteling.

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Sears Secures $500 Million Loan To Enhance Omnichannel Capabilities

1searsSears Holding Corporation’s subsidiaries have secured a 15-month, $500 million loan, designed to give the company financial flexibility as it transforms itself into a more asset-light, integrated retailer. An initial $250 million was funded under the Loan Facility, while the additional $250 million is expected to be drawn by the subsidiaries in the future. Sears also has closed a previously announced $750 million Term Loan to help with its e-Commerce and omnichannel initiatives. 

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A Shifting Retail Landscape: A Closer Look At Sports Authority

1VP XperiiWith Sports Authority adding itself to the list of distressed retailers joining the order of bankruptcy, it is definitely safe to say we are amid a time of rapidly-shifting retail trends. In fact, having followed many of the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) consumer retail and luxury market outlook reports published over the past few years, retailing is almost a misnomer. The same products of before can no longer simply be presented to consumers — brands must draw consumers in with engaging content in addition to products alone. Filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on March 2nd, Sports Authority offers us a more intimate glimpse into the paradigm shifts in retail sales.

Let’s analyze the case of Sports Authority more closely, as I see it.

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Starmount Partnership Powers Omnichannel Payments

Starmount logoA new partnership between Starmount and Aurus offers retailers the ability to implement payment solutions that are capable of processing both in-store and e-Commerce transactions.

Retailers will be able to incorporate payment-as-a-service with their Starmount POS solutions, including Starmount Engage mobile POS, managing consumers' payment processes separately from their POS transaction data.

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Mobile Site Acceleration Boosts Conversions 23% At American Giant

Everyone talks about business agility, but American Giant has actually put it into practice — with impressive results. When the online apparel retailer shaved an average of five seconds off of its mobile site's speed, conversions increased 23%.

"Anything you can do to improve site speed will bring benefits," said Jennifer Patchen, Director of Site Operations for the San Francisco-based retailer. Reducing the desktop e-Commerce site's speed by just a single second boosted conversions there as well, by a smaller (though still measurable) percentage.

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Audio Brand Harmonizes Digital Experience Worldwide With SaaS Platform

Until fairly recently, Harman International suffered from something of an identity crisis. If consumers knew the name at all, they associated it with high-end audio brands such as Harman Kardon and JBL. Yet the $7 billion company also is a leader in automotive technology, including GPS and navigation systems, as well as professional audio systems and even the ultra-hot Internet of Things (IoT) category.

Delivering a unified message about Harman — not to mention supporting cross-channel sales for a wide range of products— was a significant challenge not only because of the company's low profile, but also the scattered state of its digital presentation and supporting infrastructure. In 2014, Harman was operating 13 different e-Commerce systems, including separate platforms for seven global operating areas.

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Rock/Creek Unites Digital And Store-Based Customer Tracking

Rock/Creek has a lot to gain from learning about its customers — particularly their plans for outdoor adventures. The retailer's most valuable shoppers are those who are about to "graduate"— set off on a backpacking trip across Europe, hike the length of the Pacific Coast Trail or scale the heights of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Knowing exactly when these trekkers are prepping to leave allows Rock/Creek to supply them with everything they need to enjoy the trip (and hopefully survive to return and buy more products). The total "spend" from these customers easily can reach $5,000 to $6,000 per adventure, including items like specially designed shoes, GPS-enabled watches and emergency communicators.

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