UK Startup Bridges Store And Mobile With Real-Time Inventory Data

Although all Brexit-related news continues to stay top-of-mind for UK retailers and consumers, one startup is going full speed ahead to ensure that local stores throughout the nation can continue to connect with shoppers. Retail tech startup NearSt is aiming to bridge the in-store and mobile experiences with the launch of its NearLive platform, as well as its web site and mobile app.

The platform, which has already partnered with local bookstores in London, is expanding its retail partnerships to more sellers including consumer electronics, DIY goods, health and beauty products, sportswear, stationery and gift shop services.


Ace Hardware Celebrates A Decade Of High Customer Satisfaction

1-Ace HardwareFor the 10th consecutive year, Ace Hardware ranked “Highest in Customer Satisfaction among Home Improvement Retail Stores,” according to the J.D. Power 2016 U.S. Home Improvement Retailer Store Satisfaction Study. 

The J.D. Power study is based on responses from nearly 2,995 consumers who purchased home improvement products or services in the previous 12 months. Ace Hardware ranked highest among major retailers, with an overall satisfaction index score of 810 on a 1,000-point scale.

The score is based on performance in five areas: merchandise, price, sales and promotions, staff and service, and store facility.


How To Capitalize On 16% Growth Rate For Auto Parts E-Commerce

1-carid2In the "bad old days" of shopping for  auto parts, they were purchased at local dealers with limited inventory. Customers dealt with a person sitting behind a counter sifting through huge stacks of catalogs. Items were sometimes available, but often they were out-of-stock or on back order. Or, in an even more worrisome situation, much-needed parts were ordered by your local mechanic with a “trust me” wink about the cost, just as he was about to tear apart your car. 

As with so many other parts of retail, e-Commerce has made big changes to this not-so-customer-friendly model, and consumers are voting with clicks and taps. 

AAA: Auto Parts + Amazon = Acceleration

A recent study by Hedges & Company found that while sales through auto parts stores showed less than 1% growth from 2014 to 2015, online sales of aftermarket auto parts experienced a 16% growth rate from 2015 to 2016, when they are expected to reach $7.4 billion. A large part of this growth has been generated by Amazon, which has become this market's single largest online retailer, offering nearly eight million auto parts.

In fact, it appears the e-Commerce cylinders are just starting to fire up, as Hedges & Company forecasts tremendous annual auto parts sales growth, including: 

  • 12% to 16% annual increases over the next four years;
  • $1 billion increases in sales during each of the next four years; 
  • 2017 online sales projected to hit $8.4 billion; and
  • Online sales to break the $10 billion mark in 2019.

Consumers are now purchasing more parts online and either completing installations themselves or, at the very least, arming themselves with a lot more knowledge about their mechanics’costs. The Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association (AASA) Joint Channel Forecast Model projects conventional retail do-it-yourself (DIY) sales to grow 3.5% in 2016, according to Hedges & Company.

The Road To Omnichannel Success: Data Insight

How can auto parts retailers take advantage of these trends? Successfully leveraging an e-Commerce channel and the acquisition and retention of shoppers comes down to providing a differentiating customer experience. That can be helped along with smart use of consumer data. With today’s almost unlimited stacks of data inherent in e-Commerce, the answers to any consumer questions auto part dealers seek may be easier to access than a catalytic converter on a ’77 Dodge. 


Fender Uses Visual Tools To Facilitate Custom-Designed Guitar Sales

Unless you happen to be a guitar-smashing heavy metal rock star, it's unlikely you'll be buying multiple guitars from 70-year-old instrument maker Fender. So the company has a strong incentive to ensure that customers love the purchases they make, and also that they get exactly the guitar that they want — down to the tiniest detail.

This is a particular challenge in serving the shoppers who choose to customize their Fender guitars. With options ranging from the materials used to make various parts of the instrument to color choices for the body, fingerboard and pickguard, the number of possible combinations quickly mushrooms. (For the iconic Fender Stratocaster alone there are more than 50,000.)


Store Associates Continue To Be Overlooked Despite Rising Tech Investments

As retailers continually focus more on technology to bolster their omnichannel efforts, with 87% of retailers expecting their technology costs to increase over the next two years, they are still glossing over a key component of their experience: the store associate.

More than half (58%) of retailers either have employee training programs they believe are very ineffective, or don’t have training programs at all, according to a study from A.T. Kearney.


Survey: Associate Interactions Boost Transactions And Repeat Purchases

1-store-associateA common modern retail myth is that customers do not want sales associates to approach or interact with them unless they are specifically sought for. This fable is now shattered, according to a survey titled: Impact of Sales Associates on the Shopper’s Purchase Journey

The survey, conducted by Grail Research for Mindtree, shows retailers the opposite of the traditional tale: increased interaction, combined with appropriate training and automated technologies, lead to a positive uplift in shopper value. In fact, shoppers rely on interaction with sales associates to make purchasing decisions, especially in more complex product categories like consumer electronics, home improvement and others. When customers receive help, it leads to significant increases in transaction amounts as well as in repeat purchases.

Key survey findings include:

  • 43% of shoppers who interact with a store associate are more likely to purchase a product, and their transactions have 81% more value compared to those who don’t interact with an associate;
  • 12% of these shoppers are more likely to revisit the store; and
  • 91% of sales associates strongly agree that positive interactions with shoppers result in higher conversions, yet 94% feel this requires more advanced technology tools and training that they currently don’t have access to.

Conversely, shoppers are less likely to make a purchase if they are not reached out to proactively by a store associate. According to the survey, 40% of shoppers are unable to locate a store associate when they need help during a typical shopping trip.


Beauty Retailer Boots UK Deploys IBM Analytics-Powered Mobile Sales App

Boots UK, a pharmacy-led health and beauty retailer that is part of the Walgreens-Boots Alliance, has partnered with IBM to deploy a new app for sales associates. The company is the first retailer to offer IBM’s analytics-powered Sales Assist app, which is designed to help turn every salesperson into a personal shopper for in-store customers. The service is available in more than 2,300 stores.

The app uses beacon technology to locate and identify shoppers on the store floor, look up online inventory and suggest products based on previous purchases. Using deep analytics combined with customer data, it can provide real-time product and location information straight to the associate’s mobile device.


Walmart Seeks Faster China Growth Path In Deal With Alibaba Rival

Walmart has agreed to sell its Chinese online operations to the country's second-largest e-Commerce company,, as it attempts to compete with retailing behemoth Alibaba. will take ownership of Walmart's Yihaodian marketplace platform, although Walmart will continue to operate the Yihaodian direct sales business and will be a seller on the marketplace.

As part of the deal, the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer will take a 5% stake in While Walmart's brick-and-mortar stores are not part of the deal, the planned strategic alliance is designed to drive traffic to both these stores and Sam's Club China locations. Sam's Club will open a flagship store on and offer same- and next-day delivery through's warehousing and delivery network, which covers a population of 600 million consumers, according to a company statement.

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