Social means so much more than a Facebook page or a Tweet these days. Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest — to name a few — are making their mark on the retail marketplace. But are they short-term trends or do they have the staying power to become long-term solutions? What are the best approaches for retailers? What does the future hold? These and other key questions are asked and answered in this section.

The Community-Commerce Divide: Why Online Communities Should Connect To Commerce

As digitization continues to gain momentum, consumers have become more and more comfortable researching goods and buying them online. By 2020, an estimated 30% of all purchases will be influenced through an online community. Not only are consumers going online to make their purchase, but a recent Forrester study found that customers typically complete 70% to 90% of their buying journey prior to engaging with a vendor. Companies and brands that can seamlessly integrate commerce and communities will increase customer engagement, improve customer loyalty, and significantly improve the number of initial and repeat purchases a customer makes.   Companies that leverage communities as a cornerstone of their customer engagement initiative will also gain tremendous amounts of customer data and insight that can be leveraged to shape future incentives and loyalty programs. Creating brand ambassadors will be a critical factor for success in the future as brands are losing control over the customer experience as consumers increasingly trust peer reviews and peer generated content.

SocialVend Launches Socially-Activated Vending Machines

SocialVend has launched its first social media-activated vending machine, vendmini. Retailers can use the small-footprint machines for marketing campaigns, in-store sampling and promotional giveaways. The machines integrate social media platforms such as Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram.

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.

When Retail Innovators Get It Right…And When They Get It Wrong

One of the hallmarks of the NRF Big Show is the onslaught of technology that just seems to get more and more robust every year. And while that’s not a shocker, sometimes it is a surprise just how much of the tech is either for show, behind the times or too far ahead of the times to have any practical purpose for years. So out of some of the more popular tech at NRF, what really checked out and what didn’t? Here's my unvarnished take:

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:

Storyselling Marries Content And Commerce To Build Long-Term Loyalty

Many brands are embracing the convergence of content and commerce known as "storyselling" — even though metrics around its effectiveness are still being developed. The ROI of storyselling can be difficult to measure, because interactions are more about building positive relationships with consumers versus achieving an immediate conversion. "Telling stories is a way to tell your company's point of view, and we think about it as adding value to shoppers’ experience," said Amanda Hesser, CEO and Co-Founder of Food52, which sells kitchen products. Food52's storyselling efforts have helped the retailer improve its conversion rates by 20% over the past year, but she believes its true value will be long-term. "For example, if a customer sees a platter we're selling that has a salad on it and they click on the salad recipe, that's still a win, because you've piqued their interest. If they don't convert but you're building trust with them, you're building lifetime value."

Listrak To Debut Audience Automation Platform At NRF

  • Published in News Briefs
Listrak will debut its audience automation platform Listrak Exchange at booth #4254 at the NRF Big Show 2017. Listrak Exchange is designed to simplify cross-channel audience orchestration for busy retail digital marketers, enabling them to target customers and browsers with relevant ads where and when they are most likely to…

NRF 2017 Preview: A Big-Picture View Of The Big Show

New York City's Javits Center will bulge with 33,000 attendees and more than 500 exhibitors from Jan. 15-17, all in town for the NRF Big Show 2017. The visitors, representing more than 3,300 retail companies, will be there to visit two Expo Hall levels totaling more than 235,000 square feet, as well as the educational sessions led by the 300+ speakers. The keynote address, on Monday, Jan. 16 from 9 to 10 am, will be delivered by Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin brand. In a "fireside chat" format with The Container Store Co-Founder and Chairman Kip Tindell, Sir Richard will discuss Undying Brand Engagement in an Age of Continuous Disruption and Reinvention.

72% Of Businesses Say Buy Buttons Don’t Sell

  • Published in Social
Digital marketers are overwhelmingly rejecting the use of buy buttons on social media platforms, and for good reason: 72% of businesses say that they have seen no sales as a result of buy buttons in 2016, according to a report from Campaigner. In fact, 25% fewer marketers are using buy buttons now compared to this time last year, and nearly 40% plan to reduce their use of them in 2017. While buy buttons in their present form have been a bust for retailers, marketing teams still may have uses for them in the future.

2017: The Year Of The Chatbot

If 2016 was the year chatbots entered the retail scene, then 2017 will be the year brands will start to realize real business results from the technology, through increased sales, conversion rates or customer loyalty. When deploying chatbots as part of an overall business strategy, retailers should consider the following three points: Chatbot experiences must be consistent across all channels; Advanced customer data analysis is necessary to build contextual conversations; and Human representatives remain a vital component of the customer service process and are still needed to communicate with consumers effectively.

Rue21 Fills Newly Created CMO And COO Slots

Recognizing the confluence of digital and marketing in today's retail environment, rue21 has promoted Brett Trent to the newly created position of Chief Marketing Officer. Trent has been the teen retailer's Chief Digital Officer for the past two years and prior to that was SVP of Digital Retail. Together with Chief Customer Officer Liz Hodges, Trent will expand rue21's use of data and technology to more closely interact with customers at every brand touch point, including online, social media and stores. The new job of Chief Operating Officer will be taken by Dirk Armstrong. He has been with rue21 for five years, most recently as SVP and Director of Stores. As COO, Armstrong will focus on driving the strategic vision of the retailer's 1,200+ brick-and-mortar stores; managing the retailer's 21,000 field employees; and transforming the brand's Girl's in-store experience to meet the merchandise transformation being led by Chief Merchandising Officer Nina Barjesteh.

'Tis The Season For Social Media Scams

  • Published in News Briefs
Attention shoppers: be wary of the ads, giveaways and deals you click throughout on your favorite social media site this holiday season. Whether through impersonation or hashtag hijacking, scammers are pulling out all the stops to fool consumers into unwittingly exposing their personal data. There are four major types of…

Visually Compelling Maps Breathe New Life Into Retail Data

"Location" is a vital data point for just about every type of retail event, from the precise place a mobile purchase is completed to the real-time route of a delivery truck. Because location impacts so much of retail, displaying the data in a map format can facilitate decision-making capabilities across the enterprise. Conversely, when information is delivered in just numbers or words, via a table or spreadsheet, "patterns of data can be elusive," said Gary Sankary, Retail Industry Manager at Esri. "But if you drop the data into a map with fairly simple symbology, it provides an instant spatial reference to data that makes interpretation easier and faster. This type of visual data mining is something that maps have excelled at for centuries."

Online Communities Hold The Key To High Shopper Confidence

If a retailer hasn’t already caught wind of the online communities bandwagon, they better hop on soon. As many as 70% of companies who use communities believe that their customers have high purchase confidence, compared to 48% of companies not using communities, according to a survey from SAP SE and Forrester Consulting. Online communities such as Sephora’s BeautyTalk or the forums at Threadless can take place on a retailer’s e-Commerce site, a social media page or a third party site to enable consumers to share insights, ideas and questions on anything related to a brand’s experience. Interactions between the retailer and the consumer via communities encompass the entire buying lifecycle:
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