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.

Shoptalk Insights: Global Commerce, VR, Pop-Up Retail

In its second year, Shoptalk did not disappoint. More than 5,500 attendees from 40+ countries swarmed the Aria in Las Vegas, March 19-22, to hear from retail executives and industry experts. Even some of the sessions’ overflow rooms were filled beyond capacity at times, and many sessions featured very quick presentations from fast-talking execs trying to squeeze in as much information as possible. Most of the key topics on the minds of retail industry execs were addressed during the conference. Here you’ll find the Retail TouchPoints take on a few of those sessions:

#Shoptalk17: Instagram Rolls Out Shopping Feature

  • Published in News Briefs
Instagram made a big splash at Shoptalk 2017, unveiling that it is expanding its Instagram Shopping feature to all fashion, apparel, jewelry and skincare brands using the commerce platforms BigCommerce and Shopify. The functionality is expected to roll out in Q2 2017. “People are in this discovery mind-set [on Instagram] and…

How Retailers Can Transform ‘March Madness’ Into ‘Marketing Magic’

With the first weekend of the 2017 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament posting an average of 9.325 million viewers across all games and four television networks, “March Madness” continues to captivate both major sports fans and casual viewers alike. But the frenzy also can be a big boon to retailers and brands seeking to launch marketing campaigns. CPG food and beverage brands are obviously big beneficiaries of the tournament: During last year’s tournament, wing orders were 24% higher than during the days prior to the tournament, while pizza orders were 17% higher, according to data from Yahoo. Sponsor apparel brands increased web site searches 33% on the first day of the tournament versus the week prior.

The Facebook Retail Reinvention

A few years ago retailers were lamenting their decisions to try to use Facebook as a commerce channel. A Business Insider article made the statement clearly: “Companies first started selling things directly through Facebook in 2009. Then, in 2011, Facebook convinced a bunch of big, high-profile brands like GameStop, Gap, J.C. Penney, and Nordstrom to open stores on the site through their business pages. They all ended up closing their stores within a year.”

How Facebook And Amazon Play Into Mobile-First At eBags

There are a number of reasons why eBags is succeeding in the competitive travel goods space. But a focus on mobile-first is a primary driver of success: in 2016, year-over-year (YOY) sales via mobile grew 70% for both Q4 and full year 2016, while mobile traffic grew 67% for Q4 and 53% YOY. Co-Founder and EVP Peter Cobb shares his insights into eBags’ success, as well as his personal viewpoints on the retail industry, in this exclusive Q&A with Retail TouchPoints: Retail TouchPoints (RTP):eBags is committed to a strong marketing strategy using Facebook. Can you talk about the benefits of working with Facebook?

ALDO VP Says ‘Omnichannel’ Thinking Must Go Away

As a Millennial, I certainly get very curious whenever I hear about retailers’ latest initiatives to market to my demographic and the younger Gen Z shoppers. Since these generations are the most significant drivers of retail’s continued transformation, their influence will only get stronger. When I attended the Millennial 20/20 event last week, I glimpsed how retailers and brands alike are handling this transition. C-Level execs from big names such as Subway, Taco Bell, Bacardi, Chobani and Boxed all spoke about their experiences catering to these younger segments, but the session that stood out for me was from the global footwear brand ALDO. What caught my attention was that ALDO has abandoned the omnichannel thought process that has been an article of faith among retailers for most of this decade.

Location Engine Yext Files For IPO

In a move that could raise as much as $100 million, Yext has filed for an Initial Public Offering (IPO) that would make its stock available for purchase as soon as April 2017. Yext, founded in 2006, provides the location results appearing on search engines, social media and maps, and counts brands such as AutoZone, Best Buy, Ben & Jerry’s, Marriott, Michael’s, McDonald’s and Rite Aid as customers. According to its SEC filing, Yext has “experienced rapid growth in recent periods.” However, the filing also warned that Yext has “a history of losses and may not achieve profitability in the future,” and that it remains dependent on strategic relationships with third-party application providers. For the nine months that ended Oct. 31, 2016, Yext generated $88.6 million in revenues and suffered a net loss of $28.6 million.

Surprising Customer Service Lessons From 2016

2016 was a strong year for retail thanks to low unemployment, reduced interest rates and increased consumer confidence that led to a surge in spending. The retail rush that took place over November and December was one of the best-performing ever. According to Deloitte, traditional store sales rose by 4.6% over the holidays while e-Commerce climbed by 21.8%. All told, online channels accounted for more than $63 billion in sales.  Naturally, this surge in volume resulted in a flood of consumer help requests. Over the holiday spending season, Inktel responded to tens of thousands of customer service inquires on behalf of retail and e-Commerce clients that spanned across multiple channels, including phone support, social media, live chat, email, co-browsing, etc. 

Supermarkets Fail To Bridge Consumer-Social Media Gap

  • Published in Social
While 87% of supermarket shoppers report regularly following one or more social media platforms, just 25% indicate they are friends with or connected to their primary grocery store, according to a study from the Retail Feedback Group (RFG). Grocers aiming to bolster their social media interactions are going to have to add value to the experience through content and recommendations, similar to the way e-Commerce sites already include these features.

Bluecore Debuts Marketing Decisioning Platform

  • Published in News Briefs
Bluecore has launched a new decisioning platform designed to help marketers organize large data sets, determine appropriate next steps and then quickly deploy campaigns across social, display, email and onsite channels. The platform, introduced at the eTail West 2017 conference, delivers personalized insights and audiences on the fly through a…

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:
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