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Editor's Perspective

The editors of Retail TouchPoints spend most of their waking hours exploring, learning and studying every aspect of the retail industry. To that end, they are bringing their unique insights and outlooks to a special Editor’s Perspective column each week on the RTP site. The pieces could include personal experiences, new takes on the latest world news, or a different look at how technologies may impact the future marketplace.

Whole Foods Becomes Lab For Amazon To Test Pricing Strategies

Even for a company that routinely generates big headlines, Amazon made quite a splash with its purchase of Whole Foods in June. The retailer got even more attention when it lowered prices on key items at the grocer-formerly-known-as-“Whole-Paycheck” in late August. But Amazon is after more than just a public relations spike, or even the 25% customer traffic increase that it generated, according to Bloomberg. What Amazon got from buying Whole Foods was a real-world testing lab for its pricing strategies. This strategy could be a boon for competing retailers, which have traditionally had difficulty tracking the multiple price changes Amazon is capable of making online. Moving its price changes into the open air of a supermarket, where they are by nature quite visible, could give competitors a clearer view of the e-Tail giant’s tactics.

The Home Depot And Google Voice-Activated Shopping: A Not-So-Odd Couple

When Walmart partnered with Google Home in August, it added competition to a voice-activated shopping market that Amazon and its Alexa service had largely dominated. While it was only a matter of time before another major retailer entered the voice-shopping mix, The Home Depot was one of the last companies I expected to make this jump so soon. Yet the retailer’s larger-than-expected e-Commerce presence, which drives shoppers to pick up an astounding 43% of their online transactions in a store, shows that the technology may be the right fit for the brand after all. On the surface, The Home Depot wouldn’t seem like a spot where voice activation is necessary. The retailer has been one of the few major traditional merchants to experience continued growth in recent years, reporting its highest revenue ever in Q2 2017. Comparable store sales growth (6.3%) blew past expectations (4.9%), while earnings per share ($2.25) also beat initial estimates ($2.22). That all adds up to a brand that has been doing quite well without needing to integrate the newest, flashiest (and often overhyped) technologies.

Win Millennials’ Hearts: 6 Things Retailers Can Learn From Glossier

We’ve written endless stories about successful and innovative retail companies disrupting the industry here at Retail TouchPoints. Yet in my humble opinion, none of them quite compare to the cult-favorite beauty brand Glossier. As a Millennial consumer, I’ve been a fan of Glossier — founded by 32-year-old Emily Weiss — since its inception in 2014, and not just for its uber-cool makeup and skin care products. No, it was the community Weiss built through the brand (as well as her original venture, a beauty web site and blog dubbed Into The Gloss) that really caught my attention.

Post-Merger Culture Clashes Can Imperil Innovation

The very nature of a successful startup is that it offers something different from the status quo. That difference can be in the products it makes, the technology it uses — even the way it advertises and sells a boring commodity item. The cheeky advertising campaigns used to promote Dollar Shave Club were a big factor in the company’s being taken over by CPG giant Unilever in a billion-dollar deal. But that takeover/merger/acquisition can also be the beginning of the end for what made the startup unique in the first place. The very things that made the company attractive to bidders can be crushed by corporate conformity. It’s a particular problem in the retail industry, where brands operate very much in the public eye, and where customer loyalty can hinge upon the startup company’s sometimes expensive commitment to customer care, or its offbeat sense of humor.

Nike Shows No Brand Is ‘Too Good’ For Amazon

With Amazon capturing national attention with the acquisition of Whole Foods Market, the e-Commerce giant managed to keep its potential new partnership with another high-profile brand — Nike — largely under the radar. Nike will reportedly begin selling goods on Amazon, joining top competitors Under Armour and Adidas in opening storefronts on the site, according to Bloomberg. The move apparently is designed to curb knockoffs that are often sold on the site through third-party vendors — which has been an issue for Amazon in the past.

Let’s Get Social: How To Engage With Different Generations

With sometimes wildly different preferences among members of the three “older” generations — Gen X, Baby Boomers and Millennials — and the numerous social media channels consumers can choose from, it’s difficult for brands to keep up with where and how to deliver their message so that it reaches the right audience via the right channel. In assessing a number of recent research reports around the topic of generational preferences in social media content and channels, I found some interesting information. Here, I break down each generation to spotlight what type of content they want to see on the social channel of their choice, with some key takeaways.

Will Walmart’s Innovation Strategies Pay Off?

I admit it: I am not a regular Walmart shopper. Part of the reason is there literally are no Walmart stores near my home in New Jersey. I’ve also heard the tirades about Walmart’s employee practices as well as its overall not-so-great customer service. But recent acquisitions, investment in technology and the latest — paying associates to deliver products to customers’ homes — has made me stand up and take Walmart a bit more seriously. From a retail editor’s perspective, I certainly can’t ignore the Bentonville-based retail giant. But in the years I’ve been covering retail, Walmart has not been the most innovation-forward retailer. Competitors like Target have taken the lead in innovative ideas and strategies, although that hasn’t played out well for the brand recently. The company’s innovation leader departed this year amid disappointing results.

The Missing Piece In The Retail Technology Stack: Human Beings

A Facebook friend of mine recently published a retail-related rant about the poor service she received while shopping for shoes at a major department store (that will remain nameless): “I told the guy which ones I wanted and waited 10 minutes while he looked and came back to tell me they had neither the size nor color I wanted. Shouldn’t he/she be able to scan the code and discover that without ever going to the stock room and climbing on a ladder? Or shouldn’t I as the customer be able to scan it and find out the same thing and then order the shoes from a warehouse to be delivered?”

Alexa: Retail’s Next Friend…Or Foe?

“Alexa, what’s the weather like today?” “Alexa, add coffee to my shopping list.” “Alexa, play David Bowie.” If you asked me a year ago, I would say that the mere idea of a small, voice-powered device orchestrating my day-to-day life and household would be ridiculous. When my husband initially proposed we order an Amazon Echo, the landmark product powered by the Alexa operating system, I was adamant in my response: “I’m a paper-and-pen gal, there’s no reason for it! Give me a compelling use case, and maybe I’ll buy in.”

Jet.com Exec Shares 5 Tips To Survive And Thrive

Although only 2% of household goods are bought online and 8% of all goods are bought online, shoppers continue to find more reasons to skip their trip to the store and shop on their favorite e-Commerce site. In a presentation during the 2017 Retail Innovation Conference, Josh Wais, Emerging Technology and Strategy Lead at Jet.com, shared five key takeaways he felt retailers must follow if they want to survive and thrive in the midst of these constantly shifting consumer preferences.

The Not-So-Sexy Side Of Influencer Marketing

I’ve been writing about the benefits of influencer marketing for a few months now, but with these potential benefits come some serious issues that all brands and retailers need to be aware of. As influencer marketing continues to gain steam in both the B2C and B2B communities, regulations from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are becoming stricter, and new tools/bots are creeping in to make it harder to trust advertised follower counts and “likes.” Most recently, the FTC sent reminder letters to 90 or so influencers and marketers to ensure they are adding the correct disclosures within sponsored social media posts. Kamiu Lee, VP of Business Development & Finance at Bloglovin’, told Retail TouchPoints that if sponsored content is not properly disclosed by the influencer, it’s the brands and retailers that will have to face the storm.

5 Ways To Amplify Your Brand’s Mobile Influence

Smartphones influenced 31% of the $3.39 trillion in total (online and offline) U.S. retail sales in 2016, according to Forrester Research. Not bad for a technology that’s little more than a decade old. But despite mobile’s meteoric growth as a sales catalyst, the actual number of transactions completed on mobile devices remains low: $60.2 billion, or approximately 15% of the online sales total of $393.8 billion (and just 1% of total sales).

Potential Bonobos Acquisition Shows This Isn’t Your Father’s Walmart

Walmart has undertaken quite a shift in its e-Commerce operations over the past year, with the $3.3 billion Jet.com acquisition, bringing aboard new execs and a whole new attitude for the brand. While the Jet.com acquisition would have been considered an implausible idea for the retail giant as recently as two years ago, Walmart is continuing to buck “business as usual” as it prepares to buy another major e-Commerce player: Bonobos. The reported $300 million acquisition would be Walmart’s fourth in 2017, following the buyouts of ModCloth, Moosejaw and Shoebuy. It would be further proof that the brand is serious about diversifying its portfolio, adapting to rapidly changing customer trends and catering to a wider array of audiences.

Can A Business Like United Recover From A Customer Service Nightmare?

I wish the airlines had even more competition than they already do, because I think too often, people are forced to choose unsatisfactory travel options. With a more competitive environment, the airlines might be more compelled to try to delight their customers (beyond just those spending $1,000 for a first-class seat between Cincinnati and New York). The Spirit Airlines strategy seems like a joke in a way, because they are honest and up front about the fact that you have to pay extra for simply everything, even printing your boarding pass at the airport. And they tell you in no uncertain terms that your seat will not recline and there’s less legroom than you might expect.
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