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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.

The New Era Of Social Commerce

Fashion and social media are two of my passions, so I always love when these two worlds collide. We, as humans, are innately social people. And shopping in and of itself is a very social behavior. So it only makes sense that eventually, consumers would want to make online shopping more social and community-driven.

As Denim Sales Plummet, Is It A Matter Of Fit Or Fashion?

There have been a number of reports lately about the dwindling sales of jeans in the U.S. But is the growing distaste for denim an issue of fashion or comfort? A major problem that women, and I would argue many men, have with buying jeans is finding the right fit. Companies such as House of Fraser have been focusing on technology to help consumers find the right pair of jeans.

Augmented Reality’s Role In Retail

Retailers are always looking for new ways to engage with the customer, particularly by catering to the eye. Shopping is naturally a very visual experience. When people search for products, they tend to gravitate to where their eyes take them. More retailers are taking advantage of the visual dynamic by turning to augmented reality (AR) solutions, which impose 3D images or environments over live objects on a screen. At least 60 million users across smartphones, tablets and smart glasses will utilize AR apps in 2014, according to data from Juniper Research.

Where Is The Line Between Helpful Information Sharing And Creepiness?

One of the most challenging dilemmas for retailers today has to be staying on the right side of the line of creepiness with shoppers. You want to be able to provide real value and personalized offers, which shoppers appreciate, but you don’t want to go too far and scare them away. It seems like now is the time to take advantage of opportunities to create more personalized communications, since 50% of consumers said they are happy to provide retailers with personal information in exchange for a discount, according to a recent survey conducted by PriceGrabber.com. In another survey, 93% of shoppers said they would provide retailers with personal data to receive customized offers.

How Celebrities Fuel The Fashion Industry

Celebrities embody the things many people strive for: Fame, fortune and of course, a killer wardrobe.  Fashion-savvy movie stars and musicians have always been trendsetters. Marilyn Monroe and her hip-hugging dresses, and even Madonna and her cone bra come to mind. But the trend machine is chugging faster than ever — and it’s all thanks to social media and the always-on nature of the web.

Will The Virtual Goddess Rule?

I was intrigued with a story from my colleague Alicia Fiorletta about how Clarins, the cosmetics and fragrance brand, is using virtual assistants. Surely, brands are keeping a close eye on payroll and store staffs have to run lean, but is this the answer, I wondered. Then I got to thinking about how we’re all becoming more comfortable with semi-human interaction. Doctors are using telepresence robots to roll their virtual selves bedside to check on patients. Articles in Forbes and Slate describe how some companies are using telepresence technology for virtual workers. My 77-year-old father has conversations with Siri on his iPhone.

Social TV Creates New Engagement Opportunities For Retailers

TV ad reach is shrinking. But that’s not a bad thing for retailers investing in ads or the consumers they are trying to reach. This is just another instance where retailers need to be flexible and adapt to the new TV landscape. This is an exciting time, especially for retailers. TV-related conversations taking place on social networks have increased over the past year. According to a study performed by Nielsen, the number of “Twitter Authors” increased 24% increase year-over-year in 2013. The people who view tweets about TV programs — the “Twitter TV Audience” — grew by 38% in 2013, making it 50X larger than the number of authors tweeting. The growing size of the social media audience is a clear sign that more consumers will “tweet and watch” during their favorite shows and of course, during commercials.

Brick-and-Mortar Is Alive And Well: Discount Stores Continue To Thrive

Staples and RadioShack made headlines in March when they announced plans to close a combined 1,300 stores. While each of the retailersshared a different rationale for the closings, the common denominator is that the brick-and-mortar locations simply weren’t profitable enough to justify keeping them open. Some industry executives might speculate that these closings illustrate that the brick-and-mortar experience is struggling, but such an assumption ignores numerous other factors, including the fact that brick-and-mortar stores continue to produce the greatest percentage of overall retail sales; and the discount store segment, in particular, is experiencing tremendous growth.

Is Target Suffering From Collaboration Fatigue?

Over the past two years, Target has released a number of fashion lines developed in collaboration with luxury, high-end designers.  Starting in 2007 with Proenza Schouler for Target, the retailer had a few successful ventures, including Zac Posen for Target, and the highly coveted, site-crashing Missoni for Target. At first, the collaborations were too good to be true for consumers, as well as the retailer. While everyday shoppers had access to coveted brands at a fraction of the price, Target experienced a surge in sales and saw conversations ignite on social networks and media outlets. As a result, the big box retailer quickly became a household name in the highly exclusive fashion world.

The Gold Medal Winner Is: Negative Publicity

Malfunctioning technology, brown water, poisoned dogs and sub-par hotels got more attention during the 2014 Winter Olympics than figure skating, downhill skiing, ice hockey and snowboarding. This probably doesn’t come as a surprise to most people. We love to dish on negative news, and social media has allowed us to spread the cheer instantaneously. Case in point: the parody Twitter account @SochiProblems — created to document the difficult living situations in the Sochi Olympic Village — had 70,000 more followers than the official @Sochi2014 Olympic Twitter account. Lesson learned? Businesses can turn rotten water into a golden river by tapping into the attraction of controversy and negativity. Many forward-thinking retailers already are ahead of the game when it comes to addressing bad reviews or complaints head-on, rather than head-in-the-sand. “It’s important for business owners to join the conversation with their customers by responding — diplomatically of course — to their reviews,” said Darnell Holloway, Senior Manager of Local Business Outreach at Yelp, in a Q&A with Retail TouchPoints.
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