Executive ViewPoints

The retail industry is fortunate to include numerous executives with extensive experience — and they are willing to share their insights in the Retail TouchPoints ViewPoints section. These byline pieces focus on industry trends and do not include solution provider sales pitches. Many of the byline pieces receive the greatest number of clicks on the RTP site each year.

Why Hudson Yards Represents Retail Excellence And Innovation

Hudson Yards, the largest private real estate development in the U.S. by area and home to more than 70 stores and restaurants, represents the best of what retail has to offer. The first of its two phases opened in March 2019 and comprises a public green space and eight structures that contain residences, a hotel, office buildings, a mall, and a cultural facility. The second phase, on which construction has not started yet, will include residential space, an office building, and a school. Both phases are projected to be complete by 2024. You can think of Hudson Yards as a living museum of contemporary retail. Each floor has a theme that highlights many of the winning trends in current retail.

Tackling Retailers’ Growing Returns Problem In The Wake Of Shipping Increases

Free, convenient returns have become more or less an expectation of the modern retail consumer. Unfortunately, free returns have fueled unprofitable consumer practices such as buying multiple items and sizes, but only keeping favorites or the items that fit. This can prove problematic for retailers, whose already-thin profits are being further squeezed by recent shipping rate hikes by parcel carriers. This situation may be a challenge, but not an impossible one. By reassessing return policies and/or making smart investments in technology, retailers can weather the increased shipping fees without sacrificing profits or the customer experience.

More Than Meets The Eye: AR And VR’s Power To Transform The Retail Store

Retailers today are incorporating innovative technology to solve critical business challenges, while also working to refresh brick-and-mortar locations to wow in-store guests. Driving these changes in the physical environment is the idea of experiential retail, giving shoppers a desire to walk inside for something beyond their intended purchase. It could be to discover a unique assortment of products, or for the convenience of click-and-collect or grab-and-go. But in order to delight those who come inside to shop, companies must understand who the shopper is and how they navigate the store, plus whether or not the right products are on display for them to buy. The “tip of the iceberg” analogy is commonly used to underscore a concept that goes far beyond what is seen on the surface. It’s with this picture in mind that I want to discuss the depth of the customer experience — what shoppers see, touch and feel in-store, versus the amount of work retailers are doing beneath the surface to leverage customer insights through emerging technology.

Retailers Can Reap Savings During Spring Peak Hiring Season With Pre-Employment Verification

It doesn’t get the ink the holiday hiring season enjoys, but with home and garden departments across the country ramping up operations this spring, retail is in the midst of its second peak hiring season. Employment data from Equifax Workforce Solutions shows that March through May make up the busiest hiring months of the year for the big box retailers and home improvement stores that feature home and garden departments. Across the broader retail industry, these months are second only to the holiday hiring surge in October and November.

Why Every Retailer Should Use Blockchain

Today’s youth have not only grown up with access to the Internet but have also come of age constantly connected through with smartphones and social media. They are naturally more than digitally native and have unprecedented access to information — from which friends have birthdays in May to how to do their math homework to who designed the pants Billie Eilish was wearing in her most recent music video. Generation Z’s basic expectation is that they can learn anything if they seek it out; knowledge is their most valued resource. In retail, knowledge has relied on several factors: the knowledge of in store salespeople, the knowledge in catalogs and advertisements and knowledge from friends and family. Shoppers take this knowledge and hope to make an informed decision about their purchase.

Rethinking Loyalty: Rewarding Everyone Is Not Rewarding You

If retailers wish to attract loyal customers, they must offer more than just run-of-the-mill discounts. These days, giving a generic discount to all cardholders does not enhance the customer experience. Sure, everyone likes to offer ways for customers to save money, but a customer’s loyalty goes a lot further. The Pareto Principle tells us that 80% of revenue comes from the top 20% of customers; therefore, should these top customers be treated differently? The hospitality industry gets it. So does the financial industry. But in general, the retail industry is still issuing generic loyalty cards to the masses, when they should be offering customized, tailored experiences to their most loyal customers. Today’s customers are more sophisticated and less willing to give up personal information for free. They know the value of loyalty and are more selective about the programs they join. So retailers need to make sure their programs provide real value and create emotional connections with customers. Below are five rules for modern loyalty programs with real-world examples:

How To Streamline Your Retail Business’ Digital Footprint

Software can help or hurt your business, depending on how you leverage it. Sometimes business owners can be overwhelmed by technology and are too afraid to implement solutions that would, after the initial learning curve, make their work easier. If you find yourself unsure of where to begin with technology, use these as your starting point. You’ll quickly see how much time you can save and how much more accurately you perform regular tasks.

The 4 Best Examples Of Innovative Technologies For Retail

For the last few years, luxury giants have been very cautious with new technologies. In 2019, however, there’s a fundamental shift in the way brands think about the latest digital marketing tools, as the luxury tech specter of these becomes crucial. With the growth of personal luxury goods sales continuing at a 4% to 5% compound annual rate over the next three years, brands are revisiting the customer experience and investing in game-changing solutions for increased interactivity. One such game changer is 3D technologies. Right now the complexity of 3D content production is a significant deterrent to the development of the industry. Let’s take a look at how 3D content is being made now . Designers can create it manually and 3D scanners — automatically. Still, all scanners are useless when it comes to processing black and glossy objects, materials that are reflective such as silks and leathers, or textured — like velvet and wool. Transparent objects are out of reach, too.

Hybrid Cloud Is The Antidote For Stressed Retailers

The retail industry continues to evolve at a rapid pace, yet delivering a superior consumer experience remains a key differentiator for modern retailers. Consumers expect a seamless experience when interacting with retail brands. The new digital era has made engagement continuous, literally at any hour of the day and at any place. A buyer may research a new product at home, put that product into their digital shopping cart while in the office, purchase it from a mobile device and collect it at the local retail store that same evening. Retailers compete for mindshare and wallet share across screens, locations and time. To thrive in this omnichannel world, retailers must harness the power of data to stay one step ahead of the competition and predict the desires of the consumer — often before the consumer even realizes it themselves. The days of brick-and-mortar being the sole touch point for buying decisions is long gone. Yet many retailers continue to rely on an IT model optimized for this period.

Culture Is The Key to Great Service

Conventional approaches to building a customer-centric culture involve topics like putting the customer first. While all of this is indeed important, customer-centric culture will not be sustainable without the commitment and conviction of the people who design, build, implement and serve every day. Regardless of industry or market segment, building a world-class culture based on shared values, inclusion, compassion and lateral service must come before any customer-centric focus in order to drive real success. Much has been written about the importance of culture in business environments, but great cultures where employees love to come to work and advocate for a brand are elusive. Building a customer-centric culture requires relentless discipline and commitment to the health of a tribe of people and must be consistently upheld in decision making in an enduring fashion. Great companies that lead in this area share some common principles that drive a culture-first approach to being customer-centric:

Issues With The Lack Of A Universal Sizing System

We’ve all experienced the frustrations associated with the lack of a universal sizing system across retail. It’s created a perpetual guessing game of what size will fit you best when shopping across different brands — at one store you may be a small, but at the next, you’re a medium. A recent tweet from aggravated consumer Chloe showcases this issue perfectly by including a picture of seven pairs of jeans that are all labeled size 12, but the waist bands of each vary in width. Not only does this issue highlight the exclusivity of retail sizing, it also leaves consumers self-conscious and confused, especially when shopping online. With the inability to try clothing on before making a purchase, consumers are left to assume which size will fit best based off what size they buy most across brands. However, with the discrepancies in sizing, this method isn’t always reliable and often results in receiving items that need to be returned due to improper fit.

The On-Demand Economy And Retail: Is The Tipping Point Upon Us?

I read a poignant column the other day from a favorite journalist of mine, Kara Swisher, Editor of Recode and a contributor to The New York Times. It was titled: “Owning a Car Will Soon Be as Quaint as Owning a Horse.” In it, she mused that thanks to trends like car sharing apps, ride-hailing services, on-demand scooters and autonomous vehicles (AVs), the days of people actually owning their cars might be numbered. To be clear, Swisher emphasized that her use, indeed affection, of cars was not going away, “But the concept of actually purchasing, maintaining, insuring and garaging an automobile in the next few decades? Finished.” I wondered if she could have just as easily been talking about retail, specifically the idea of big, permanent brick-and-mortar giving way to more flexible options. We’ve all heard the rhetoric of the retail apocalypse and predictions that online commerce will wipe out retail as we know it. It’s not happening. I prefer to see it as an Uber-like renaissance that our industry is going through. Just as Swisher enjoys the experience of cars, people still like to shop in person, and deal with real humans. This is universally true, even across younger…

How Embracing Informal Learning Can Help Retail Organizations Thrive

Engaging, retaining and growing talent in retail has implications far beyond employee churn. Companies that cultivate an organizational culture of learning and development (L&D) have a distinct advantage over their competitors — when executed well. Research reveals that workers today spend an average of 505 hours learning each year: 494 informally and 21 formally, with informal learning comprising at least 80% of all workplace learning. Although a limited training budget might mean scaling back on the hours spent in training courses, seminars, classes and workshops, that doesn't mean employees can't learn in other ways.

How Retail Inventory Efficiency And Accuracy Impacts The Customer Experience

As omnichannel retailing requires greater and greater precision, the stakes surrounding inventory accuracy — or the lack thereof — are increasing dramatically. According to a report from the International Council of Shopping Centers, an estimated 151 million people visited a mall or shopping center over 2018’s Black Friday weekend. The vast bulk of spending volume for the weekend — 88% — went to omnichannel retailers, i.e. brands with web sites the consumers at least had the opportunity to shop before entering the store.

How To Make Retail Influencers More Accountable

Anyone who has watched one or both of the recent dueling Fyre Festival documentaries was undoubtedly struck by one realization: Wow. Influencer marketing is powerful stuff. Of course, in this case, the success of influencers in driving paying attendees to the ill-fated festival isn’t a case study any reputable brand would be in a hurry to replicate. But the power of influencer marketing — particularly behind a reputable product — is undeniable. Influencer marketing has been picking up steam for years now, and it shows no sign of slowing. By 2022, influencer marketing could reach anywhere between $5 billion and $10 billion. Even if you take the midpoint of that estimate, we’re still looking at a robust five-year compound annual growth rate of 38%.
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