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.

2019 Retail Trends: Creating Meaningful Connection Online And On The Ground

Two iconic cinematic scenes come to mind when imagining the near-term future of retail: The first is from 2001: A Space Odyssey when Hal says, “I am putting myself to the fullest possible use, which is all I can think that any conscious entity can ever hope to do.” The second is from Jurassic Park when Robert Muldoon stated that the genetically engineered velociraptors “never attack the same place twice.” They were testing the fences for weaknesses, scientifically. “They remember.” Technology has finally surpassed our expectations of product performance while experiential design has been weighing down pro formas and scrambling site plans for the past decade. The deployment of technology to its fullest possible use has freed up designers and developers to test the fences for weaknesses in their retail offerings, amenities and customer experiences. Technology gives retailers more sales tools than ever before and experiential design requires more meaningful placemaking. I expect that dichotomy to heighten in 2019.

Rise Of Returns: How Retail Can Combat Its $351 Billion Problem

The next time you think about returning an item to Amazon, be forewarned: Return too many items in a year, and you might just be exiled for good. Retail returns have become such a nightmare that even the world’s third largest retailer has recently made waves by changing how it handles customers the company thinks abuse the system — despite touting a free and easy returns policy.

Finding The Right Benefits And Engagement Strategies For Retail Workers

One of the biggest challenges retail employers face is finding relevant benefits solutions for their entire organization. With both employees behind the scenes working in corporate offices and front-line workers helping customers directly, retail businesses face unique challenges in finding benefits that make the biggest impact. As you evaluate your current benefits and plan for the years ahead, talking directly to employees about their unique needs and habits will help you make informed decisions about how to implement the most robust benefits plan.

Thinking About AI For E-Commerce? Don’t Skimp On Training

The rise of AI technology is playing a huge role in the shift in consumer expectations. By bringing brands closer to their customers and making automated, personalized customer service a reality, machine learning has the potential to transform e-Commerce. Conversely, a deficient AI application can just as quickly frustrate a customer and erode a brand’s image. Training is one area that defines how well an AI application will perform in the real world. The increasing range of AI use-cases in e-Commerce suggests that the ability to utilize mountains of previously unmanageable data is having far-reaching effects. In sales, AI is making it possible to accurately target valuable prospects, while virtual assistants can increasingly ask questions that improve individual recommendations and drive a higher purchase rate. Machine-learning models (the underlying algorithms that power AI) can also make use of data collected from the customer, revealing unseen patterns in their behavior to ensure that the most popular products are always in stock.

Mastering Post-Holiday Customer Service

Ask a retailer what keeps them up at night when they think of the month of January, and there’s a good chance the answer will be “returns.” Since Thanksgiving and Black Friday, merchandise has been flowing out of the stores full tilt, into the hands of eager gift-givers and (at least theoretically) happy and grateful recipients. As we enter the post-holiday season, it’s not time to take the foot off the pedal. Retailers must be prepared for those gifts that didn’t make the cut. Some of these purchases come back through channels other than the one they left by, and often without a receipt. For an in-store purchase, it’s common for the customer to ask for — or the associate to suggest — a gift receipt, proactively addressing a potential return. With more mobile-driven purchases the shopper needs to remember to indicate that this is a gift. This process poses additional challenges when the customer is ordering online and having the gift shipped directly to the recipient.

Nurturing The Customer-Brand Relationship: Emotion Is Everything

It’s no secret that the consumer-brand relationship has changed, and continues to evolve. Consumers expect — and demand — more, particularly from the brands they’re loyal to. And in a competitive retail environment, it’s up to brands to deliver the kinds of experiences their customers expect. Across all platforms. This means it’s no longer enough to rely on products to attract and retain customers; in fact, the products brands produce and sell are rarely what define them anymore. Instead, it’s the experiences customers have with brands in-store, online, or through various marketing and communications channels that determine whether a consumer-brand relationship is healthy and profitable, or ultimately disposable.

Three Lessons From The 2018 Holiday Retail Season

With the dust settling from the holidays, it’s an important time to look back at consumer shopping behavior from the last month or so. For the retail industry, the busiest time of the year is both a welcome boost and a period of immense pressure to perform. The consumer shopping trends that play out during the holiday season are often indicative of the year to come and can signal areas of growth or future investment. After analyzing shopper behavior across our network of more than 6,600 brand and retail web sites, here’s what stands out:

How To Get Customers Back Into The Store

While the consumer retail experience appears to be leaning increasingly more to the digital side, 73% of consumers like to research online and buy in store. Contrarily, former “online-only” brands such as Amazon, Fabletics and Missguided (to name a few) are investing more in brick-and-mortar to create a holistic balance of benefits between their digital and physical presence. So if retail brands are working on balancing out their approach, why do we continually see well-known, long-standing brands closing down?

How Can Retailers Turn Disgruntled Customers Into Happy Ones?

Retailers have tried for decades to improve customer satisfaction, yet recent Customer Rage surveys indicate that complaint satisfaction is lower today than it was in the late 1970s. Reasons such as the explosion of social networks mean that every unhappy customer reaches an average of 280 others every time they post on social media. Retailers have invested in technology and staff training, yet clearly we need to try harder if we are to convert these customers into loyal ones who recommend rather than criticize our products or services. As noted by the MIT Sloan Management Review, businesses should be encouraging customers to complain, and they should be ready and willing to resolve complaints before word-of-mouth criticism does significant damage.

Personalization Best Practices For Data-Centric Retailers

In a world where your customers and prospects are expecting personalized communication, more customer data means more complex marketing programs. Unfortunately, for large business-to-consumer (B2C) retail companies, the sheer size and complexity of a customer dataset can result in less personalization. But this doesn’t mean enterprise retailers can’t excel at personalization. Below are three best practices for effectively accessing and using customer data for increased personalization.

Are Mobile Coupons The Answer To Higher Redemption Rates?

As some frustrated marketers continue to see their traditional paper coupon redemption rates drop, others are discovering viable and successful alternatives. While some marketers continue to wrestle with low direct mail response and struggle with finding ways to deliver actionable incentives, others are finding the answer. More marketing research is mounting, indicating the solution is in mobile coupons. A Valassis coupon intelligence report indicates that 70% of shoppers are influenced by discounts and 80% admit to making a purchase for a product they would not have otherwise made due to a coupon. It is also interesting to note that 40% of coupon users say coupons have prompted them into an online search of a product or service.

How Brands Can Deliver On The Promise Of Curbside Experiences

Retail needs to change. As a whole, retailers have to become more attentive, and quicker to react to, the fast-rising expectations of their customers. For many, this transformation is already underway. Progress has been made in creating robust omnichannel experiences that give consumers more ways to interact with content, services, and products. These initiatives continue to evolve, but they have already shown their value. According to Harvard Business Review, omnichannel shoppers spend 4% more in brick-and-mortar stores and 10% more online than their single-channel counterparts.

Many Paths To E-Commerce Success — Which One Is Right For Your Company?

This holiday season, more than half of commerce orders were made on mobile, up from 41% in 2017. This is just one data point to illustrate a massive shift in consumer expectations: they expect every shopping experience to be personalized, intuitive and available anywhere. For example, you might discover a new product on Instagram and make a purchase, or ask Alexa to re-order a product. For the modern VP of Commerce, keeping pace with the explosion of new channels and maintaining a world-class customer experience is the key to growing year-over-year. There’s some buzz in our industry around something called headless commerce, a term du jour that outlines a technology path for a more flexible commerce strategy to help forward-looking retailers engage with consumers.

The Renaissance Of Southern Hospitality

Southern hospitality is more than folks who say “sir” and “ma’am” to everyone and remember to ask, “How’s ‘ya mama?” It is more than a twang, accent or idiom. It is an attentiveness to details that signals genuine interest in others. It is a manner of sweet neighborliness that is gracious and authentic. It is welcoming that entices visitors to want to tarry and encourages friends to want to help. Southern hospitality is neither rural nor blue collar. It has nothing to do with intellect, education or status. While practitioners of Southern hospitality are likely to be more conservative than liberal, it has zero to do with political preferences or social prejudices. While popular movies (like The Help, Driving Miss Daisy or My Cousin Vinny) might provide colorful entertainment, their brand of what it means to be a Southerner is decidedly fiction.

Robotic Process Automation Gives Retailers A Competitive Advantage

The intelligent automation market is set to explode, according to KPMG. Enterprise investment will soar from $12.4 billion to $231.9 billion by 2025. A key driver of this growth is predicted to be robotic process automation (RPA). RPA is software that increases productivity and reduces errors by automating the execution of repetitive tasks. The productivity and accuracy gains are immense, which is why RPA is already used to automate back-office business tasks in multiple industries. The retail sector is no exception, and smart retailers are already exploring how RPA can help accelerate automation and increase competitive advantage.
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