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Mobile technology. Digital innovations. Social Commerce. These and many other trends are constantly being changed and being updated with new solutions, services and strategies. Retail TouchPoints editors stay on top of the latest activities and announcements, and bring you fresh perspectives on the hottest trends affecting the marketplace. Check back regularly for the latest new perspectives.

The Eyes Have It: Visually Rich ‘Shoppable’ Instagram Content Tops Social Commerce Trends

Social media’s impact on retail has been well-documented: as many as 76% of consumers have purchased a product they saw in a brand's social media post, according to Curalate. More than half of these purchases are ultimately made online — 11% of shoppers made the purchase immediately, while 44% later purchased the item online. But not all social channels offer the same audience, reach or impact. It’s increasingly clear that the most visually oriented platforms are leading the charge to generate traffic, brand awareness and more sales. Retailers are being presented with valuable opportunities to deliver exclusive promotions on Instagram and Facebook, and Instagram may be the true wild card here — traffic on the platform is projected to grow 3X faster than overall social traffic, according to Salesforce.

Open Or Closed On Thanksgiving? There’s A Solid Strategy Either Way

Retailers face a dilemma every year around this time: Should they keep their stores open on Thanksgiving Day in an attempt to ring up some additional sales, or close their doors to give associates a well-deserved break? Guidance from shoppers is not forthcoming, since consumers are divided when it comes to shopping on Thanksgiving. While 69% of shoppers surveyed believe retailers should be closed on the holiday, 31% of all shoppers like to holiday shop at brick-and-mortar on Thanksgiving Day, with 42% of Millennials heading to a store, followed by 34% of Gen Xers and 22% of Baby Boomers, according to data from RetailMeNot.

No Quick Relief For Retailers From U.S.-China Trade Dispute

Tariffs on Chinese-made goods already are increasing prices on apparel and footwear imports, and the impact will be even more damaging when tariff rates jump from 10% to 25% in 2019. The National Retail Federation (NRF) and other industry groups have stated that the tariffs harm both U.S. consumers and workers, but it seems that retailers and manufacturers will need to adjust to these additional costs. During the Sourcing Journal Summit held Oct. 11 in New York City, a group of sourcing industry experts responded to the fact that they see little chance of either the U.S. or China backing down any time soon.

Low Unemployment Numbers Increase Pressure On Retail Holiday Hiring

Retailers are anticipated to hire up to 650,000 seasonal workers for the 2018 holiday season, up more than 10% from last year's total, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). As many as 63% of retailers plan to hire as many or more seasonal workers for the holidays as they did last year, according to recent research by Korn Ferry. With the national unemployment rate now at 3.9%, there’s no guarantee that all these positions will even be filled — especially after 23% of retailers fell short of their hiring goals last year. As many as 53% of retailers consider employee hiring/retention to be one of their greatest store operations challenges, according to the 2018 Retail TouchPoints Store Operations Survey. Additionally, 50% say that employee training/engagement is a top challenge.

Exclusive CEO Q&A: Get Ready For VR Saturation In Retail By 2028

With the ability to “take the best of the store experience and customize it for the individual…VR will be how people shop in 10 to 12 years,” said Lyron Bentovim, President and CEO of New York City-based The Glimpse Group. In this exclusive Q&A, Bentovim shares his insights and expertise, based on his work with technology entrepreneurs and startups. The Glimpse Group is a platform company comprised of 10 startups focusing on a variety of Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) products.

More Than 70% Of Global Shoppers Will Shop On Black Friday

More than one fifth (22%) of U.S. consumers are planning to spend at least $500 on Black Friday, and 16% expect to lay out $1,000 or more. These shoppers will be in search of steep discounts and deals: 54% of consumers in four countries identify this as their number-one reason for Black Friday shopping, followed by the opportunity to encounter unique “one off” promotions. Black Friday’s spot as a top holiday shopping day has become a global phenomenon, with more than 70% of consumers in four countries aware of the day and planning to take part, according to research from Periscope By McKinsey. The Black Friday 2018 Shopping Report: Consumers Are Eager, More Digital, And Willing To Spend, which surveyed consumers in the U.S., Canada, the UK and Germany, reveals how participation in Black Friday shopping has increased in recent years:

Exclusive CEO Q&A: How Nike Wins The Branding Game

Nike’s hiring of controversial quarterback-turned-activist Colin Kaepernick was a gamble, but it’s one that paid off handsomely. The company sold out 61% more merchandise in a 10-day period following the Kaepernick ad’s initial appearance, and the company got a 31% online sales bump. But if other brands want to emulate Nike’s success by embracing hot-button issues, they will need to carefully consider their own brand’s public profile before taking the plunge, according to branding expert Erich Joachimsthaler. “Nike is a very special brand, one that stands for this level of irreverence, as well as athleticism, winning, authenticity and inspiration” said Joachimsthaler, CEO of global brand strategy firm Vivaldi. “Nike is fearless, and taking a stand has become part of their DNA.”

RSP Series: How Retail Leaders Improve Customer Acquisition And Retention

Any retailer’s long-term health requires finding the right balance between acquiring and retaining customers — particularly the loyal and big-spending types of shoppers. But rapid changes in both consumer expectations and the competitive landscape have rewritten many of the established rules for customer acquisition and retention. The 2018 Retail Strategy and Planning (RSP) webinar series, hosted by Retail TouchPoints, uncovered several new strategies for tackling these timeless challenges. Following are brief recaps of six webinars in the #RSP18 series, now available on-demand. [Read a recap of the Holiday Predictions webinar, sponsored by Salesforce, here.]

Exclusive CEO Insights: 3 Reasons Brands Need An Online Marketplace Strategy

Today's fiercely competitive online marketplaces have changed marketing. With the advent of behemoth online marketplaces like Amazon, gone are the days of throwing ideas against the wall and hoping something sticks. Achieving exceptional marketplace sales requires an exceptional marketplace plan. Here are three reasons why brands need an online marketplace strategy:

Shop.org Recap: Personalization Will Drive $800 Billion Revenue Shift

Photo credit: NRF Personalization has been at the forefront of many retail conversations over the past year, and the concept once again took center stage at the National Retail Federation (NRF) Shop.org conference in Las Vegas, held Sept. 12-14. The conference made clear that bringing a personalized experience to the customer journey and focusing on lifestyle are the top engagement drivers for retailers seeking to stay ahead of the pack.

The Evolving Luxury Industry Embraces Social Media And Personalization

Social media, which was once shunned by luxury retailers for fear of cheapening their exclusive image, is now being recognized as a valuable tool both online and in-store. The most successful luxury retailers also are increasing their personalization efforts, ensuring that customers feel like their personal style is at the forefront of the experience no matter how they shop.

Exclusive Q&A: Which Retail Jobs Are Safe From A Robot Takeover?

Retail, hospitality and other service-oriented industries have been seen as relatively immune to the job-killing effects of robotics, automation and AI. But as these technologies grow more sophisticated, retail’s resistance is weakening. Futurist Martin Ford, author of Rise Of The Robots: Technology And The Threat Of A Jobless Future, notes that robots are already reducing (or eliminating) the number of humans needed to do many jobs, including: • Warehouse work;• Checking in-store inventory;• Providing customer service; and• Staffing points of sale. In an exclusive interview with Retail TouchPoints, Ford identifies the advances in robotics and AI that are accelerating the fastest. He also identifies a selection of job categories that are safe from the march of automation — at least for now.

Can Conversational Commerce Fulfill Its Potential In Retail?

The remarkable growth of voice-assisted devices over the past year has expanded what “conversational commerce” truly means for retailers. While the term had largely been used to describe chatbot activity just a few years ago, voice now gives retailers yet another shiny toy to fulfill consumer needs — and hopefully create a new shopping channel. As such, there are high expectations around the technology: voice shopping is expected to account for $40 billion in U.S. consumer spending by 2022, according to a study from OC&C Strategy Consultants. However, for such a figure to be achieved, retailers must still surmount some high barriers. It’s true that enthusiasm for the technology itself is high— voice-activated devices are set for 50% U.S. sales growth from the 2016-2017 period to the 2018-2019 span, according to NPD Group. Yet despite this popularity, interest in — or even awareness of — their commerce functionalities remains low.

Retail Remix Of 'Love Will Keep Us Together’: Takeaways From Etail East

Retail today is all about getting the customer to fall in love with products and brands. In personal relationships and in retail, love is complicated and must be nurtured. In retail that means delivering unique and compelling experiences; personalized messaging and offers; and relevant marketing and communications — consistently across all channels. When thinking about writing this article, I could not get this song out of my mind: "Love Will Keep Us Together," from 1975 by Captain and Tennille. Yes, I’m dating myself, but indulge me for a few minutes and listen to it. It pretty much lays out the strategy retailers should be thinking about as they are planning new customer strategies and technology implementations. During the 2018 eTail East event in Boston this month, many conversations and presentations were focused on how to win the hearts and minds of consumers. Clicktale, which offers Experience Analytics solutions, is working with a cognitive psychologist to better understand customer behavior in the digital world. Liraz Margalit, PhD has conducted studies covering the “Mobile Mindset” triggered by smartphone use; “Stress Shopping,” and “Emotions in the Digital World.” She explained: “Emotions are a gateway to our memory” about a brand. So how are retailers…

Exclusive Q&A: Branding Expert Dissects Papa John’s CEO Woes

Human nature being what it is, sooner or later a certain number of top corporate executives are going to behave badly in one way or another. They will commit fraud and insider trading; express prejudiced beliefs or use racial, ethnic or religious slurs; sexually harass people or condone such behavior in others. And in the current communications landscape, with everyone equipped with a video camera and a social media megaphone, these behaviors are more than likely to become public knowledge. When the inevitable happens, what is a brand to do? These are questions that branding expert Deb Gabor, CEO of Sol Marketing and author of the book Branding Is Sex, has been dealing with her whole professional life. They are also increasingly urgent queries for companies — particularly with the parade of CEOs Behaving Badly that have marched through the public square during the past year, from Harvey Weinstein and CBS’ Les Moonves to John Schnatter of Papa John’s Pizza. In the last case, the accusations of racist remarks and sexual harassment are particularly damaging because Schnatter has long been the public face of the company.
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