Trend Watch

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.

Chinese Consumers Favor U.S. Retailers For Overseas Online Purchases

Just over half of consumers in five Chinese cities have purchased from foreign merchants/marketplaces during the previous year, and U.S. retailers are a favorite destination: 89% of shoppers “bought American,” according to a survey conducted by PayPal. That’s nearly twice as high as the percentage for the second-place country, the UK, which attracted 46% of shoppers, and third-place Japan, at 42%. Accessories (83%) and clothing (68%) were the product categories most frequently bought from U.S. merchants.

3 Must-Have Strategies For Keeping Store Doors Open

The demise of the brick-and-mortar store has been greatly exaggerated, with retailers expected to open as many as 1,300 net new stores in 2017. But retailers seeking to stay in consumers’ good graces must understand three trends that should shape their store strategies in 2017 and beyond, according to Retail Systems Research (RSR): Store associate training must be a priority; Even retail winners rely too much on price as a differentiator; and A “good” in-store experienceshould include changing store layouts, in-store community and more VIP-specific promotions. This article features exclusive insights from Steve Rowen, Managing Partner at RSR, who digs deeper into the research results and how retailers can pivot to secure a strong future.

Walmart To Cut 20% Of Leadership Staff: Breaking News

Walmart is in the process of cutting 20% of its leadership staff above store level, as reported by a field executive for the retailer. Within the next three weeks, the company will reduce its total number of regional markets from 450 to 350, which will eliminate approximately 300 executive positions by the beginning of October. This reduction in staff is reportedly the result of an edict to cut expenses quickly. The cuts will save Walmart from having to pay out bonus money and vested equity moving into Q1 2018.

Early Birds Get A Jump On Retail Transformation: RIC18 Reg Is Open

The premier event focused on retail innovation and transformation is open for Early Bird registration now! The 2018 Retail Innovation Conference (RIC18), set for May 1-2 in New York City, is offering a limited-time discount for retailer attendees who book early. Launched in 2014, the Retail Innovation Conference sought to expand Retail TouchPoints’ mission to empower and connect the retail world. Since the inaugural event, the conference has successfully brought together today’s top retail leaders, innovators and forward thinkers so they can better collaborate and share their perspectives on must-have tools and tactics for success.

Hurricane Harvey Donations Serve Up Reminder That Brand Authenticity Matters

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey’s landfall on the Texas Gulf Coast, retailers are making a colossal effort to help citizens in need, charitable organizations and first responders. Retail’s biggest brands, including Walmart, Amazon, CVS, The Home Depot, Lowe’s, Kroger, Target and many others have committed to donate, with some even set to contribute more than $1 million in aid. But any charitable effort, especially in a time of need, must always be handled with care. Authenticity is important in fostering a genuine connection with the consumer, and this is magnified in situations where a retailer has to go beyond their typical “role” in serving them.

AR And VR: Shopping Enhancements Or Shiny Distractions?

Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are already making inroads in retail. Lowe’s, Wayfair and Design With Reach, for example, use these technologies to help customers visualize how furniture and other design changes will look in their homes. AR’s ability to bring ratings and reviews, long a staple of e-Commerce, into the brick-and-mortar environment presents an exciting prospect, according to Pano Anthos, Managing Director of XRC Labs. “Customers walk into a store and we’re blind as bats,” he said during a session at the 2017 Retail Innovation Conference. “We don’t know if the product stinks or falls apart in five minutes, or anything about where it comes from. Everyone online looks at ratings and reviews, so why not in the store? AR provides the first wave of that potential by having the digitization of ratings and reviews dropped onto your phone.” Despite these real-world use cases, opinion remains sharply divided about the ultimate value of AR and VR, as well as how much — and how quickly — retailers should invest in the technology. Members of the RetailWire BrainTrust recently debated the technologies’ merits: Art Suriano, CEO, The TSi CompanyI can see the strongest benefits of AR and VR…

Retail Apocalypse? More Like A Retail Transformation

With more than 9,000 store closures anticipated in 2017 and the number of retail bankruptcies already surpassing the 2016 total, the phrase “retail apocalypse” has been thrown around a lot in recent months. But while brick-and-mortar retailers of all sizes and types have had to make massive adjustments, the industry isn’t quite as close to its death bed as many would believe. The most recent RetailNext Store Performance Pulse indicated that while store traffic and sales remain in decline, these dips are less drastic than in the past. The 5.5% year-over-year traffic decline in July 2017 was retail’s lowest decline rate in 18 months, while the 5.7% year-over-year sales dip was the lowest in 14 months. And outside of three months during the past year, retailers’ in-store conversion rates — sales transactions as a percentage of traffic — have largely remained within a 0.1% to 0.5% range, in line with totals from April and May 2015.

Amazon Leads In Search Traffic Growth During BTS Season

  • Published in E-Commerce
The topic was growing site traffic and search traffic, and Amazon taught other retailers a lesson in 2017. The e-Commerce giant achieved a 16.2% increase in overall site traffic and an 18.4% increase in Google search traffic from “school” keywords during the back to school (BTS) season. The 18.4% Google search traffic increase may be Amazon’s biggest accomplishment, considering how far ahead of five major retail competitors the retailer is: Walmart/ 2.1% Google search traffic growth; Target: 1.4% growth; Best Buy: 14.2% Google search traffic loss; and Macy’s: 19.4% loss. Despite Amazon’s overall dominance in Google search traffic growth, Walmart actually saw the single biggest driver of Google search traffic for "school" keywords in both 2016 and 2017. The term "Walmart school supplies” outpaced Amazon's top keyword ("Amazon school supplies") by 4X this year.

‘Panic Mode’ Sets In As Sporting Goods Retailers Seek Answers

Dick’s Sporting Goods CEO Edward Stack made a headline-grabbing statement when he described the retail industry as being in “panic mode” during the company’s recent Q2 earnings call. But even if his comments about retail as a whole are hyperbole, his suggestion that “sporting goods is in the center” of “a perfect storm right now in retail” actually comes fairly close to the mark.  The sporting goods industry has taken some major hits since the end of 2015, most notably the bankruptcy and closing of former sector leader Sports Authority. Brands such as Sport Chalet and City Sports shuttered their operations, while Gander Mountain, Golfsmith and Eastern Outfitters were bought out by larger brands after bankruptcies.

Exclusive Q&A: How Charlottesville Is Motivating Brands To Take A Stand

Taking a political stand on almost any issue has long been considered a risky move for companies — particularly those, like retailers, that must appeal to consumers across the political spectrum. But the violence that took place in Charlottesville, Va. earlier this month has been a clarifying moment, not only for the country as a whole but for a number of corporate brands. Faced with the resignation of numerous CEOs, President Trump disbanded his White House advisory councils as companies sought to distance themselves from his controversial responses to the neo-Nazi march. Branding expert Deb Gabor, CEO of Sol Marketing, sees an important opportunity for brands at crisis points like this —to state unequivocally where they stand. “The best brands are the ones that align themselves very strongly with the beliefs and values of their target audience,” said Gabor in an interview with Retail TouchPoints.

Peapod, Dillard’s And Panera Reveal Winding Paths To Innovation

It’s an eternal struggle within any organization: whether to devote time, money and resources to coming up with the Next Big Thing, or to focus on the mundane (but very necessary) job of Keeping The Lights On. Or as Peapod Chief Marketing Officer Carrie Bienkowski put it, “When we have a limited number of development hours and have to ask ourselves what our development team is working on from a roadmap standpoint, do we focus on brilliant basics or innovation?” As any retailer knows, it’s not an academic question. If the scales are tipped too far in either direction, the results can be disastrous. And to make things even more complicated, it’s not always clear which category a particular project or initiative falls into. Sometimes “innovation” actually moves a company in the wrong direction, while a “brilliant basic” can produce something new that provides the retailer with real-world, measurable improvements.

Q2 Roundup: Nordstrom Bucks Downward Trend, Wayfair Shoppers Jump 43%

In recent years, quarterly results for department stores and luxury retailers have often painted a picture of “doom and gloom.” Declining sales and traffic have forced these brands to close unprofitable stores, minimize inventory and resort to promotions and markdowns. There is a small silver lining, however. Wall Street appears to have adjusted to this new reality, tempering its expectations of what constitutes a successful quarter.

What Is Amazon’s Next Big Business Move? Experts Chime In

Amazon’s recent acquisition of Whole Foods is one of the most significant retail stories of the year, leaving retailers and analysts asking the same pressing question: “What’s next for Amazon?” Retail TouchPoints asked industry experts to weigh in on where the e-Commerce giant could be expanding its retail reach, and what to expect beyond 2017. Each expert predicted that Amazon is likely to take a break from major retail acquisitions in the near term, but will continue to express interest in segments such as pharmacy, beauty and specialty retail.

Strengthening The Three-Part Retail Customer Journey

Customer journey use cases that align with customer growth, such as loyalty and cross-sell, are growing exponentially faster (390%) than those focused on customer acquisition (28%) or conversion (119%), according to a survey from Kitewheel. These customer growth use cases now make up more than 75% of all interactions, while customer acquisition and conversion use cases split the remainder nearly evenly. “There’s a lot of opportunity to build a rich engagement with a known customer,” said Mark Smith, President of Kitewheel in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “Once you’ve gone through that acquisition and conversion phase and made that first sale to a customer, at that point you then have a lot more information about that customer. You know who they really are. They’re not just an anonymous web visitor that you can track and retarget. That gives you an opportunity to use multiple channels to communicate with the customer and build a more sophisticated plan of engagement.”
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