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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.

For Top Retailers On Prime Day, Expect High Revenues But Thin Margins

Amazon’s fourth annual Prime Day, starting July 16 at 3 pm Eastern, will drive an estimated $3.4 billion in global revenue for the e-Commerce giant, but its popularity has forced other retailers to take action if they want a piece of the pie. Retail’s biggest players, including Walmart, Target, eBay, Best Buy and Macy’s have implemented sales of their own to align with the event, with Kohl’s holding the “It’s A Big Deal” promotion on July 10. The decision by these retailers to capitalize on a “Black Friday in July” promotion makes sense when looking at last year’s sales totals. The biggest beneficiaries of these campaigns will be large retailers with more than $1 billion in annual sales and niche retailers with less than $5 million in revenue, according to research from Adobe Digital Insights. In 2017, the $1 billion+ retailers saw a 34.9% sales lift on Prime Day, whereas the niche retailers reeled in 17% more than usual. However, everyone in between $5 million and $1 billion in annual sales actually experienced a sales loss of 0.5%.

Exclusive Q&A: How b8ta Aims To ‘Fix’ Brick-And-Mortar, Starting With Macy’s And Lowe’s

While b8ta has nine standalone stores, the innovative “retail-as-a-service” concept made its biggest retail splash in late 2017 when it partnered with Lowe’s on a connected store-within-a-store SmartSpot experience in more than 70 locations. With a company mission of nothing less than to “fix brick-and-mortar retail,” b8ta is giving Lowe’s consumers the chance to try technology products before they buy them. The experiences offer a curated selection of 60+ smart home products such as security systems, lighting and cameras, but more importantly, they also are designed to emulate a lab-like experience and encourage shoppers to test the merchandise. If anything, the Lowe’s partnership revealed that b8ta is willing to partner with retailers not primarily associated with technology products to carry out its mission.

Forrester Study: Only 26% Of Companies Are B2B E-Commerce ‘Masters’

Strong, mature B2B e-Commerce capabilities bring numerous benefits to organizations. These companies can maximize the potential of digital channels and add self-service capabilities; use merchandising features to frame their products and solutions in a better light; and create multiple selling sites dedicated to specific geographies, customer segments, product lines and channels. But while the benefits of B2B e-Commerce maturity are clear, the road to achieving it is a long one. A June 2018 Forrester study, titled: What It Takes To Be A Leader In B2B eCommerce, reveals that no more than 50% of companies surveyed have any one of the following five best practices for B2B e-Commerce:

Study: Amazon And Walmart Top Retail Loyalty List

A new customer loyalty study defines consumers as three types: Loyalists, Roamers and Neutrals. Loyalists (35%) find a go-to retailer for their needs and stick with them; Roamers (35%) always tend to shop around prior to making a purchase; and Neutrals (30%) have some go-to retailers for particular purchases but also shop around, according to the 2018 consumer survey conducted by customer.com, a division of Customer Communications Group. To maximize customer loyalty, retailers need first to understand what elements of their current shopper experience appeals to each group. Beyond the convenience that is valued by all shopper types, Loyalists are more motivated by “Passion Factors” such as trust, fair treatment and a caring staff. In contrast, Roamers can be convinced to consolidate their purchases with a single retailer by stressing more practical elements, such as ease of purchase and returns, customer service and incentive offers. Additionally, all retailers should involve the entire enterprise in their customer loyalty efforts.

Exclusive Q&A: Brian Solis Reveals Five Keys To Real Retail Innovation

As a digital analyst, anthropologist and futurist, Brian Solis strives to get to the heart of not just how the art of doing business has changed, but more importantly, why. In his latest report, titled: Leading Trends In Retail Innovation: Insights from Some of the Most Progressive Retailers Changing The Game, Solis, a Principal Analyst at Altimeter, a Prophet Company, investigates how the “Retail Armageddon” and other headline-dominating trends are changing the industry as we know it. The report was “shaped based on my experience in innovation and transformation,” Solis explained. “When I’m interviewing people responsible for retail innovation, I’m often surprised, even disappointed, in how very little innovation is taking place. There is no sense of urgency around the topic. So, I put myself in the shoes of someone in this role. If I’m tasked with finding ways to better compete in the digital economy, who would I want to talk to? Who would inspire me to think differently?”

Supreme Court Sales Tax Ruling Hits Small Online Players, Boosts Brick-And-Mortar

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling may put a larger burden on even the biggest e-Commerce players by eliminating one of their biggest advantages — pricing. Online-only retailers will now be required to collect sales taxes even in states where they don’t have a physical presence, the Court ruled. In a 5-4 ruling against Wayfair, Overstock.com and Newegg, the justices overturned a 1992 Supreme Court precedent from Quill Corp. v. North Dakota. Quill had barred states from requiring businesses with no "physical presence" in that state — such as out-of-state online retailers — to collect sales taxes.

Net Neutrality Repeal: Can SMB Retailers Survive In An Internet 'Slow Lane'?

Six months after the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to repeal Obama-era net neutrality regulations, the ruling officially took effect June 11. With the end of net neutrality, retailers will have to navigate through an uncertain online environment. If the Internet is divided into “slow” and “fast” lanes, retailers — particularly SMBs — will be faced with a stark choice: pay more to stay in the express lane, or adjust their e-Commerce business to minimize the impact of slow load times and other performance issues. Key predictions for the post-net neutrality era include: Retailers, particularly small- and medium-sized businesses, must continue their focus on product differentiation and e-Commerce optimization; Data-driven customer loyalty programs and other marketing programs may be harder to implement; and Despite the repeal, it’s still possible that retail will remain largely unaffected by ISP accessibility and speed changes.

Quick Quotes From Retail Execs At IRCE And CRMC

The educational programs at IRCE and CRMC, both held in Chicago the first week of June, provided insights that went far beyond just the shows’ overarching topics of e-Commerce and customer relationship management (CRM). Industry leaders from retail companies including Lovesac, Warby Parker, Oriental Trading, Shoe Carnival, Jack Grace and Hilton Hotels shared tips and tactics covering global commerce, personalization, the move from online to offline retailing, selecting the right solution provider partners, and ways to make returns a strategic part of the business. Following are quick quotes from some of the retail industry experts who spoke at the two events.

47% Of Gen Zers Use Smartphones While Shopping In Stores

Gen Z, the generation born between 1997 and 2015, has never known life before the World Wide Web. Yet across the globe, 98% make purchases in a physical store some or most of the time. Two-thirds of this cohort shop at brick-and-mortar retail (67%) most of the time, while 22% shop online most of the time. Mobile phones or smartphones are the most important device for three-quarters of the Gen Z population worldwide. While less than half (48%) have used a mobile app to shop, one-quarter have used mobile phones to pay for purchases. These are among the findings of What Do Gen Z Shoppers Really Want?, a report based on a survey of 15,600 individuals between the ages of 13 and 21 in 16 countries, conducted by the IBM Institute for Business Value in collaboration with the National Retail Federation (NRF). This is the third of three reports NRF and IBM have produced based on a year-long study of the Gen Z consumer.

Microsoft Enters Cashier-Less Tech Race: Will Checkout Lanes Become Relics?

The news that technology powerhouse Microsoft is working on cashier-less technology that could help retailers compete with Amazon Go signals a major advance in this area. Still, questions remain about exactly what kind of solution will best solve shoppers’ checkout pain points. While some consumers may welcome a cashier-free environment, others might want more cashiers on duty to provide assistance if needed. Tech-savvy retailers are still trying to figure out the optimal way forward. Kroger has made major investments in its Scan, Bag, Go technology, which allows shoppers to scan products either with a device provided by the store or with their smartphones. The retailer is in the process of expanding the program to 400 stores, and Kroger CIO Chris Hjelm identified the technology as one of his proudest achievements of the past few years.

Exclusive Q&A: Can Fitness Centers Become The New Mall Anchor Store?

As department stores exert less consumer drawing power, U.S. malls are seeking new types of anchors to build foot traffic. Many malls have been trying to add tenants that, by their nature, require consumers to be physically present, such as restaurants, theaters and fitness centers. One of the most successful gym chains is Crunch, with more than one million members visiting 250 locations across 24 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, Australia and Spain. In February, Crunch was named Best in Category in the fitness sector by Franchise Business Review’s annual list of the top franchises for 2018.

Exclusive Q&A: ‘Experience Is The Way Forward In Retail Stores’

You won’t find two more passionate advocates for experiential retail than Laura Davis-Taylor and Ed King, the co-founders of The HighStreet Collective. “Experience is the way forward in retail stores, and that’s no longer a theory — it’s absolutely mandatory,” said Davis-Taylor, the Collective’s Principal Consultant for Retail Experience Strategy. “My hope is that it doesn’t become a cliché term rather than an active strategy for retailers.” Davis-Taylor and King, who is Principal Consultant for Retail Customer Experience at HighStreet Collective, discussed just how crucial experience is to the future of stores in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. This was also a key theme of the Digital Experience Forum they co-hosted in conjunction with the Digital Signage Expo in March, and their presentation at the 2018 Retail Innovation Conference.

59% Of Shoppers Won’t Buy Items With ‘Arbitrary’ Prices

When shoppers perceive that an item’s price is unfair or arbitrary, a majority (59%) will refuse to buy the product. However, they will accept price increases or decreases that remain within a “fair” range, particularly if the changes are based on data science, according to a Forrester Consulting study that examined consumer attitudes toward pricing and promotions. An original survey in May 2017 queried 1,250 shoppers in the U.S., UK, France, Germany and Brazil and Forrester followed up with additional research in April 2018. Key findings included:

Despite Anchor Store Closures, Malls Can Secure Success With Dining, Experiences, Entertainment

As many as 30% of malls will need to close due to the oversaturation of shopping centers in the U.S., estimates Coresight Research. But the need to reduce significant square footage isn’t all bad news. While more than 1,100 department stores are set to close between 2018 and 2023, mall operators can secure future success by: Focusing on potential “anchor” replacements, but not in the form of large format stores; Prioritizing high-end dining and experiences to cater to future generations of shoppers; and Embracing the concepts of “destination centers” and “retaildential” complexes.

21 Innovative Solutions Showcased At #RIC18

At the 2018 Retail Innovation Conference, innovation wasn’t limited to the educational sessions. Sponsors showcased solutions for some of the retail industry’s most pressing concerns, including marketing personalization; mobile applications; making loyalty and referral marketing programs more effective; deepening connections between retail associates and shoppers; and the latest in design and digital signage. Following is a roundup of the sponsors’ offerings.
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