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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.

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.

#RIC18: 17 Quick Quotes Provide Taste From Smorgasbord Of Retail Topics

The 2018 Retail Innovation Conference featured more than 50 retail industry executives and experts speaking on a wide range of the hot topics — from the sometimes-difficult move from online to brick-and-mortar to optimal use cases for AI, voice and personalization. These 17 quick quotes provide a “tasting menu” for those that couldn’t make the conference, which was held April 30-May 2 in New York City. “If you want the rewards of creativity and innovation, you have to take the risk. Comfort zones are great, but nothing actually grows there. They’re deserts.” — Ken Hughes, Award-Winning Shopper BehaviouralistCreativity can’t be cultivated by simply creating the right environment — you have to work personally to generate fresh ideas and innovations. Trendy accoutrements like beanbag chairs or coffee bars are what Hughes calls “lipstick on a gorilla” — they’re superficially attractive, but don’t actually improve the creative process, which is ultimately a personal responsibility.

#RIC18: Unlocking The Secrets Of Gen Z Shoppers

Retailers are engaged in a “race for relevance” as they try to meet the needs not only of Millennials but the generations following them, Gen Z and Gen Alpha. According to Shopper Behaviouralist Ken Hughes, these current and future consumers are motivated by a set of values based on growing up as true digital natives. “For them, a [print] magazine is a broken iPad,” said Hughes, showing a video of an infant trying, in vain, to activate the pages of a print magazine. “In retail, one of our challenges is not to be a magazine.”

#RIC18: Walmart CIO Embraces People-Led, Tech-Powered Strategy

The 2018 Retail Innovation Conference, April 30 to May 2, began with Store Tours on Monday, and then the content section kicked off Tuesday morning with an informative “fireside chat” with Walmart CIO Clay Johnson and Retail TouchPoints Editor In Chief Debbie Hauss. Additional reporting on the sessions, the event’s Top Tweets and a sponsor roundup will be appearing in the coming days.

Exclusive Q&A With Mastercard Exec: Expanding Payment To Wearables, VR And Smart Home Devices

Payments are the unglamorous but absolutely necessary piece of any consumer purchase. As retail touch points have multiplied and become more technologically complex, encompassing mobile devices, wearables, and now voice, AR and VR applications, payment providers have had to keep pace. One indication of the breadth of this challenge is in Kiki Del Valle’s title: she is SVP of Commerce for Every Device at Mastercard. Del Valle, who will be presenting the session, titled Transforming How People Pay: Commerce For Every Device at next week’s Retail Innovation Conference, April 30-May 2 in New York City, revealed why payment providers need to balance innovation, consumer convenience and data security within a rapidly shifting customer journey.

Study: 43% Of Shoppers Turn To Local Retailers For Immediately Needed Purchases

Despite the growing demand for rapid e-Commerce delivery, most shoppers still rely on local retailers for products they need in a hurry: 43% of consumers always turn to a local store when they need an item within two to three days, while 28% are evenly split between buying from a store or a web site, according to the 2018 Local Consumer Survey by Netsertive. In comparison, 29.1% of shoppers turn to Amazon when they want fast delivery. A strong Internet presence is still important for local retailers, as the vast majority of shoppers research a store before visiting. The most common research platforms include:

UPS Study: U.S. Consumers Shopping Across Borders Climbs To 47%

It’s an increasingly small world in e-Commerce: Almost half of U.S. online shoppers, and a majority of online shoppers outside the U.S., choose e-Tailers that are based outside their own countries. Around the globe, consumers are embracing mobile commerce, online marketplaces and diverse shipping options, although adoption rates and satisfaction vary (in some cases dramatically), according to the latest UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper report. Based on a comScore survey of more than 18,000 consumers, the study captured the differing behaviors and preferences of online shoppers in the U.S., Asia, Europe, Canada, Mexico and Brazil.
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