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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.

Can Department Stores Save Themselves In 2018?

With the 2017 holiday shopping season now in the rear-view mirror, 2018 represents a major “prove it” period for department stores. The sector has taken quarterly sales hits for several years, forcing major players to shutter hundreds of stores, but early holiday numbers indicate these retailers have harnessed some positive momentum. Specialty apparel and department store retailers, which traditionally complete the majority of sales in-store, reported moderate gains during the holiday season, according to Mastercard, which called those gains impressive despite the number of recent store closings in 2017.

Study: Outdated Planning Solutions Hamper Customer-Centricity

Retailers know that success in today’s environment requires them to align their systems and organizations around fulfilling customer-led demand. But outdated planning systems and the legacy of channel-specific inventories still present major stumbling blocks many retailers. Still, brands including Uniqlo, Zara and Bonobos have solved some of these challenges, in part by more closely aligning customer data with planning systems. In its 2017 Merchandise Planning Benchmark Survey, Boston Retail Partners (BRP) set out to gauge the current state of retail planning processes and systems, including merchandise planning, assortment planning and localization, store planning, allocation, omnichannel demand planning and space planning. “To innovate the customer experience, [retailers] must transform their disparate systems, processes and organization into one cohesive environment with the ability to offer customers a seamless shopping environment across any channel and the capability to deliver merchandise immediately — wherever it is needed,” according to the report.

Salesforce NYC Event Highlights Personalization In Action

Salesforce took its Dreamforce event on the road, landing at New York City’s Javits Center Dec. 14. The keynotes, presentations and breakout sessions covered a wide range of solutions and success stories, but the overriding theme for retailers was the importance of applying personalization at every stage of the shopper journey. Some of the event’s highlights included: • How Adidas marketers are leveraging the Salesforce Einstein AI solution to orchestrate personalized consumer journeys across multiple digital devices; and • How UGG shoes are simplifying mobile searches with machine learning-based product recommendations.

Exclusive Q&A: Salesforce Retail SVP On Why AI Is Driving The Future Of Personalization

During its annual Dreamforce event in San Francisco in November, Salesforce doubled down on its mission to help retailers create more immersive and relevant customer experiences across all channels. Touting success stories from Adidas, Party City and Suitsupply, the company’s SVP of Retail, Shelley Bransten, helped transform some of the hottest buzzwords in retail — “personalization” and “AI” — into tangible, real-world tools for retailers’ toolkits. A few weeks later, during the heart of the holiday shopping season, Bransten spoke to Retail TouchPoints to discuss:

DHL Adding Workers, Robotics And AR To Support Record Holiday Sales

Ramping up to address a forecasted volume growth between 15% and 40% this holiday season, DHL is hiring an additional 6,000 seasonal workers across its four business units in North America. The expansion is designed to support DHL’s contract logistics, fulfillment, freight transportation and express delivery operations, including additional flights, as well as piloting new warehousing technologies that leverage robotics and augmented reality to increase productivity. The expansion is aimed at addressing the record sales from Cyber Monday, as well as changing expectations of online shoppers. “To help our retail customers in the U.S. meet the demands of online shoppers for greater transparency, convenience and speed, we have to balance increased capacity with improved efficiency and to offer flexible omnichannel solutions,” said DHL eCommerce CEO Lee Spratt.

Are Amazon’s Calvin Klein Exclusives Good For The Brands?

Calvin Klein is offering Amazon customers exclusive styles in the two CALVIN KLEIN X Amazon Fashion pop-up stores, as well as online at Amazon.com/mycalvins. The stores, open until Dec. 31, also are showcasing the latest Amazon technologies, including: • Fitting rooms with Amazon Echo devices, allowing shoppers to ask Alexa questions about Calvin Klein products and control the lighting and music;• Content creation stations to encourage shoppers to create shareable media clips; and• Lounges with video calling to connect the bi-coastal stores in New York City’s SoHo and Santa Monica, Calif.

Consumers ‘Can’t Get No’ Satisfaction With Customer Service

Improving the customer experience is a priority for almost any retailer today, but the front-line people and technologies consumers turn to when they have problems are falling short, according to the 2017 National Customer Rage Study. Consumers feel their headaches have increased steadily over the years, with 56% of 2017 respondents experiencing problems with at least one product or service over the past year. In 1976, 32% of consumers reported having problems in the previous 12 months. That percentage averaged 42% from 2003 to 2013, but spiked to 54% in 2015.

Exclusive Q&A: In Amazon’s Search For HQ2, Tech Workforce Will Be Key Factor

Lots of cities want Amazon to call their location home — even if it’s only a second home. After announcing the search for a city to host its second headquarters, the pure play giant received proposals from a remarkable 238 cities and regions across North America, all vying for the promised $5 billion in investment and 50,000 jobs that will come with being “Amazon HQ2.” While Amazon will not announce its decision until early 2018, experts already are handicapping which cities are the likeliest candidates. Attorney Steven Polivy, Chair of the Economic Development and Incentives Practice at Akerman LLP, believes the presence of a highly trained tech workforce will be a critical factor in the winning city’s bid. Additionally, Amazon being Amazon, Polivy believes the company will make good use of data gathered during the search process in order to deepen its understanding of customers, competitors and geographies.

Exclusive: Neiman Marcus, Jet.com Execs Share Experiences From Dubai Tech Event

Last month I had the opportunity to chair the Retail Day during the GITEX Technology event in Dubai, UAE. It was a unique experience and a fantastic opportunity to learn about retail challenges around the world. I also was asked to invite some U.S.-based retail executives to speak at the event and was honored to share the experience with two amazing retail innovators:

Is Nordstrom Next On Amazon’s Shopping List? Exclusive Predictions From L2 Experts

Even before the ink was dry on Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods, the retail industry began wondering, What will Amazon put in its shopping cart next? L2 founder Scott Galloway, who correctly predicted the Whole Foods purchase, recently identified Nordstrom as the next logical acquisition for the pure play giant. “The Whole Foods acquisition got Amazon into the wealthiest people’s refrigerators, but it didn’t get them into the wealthiest people’s closets,” said Galloway at the SAP Retail Executive Forum last month.

AR Advances Spark Consumer Interest: Will Retailers Grab The Opportunity?

Do you remember when the world went wild over the augmented reality (AR) game Pokémon Go? It was the first time we saw the mainstream potential of AR and how it could affect the retail industry. Businesses quickly jumped on the AR bandwagon by paying for “Lures” to add Pokémon to their radius, and ultimately bring consumers closer to their businesses when they went out hunting for characters.

Exclusive Q&A: How Retailers Can Escape The ‘Content Trap’

All kinds of businesses have been rocked by the digital revolution: news, music, media, transportation — and most definitely retail. But what exactly has made it so tough for some retailers to adapt to the changed landscape? Harvard Business School professor Bharat Anand has pinpointed some of the key reasons why traditional businesses, including retail, have found it so difficult to find their footing in a digital-first world. Too many companies fall into what Anand calls the “Content Trap.” In his book of the same name, Anand wrote that rather than focusing on the new world of connections that digital enables, companies remain fixated on the content they produce: a news story, a song, a taxi ride — and in the case of retail, the product they sell.

The Store Needs A Data-Driven Facelift

As e-Commerce shopping increases every year, all omnichannel retailers must assess the role of the store in their future strategies. But not every segment feels equal confidence in their stores going forward: only 13% of retailers that primarily sell consumer packaged goods believe that stores are more important to their future strategy than digital, according to the 2017 Digital Selling Report from Retail Systems Research (RSR). However, three times as many (39%) hard goods retailers — companies that sell merchandise such as electronics, furniture, home improvement products, appliances and sporting goods — still believe that stores are more important to the company’s future.

2017 Holiday Tips: Personalize Promotions, Target Millennial Dads, Prepare For ‘Black November’

Channel-agnostic retail is shaping the 2017 holiday season, requiring merchants to readjust many aspects of their holiday planning, including marketing, experiential retail, fulfillment and workforce optimization. With a little more than a month to go, retailers anticipate seasonal sales growth of anywhere from 3.6% to 4%, which remains in line with 2016 figures. Four retail experts shared insights into the steps merchants should take this holiday season to optimize for the anticipated growth. The experts covered topics such as pricing and markdowns, the de-emphasis of in-store shopping on Black Friday, the growth of mobile shopping and the anticipated role of voice and AI platforms. Here are some key takeaways:

3 Retailer Perspectives On Future Business Success: Hershey’s, Jo-Ann Stores, TechStyle

The onslaught of bankruptcies and acquisitions is motivating the smartest and most innovative retail businesses to find new ways to capture consumers’ attention, build brand loyalty and deliver on the omnichannel promise. “I look at it as a time of disruption, not the end of the world,” said Brian Kavanagh, Senior Director, Insights Driven Performance and Retail Evolution, The Hershey Company. “It is waking up sleeping giants” — the traditional retailers and slow movers that have balked at innovation. “They are hard-to-move big battleships, but the jet skis are scooting by them.”
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