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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.

Exclusive Q&A: Can Happy Returns Defuse Online’s ‘Ticking Time Bomb’?

It’s certainly understandable that more than one industry expert has referred to returns as the “ticking time bomb” of e-Commerce. For retailers, returns create a host of challenges — including managing refunds and exchanges, the logistics and costs of return shipping, and re-integrating returned merchandise into store or e-Commerce inventories. Consumers faced with the hassle of boxing and returning items will continue to demand more convenient methods, provided at little or no cost to them. As its name implies, Happy Returns aims to remove — or at least mitigate — many of these return pain points for both retailers and consumers. The company’s approximately 400 Return Bars, staffed by “Returnistas,” give shoppers a physical place to return items purchased from retailers including Rothy’s, UNTUCKit, Everlane, Eloquii and Draper James. Retailers using the company’s Full Stack Returns service, which encompasses software, services and logistics, get a white label solution that handles returns cost-effectively, via aggregation at various steps of the process designed to reduce shipping and handling costs.

Loyalty And Retention Secrets: Look For Customer Actions That Spell ‘Love’

It’s becoming ever clearer that customer loyalty involves far more than a dry, rational, dollars-and-cents relationship between a shopper and a brand. A group of experienced retail marketers speaking at the CommerceNext 2019 conference agreed that forging an emotional connection with customers is now an essential element in both attracting and retaining customers. These marketers’ challenge comes from pinpointing those moments when a customer is primed to “fall in love” with a brand, and also finding ways to encourage the actions that turn occasional shoppers into frequent and valuable customers.

Exclusive Q&A With Shopify Plus VP: Why DTC Isn’t Slowing Down Any Time Soon

Shopify has been one of the biggest growth stories within e-Commerce in recent years, with the company’s stock skyrocketing 130% year-to-date and a reported 48% revenue surge of $362 million in Q2. While the company is known primarily for helping small businesses set up online stores and sell products directly to consumers, Shopify recently introduced its own fulfillment network. The company also extends its services beyond SMB clients — Shopify Plus has 5,300+ enterprise-level merchant customers (defined as driving $1 million to $500 million and above in revenue per year). In an exclusive Q&A, Shopify Plus VP and General Manager Loren Padelford shared his thoughts on: The continued growth of brands going direct-to-consumer (DTC) and Shopify’s role in facilitating that growth; How brands such as Fashion Nova, Staples Canada and Gymshark have thrived through their own DTC strategies; and Best practices for retailers seeking to expand into new markets.

Exclusive Q&A: ‘The Product We’re Offering Is The Person Delivering The Service’

Lots of retailers pay lip service to the idea of their employees as valuable assets and brand ambassadors, but it’s the rare company that actually embeds this concept into the physical design of its stores. WellBiz Brands, a portfolio company consisting of three wellness brands with a total of 600+ locations and 235,000 members, takes the employee experience as seriously as the customer experience — even down to the design of the employee break rooms at its Elements Massage, Amazing Lash Studio and Fitness Together locations. The company has reaped major benefits from the strategy: 28% comp growth over the past two years for Amazing Lash Studio, and 24% comp growth for Elements Massage, both of which have placed in the Inc. 5000 list of America’s Fastest-Growing Companies.

Emerald Expo Exec Reviews Successes, Feedback Following RetailX Event

The 2019 RetailX in Chicago (June 25-28) brought together three major industry events under one roof. By co-locating GlobalShop, IRCE and RFID Journal Live! Retail, the new event brought together a wide array of solutions and programming that addressed the convergence of channels and customer experiences that most retail brands are dealing with on a daily basis. Retail TouchPoints also took part in the event with the launch of our Retail TouchPoints Live! program.

Lead Innovation Summit Report: If Shopper Habits Are Fluid, Flexibility Is A Retail Must

Rapid, dramatic changes in shopping habits have pushed retailers to transform their businesses in a variety of ways. But if there’s one thing all merchants should agree on, it’s that innovation is fluid and must be a continuous process. “There’s always going to be a ‘work in progress,’” said Matt Alexander, Co-Founder and CEO of Neighborhood Goods during a panel at The Lead Innovation Summit, held in the Brooklyn EXPO Center July 9-10. “You have to have a general sense of self-awareness and willingness to acknowledge that you don’t necessarily have a finished product and the answer to every problem,” Alexander added.

As Back-To-School And Prime Day Converge, Can Retailers Create A Second ‘Holiday’ Season?

Back-to-school shopping had historically dominated the retail conversation for the entire summer, and sometimes well into the fall. But the rise of Prime Day in recent years arguably has changed the definition of the season, affecting how early shoppers consider buying school supplies, clothing and electronics. To take just one example, last year’s $4.2 billion Prime Day haul almost certainly included a portion of the overall $82.8 billion estimated spent on K-12 and college students. The event’s popularity and its strong growth pattern suggests that Prime Day will attract even more of the back-to-school spending pie in 2019. Consumer trends appear to support retailers’ move to treat back-to-school and Prime Day as a combined event: 55% of back-to-school and college shoppers say they plan their shopping around sale events such as Prime Day, July 4th and Labor Day, according to National Retail Federation data; 63% of parents start their back-to-school shopping in July or earlier, and they plan to spend an average of $507 during the season, up from $465 in 2018, according to a RetailMeNot study; and 51% of consumers report shopping for themselves while picking up back-to-school items, giving retailers plenty of incentive to start (or continue) cross-promoting back-to-school offers with potential…

RTP Live! Keynote: Unlocking Stores’ Value As Powerful Media Channels

The rise of Amazon, Alibaba and mobile commerce have prompted many in the retail industry to pose the question: What, exactly, is the role of the store? According to Doug Stephens, Founder of Retail Prophet, brick-and-mortar’s role as a gathering place where consumers get experiences means that “stores are becoming your most powerful, manageable media channel.” In his keynote address, The Future Of Retail In A Post-Digital World, at Retail TouchPoints Live! at RetailX, Stephens noted that “media is effective wherever people gather in numbers; 1,000 years ago it was the marketplace or bazaar.” Face-to-face meetings and town criers gave way to “newsprint, then radio and TV, and now digital is the campfire that people gather around.”

Quick Quotes From Retail TouchPoints Live!

The speaker slate for the initial Retail TouchPoints Live! at RetailX, held June 25-26 at McCormick Place in Chicago, included big-name retailers as well as a wide range of industry experts. From the organizational principles that powered rapid digital innovation at BJ’s Wholesale Club to Alibaba’s use of AI and personalization to supercharge its Singles Day event, presenters explored: • The still-strong interrelationship of online and brick-and-mortar stores; • The temptations of using price as a customer acquisition strategy; • How Moosejaw maintains its brand identity and “edge” as part of the world’s largest retailer (Walmart);and • The constantly evolving definitions of “omnichannel.”

Exclusive Q&A With Scott Emmons: ‘Open Innovation’ Requires Collaboration And Cross-Pollination

Upon leaving his position as Director of the Neiman Marcus iLab, which he founded, to become CTO of retail innovation consultancy Current Global, Scott Emmons noted that the culture of legacy organizations can often hold back the progress of retailers’ internal innovation labs. “For fashion and retail brands to succeed, they need to shift from an internally driven culture to one focused on open innovation with the world’s top technology and talent,” Emmons said in a statement. At Retail TouchPoints Live!, June 25-26 in Chicago, Emmons will expand on the reasons why retailers must focus on “open innovation,” and what makes an agile, nimble retail innovation strategy.

Salesforce Previews CDP Release, Outlines Top 3 Holiday Trends

Pictured above: Dana Chery, Sr. Director, Service Cloud Product Marketing at Salesforce, Customer 360 implementation at discusses e.l.f. Cosmetics. Today’s businesses still struggle to gain a single, 360-degree view of the shopper despite an overabundance of data: 78% of consumers expect consistent interactions with a business regardless of which department they’re dealing with, yet only 50% of companies tailor their engagement based on past interactions, according to the 2019 Salesforce Connected Consumer report. At Salesforce Connections, the CRM giant indicated that its latest technology reveal could help many businesses close this gap. Salesforce revealed that it will release a customer data platform (CDP) to help brands unify their marketing data and personalize every engagement. The release will be available for pilot customers in fall 2019 and will be part of Salesforce Customer 360, a platform designed to enable companies to connect Salesforce apps and create a unified “customer ID.”

Kroger, Stein Mart, Gap Reveal Cloud Tech Achievements At Oracle Cross Talk

Retail execs representing more than 20 companies shared their insights and experiences with approximately 360 attendees from 16 countries during the 2019 Oracle Retail Cross Talk event, held at the J.W. Marriott Mall of America in Minneapolis June 10-12. Cloud and Artificial Intelligence (AI) were central themes of the event, which focused on helping retail brands transform from “victims to victors,” according to Mike Webster, SVP and General Manager, Oracle Retail in an opening presentation. The overarching goal of the event, he added, is to help brands “innovate at the pace of retail.”

Exclusive Q&A: With In-Store Innovation, Everything Old Is New Again

Those who want to blame Amazon for all of brick-and-mortar retail’s troubles should actually look a bit further back in history, says John Gregory. He has a unique perspective, having worked in legacy retail for iconic brands including Macy’s, Ann Taylor and Bloomingdales, then provided consulting services, and now is the VP Retail Head of Industry at Pandora Media. During the time when Amazon was just a gleam in Jeff Bezos’ eye, many retailers were making decisions that led directly to today’s often uninspiring in-store environments. Growth that was measured primarily by how many new stores a chain could open led to overexpansion, at a time when long-term economic and demographic trends were changing consumers’ shopping habits. The financial demands placed on public companies by Wall Street encouraged a commodity-oriented promotional mindset, and discouraged the kinds of product innovation and experimentation that could have kept shoppers coming back into stores even as the convenience of e-Commerce beckoned.

The Future Of Social Commerce Is Mobile: Instagram, Peer-To-Peer Marketplaces, Chat Lead The Way

While retailers have tried to solve the puzzle of “social commerce” for years now, it appears the missing piece has been staring them in the face all along: the social shopper is becoming increasingly mobile-exclusive. As of March 2019, there were 105.8 million “mobile only” social network users in the U.S., comprising 51.7% of all social network users, according to eMarketer. In fact, the overwhelming majority (70.5%) of social referrals to e-Commerce sites come from smartphones, according to data from Adobe Digital Insights. Organizations are quickly becoming aware of the move to mobile-centricity: 57% are planning to deploy mobile-first content within their social strategy, according to Hootsuite.

#RIC19: Marketing/Customer Engagement And Omnichannel CX Sessions

(l. to r.) Andrew Gaffney, Retail TouchPoints; Katharine Bahamonde Monasebian, Barneys New York; Todd Treonze, Brooks Brothers The 24 small-group breakout sessions at the 2019 Retail Innovation Conference were organized into four tracks. Coverage of the Digital Strategies and Operational Planning sessions were published on May 31; following are recaps of key presentations from the Marketing/Customer Engagement and Omnichannel CX tracks.
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