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.

Crumbs Closes Its Doors: Is The Cupcake Boom Crumbling?

There’s no way to sugar coat it: The cupcake craze may be coming to an end. Crumbs Bake Shop announced on Monday that it would be shuttering all stores, effective immediately. “Regrettably Crumbs has been forced to cease operations and is immediately attending to the dislocation of its employees while it evaluates its limited remaining options," the company reported in a statement to the Wall Street Journal. The New York-based bakery chain opened its first storefront in 2003 and subsequently acquired 65 locations in 12 states.

Knowledgeable, Empowered Associates Sell 87% More, Survey Confirms

Store associates play a starring role in the brick-and-mortar experience. By offering customers product recommendations and guiding them throughout the browsing and buying journey, associates can influence a sale. Associate training and empowerment is vital to improving store sales and engagement, as new research from Experticity confirms that empowered employees sell 87% more on the sales floor.

Customer-Centricity Comes Into Focus At Wal-Mart Annual Shareholders Meeting

During the annual shareholders meeting, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. executives outlined plans to serve customers and improve brand experience by leveraging three core principles: customer-centricity, ongoing innovation in technology, and increased investment in store associates. The retail giant hosted up to 14,000 shareholders, including thousands of associates from 27 countries at the event, which took place in Bentonville, Ark. By becoming a customer-driven company, Walmart will focus on making decisions “based on how we can serve them better,” said Doug McMillon, CEO of Walmart, during the shareholders meeting.

Take Mobile Commerce Efforts To The Next Level

New predictions from Forrester Research confirm that mobile commerce has reached a tipping point. Total smartphone and tablet transactions in the U.S. are expected to total $114 billion this year, according to the forecast. In addition, 29% of all e-Commerce transactions will be completed on mobile devices. Retailers are trying to keep pace with today’s cross-channel shoppers by implementing mobile commerce strategies that span across marketing, clienteling and payment.

Investing In Omnichannel Success

Shoppers are no longer sticking to a single channel when interacting with retailers and venturing through the buying cycle. As consumers become more omnichannel in their shopping habits, retailers need to learn the best ways to engage these customers to drive sales and loyalty. In a recent Connected Consumer Series webinar, titled: Investing For Success In Omnichannel Retailing, executives from Retails Systems Research and Junction Solutions discussed how the customer buying cycle has changed, and best practices for retailers striving to adapt their businesses to keep pace. “The world has dramatically changed,” said Paula Rosenblum, Managing Partner at Retail Systems Research. “In the past, consumer-based behaviors were pretty much orderly — and that has fundamentally changed. It has since changed to a very chaotic pattern, and there are now many different paths to purchase. This has become what we have come to know as the omnichannel phenomenon.”

Beating Showrooming And Webrooming With Advanced Analytics

Even though most final purchases are still completed in-store, shoppers are spending more time online prior to arriving at the POS. Two specific phenomena are affecting the buying journey today, explained Russell Evans, VP of Marketing at ShopperTrak, in a recent Connected Consumer Series webinar, titled: Tapping Into The Benefits Of Next-Generation Store Analytics: Showrooming: When shoppers conduct online research while standing in the store, then complete those purchases online. Webrooming: When shoppers spend time researching products online before going to the store. Perimeter Analytics = More shoppers; Interior Analytics = More buyers; and Performance Analytics = More revenue.

Trend Watch: Are Always-On Consumers As Complicated As They Seem?

Shoppers have become savvier, and are leveraging new technologies in order to stay digitally connected at all times. While the emergence of these Always-On Consumers (AOC) presents great opportunities to engage shoppers across a variety of channels, many retailers have struggled to understand and effectively market to this consumer group. Nearly half (48%) of the consumers are members of the AOC base, according to a recent study from Vivaldi Partners. But this group of shoppers has been a tough audience to engage — especially since only 39% are open to brand engagement and advertising.

Mobility And Loyalty: A Perfect Payment Match

Payment security has become a priority investment for many retailers. In light of the looming 2015 EMV deadline, many merchants are implementing EMV capabilities coinciding with POS upgrades or adding peripherals that accept contact and contactless payment. Because EMV implementations can be very costly, some merchants are putting off the investment. But as many as 30% of retailers, are planning to make a POS purchase decision within the next 12 months, according to IHL Group, which could translate to a sharp increase in EMV adoption.

Why Fashion Month 2014 Marked A Shift In Luxury Marketing

The madness surrounding Fashion Month 2014 has calmed. But that doesn’t mean fashion pundits and marketing gurus have stopped chatting about the new wave of marketing sparked by this year’s festivities. New York Fashion Week (NYFW) especially generated buzz because the event showed a more personal and intimate side, thanks to the powers of social media and mobility. More designers, fashion editors and bloggers were turning to Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to take “selfies,” photos and videos of live runway shows. As a result, everyday consumers had VIP access to what was once considered one of the most exclusive events of the year. Social media has changed the ways consumers relate to fashion and has made the luxury space more accessible than ever, according to Apu Gupta, CEO of Curalate. NYFW is testament to the fact that “you can still build a high fashion brand and still make it approachable. We want to know more about these brands other than the carefully manicured personas they put out there. There’s a desire to really see behind the scenes and see the brands' larger personalities. It’s almost the humanization of luxury brands.”

New Study Reveals Consumers Are ‘Uninspired’ By Online Shopping

Through a new joint survey, Compare Metrics and the e-tailing group have concluded that 67% of shoppers want to shop online because they find it fun and efficient, but most respondents still find their current shopping experiences uninspiring.  The Shopper Navigation & Discovery Study was created to help retailers better understand how traditional online search capabilities influence the online buying experience. Study participants filled out an online questionnaire focused on the shopping tools they used and their level of satisfaction with the experience. In-person sessions were then conducted, allowing participants to demonstrate their experiences shopping on retail web sites and then compare them to shopping experiences using Adaptive Navigation. Of the 33 consumers involved in the study, 21 said they conduct 50% to 75% of their shopping online, while 11 conduct 25% to 50% online. Consumers were asked to rate their discovery experiences on top retail sites. Overall, respondents gave an average rating of 6 out of 10. More than half of respondents (52%) felt the majority of current web sites have become overwhelming due to a variety of factors, including irrelevant product details and content that distracts from visual elements.

Will Customer Loyalty Suffer In Light Of Amazon Prime Price Hike?

Online giant Amazon has been spotlighted as a retail innovator with its dedication to creating a seamless customer experience. While the retailer has been praised for its personalization strategies, Amazon now has an eye on the future, unveiling plans for a series of new investments, including anticipatory shipping and drone delivery. The latest news from Amazon causing a commotion, though, is the eTailer’s decision to increase its annual membership fee for Amazon Prime from $79 to $99. Amazon indicated on the web site that if a membership renews before April 17, 2014, customers will be charged the standard rate of $79. But starting April 17, 2014, all Amazon Prime members will be charged $99 on their respective renewal dates. An Amazon Prime membership offers a number of benefits, including free two-day shipping on most products, one free book rental per month via the Kindle Lending Library, and free movie and television streaming via Amazon Instant Video.

Fossil To Launch Line Of Wearable Devices

Fossil Group Inc., the lifestyle and fashion accessory company, is collaborating with Google to create and launch a line of wearable devices. The initiative is part of Android’s aggressive move into the wearable technology market. Google recently unveiled the plans for Android Wear, a version of the operating system designed specifically for smart watches and other wearable devices. A global fashion business with a portfolio of brands worth a total of $3.3 billion, Fossil Group anticipates the partnership will help add function and utility to the company’s already coveted products.

Applying Gamification To The Retail Business

While gamification can add fun and excitement to a retailer’s marketing or engagement strategy, it can also induce positive behaviors from customers and employees, leading to an enhanced brand experience and greater sales. During the webinar, titled: Gamification: The Long And Short Of It, executives from Badgeville and Stanford University discussed the ways retailers can use game-like techniques to meet various business objectives. “Fundamentally, gamification is taking techniques and the psychology behind games, and using it to get more people to do more stuff more often, and for longer periods of time,” said Steve Sims, VP of Solutions and Design and Founder of the Behavior Lab at Badgeville. “It can help your sales people be more productive, or it can boost engagement for your social channel or loyalty program.”

Trend Watch: Will Shoppers Rush To A Google Store?

At a rental cost that could reach $1,000 per square foot for retail space in SoHo, Google will need a strong business case to open a store in New York City (reportedly an 8,000-square-foot space on Greene Street, near the Prince Street Apple Store location), as its first venture into the brick-and-mortar retail space.

Will Wearable Technology Shake Up The Retail Landscape?

Wearable technology — including smart watches and glasses — is expected to become a “must have” for consumers over the next several years, and forward-thinking retailers such as Barneys New York and Kenneth Cole are preparing for an explosion in the market. Additionally, retail organizations such as The Container Store are beginning to implement wearable technology to improve productivity across business processes. Worldwide spending on consumer wearable technology will hit $1.4 billion by the end of 2014, according to the report from Juniper Research, titled: Smart Wearable Devices: Fitness, Healthcare, Entertainment & Enterprise: 2013-2018. By 2018, the market will hit $19 billion. Although Juniper concluded that device shipments will approach 130 million by 2018, wearable devices currently “represent a ‘nice to have’ and not a ‘must have’ for consumers,” according to the report.
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