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Retail TouchPoints' #NRF2018 Hub & Coverage

Mi9 Retail Acquires JustEnough Software

0aami9retailMi9 Retail has acquired JustEnough Software, a demand management solutions platform. Financial terms have not been disclosed.

With the acquisition, Mi9 Retail brings planning, allocation and replenishment solutions into its platform of analytics-driven merchandising, store and digital commerce solutions.

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EBay, Cosabella, 1-800-FLOWERS.COM Lead The Next Wave Of AI Implementation

Retailers are beginning to share more about both the benefits and the limits of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Major benefits often include higher customer satisfaction, increased conversions and higher revenues. At NRF 2018, Deborah Weinswig, Managing Director of Fung Global Retail and Technology, hosted a panel featuring three success stories from eBay, Cosabella and 1-800-FLOWERS.COM that showcased how and where AI can help retailers bolster the customer experience.

1-800-FLOWERS.COM ‘Human-Nurtured’ Approach To AI Deployment

Chris McCann, CEO of 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, pointed out that his company’s GWYN (Gifts When You Need) AI-powered gift concierge, still needs a human touch in order to function correctly. The technology, powered by IBM Watson, enables shoppers to enter a conversation with a bot that adapts and learns human language with every interaction.

“We often say automation for automation’s sake would clearly deliver the wrong message,” McCann said during the session. “To some degree, we take a human-nurtured augmented intelligence approach. How do you get that balance to make sure that the technology is making the right decision? It’s a learning process, and it’s what we’re going through with GWYN. We need to show that GWYN is understanding what to look for, what attributes need to be put into our product day-to-day based on what we’ve learned so far. This isn’t the world where we just give everything over to the computer. There’s always a place for people.”

The GWYN platform is designed to be brand agnostic, so that consumers can also find products outside of their initial purchase intent. The bot can direct shoppers to items related to the conversation, including food products, which comprise more than half of the e-Commerce site’s revenue.

EBay Makes AI An Organization-Wide Priority

Kris Miller, Chief Strategy Officer of eBay, indicated that the online giant seeks to take ownership of AI across the entire organization, deploying it at multiple points of the purchase process, from the consideration stage to the online browsing and post-purchase stages. The retailer has acquired three companies since 2016 (SalesPredict, Expertmaker and Corrigon) to foster its data analytics, machine learning and image recognition capabilities.

EBay’s image recognition capabilities play a massive role in personalizing the experience and helping consumers “shop a given look.” Often, shoppers don’t know exactly what they want, so they opt to seek out inspiration or ideas to help them make a purchase decision. The Image Search app enables shoppers to upload a photo onto the app’s search bar, and then display listings that either match, or are similar to, the product in the photo.

“You can shop in fashion and see a particular look, and say ‘Hey, I really like this men’s black leather jacket,’” said Miller. “So our image recognition is pulling across all our inventory on the site to find the jackets that look like that jacket. It won’t necessarily be that jacket, but we have jackets that look like it. We’ll be able to give you options that expand that amazing range of price points. If you want to spend $900 on that jacket — great, you can! But if you’d rather spend $150 on that jacket, that might be the right thing for you. It gives you the choice.”

Cosabella Generates 336% Return On Ad Spend

Silvia Campello, President and COO of Cosabella, noted that driving successful AI adoption began with a mindset change, especially since the company transitioned from a wholesaler to a direct-to-consumer brand. This meant focusing on the needs of individual shoppers instead of department store buyers and boutique buyers.

Email targeting has been the “most impressive change” for the brand since implementing the Albert AI engine, according to Campello. After three months with Albert, Cosabella saw a 336% increase in return on ad spend (ROAS).

“For Black Friday, all the process flows that we were able to implement this year that speak to the different segments individually resulted in a 100% revenue growth,” Campello said. “It was dramatic for us and something we really didn’t expect to see, but we’re thankful.”

Alibaba Personalizes Service Recommendations With AI

Weinswig highlighted that while AI often is associated with personalized product recommendations, it can be geared beyond product selection. While many e-Commerce sites, namely Amazon, use past browsing behavior to determine recommendations, Alibaba’s Tmall and Taobao marketplaces leverage AI to deliver services related to past purchasing behavior.

“If I shop for paintbrushes on Amazon, I get recommended more paintbrushes,” Weinswig said. “When I shop for paintbrushes and I buy them on Alibaba I get recommended painting classes.”

Alibaba’s approach fits better with experiential retailing, creating added value for a shopper’s journey. If retailers want to take advantage of AI further down the line, they’ll have to find a way to integrate recommended services, classes and content into their offerings.

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NRF 2018 Recap: Positive Economic Forecast, The ROI Of AI, China’s Fast Growth

The National Retail Federation Big Show 2018 is in the rear-view mirror now, but the insights that were shared will make their mark throughout the coming year. The good news is that, judging by the crowds and overall excitement at New York City’s Javits Center, the retail industry is definitely not in an apocalyptic — or even a post-apocalyptic — phase. In fact, a roundtable of economists pointed to strong holiday sales, high consumer confidence levels and the recent tax cuts as reasons for optimism in the coming year.

The Retail TouchPointseditorial team shares some of the major headlines from the show, which was held January 14-16, including:

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Tyco Strengthens Analytics With Google Cloud Collaboration

0aatycoTyco Retail Solutions is collaborating with Google Cloud to strengthen its market leadership in next-generation real-time analytics, and store execution and performance solutions. The companies will work to deliver retail use cases marrying real-time edge intelligence and decision making with core cloud computing.

The initial phase of the partnership integrates Tyco’s real-time data intelligence and application capabilities across store inventory, loss prevention and traffic on the Google Cloud Platform. This integration will provide retailers with a real-time view into accurate inventory availability for unified commerce fulfillment, as well as in-store traffic data and insights for improved customer engagement.

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Report: Amazon, Apple, Tractor Supply, Williams Sonoma Lead In CX Rankings

Retailers today face a new reality — stores function as the fulfillment centers for their digital counterparts, and shoppers move fluidly between channels as they research, browse and buy. In fact, 25% of shoppers that start in store visit a digital channel during their buyer journey, while 35% that start in a digital channel go to a store during their purchase process, according to a survey from ForeSee.

The 2018 Retail Customer Experience (CX) Insights report ranked Amazon as the top CX retailer, with a 79.1 out of 100 composite score. Williams Sonoma (78.1), Kohl’s (77.9), Nordstrom (77.4%) and Neiman Marcus (77.3%) rounded out the top five brands in terms of experience offerings.

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REI Implements Allocation Planning Chainwide, Enhances Localized Assortments

REI has successfully implemented the TXT Retail solution for Allocation Planning across its 150 stores nationwide. The consumer co-op and specialty outdoor retailer also is expanding its use of TXT Retail’s merchandise lifecycle management suite with the Assortment Planning solution, designed to help REI accelerate its creation of customer-focused assortments on a localized basis. 

“TXT Retail supports our ongoing efforts to deliver optimal product selection that meets the needs of our customers at each and every location where we serve them,” said Vaidyanathan Seshan, Divisional VP of Merchandising, Business Intelligence and Analytics Systems at REI in a statement. “Their solution helps us make fast, accurate merchandising and allocation decisions while providing new levels of accessibility and scalability through in-memory computing and deployment on the cloud.”

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Terry Lundgren, Retail CEOs All Agree: Personalization Is Paramount For 2018

The fourth annual NRF Foundation Gala took place in New York City on Jan. 14, featuring an awards program and formal dinner that included both silent and live auctions. The event raised more than $2.8 million to support the Foundation’s programs, including educational and inspirational initiatives and student scholarships — and it also showcased a preview of things to come in 2018.

Terry Lundgren, the former CEO of Macy’s, as well as CEOs from major retailers including Neiman Marcus, Petco, 1-800-FLOWERS.com and BJ’s Wholesale Club, shared their insights on the coming year from the event’s exclusive red carpet. One common theme emanated from the execs: Personalization initiatives will determine the success of retail customer experiences going forward.

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