Mobile - Retail TouchPoints - Retail TouchPoints Sat, 20 Apr 2019 13:19:47 -0400 RTP en-gb Study: U.S. Mobile Shopping App Sessions Grew 70% Since 2016 Study: U.S. Mobile Shopping App Sessions Grew 70% Since 2016

Consumers in mature markets like the U.S. spent nearly three hours a day in mobile apps in 2018 on average, according to the State of Mobile 2019 report by App Annie. Retailers who meet shoppers on the screen they prefer are reaping the benefits: digital sales correlate strongly with the amount of time spent on a retail app.

Global shoppers spent 18 billion hours in shopping apps during 2018, up 45% from 2016, while the number of sessions (a rough equivalent to foot traffic) rose 65%. Session growth in the U.S. was even higher, with the number of sessions up 70% to just under 70 billion.

Retailers seeking to turn these sessions into sales should observe the user interfaces and content offerings of the most successful apps — and not limit their research to shopping apps. Customer-friendly mobile apps offer strong visuals, easy onboarding, relevant product recommendations and streamlined payment processes.

“I think holistically there's been a big cultural shift,” said Lexi Sydow, Market Insights Manager at App Annie in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “For retail this past year, I think there's been that consumer readiness to engage and understand the power, accessibility and frictionless experiences mobile offers for consumers.”

However, Sydow noted that this development hasn’t been happening in isolation: part of the reason shoppers have been embracing retail apps is because retailers have been improving what those apps have to offer, contributing to the fact that the average consumer has 100 apps on their phone.

U.S. consumers may be spending more time on the apps they have, but there appears to be less willingness to add new apps to already crowded devices. Domestic app store downloads grew just 5% during 2018, compared to 35% growth worldwide. Digital natives are seeing the most success, accounting for 69% of retail app downloads globally, followed by:

  • Peer-to-peer marketplaces (24%);
  • Brick-and-click retailers (5%); and
  • Coupon and third-party loyalty apps (3%).
  • Visuals: Are product images too large or too small, and is the size easy to adjust? Social media apps in particular can teach retailers how best to show off products on a small screen;
  • Onboarding: How intuitive is the app for a completely new user? A frustrating experience can cause shoppers to delete an app rather than learn to use it;
  • Recommendations: This is an area where digital natives tend to have more experience, but strong personalization functionality is also important for brick-and-mortar apps; and
  • Payments and loyalty: Shoppers may not be interested in signing up for a retailer’s physical loyalty or credit card, but moving these features onto an app makes them more convenient.

Digital natives aren’t just beating brick-and-click retailers in terms of app downloads — they also garner an average of 1.5X to 3X more average sessions per user. However, traditional brick-and-mortar stores are seeing faster growth than their digital competitors: the number of sessions on brick-and-click apps grew approximately 25% in 2018 compared to 2016, more than double the growth rate of digital natives.

Latecomers Can Learn From Mobile Successes Across Industries

One area where brick-and-click retailers have an advantage is in harnessing their apps to power omnichannel experiences. A survey by Shopgate found that 67% of retailers say omnichannel retailing will be a priority in 2019, and 50% listed a shopping app as a top feature of their plans.

While retailers can discover great features by looking at the well-developed mobile apps of established omnichannel players, they shouldn’t discount what can be learned by looking at apps outside the retail space, according to Sydow. Studying social media or even music apps can help retailers nail down the presentation of their own offerings.

“Consumers are using all of these apps all of the time, and it's not just about being good within that peer group,” said Sydow. “As a consumer, I'm expecting my Amazon app or my Target app to be as smooth and seamless and intuitive as my Instagram app. That’s a really important thing that I think retailers need to take notice, particularly the more traditional retailers that are trying to transition to mobile.”

Some features retailers need to consider, both from within and without their own industry, include:

“Looking at some of the most-used apps is pretty important,” said Sydow. “Depending on your demographic and who you're trying to reach, look at those apps to see how people interact and what makes sense, like swiping up, left or right to see things, or how you scroll the screen — those are things that can add up to help with your overall user experience.”

]]> (Bryan Wassel) Mobile Mon, 01 Apr 2019 08:55:59 -0400
Instagram Debuts Checkout Option, Allowing Shoppers To Buy Within The App Instagram Debuts Checkout Option, Allowing Shoppers To Buy Within The App

Instagram is enabling consumers to buy products from more than 20 of their favorite brands without leaving the app, the company announced in a March 19 blog post. In coming weeks, when Instagram users tap on a product tag to see item details of an item in the coming weeks, they may see a "Checkout on Instagram" label. Once they are ready to buy, they can enter their billing and shipping details, select payment type and confirm the purchase. The checkout feature will start as a closed beta test for U.S. shoppers.

Shoppers also will be able to use the Instagram app to view their order status, estimated delivery date and tracking number, as well as cancel orders, initiate a return or request additional support.

Some of Instagram’s strong growth potential comes from the platform’s efforts to improve “shoppability,” an area where social networks as a whole have lagged. As many as 78% of retailers in the apparel, department store, big box and specialty sectors — and 41% of 400+ brands — already have shoppable Instagram accounts, according to the 2018 Gartner L2 Social Platforms and Influencers Intelligence Report. Beauty companies rank second, at 68%, while activewear is not far behind at 61%.

The “Checkout on Instagram” option could eliminate some of the friction that has prevented many of these retailers from capitalizing on social commerce sales. Approximately 130 million people already tap on shopping posts to reveal product tags each month, an increase of 40 million since September, according to Instagram.

Burberry, H&M, Nike, Warby Parker, Zara Among First 20+ Brands

U.S. shoppers will be able to check out with retailers such as Adidas, Balmain, Burberry, ColourPop, Dior, H&M, Kylie Cosmetics, MAC Cosmetics, Michael Kors, Nike, NYX Cosmetics, Outdoor Voices, Prada, Revolve, Uniqlo, Warby Parker, Zara and more. Instagram expects to integrate more brands into the checkout function in the coming months.

“Burberry is always pushing for digital innovation that improves our customers’ experience,” said Rachel Waller, VP of Marketing, Digital at Burberry in a statement. “We have seen great results from the monthly B Series product drops which launched last September, bridging the journey from inspiration to e-Commerce for our social community for the first time. We are excited to expand our social commerce as one of the first brands to adopt checkout on Instagram.”

The Burberry “B Series” releases are unveiled on the 17th day of every month and are made available for 24 hours exclusively through Instagram, China-based WeChat, Japan-based Lin and Korea-based Kakao. These items were not made available in stores or on

Shoppers will be able to pay with Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover and PayPal. As the program expands, merchants will be able to integrate directly with Instagram or work with more e-Commerce partners, including Shopify, BigCommerce, ChannelAdvisor and CommerceHub. Payments will be processed in partnership with PayPal.

Simplifying checkout is just one part of Instagram’s long-term investment in shopping, according to the blog post. Instagram has introduced a number of updates in the last year including product tags in Feed, product stickers in Stories and a shopping destination in Explore.

The social network indicated that it will introduce more ways for people to shop on Instagram in 2019. The company had reportedly been developing its own stand-alone e-Commerce app. The proposed app, called IG Shopping, would allow shoppers to browse and purchase items from retailers they follow.

]]> (Glenn Taylor) News Briefs Tue, 19 Mar 2019 10:38:23 -0400
Macy’s Will Expand AR-Powered Virtual Try-On Across Beauty Categories Macy’s Will Expand AR-Powered Virtual Try-On Across Beauty Categories

Macy’s has unveiled new solutions designed to enhance the in-store and mobile customer experience at the Shoptalk conference being held in Las Vegas. The retailer will introduce an augmented reality experience in beauty set to launch in late spring, as well as interactive fragrance displays powered by a new partnership with Perch, provider of physical and digital interactive displays for retailers.

The Augmented Reality Beauty experience is part of Macy’s approach to testing, iterating and scaling innovations. It will debut on the Macy’s app after an initial beta test in fall 2018 that allowed customers to virtually trial lip products. For the launch, Macy’s partnered with AR experience provider Modiface to iterate the design and expand the offering to more than 1,000 beauty products across major brands, covering face, eye and lip cosmetics.

Users will have the opportunity to virtually test single products or full looks and share them on social media. Following the launch, in-store beauty displays will be available at select Macy’s locations so customers can perform virtual try-ons in the store.

Also set to launch this spring, Macy’s will be rolling out interactive displays designed to help customers navigate scent families. According to a release, “as customers engaged with our robust assortment of top fragrances, we learned that those who bought in-store, primarily did so by brand, but when they purchased fragrances online, they shopped by scent family, filtering our assortment down to the top notes such as floral or citrus.” Through the partnership with Perch, select Macy’s locations will offer these displays as a way to share more information on fragrances and educate customers about their favorite notes and scent families.

]]> (Klaudia Tirico) News Briefs Tue, 05 Mar 2019 17:17:53 -0500
80% Of Shoppers Give Thumbs Up To Chatbot Experiences, But 59% Remain Uninterested In Using Them 80% Of Shoppers Give Thumbs Up To Chatbot Experiences, But 59% Remain Uninterested In Using Them

As many as 80% of people who have interacted with a chatbot say the experience was positive, according to a survey from Uberall. Even so, 30% of consumers have a tepid response to chatbots, saying they were “somewhat uninterested,” with 29% more indicating no interest at all.

“There’s definitely growing interest in branded chatbot experiences, but most consumers still need convincing,” said Florian Huebner, Co-CEO and Co-Founder of Uberall in a statement. “Many are wary, either because chatbot technology in the past was not advanced enough to ensure a good experience, or because consumers worry chatbots could easily become another spam channel. Brands have to do a better job creating AI experiences that customers find personalized, helpful and worthwhile.”

When implementing chatbots, retailers must take consumers’ criticisms of the technology seriously in order to continue building interest. As many as 43% of shoppers say chatbots need to work on their accuracy in understanding what customers are asking or looking for. Other areas cited as needing improvement include:

  • Getting a human customer rep involved where needed (27%); and
  • Holding a more human-sounding, natural conversation (19%).

Only 10% of consumers said they’d like to see more chatbots, since there aren’t many opportunities to use them.

Shoppers Prefer Chatbots That Offer Deals And Promotions Over Customer Service Support

When asked about what they’d like to see chatbots offer, surprisingly, shoppers didn’t list customer service as their top choice — despite it already being one of the most common uses of the technology. Up to 38% said offers of deals, coupons and promotions would be the feature they’d most like to see chatbots offer. Other desired uses include:

  • Customer service support (31%);
  • Providing store locations/hours near me (17%);
  • Offering “personalized product recommendations” (7%); and
  • Giving “the option of directly buying an item” (6%).

More than half (55%) said that they were likely to use chatbots if they offered location-based deals, coupons and promotions.

“Using chatbots to deliver savings and sell consumers on the technology is a no-brainer,” said Huebner. “Customer service interactions can often be seen as pushy or self-serving, but offering a coupon experience can help customers to feel like they are benefitting from the interaction, and can open the way to more positive engagement with that customer.”

]]> (Glenn Taylor) Shopper Experience Fri, 01 Mar 2019 11:44:09 -0500
Digital Apps Bridge The Gap Between Online And In-Store Consumer Behaviors

0aaaBrad Brodigan DoshSince the rise of e-Commerce 20 years ago, retailers have expected a breadth of customer-specific insights giving them a holistic view of the customer’s interests and purchase intent. This data surge born out of online shopping was promised to enable retailers to deliver smarter and more relevant brand experiences to consumers.

However, flash forward to today, and 94% of all retail purchases are still taking place at physical stores, meaning brands are working with considerably more unknowns than knowns. Although consumers are interacting with retailers across digital platforms like social and mobile, when the majority of purchases still take place in-store, it’s difficult for retailers to track which digital touch points led to that final in-store purchase.

Although retailers pour billions of dollars into digital advertising each year, with the 2018 digital advertising spend expected to reach $111.14 billion by the end of the year, retailers still have little to no visibility into whether their digital strategy is driving in-store purchases. And so the questions remain: How can brands connect the dots between a consumers’ offline behavior and their online presence to serve more relevant experiences and ultimately drive sales?

Making Mobile The New Face Of Loyalty Programs

Mobile, which travels with and engages consumers during the shopping journey, is starting to clarify this opaque picture, and it’s doing so with surprisingly little friction. In particular, app-based loyalty programs are one way retailers are using mobile to bridge the in-store and online divide.

Although the idea of loyalty programs is nothing new, retailers’ approach to these rewards programs is evolving rapidly. Historically, loyalty programs have been challenging for consumers to participate in and don’t leverage mobile effectively. Often, consumers have to proactively investigate their points or rewards totals via a clunky web site. When brands do communicate information like total loyalty points or rewards available to consumers, it’s usually through a cluttered channel like email or push notifications, where it’s likely to get buried.

While mobile’s influence on the consumer’s path to purchase has been on the rise since the advent of the smartphone, the application of mobile in loyalty programs is just recently seeing traction. For many retailers, their approach to discounts and rewards are still predominantly paper-based. For example, only one-third of consumers have used a smartphone application to get cash back on a purchase, while a whopping 71% of consumers report using a store coupon in the last year.

By making mobile the medium, retailers not only make their loyalty programs more relevant and easier for consumers to engage with, but mobile-based rewards programs also provide visibility into consumer behavior online and in-store. This allows retailers to see which offers are driving direct ROI and which in-store offers will resonate best. In fact, brands with loyalty programs have found that integrating them with a mobile app instantly creates more revenue opportunity, generating as much as 10X ROAS, as consumers with the app return to their stores more often and spend more per visit than those who don’t use the app.

Using Mobile-Based Loyalty Programs To Drive In-Store Purchases

Despite the doom and gloom surrounding brick-and-mortar a couple of years ago, it’s clear in-store will continue to play a vital role in the shopping experience. However, without the help of mobile, tracking what consumers buy offline, let alone delivering relevant ads against it, continues to be the Great Unknown for marketers. It’s one of the reasons consumers still get targeted with ads for products they’ve already purchased.

As brands continue to demand more visibility into traditional digital advertising methods and want to connect digital investment with in-store purchases, mobile-based loyalty programs will become the next iteration for brick-and-mortar retailers. Shops already doing this are tapping powerful behavioral data to solve issues that have plagued marketers for hundreds of years, while incentivizing consumers to engage and make purchases in the process through mobile-based rewards. These shops now have a better understanding of the consumer while bridging the digital and in-store divide.

While the industry increasingly moves to “people-based” advertising, and more and more retailers adopt mobile strategies to engage and track individuals with unique identifiers, retailers need to be armed with the right tools to deliver a cohesive, personalized brand experience. Rest assured, mobile is slowly chipping away at the unknowns of the consumer’s path to purchase, and the onus now falls on retailers to weave mobile into their loyalty programs, to deliver smarter, relevant brand experiences.


Brad Brodigan is President and Chief Operating Officer, Dosh. He works closely with retailers and merchants to transform the buyer-seller relationship and bring in new and lapsed customers. He came to Dosh after more than five years at PayPal, where he most recently led strategy, go-to market and operations for mid-market and retail. Dosh is an online to offline engagement platform with the fastest growing card-linked network.

]]> (Brad Brodigan, Dosh) Executive ViewPoints Tue, 26 Feb 2019 09:38:07 -0500
Earning The Loyalty Of Millennials And Gen Z

0aaaSourabh Tambe AllianceDataYounger consumers, which can be segmented as Gen Z (8 to 20 years old), Young Millennials (21 to 28) and Older Millennials (29 to 36), represent the largest generation in the market today, as well as the first to grow up in an always-connected world.

That means they have come of age — or are coming of age — at a time of unprecedented choice and convenience, creating a view of brand loyalty that is more complex and fragile than previous generations.

Building relationships with these consumers requires getting loyalty right in their eyes. Here are five keys to accomplishing that, based on our research.

Rethink Loyalty

Traditionally, brands have used transactional metrics to measure loyalty, such as frequency, monetary impact and recency. However, younger consumers have a more multi-faceted relationship with brands than other consumers. Understanding the motivating factors outside of transactional history helps drive shopping behavior and loyalty.

One way to think about loyalty in regard to these consumers is through a continuum that begins with functional brand attributes and evolves to more emotional attributes. As more emotional elements of loyalty are introduced, the relationship changes, moving beyond the transactional to the aspirational.


Deliver On Expectations

Price and quality are the top influencers for all younger consumers. That doesn’t necessarily mean they are always looking for the lowest price. They recognize the relationship between price and quality and seek brands that deliver value, even if they can’t shop more aspirational brands as frequently as they would like.

Failing to meet their expectations can carry a steep price, considering their potential lifetime value to a brand. One in three say there is nothing a brand could do to win them back after a bad experience.

To keep younger consumers happy — and ultimately loyal — remember that beyond price and quality, they expect good service and a great experience.

One other factor to consider: these consumers have entered the market at a time of increased discounting and have been trained to expect discounts. Our research into younger consumers shows that 71% of Millennials and 56% of Gen Z seek out a discount or coupon before making a purchase, while almost half (48%) of customers ages 16 to 24 seek out a store associate when shopping to find out about special offers, promotions or discounts.

Become Mobile-Savvy

Mobile e-Commerce is continuing to grow — but  when it comes to younger consumers, mobile engagement can extend beyond e-Commerce. They are 34% more likely to use “brick-and-mobile” — relying on in-store apps to enhance their shopping experience — than other segments.

Brick-and-mobile apps provide the flexibility to combine e-Commerce, social media and location-based services, such as on-site couponing and product locators, into one platform that brings value to customers and the brand. These apps can also serve as an always-on customer service portal that augments in-store sales associates, helping ensure customer service levels remain high during periods of heavy traffic.

Create A Coherent Brand Experience

While the stereotype of younger consumers is that when it comes to shopping they are exclusively digital, the reality is much different. Our research shows that Gen Z and Millennials are extremely comfortable online or in-store. Not only do they value the in-store experience, they expect a consistent experience from brands, regardless of the channel. They view their experiences at the brand level, not within specific channels, so a cohesive experience across channels is becoming essential to building the trust that fosters loyalty. Ultimately, the customer is the only channel that matters.

Inspire Via Social Media

It will come as no surprise that younger consumers are engaged with social media — 35% say they keep up with brands they love via social media — but the extent of that influence on shopping can still be eye-opening: 55% have made purchases via social media channels, and our assessment of trends on the horizon for 2019 shows that social shopping is going to be more important than ever.

That influence appears to be strongest with the youngest consumers: 34% of Gen Z are influenced by bloggers and YouTubers on what to purchase, compared to 29% of Young Millennials and 26% of Older Millennials.

Digital technology can also help inspire young consumers in their search for the perfect holiday gift. Powered by artificial intelligence, machine learning and predictive analytics, tools like chatbots and smart speakers are evolving to serve up better, more personalized product recommendations.

Among the many changes retail is currently experiencing, it’s easy to overlook the impact of this potentially powerful generation of younger consumers. But brands that take the time to understand how they view loyalty and meet their expectations across channels create the opportunity to build lifelong relationships.


As Senior Director of Alliance Data’s Analytics & Insights Institute with more than 15 years of experience in the retail space, Sourabh Tambe is an expert in using data-driven insights to inform marketing decisions, developing custom statistical models to fit the needs of retail brands, and evaluating each stage of the customer journey. Tambe provides strategic insights to retail brands, as well as sales and customer reporting, credit sales and application forecasting.

]]> (Sourabh Tambe, Alliance Data) Executive ViewPoints Thu, 21 Feb 2019 09:07:30 -0500
Can Cashierless Checkout Scale Up Without Breaking The Bank? Can Cashierless Checkout Scale Up Without Breaking The Bank?

The rise of Amazon Go has put the spotlight on cashierless checkout technology over the past year, but retailers could face real dilemmas as they seek to implement and scale up these solutions. Consumers are intrigued by the technology and appreciate anything that removes friction from the in-store checkout process, but cashierless checkout has so far been largely limited to the convenience and grocery verticals. Additionally, the solutions’ current cost structure, as well as the overall disruption they bring to store operations, remain big challenges.

Before building out cashierless checkout strategies, retailers must first consider:

  • Which of the two types of cashierless technology should be deployed within stores: Amazon Go-style AI- and computer vision-powered technology, or mobile self-checkout;
  • Why traditional self-checkout doesn’t always mean a frictionless experience;
  • Why anti-theft measures remain a big concern;
  • Costs associated with each technology; and
  • The potential disruption to the cashier employment model.

Two Sides Of Cashierless Checkout

Cashierless checkout technologies today are delivered in two iterations. The first takes the form of a typical mobile self-checkout — a shopper scans products with a mobile device as they browse the aisles, then pays for the transaction via a mobile app without having to fumble through their wallet for cash.

Consumers are warming up to the concept, with 48% of U.S. consumers expressing the belief that scan-and-go technology would make shopping easier, and 43% saying they would rather try scan-and-go than wait in a checkout line, according to data from GPShopper.

The more recent iteration of cashierless has been heavily publicized with the openings of the first 10 Amazon Go stores. Most of the major players within this space have combined AI- and computer vision-based technology with in-store sensors. Shoppers walk into a store, generally scan a QR code upon entry, then pick up whatever products they want before leaving. Shoppers automatically get billed upon leaving the store, so they don’t even have interact with their phone to pay for what they buy.

Consumers seem more enthused about this largely device-free shopping experience than the self-scanning solutions. Up to 60% of global Internet users would prefer to shop at other retailers if they offered an “Amazon Go-like” experience, according to research from MuleSoft.

“We’re seeing a groundswell of investment in cashierless-type technologies — pretty much every major hardware, software, POS vendor that I saw at NRF had some variant,” said Jerry Sheldon, Retail Analyst at IHL Services in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “Most of it was data-driven, proof-of-concept technology, so both retailers and vendors see it as more of an imperative to bring that technology to bear. Look at the influence Amazon Go had without actually physically being there [at the 2019 NRF Big Show]. In a year and a half, with the influence that Amazon has now had on the checkout experience — if you asked POS vendors privately, ‘Would you be working on this technology if it wasn’t for Amazon Go?’, they’d shyly respond, ‘No, we wouldn’t be,’ even if they wouldn’t admit it publicly.”

It’s true that a number of competitors have entered this field in a relatively short period of time. During 2018, Zippin, Standard Cognition and Inokyo each opened their own convenience stores in San Francisco to serve as real-world testing grounds for their technologies. The stores are open for limited hours and offer a range of lunch items, snacks and drinks. Tests have remained limited in scope because the efficiency of these technologies depends on their ability to capture data about the consumer’s whereabouts in the store, as well as identify the items that they pick up and take with them.

“The core technology is based on AI/deep learning, and that means the model needs a significant amount of data for it to learn how people look from above when they shop, and what exactly they’re doing,” said Krishna Motukuri, CEO and Co-Founder at Zippin in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “We spent almost 12 months training and perfecting the models in our own lab before launch. Since we launched last year, we’ve had numerous instances of seven to eight shoppers congregating in a 150-square-foot space, so it’s very dense scenarios. But after testing, we’ve been able to identify every shopper.”

Need For Traditional Checkout Wanes, But Self-Checkout Doesn’t Always Fill The Void

The increasing investments in cashierless solutions — even though only a few have progressed beyond trial mode —stem largely from consumer and retailer frustration with the traditional checkout experience. An earlier technology, stationary self-checkouts, tried to address this persistent problem, with mixed results.

It’s true that nearly 80% of retail decision-makers agree that staffed checkout areas are becoming less necessary due to new technologies that can automate checkout, according to the 2018 Zebra Global Shopper Study. Just over half (52%)of these decision makers are converting some of their traditional POS space to stationary self-checkout. But stationary self-checkout hasn’t totally eliminated purchasing friction, which is keeping the door open for more seamless options like cashierless checkout.

“Fundamentally, the grocery experience changed quite a bit with the introduction of scanners in the early 1990s, but it hasn’t changed or evolved beyond that,” said retail customer experience consultant Brandon Rael in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “When you shop at a large chain, you still experience a lot of friction points, whether with a cashier or self-checkout. With self-checkout, you still often have to depend on a store associate to help with the items you’re working with. It’s not always as smooth as it seems on paper.”

Tech-Savvy Supermarkets Lead The Way In Cashierless Trials

Major retailers such as Kroger, Walmart and Albertsons have made their own attempts at developing and deploying cashierless technology. Kroger scaled its “Scan, Bag, Go” technology to 400 stores in 2018, while both Walmart and Albertsons are partnering with Microsoft to develop their own tech. (Kroger has its own partnership with Microsoft, which will integrate the Scan, Bag, Go feature with its EDGE Shelf technology.)

These retailers’ focus on cashierless technology is in line with consumers’ desire to avoid checkout lines at the supermarket: 50% of shoppers say they would like to use scan-and-go technologies for grocery shopping, well ahead of any other product category, according to GPShopper:

  • Home goods (30%);
  • Fashion (27%);
  • Beauty/cosmetics (25%);
  • Sports and outdoors (21%); and
  • Automotive/car supplies (20%).

“Kroger’s taking a big step, but other chains should take a more conservative approach and a targeted strategy to a test market, especially with something this disruptive,” warned Rael. “New York City and other cities like that are excellent testing grounds for these kind of innovations. The customer is always looking for ways to expedite the checkout process. They have to target a very specific group of stores and test and measure the ROI, so that they can justify to floor directors or even shareholders where the value is in the solutions.”

One such New York City-based retailer, Fairway Market, deployed a cashierless checkout app of its own across its 19 stores, enabling shoppers to scan item barcodes or use product lookup for non-coded items such as produce. The app keeps a running total of purchases and also delivers appropriate product recommendations as well as information about coupons and store promotions. To pay for their purchases, customers scan a QR code displayed on the wall before leaving the store.

“The specific comment that stands out the most to me was from someone who loved the app but said ‘I miss saying hello and goodbye to the cashier, so can we go through the regular lane as well?’,” said Genine Fargnoli, EVP of Information Technology at Fairway Market in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “They miss that connection, but with the app we felt it was a way to have the best of both worlds: convenience and connection.”

Anti-Theft Readiness Remains A Major Question

The biggest barrier that retailers need to consider when adopting cashierless checkout technologies is theft, especially since most retailers haven’t been trialing these solutions long enough to determine how they can efficiently prevent items from getting stolen.

Last year, Walmart abandoned its Scan & Go cashierless mobile checkout platform only four months after initially announcing it would expand the technology to 100 U.S. stores, with the retail giant citing “low participation” and the creation of new friction points.

But earlier this month, a former Walmart executive who had led Scan & Go told Business Insider that theft was a major reason why the company decided to end the project. “You think that the theft is bad on self-checkouts? Wait until you try Scan & Go, where nobody is watching the customers out in the aisles,” said Joel Larson, Walmart’s former head of checkout innovation. In one case, a customer tried to leave a Walmart store with a cart of approximately 100 items, only 40 of which he had scanned.

While this is only one retail executive’s story about one version of the technology, it does show that cashierless solutions will need to be monitored with a combination of anti-shrink technology and human supervision — particularly in a larger store environment.

The shrink issue is just one of the hidden costs of adding cashierless shopping options. “There’s operational changes that have to be made, there’s considerations you have to make in the payment space, and you have to be cognizant of the potential impact on shrink,” said Sheldon of IHL Services. “You’re probably still going to have some check-and-balance there where someone looks at the digital receipt, or some sort of assistance in bagging to help close out the sale process.”

Which Platforms Will Retailers Choose, And Where Will All The Cashiers Go?

In addition to security concerns, two other big challenges remain: the role of the cashier, and the ability to scale up the technology effectively and with costs that retailers can handle.

“If you roll this out across your entire chain, you’re disrupting the whole cashier model,” said Rael. “What do you do now with these resources that have been upended? Are store employees going to become brand ambassadors or product experts, or are they going to cut some of that staff as well with workforce reductions? That’s ultimately going to be an issue three to six years down the road.”

Sheldon admitted to being very bullish on cashierless checkout technology in all its forms, but also noted that the attempts to replicate the fully automated technologies will be pricey for most retailers, which could prevent them from scaling quickly. The original Amazon Go in downtown Seattle required more than $1 million in hardware alone, meaning many retailers would likely opt for partnerships with the third-party solution providers.

“On the Amazon Go end of the spectrum, the proof-of-concepts that I’ve seen range from very early in the development cycle to concepts which are only applicable on a small footprint approach and a lot of unknowns,” Sheldon said. “At the end of the day, your super Tier Ones are going to do their own thing because they have the money and the bandwidth to do so and they feel the need to get out in front of the technology, but I think it’s going to be cost-prohibitive for the vast majority of retailers to make the investment to develop their on technology. There’s plenty of opportunity out there for the AiFis and the Standard Cognitions of the world, rather than them feeling threatened by the Walmarts and Krogers developing their own systems.”

]]> (Glenn Taylor) Trend Watch Thu, 14 Feb 2019 08:05:10 -0500 Upgrades Voice, Implements AR Ahead Of Valentine’s Day Upgrades Voice, Implements AR Ahead Of Valentine’s Day

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, is giving shoppers additional ways to buy gifts for their loved ones at virtually any time and place. The retailer has upgraded or debuted numerous platforms to kick off February, including:

  • Voice command-powered smart ordering and order tracking with Samsung Bixby, Apple Business Chat, Google Assistant and Facebook Messenger;
  • A “Quick Meets Easy” gift selection tool designed to help shoppers who prefer receiving speedy, tailored floral recommendations;
  • Augmented reality (AR) messaging through the mobile app, with a variety of filters and messaging options to choose from;
  • A redesigned mobile site powered by progressive web apps (PWAs); and
  • Last-minute gifting via SmartGift; shoppers can select a floral arrangement and let SmartGift notify the recipient when it will arrive, via text, email or any other messaging platform. is no stranger to adopting new technologies as shopping preferences have evolved, from becoming the first company to sell on AOL in 1994, to investing in mobile in the late 2000s to testing conversational commerce platforms starting in 2016.

“As consumers adopt newer platforms and devices, we are looking to further our mission to make it easier for our customers to express themselves,” said Amit Shah, CMO of in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “We felt as intelligent assistance blew up from a nascent stage to more consumer adoption that it was important to be involved with every leading platform. As time progresses this will be a very important component of how customers interact with brands.”

The various conversational commerce platforms offer order tracking, which is designed to eliminate anxiety for the gift-giver by detailing exactly where the gift is. The feature aligns with the company’s mandate for meeting the customer wherever they are, according to Shah.

“Facebook Messenger has a strong adoption both in the U.S. and globally,” Shah said. “‘Track My Order’ is a natural extension of not just the ability to order or seek customer service, but in a very automated way, we figure out what happens with that order. We want to focus on the customer service elements that are most often evoked by our customers — we are thinking deeply in terms of how to relay that information back to the customer. We wanted to provide a pathway not just to have general conversations, but specific confirmations.” Makes First Jump Into Augmented Reality

Beyond conversational commerce, starting Feb. 1 shoppers with an iPhone and iPad could send AR messages to one another through the iOS mobile app. The retailer leveraged Apple’s ARKit platform to offer a variety of AR filters and messaging, allowing shoppers to interact with loved ones by sending playful, thoughtfully-customized “Will You Be My Valentine?” photo or video messages.

“This is brand new for us,” Shah said. “We are obviously studying this space and trying to find the perfect use case for us, and we felt that especially in the gifting experience, the gift message is the most personalized aspect of that. When customers come to our site and they’re expressing themselves, you can imagine some of the words that they write, and the emotions they express in the message. This provided us with a rich ‘petri dish’ to start experimenting with this new medium. It really brings to life what was before a very two-dimensional message into something more three-dimensional and richer.”

]]> (Glenn Taylor) Mobile Fri, 08 Feb 2019 08:00:00 -0500
11 Honoré Partners With Shopify To Host ‘Runway Commerce’ Experience At NYFW 11 Honoré Partners With Shopify To Host ‘Runway Commerce’ Experience At NYFW

New York Fashion Week (NYFW) kicks off in the Big Apple this week, and companies such as Shopify are getting in on the action with unique partnerships to celebrate the event. For the first time, Shopify will debut a “runway commerce” experience and interactive pop-up alongside 11 Honoré, a luxury, size-inclusive multi-brand e-Commerce platform.

Audience members at 11 Honoré’s NYFW show will have the opportunity to purchase every look on the runway, using customized QR codes from Shopcodes. In addition, both companies will power a unique pop-up experience featuring designers currently available on 11 Honoré’s online store. Shopify will power the entire on-site shopping experience, from online inventory management to physical retail capabilities, including point-of-sale software and hardware. The pop-up will be open from Feb. 7-14, 2019.

“For the first time, audiences at the show can shop runway styles right from their seats on their smartphones,” said Amy Hufft, VP of Brand at Shopify in a statement. “We're excited to power this mobile-first commerce experience during a pivotal moment for the fashion world and be at the forefront of these innovations in the retail industry. Together, we see this as a great opportunity to demonstrate how technology helps create more voices rather than fewer by elevating inclusive brands like 11 Honoré and making them accessible to shoppers around the world.”

]]> (Klaudia Tirico) News Briefs Thu, 07 Feb 2019 10:20:03 -0500
Sephora Canada Increases Average Transaction 90% Among Alipay Users Sephora Canada Increases Average Transaction 90% Among Alipay Users

It has only been a few months since Sephora launched Alipay in 11 of its Canadian stores, but the mobile payments platform already is paying dividends to the beauty retailer. After running a joint promotion over the 2018 holiday season — 10% off all purchases of more than $150 made through the Alipay app — the average transaction value from users that claimed the benefit increased by nearly 90%.

Sephora is one of several North American retailers adding Alipay as a means to attract Chinese consumers with a mobile payment platform they are familiar with. Approximately 65% of Chinese tourists have used mobile payment while traveling overseas, compared with only 11% of non-Chinese tourists, according to a report from Alipay and Nielsen. Overall, 90% of Chinese tourists would use mobile payment overseas given the option, the study said.

In November 2018, 7-Eleven implemented Alipay and WeChat Pay mobile payment services for Chinese customers traveling in Canada, making it the first convenience store to accept these platforms in the market. Earlier in the year, Guess added the payment option, enabling travelers to use their Alipay Mobile Wallet when making purchases at more than 50 Guess stores across the U.S.

These retailers gain the ability to market to Chinese tourists before, during and after their visits through Alipay’s geolocation-based “Discover” function and push notifications within the app. Traveling shoppers can use the app to search for local stores, receive promotional information and make purchasing decisions.

Alipay kickstarted its North American push via a partnership with First Data, adding 35,000 North American retailers that will accept the payments platform in stores.

The Chinese New Year, which takes place on Feb. 5, 2019, gives North American businesses implementing Alipay a major opportunity to capitalize on purchases from Chinese tourists.

]]> (Glenn Taylor) News Briefs Tue, 22 Jan 2019 17:44:37 -0500