Apocalypse? Not Now: Retailers Will Open 1,300 Net Stores In 2017

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0aagoThe phrase “retail apocalypse” caught a lot of traction throughout 2017 due to the heavily publicized pileup of bankruptcies and store closures. But according to industry analysts and recent data, the buzzword ranges anywhere from an exaggeration to an outright false representation of the state of retail. An IHL Group report is supporting this notion as well, calculating that physical retail is actually growing.

U.S. retailers and restaurants are opening 4,080 more stores in 2017 than they are closing, and plan to open 5,500 more in 2018. Core retail segments will see a net gain of 1,326 stores throughout the year, while table-service and fast-food restaurants are adding a net 2,754 locations.

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Exclusive Q&A: How zulily Keeps Shoppers Coming Back With 1,000 New Images Every Day

Jason Gruenig zulilyThe most successful retailers create connections based on trust with their customers. That’s particularly important to zulily because its target audience is moms. Their trust is not easily gained, and they are generally more time-starved than the average consumer. So the e-Commerce retailer needs to fulfill two key goals: being “a trusted voice for mom,” and also providing enough variety and surprise to maintain her interest — and to keep her coming back. (Zulily’s motto is “something special every day.”)

One of the most powerful tools zulily uses is photography: the retailer re-populates its home page every day with 100 to 150 new photos. In total, zulily produces as many as 1,000 images per day to keep its site fresh and visually vibrant.

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Can An Alternative To Amazon Go Play Leapfrog?

Standard Cognition, a California-based startup focused on delivering an AI-based, checkout-free store experience, announced last week that its technology would serve as an “alternative to Amazon Go.”

Like the Amazon concept, which is still confined to a single beta testing location in Seattle that has yet to open to anyone besides Amazon employees, the Standard Cognition platform is designed to enable consumers to shop and pay without scanning or stopping to check out. The startup is already in advanced talks with multiple retailers, according to a company statement.

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Secrets To Holiday Success: Insights From 2,000 Consumers

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od red cal templateSalesforce Research recently polled 2,000 U.S. consumers to learn what retailers must do to capture the hearts, minds and wallets of today’s sophisticated shopper.

By viewing this webinar you will learn:

  • The latest consumer channel preferences across every stage of the path to purchase;
  • What’s working and what’s not for shoppers as it relates to browse, buy and beyond;
  • Quick win opportunities to transform the retail store experience and drive shopper delight; and
  • How to apply next year’s marketing, commerce, service and IT investments (including AI) to enhance the shopper experience.

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Narvar Acquires GoPigeon For APAC Expansion

Narvar has acquired India-based logistics platform provider GoPigeon for an undisclosed sum. The acquisition is designed to scale Narvar’s global growth, provide the company with an anchor in the Asia-Pacific e-Commerce market and enable worldwide operations support.

With the acquisition, Narvar seeks to advance its global platform development with additional engineering talent. Narvar will leverage the GoPigeon engineering team as part of its goal to scale more quickly and accelerate its machine learning capabilities. GoPigeon recently launched Intelligent Courier Allocation (ICA), an artificial intelligence system designed to help retailers optimize how they use their carrier networks based on customer needs in a given scenario.

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Hurricane Harvey Donations Serve Up Reminder That Brand Authenticity Matters

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey’s landfall on the Texas Gulf Coast, retailers are making a colossal effort to help citizens in need, charitable organizations and first responders. Retail’s biggest brands, including Walmart, Amazon, CVS, The Home Depot, Lowe’s, Kroger, Target and many others have committed to donate, with some even set to contribute more than $1 million in aid.

But any charitable effort, especially in a time of need, must always be handled with care. Authenticity is important in fostering a genuine connection with the consumer, and this is magnified in situations where a retailer has to go beyond their typical “role” in serving them.

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Win Millennials’ Hearts: 6 Things Retailers Can Learn From Glossier

0aaklaudiaWe’ve written endless stories about successful and innovative retail companies disrupting the industry here at Retail TouchPoints. Yet in my humble opinion, none of them quite compare to the cult-favorite beauty brand Glossier.

As a Millennial consumer, I’ve been a fan of Glossier — founded by 32-year-old Emily Weiss — since its inception in 2014, and not just for its uber-cool makeup and skin care products. No, it was the community Weiss built through the brand (as well as her original venture, a beauty web site and blog dubbed Into The Gloss) that really caught my attention.

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AR And VR: Shopping Enhancements Or Shiny Distractions?

Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are already making inroads in retail. Lowe’s, Wayfair and Design With Reach, for example, use these technologies to help customers visualize how furniture and other design changes will look in their homes.

AR’s ability to bring ratings and reviews, long a staple of e-Commerce, into the brick-and-mortar environment presents an exciting prospect, according to Pano Anthos, Managing Director of XRC Labs. “Customers walk into a store and we’re blind as bats,” he said during a session at the 2017 Retail Innovation Conference. “We don’t know if the product stinks or falls apart in five minutes, or anything about where it comes from. Everyone online looks at ratings and reviews, so why not in the store? AR provides the first wave of that potential by having the digitization of ratings and reviews dropped onto your phone.”

Despite these real-world use cases, opinion remains sharply divided about the ultimate value of AR and VR, as well as how much — and how quickly — retailers should invest in the technology. Members of the RetailWire BrainTrust recently debated the technologies’ merits:

Art Suriano, CEO, The TSi Company
I can see the strongest benefits of AR and VR technology being the ability to have an idea of what the furniture will look like before I purchase it. Retailers today are being inundated with so many new technological “must-haves.” They have to carefully pick and choose the ones they feel will help them achieve sales. Where is the technology needed? Why? How will it improve my sales? How could it hurt my business? These are the questions the retailers must answer before making decisions. Technology is not cheap and, with many retailers currently struggling just to survive, I’m not sure how many will be investing in as much technology as we’d like.

Paula Rosenblum, Managing Partner, RSR Research
I believe VR is the next 3-D TV. It has almost no value in retail (or anywhere else, except gaming and maybe a deathbed). AR is interesting but also seems kind of niche. Gosh, I really wish retailers would focus on actual retailing, with actual employees who know what they’re doing to create a better experience for customers. I really do.

Lee Peterson, EVP Brand, Strategy & Design, WD Partners
Depends on the brand. The idea of Home Depot having VR to show you how your room would look in a certain color, or Best Buy having VR for gaming — that works. But for a retailer like Abercrombie or Urban Outfitters or even Apple? It doesn’t make sense.

Part of the illusion retailers have about digital retail integration is that they have to have every new toy that comes along because it’s hot. This is not so. For some brands, why would you want to put a customer in a fantasy world in your store that they can very well be in at home? Why not make your store a fantasy world (or at least so interesting that consumers want to be in it) and keep them conscious — you know, feeling your brand? Re: AR/VR, tread lightly.

Cynthia Holcomb, Founder/CEO, Prefeye – Preference Science Technologies
AR and VR in-store retail applications are like movies. Great inspiration for visualizing furniture in my home and the like. But awful for clothes, since we actually wear clothes on our bodies. Seeing an AR/VR view of what a dress looks like on a shopper, in a mirror at Gap, is akin to holding the dress up to oneself and looking in the mirror. A gimmick. When it comes to apparel, an individual person needs to find out if they like how an individual garment fits, looks and feels on their body. That is why apparel, the largest category of online sales, still sees conversion rates of around 3% since 1995.

Tom Dougherty, President and CEO, Stealing Share
Absolutely. [AR and VR] must be in the plans. But don’t confuse that with current technology. The first-mover advantage will be short lived because of technological drawbacks — but make no mistake about it. It’s coming. If I were a retailer I would be investing in advancing the technology before I would put a penny into another brick-and-mortar venture.

Neil Saunders, Managing Director, GlobalData
Where VR or AR is applied to solve problems or to inspire, it will be of benefit to retail. Ashley Furniture and IKEA are already using these technologies to help consumers visualize room layouts. Their trials have been well received. I am far more skeptical about shopping in VR environments. For functional purchases like grocery, I can’t see the point: buying via a traditional web site or app is far easier. For added-value purchases, many will still want the experience and interaction of a physical environment. In this regard, VR/AR seem like technologies in search of a purpose.

Sterling Hawkins, Co-Founder, Center for Advancing Retail & Technology
This is definitely a discussion that needs to be had by vertical. If it’s not adding value, it’s not worth it. At the same time, all retailers need to be aware of the innovation and continually reassessing. We live in a world where consumers are holding more and more power in the supply chain. If a retailer’s consumers are on mobile, the retailer needs to be mobile-friendly. If a retailer’s consumers are ordering online, the retailer needs to support e-Commerce. And if a critical mass of a retailer’s consumers are in a VR shopping experience, the retailer would need to meet them there as well.

Kenneth Leung, Retail and Customer Experience Expert
There is no killer app for AR and VR, only context and use cases. Instead of starting with “What is the cool technology?,” let’s start with “What customer problem can this technology address whether they can see it now or not?” The cost of investment in AR and VR is not trivial — a retailer cannot spend more money fixing the problem than the problem itself.

IBM And SAP Leverage Local Insights To Improve Store Planning

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SAP  IBM logoUsing near real-time data from multiple sources, a new solution co-innovated by IBM and SAP is designed to help retailers address key challenges such as on-shelf product availability and demand forecasting accuracy.

The solution channels data sources such as IBM’s Metro Pulse through the SAP Cloud Platform to provide insights that retailers and CPG companies can act on almost immediately. IBM Metro Pulse provides hyperlocal data around weather, events, traffic and demographics. Trials of this cognitive technology across more than 100 stores in multiple U.S. markets improved forecasting accuracy of volatile, hard-to-forecast products by 75%.

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Brick-And-Mortar Renaissance: The Time Is Now For Independents

0aaDax Dasilva Lightspeed

0aaDax Dasilva LightspeedThroughout my years in the retail tech industry, I’ve been an avid supporter of independent businesses, and brick-and-mortar was the name of the game when I started Lightspeed 12 years ago. During this time, there have been various shifts in thinking on how retailers should approach sales, build customer relationships and adapt to industry changes as we undergo a rapid evolution of technology and how consumers shop.

A decade ago, the prediction from many retail experts and analysts was that brick-and-mortar was unequivocally on its way out, but that isn’t true. In my mind, it wasn’t ever about the absence of physical stores, but how to make owning and operating a shop more accessible and deliver a better customer experience.

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