Retail technology improving the in-store experience

“Brick and mortar stores aren’t going anywhere.” This is a phrase we hear time and time again and, frankly, it always rings true.


In a recent STORES article, Nadia Shouraboura, CEO of Hointer and former Amazon Exec., notes that there is a bridging of old and new approaches to retail that are helping both to thrive. To her, tracking inventory was a perfect example of this theory in action. Her company sought to bring greater inventory knowledge onto the sales floor.

From the article:

By simply tapping e-Tags with their app-enabled smartphone, shoppers can learn the story behind an item through video clips and product highlights. The app delivers personalized recommendations, styling tips, fit information and product reviews. Shoppers can add items to their fitting room with just one click, and items are delivered in 30 seconds via an onsite micro-warehouse. And more technology awaits inside the fitting room.

Sales associates use tablets that provide a view of who’s shopping in the store and past purchases they’ve made — information that can act as a selling aid.

Shouraboura noted that all the software used at Hointer runs in the cloud; with just one sample of each style on display, shoppers don’t feel overwhelmed by the selection or put off by clutter. Having a smaller-footprint store linked to an onsite micro-warehouse also pays loss prevention dividends; in fact, shoplifting is near nil.

Online sales surged during the most recent holiday season and predictions call for growth to continue. I’m all for it — I love the convenience of shopping online, the cache of inventory and the surfeit of product data. Still, I am blown away by the environment Shouraboura has created at Hointer. It’s truly a best-of-both-worlds approach.

Shouraboura is convinced that her take on the physical store could inspire the next big thing. I think she’s on to something.


NYC Fashion Week By The Numbers [INFOGRAPHIC]

The folks over at NRF’s This Is Retail blog put together a great infographic on just how NYC Fashion Week spreads across the city, online, social media, and beyond.


From the site:

Each year, thousands of celebrities, designers and brand employees flock to NYC for fashion’s biggest event, the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week. In recent years, the event has found innovative ways to showcase designer’s collections via digital platforms, bringing the excitement of the event to millions of fashionistas unable to attend in person. Social media has also become the standard of communication during Fashion Week with hundreds of thousands of tweets, Facebook posts, Instagram photos, check-ins on Foursquare and more.


Victoria’s Secret, Nike top retail brand engagement index

Consumer loyalty and emotional connection to a particular brand are the highest they have been in decades due mostly to the combination of social/mobile technology, competitive pricing, and brand engagement. According to Retail Customer Experience, Victoria’s Secret and Nike rank the highest in apparel and athletic sportswear respectively and exemplify this highly saturated approach retailers are now taking to reach their customers.


From the article:

In the retail category expectations are up nearly 19 percent while the retail brands have only grown by 4 percent; that′s one of the critical findings in the 18th annual 2014 Brand Keys Customer Loyalty Engagement Index (CLEI), conducted by the New York-based brand and customer loyalty and engagement research consultancy, Brand Keys.

For all 45 brands tracked in the retail category (including online, apparel, department stores, home improvement, discounts, sporting goods, price clubs and natural food stores), emotional engagement expectations related to “brand buzz,” “shopping experience” and “value-for-dollar” exerted the strongest influence on consumer decision-making and engagement with brands.

“Congratulations to the companies that continue to create meaningful differentiation and engagement,” said Dr. Robert Passikoff, President, Brand Keys. “Our validated and predictive metrics prove that brands able to better meet consumer expectations act as surrogates for added-value, engendering engagement and loyalty than those based on the primacy of product and a coupon.”


What is Safeway up to?

From store closing to lackluster earnings reports, Safeway appears to be dead in the water in terms of impetus. A recent Motley Fool article looks at what the future might hold in store for the grocery giant.


From the article:

In November, the company sold its Canadian business to Sobeys for $5.8 billion in order to focus more on the US market. The move, however, has been met with great skepticism by many analysts, as the company’s Canadian operations had been generating healthy profits for the past few years. According to the company, the proceeds from the deal will be used for a stock-buyback program and paying off debt.

At the end of the third quarter, Safeway announced that it wanted to exit the Chicago market by selling all its Dominick’s locations in the region. The company has already sold 15 stores; four to New Albertsons and 11 to Roundy’s. For the remaining 57 stores, Safeway is still looking for buyers.

Safeway is expecting a tax benefit of $400 million to $450 million by exiting the Chicago market. The net present value of these tax benefits is around $145 million, as estimated by the company. This cash will be used for the share-repurchase program and investing activities.

On the other hand, leaving the market is going to trigger a multi-employer pension withdrawal liability for Safeway, which is amortized for more than 20 years. Safeway estimates the present value of these payments to be around $375 million. For this reason, many analysts are of the view that exiting the Chicago market may not be a very judicious decision.

Safeway is facing intense competition from big players like Kroger, Whole Foods, Wal-Mart, and Target, which means that the company’s margins aren’t going to increase significantly, at least in the near future. Hence, the company will not be able to generate considerable profits, casting a shadow of doubt over its future prospects.

cvs pharmacy removing tobacco from store shelves

CVS Dropping Tobacco from it’s Stores

By October 1, 2014 CVS will cease selling tobacco products in its 7,600 stores. According to Reuters, this move makes them the first national drug store chain to remove cigarettes and other tobacco products from its store shelves.

cvs pharmacy removing tobacco from store shelves

From the article:

Public health experts hailed the precedent-setting decision by the No. 2 U.S. drugstore as a step that could pressure other retailers to follow suit. With pharmacies taking on a larger role in the U.S. healthcare system with walk-in clinics and services such as managing health plans, many experts say they should no longer offer unhealthy products like tobacco.

President Barack Obama, a former smoker, praised CVS, saying in a statement the move will help wider efforts to “reduce tobacco-related deaths, cancer, and heart disease, as well as bring down healthcare costs.”

CVS expects the decision to hurt profits initially, along with a $2 billion hit to annual sales. But the company, whose Caremark unit is a pharmacy benefits manager for corporations and the U.S. government’s Medicare program, believes the move will boost its appeal as a healthcare provider.

CVS hopes to replace some sales through signing up customers to smoking cessation programs, which will be a selling point with potential corporate contracts.


Reduced Shopper Traffic and the Effect on In-Store Marketing

Whether is was the shortened shopping season between Thanksgiving and Christmas, an increase in online buying, or just budget belt tightening, shopper traffic in brick-and-mortar stores was down this year – the lowest levels since 2009.


According to a recent POPAI article, just because foot traffic is down, it does not mean that physical stores are going anywhere, it may just mean retailers will have to put more focus into merchandising, campaign execution and compliance.

From the article:

Shoppers say they have less time to shop either due to time constraints, toting around kids or long to-do lists, but they’re still out and about. WSJ quotes one person say, “My weekends are one long to-do list, so I’ve gravitated to online retailers that make it easy for me to shop without having to go into the store.” Why not take that insight and run with it? Make stores a destination spot for families or create more tailored store layouts for your location. We’re seeing a trend of stores being tailored to their local demographics. Target and Wal-Mart are creating Express stores that will make shopping easier and faster. We will probably learn more about these strategies in the future, but it still give us hope for increased shopper traffic. It will be interesting to see their shopper traffic statistics.

The other missed opportunities we can learn from this WSJ article are to create change in retail stores and provide more savings and loyalty programs. If shoppers are coming into stores less often they probably don’t want to see the same thing. When I worked in the furniture and clothing retail worlds we changed our floor plans and displays around every day to keep shoppers interested in products that would be there for several months. Granted that some of you are making store fixtures, that can’t really happen but maybe it can affect they way your designs can move or be installed. Shoppers want to see products in new ways. They want to imagine that item in their life in several ways, so let’s make it happen. I know that means retailers need to invest more money in in-store marketing, but it can create a big change in sales and shopper traffic. Doing this also lead to more innovative and re-purposed displays, which leads to more emphasis on producer companies. For creating more savings and loyalty programs, this can be done in several ways. Retailers creating more programs for customers to save and producers/agencies creating more displays that link to these programs. Granted I do not have all the stats for this, there are ways to make these happen.

Just because shopper traffic is lower than previous years, it does not mean that brick-and-mortars are going to die, thus creating void for the in-store marketing industry. It just means that retailers need to focus on in-store marketing more. With effective in-store marketing and displays, shoppers will come more often and spend more. People want the personalized experience of shopping and online shopping can’t always do that. We may be seeing a trend of retailers closing stores or shifting money to online, but online stores are still building brick-and-mortars, so what trend are you going to stand behind?