What Can Customers Learn from Your Brand?

What Can Customers Learn from Your Brand?

A customer just made a purchase at your store. She conducted her research online, knew exactly what she wanted, and left with what she came for. This appears to be a perfectly successful transaction.

But, where is this relationship going?

1 in 3 customers look to retailers to educate them to varying degrees

Online shopping options are abundant, so a fast and convenient purchase is no longer enough to keep customers coming back. In order to gain customer loyalty in 2016, retailers need to think beyond the “right product, right price” approach. Sustaining a lasting customer-brand relationship now depends on a unique experience, engaging human interaction, and authentic, meaningful connection.

In response, we’re seeing more and more brands offering workshops and educational opportunities to entice customers and strengthen their brand appeal. According to Small Business Trends, “Nearly one-third (32 percent) of consumers are interested in going to classes or lessons at stores.”

For today’s customers who are constantly connected to digital devices, in-store classes give them a fun, participatory and personalized experience they can’t get online. Here are some retailers using classes to drive traffic to stores, create a welcoming environment, and strengthen shopping appeal.

DIY at Home Depot
Home Depot offers free Do It Yourself workshops, from building to gardening. They even offer kid-friendly tutorials and women’s-only “Do-It-Herself” workshops.

Practice Yoga at Lululemon
Lululemon, the popular yoga and lifestyle clothing retailer, hosts free weekly yoga classes in its stores. Classes are led by certified instructors from the local communities.

Get Outdoors with REI
The outdoor company REI offers both free and fee-based classes for all adventure experience levels, from outdoor photography skills to rock climbing, from backpacking to using a map & compass.

Have an Eye for Beauty at Sephora
Sephora customers can learn about the latest makeup trends, brow shaping techniques, skin fundamentals and more in its beauty and skin care classes. The classes are available nationwide and free to Sephora loyalty rewards members

Start Cooking with Williams-Sonoma
Williams-Sonoma, the premium cooking products retailer, holds complimentary hands-on cooking classes in its stores across the U.S. and Canada. Those who participate also enjoy discounts on store purchases.

Stay Connected at The Apple Store
Apple retail stores provide free hour-long workshops that teach everything from how to use a new device to creating presentations and movies. They even offer youth programs and camps.

By turning their retail spaces into learning platforms, brands not only demonstrate a need for their products, but they also enrich their customers’ everyday lives, create meaningful connections, and drive future visits and repeat purchases.

Retail environments are now much more than places to buy things. Customers care more about experiences than they do about acquiring merchandise. Brands should recognize that the customer’s loyalty depends on the full retail journey. The customer’s desire to return to the store is much greater when the experience is continually fresh, stimulating, interactive, authentic and meaningful.

Game of Phones, 3 Retailers Using Mobile Right

3 Retailers Changing the Game of Mobile Now

Is mobile the future of retail? Yes, but It’s also the norm right now. People seem glued to their smartphones 24/7. And everyone from the local credit union to the leading fashion brand is attempting to utilize mobile technology to communicate to its audience.

Mobile may have made it easy for brands to directly and personally speak with customers, however, its popularity has inundated shoppers with content and advertising. This means it’s becoming even more difficult for retailers stand out.

Some retail brands have found exciting ways to move beyond the noise. These retailers are currently using mobile technology to develop unique experiences, create digital and online brand consistency, make meaningful customer connections, and drive traffic to their brick-and-mortar stores. So who are they and how are they doing it?

Macy’s Sends a Signal

Macy’s has been leveraging beacon technology since 2013. Testing it in its New York and San Francisco markets, before rolling it out to its full line of stores the following year. When an opted-in customer walks into a Macy’s store, they receive product recommendations and discounts tailored just for them, straight to their phone.

Macy’s upped its beacon technology ante during the 2015 holiday season with the Macy’s Black Friday Walk In and Win game. Customers who downloaded the Macy’s app were eligible to win instant prizes as they shopped in store on Black Friday and throughout the weekend.

Beacon technology is one way Macy’s has been in the forefront of mobile strategy. Macy’s continues to bridge the gap between its channels, entice shoppers into its stores, and provide its customers with an enticing, unique and personalized experience.

Best Buy Scans for Opportunity

Customers already use their mobile devices to research product information and prices throughout their shopping journeys, so Best Buy made it even easier with scan technology on its app.

While browsing a Best Buy store, customers can use their phones to scan products to learn more information and create shopping wish lists. Couples can even create and keep track of a wedding registry. They can scan the products they want, like a GoPro, a faster laptop, or a new washer and dryer – it all gets added to the gift list.

Best Buy recognized a popular shopping behavior and quickly adopted it. With its mobile app, Best Buy makes the customer’s path to purchase easier, the shopping experience more fun and engaging, and its retail channels unified.

Starbucks Orders Out

Starbucks has always been a leader in innovation, turning coffee into an experience.

Today, the customer experience is even more important than ever. Digital technology has empowered customers, giving them unlimited access to information anytime, anywhere. This power has led to higher standards and expectations. Who wants to waste time waiting in line for an Iced Caramel Macchiato? The Starbucks app enables customers to order and pay for their favorite drink or food ahead of time, so it’s fresh and ready to go as soon as they step through the doors.

Starbucks embraced the democratization of retail and responded to the new, pickier always-connected customer’s expectations. Through its app, Starbucks gives customers exactly what they want immediately, makes digital transactions easy, and in turn, provides an even better customer experience.

Mobile has already changed the retail playing field by providing shoppers with instant access to information and shopping options. It is crucial that retailers embrace shoppers’ reliance on mobile technology, and develop a seamless brand experience between digital and brick-and-mortar channels.

Mobile’s role will only continue to grow and become even more competitive. While this is a huge challenge, especially for retailers going up against competitors who seem to be ahead of the game, it is also an extraordinary opportunity. In this constantly changing industry, there is always room to improve strategy and optimize retail experience. By embracing new technology as it launches, retailers can find innovative ways to create unique experiences, form meaningful connections and gain repeat purchases.

big retailers opening smaller urban stores

Small Is the New Big

More people are moving to cities, creating an expansion of urban areas. In response to this rise of urban growth, leading retailers are following shoppers into city neighborhoods. Retailers, therefore, need to shift focus and adapt to smaller format stores where they can no longer depend on a wide product assortment on shelves. A clear grasp of store attributes, knowledge of the surrounding community, and a deeper understanding of the customer are now imperative to find success in a smaller space.

Although retailers are transitioning to smaller stores with a more specialized, intimate retail experience, they still need to offer customers a large product mix.

When downsizing to a smaller footprint, there are a few kep considerations retailers should keep in mind:

Get to Know the Millennials
Millennials are at the forefront of the urbanization trend. They want walkable neighborhoods, shorter commutes to work, and authentic experiences in communities that reflect their personalities. For Millennials, shopping is an experience rather than a way to acquire things, and since they are a mobile-first, always-connected generation with easy and immediate access to a wealth of information, they are also savvy, selective and demanding. If Millennials aren’t engaged when they enter the store, they walk out without purchasing.

Millennials moving to urban areas
Millennials are at the forefront of the urbanization trend. They want walkable neighborhoods, shorter commutes to work, and authentic experiences in communities that reflect their personalities.

Go Local. It’s a Must.
With the rise of urban growth, large retail stores are getting stiff competition from small shops that offer more localized experiences. The people who frequent a store in the financial district are significantly different from the ones who shop in that same brand’s store next to the university a few blocks away. Addressing local needs is critical in developing a superior experience. By delivering the most locally relevant products and producing targeted campaigns, each store can meet the community’s demands and develop a more authentic experience.

Small Store Does Not Mean Small Inventory.
Although retailers are transitioning to smaller stores with a more specialized, intimate retail experience, they still need to offer customers a large product mix. Yes, shoppers are looking for a more personalized experience with a localized focus, however, they also have unlimited purchasing options online. It’s tricky business. Today’s shoppers have high expectations. Retailers will benefit from adopting a digital application that will optimize product selection and localize visual merchandising, yet allow store associates to offer, order and deliver merchandise that isn’t physically stocked in stores.

Be Nice to Your Neighbors
Small neighborhoods within cities offer tight quarters, so retailers are forced to dwell in close proximity to competitors, from small local boutiques to other big retailers taking advantage of the urbanization phenomenon. People living within the community want retailers to contribute with authenticity and take on a sense of the local culture that surrounds them. Through strategic partnerships, leading retailers can become genuine members of the community. A big box store can partner with a local coffee shop to create a limited-edition co-branded blend, or expand a small gallery’s space by displaying local artists’ work. Collaboration between retailers create unique experiences, cater to local needs, and build meaningful customer connections that strengthen the brand perception and give a reason for customers to purchase.

The accelerating increase of urbanization has changed the rules of retail. As retailers pursue customers in dense urban areas, they will need to rethink their retail strategies.

The majority of people, especially Millennials, aren’t driving long distances to buy in bulk at large have-it-all retailers. Shoppers have infinite online purchasing opportunities and now look to stores for unique, personalized, and engaging human interactions and experiences.

Mobile and Brick-and-mortar, retails new power couple

Mobile and Brick-and-Mortar: Retail’s New Power Couple

In a recent blog post, From Brick-and-Mortar to Brick-and-Mobile, we discussed how today’s empowered shoppers use their mobile devices to research products, compare prices and share their retail experiences along the path to purchase.

Shoppers now have unlimited access to information at their fingertips. They have grown accustomed to instant gratification afforded by their smartphones and if they don’t like what they see from a brand, they will go elsewhere with help from their mobile devices.

In the upcoming year, shoppers’ expectations for immediate customer satisfaction will only increase. This means that retailers must focus on a superior, seamless experience between mobile and in-store every time they step into their store.

Technology is now a part of the path to purchase. Retailers can no longer think of mobile and brick-and-mortar as separate entities.

Integrate and Simplify

Customers will get frustrated when the mobile experience doesn’t synchronize with the brick-and-mortar. A customer’s perception of the brand can be shaped by mobile. They are actively using their device while they shop in store, so their experience needs to flow simply and consistently between the channels. Prices, information, sales, coupons, as well as ease of use and tone of content must match.

One way retailers can make sure this happens is to break down any silos between departments. When departments communicate through one system, everyone has access to the same information, resulting in consistency, accuracy, and quick response.

Encourage Interaction

Retailers can use shoppers’ constant connectivity to their advantage by encouraging them to contribute their own content-like reviews and photos to social platforms. It creates engagement, builds and nurtures customer relationships, increases brand awareness, and most of all, generates trust with potential customers.

Empower store employees by giving them the right tools and more time to engage customers on the floor. Since store employees have face-to-face interaction with the customer, they can ensure the customer has a good experience. They can also urge shoppers to share socially, whether it’s an Instagram photo of them interacting with a new product or telling Facebook friends about a big sale.

Understand the Customer

The increased use of mobile devices has made customers accustomed to localized and highly personalized content. When shoppers research through mobile, they expect information that is directed to them. Customers want an authentic brand experience. They already have access to a myriad of purchasing options, so a brand must emotionally connect with the customer in order to stand apart.

Data collection can be used to understand customers and their shopping patterns. Retailers need to take into account customers’ preferences and behaviors along with specific store data. Understanding individual customers as well as local needs will help a retailer deliver the most relevant, personalized experience possible, both digitally and in store.

Over the past few years, mobile has transformed retail by providing people with infinite access to information and competitive options while they shop. In 2016, mobile’s role in retail will continue to gain importance, and retailers must take this into account when making decisions about upcoming strategies.

Technology is now a part of the path to purchase. Retailers can no longer think of mobile and brick-and-mortar as separate entities. In order to create a seamless brand experience between channels, retailers should consider their internal process. It is essential that retailers understand customers through data collection. What’s more, it’s important that departments communicate and share this data with each other, all the way down to the store level, to increase productivity and provide customers with a personalized, consistent and engaging experience every time they shop.

Find out how to improve the retail process through the year with the ebook, 16 Tactics for Merchandising Execution in 2016. The ebook addresses the most common challenges retailers face, and the top tactics needed to address them. When applied, these tactics will help retailers eliminate touch-point obstacles and deliver a better, more consistent customer experience across digital and store channels.

from brick-and-mortar to brick-and-mobile

From Brick-and-Mortar to Brick-and-Mobile

The majority of customers in your store right now are on their smartphones, and they are undoubtedly performing a number of tasks: texting a friend about meeting up for dinner, checking their most recent Facebook messages, and most likely, looking at competitors’ prices for a product they’re about to buy.

In this connected age, customers have unlimited access to shopping possibilities, yet they prefer to purchase in a brick-and-mortar store where they can see, touch and interact with the product in real life.

To savvy shoppers, mobile devices have become tools for a better, seamless shopping (and buying) experience. What are some of the most common ways customers use their smartphones to help them make their purchasing decisions while in store?

Researching Products
Although consumers do most of their research online before they set foot in a store, they still continue to research while at the store, especially if an additional product or accessory has caught their eye. Through mobile devices, shoppers can access product details and customer reviews in real time.

Comparing Prices
Shoppers check prices to make sure they are getting the best deal. Not only are they making sure your in-store and online prices match, but they are looking at your competitors’ prices and coupons too.

Checking Stock
Customers want to see and buy their product now. When they can’t find the product they want at your store, they look to see if it’s in stock somewhere nearby. It could be at your other retail locations, or unfortunately, at your competitors’ stores.

Sharing Finds
Shoppers snap, send and post photos to social media to get their friends’ and peers’ opinions before they buy. They also share their own reviews of products and let their networks know about their retail experience as they shop.

Mobile shoppers share socially
Shoppers snap, send and post photos to social media to get their friends’ and peers’ opinions before they buy.

Retailers must acknowledge that the digital age has put the power in shoppers’ hands. In order to succeed in 2016, retailers should rethink their digital/brick-and-mortar relationship. Retailers need to find ways to combine their digital and physical spaces and eliminate touch-point obstacles to create a seamless experience, strengthen the brand perception and enhance the customer connection. Additionally, retailers can use mobile to their competitive advantage by delivering unique, personalized experiences that influence and streamline shoppers’ path to purchase. When retailers embrace the need for mobile tactics, they can drive customers to the store and keep them engaged once there.

To learn more about using mobile, as well as other tactics to create a superior customer experience. Get the ebook, 16 Tactics for Merchandising Execution in 2016.

What’s the most unique mobile strategy you’ve seen from a retailer so far? Add your comment below.

5 localization tactics for retail stores

5 Ways Localization Can Work For Your Stores

You’re a national shoe retailer. One of your Los Angeles stores is performing poorly but you can’t put your finger on the reason why.

If you could dig deeper, you’d realize this one store is in a neighborhood with a high population of environmentally conscious millennials. While the shoe styles are highly popular amongst young fashion-conscious shoppers, the shoes aren’t selling in this particular store because they are made of leather.

Unfortunately, your current merchandising system doesn’t allow for you to recognize these unique store attributes, nor does it allow for you to respond quickly enough to restock, remerchandise, or create targeted plans. Your current system leads to missed opportunities and customer dissatisfaction.

Localization is too important in today’s retail experience to settle for an “okay” merchandising system that can’t focus on the traits of individual stores – which is why, in 2016, many leading retailers are turning to SaaS.

A cloud-based system can help retailers better localize their stores in these 5 ways:

Create accurate digital models of all stores and ensure that each store receives the right production quantities. This means a more precise execution with the most relevant products and campaigns to easily address local needs.

Headquarters and stores directly talk to each other, in real time. With open, two-way communication, execution is simple, accurate, and measurable. Store teams can spend their time building a personal customer connection, and are able to provide feedback on compliance as well as customer satisfaction.

All departments plan, collaborate, and share through one digital application. Retail teams can fix execution and merchandising problems immediately, measure the results, and respond to trends with urgency, ensuring every store is on brand and locally targeted.

Keep track of what products are selling in each store, reorder items and track the shipment to get the most relevant products on the shelves quickly. Every store, therefore, can develop a more authentic experience.

Measure and track performance with new levels of precision. Retailers can track execution and performance results to figure out what is or isn’t working, promptly respond with a solution, and properly plan for future growth.

In 2016, localization is crucial. It is the driving force for customer satisfaction and loyalty, and overall superior retail experience. You are more than likely missing localization opportunities, and vital customer connections, with your current system.

To learn more about using the cloud to deliver better localization across all your stores, check out the new ebook, “16 Tactics for Merchandising Execution in 2016.”

4 steps to effectively localize retail experience

4 Steps to Effectively Localize Retail Experience

In our last post, Building a Community Brick-and-Mortar by Brick-and-Mortar, we examined how physical stores are becoming centers of communities, places where customers go for new experiences and to feel a connection to their distinct locale.

The retail industry is shifting. Customers are looking at stores in a new light.

We also promised a list of steps retailers can take to ensure they are properly localizing their assortment mixes to ensure each retail experience is optimized for each location. Without further ado, here they are:

Measure with precision. Measuring store performance allows retailers to quickly deliver the most relevant products, respond to customers’ needs, and develop a personalized experience at the store level.

Understand the shopper. Tracking retail experience provides visibility into customers’ behaviors. This gives retailers the ability to respond to and forecast trends as well as keep up with customers’ expectations.

Recognize the surroundings. By producing targeted, relevant and locally appropriate campaigns, each store can develop an authentic experience and personal customer connection. Achieving a localized experience strengthens the customer’s brand perception and the retailer’s position amongst the community and the competition.

Know each store’s intricacies. Individual stores vary based on unique traits like layout space and fixture size. Keeping a model of each location ensures stores receive the right production quantities, resulting in accurate execution and a better on-brand shopping experience.

Stores are becoming part of the community, and therefore, must create experiences relevant to their surroundings.

The retail industry is shifting. Customers are looking at stores in a new light. Stores are becoming part of the community, and therefore, must create experiences relevant to their surroundings. In order to successfully become a destination within these communities, retailers need help identifying customers’ expectations and the unique attributes of its individual stores.

Many leading retailers are turning to SaaS as a solution. Through a cloud-based delivery system, retailers can keep accurate digital store models, understand the unique attributes of each if its stores, measure performance, deliver targeted campaigns and merchandising, and respond to market trends quickly.

What are your stores doing to become destinations within the community?


Building a Community Brick-and-Mortar by Brick-and-Mortar

Starbucks is more than just a place to grab a latte before heading to the office, each individual Starbucks location has become a hub for people to gather, meet, congregate and relax.

Sephora makes high-end beauty products accessible. The products are available for customers to test, and its store employees are more than willing to demonstrate those products. Stores even host beauty classes and special events. Sephora has become a destination where people can get together, be creative, learn new looks, find new trends, and share unique experiences. Sephora has changed the beauty retail space into a fresh, interactive and educational environment.

Stores are no longer places that simply sell things, they are now social centers within the communities they inhabit.

In 2013, Club Monaco transformed its lower 5th avenue New York City store into an arts and education center. By expanding its offerings beyond chic and stylish fashion to books, flowers, and locally sourced coffee, it created a welcoming sensory experience that connects with the community and makes shoppers want to stay awhile.

Retail's importance in establishing community
The rise of urbanization is forcing retailers to rethink the cookie cutter approach to merchandising.

These are just a few examples of how brick and mortar is changing. Stores are no longer places that simply sell things, they are now social centers within the communities they inhabit. With cities expanding, online retail options increasing, and more neighborhoods developing, people are driving less and looking to nearby stores for multiple purposes.

The rise of urbanization is forcing retailers to rethink the cookie cutter approach to merchandising. Large retail stores are getting stiff competition from small local shops, so they need to shift their focus. Big retailers must think small. Stores are now places to meet friends, gain local experiences, and find specialized inventory that caters to and reflects the community. People living within the community want retailers to contribute with authenticity and take on a sense of the local culture that surrounds them.

There are a few initial and necessary steps retailers must take in order to successfully achieve localization, deliver an accurate and superior customer experience, and ultimately make its stores community hubs. We will explore these steps in part 2 of this series.

Retailers See a Clear Future in the Cloud

The top challenge that retailers face right now is keeping up with customers’ demands.

With increasing choices and unlimited access to information and products, today’s shoppers are more empowered than ever. This kind of control leads to higher expectations. Price-centered promotions are no longer enough to entice people to buy, consumers now require unique, engaging and personalized experiences.

Although most retailers place a high importance on finding innovative ways to keep up with shoppers’ behaviors, many retailers lack the ability to satisfy them due to these inhibiting factors:

  • They depend on a manual system of paper and spreadsheets, which is error prone, wasteful and costly.
  • Internal departments work in silos, and keep their data within those silos, creating discrepancies.
  • There is little to no communication between headquarters and stores, which leads to imprecise execution.
  • Merchandising is inconsistent and irrelevant at the individual store level, causing low customer satisfaction.
  • Execution is difficult to measure, and trends and behaviors are impossible to forecast, hurting store performance and customer experience.

In order for retailers to differentiate themselves, gain customer loyalty, and become winners within the industry, they must reevaluate their current strategies. In an ever-changing industry where customers’ expectations are continuously evolving, it makes sense for retailers to adopt a cloud-based delivery system that can help them optimize their process, understand and respond to customer demands, and ultimately gain a competitive edge.

Retail moving operations to the cloud stat

According to the findings from the recent RSR report, Merchandising 2016: Big Changes Coming, most retailers are placing a high importance on better understanding the consumer demand. And, “a significant percentage of retailers are contemplating a refresh of core merchandising systems.“ In fact, nearly 40% of companies surveyed by RSR expressed the need “to seek more innovative delivery models like Software as a Service, Cloud & Agile.”

So, why move to a cloud-based delivery model?

It improves the organizational structure

The cloud allows for data sharing across all departments, therefore providing transparency. All departments can connect, access information, plan, execute and track merchandising campaigns through one single application. The cloud also opens communication between necessary parties, including stores. So, store teams have a direct line to headquarters and can report back on compliance, weigh in on issues, or share specific store-related knowledge. The cloud can even integrate third party vendors, to make ordering, shipping, and production more efficient.

It increases the ability to localize

Keeping an accurate model of every store allows retailers to give each store precisely what they need. Knowing the unique attributes of each store, including customer demographics and local culture, means keeping the most relevant product mix, displaying merchandising setups that resonate, and delivering a personalized shopping experience for customers in that specific market.

It lowers costs and reduces waste

A digital process eliminates the need for cumbersome binders, excessive printing, and paper waste, while precise execution results in fewer unused materials and reduced production and shipment costs. Also with a cloud-based system, there is no longer any need for server maintenance or new equipment spending.

It makes it easy to respond

Unlike paper systems, cloud technology adapts quickly. A cloud system enables retailers to respond to market changes or customer demands immediately. Retailers can access data, analytics and solutions quickly. If an issue occurs, retailers can resolve it simply and with urgency.

It helps track and measure retail experience

Finally, it helps retailers understand the customer and provides visibility into shopping behaviors. Campaign execution, compliance, and performance can be measured in real-time right down to the display, fixture, or even peg. This data can help guide future merchandising decisions for a better shopping experience, stronger customer loyalty, and a competitive advantage.

In summary, smart, connected shoppers are creating a retail shift. It is imperative for retailers to adopt new technologies to stay flexible and adapt to current and future change. A cloud delivery system allows retailers to keep up with fluctuating shopping trends. Merchandising Cloud has helped many of the world’s leading retailers optimize execution, localize merchandising, measure performance, deliver a superior retail experience and increase customer satisfaction.

There is no time to waste in this fast-moving industry. Find out more about adopting a cloud-based system.