Get Ready: NRF’s annual ‘Big Show’ starts next week

The Merchandising Matters team is traveling again to the 104th annual National Retail Federation’s Big Show in New York City. We are more than excited to see what key trends, buzzwords and strategies will be shaping the industry for the next year. With over 200,000 sq. ft of expo space, 575 solution providers, 60 exhibitors, 14 expo stage sessions and 11 Keynote sessions there is a LOT to see. That’s why we’ve given our recommendations on some of the sessions you shouldn’t miss out on:

Brick is the New Black: Reinventing the Brick-and-Mortar Experience

When: Sunday, 3:15 – 4:15 pm

Where:  North Hall

This Keynote will explore how this shift in buyer behavior represents a unique opportunity for retail leaders to reposition brick-and-mortar stores at the center of the new customer experience. It will feature presentations by two retail executives who will offer their experiences and insights on transforming their current processes to deliver new and advanced capabilities that provide increased sales, faster inventory turns, higher margins and an optimized customer experience.

NRF President and CEO’s Welcome and Opening Remarks

When: Monday, 8:30 – 9:00 am

Where:  North Hall

 Global Economic Challenges and Opportunities for Success: A Conversation with Dr. Ben S. Bernanke

When: Monday, 9:00 – 10:00 am

Where:  North Hall

The leader of the US Federal Reserve during a momentous time of economic and financial crisis, Dr. Ben S. Bernanke offers keen insights and analysis of the current global economic landscape and challenges facing the world today. Hear Dr. Bernanke discuss macro-economic trends for US, global and emerging economies as well as retail’s impact on the US GDP. He’ll provide his valuable perspective and insights on how economies rise and fall in a moderated Q&A dialog led by Stephen I. Sadove, Chairman and CEO (Retired), Saks Inc. and NRF Chairman of the Board. Join one of the world’s leading economic minds, and gain a big-picture understanding of retail’s future.


This Year’s New Innovative Products – As Seen in the NRF iLab

When: Monday, 11:15 – 12:00 pm

Where:  Level 1 EXPO Hall, EXPO Stage

Exhibitor BIG !deas – Omni-channel Challenge: How to Bring the e-Tail Experience to the Store Floor

When: Monday, 12:45 – 1:30 pm

Where:  Level 1 EXPO Hall, Room 2

Take a quick look at some of the most interesting and innovative products finding their way into the marketplace, (and some that are still on the drawing board) from health, food and beauty, to lighting, home decor, wearables – and more. You’ll hear about the trends that are creating the surge in product advancements and how they’ve translated into various product areas. Experts will share the trends, show you the products and how they work, and you’ll have an opportunity to touch and see them up close in the NRF iLab located just outside the stage.

The “omni-channel challenge” is real for today’s major retailers. Winning the fulfillment wars and rededicating in-store associates to sales conversion activities are key strategic imperatives. Nick D’Alessio and Ed Tonkon of Zebra Technologies will discuss how retailers can effectively employ technology solutions to support the required transformation and to remain competitive.

When: Monday, 1:30 – 2:30 pm

Where: Hall A, 1A 21-22

Every retailer always wants to know what the “next big thing” will be in materials. Materials are now becoming components that meet specific needs and requirements with regard to sustainability, functionality, strength, durability and aesthetics. Three-dimensional printing is a prime example of where the future of materials is headed. It has emerged as a creative outlet for fabricators, designers and artisans alike and provides a way to bring unique ideas to life through rapid speed prototyping. But can it be applied in the retail industry? This session will explore the possibilities and opportunities for 3-D printing in the retail industry.

Exhibitor BIG !deas – Retail’s Future: Where Customer Experience and Employee Engagement Collide

When: Tuesday, 10:15 – 10:45 am

Where:  Level 1 EXPO Hall, Room 2

The evolution of customer and employee expectations is impacting business results for all retailers. In this session we will reveal new research on how employee engagement influences the customer experience and how that experience drives business results.

Global Gathering: Key Perspectives on International Merchandising

When: Tuesday, 10:30 – 11:30 am

Where: Hall E, 1E 12-16

If you’re a fashion brand planning to go global, or expanding into new markets, key strategic changes must be made to ensure this growth is successful. In this session, fashion retailers with international expansion expertise will evaluate how those embarking on the journey should adjust their design, development, product lifecycle process and supporting technology to facilitate and support global growth – and explain why it’s crucial to develop clear channels of communication and a change management roadmap throughout the process.

Retail Design Review: Designing the Customer Experience

When: Tuesday, 1:15 – 2:00 pm

Where: Level 1 EXPO Hall

While online commerce continues to grow by double digits, 90 percent of purchases still happen inside the bricks-and-mortar retail environment. With all of the outside factors of e-commerce and m-commerce coming into play, how are retailers enhancing their physical store spaces, and ultimately, their customer experience? Join Alison Embrey Medina, executive editor of design:retail magazine, as she explores some of the consumer trends and in-store applications that are redefining the retail marketplace as we know it.

Also some of the companies you should not miss checking out at the EXPO floor are RBM Technologies, SAP Retail, Reflexis Systems, Cisco and IBM. 
JC Penney home department, retail localization

2015 Outlook: The Customer Experience is Key

Every year leading retail experts predict what top retailers will focus on and invest their time and money in; rather than speculating, RIS News asked retailers the priorities going into 2015. The outcome, a heavy concentration on perfecting the customer experience. See below 2015’s outlook:

Enhance the Customer Experience
Nearly all (95%) of the respondents in BRP’s 2014 CRM/Unified Commerce Benchmark Survey indicated customer experience/customer engagement was one of their top three current initiatives. Additional top initiatives focusing on the customer experience included guided selling/clienteling, social selling and location-based mobile marketing.
An interesting initiative, still in the early stages, is the ability to identify customers when they walk in the store via their smartphones. This capability is a fundamental requirement for location-based marketing and personalizing the customer experience. Only 3% of respondents currently offer this ability, but 72% plan to implement it within five years.
Expand Customer-facing Technology in the Store
According to our 2014 POS/Customer Engagement Benchmarking Survey, customer-facing technology in the store was ranked as the most important area, with more than half of the retailers ranking it among the top three priorities.
Customers have information and technology available at their fingertips virtually anytime, and because consumers have become comfortable shopping online, they want that same digital experience in the store. Savvy retailers understand this and leverage customer-facing technology as part of the overall customer experience.
Improve Product Assortments
When asked to identify their business priorities in the 2014 Merchandise Planning and Allocation Benchmark Survey, 67% of respondents identified enhancing assortments as one of their top three priorities.
Retailers are investing in technology to improve their assortment processes, and in the past year we have seen a 550% increase in the use of social media for merchandise planning. To support a consistent brand experience, 28% of retailers have also made the step to offering the same assortment across all channels within the organization.

J.C. Penny concept store launches, retail localization
Increase Unified Commerce Capabilities
Based on retailer responses in the 2014 Supply Chain Benchmark Survey, 63% of retailers indicated “enable seamless customer experience online and in the store” as one of their top corporate initiatives and 29% ranked the “ability to buy anywhere, get anywhere, return anywhere” as a key priority.
For most of the companies we surveyed, this is no longer a ‘someday’ option, as 93% are planning or already implementing a unified commerce model to enhance the customer shopping experience. The process is long and complicated, but the good news is that many retailers have already undertaken projects to bring this holistic shopping experience to the customer and will continue to work on this in 2015.
With the availability of innovative technology, pervasive mobile devices and always-connected consumers, there continues to be limitless opportunities for retailers to enhance the shopping experience. 2015 is sure to be another interesting year for retail as we see further expansion of the personalized customer experience.


Speedy Checkout? Not Without A Scanner

If you’ve been running a retail business for any amount of time, you probably already know that quick, efficient checkouts are vital. The faster and more accurately you can process transactions, the more your business benefits — and that’s why most retail stores rely on barcode scanners today. Through some simple printing equipment and the addition of a barcode scanner to your checkout process, your business gains a way to simplify and speed up payments. How important are barcode scanners, and what exactly do they offer you? To help answer those questions, here’s a look at some of the key ways that barcode scanners can improve your business.


  1. Faster Checkouts: When it comes to payment transactions, the name of the game is speed. You want to minimize lines for customers and maximize efficiency for your business. To that end, beyond training your staff members, one of the best steps you can take is adding barcode scanners to your systems. This saves your cashiers from needing to examine products, look up data and key in pricing. It also makes it possible to ring up a cartful of products in mere minutes. The barcode scanner can instantaneously read and transmit data from scanned codes, shortening checkout times and eliminating hassles.
  2. Faster Training: Training new staff members to use barcode technology takes minutes. Compare this with training employees on your entire inventory and the individual pricing for each product. Because barcode technology makes transactions so much simpler, it cuts training times, saving you staff hours in the process.
  3. More Accurate Data: The barcode system cuts out common user errors like inputting the wrong price on a product or mistaking one item for another at a different price. By automating the communication of pricing, it improves the accuracy of transactions even as it speeds them up.
  4. Greater Inventory Knowledge: Likewise, barcode technology makes it easy to automatically track inventory even as it leaves your store. Whenever a product is rung up and sold, the system will automatically update your records accordingly. You gain better intelligence into what’s in stock and better information to guide your purchasing efforts.
  5. Better Decision Making: Being able to make decisions backed by information is almost always better and easier than flying blind. Through barcode technology, your business gains powerful insight into what’s selling when and how often, which can inform future choices and strategy.
  6. Cost Savings: Believe it or not, barcode technology is pretty affordable today, making it fairly simple to implement and start using. What’s more, barcode technology can wind up saving your business money as it cuts down on costly pricing mistakes and saves time in faster checkouts.

Being that barcode technology is so easy to use and implement, it only makes sense to consider adding it to your retail store. By simplifying your checkout process, you’ll give your customers a better buying experience, your sales staff the tools to serve clients well and your business the faster checkouts, accurate data and cost savings that mean a better bottom line.

Kevin Kennedy

Kevin has been with Barcode Discount since 2009. He started out on the inside sales team and now works as a technical specialist helping customers with their trickiest problems, including helping customers choose the right barcode scanners and other products that will enhance their businesses the most.


How To Push Your Stores Visual Element In The Digital Age

Whether you’re a visual merchandiser, or a small store owner – the visual element of your store is all important. Over the last few years we’ve all seen the impact that digital media can have on the retail marketplace, with everyone having to find new ways to compete with online prices and promotions, as well as fast deliveries and new innovations. In this article we’ll explore how stores can push their visual advantage over online stores in the digital age.

There’s nothing more powerful than a shopfront, and a strong identity and atmosphere inside a retail location. Some websites spend millions trying to make their online presence work just as well (just ask Selfridges who just spent $65m on their new website!). However, an online experience can never quite match that of a real retail one.

campaign compliance is low, retail localization

But, how can you make the most of the digital age. Well, for starters you do need a website to go with your shop – that goes pretty much without dispute. All stores, no matter how small should have some form of website where users can check out products, get more information and ideally shop. This shouldn’t be seen as an entirely different entity, it should be used as an extension of your brand image. As such, your merchandising team should be heavily involved from a visual perspective throughout any web builds and on an ongoing basis to re-merchandise the website.

In 2015, there is going to be an even bigger focus on the digital element within stores. Marks & Spencer in the UK are a great example. They’ve integrated giant mobile phone style touchscreens that allow users to browse stock, order, and share products digitally from within the store. Ideas like this make an impression on shoppers, and tie the digital and real life experiences together in a neat way.

Likewise, capturing details of your shoppers is key. It’s all very well having a hashtag strategy that goes across all of your visuals, but you need a way of capturing potential customer data to keep them in your digital funnel after they leave the retail experience. There’s a number of ways to do that, from hashtag and social tracking, to offering freebies or offers on branded USB sticks for instance from the likes of USBmakers to enable you to give the customers something in exchange for their data. With a digital giveaway you are able to preload and give bonus content on the stick – for example your new brochure or sale items list!

Think big in 2015. Digital and online are not a passing trend, or even a new innovation now. It’s time to get serious with taking your stores visuals online, and to recreate your store experience in other environments. Also think about how you can enhance your store through digital technology. For example, wearable tech is going to be huge this coming year – what can you do in store that fits your brand but makes you stand out even more?

About the Author:

Joshua Crawford is a freelance writer specializing in business and marketing matters. Josh has worked in a number of in-house marketing positions, and is now sharing his viewpoint with the world through his freelance writing business.


Watch These Shoppers Freak Out When The Floor of This The North Face Store Disappears

Shoppers in Korea got quite the scare as they unassumingly browsed the goods in aThe North Face store recently. As part of a stunt that was put together by The North Face and South Korean marketing agency Innored, unsuspecting customers were forced to put their survival instincts to the test when the floor below them suddenly started giving way, all in the name of the brand’s motto, “Never Stop Exploring.”

While people casually shopped, the racks of clothing suddenly began rising to the ceiling and the floor started to shift, eventually disappearing into the walls and forcing customers to either hang on to the rock-climbing holds or fall into a padded pit. A North Face jacket attached to a wire then dropped from the ceiling, hanging in the middle and kicking off a timer, challenging customers to climb the wall and leap to snatch the dangling item. A few people freaked out, others just looked straight-up confused. Either way, the reactions were pretty hilarious.

This isn’t the first time The North Face has engaged in experiential marketing tactics. Last year, it placed huge ice sculptures in high-traffic areas around Paris as a means to promote new stores opening in the city. “Consumers are used to comfortable city lives and are losing their natural strengths,” The North Face said about the “Never Stop Exploring” campaign. “Based on this brand philosophy, North Face Korea induces customers to face an unexpected challenge and encourages them to overcome the situation with their own strength in order to begin their journey to explore.”

Looks like people are willing to go way out of their comfort zones when free outerwear is involved.

[via Adweek]


Accenture: Holiday gift purchases expected to average $718

Accenture’s annual Holiday Shopping Survey of consumers looking at spending and gift plans for this season has retailers’ ears buzzing. 25% of U.S. consumers plans to spend more on holiday shopping this year compared to 20% in 2013, and spending on holiday gifts is expected to average $718, according to the annual holiday shopping survey. The survey also took a closer look at shopping happening in-store vs. online, and a notable interest in mobile tools while shopping.

The report contains stats from a variety of areas including showrooming and webrooming habits; Black Friday and Thanksgiving shopping plans; what consumers are buying this year (including wearable technology); the continued hunt for discounts, concerns over shipping and delivery timeliness, and factors affecting spending decisions this year.


Trends highlighted by the survey:

Discount Retailers Prevail, Department Stores Coming up Strong

  • Discount retailers continue to be the top destination for shoppers this holiday season 71%
  • 58% of respondents said they will shop at online-only retailers, compared to 50% in 2013 and 44% in 2012
  • 47% of consumers plan to buy gifts at department stores this year

 The Holiday Shopping List

  •  Gift cards , apparel and toys top consumers’ holiday shopping lists this year.
  • In the electronics category, 13% of respondents plan to buy wearable technology such as fitness bands, 24% plan to buy home electronics such as a TV or Blu-ray player, 14% plan to buy smartphones and 13% plan to buy tablets.

More Trends on Online Shopping and Retailers’ Holiday Programs

  •  More than half of shoppers plan to spend 50% or more of their total holiday gift dollars online.
  • Free shipping is still the #1 incentive for buying holiday gifts online, followed by finding products that are discounted compared to in-store prices and avoiding the crowds and long check-out lines.
  • If a retailer sells products both online and in physical stores, consumers prefer to shop online in order to avoid the crowds and to shop around for the best deals; they prefer a physical store in order to touch and feel a product before they buy it.

 Thanksgiving and Black Friday Shopping Plans

  •  Of the 61% of consumers planning to shop in a physical store on Thanksgiving or Black Friday, the majority 56% are planning to go to three or more stores.
  •  38% percent of shoppers would shop in-store on Black Friday to take advantage of doorbuster deals.
  • 49% believe that the best deals of the season are on Thanksgiving, Black Friday or Cyber Monday.


Accenture conducted an online survey using a representative sample of 500 U.S. consumers in September 2014.


NextPoint 2014

NextPoint 2014 is just around the corner and RBM Technologies is proud to be participating as the Platinum Sponsor! NextPoint is a unique event where executives come to be inspired by and engage with innovations in retail.

The RBM team welcomes you to NextPoint and please join us in our boardroom discussions, 1-on-1 meetings or during the festivities! Learn how RBM is supporting retail growth by facilitating faster, bigger and smarter store planning and merchandising. Experience RBM’s dynamic solutions making precise retail execution and compliance a reality.

See you all at the Hotel Del Coronado!

The RBM Team


Verizon Wireless Launches Interactive “Smart Stores”

Verizon Wireless is reinventing the traditional in-store experience with the transformation of their 1,700 stores to “Smart Stores. The store concept is set to provide an engaging, hands-on environment to better serve, and most importantly educate customers on how to integrate technology into their daily lifestyle.

After listening to customer feedback, Verizon is integrating real-life situations into the store setting, enhancing the learning and purchasing experience for customers as they can relate to in-store exhibits. Verizon envisions each customer leaves completely satisfied and educated on how everyday activities can become simplified and enjoyable through the connection of their mobile devices.

Here are some new experiences you’ll see at a Verizon Smart Store:

1) Hosted Wireless Workshops —the free, fun hour-long classes help customers understand how to get the most out of their iPhone, Android, and Tablets.

2) Elimination of traditional store layout – no more counters and browsing through a wide selection of products.

3) Zone dedicated to showcasing lifestyles, such as fitness, music, home monitoring and mobile for businesses.

verizon_smartstores_merchandising Image from bizjournal

Smarter Store Operations 

Smart Stores will be managed more efficiently with in-store technology. Appropriate employee scheduling and new training material will be shared during store meeting sessions—reducing customer wait-time. Bill payment kiosks installed will give customers a convenient way to pay their bills into store without help from a store representative. Verizon Wireless is also up-to-date on the latest fashion!  The employees’ wardrobe has been revamped and features diverse gear that allows them to personalize their look to reflect their individual style. 

“Creating the best customer experience – at every touch point – is our goal as we reinvent retail,” said Domenico D’Ambrosio, executive director national retail operations at Verizon Wireless.