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.

5 Tips on How to Create a Successful Pop-In Shop

Emerging specialty brands, such as West Paw Design, are marketed across thousands of boutiques, with a couple pieces here and there. They also often have a fledging direct-to-consumer e-commerce business. Yet nowhere are customers able to experience the brand holistically and completely in a single location. Without that experience, the brand may not thrive.

Enter the e-pop-in. The brand gets full creative control of a presentation of product samples in a location frequented by solid traffic, along with an incentive for the customer to buy online. The best part — it’s efficient and within budget for emerging brands.

Here are some tips for emerging specialty brands wishing to pop-in:

1. Think of service providers as the location to create the e-pop-in. They already have a relationship with the customer, yet aren’t selling competing merchandise. For example, if you’re a fashion orthodics brand, get your e-pop-in into podiatry offices. This is particularly suitable for Aetrex, which has developed a line of fashion orthodics footwear and can benefit by following the trail blazed by Vionic.  

2. Think about strategic synergy. In other words, make sure the service provider’s brand message is in sync with your own. For example, a line of activewear that can also be worn to the office is strategically aligned with a personal training regimen like Inform Fitness that’s brief and efficient (covers all muscles intensely) and doesn’t even require a shower. 

3. Try to align your brand with a growing industry (e.g., wellness). This would include massage spas, personal trainers, fitness in general, acupuncture, yoga, meditation, nutrition, physical therapy and psychotherapy. The prevention rather than the treatment of disease is becoming increasingly mainstream. 

4. Ensure that the service provider’s customer profile matches yours. If your demographic, for example, is an over 50s wealthy client, be sure to partner with a service provider that has the same demographics. 

5. Engage a partner whose key service is to create, produce, install and operate the displays, including refreshing them seasonally. 

Published by Retail Online Integration on February 18, 2015 By Janet Valenza

Janet Valenza is president of Pop-Up Artists, a marketing agency for turnkey, short-term selling space. Janet can be reached at [email protected].

Amazon reportedly wants to buy RadioShack Stores

According to Bloomberg, Amazon is reportedly in discussion with RadioShack to buy some of the company’s brick-and-mortar stores. The e-commerce giant is considering using the stores as showrooms for its consumer electronics and as pick-up and drop-off centers for items purchased online. Recently, Amazon is finding itself breaking into the physical realm, with holiday pop-up shops but this will mark the company’s biggest plunge into the traditional retail model. Amazon wants store fronts, RadioShack has too many store fronts (a lot of them at 4,400). Sounds like a match made in heaven.

Check out the full report below:

So Amazon has been in talks with RadioShack to buy some stores from the troubled electronics retailer, which could soon file for bankruptcy protection.

Yes, Amazon, the company that built an ultralucrative and humongously disruptive business by eschewing, and destroying, the brick-and-mortar retail model, is thinking about picking up a bunch of brick-and-mortar stores.

Amazon watchers should note that these talks about acquiring real-world stores are happening, in part, to generate online sales. What might seem discordant makes sense when you take a step back and look at Amazon as a whole, and not just as Amazon the company that sells you things over the Internet.

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Amazon has so far proved that it can do one thing really well: sell a lot of cheap consumer goods online. Some might argue that it sells a lot of cheap cloud computing services really well too (it’s the company’s fastest growing division), but Amazon’s success or failure is still deeply rooted in online retail.

Electronics and general merchandise sales account for almost $61 billion of the company’s $89 billion in annual revenue. The cash that this division throws off funds sexy new businesses such as a TV show production unit, a 3-D printed products store and a yet-to-be-launched drone delivery service.

Amazon has discovered that there are two things that seem to boost retail sales growth: its loyalty program, Amazon Prime, and Amazon hardware like the Kindle tablet. Reports have shown that Prime members buy about $1,500 worth of products a year from Amazon, versus the $625 that nonmembers spend. Kindle owners spend about $1,450 per year at Amazon, versus $725 per year for non-Kindle owners.

Prime is doing incredibly well. Global membership rose 53 percent last year, despite a price increase from $79 to $99, and analysts say they think the program has about 40 million members. The hardware stuff, on the other hand has never produced a runaway success. IDCsays the company shipped about 1.7 million Fire tablets in the fourth quarter of 2014, versus 21.4 million Apple iPads and 11 million Samsung Galaxy tablets in the same time frame.

The Fire phone has so far been a failure, and the company has taken a $170 million inventory write-down on it. The Fire TV hasn’t been able to distinguish itself in a crowded streaming television market. No one knows if customers will ever embrace the Echo speaker or the Dash scanner.

Now Amazon is thinking about showcasing its hardware in stores, a strategy that Apple pioneered and Microsoft aped. Samsung, too, is still mulling plans to create standalone retail locations akin to the Apple stores, having hired a senior Apple store designer, Tim Gudgel, and a former director of retail at Apple, Michael Forrest, to work on the initiative.

The retail push is happening as brands rely more on marketing to make their wares stand out in a sea of commoditized hardware. Amazon could use the RadioShack locations to showcase phones, speakers and other products. It has also thought about using the sites as pick-up and drop-off centers for online customers who currently go to places like UPS.

Any deal would depend greatly on how the RadioShack bankruptcy case proceeds. RadioShack would likely want Amazon, or any buyer, to assume liabilities like lease obligations. And Amazon would be competing with Sprint — another interested RadioShack bidder — for prime locations.

I’m not particularly bullish on this strategy. Amazon knows how to sell cheap and fast better than almost anyone else, but creating a retail presence that draws in and delights customers is a very different challenge. It takes a long, long time to ramp up a retail presence. (Just ask Samsung.) And retail failure is really expensive. (Just ask RadioShack.)

Even so, when all of this settles, we may see the premier digital retailer tiptoeing into the ancient world of brick-and-mortar storefronts.

To contact the author on this story:
Katie Benner at [email protected]

To contact the editor on this story:
Timothy L O’Brien at [email protected]

Retail’s Big Show 2015 – Best Featured Products

In the iLab (Booth 1151), NRF attendees were able to see, touch and experience some of the most interesting and innovative products finding their way into the marketplace (and some that are still on the drawing board) from the worlds of health, food and beauty to home decor, personal technology, wearables, sustainable living and more. MerchandisingMatters was able to pick out some of the most unique and eye-popping products in the consumer electronics industry:

Petchatz

PetChatz is a first-of-kind Greet & Treat videophone that allows pet parents to interact with their pet from anywhere. With PetChatz, you can see, hear, speak to, provide a comforting scent and give your pet a treat using a smart phone or computer.

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HAPIfork

The HAPIfork, is an electronic fork that helps you monitor and track your eating habits. It also alerts you with the help of indicator lights and gentle vibrations when you are eating too fast. Every time you bring food from your plate to your mouth with your fork. The HAPIfork also measures:

* How long it took to eat your meal
* The amount of “fork servings” taken per minute
* Intervals between “fork servings”

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Pavlok 

The company was inspired by the work of Ivan Pavlov, is known for his work in classical conditioning. Its makers describe it as a “personal coach on your wrist”, and it can dole out electric shocks if its users are doing something that they shouldn’t. Pavlok uses mild electric shock to help you break any habit. It can also shut down access to your phone and make users pay a fine.

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Cicret 

“The Cicret Bracelet: Like a tablet but on your skin.” The bracelet is still in prototype and is not yet available. But a quick video was shown that showcasing some impressive technology that eliminates a number of inconveniences experienced by owning a smartphone. Check out the video here, we think it was the most interesting concept of the show:

13 Years of Apple Stores in 60 Seconds

Monday, May 19th, marks the 13th anniversary of the first Apple Store!

“Sorry Steve… Apple Stores Won’t Work” – announced Businessweek exactly 13 years ago as the first Apple Store opened its doors in Virginia. Today with 424 stores, across 16 countries, Apple once again proved that they can do anything they put their mind to.

Click to see the map in Real-time:  Here

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* Map has been Published by Retale

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Micro-location, the next big thing in shopper marketing

When Apple rolled out its newest iOS this past fall, most people probably did not pay attention to the quickly mentioned iBeacon. According to ClickZ, what existed on a single slide of a much larger presentation actually poses some interesting new opportunities for retailers.

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From the article:

Unlike GPS (which relies on satellites and line of sight), iBeacon is all about proximity and works indoors. Retailers can place beacons around departments, in aisles, in front of the store; anywhere they and their customers will benefit from the ability to alert customers’ apps about specials, draw directory maps, or provide information upon crossing into a micro-location.

It’s a new way to “showroom.” A consumer can view a product online and then go to the store to sample it and purchase it; the iBeacon improves in-store navigation by telling the consumer where it is as he enters the particular micro-location. I’ll use the example of my wife, who loves to shop for shoes, to illustrate how this micro-location works.

Generally, her shopping journey starts by conducting some online research and product comparison/ reviews. As she narrows her decision, the site will inform her about local availability and she marks/likes them. She uses traditional mapping info to find the nearest retailer and off we go to the mall. Here’s where iBeacon comes in.

The retailer can place the sensors throughout its aisles and assist my wife, armed with her BLE-enabled iPhone, to find the shoes she looked at online with in-store mapping.

As she enters the mall or store, the local iBeacons communicate with her phone via BLE. The different iBeacons will tell her the location of the shoes she wants (pumps, flats, dress shoes, etc.), use local iBeacon data to navigate her through the store, and inform her about specials and item information as she stands in front of them or enters each micro-location. In addition, the iBeacons can cross-promote merchandise by navigating her past specific aisles and products.

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Retailers rethinking store designs with mobile in mind

For years, Apple’s retail stores were seen as the zenith of the retail experience. Brick-and-mortar shoppers evolved to demand inspiration from their favorites stores, finding products that fit into their life seamlessly. As we recently posted, this trend extends to many other major retailers including AT&T.

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According to Mobile Marketer, the influence of mobile can be seen as a major driving force in the design or redesign of retail stores. Shoppers are used to being able to shop for anything they want, when they want, and the that experience now translates to the storefront.

From the article:

In the past, stores were designed with departments and aisles to influence shopper behavior with an eye toward encouraging shoppers to view as many products as possible and add more items to their baskets.

However, increasingly retailers are looking at eliminating departments and creating more open retail spaces populated with thematic zones.

For example, AT&T recently unveiled a new store format intended to reflect customers’ mobile lifestyle where café-style learning tables replace cash registers.

The store layout highlights products and services in three different thematic areas. In the Connected Experience, shoppers can see how solutions can be used in their everyday lives. The Community Zone features an open and interactive space where customers can test products. In the Explore Zone, there are digital monitors to highlight AT&T’s lineup.

Thomson, a British travel agency, with multiple locations also recently unveiled a new store format also focused on enabling more hands-on experiences where associates and customers work together more closely. It includes interactive tables where customers can research holidays.

The customer-facing interface uses advanced touch and transition elements to make it feel like an app.

Social media feeds are streamed onto the screens to inspire customers and give them a feel of what to expect from a vacation.

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Target takes a page from Apple’s retail playbook

Target’s latest efforts to drive increased focus on their electronics offerings might leave customers feeling a sense of deja vu. According to the Star Tribune, Target is taking a page from Apple’s retail playbook and going for a streamlined, minimalistic approach to their electronics department, similar to Apple’s retail store.

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From the article:

“It’s more a minimalist approach with space for consumers to touch and test the merchandise,” said Chris Christopher, director of consumer electronics at IHS Global Insight in Massachusetts.

And it comes at a time when electronics sellers are seeing a major shift in product mix as the space that used to be devoted to cameras — which are declining rapidly in sales — gives way to square footage for cellphones.

Target is testing the format to give customers a more convenient way to interact with products and services, said spokeswoman Erica Julkowski. “Guests are looking for more interactive ways to make purchasing decisions about the latest technology,” she wrote in a statement.

The concept is being tested at stores in Brooklyn Park, Mankato, Ridgedale and the Quarry location in Minneapolis, as well as outside Minnesota. There was no word on how long the test will last or when Target executives might decide whether to bring the idea to the rest of its approximately 1,800 stores nationwide.

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Apple’s James Bond Style Approach to Bring you the iPhone

Secret shipments on old Russian military vehicles, covert operations, and secret shipping plans – sounds like a scene from a James Bond movie, right?

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Actually, it is just one of the ways Apple gets their iPhones into the United States. According to an article on Bloomberg, a complex shipping process had already been put in place before they announced the new iPhone lineup earlier this week.

From the article:

The process starts in China, where pallets of iPhones are moved from factories in unmarked containers accompanied by a security detail. The containers are then loaded onto trucks and shipped via pre-bought airfreight space, including on old Russian military transports. The journey ends in stores where the world’s biggest technology company makes constant adjustments based on demand, said people who have worked on Apple’s logistics and asked not to be identified because the process is secret.

The multi-pronged operation has been built up under Cook, who oversaw Apple’s supply chain before being tapped as Steve Jobs’s successor in 2011. Getting iPhones seamlessly moved from factories to customers is critical for the Cupertino, California-based company, which derives more than half of its annual revenue from the flagship product. Apple also relies on a sales spike after a product’s release. It sold more than 5 million units in the debut weekend for the iPhone 5 last year.

“It’s like a movie premiere,” said Richard Metzler, chairman of the Transportation Marketing and Communications Association and a former executive at FedEx and other logistics companies. “It all needs to arrive at the exact same time everywhere.”

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Apple sees a future on the wrist, not on the face

Apple CEO Tim Cook sees the future of wearable technology, and its impact on his company. When pressed to discuss specific devices, Cook believes wrist devices such as watches will be a major player, though, according to The Guardian, he does not believe that Google Glass will make much of an impact because people do not want to wear a device on their face.

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From the article:

But when asked about the heavily publicized Google Glass he parried the question by suggesting that people who don’t otherwise wear glasses might be reluctant to don such an accoutrement.

I don’t find Cook’s dismissal of eyewear very insightful: just go to a shopping center and count the eyewear stores. Many belong to the same rich Italian conglomerate, Luxottica, a company with about 10 house brands such as Oakley, Persol and Ray-Ban, and a supplier to more than 20 designer labels ranging from Armani to Versace. (As the perturbing Sixty Minutes exposé on Luxottica pointed out, the company nicely rounds out its vertical dominance of the sector through its ownership of EyeMed, a vision insurance business.)

Eyewear, necessary or not, is a pervasive, fashionable, rich product category, a fact that hasn’t escaped Google’s eye for numbers. The company is making an effort to transmute its geeky spectacles into fashion accessories. Courtesy of Counternotions I offer this picture of Sergey Brin and fashionista Diane von Furstenberg proudly donning the futuristic eyewear at the NY Fashion Week: