Everybody in retail knows that their success depends on understanding the customer. And understanding the customer starts with understanding their demographics. But with businesses enthralled by big data, demographics looks old fashioned and irrelevant. But guess what? Demographics is the biggest data of all. For retailers, demographics was and still is destiny.
A system that remembers customers’ preferences, can understand speech and text and that learns the more it’s used—that’s the magic of machine learning. Machine learning is used to understand customers, drive personalization, streamline processes and create convenient and memorable customer experiences. Machine learning’s many applications make it a powerful tool in creating amazing customer experiences. Here are 20 examples of machine learning in action.
From supply chains to marketing, weather-related changes have impacted how retailers do business. Retail has both played a part in the perpetuation of climate change and absorbed its impact. Supply chain and sourcing have already changed due to weather patterns, and according to at least one estimate, the apparel industry releases half a million tons of microfibers into the ocean per year. But, there is a current of revolution on the horizon, with companies caving to consumer pressure to improve processes and prove that they are adopting sustainable practices, and retailers are in a good position to make decisions that could put the larger consumer goods industry on a more environmentally sustainable path.
Customer experience is a constant evolution. What was inventive five years ago could be commonplace today. The best customer experiences innovate to stay ahead of new technology and trends. Finding creative new ideas can build lasting connections with customers. Here are 10 fresh examples of CX innovation from brands that aren’t afraid to think outside the box to serve customers.
In today's retail landscape, the fight for customers is fiercer than ever. Loyalty programs may be the oldest marketing trick in the book, but they remain one of the most effective for getting consumers to stick with a company. Companies in industries from books to beauty products offer alluring perks and rewards for loyal customers. Several retailers offer loyalty programs offering customers perks and rewards for their continued shopping. We compiled 18 of the best loyalty programs in retail, comprising industries from books to clothing and beauty products. The loyalty programs offer customers free items, exclusive deals, and discounts on future purchases.
While the so-called “retail apocalypse” is undeniably wreaking havoc in the shopping industry, not all physical retailers are floundering. The IHL Group gave MONEY a list of retailers that are actually adding new stores in the U.S. in 2019. Below, we’re highlighting the top 10 retailers with big expansion plans in the works: Each company says it will add 50 or more new stores this year. What has enabled these stores to thrive despite the gloomy, ultra-competitive state of the physical retail world? And how can these retailers justify expanding at a time when Amazon seems to be gobbling up more and more of our shopping dollars each day?
Technology can be a huge boost to customer experience. But it can also leave a bad taste in customers’ mouths. Brands need to be constantly evolving with new technology and evaluating their approach to make sure the technology is effective and strategic. This week brought stories of technology being used in all aspects of customer experience, from robots reaching customers to customers sharing their experiences online. These stories show that technology can connect customers and create convenient experiences, but it can also lead to problems like a lack of human connection and data security. To ensure technology is used properly, brands should regularly re-evaluate their approach.
Retailers like Target, as well as Walmart and Nordstrom, are rewriting the rulebooks of merchandising in order to accommodate trendy digitally native brands that were, in most cases, launched without wholesale margins in their business structures. Nordstrom’s gm of merchandising has said the company “threw out the old playbook” in order to orchestrate inventory buys with brands like Greats and Reformation, Walmart is so bullish on DTC brands that it’s acquiring a suite of them under Andy Dunn, the founder of Bonobos and now Walmart E-commerce’s head of digital brands. At Target, the best way to understand how these new DTC retail deals are playing out is to look to its health and beauty category.
Companies from Nordstrom to J. Crew have invested in loyalty programs. Some removed barriers, others added them, but the changes all said something about the strategy. In the past year, the space was reshaped when a slew of retailers reinvented, upgraded and dropped loyalty programs. The multi-retailer Plenti program shut down in July after Macy's and several other important participants bailed. And several retailers have tweaked or added internal loyalty programs. Program changes have ranged from department stores, including Macy's, Nordstrom and Kohl's, to big-box and specialty retailers like Target, DSW and Lululemon. While some of the changes are likely just the result of natural investment in that part of the business, retailers also face pressure from higher shopper expectations.
These days in brick-and-mortar retail circles, it seems all anyone can talk about is experiential retail. Immersive, interactive, technology-enhanced — these are all adjectives that get tossed around when executives are talking about what the store of the future needs to look and feel like. What does experiential retail really mean? For some it may be a swimming pool full of sprinkles or meditation pods. As design becomes a more intentional factor of the store experience, it's changing consumer expectations, especially for younger generations. As Doug Stephens, CEO of Retail Prophet, recently put it, "Millennials don’t suffer from shortened attention spans. Rather, they simply have a much higher sensitivity to things that are boring." But in reality, how many stores are actually as experiential as these out-of-the-box ideas? In a country with roughly 22.5 square feet of retail space per capita (more than any other country), the answer is: not many.
“Trust has become the connective tissue between brands and loyalty. Expectations for trust are up across all product, service categories, and brands an average of 250+% year over year. Meanwhile, customer concerns regarding privacy, security, and brand transparency have reached a tipping point. Today, loyalty is a fusion of emotional engagement, trust, and an ability for a brand to engage; to meet or exceed expectations consumers hold for their Ideal product or service. The brands on top of this year’s category lists know that, and more importantly, they know how.”
As retail went digital and consumers began shopping online more, retailers and brands raced to integrate fancy in-store technology and apps, as well as onboard back-end systems to support the omnichannel experience. But the question remained – how to evolve in-store associates to leverage the continuous rise of technology in the retail industry. This is mission-critical now that connected consumers enter the store armed with more information than the associates. At the same time, evidence supports the need for store associates. As retailers and brands look to keep pace with industry evolution, they must begin to integrate the front of the store with the back.
With every Facebook like, Amazon browse, Instagram post, or Google Maps query, we’re being watched, monitored and targeted. The internet has become a surveillance state and each of us a data set, where companies — known and unknown to us — are cataloguing, monetising and leveraging our data, often in ways to which we didn’t (at least knowingly) consent. The bottom line is we’re being tracked online, and to a large extent, we’ve come to accept it as the price we pay for a wide range of digital services. Today this same degree of surveillance is coming to the real world, as brick-and-mortar retailers attempt to fight back against online rivals who use their data supremacy to consistently outpace the growth of their offline competitors.
Digital transformation matters enormously. Digital giants such as Amazon, who are overtaking rivals in multiple industries (retail, supply chain/logistics, media, etcetera), are succeeding through a business model designed to take advantage of the most advanced technologies to continue to change and disrupt their industry. It is driven by the rise of the Internet of Things, which is forecast to have a trillion things connected to the Internet by 2050. At a macro level, marketing continues to be transformed by data and technology in significant ways. Marketers now have the ability to more accurately target and engage customers and have an array of new tools and technologies at their disposal. The classic right message to the right audience at the right time idea is now driven by data and delivered with sophisticated technology.
Buy online, pick-up in store is often heralded as the future of retail: Customers shopping on their own terms, as efficiently as possible. But it might end up being a bigger lift than expected for retail stores. Large retailers like Target, Walmart, Kroger and Home Depot are using store pickup to cut delivery costs, encourage customer interaction with associates, and drive in-store sales growth. Using stores to fulfill online orders lets retailers add supply chain muscle to their e-commerce businesses. But it does come with risks. As demand grows for in-store pickup, in-store fulfillment could put pressure on traditional store operations.
Wounded from the so-called retail apocalypse that defined 2017, some of the nation's most established brands have been faced with the fact that they either have to adapt or die. As a result, many have been forced to take lessons from trendy young startups that have swooped in and redefined the way we shop. From Gucci and Balenciaga to Crocs and Glossier, these are some of the most explosively successful brands of 2018.
Here’s how former big-box stores transform into seasonal Halloween pop-ups. Despite the brick-and-mortar retail apocalypse taking place across the country, Halloween pop-ups like Spirit have endured. When traditional retailers file for bankruptcy and leave empty big-box stores in their wake, they also give Halloween retailers more potential locations to choose from. Shockingly, even the rise of online shopping can’t seem to kill the Halloween store. All of this would be impossible without the existence of vacant retail properties in need of tenants, even if those tenants only plan on being there for a few weeks. What’s bad for retail is good for Halloween pop-ups, at least to a point. These companies need vacant spaces to fill, but they also need nearby stores to draw in consumers.
Everyone in retail, it seems, is playing in the toy game this year after the country's biggest toy store liquidated. But will there really be any surprises about who wins? The retail market for toys, on the whole, is worth $36.8 billion in revenue and covers more than 60,000 players. Store-based retailing of traditional toys and games is worth nearly $4.8 billion, down from about $6 billion in 2012.
It made shopping a national pastime, long before Amazon and big-box stores. Even though it’s easy enough to dismiss Sears stores, with their bare shelves and empty parking lots, as an irrelevant relic of retailing’s past, the fact is that Sears was a pioneer, a household name that wasn’t just America’s largest retailer until Walmart overtook it, but a company that changed how Americans shopped and set the stage for the eretailers that would follow.
Retail is changing faster than ever. New technology is increasingly being infused into stores, and the results are finally starting to show. Though there has been a lot of talk about how online shopping is changing the retail landscape, forcing traditional shopping centers like malls to close, it's only now that the future of the industry is truly coming into focus. And yes, it's digital, just as we were promised. Amazon and, more recently, Nike, have debuted store concepts that put their digital smarts front-and-center as they offer new experiences to customers. The advent of tech-focused physical stores proves that brick-and-mortar retail isn't going anywhere soon.