Black Friday begins with a smaller crowd

The number of people who visit stores opening in the morning on Black Friday is lower than previous years. Reuters as well as the Los Angeles Times show that shoppers are getting less competition for bargains in-store. Adobe Systems has released new data that shows consumers are more likely to shop online for Black Friday deals. According to this morning’s update $490 million has been made online between midnight and 8:30 AM. ET. ET.

Total Retail Take While the decline in importance of Black Friday is something that has been debated for a while, this year may be the year we see a drop in brick-and mortar shopping during the official kickoff of the holiday shopping season. Online shopping is growing in popularity, and retailers now offer Black Friday deals over longer periods of times.


Black Friday is here to stay

REI has announced that it will once more close its doors on BlackFriday. The outdoor retailer will close all 149 stores on Black Friday ,Thanksgiving and will process no online sales. All 12,287 employees will be paid to go outside. The decision of the specialty retailer to close down on the largest shopping day of the year was positive and pioneering. It will be a model for other retailers.

The conversation is not so positive for large retailers such as Macy’s and Target, which are open on Thanksgiving and traditionally Black Friday. If you look at the comments to any article about the topic, it is clear that people believe these big-box brands have become too family-centric. They are furious that people don’t spend time with their families and claim that only they care about their bottom line.

This is a large part true.

Take a look back
Since 1932, Thanksgiving Day has been considered the start of holiday shopping season in America. The Black Friday that we all love and hate has held the title of busiest shopping day since the early 2000s.

In 2008, the financial crisis ravaged stores and shareholders were determined to solve their profit problems. To boost Black Friday sales, stores opened on Thanksgiving. Although there has been some decline in Black Friday sales over the years (in 2014, the spending volume for Black Friday was the lowest since 2008), it is not something retailers can reverse. Wall Street has set its expectations and shareholders won’t accept a loss on Black Friday.

You can open it and they will come.
These mega-retailers cannot afford to miss Black Friday. It’s appealing to close on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. This is in addition to the message of unplugging and engaging with family. The reality is that REI’s annual sales are much lower than the major retailers’ Black Friday sales.

People fail to realize that stores are open as people continue to come by and spend billions of dollar. According to media reports, shoppers will not only show-up but will also do everything necessary to get top-quality items at a fraction the retail price. They’ll wait hours (read: camp), and then line up at cash machines to purchase the faux feather puffer coats for $19.99, $15.99 boots of brand-name brands, or whatever else their children want from Santa. This has become an annual family tradition, with many Americans embracing it as an annual Thanksgiving tradition. The majority of consumers will shop and will be pleased about it.

Contrary to popular belief, retailers make sure their employees are always in mind when they decide to stay open on Thanksgiving weekend and Black Friday weekend. These 72 hours can be exhausting for millions of Americans, but store managers make Black Friday weekend enjoyable. They make the chaos of the crowds into an opportunity to motivate and work hard with co-workers. The adrenaline rush from the day flows down the chain of command, and back up again.

REI will be celebrated for opting out of Black Friday. Many consumers will be influenced by its message that family is more important than corporate sales. However, most major retailers can be confident that secret sales, low prices, and early openings will continue into the future.


Online Retail’s Future is Offline

Retailers have had a busy year, to put it mildly. Most of the discussion has revolved around how brands should think digitally first. Drew Green, the CEO of Indochino (a made-to measure menswear company), ended the panel discussion at East with a powerful statement.

Green stated, “I believe that in the next five year’s, every online brand in one way or another will be offline.”

Green was joined by Kevin Lavelle (founder and CEO of Mizzen + Main); Cheryl Kaplan (president and cofounder of M.Gemi); and Emily Hofstetter (vice president, business development, and communications at Bombas. The panelists discussed the importance of combining a data-driven digital strategy and offline events. While the brands represented on this panel — Indochino and Mizzen + Main as well as M.Gemi and Bombas — may not have created strong online communities, offline strategies have allowed them to grow their customer base.

Kaplan stated that offline retail allows online retailers to connect with customers one-on-one and capitalize on experiential retail to create an experience customers will never forget. She stated that it was important to be creative and flexible.

Hofstetter continued by saying that retailers must have a clear goal before they use resources, i.e. time and money to go offline.

She explained that you need to know your reason for going offline. Pop-ups are for a purpose. Pop-ups have been a great way to tell our brand’s story, and connect with the audience. “Offline is a way for consumers to engage with us.”

Lavelle emphasized the importance of an effective offline strategy and said that it is possible to use an online strategy with an offline strategy. He said that the most important thing was to be able to plan and manage your resources.

Green shared his top tip with the audience. He said, “I think that the keyword for an internet-only brand is “commitment.” This means that the entire company must commit to an omnicommerce strategy.


This is the Evolution of Retail

This is being called the retail apocalypse. According to recent reports, over 8600 retail stores will close in 2017. Comparatively, 6200 retail stores shut down during the 2008 economic downturn — an all time high.

Retailers such as The Sports Authority are now gone, and many others are following their lead: Gander Mountain and Macy’s, J.C. Penney, RadioShack, and J.C. Penney are just a few of the many retailers on the verge of collapse.

Do we need to start planning for the demise of retail as we know? Probably.

Despite the potential disaster, there are still retailers that rise above the rest, showing that the future is not bleak but bright. These retailers aren’t just online giants like but brick-and mortar retailers like Sephora and REI. These retailers are not only surviving but they are thriving. Their success is not a fluke.

These brick-and-mortar stores have discovered a way to differentiate themselves from Amazon, rather than trying to compete with Amazon’s endless selection of products at low prices. They have won the hearts and trust of their customers by doing this.

This isn’t the retail apocalypse. This is the evolution in retail and it’s long overdue.

Three Ways Retailers Can Help Change the Industry’s Fate

1. Make your experience dynamic

Sephora uses the differences between online shopping and offline shopping to tailor its customer’s experiences . This beauty retailer found a way that allowed technology to be integrated into its store experience, without sacrificing the traditional brick-and-mortar experience. This balance is not something that most retailers have found.

Sephora allows customers to interact with the products without the assistance of associates. To find the right products for you, scan your face to see your “ColorIQ”. Sephora’s mobile app allows customers to virtually “try on” all available lipstick colors through augmented reality.

Sephora offers ungated access, which is a benefit to those who are less tech-savvy than others. Sephora offers customers the opportunity to test out aspirational products at their convenience, rather than forcing them to interact with employees.

Sephora associates can help shoppers achieve perfect pouts, contour their eyebrows, and improve their contouring skills. Sephora is committed in hiring and training beauty enthusiasts who are available to share their passions and experiences.

Sephora shopping is more than just the product. It’s about the dynamic experience you have in store.

2. Stand up for something

REI declared it would not participate in the Black Friday shopping frenzy in 2015. The outdoor apparel and equipment retailer encouraged customers and staff to #OptOutside , rather than encouraging bargain shopping, crowds, and door-busters, and instead, they encouraged shoppers and store teams to .

It must have seemed absurd at first to close down a shop on the busiest days of the year. Since 1938, REI has been committed to getting people outside. This campaign was an ideal way to make a statement while also supporting a long-standing cause.

These are the results

Outdoor gurus and gear junkies flocked to the outdoors in large numbers. This campaign generated positive buzz that led to many more skiers heading out on the slopes. Forbes reports that REI saw a 9.3% revenue increase and more than 1,000,000 new members as a result of the campaign. Following its success, REI launched #OptOutside again in 2016. Similar results were achieved.

REI continues to look for new ways to inspire and demonstrate its passions. The retailer launched the Forces of Nature movement in April to transform the way the industry views women, both as employees and customers.

Mary Anderson, a woman who co-founded REI, is the founder of the company today. Despite REI’s strong internal history, the outdoor industry is dominated by male-dominated imagery, storytelling, and acknowledgment. REI hopes to change this by featuring women in its advertising and marketing materials. REI has donated $1 million to nonprofits that provide opportunities for women in the outdoor. REI will also host more than 1,000 events that are specifically for women.

REI shopping is more than just about the products you purchase. It’s about supporting causes.

3. Exclusions Available

Flight Club is a destination for sneaker enthusiasts from all over the world. Flight Club is the perfect place to go if you are looking for the pre-released Yeezys or the uber-exclusive Air Jordan 1’s. It all began with in 1999, which was an online marketplace that allowed consumers to buy hard-to-find shoes. Flight Club opened its first brick and mortar location in 2005 to showcase its authenticity, selection, and customers.

Online customers travel to New York City and Los Angeles to check out a Flight Club store , despite the seemingly endless access to their favorite sneaker. Sneakerheads spend hours discussing the history of shoes, footwear technology, and the latest fashion trends once they are there.

Flight Club is a highly competitive market and welcomes thousands of people every day to its two stores. It ships many products to its adoring customers around the globe and has been recognized for its ability to provide sought-after sneaker grails.

Flight Club shopping is not about great deals, it’s about finding a shoe that no one else can. You are the only one who can find these shoes.

It All Together

While retail naysayers might preach doom, there are some retailers who have found compelling reasons for consumers to interact with their brands. These retailers are succeeding. Their customers are also winning.

Retailers who can create memorable experiences, raise their cause or add an element of exclusivity to their retail offerings will change the face of retail. We’ll all be happier.


Petco Launches a Service-Oriented Store Model

Petco has left behind its big-box roots and is now opening a new type of retail store. This will offer pet-friendly amenities like dog baths, play yards, and treats that are suitable for humans to appeal to picky pet owners who might otherwise shun the main brand. The PetCoach pilot store in San Diego County, which was unveiled this week, is a reimagining of the traditional pet store. Instead of offering a wide range of products, services like veterinary care, grooming, and dog day care dominate the in-store experience. Toys, food, clothing, and toys are also available. However, they are displayed according to task so customers can both get the care they need while still finding the right product. Petco plans to open two more PetCoach locations within San Diego County in the next six-months, with the possibility of additional locations across the country depending upon their reception.

Total Retail’s View: Petco is changing its strategy for brick-and-mortar stores to offer customers services that are only available in person. It makes sense. Petco believes that experiential retail is applicable to animals, as well as people. PetCoach’s stores will be convenient and one-stop shops for all their pet care needs. PetCoach customers can pay a $9 per month membership fee to receive discounted products and services, taking cues from Amazon Prime and its Prime loyalty program. Old retail is dying but retail isn’t dying. Petco hopes to bring new life to its brick-and mortar business with the opening of its PetCoach shop.


Predictive Analytics, Omnichannel Fulfillment Help ALDO Group Be More Profitable

ALDO Group is a retailer, designer and manufacturer of footwear and accessories. It has 3,000 points worldwide of sales. After thorough due diligence, ALDO announced it had partnered with Celect to optimize its order fulfillment goals.

Marc Chretien (Director of E-Commerce Operations at the ALDO Group) discusses how the retailer uses predictive analytics to make better, faster, and more profitable order fulfillment decisions.

Marc Chretien is Director of E-Commerce Operations at ALDO Group

Total Retail: Why does ALDO Group invest in technologies and tools that will better enable it to fulfill its orders across all channels?
Marc Chretien: The ALDO Group, a fashion retailer that focuses on delivering quality products to customers in a timely manner, is always looking for ways to improve and adapt its supply chain technology. Retailers’ survival and success depends on the digital and omnichannel shift. The ALDO Group dedicates substantial resources to technology projects. Celect technologies allow the ALDO Group optimize inventory position opportunities when working with an Omnichannel Fulfillment Network.

ALDO Group’s goal to deliver product as quickly as possible is the aim of its business. Celect’s technology analyzes demand patterns across the network, then finds opportunities at specific product levels in different locations. Celect Fulfillment Optimization module allows ALDO Group to detect customer demand in real-time and gives it the ability to intelligently use store inventory to fulfill online orders.


TR What behaviors have your customers shown you that lead you to this conclusion?
MC : Customers are becoming more flexible with their buying habits and have adopted omnichannel. This has led them to expect the same options from retailers. Online shoppers may shop in-store tomorrow. They expect the same product options, pricing and service. Inventory placement must be flexible to meet this goal. ALDO Group’s strategy is to place the maximum inventory in-store, rather than in distribution centers. This allows both walk-in and digital customers to access it.

Celect technology adds a new dimension to this strategy. It allows ALDO Group more accurately forecast customers’ needs in real-time and determine which stores have inventory potential. This allows the company to target stores that will have a lower demand and avoid selling at locations more likely to sell out. A large portion of ALDO Group’s 2017 e-commerce sales were handled from its stores. This created hundreds of smaller distribution centers that served customers faster.

TR What are the challenges associated omnichannel fulfillment What is the impact of Celect’s analytics solutions on these challenges for ALDO Group?
MC The ALDO Group, a complex company, offers products via a variety of channels including online and in-stores.

Companies that use omnichannel fulfillment strategies need to know how to best leverage their store inventory to fulfil online orders. One product might be over- or under-sold in different regions simultaneously, as we discovered. The buying behavior of customers is becoming more unpredictable. It’s difficult to predict demand for a specific location.

Celect Fulfillment Optimization analyzes demand patterns across the company and identifies potential opportunities at specific product levels in different locations. This module reacts in real-time to fulfillment decisions. This technology allows us to intelligently use our stores’ inventories in order to fulfill online orders while also ensuring there is optimal stock for customers who visit our brick-and mortar locations.

Learn more:

TR What level of training do your associates need to be able to fulfill online orders in-store and at the same time, What is the best way to combine this task with other responsibilities?
MC Since 2007, the ALDO Group has fulfilled online orders through its stores. This process is easy and is now part of the daily tasks that a store associate must perform. Online orders are sent to store associates via an electronic platform. Once received, they are responsible for shipping the order. This involves locating the product, cleaning it, and preparing the shipping labels. It is often completed in just a few hours. The average time for this task is less than 12 hours. This includes overnight hours as well as peak times.

Aldo’s success online and in-store is largely due to the role of store associates. These tasks are included in new associate training. Sometimes a store has a designated associate who processes orders online, but in other cases the tasks can be performed by either a stock person or store associate.

The success of ALDO Group’s Omnichannel Fulfillment Initiative is largely due to its customer-centric approach. This puts the customer’s happiness first, online and in-store. We are able to fulfill online orders through our stores in another way that we can meet our customers’ needs.

TR What business benefits does the ALDO Group hope to achieve through its omnichannel fulfillment efforts
MC This stage in the ALDO Group’s transition away from pure retail will see the optimization of its Omnichannel Fulfillment efforts. It will allow the company to achieve greater structural speed and more flexibility in its inventory initiatives.

Incumbent brick-and-mortar transformation is one of the more tangible business benefits. The Celect Fulfillment Optimization module allows the ALDO Group to compare the more complex “Celect” logic against the simpler “distance based logic” which would result in orders being fulfilled at the closest store to the customer. This comparison has shown us how brick-and-mortar sales could have been lost if online orders were fulfilled using distance-based logic. Instead, we leverage the analytics provided by Celect. So, orders from two customers can be fulfilled, and not just one.

ALDO Group is thrilled to continue its growth through Celect’s predictive analytics and inventory optimization. To make our systems more efficient, we will continue to use the technology’s real time calculating capability across thousands of customer order and add countless additional data points. The company has seen strong results from its fulfillment optimization efforts. They have been very successful to date. We are looking forward to maintaining this positive trend and optimizing the efficient fulfillment customers’ online orders across our global network.


Party City opens 50 Toy Pop Up Stores

Party City will Open 50 Toy City Pop-Up Stores This Year after Toys”R”Us closes its last stores this week. Party City announced yesterday that it will open temporary locations in conjunction with its Halloween City pop up shops in “optimal markets” where it discovered “attractive leasing possibilities. Due to a shortage of stores, many retailers have been able negotiate favorable rents or lease terms. The company hopes to fill the Toys”R”Us void. As toy vendors search for new venues to sell their merchandise, companies like Target, Walmart, Barnes & Noble, Five Below and Target are likely to gain a share of the market. KB Toys also plans to make a comeback.

Total Retail’s View: Party City made a smart decision. Party City recognizes that there is a gap in the market after Toys”R”Us closed, and will capitalize on this opportunity by using its existing pop-up model (see the Halloween City stores). Party City doesn’t have to take on the financial risks associated with long-term leases for retail space. Instead, it will opt for pop-up shops. Party City will be able to find a bargain with the number of recent retail closings. Party City may also consider converting some spaces to full-time employment if its pop-up shops do well in the holiday season.


Report: Amazon Plans Holiday Toy Catalog

According to Bloomberg, plans to publish a holiday catalog to try and win the toy business that was left open after the demiseof Toys”R”Us. Bloomberg was told by people familiar with the strategy that the catalog would be sent to millions of households in the United States and distributed at Whole Foods stores, which Amazon purchased last year for $13.7 million.

Total Retail’s View: Another example of Amazon trying to take advantage of the Toys “R” Us bankruptcy is a holiday toy catalog. As it expands its brick and mortar footprint, Amazon began looking at purchasing vacant Toys”R”Us stores earlier in the year. Amazon also has a print catalog that shows it is open to trying other marketing channels. Despite all its problems, Toys “R”Us was still a major force during Christmas. Toys”R”Us’ “Big Book” toy catalogue was a holiday classic. Toy manufacturers often began their holiday advertising to coincide with the arrival of the catalog in late October. Kids still love browsing through toy catalogues, which Target and Walmart also produce, to create their wish lists.


Changes in store models mean that C-Suite must harness technology change initiatives

We are used to hearing about stores closing down dozens of shops, but there are many new technologies that promise to revive those remaining. The options available to retailers who are trying lifesaving technologies are overwhelming. While it is a positive thing that executives have signed off on systems to improve the way their employees interact with customers, they are not able to guarantee success. Many of the new platforms are not being used because the customer-facing associate, who is crucially the one using them, isn’t comfortable with the technology. Retailers are not achieving their goals and should reprioritize brick and mortar technologies so that they can focus on the store associates and customers.

Senior executives must understand that the right time is now to implement change initiatives. Decision makers must take the time to evaluate the true value of technology to customers before investing in another store system. The following areas need to be evaluated:

  • What will associates do with it to satisfy in-store customers’ needs?
  • How can management communicate with hundreds of employees about new technology and train them?

As a house cannot be built without framing the foundation, new store systems must be supported by store associates. This will increase their comfort with new initiatives, communicate instantly between all employees (store, district, and region) and objectively assess new system effectiveness.

Mobile is a key disruptor

The future of physical stores will be disrupted by technology, with mobile leading the charge. Tablets allow consumers to search products and prices in-store. This gives sales representatives the tools they need in order to satisfy customers’ needs and provide exceptional service. The mobile platform allows for instant two-way communication that helps retailers support their employees better.

Associate mobile devices improve the shopping experience by providing real-time inventory information and customer data. They also have the ability to serve customers and process transactions from anywhere within the store. Boston Retail Partners survey found that 89 percent of retailers plan to provide mobile solutions to store associates within the next three years. In most cases, mobile apps can be created internally in fractions of the time it takes to implement a complete mobile point–of-sale system. The study also found that many retailers focus only on the technical solution, and neglect the necessary process work to make the implementation a success.

Change driven by mACP (mobile Associate Communications Platform).

Retail leaders who are successful can equip themselves with scientific communication platforms (such as the mACP) that enable them to build efficiency, customer and associate engagement, and increase sales. Technology must be adopted by senior executives to ensure that their store associates are more knowledgeable about the products than the shoppers.

A recent industry survey titled Consumer In–Store Shopping Survey found that 79 percent of respondents believed knowledgeable store associates were “important” or very important. 72% of those who responded said they had a better shopping experience if they used their mobile devices to get information, check out inventory, and make purchases. Nearly half of those who responded said that a knowledgeable associate would encourage them to shop in store if they could suggest products based upon their past purchases.

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Mobile can be used to help physical stores meet higher consumer expectations when it is used well. Mobile can help senior executives be more successful in introducing new technologies to their stores and helping associates adopt new initiatives that will improve their knowledge and enhance customer service. Be sure to have a plan in place for ensuring the success of any systems that improve employees’ interactions with customers and their work. Because you will be constantly challenged by change.


Sears to Shutter 72 Other Stores

Sears Holdings announced Thursday that it will close more than 70 stores in 2018 due to its continuing decline in sales. The retailer had identified 100 non-profitable Sears/Kmart stores earlier this year and today announced that 72 of those stores would be closed “in the near future”. Sears released a statement to announce its fiscal results for the first quarter. It stated: “We continue evaluating our network of shops, which are a crucial component in our transformation and will make further adjustments if necessary and as warranted.” According to the company, the list of stores that will be closing will be released sometime Thursday. Sears also announced that an independent committee is currently evaluating a deal in which the company would sell certain assets to ESL Investments CEO Eddie Lampert.

Total Retail’s View: Sears continues its downward spiral and is trying to survive. The retailer plans to reduce costs by closing down unprofitable stores. The retailer is looking to cut costs by closing down unprofitable stores. However, sales have declined further without showing signs of a turnaround for its iconic retail brand. Sears reported a loss in its first quarter and revenue dropped more than 30% to $2.89 Billion from $4.2 Billion a year earlier. The key indicator used to assess a retailer’s health is the same-store sales. They were down by 11.9 percent. Many industry experts believe Sears is in dire financial straits and are considering filing for bankruptcy.


Retail store managers use five strategies to engage customers

Online shopping has grown rapidly in recent years. This is putting pressure on brick-and-mortar stores’ revenues. To give context, ecommerce sales have increased by $129 billion from 2013 to 2016. This represents an increase of 5.8 percent to 8.5% of total retail sales in America. 77% of the U.S. population has access to the internet as of 2015. More consumers are now shopping online because of the proliferation and accessibility of connected devices. Brick-and-mortar stores are having trouble maintaining their historic revenue levels.

Retail store managers need to find ways to make their stores stand out and provide customers with engaging experiences. A different in-store experience is crucial as store managers have seen positive financial results from improving customers’ in-store experiences. To understand the success of brick-and-mortar shops in this area, I conducted a qualitative multi-case study to examine the strategies used by retail store managers to create memorable in-store experiences.

Fun at work, customer connection and relationship, pride, genuine care, and customer connection were the main themes that I identified. These themes were key factors in successful customer engagement strategies of these retail store managers. When I started this study, I was expecting to hear about tools and training as fundamental elements of the in-store customer experience. Surprisingly, these weren’t the main themes. My impressions were that the main themes were about engagement between store associates and customers. These themes revolved around the themes of fun at work and customer connection, pride, and genuine caring.

Strategy 1: Have Fun at Work

My research revealed that the most popular strategy was to have fun at work. Store managers often attributed their success in customer engagement to their store associates having fun. Fun at work is a part of each store’s culture. It was also something that was established at the managerial level. The culture was passed on to the rest of the staff. The idea of having fun at work was expressed by dancing in the store to upbeat music, laughing at different situations and finding a way for the team to be happy and enjoyable even while they were working hard. Participant four said that store associates who are having fun have a higher level of interaction with customers. This interaction results in more customer satisfaction and higher sales productivity. I watched the interaction between the store associates with customers and I noticed that they were having fun. Customers gravitated to them because they saw the associates as happy and cheerful and adopted a similar attitude.

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Strategy 2: Customer Connection

Connection with the customer was another strategy. Instead of having the associate sell a product straight away, he/she will try to establish a connection with the customer through learning about their home projects or what brought them to the store. The store associate will then build on this connection and bring the selling aspect into conversation. This helps create a greater level of trust with customers, which allows them to be more connected with store associates. A deeper and more intimate relationship with customers leads to richer conversations that allow both parties to quickly identify ways to assist the customer.

Strategy 3: Relationship

My research also led me to the strategy of building trust with customers. This strategy builds trust and relationships with customers by establishing a connection with them through conversation over a long period of time. Four participants shared stories about customers who brought their spouses to visit a store associate with whom they had a close relationship. A strong relationship between customer and associate creates trust and enriches customer experience in the present as well as in the future. It is important for store associates to spend time with customers to build this level of relationship. This is not a relationship that can be formed in one encounter. It takes time and maturity to build.

Strategy 4: Pride

Participant 2 described pride as drawing parallels to their store as their house: “I use the analogy that when you shop in my store it’s almost like you are coming into my home. How would you treat these customers if they were your guests? This approach creates pride in our associates. They make it personal.” Store managers can take pride in the hospitality and pride they show their customers. It can be hard to foster pride. Participants four shared their methods for building pride among store associates. Giving them a deeper understanding of what makes them tick encourages buy-in, and fosters pride in the associate.” This seemed to have a positive effect on the customer’s shopping experience.

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Strategie 5: Genuine Care

From the data collected, the final strategy emerged as genuine care. Participants two stated that genuine care is not just a job; they actually care about their customers. We listen to our customers and take the time to understand their needs. This idea is linked to a few other strategies, namely customer connection and relationship. This creates a deeper relationship and connection with the customer because the associate cares about them. Participant five stated that they interact with customers because they care about them. This concept of genuine care seems to be more effective in building a relationship with the customer.


The brick-and-mortar experience starts with customer experience. Customers have many choices when it comes to shopping. Engaging customers is one way to create a unique shopping experience. A differentiated customer experience can be the difference between a retailer and its competitors. Brick-and-mortar stores have become increasingly competitive in a highly competitive marketplace. Customer experience is an essential component of their business. This study identified and discussed factors that can lead to a different customer experience. These five strategies can be used by retail store managers to build deeper customer relationships and increase revenues if they are applied correctly.


How to build a store of the future? Continue reading!

According to Albert Vita (director of visual merchandising and in-store experience at the Home Depot), a store of the future must always be customer-first and open to experimentation. Vita spoke about the topic with Zivelo CEO Healey Cypher earlier in the month at the National Retail Federation’s 2019 Big Show.

It is also important to have a supportive network.

Vita stated that it is crucial to ask Vita “What’s the supply chain for the future?” when thinking about innovative stores. “What is our future marketing department? What is our future inventory planning and replenishment team? What’s the future of e-commerce, IT and HR? I am arguing that innovation is a rising tide that must lift all boats.

Vita said that there are three things retail executives need to remember when building the store of their dreams.

He said that the first power is the power to ask questions. Vita stated that the in-store experience of designing will never be the same as the quality of the questions you ask. It is crucial that you ask the right questions.

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The power of mind-sets is the second power. Vita noted that there are mind-sets that encourage abundance and those that promote scarcity. Vita stated that if you have a mind set of scarcity, your focus is on your competition, protecting what’s yours, and protecting your market share. If you can take a step back, and work to develop a mindset of abundance, you will be able to achieve a 10x breakthrough rather than incremental 10 percent improvements.

Vita stated that the power of values is the last power. Vita stated that the quality of the store or the in-store experience of the store will not be determined by how grounded you are in the company’s values. Vita said, “For instance, if you had to build a store of the future what values would you bring to the store?” What values would it ooze?

Vita also stated that there are three superpowers retail executives need to consider when creating the store of tomorrow. These superpowers include:

  • Empathy, which is the ability to empathize with your customers as they shop in your store.
  • When you think about how to communicate with customers and employees, humility and the absence ego are key.
  • Love, or making technology decisions based upon genuine affection for your customers and associates.

Vita laughed, “I don’t know how many sessions at NRF it took you to think you would be discussing love,” Vita said. “But you’re in one now.”

It’s also important to consider how you will measure the success of your store of the future when designing a store. Vita stated that traditional metrics like gross margin return of investment (GMROI), sales per square feet, and gross margin sales are valuable. However, a holistic approach to assessing innovation is needed.

“If your company plans to build a store that is the future, or a new and innovative in-store experience, wouldn’t it make sense that you would have to measure it in ways that are not possible before?” Vita asked the audience.

What are some ways to evaluate in-store innovation holistically? Vita suggested that customers be surveyed using in-store cameras and analytics to see how customers move through the store. Vita stated that all things VOC (or what we call the ‘voices of customers’) are important to capture.

Spend time with your associates. Vita said, “Who better than the store associates who are there every single day on the front line to see if a particular innovation is working?”

Finally, ensure that you measure cross-channel metrics. Vita said, “Even though we may have created the store of the future or instore innovation, there might be other metrics affected by what was done in-store.” Vita said, “Supply chain metrics for example or online. It stands to reason that creating a store in the future within a ZIP Code would alter the online behavior of all ZIP Codes within the store.







Competing with Digital Giants: How Brick and Mortar Can Fight Back With Data

We’ve all been there. Pajamas too early (or late!) It is rare for shops to open and, even if they do, traffic and crowds can be annoying. It is much easier to shop online using the bright, warm blue light of your phone or computer. Price matching is as easy as switching between tabs on your browser. The product will likely arrive within two days or sooner.

This is the new retail reality that the digital world has created. This ecosystem is being shaped by online-only marketers and direct to consumer brands, who are tapping into the data-driven advantages it offers. Customers are told by them that they can provide whatever they want if they just click a few times.

How can brick-and mortar retailers compete in this new environment? How can brick-and-mortar retailers get more customers to their doors, and compete with the digital influx of competition?

A Unique Advantage

It takes maturing from multichannel thinking to omnichannel. New research by Cuebiq & Retail Ascendant shows that physical retailers can better leverage data and insights from the offline world to be more competitive against online leaders.

As an example, consider footfall. A survey of retail executives was conducted in June/July 2018. Footfall measurements had an impact on several business decisions including assortment and marketing (79%), media and marketing decisions (71%), and optimization across all channels (57%). However, the most common use cases were location intelligence for store-bystore metrics (29%) and shopper marketing (21%), respectively.

These results indicate that footfall is still a channel-specific measure that focuses on broad optimization of marketing, merchandising and other channels. It shouldn’t be. Data such as footfall measurement can help increase customer traffic, better understand customer behavior and allow retailers to better meet their customers’ needs.

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Growing from Traditional

Multifaceted retail customers are a reality. Marketing approaches must be multifaceted to reach these customers. This is something that many recognize, but still rely upon traditional methods of measuring engagement. Our research shows that retailers still use people counting (53%), loyalty programs and credit cards to assess in-store traffic. Location analytics (33%), in-store sensors (33%), and mobile devices (27%) were the other most popular methods.

Positive news is that retailers are starting to use new technology. Even though some retailers still use old-fashioned methods, they still consider footfall measurement a priority. It is actually a top three source for analytics for 38 percent, while 23 percent consider it to be increasing in importance.

Moving forward quickly

To compete with omnichannel leaders, building a digital foundation requires thinking differently. Investing in better offline analytics is the first step for retailers. Retailers have made data scientists and analysts their top priority. They can use these skills to evaluate offline patterns alongside online efforts. The company will be more successful if it can build models that understand the tradeoff and omnichannel impact.

Retailers should also look at the traffic patterns of their competitors. Location analytics can be used to analyze footfall patterns more precisely. This allows retailers to see where customers go even when they aren’t in-store. This competitive information helps to understand where consumers spend their time and money, and allows for targeted messaging to potential customers.

You can also use beacons in conjunction with location data to give retailers more depth of measurement and better ways to correlate visits. These technologies provide a wealth of data from mobile, web and other digital channels, which goes beyond what is possible with offline traffic measurement.

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Engaging in a New Era

Digital isn’t going away. Data will only grow in power and reach new heights for those who are able to use it. It’s crucial to establish standards for the future of insights.

Create internal performance metrics across channels and channels using cross-channelattribution. This can be used to motivate internal teams to increase cross-channel traffic to both online and offline properties when it is measured and incentivized. This can help ensure that the large fixed investment in physical retail is optimized and recognized for its contributions.

Reward customers for buying through multiple channels. It is important to recognize when loyal online shoppers visit the store and when traditional brick-and mortar customers buy online. This helps strengthen the relationship. These insights can be used to optimize marketing and merchandising costs and enable progressive messages and offers that are not conflicting with or impersonal.

Customers make decisions based upon perceived value. Ask why someone is at home in their pajamas adding items to their digital shopping cart. When the data gives you the answer, it is time to take action.

Things to Remember Bankruptcy Filing and Store Closures

Things Remembered is planning to file for bankruptcy protection. It will close most of its approximately 400 stores. This was according to people familiar with the matter. Things Remembered’s 2016 debt restructuring was not enough to protect it from the bankruptcies that are sweeping brick-and mortar retail. One source said that the company in Highland Heights, Ohio, employs approximately 2,500 people in the United States, and Canada. It hopes to sell its brand, and online business, during bankruptcy proceedings. This would help preserve hundreds of jobs. According to sources, Things Remembered is looking for buyers for its stores.

Total Retail’s View: January 2019 brought some disappointing news for brick-and mortar retailers. Signet Jewelers and Shopko have filed for bankruptcy or closed down stores in January, adding to the ongoing drama surrounding Sears’ future. Things Remembered’s debt burden is likely to be its undoing. The plan to sell the brand’s products through’s Marketplace was announced last September but it wasn’t enough to save Things Remembered.

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Retail Profits Driven by Customer Dwell Time

Customer experience is vital in the retail industry. It has been important for years, but it is now crucial to drive customer satisfaction and repeat business. Customers who are satisfied and spend more time with their store will be happier and they will buy more products. This will lead to increased profitability and a greater number of items in the shopping basket. The demand for new technologies is growing to assist retailers in improving their operations, establishing stronger relationships with digital customers and increasing revenue. Many stores want to improve their customer experience and increase profits by offering intuitive connected devices and services. However, customers who prefer personal interaction with their store may lose customers and profit.

This begs the question: How can you improve the connected store experience while still maintaining human interaction? Technology can be used to enhance the in-store experience of customers. This allows sales associates to provide more personalized customer service, which in turn will allow them to upsell and build sales. This personalized customer service results in more customers being satisfied, higher store profits and longer dwell time.

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Let’s take a look at today’s retail transformation

Recently, Jeremy Dallois (CEO of ReachFive) stated that the future in retail is in “digitalization” of the supply chain, and the customer experience. This sentiment appears to be widely shared within the sector.

Retailers have moved beyond using technology to prevent loss to creating new business models that encourage profitability and provide customers with convenient connected services. The retail sector has become a laboratory of innovation, evaluating the return-on-investment potential of breakthrough technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things(IoT), and big data. This will deliver new benefits to consumers and insight for retailers to increase profits.

A digital e-commerce experience online or at home can help customers engage beyond the store. Let’s look at Monoprix as an example. It leverages voice control (conversational shopping) technologies to give its customers the ability to dictate their shopping lists via their connected speaker.

Use technology to deliver personalized customer service

Some retailers don’t have the financial resources or the expertise to fully exploit the potential of new RF/RFID-connected retail technologies. While loss prevention is an established practice to limit store shrinkage, how can technology be applied in-store and via smart devices to improve customer purchasing experience? The retail landscape has changed due to cultural shifts caused by mobile devices and ecommerce. Retailers need to adapt to be able to capture the new ways consumers interact with brands and make purchase decisions. Take a look at the following:

  • 72 percent of shoppers would rather have the item in their hands before they buy it.
  • Only 29 percent of respondents appreciate having a personal assistant for their shopping.
  • 49% of shoppers stated that they would be more comfortable if the interactions with AI systems were more personal.

Retailers now have the ability to use technologies to assist customers, take into consideration their preferences and offer a customized shopping experience. This is where enhanced Customer Dwell Time (ECDT), although there are a few subtleties that might not be obvious, comes in.

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A direct correlation between increased profitability and longer dwell time in-store is the increase of Dwell Time

What is increased dwell time? This is the idea of extending a customer’s stay in your store. It involves interacting with the customer via technology to personalize the experience. Regardless of the reason, a longer dwell time means more items are added to the shopping cart. Customers make more money when they buy more items.

ECDT Benefits Consumers and Retailers

  • Efficiency: Suppliers that offer product portfolios with intelligent RF/RFID tags, sensors, connected AI, machine learning retail devices and near-real-time IoT supply chains and inventory management provide transformative solutions for retailers to personalize the retail experience, optimize shelf replenishment, and engage customers to increase dwell time.
  • Transparency Enhance consumer confidence when engaging with connected devices in order to create omnichannel strategies that are healthy, both online and offline.
  • Experience: Use connected devices and radio frequency identification technologies to create in-store experiences that are consistent with brand DNA and today’s digital consumer culture. Create a Retail Comfort Zone ™ that allows consumers to dwell, dream, and connect with the brand’s offerings using technology.

ECDT is a smart retail strategy that connects to smart devices. Consumers today are digitally connected and start their shopping journey outside of stores. However, they also seek out new experiences in-store beyond the products and services offered by brands.

Retail seduction starts outside the shop with aspirational branding, and connecting with digital customers. Connected devices can influence the size of the shopping cart, allowing brand stakeholders to identify consumers’ brand preferences using mobile devices, AI, or in-store sensors that reference RFID-tagged items taken into the fitting rooms. An enhanced shopping experience leads to longer dwell time for the consumer and higher sales.

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Shopko Files Bankruptcy Protection

Shopko, a general merchandise retailer that has stores in the Central, Western, and Pacific Northwest regions of the U.S.A., announced it and its subsidiaries have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Shopko stated that the reason for the bankruptcy filing was excessive debt and ongoing competition pressures. Shopko reported assets less than $1billion and liabilities between $1billion and $10billion. Shopko announced it would close 38 stores, in addition to the 45 that it had closed over the past year. It will also relocate more than 20 optical centers to independent locations and conduct an auction for its pharmacy business.

Shopko, which has over 360 locations, stated it will continue to serve customers, vendors and employees with the $480 million in debtor-in possession financing it obtained from lenders. Russ Steinhorst (Shopko’s CEO) stated that this was a difficult decision but essential. We’ve had to make difficult decisions in a tough retail environment. However, we are confident that we can build a stronger Shopko by operating smaller, more focused stores that will better serve customers, vendors and other stakeholders.

Total Retail’s View: Shopko filed for bankruptcy not unexpectedly. According to Chain Store Age McKesson Corp. claimed that it has provided Shopko $67 million worth of drugs since Nov. 11 but has not been paid since December. This week, the drug supplier requested a restraining or injunction to prevent Shopko selling the drugs it supplied. A McKesson lawyer stated that Shopko would file for bankruptcy protection Jan. 15. Shopko is not in the worst of luck. The company’s optical business is a shining spot. Shopko was encouraged by the success of its four independent optical centers, which were opened in 2018, and announced that it will open more optical centers in 2019, in addition to moving more than 20 to freestanding locations.

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Four Chances to Win Shoppers at Stores in 2019

According to the International Council of Shopping Centers, more that 151 million people visited stores during Black Friday and Cyber Monday last year. The holiday shopping spree in stores is a great opportunity for brands to win new customers and build long-term relationships. According to a recent survey Square Root, 71% of U.S. shoppers said that the in-store experience is directly related to whether or not they become repeat customers. These findings were compared to the study about challenges U.S. retailers face in delighting customers and revealed four key areas for success in in-store in 2019.

The Front Lines

Associate can make shopper decisions and implement in-store changes. They also have the ability to improve customer service. Shoppers expect associates who are friendly, helpful and knowledgeable about product and inventory. Customers expect answers in 26 seconds on average. 75% of respondents said they are less likely to shop again with a brand if their needs don’t get met quickly.

Our research shows that half of retailers believe their associate training could be improved despite their influence. An influx in holiday hires can lead to a greater demand for training investment. To be successful, store associates must have the ability to empower themselves. This includes briefing them about brand standards and educating them about their role in achieving companywide performance metrics.

Staying on top of Omnichannel Expectations

Shoppers today expect to find endless choices for the products they desire. According to 82% of respondents, stores should offer the same selection and variety as online. Brick-and-mortar customers also expect to be able, if necessary, to order items from other locations (87%) or online (93%).






Increased omnichannel expectations can lead to increased inventory challenges for retailers. This includes stockouts and overstock issues, as well as making it harder to forecast inventory needs. These added complexities can be solved by giving teams one view of inventory across all channels. Only 45 percent of retailers claim they do not have this today. This improved visibility allows teams to align on inventory issues like stockouts or delays, allowing associates to make informed decisions about customer assistance.

Consistency is the Key

Shoppers might visit different stores and expect the same experience at each store. Shoppers expect a consistent experience at all locations. 74% of respondents say that it affects their willingness to return.

It is difficult to find the right balance between brand standards and providing a personal and local experience in every store. Only 48 percent of retailers say they can currently provide a consistent experience across all locations. Brands can provide a single view of all stores to their district managers, which allows them to maintain consistency and help the stores achieve the right balance between localization and standardization. Brands can identify potential growth areas and areas that need improvement. They also have the ability to build loyal customer bases by providing a consistent experience.

Are There More Problems Than Promotions?

Eighty-two per cent of shoppers believe that promotions increase their likelihood to shop in stores. While many brands are still pushing in-store or online-only promotions, 70% of shoppers expect that online promotional offers will be honored in physical stores. If these expectations are not met, 59% say they will be less likely to shop again with the brand in the future.

Retailers can make the most of promotions by aligning deals with omnichannel expectations and aligning their teams to work together. Brands can increase autonomy and agility by ensuring visibility throughout the organization, online and offline. This will help boost both the bottom line as well as the customer experience.

Store teams will have an impact on customer experience, loyalty, and brand performance in 2019. Teams will be better equipped to assist customers and exceed their expectations. This will set brands up for success in 2019 and beyond.

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It’s not easy to wow future consumers.

My family was a “mall rat” growing up. Shopping was my favorite pastime. It was where I could meet friends, escape from my parents and shop — which led to many purchases. I didn’t need to be wooed by the mall with special sales, rewards programs or unique spaces. You, like me and many others, know what the research says. They still shop in physical stores. These consumers are more diverse. These consumers shop differently, and they have very different expectations than previous generations.

What are the future prospects for retailers? Retail industry changes that are geared towards consumers are driven by three factors.

Automation of shopping

“Store” comes from “storage,” which is where goods are stored. While technology won’t replace brick-and-mortar stores, it will make shopping easier. Gen Z was raised with the mindset that everything can be bought online and never had to visit a shop. They go to stores because they want, not because they have to. And they expect retailers in-store to anticipate their needs just as well in the virtual world. The retail industry will only have one chance to provide shoppers with something unique in-store.

Bots now account for 80 percent of all purchasing bandwidth. This means that retailers have 20% of the market to stand out and differentiate themselves through a new model that caters towards what consumers want. These employees can act as consultants and advise shoppers based upon their knowledge and experiences. This includes experiences in-store that help people feel connected to one another and the community.

Living differently

Future consumers will be more concerned about sustainability. Sustainability is a growing concern. This includes the environmental impact of the materials used to make, pack, and ship goods as well as the ethical and behavioral choices of the people who work for the company. Gen Z is used to being able to use assets and not own them. Future consumers will be more open to renting services than they are to purchasing them. This allows for sharing of items that might have been bought previously. The environment and consumers both benefit. The definition of what it means to be consumer will change. Service providers will become more common in retail, allowing consumers to use their products without having to own them. This will also allow for the sale of pre-owned goods, thereby defining sustainability.

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Data-Driven Personalization

Future customers expect to be known. Mass messages and offers that do not demonstrate an understanding of their needs are insulting to future consumers. Many people from previous generations get a little nervous when advertisements start appearing for products they have *only* thought about. Gen Z expects retailers and anyone who wants to covet their business to be able to read their minds. My high schooler is receiving lots of marketing material from colleges. She expects that colleges will not just mention her accomplishments but also her interests in theater and history. This expectation extends to all interactions, even retail.

Wining Retailers will take stock of both big and small data

If retailers want to thrive and survive in the future, they need to reconsider their relationships with customers and the experiences that they offer them. This is where digitally native retailers can gain a better perspective. Because they have built their businesses to align with Gen Z values and practices, when they open physical stores, they are in tune with future consumers’ expectations. They are also focused on filling a gap in the consumer experience that the virtual universe did not offer.

Many physical retailers are now digital. In response to competition rather than the customer, they have jumped on board the big data bandwagon. They will always be playing catchup because of it. New competition and disruptive technologies are changing human expectations, values and behaviors faster than ever. Big data and an understanding of cultural shifts are key to the success of the winners. They have a better chance of changing consumer shopping expectations than being a victim or playing catch-up.

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