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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Lush Cosmetics Lowers Prices and Improves Service Through Store Communication Platform

Lush Cosmetics, a beauty retailer, recently launched a communication platform and workflow platform to help its managers and store associates. This app-based platform allows for regular communication between company executives and front-line employees in stores. Lush uses the platform for important messages such as product launches and merchandising displays. It also helps with in-store marketing campaigns. Lush previously used voicemails, emails and the intranet of the company to communicate with employees in stores, but it wasn’t getting the engagement it wanted.


Lush partnered last year with Retail Zipline to enable this new communication system. This app helps businesses simplify communications and task management. Lush’s employees in-store use their mobile devices to download the app and log into it at the beginning of each shift. They can access important messages related to their shift and the entire business from the app.


Retail Zipline CEO Melissa Wong says brands need to be able to interact with their employees in real-time. Lush believes that engaging with its employees is about more than the product they sell in their stores. Although that is an important part of it, it is also about how the associates interact with customers. It also involves the role of the store associate within the company and how they can make the brand’s experience better for customers.

Lindsay Nelson, Lush’s retail communications manager, said that Retail Zipline’s partnership has allowed the retailer to communicate more effectively with its staff. It also provides better insight into the performance of the store, which has resulted in time savings, improved operations, and improved efficiency, all leading to cost savings. Lush’s employees love using Retail Zipline. This has led to happier employees. Customers are more likely be able to return to Lush’s brand for more service. Two, happier employees tend to stay longer and reduce hiring costs.

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Lindsay Nelson, Retail Communications Manager at Lush Cosmetics

Lush’s store employees are used to using their phones and apps every day. This means that there was little to no training needed when the Retail Zipline platform went live to its nearly 250 North American brick and mortar locations. The Retail Zipline app must be fun and easy to use for them to access it daily. Nelson and her team emphasize storytelling in their communications with store employees, especially around Lush’s unique products.

Lush is proud to sell organic and fresh products and it has a mission to share that message with consumers. Retail Zipline allows Lush to take the first step towards that goal, at least offline. It provides a platform for real time communications between headquarters and the store teams. They then relay product stories to customers. Lush’s products are important to store associates. They also have a direct impact on customers’ purchasing decisions.


Barneys New York Launches a Cannabis Store in California

According to Forbes, Barneys New York will open a California cannabis shop called The High End. The new “cannabis lifestyle” shop will open March within an existing Barneys Beverly Hills store. Barneys stores across California will soon have more cannabis shops. The Beverly Hills location will be a partner of luxury cannabis brand Beboe and will carry the brand’s vaporizer pen, pastilles and CBD range. High End will also carry accessories from other high-end marijuana brands as well as cannabis-themed jewellery. will have a selection of products from the high-end cannabis shop.

Total Retail’s View: The cannabis market continues to grow and attract larger brands to the sector. Barneys New York has partnered with California’s recreational cannabis users in order to combine the rising culture trend and the brand’s high-end retail stores. This partnership between Beboe and the luxury brand demonstrates how mainstream cannabis is becoming. It also likely foreshadows other competitors looking to grab a piece of this market. There are also luxury cannabis experience brands like MedMen. Their chief marketing officer was interviewed recently on Total Retail Talks.

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How successful retailers create community spaces for customers

It started with “groceraunts” but has since spread to all aspects of the retail industry. Community spaces in retail stores have been proven to increase foot traffic and provide a better customer experience. Community spaces can be a cafe or wine bar, a bistro, or just a place to relax with Wi-Fi. They help retailers stand out and increase customer loyalty.

A community space can be a great way to accomplish several things in your store.

A strong sense of belonging is key

You give shoppers the chance to make new connections and strengthen existing ones by creating a space that is open to them. The retail space becomes a place where friends can gather and have a drink. Students can use the Wi-Fi to work on projects. Clubs can also meet in the area. This creates a community and a sense loyalty to the group as well as the place.

These types of tight-knit communities are what drive customers to go offline and shop in physical stores. A customer-centric space is essential when you want to compete with ecommerce. It allows people to interact in a way that’s not possible through online shopping.

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Encourage customers to return

You can encourage repeat visits once you have attracted customers. By personalizing your marketing campaigns and allowing customers to choose the products that interest them, you can tailor your offers to suit their needs.

To entice them back to your cafe, offer specials on their favorite drinks if they spend a lot of time there. You can also offer themed nights in your cafe to entice customers to return. Customers will be drawn to your cafe if you provide a welcoming environment and offer amenities such as free Wi-Fi.

Encourage customers to spend more

Your store will make more money if customers return to it more often. Customers who stay longer are more likely to come back. Customers will stay longer if they feel that your store is customer-oriented. Customers can browse your products and discover something new.

Your loyalty program can be leveraged to increase customers’ average spending by allowing points to accrue based on dollar spent. You can offer customers a $5 coupon for a smoothie, or a free cup of coffee when they reach a certain spending threshold. This will encourage them to spend more.

Why it matters

In the end, customers will notice that your store is customer-centric. Online shopping is so easy that customers can find almost anything they need online. The actual products you sell are secondary. Customers should have great customer experiences. This will drive loyalty. This can be achieved by creating a relaxing environment for customers.


Sam’s Club is gaining loyalty because of private-label products

Customers will be more loyal to your store if they can only purchase their favorite products at that location. Chandra Holt is the senior vice president and chief operational officer of Sam’s Club, and This was discussed in a session held at Groceryshop Monday. Krystina Gstafson, vice-president of content at Groceryshop, interviewed Holt.

Holt joined Sam’s Club as a member in 2015. The membership-only retailer owned 21 private-label brands before Holt joined. Holt’s strategy was change. In the end, he embarked on a plan to reduce the number of Sam’s Club’s privately-label brands down to one.

Holt stated that Sam’s Club’s private label was a traditional approach when he joined. It had many brands that focused on products with a lower price than a national brand. When I arrived, we did customer research, and heard what our members wanted from the private labels. We knew that we had to do more.” Holt and Sam’s Club combined all these brands under one private label called Member’s Mark.

Gustafson wanted to know Holt’s strategy for promoting Member’s Mark online and in-store. Holt explained that the two strategies are quite different.

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Holt replied, “In shops, you’ll find retailers have traditionally placed private labels next to the national brands. As people look for national brand, they see private label and it might [cost less] and so they’ll buy it.” Online, you can have a completely different experience. There’s less browse and more search. To ensure that customers can see all we have to offer, we provide […] space online.

Holt stated that consumers tend to search online more than they browse and that a lot of people will search for “Member’s Mark” on Sam’s Club’s site.

Holt stated that members shop in the club and sometimes don’t have the time or the desire to visit the club. “Members also know Member’s Mark because it’s the only brand we offer,” Holt added. They’ll search […] for it by name.

Holt explained that even though customers don’t search Member’s Mark by name, they still search for products like dog food. Because they perform well, Member’s Mark products often rise to the top of search results pages.

Sam’s Club’s private-label brand has been a huge success, but it’s bound to be a concern for national brands who share shelf space with Member’s Mark products. Gustafson wanted to know how Holt responds when brand partners are concerned about the growing influence of Member’s Mark with consumers.

Holt stated that Sam’s is growing and reminds suppliers […] that even if a private label wins, national brands still lose. “Everyone is growing and we discovered that suppliers can be very resilient in growing our business if they understand our strategies and prioritize our goals. Everyone can grow, and it all depends on what our members and customers want.

A successful private-label business means that customers will continue to come back to Sam’s Club.

Holt stated that when people begin to buy our private label, they tend renew their membership at a higher rate. Exclusive items are a great way to build loyalty. The stickiness of private-label items keeps customers coming back for more. It has had a tremendous positive impact on our overall business.”






8 Proven Methods to Increase Store Efficiency on Black Friday

Black Friday is a serious game that has been in the works for many months. They have reexamined their operations and identified the areas they can improve in 2019. It’s a big business. For many retailers, their holiday performance is a key indicator of their year-end profits.

Let’s say you aren’t one of those businesses that has Black Friday carefully planned. What can you do to improve your store efficiency? These are eight tips to help you increase your store efficiency.

  1. Stock up. Have it there. Be sure to have it on hand in time for Black Friday. Retail locations must have enough space to store and organize merchandise. This will allow employees to find the right product and retrieve it quickly as sales come in. You will miss opportunities if you find a box of bestsellers in a corner of your warehouse the next day.
  2. Get organized. Let the stores know when and how much stock they will receive so that they can make sure their staff are available at the right moment. Plan to have the stock ready before the store opens. Also, make sure you include in-store promotional messaging. Although it sounds simple, stock availability is often cited by CEOs of retailers who have not been able to meet their sales targets.
  3. Communication is important. Customers should be informed about specials in-store. You should think about how you can reach as many consumers as possible as quickly as possible. Because of its speed and reach, digital marketing is your best friend.
  4. Check your opening hours. Are you open earlier than normal? Stay open later? You should make these decisions, especially if you have competitors or other local shops.
  5. Prepare your team for the day. Make sure customers don’t have to wait in line or walk out. Consider when your busiest times are and plan shifts and breaks accordingly. Black Friday is not the time to cut team hours or try to save money.
  6. Act early if lines begin to form. Clearing a queue once it has formed is easier than clearing it.
  7. Get ready for your store managers. They must be able to handle the unexpected and direct the store team to meet the demands of a busy shopping day. Peak trading requires that your managers are at their best. The golden rule is to keep them away from any hands-on work. They are responsible for orchestrating the day and keeping the operations in order.
  8. After the day is over, go through everything. Take a look at logistics, buying, and how head office helped store get ready. Ask your store managers to give you feedback about how they could have been set up better. Also, identify the highlights and failures in their local execution. You will be able to identify what worked and make improvements next year.

The next Black Friday is coming again. Before that Cyber Monday, Christmas and Singles Day are all around. Learn from these lessons.






Birchbox will Open Holiday Fixtures at 500 Walgreens Locations

Birchbox, a subscription service for beauty products, will increase its partnership with Walgreens during the holiday season by placing fixtures in 500 Walgreens’ locations across 44 states. From Friday, December 5, to the end of December 6, Birchbox displays are available. These displays will feature limited-edition Birchbox Beauty or Birchbox Grooming themed Birchbox Beauty boxes and an Advent calendar. They also include Birchbox subscription gift card vouchers and travel-sized beauty products. In late 2018, Walgreens and Birchbox established a partnership, launching pilot store-instore partnerships in 11 Walgreens across the United States. For an undisclosed amount, Walgreens Boots Alliance, the parent company, also purchased a minority stake in this beauty brand.

Total Retail’s View: Beauty is now one of the most profitable retail categories. Walgreens and CVS are taking notice. CVS last year announced that it would double the size of its beauty department in its stores by launching a store-within a-store concept called BeautyIRL. CVS also partnered with Glamsquad, an on-demand beauty service, to offer services such as hair and makeup, lash application and face and eye masks. Walgreens also partnered with Birchbox to incorporate the digital-native brand in its physical stores. This announcement highlights two trends in the industry: growing popularity of seasonal pop up shops, especially for direct-to consumer brands, and retailers’ willingness to find brand partners to generate traffic, especially in-store and sales.






Victoria’s Secret Plans To Go Private; Les Wexner to Resign

CNBC reported that Victoria’s Secret will be going private. Victoria’s Secret was once a powerful and popular lingerie brand. Sycamore Partners, a private equity firm, made the deal that shows how little value Victoria’s Secret has had in recent years. The firm will purchase a 55 percent stake in Victoria’s Secret from L Brands. Les Wexner, L Brands founder, will be its chairman and CEO. Wexner will continue to serve as chairman emeritus.

CNBC reported that L Brands’ stock dropped 10% in pre-market trades after the announcement. This is likely to be a sign that the market was not thrilled with the deal. Victoria’s Secret’s value has been valued at $1.1 billion. L Brands will use the money and $500 million of surplus balance sheet cash to reduce its debt. L Brands will now be focusing on its Bath & Body Works brand.

Total Retail’s Turn: In recent years, consumers have chosen to shop at lingerie brands with more inclusivity, comfortable products and body positivity. Victoria’s Secret, the brand that is known for its “fantasy”, supermodels, and high-end products, has struggled with adapting to changing consumer mindsets. It has been criticized for not including women in its sizes. In 2018, Victoria’s Secret was still defending its exclusive ways. Ed Razek (CEO of L Brands at that time) stated that Victoria’s Secret should not have plus-sized models in its fashion shows as the brand promotes a fantasy world. Victoria’s Secret remains the most popular brand in the lingerie category. Perhaps with new leadership, it can strengthen its position. But I believe that millennials might be sceptical about Victoria’s Secret’s brand and will reject any attempts Victoria’s Secret makes at being more inclusive, if they aren’t genuine.







US Stores to Stay Open after Forever 21 Acquisition

Three companies have completed the acquisition of Forever 21. This was announced by Authentic Brands Group earlier in this week. Brookfield Property Partners and Simon Property Group, along with Authentic Brands, are the new owners of Forever 21’s 448 U.S. locations. According to court filings, the price of the sale was $81 million. The new owners intend to keep the Los Angeles headquarters of fast-fashion retailer and its e-commerce operations running.

Total Retail’s View: Mall owners have an interest in the success of their largest tenants. Here are Joe Jackman’s thoughts as CEO of Jackman Reinvents and author of ” The Reinventionist Mindset”: Learn to love change and how to do it brilliantly.

“Does Forever 21 really have a chance of redemption under new ownership?” My starting point is always “yes” provided that some fundamentals are true. I am a reinventionist. Is there a solid, core idea? What is the core idea that made the brand so special? Is it possible to reimagine the idea today with the same will and resources as when the brand was created in the mid-80s?

Forever 21 was founded out of the American dream. It was founded on the belief that exciting and current fashion could be affordable to all. But it also believed that anyone could choose to be anything they want. The Forever 21 story is the story its immigrants founders. It sold fast-fashion long before this was commonplace. It was selling what customers really wanted: a better version themselves, closer towards their aspirations than their reality. This is a powerful, timeless idea that’s even more relevant today. But the idea was never realized. This is just one example of the many options available, proving yet again that interchangeability is not a winning strategy. Forever 21 was able to be another mall-based retailer selling cheap, disposable clothing. This is a disturbing trend in today’s wider landscape. But that core idea shines brightly…

“On the second point, the will and the wherewithal — I like the vision of a diverse ownership group that has a common goal: to not only create brand value but also create a compelling reason for people to go to the mall. They have deep pockets.






“My conclusion is that Forever 21 can last forever if it continues to innovate and think thoughtfully.”


Keep it simple: How retail can retain convenience


I don’t know if you feel the same, but convenience is something I really love. Whole Foods is my favorite place to order groceries. They deliver my groceries right to my door when I get home. I love the convenience of being able to purchase online and pick them up in-store. I place an order on and wait for them to arrive. Then, I pick them up when it suits me best. You can be sure that I will try any company or brand that offers more convenience in my life.

One thing that I have noticed over the last few months is that many of my favorite stores are experiencing a noticeable and dramatic resurgence to make them more convenient. These retailers offer a variety of options to promote the convenience factor in-store, which is a result of the next-day delivery initiatives led by Walmart. Nearly 90% of retail sales are done in brick-and mortar stores. However, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos stated earlier this year that retailers need to find more cost-effective ways to automate tasks while still maintaining a competitive price.

Take notice brick-and-mortar stores, there are five options available to increase convenience.

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1. Delivery

Brick-and-mortar shops can show off their convenience by offering on-demand delivery, local pickup points and free shipping. A recent CommonSense Robotics survey found that customers prefer same-day delivery to in-store pickup by a margin of four to one.

Target is one brick and mortar retailer that focuses on same-day grocery delivery. Walmart offers a membership program to expand its grocery delivery service. Instead of the $9.99 delivery fee, customers can pay a $98 annual fee or $12.95 per monthly. Walmart has better options to compete with Instacart/Whole Foods and Amazon Prime Now/Whole Foods. Retailers can differentiate themselves by evaluating local opportunities that appeal to local customers to increase incremental sales and draw repeat customers.

2. Subscription Services

Consumers can now enjoy new products from the comfort of their own homes and make repeat purchases through subscriptions. Subscription models are also being offered by traditional retailers. Birchbox and Walgreens partnered last year to create retail experiences in select stores. Urban Outfitters recently announced it would launch a rental program in addition to its existing e-commerce and physical presence. Both Walgreens and Urban Outfitters have taken inspiration from other successful direct-to consumer brands in order to create an in-store experience for shoppers that gives them the joy of making a purchase, whether it be a repeat or new, that can be worn, gifted, or used immediately.

3. Self-Checkout

A positive shopping experience is built on ease and convenience. RIS News survey found that consumers prefer to “grab and run” technology. They also use smartphones for self-checkout. Fivety-nine percent said they would like it and nine percent had already used it. Payment kiosks can also be moved and used by retailers to set up “quick-sale” displays that allow for quick payment options for seasonal gifting aisles, or limited-time items.

4. Order Online and Pick up in-Store

Many retailers, including Target, Old Navy and Home Depot offer buy online, pick-up in-store (BOPIS). In-store pickup technology has had one of the biggest transformational effects on retail over the last few years. CFI Group research shows that 78 percent of consumers view in-store pickup for online orders as very or important. This proves that in-store pickup has many benefits. This service has been used by 57% of online shoppers in the past year. Retailers see BOPIS orders accounting to 21 percent to 30% of their revenue.

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5. Loyalty programs

There are so many options for consumers, brands need to pay extra attention to their loyal customers. Customer loyalty programs are designed to help customers build lasting relationships with them, win new guests, increase sales, and ultimately create lifetime value. Loyalty programs can be very cost-effective for companies. Travel companies have developed loyalty programs that are extremely convenient for travelers, whether they’re traveling for business or pleasure. Delta is my go-to airline for all of my travel needs. It knows me well and makes it easy to rent a car or fly with them.

All of the strategies and tactics retailers use today have one goal: to build loyalty and repeat customers while being aware of rising costs. Customers will return to these options for convenience, whether it’s delivery, subscription services or self-checkout options.

Future retail technologies, such as augmented reality, virtual realities, and personalization enabled via tech, will be the most important. If this technology adds more convenience to my daily life, then I’m all in.

Total Retail’s Top Five News Stories for 2019

Retail news was certainly big in 2019. Here are the top news stories that Total Retail published in 2019, ranked according to page views.

1. May 10, Sears’ New Logo Receives Mixed Reviews

Sears revealed a new logo in May via its social media channels. While the company stated that the logo “was created to symbolize both home and heart, but this shape also conveys movement through an infinity loop. Reminiscent of one embracing both life and home,” others mocked the design’s resemblance with Airbnb’s logo. “Why am I thinking of AIR BNB every time I see the new logo?” Facebook user asked the question. Another user wrote, “Air B&B called and said they wanted their logo back.”

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2. April 19: Sears Sues Former CEO Eddie Lampert and Others for alleged ‘Theft’ of Billions

Sears filed a suit against Eddie Lampert, its former CEO, and several of its prominent past board members for allegedly taking billions from the retailer. After years of losses, Sears Holdings filed bankruptcy in October 2018 after Lampert was its CEO, chairman and largest shareholder.

3. May 23rd: Nordstrom Reduces Direct Mail Program and Loses Sales

Nordstrom reduced its full-year profit and sales forecast in May after reporting lower-than-expected first quarter results. This was partly due to ‘s decision to stop using direct mail as a means of promoting its loyalty program. Yahoo Finance reports that Erik Nordstrom, the co-president of Nordstrom, stated on a conference call after earnings that the company had stopped mailing rewards “notes,” to loyalty customers in order to make the program more accessible online. Nordstrom stated that this change caused a decrease in foot traffic to all its stores. Many customers depend on receiving their rewards via mail. Erik Nordstrom stated that “We are making the changes we believe necessary to drive our top-line as we continue to focus our aggressively on expenses.” According to the company, trends from the fourth quarter were carried over into the first quarter. It also stated that promotions had to be increased to clear out excess stock from its winter collection.

4. April 5, Sears opens stores Yes, That’s Right

Sears in April announced that it would open stores again. , the department store chain that had closed hundreds upon scores of Sears and Kmart stores over the years, announced it would be opening three “Sears Home & Life” stores in May.

5. September 11th: Sugarfina files for bankruptcy, closing 6 stores immediately reports that Sugarfina, a high-end candy retailer, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on September. Six of its 44 boutique shops were immediately closed. According to the brand, shifts in retail, uncertainty in international partnerships and difficulties in controlling margins are reasons why it is not profitable.


COVID-19 Part 2: The Impact of CPG and Retail on COVID-19

Two months have passed since the COVID-19 pandemic. With that comes a new wave in consumer behavior. Consumers are getting more used to their current lifestyles and anticipating how shopping will be for them after the crisis passes.

The new trend is to prioritize comfort foods over paper and pantry products. Our latest survey about the impact of COVID-19 revealed that sweets, frozen pizza, and salty snacks were top-of-mind for shoppers when they looked at their shopping lists.

However, we are also witnessing trends consolidate, with ecommerce continuing to grow in popularity, and in-store visits continuing to decline. This is directly related to rising concerns about the virus, particularly among seniors and those living in hard-hit areas. According to the Centers for Disease Control recommendations, shoppers make 52 percent fewer shopping trips.

As e-commerce continues to gain popularity, the COVID-19 pandemic will likely have a lasting impact. Our latest survey of shoppers found that 51 percent placed an order online in the four-week period ending April 7. In addition, 33% placed their first online order within the four-week period. This is an increase of 5% over our previous report. The best part is that 75 percent of online shoppers reported being very or extremely satisfied by their online grocery shopping experience.

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Are all those online shoppers going to continue shopping that way? We asked shoppers to use their imaginations to predict how shopping will be for them after this event. 31% of shoppers stated that it is very or very likely they will do more online grocery pickup and delivery than before.

The forecasts for shopper behavior are mixed. 47% of shoppers believe they will be less likely to go to the grocery and will stock up more on what they buy. However, 68% said that it is extremely or very probable that they will return to pre-pandemic grocery shopping habits. 58% of shoppers believe it’s very or very likely they’ll return to their old eating habits, but only 56 percent say that it’s very or very probable that they’ll eat more at home than before.

What does this mean for retailers? It is important to ensure that retailers have e-commerce and digital shelves in place for the accelerated growth and sustained customer demand.

Another area to focus on is lifting the spirits of shoppers. It is important to celebrate birthdays and graduations, as well as grilling season. Retailers need to provide a variety of comfort foods and snacks, as well as essentials. With the likelihood that people will stay at home in the months following COVID, it is important to provide “solutions” for shoppers that are focused on food and self-care.

Retailers should also continue to meet the needs of shoppers in terms of safety and finances. To ensure safety for shoppers in-store, stores should allow no-touch transactions wherever possible. This includes Apple Pay and self-checkout. It’s also important to remember that shoppers with lower incomes are often the most vulnerable. Many people may be using stimulus checks for food and other necessities. They will likely look to trade down or leverage grocery promotions in the near future.

The CPG industry is certainly on edge with the COVID-19 pandemic. Retailers and brands must continue to be aware of changing customer attitudes and behaviors and respond quickly to their customers’ needs. They’re doing an amazing job of rising to the occasion.


J.C. Penney files for Bankruptcy Protection

J.C. Penney filed to bankruptcy protection Friday. The company plans to close certain stores permanently and explore the possibility of a sale. The family-owned department store chain is known for selling jewelry, cosmetics, and apparel at over 850 locations. It reached an agreement with existing lenders to provide $900 million in debtor-in possession financing to help it through bankruptcy proceedings. J.C. Penney will reorganize the company and emerge from bankruptcy proceedings having eliminated several billion dollars worth of debt. However, the new financing will allow it to explore selling as part of its terms. It also stated that it would close some stores in stages and will provide more details in the coming weeks.

Total Retail’s View: It is no surprise that this iconic retailer filed for bankruptcy. We reported last week that J.C. Penney had just days to file bankruptcy and was scrambling for enough financing to allow the company to continue operating under Chapter 11 proceedings. More than 80,000 employees have been laid off or furloughed and two deadlines for debt payments missed. This month, the company also resolved a legal dispute with Sephora, LVMH beauty chain that threatened to terminate its agreement to sell cosmetics in J.C. Penney shops. J.C. Penney is now the latest brick-and mortar retailer to collapse in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic that has been threatening long-troubled retailers. J.C. Penney had nearly $4 billion in debt before the coronavirus epidemic. This was combined with pressure from discount retailers and ecommerce companies. Bottom line: It is sad to see J.C. Penney at its current level. Friday’s bankruptcy filing ends a long decline in the 118-year old department store chain. It was founded in rural towns that were dominated by farmers and had more than 1,600 locations at one time.

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