Leveraging Blockchain for Omnichannel Success

Multichannel Merchant –

The challenge of modern retail can be wrapped up in one statistic: 56% of consumers would likely shop at a retailer if they offer an omnichannel experience, but only 7% of retailers actually offer that capability, according to research from Boston Retail Partners.

Most of today’s supply chains are siloed, linear, inflexible and reactive. They suffer from poor connectivity and fragmented data, causing inaccurate supply planning and inventory distribution.

Bottom line: Retailers are struggling to create the kind of seamless omnichannel experience consumers crave. The fundamental challenge is predicting and respond to changes in demand across channels. However, modern technology now offers a cutting-edge solution: Blockchain.

Blockchain is a shared business reality where multiple partners drive mutual accountability, trust and transparency across the entire supply chain. The chain is connected digitally, allowing each part to drive growth for the whole. Sounds impossible?

Pratik Soni, CEO of Omnichain Solutions, and Stephen Davis, CEO of Ruby Rockets, broke down the real-world benefits blockchain is creating for retailers at Ecommerce Operations Summit 2019. Here are some of the insights and best practices they shared.

From a Linear, Reactive Supply Chain to a Holistic, Proactive Model

Instead of focusing on solving problems after they arise, imagine a team that prevents problems before they even happen. A holistic model promotes communication and transparency across the supply chain, allowing for lightning-quick decision making and the ability to forecast problems.

When you’re up against the challenges of omnichannel consumer demand, you need a flexible, efficient supply chain to stay on top of the game.

4 Ways Blockchain Can Improve Your Supply Chain

  1. Consensus-based: all participants need to agree that a transaction is valid, making sell-through easier to manage and predict while boosting collaboration
  2. Providence: All partners know the origin and movement of a product over time. This data layer allows you to make faster, more informed decisions across your supply chain.
  3. Immutability: If an error is made, it can’t be hidden or deleted, improving accountability and transparency for all partners
  4. Formality: It’s simple to determine the ownership and lineage of each product, allowing for complete control of assets throughout the process

Blockchain is also surprisingly easy to get started with. Many people see it as sort of a black hole technology, but in fact it’s quite simple and easy to integrate into your existing tech stack.

Read the full article: Leveraging Blockchain for Omnichannel Success 

How Brands are Taking Social Media into the Real World to Connect with Us

Fast Company – The umlaut-studded Swedish outfitter Fjällräven has been around since 1960. Back then, it was dedicated to providing sturdy Scandinavians with parkas and backpacks that could stand up to the region’s frigid temperatures and rugged terrain. Now, nearly 60 years later, you’re as likely to spot Fjällräven’s iconic fox logo on a backpack in Brooklyn as you are on a trail in the Arctic Circle. Fjällräven didn’t change, but it’s marketing tactics did.

The brand’s transformation was a conscious one. Fjällräven didn’t want to be seen as just another clothing brand; it wanted to inspire fierce devotion among its customers. That drive to differentiate was behind the creation of Fjällräven Polar and Fjällräven Classic, a pair of bespoke excursions that lets customers experience the brand in the wild. Both have been a huge success, attracting new customers while giving established ones something novel to be excited about. In an increasingly digitized world, physical experiences can create a visceral link between consumer and brand, and savvy companies are making that bond a priority through every channel possible.

THE EXPERIENTIAL FEEDBACK LOOP

The demise of brick-and-mortar retail has been greatly exaggerated. So says Scott Lachut of retail consulting firm PSFK. He points to digitally native brands that are discovering the appeal of physical stores to potential customers. “There’s a direct-to-consumer luggage company that found a 40% lift in website sales wherever they open a new store,” Lachut says. “They’ve realized they can capture passersby by having them come in, speak to an expert, have an experience, and test out a product before they buy it online.”

Those bridges are becoming even more central to social-media strategies as retailers start to realize that throwing money at Facebook and Instagram without a comprehensive plan can result in diminishing returns. “Brands are moving into physical spaces almost as a marketing channel,” Lachut says. “A lot of discovery is happening online, but that’s starting to draw people into stores where they can walk out with a product and share with their respective audiences right away.” Think of it like a feedback loop: A customer discovers a product on Instagram, visits the store in person, snaps a picture of the product, and then shares it on Instagram, starting the cycle again. The physical amplifies the digital.

Read the full article:  How Brands are Taking Social Media into the Real World to Connect with Us

Increasing Efficiency in Today’s Stores

Progressive Grocer – In some respects, today’s stores would be unrecognizable compared with those of 50 years ago. The latest technology has upended traditional in-store processes in favor of more efficient, streamlined systems. This is especially true when you consider what Amazon has done to move the grocery industry forward (imagine the confusion on a grocery store manager’s face from the 1960s if they saw a store with no employees or checkout counters). Everywhere we look, we’re exposed to the revolutionary technology of today’s grocery store, from self-checkout to order-picking robots.

As these innovations flood the store, grocers want to ensure that new initiatives such as self-checkout, delivery and click-and-collect are proving profitable to the bottom line. The reality is that simply adopting these programs isn’t enough to ensure more revenue. Grocers need to complement new technology with efficient processes within the workforce. Empowered workers are the key to unlocking technology’s potential and ultimately improving the shopping experience for customers.

EMPOWER THE WORKFORCE TO EMPOWER THE TECH

A Salesfloor study found that 72 percent of hourly retail associates are more likely to stay with a retailer if they have the right technology and resources, and two-thirds said that access to digital tools and technology is a must-have at a future retailer. Stores that want their associates to succeed and excel must invest in relevant technology and easy-to-use tools that can make a difference in productivity and customer service. Let’s take a closer look.

MOBILE

A simple way to ensure that associates are informed and connected is to embrace mobile options. Retailers recognize this, which is why, according to BRP Consulting, 49 percent of retailers name in-store mobile experience a top priority. For example, coordinating click-and-collect and delivery can be complicated if associates are just radioing each other when an order is placed, printing out a shopping list or taking other antiquated steps to fulfill orders. Similar to how customers turn to mobile apps to communicate with their favorite brands, handheld devices and apps can be extremely useful in communicating with operational systems and coordinating tasks. Tablets and similar devices alert associates when an order needs to be filled, what items need to be picked, where those items are located and where to meet the shopper with the items.

ROBOTICS

Introducing robots into the aisles of a store isn’t as futuristic an idea as it may sound. Seen on show floors and in countless articles, these robots are capable of picking items, scanning shelves for inventory, and more to reduce the workload placed on associates. Last year, Albertsons announced an initiative using robots to pick items for online orders where AI-enabled technology and conveyors will bring the ordered goods to an Albertsons employee, who will manually compile the order. Meanwhile, Walmart has invested heavily in piloting robots in stores for a variety of purposes – including unloading boxes from delivery trucks, checking items on the shelves, changing price labels on products, and selecting items for online grocery. Retailers are recognizing that any efforts to automate mundane in-store tasks will enable associates to perform at a higher level and provide a more rewarding work experience.

Read the full article: Increasing Efficiency in Today’s Stores

Omnichannel Consumers and Retail of the Future

Business 2 Community – Retail is continually evolving to embrace new technology, the rise of ecommerce and changing consumer shopping trends. With these continual changes, the tactics used by retail marketers are also adapting.

The Rise of Ecommerce

eCommerce continues to grow at an unprecedented pace. In 2017 it reached around $2.3 trillion and is expected to hit $4.5 trillion in 2021 (according to a Statista report). In the US alone, ecommerce represents almost 10 percent of retail sales — a figure that is growing by nearly 15 percent each year.

Retailers can’t expect to remain competitive unless they are present on their customers’ preferred channels. Investments in online, digital and mobile channels is a necessity. In fact, eCommerce/digital influences up to 56% of in-store purchases. Many consumers are also shopping online via their mobile devices. As much as 11 percent of online shoppers now shop online via their smartphone on a weekly basis, and 35 percent say it will become their main purchasing tool. (source – Shopify)

Amazon continues to be a major player. According to a report by Walker Sands, a third of consumers (32%) now receive one or more Amazon packages per week, and one in ten (10%) consumers receive three or more Amazon packages per week. Millennial consumers ages 18-35 are even more likely to receive multiple Amazon packages regularly — in fact, nearly half (43%) report they receive at least one Amazon package per week.

The Personalized Experience

Personalization is a top priority for marketers – consumers are in control and want and expect a personalized experience. However, as new concerns over privacy emerge, brands are beginning to take a new look to balance personalization with data privacy.

Despite the many studies that cite consumers want personalized messages, studies also exist stating that consumers only want personalization if it’s done right – meaning not overly creepy or overly invasive. Personalization on their times. This can be challenging for brands – knowing how far to take it and what may be crossing the line.

In a study by Salesforce, 51% of respondents stated that they were more mindful of balancing personalization and privacy than they were two years ago.

Marketing Personalization

McKinsey recently performed a study to better understand consumers’ reactions to privacy. In looking at industries that consumers receive personalized offers from, the industries they receive personalized communications from and those they wish they did are fairly in sync. Topping the list are consumer goods brands, restaurants and bars, and fashion retailers and department stores.

Read the full article: Omnichannel Consumers and Retail of the Future 

BRP Report Reveals Supply Chain Disruptions

CStore Decisions – To combat these interruptions, retailers should take an agile approach to the development and maintenance of their global supply chains.

BRP’s new report, called Tariffs, Terrorists & Tsunamis: Minimize the Impact of Supply Chain Disruptions with Agile Strategies, shows that the recent increases — and threat of increases — in tariffs are causing disruptions to today’s retail supply chains.

According to the report, while tariffs are currently the hot topic, supply chains are vulnerable to many unexpected disruptions, including terrorism and natural disasters.

BRP said that today, more than ever before, it is vital that retailers adopt an agile approach to the development and maintenance of their global supply chains

The need to have the right organization and processes in place to continuously review and adjust the flow of goods from supplier to customer is imperative. An agile capability means that retailers can rapidly and cost effectively adapt to external forces, while maintaining, or even enhancing, service to consumers.

Most retailers rely heavily on imported merchandise, and over the last two decades, retail supply chains have become more complex and increasing global in nature. Finished goods may be sourced from many locations, supported by raw material and packaging supply chains that extend even further.

At the other end of the supply chain, consumers in an omni-channel environment may be located anywhere across the globe. As products cross international borders, there is the potential for costs to increase due to tariffs.

“While tariffs are today’s area of focus, supply chains can be unexpectedly disrupted by the three T’s — tariffs, terrorists and tsunamis,” said Ken Morris, principal, BRP. “To combat these potential interruptions, smart retailers take an agile approach to the development and maintenance of their global supply chains and ensure they are able to rapidly react and respond.”

Read the full article: BRP Report Reveals Supply Chain Disruptions

‘The system is broken’: Made-to-measure fashion brands are looking to solve fashion’s size inclusivity problem

Glossy – From ThirdLove to Nordstrom, brands across the board are looking to crack size-inclusivity, extending their size range to cater to more diverse body shapes. Some companies are taking things a step further, investing in technology that helps create truly customizable clothing to fit each shopper to a T.

From RedThread to Measure & Made, made-to-measure fashion e-commerce brands are popping up left and right to help customers, mainly women, feel comfortable buying clothing online. In recent months, even Amazon has been building out a team that will reportedly help the company create perfect-fit clothing.

RedThread founder and CEO Meghan Litchfield said that prior to launching her made-to-measure clothing company in October 2018, she spent hours in fitting rooms looking for pants that fit her body type and ordered tons of clothes online, returning more than 80% of styles.

Litchfield spent 18 months working with 100 women of all shapes and sizes across the country, interviewing them about what styles they had the most fit issues with and taking their measurements. The brand also began working with technology partner Cala to scan each woman’s body, something that each customer can do when buying a RedThread product by taking a few selfies and uploading them through a data-encrypted text link sent by the brand to the shopper. From there, RedThread and Cala auto-generate a 3D body model and come up with perfect-fitting garments — mainly staples like wide-leg pants and T-shirts — for that shopper.

“The most interesting thing is that, out of all the items we’ve shipped, no two of them have been the same. Every single item we ship has truly been unique, which supports our original hypothesis with the 100 women that the sizing system is broken,” she said. “A lot of brands are adding more sizes, which I think is a nice solution around inclusivity, but it really doesn’t solve the core problem, which is that women’s bodies are all unique.” The brand does not list any sizes on its site, small or large, and will work with any customer to create the perfect fitting product.

Over eight months in business, Litchfield said the brand has a return rate of less than 4% and plans to expand its product range in the coming months.

Measure & Made, another made-to-measure e-commerce brand, launched in January. It uses Fitlogic technology, a measurement system developed by entrepreneur Cricket Lee that takes into account body shape as well as size, to create custom-fit jeans, pants and more. Fitlogic operates under the assumption (backed by the company’s own research) that 94.8% of women fall into 1 of 3 shapes: straight, hourglass and extremely curvy. Shoppers take a fit quiz, inputting their height, typical dress pant size and body shape, among other stats, to find out what their Fitlogic size is. Rather than whole numbers like 8 or 10, the system spits out a decimal like 8.2 or 10.3.

Read the full article: ‘The system is broken’: Made-to-measure fashion brands are looking to solve fashion’s size inclusivity problem

Customer service is the battleground in the increasingly competitive fashion rental market

Glossy – The fashion rental market is growing increasingly crowded, with new platforms like Nuuly and Caastle popping up every day. Rent the Runway has been in the top spot of the rental service for most of its existence, being the most recognizable name and widely credited with popularizing the modern fashion rental model. But as new players enter the market, how will Rent the Runway respond to make sure it stays ahead of the game?

Based on some of the company’s recent communications, it seems clear that customer service and other nuts-and-bolts details will be a key battleground in rental going forward. At the beginning of July, Rent the Runway sent an email to some of its customers with the title “We’re Sorry,” in which CEO Jennifer Hyman apologized for some of the issues customers had with Rent the Runway’s service. In particular, Hyman addressed the instances of long deliveries and unresponsive customer service, stating an aim to “reestablish the level of customer service [customers] both expect and deserve from Rent the Runway.”

The company also hosted a town hall on Twitter where customers could air their grievances. Hyman publicly announced that the company would be doubling its customer service team, launching a second Twitter account specifically for customer support and opening a 300,000-square-foot fulfillment center in Texas. Since the company gets 94% of its customer acquisition through organic marketing, a bad customer experience is a serious detriment to its audience building.

The choice of Texas is notable. Initially, the company’s only fulfillment center was in New Jersey, making fulfilling orders to the Midwest, for example, difficult and contributing to the company’s customer service problems. The logistics of running a company as large and as complicated as Rent the Runway, which ships, collects and cleans thousands of clothing pieces each day, are incredibly complicated.

Rent the Runway has to contend with dry-cleaning and washing all of the clothes it rents, which it does in a massive, 250,000-square-foot warehouse, which is also the largest dry cleaner in the world. At the same time, there are all sorts of other behind-the-scenes logistics to perfect, like same-day shipping in New York City, which it has done since 2017, and aligning its physical inventory with what it has on its website.

“We are definitely a machine,” Anushka Salina, Rent the Runway’s chief revenue officer, told Glossy last December. “There’s so much magic on the operations and fulfillment side of what we do; we’re such a complex logistics business.”

“The fashion rental industry is about to transform retail as we know it, and I think at this point, it’s going to be a battle of who has the best customer service and who can deliver the best customer experience,” said Steve Weiss, CEO of digital marketing agency MuteSix. “It’s also going to come down to customer preference, and I think both existing and new entrants are going to have to get very specific on who their customer is. For example, FashionPass is a clothing rental subscription company who really stands out in my mind as delivering exceptional customer service and targeting a very niche market, [millennials].”

Allison McCabe, consulting manager at BRP, agreed. “In terms of differentiating in a competitive environment, [for Rent the Runway’s competitors], it’s about a superior customer experience, and hitting all the logistical marks, vendor relationships and a customer profile that is not currently served well, or at all, by Rent the Runway,” she said. “But without the trend, category and customer data for the designated market, the build will take time.”

Read the Full Article: Customer service is the battleground in the increasingly competitive fashion rental market

It remains unclear if online grocery will help Walmart’s online division be profitable

Talk Business & Politics – Walmart.com continues to ring up large losses, which insiders project will be $1 billion this fiscal year. Though Walmart does not break out its online sales, the retailer has said it is taking longer than planned for the division to be profitable even with the billions already invested.

The Bentonville-based behemoth is betting big on Walmart online grocery to help level the playing field against Amazon. The company is aggressively rolling out the online grocery pickup services to more than 3,600 stores this year. The service is available in 3,100 of the retailer’s 4,500 U.S. stores and home delivery is possible from 1,600 store locations.

Walmart CEO Doug McMillon told attendees at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference earlier this week that Walmart stores are the answer to Amazon when it comes to groceries.

“One of the realities of fresh and perishable food is if you don’t sell it, you throw it away or give it away,” McMillon said during his Fortune interview that was streamed online. “When you have a store environment and you have fresh or perishable food so close to people, those stores then become dual store and pick centers.”

Supply chain analyst Annibal Sodero, a professor on the topic at Ohio State University, told Talk Business & Politics that if Walmart wants online grocery to be a final answer to Amazon, it’s likely going to be disappointed. He said the growth of Walmart online grocery will be capped at some point as competitors like HEB in the South and Kroger in the Midwest already offer similar programs in markets they dominate. He said two years from now when all the Walmart stores have had online grocery the growth will likely slow as all of its grocery competitors will be offering the same thing.

Ken Cassar, vice president of research for Shoptalk, has said a reason Walmart.com’s sales are growing is related to online grocery pickup. Until Walmart blends the general merchandise site with the grocery site and allows consumers to shop one site for all their needs, the offerings and service are not as streamlined as it could be.

Marc Lore, CEO of Walmart U.S. eCommerce, told Talk Business & Politics the company is working on integrating the two sites. He expects it will be completed by the end of this year. But having that service available is just part of the challenge, as other Walmart executives have said having employees pick general merchandise items like apparel from a store is far more cumbersome than picking a grocery list.

It’s the general merchandise items that have the higher margins and have been much of the success of the Walmart supercenter concept, according to Andy Wilson, a retired Walmart executive who recently toured a local supercenter with Talk Business & Politics.

RetailWire recently asked market s in a blog post whether Walmart’s success or failure in grocery pickup will impact the rest of its challenged online business. The sentiment was mixed regarding Walmart’s big bet on grocery.

Read Full Article: It Remains Unclear if Online Grocery will Help Walmart’s Online Division be Profitable

Success Secret #4 from Furniture Training Company: Cherry Picking Season is Over

Furniture World – It’s common knowledge that the furniture shopping experience has changed over the past several years. Not long ago furniture salespeople practiced the fine art of “cherry picking.” There were crowds of interested shoppers and the salesperson got to decide which ones to serve and which one to ignore.

Alas, cherry picking season is over.

Not only is traffic down dramatically, but shoppers today are different from the ones we used to get. They seem a lot smarter and better prepared to shop.

The Internet gives shoppers important information about brands, styles and specific pieces of furniture. More importantly, and often with devastating results, the internet also tells them which stores they should shop in and which they should not. Reviews let them know which stores will treat them well and which will not. They learn which stores have sales people who have product knowledge and which do not. They find out which stores have manipulative salespeople and which do not. In other words the tables have turned and the furniture shopper gets to do the cherry picking now. Read More

According to the consulting firm BRP, 79% of consumers say personalized service from a sales associate is an important factor in determining where they shop. In fact, consumers want personalized service more than they want product incentives, easy return policies, credit options, and virtually every other incentive they can be offered. Furthermore, 63% of consumers are likely to stop shopping at a retailer where they’ve had a negative shopping experience.

Our success secret this month is that you acknowledge that “cherry-picking” season is over for the retailer. Take whatever actions are necessary to improve every customer’s shopping experience in your store by ensuring that your salespeople are able to ask meaningful and helpful questions of their customers.

Read the full article: Success Secret #4 from Furniture Training Company: Cherry Picking Season is Over 

e-Spirit Partners with Spryker to Accelerate Time to Revenue for B2B and B2C Digital Commerce Customers

Glossy – e-Spirit, maker of the industry-leading FirstSpirit Digital Experience Platform (DXP), today announced a new strategic partnership with Spryker, an innovator in the e-commerce platform space. The partnership includes the integration of e-Spirit’s hybrid (headless+) Content Management System (CMS) technology into Spryker Commerce OS, which enables B2B and B2C companies to easily create and deliver content-rich, personalized digital experiences across all channels such as websites, mobile devices, social media, digital signage, progressive web applications (PWAs) and conversational platforms. As further proof of the market impact of this partnership, e-Spirit and Stryker have recently announced their first common customer, European shoe manufacturer LaShoe.

Competition across the e-commerce software sector is fierce, and the best vendors are differentiating themselves by enabling digital commerce professionals to create more personalized experiences for their customers. In fact, a 2018 Digital Commerce Survey by BRP Consulting indicates that 51% of consumers consider it important to get a personalized experience across all digital channels within a brand. The power of Spryker Commerce OS and FirstSpirit hybrid CMS enables companies to deliver these personalized experiences as part of their e-commerce sites and related communications, without any coding required by IT or marketing teams. This enables greater flexibility in creating engaging e-commerce sites with content-rich, immersive experiences on any channel that will lead shoppers to take action.

FirstSpirit extends Spryker Commerce OS’s rich online store functionality by providing unique buying experiences in any language to support global content strategies and rapidly generate revenue. The combined benefits of this partnership include:

  • Use one simple and intuitive interface to create and manage all digital content with no coding required.
  • Create immersive experiences at every touchpoint regardless of channel or device being used for truly personalized engagement.
  • Easily maintain a consistent global brand while translating and localizing content for buyers regardless of location.
  • Eliminate the complexities associated with multi-brand and multi-channel content distribution.
  • Deliver omnichannel content to the right person at the right time with personalized targeting in real-time while using A/B testing for optimization.
  • Gain insights into customer behavior using real-time analytics to enable better decision-making.
  • House content in a central repository where it can be located and re-used across multiple channels throughout any global region.
  • Use Spryker Commerce OS for the “glass” (i.e. screen display), and FirstSpirit to manage your structured content for greater flexibility, tapping into the power of headless architecture.

“We are passionate about enabling our digital commerce customers to be market leaders, and we deliver commerce solutions that help users react quickly to market changes and exceed their own expectations,” says Alexander Graf, CEO of Spryker Systems. “The combination of our Spryker Commerce OS with FirstSpirit hybrid CMS creates the perfect combination of commerce innovation and back-end content management for delivery of experience-driven commerce that accelerates time to revenue.”

Read the full article: e-Spirit Partners with Spryker to Accelerate Time to Revenue for B2B and B2C Digital Commerce