“Faux omnichannel” shopping still persistent among retailers: BRP

Luxury Daily – As consumers see less separation between in-store and online retail, luxury brands and retailers are expected to offer more consistent experiences across channels.

According to a new report from Boston Retail Partners, three-quarters of consumers tend to choose retailers who offer consistent promotions and pricing across channels. Many retailers continue to struggle in implementing unified commerce, however.

“We have been talking about the cross-channel experience for so long – and in fact, 87 percent of consumers want a personalized and consistent experience across all channels – that it is still surprising to see that many retailers are still struggling to offer consumers a consistent experience across channels,” said Kathleen Fischer, director of marketing at Boston Retail Partners, Boston. “Many retailers have pieced together disparate systems and processes to try and create a holistic shopping environment, but it really doesn’t provide what the customer is looking for.”

Omnichannel obstacles

Although consumers have come to expect unified and holistic shopping experiences, only 5 percent of retailers can successfully give consumers the ability to “start a sale anywhere, finish the sale anywhere.”

Seventy-one percent of retailers plan to offer this capability within the next two years. To do so, retailers must support a single, shared shopping cart that is accessible from any channel where a consumer may be.

Currently, many retailers are offering “faux omnichannel” experiences consisting of manual processes or untethered systems that will need updating.

For instance, of the 86 percent of retailers that offer consistent pricing and promotions across channels, half report needing improvements. Similarly, 52 percent of retailers have implemented consistent product availability across channels but need to improve their capabilities.

Other pain points include cross-channel order tracking and the ability to accept returns through different channels.

Retailers need to do more than improve the initial purchasing experience, since fulfillment is an extension of the consumer journey.

Although click-and-collect services are growing in popularity, BRP argues that these offerings are a stop-gap as 55 percent of retailers hope to offer same-day delivery within two years. Only 18 percent are currently offering same-day delivery successfully.

Third-party delivery is also likely to grow, with 36 percent of retailers expecting to implement this service in the next two years.

Retailers are looking to offer consumers more flexibility in how they make and receive orders, by offering services such as “buy online, ship to store,” “buy in-store, ship from vendor” or “reserve online, pick up in-store.”

Read the full article: “Faux omnichannel” shopping still persistent among retailers: BRP

Study: Customers want a consistent experience, but do retailers offer it?

Chain Store Age – Retailers who offer truly seamless shopping may gain a large competitive advantage.

According to a new special report from Boston Retail Partners (BRP), “The Need for Unified Commerce,” 87% of consumers are interested in a personalized and consistent experience across all shopping channels. However, only 28% of retailers currently offer customers the ability to “start the sale anywhere, finish the sale anywhere.”

In addition, while 66% of consumers would choose a store offering same-day delivery over one not offering it, only 32% of retailers offer same-day delivery, and 44% of those indicate the process needs improvement.

One omnichannel area where retailers appear to be keeping up with customer expectations is consistent pricing/promotions across channels – 76% of customers are likely to choose a retailer offering this consistency, and 86% of retailers provide it. However, half of retailers with consistent pricing and promotions across channels say it needs improvement.

Examining the progress retailers have made in implementing the enterprise technologies required to support a seamless customer experience, which BRP terms “unified commerce,” the study found a significant amount of lag. Sixty-one percent of retailers have implemented centralized inventory management, but 43% need improvement. Similarly, 45% of retailers have implemented enhanced network technology while 34% need improvement, with identical responses for integrated CRM technology implementation.

Smaller percentages of retailers have implemented predictive analytics solutions (37%, 30% need improvement) and real-time retail systems (36%, 9% need improvement).

When asked about obstacles to effectively implementing unified commerce, retailers’ top responses were IT/business resource constraints (66%), budgetary constraints (61%), disparate systems (48%), other priorities taking precedence (41%), process challenges (30%), and organizational challenges/silos (23%).

Read the full article: Study: Customers want a consistent experience, but do retailers offer it?

1 year in: How Bash used a clothing rental program as a marketing tool

Glossy – A year ago today, French brand Bash opened its Nolita store with an experimental free rental program called the Dream Closet in an effort to get people new to the brand to try out some product. One year later, the brand said that aside from some logistical challenges, Dream Closet has been a big success.

The way it works: Every Friday, Bash hosts a happy hour from 5 to 7, inviting customers to come in, have some champagne and check out some clothes. During this happy hour, a small selection of best-selling clothes taken from previous seasons is made available for attendees to take home for the weekend and return on Monday.

“It’s definitely introducing the brand to people,” said Irene Yuan, vp of marketing at Bash. “Just getting so many women into the store and looking at things is great. But aside from that, we’ve had great conversions from it. We do make the borrowed items available for purchase at a discounted rate, though it wasn’t initially intended as a direct revenue driver. Even if no one ends up buying anything, it’s still great for growing our audience.”

Yuan said that every week, for just two hours of one day, anywhere from 20 to 100 people will show up and most people will borrow something.

At a time when acquiring new customers can be five to 25 times more expensive than retaining existing ones, brands are coming up with services that are beyond transactional, whether that’s offering personal styling, free alterations and repairs or workout classes, in order to build their audiences. For brands above a certain price point — Bash’s dresses can reach up to $700 — a free trial program is their way of getting new customers to take the plunge with an unfamiliar brand.

“Bash has identified a creative way to gain exposure and drive interest in their brand amongst their current and potential clientele,” said Kathleen Fischer, director of marketing at Boston Retail Partners. “Not only does it generate goodwill, but it also drives sales, by allowing the customer to see how the item fits into her wardrobe, how she feels wearing it and then potentially getting compliments from others.”

On the marketing side, it has also helped them market to their audience better. When customers rent something, Bash holds their credit card info so that they can be charged if the item isn’t returned, though there is otherwise no charge. During that process, Yuan said they also ask for customers’ emails, which has given them a sizable database of customer information to aid their marketing.

“We follow up and retarget with emails later. It’s been a little informal mostly, not totally structured yet. So far it’s been manageable enough in size that we’ve just built a relationship and retarget based on that. There’s no mass email or anything, but as it grows, that will definitely need to be more formalized.”

But the project isn’t without obstacles. It’s small scale at the moment, and even a year later the brand is still working through some of the logistics.

Read the full article: 1 year in: How Bash used a clothing rental program as a marketing tool

How Blockchain is Transforming the Apparel Supply Chain

Apparel Magazine – It is an exciting time of innovation for the apparel industry — and retail at large — with brands and retailers creating new and dynamic ways to attract and engage with customers.

For instance, lululemon’s latest flagship store is more than a place to buy yoga pants. The sprawling 20,000-square-foot space includes a restaurant, meditation room and workout studios. Rather than stick to the traditional department store model, Nordstrom is opening several smaller Nordstrom Local stores without inventory but space for interactive experiences. This summer, Gucci introduced a new feature for its iOS app that lets consumers try on its Ace sneakers collection through augmented reality.

There is another burgeoning technology transforming the industry: blockchain. Whereas recent innovations and digital interventions have focused on reimagining the customer experience, blockchain presents a radical solution to the technical aspects of managing and maintaining a sustainable supply chain.

A decades-old problem

For too long, many brands and retailers have relied on decades-old systems such as Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) to record information on purchase orders and invoices. This data is then used to support critical decisions such as demand forecasting and merchandise allocation. Unfortunately, EDI limits the number of parties that can communicate on a network, which inhibits upstream and downstream communication. The inevitable silos make it difficult to think holistically about supply chain management, resulting in inaccurate production numbers and misallocation of SKUs that hurt profitability on account of missed sales opportunities and additional costs from excess inventory.

Blockchain instead bridges these silos with real-time data flow between every link in the supply chain. Formerly fragmented data is unified through a single, immutable ledger that is visible to all parties. Brands and retailers can then transform their operations and create more customer-centric supply chains with new ways of thinking about logistics, inventory management, authentication and consumer trust.

A seamless, omnichannel experience

Today’s supply chains are varied and complex, involving numerous manufacturing sites, warehouses, logistics providers, and channel partners around the world. Traditionally, each link in the supply chain would manage its respective role using its own systems, databases and metrics. For example, many companies will have internal enterprise resource planning (ERP) and point-of-sale (POS) systems to manage existing stock and capture sales in stores. But then their e-commerce sites will be connected to separate ERPs and warehouse management systems for order fulfillment.

The inherent disconnect between online and offline presents barriers when trying to operate as a holistic, omnichannel supply chain — the very kind that consumers today want. In fact, according to BRP Consulting’s 2019 Real-Time Retail report, 87 percent of consumers state that they would like a consistent experience across all shopping channels. Further, 56 percent of consumers are more likely to shop at a retailer that offers a shared cart across channels, yet only 7 percent of retailers reportedly offer this capability.

Blockchain adds the transparency and connectivity needed to deliver an omnichannel experience. For instance, with total visibility across all channels and its respective inventories, a company can determine the fastest and most cost-effective way to fulfill an online order. If the warehouse is out of stock, you can pinpoint where the nearest available store is and ship the item from there. The customer is happier because they receive their item sooner. If they are unsatisfied for any reason, they can bring their package to any brick-and-mortar location for a return or exchange. Everything is seamless. Plus, that transaction is logged on the blockchain, making it visible upstream in production to support demand planning.

Read the full article: How Blockchain is Transforming the Apparel Supply Chain

How Steve Madden built up its e-commerce business

Glossy –  More than 80% of Steve Madden’s revenue still comes from wholesale. But the footwear retailer still finds it important to spend some time focusing on its e-commerce business.

“If someone discovers your brand at Nordstrom, the odds are very good that they will [eventually] come to your site,” said. Jeff Silverman, president of global e-commerce for Steve Madden. At a conference in New York City on Thursday hosted by e-commerce marketing solutions provider Yotpo, Silverman explained how Steve Madden has sought to grow its e-commerce business, without hampering relationships with its wholesale providers, ranging from department stores like Nordstrom and Macy’s, to specialty footwear retailers like DSW.

During its second-quarter earnings at the end of July, Steve Madden reported net sales of $445.0 million, up 12.4% from the year prior. Steve Madden doesn’t break out exactly how many of its sales come from e-commerce. But it said during the second quarter that comparable sales at its own stores were up 6.2%, which it attributed to “strong performance” in the e-commerce business.

Silverman previously founded an e-commerce platform provider called Compo Enhancements, that was acquired by Steve Madden in 2007. In 2009, Silverman left Steve Madden, and then came back in 2015 to manage Blondo, one of the eight brands Steve Madden owns, and then eventually took over the e-commerce business.

“You can get Steve Madden anywhere, and we’re very proud of that,” Silverman said. So, he said that the job of Steve Madden’s website is to not just drive more e-commerce sales, but also to hopefully improve its wholesale business.

Silverman’s first order of business when taking over the business was to migrate the company’s website over to Shopify. Steve Madison previously had developed its own custom e-commerce platform through the acquisition of Compo, and also used Oracle at one point. But, what drew Silverman to Shopify was that he felt the company’s mobile store was better than that of many other e-commerce platform providers’, and better than one that Steve Madden could develop on its own. Today, almost 75% of the sales that come from Steve Madden’s e-commerce site come from mobile.

But, building a successful e-commerce business isn’t just about growing sales, To that end, Silverman said that Steve Madden has tried to reduce its reliance on promotions. He said that Steve Madden has cut down the number of sales it offers year-round, to only offer discounts on product during the major sale periods, like Black Friday.

Another change Silverman made was to increase the “ask” required from customers in order to get a one-time discount. Steve Madden used to offer customers a 15% one-time discount when they signed up for its email list for the first time. Now, it gives them a 20% off one-time coupon when they sign up for the loyalty program, because it’s more likely that the customer that signs up for the loyalty program will continue to buy from Steve Madden over time. Silverman also said that Steve Madden ships 65% of its online order from one of its 100 owned-and-operated stores, in order to save money on fulfillment costs.

Read the full article: How Steve Madden built up its e-commerce business

Building a Consumer-Centric Ecosystem

CS News – Convenience stores are still scratching the surface when it comes to harnessing the power of consumer-facing, frictionless technologies. While more than half of major chains have implemented mobile payment options, most other frictionless endeavors are in their infancy, according to consulting firm Boston Retail Partners. But these newer technologies are rapidly gaining ground.

In this part three of our special report series on frictionless engagement, we’ll examine how savvy c-stores are moving forward, particularly in the area of digital food ordering and delivery. In fact, 20% of c-store retailers plan to implement frictionless technology within the next 12 to 24 months, according to the 2019 Convenience Store News Technology Study.

Read the full article: Building a Consumer-Centric Ecosystem

Retail Personalization Comes Up Short in Two Studies

Email Marketing Daily – Almost 90% of consumers want a personalized and consistent experience in all channels. But only 59% of retailers are focused on giving it to them, according to The Changing Customer Experience, a study by BRP.

In addition, 68% of customers would choose stores that provide personalized promotions/discounts, according to a consumer survey by BRP. Yet 45% of retailers are now working on improving personalization in all channels.

Of the companies polled, 50% use transaction data and say it works well (versus 43% who use it but feel it needs improvement), and 5% don’t use it.

However, only 20% use online shopping information such as unique visits and are happy with the results. Another 41% utilize it but say they need improvement.

The report shows that 68% of marketers need to improve their ability to meet customer expectations, using insights on those shoppers.

Personalization also comes up short in How Retail Marketers Use Customer-Focused ID Management to Increase Satisfaction and Profitability, a report sponsored by  eTail, WBR Insights and OneMarket.

Of the 100 retail professionals surveyed, 38% say their firms struggle to understand their customers because their technologies do not integrate first-party data.

Only 28% use ID management technology to improve personalization and consider it a core part of their business. But 30% say it’s a development part of their business.

Of those polled, 43% are onboarding offline CRM data as part of their ID management. But of those that are, only 40% are using it to send triggered emails.

And 51% each are using the data for customer insights and/or predictive modeling and website personalization. And 47% are utilizing it to get a deeper understanding of their customers.

Finally, only 5% say they can identify between 75% and 100% of their website visitors, while 25% say they can identify 51% to 75%.

Read the full article: Retail Personalization Comes Up Short in Two Studies

Report: Consumers Want Less Friction, More Synergy at Retail 

Progressive Grocer – An increasing number of shoppers are looking for more personalization, better mobile checkout and a consistent brand experience across channels, according to a new report.

Findings from retail intelligence firm BRP show the traditional retail model continues to experience significant disruption as new technologies put additional information and enhanced functionality into the hands of consumers. This increases customer expectations as there are now more shopping options than ever before with more competitive pricing, greater merchandise assortments and faster delivery options to get the desired product where and when the customer needs it. This makes the customer journey more complicated and adds further challenges to retailers’ bottom lines.

“The growth of digital – both online and mobile – continues to drive demand for increased digital capabilities bundled with personalization in the store,” said Perry Kramer, senior vice president and practice lead at BRP. “This transformation requires a true unified commerce approach, delivering the convergence of the digital and physical shopping environments, working seamlessly in real-time, to create a holistic customer shopping experience wherever and whenever the customer wants to shop.”

Consumers now start and stop their shopping journey in different channels and frequently shop for the same product across different retailers, via mobile, online or in-store. The customer expects a frictionless shopping experience across an entire brand and doesn’t want disruptions as they cross individual channels or locations.

While 59% of retailers are focused on creating a consistent brand experience across channels, there is a focus on the convergence of physical and digital shopping environments to create a consistent brand experience across channels.

Some of the top unified commerce priorities for retailers to enhance the customer experience include:

– Create a consistent brand experience across channels (59%)

– Improve the online experience (52%)

– Improve personalization (45%)

– Improve the mobile shopping experience (41%)

Read the full article: Report: Consumers Want Less Friction, More Synergy at Retail 

Target’s loyalty program is expanding nationwide in October with perks for all shoppers

USA Today – Target is looking to expand its circle of loyal shoppers.

In October, the Minneapolis-based retailer will roll out Target Circle, a free nationwide loyalty program that offers personalized deals and supports local non-profits, Target officials announced Monday.

“Our goal is to motivate all guests to choose Target more often by providing meaningful benefits,” said Rick Gomez, Target’s chief marketing and digital officer, in a call with reporters.

With the new program, Gomez said shoppers will earn 1% on every purchase to redeem on a future Target trip. They’ll also get personalized offers like a birthday discount of 5% and can cast votes to help direct Target’s giving to approximately 800 nonprofit organizations.

However, shoppers with a Target RedCard aren’t eligible to earn 1% when they pay with the store-branded card but will continue to get 5% off purchases and can take advantage of the other Target Circle perks.

“We see Target Circle as complementary to RedCard, our credit and debit offering, because it provides a wide range of benefits and is available to all guests regardless of whether they choose to have a RedCard,” Gomez said.

RedCard holders can earn 1% back when they use another form of payment like a store gift card. (Savings tip: Target typically holds a one-day gift card sale in early December and offers 10% off store gift cards.)

Cartwheel’s new name

With the national expansion, Target is integrating its Cartwheel savings tool into Target Circle and rebranding its deals as “Target Circle offers.”

Since Cartwheel launched in May 2013, shoppers have cashed in on more than $1.6 billion in discounts, redeeming offers ranging from 5% off a pack of cheese to up to 50% off select toys.

In April 2018, Target Circle launched as a pilot in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and in February it expanded to Indianapolis; Phoenix; Denver; Charlotte, North Carolina; Kansas City, Missouri; and Kansas City, Kansas.

“The program has been incredibly successful, exceeding our expectations,” Gomez said. “Over the last 18 months, more than 2 million guests have enrolled in Target Circle, completing more than 14 million transactions … spending more money at Target compared to guests who aren’t enrolled in the program.”

According to a study from BRP Consulting titled, “Keeping Loyal Customers Happy,” consumers are more willing to trade privacy in exchange for specialized offers, with 68% of consumers surveyed saying they prefer personalized rewards.

With Target’s loyalty program, shoppers also will be able to earn 1% on purchases at new Disney stores opening in 25 Target stores Oct. 4 and at Target.com/Disneystore.

“We see this as something that offers tremendous benefit to Target’s business, but most importantly great value to every guest who chooses Target,” Gomez said.

Why Technology Should Be On Your Market Agenda

Casual Living – September market is an energizing time for casual retail. This annual reinvigoration is an opportunity to consider your business objectives outside of your merchandising strategy. We live in an experience economy where customer perception of your brand as a whole drives revenue.

The question becomes, how do you want your business to make customers feel? A starting point is to define the adjectives you want associated with your brand. What words would you want to stand out in an online review? Convenient, personal, inviting and expert come to mind.

Now, take this exercise a step further by evaluating these key moments in your business’ experience:

  1. How much do you know about the customer who walks into your door?

Did you know that data is more valuable than oil? Digitalist notes, “Retailers can no longer afford to guess what customers want. They need to own and maintain complete, direct control of their data. Doing so opens opportunity to derive predictive insights on consumer behavior, interest trends and potential operational improvements.”

  1. How seamless is your sales process in store?

Mobile plays an important role on the showroom floor. Expedient checkout processes and access to inventory knowledge via mobile are key ways to use this tech to your advantage.

  1. If a customer leaves without buying, can you save the sale?

It’s tough work to get a new customer in the door, so the last thing you want is to let that foot traffic go without purchasing. Sometimes customers really do need to sleep on things. Instead of letting the decision pass, ensure they leave with a cart they can easily complete online. Encourage your sales team to do so by giving them credit for the online order. A consumer study conducted by Boston Retail Partners showed the prevalence of showrooming. “Forty-seven percent of consumers have shopped in a store and purchased online or via mobile.” If it’s not easy for your customer to complete their shopping cart online, your chance of closing that sale diminishes.

  1. After a customer purchases, what happens next?

Customers should be considered as ongoing relationships at all points on their path to purchase. Technology is key to keeping track of your customers’ lifecycles and how your team can continue personalized engagement to increase lifetime value. Highlight a customer’s design project on your social media page, and offer them an incentive for doing so. This boosts their morale while opening the door for their next visit.

Read the full article: Why Technology Should Be On Your Market Agenda