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 – 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’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

Businesses use AR/VR in CRM to boost customer experience

Glossy – Businesses are using augmented reality — and its cousin virtual reality — in applications across many industries. Where CRM is concerned, AR/VR may represent a big leap forward.

The inroads into the enterprise forged recently by augmented reality and virtual reality are already substantial. What was once a game system accessory is now changing the way businesses communicate with customers.

The gaming industry has seemingly delivered what was previously considered a toy but is now highly evolved, low-cost hardware to the enterprise, along with an army of well-trained, experienced VR developers.

Whatever its origins — and however coincidental its current ascension in the marketplace — AR/VR is ready for prime time. And as its two primary strengths are presentation and communication, it is finding its ideal role in CRM and CX.

An augmented customer journey

To discuss the impact of AR/VR in CRM, it’s first necessary to understand the difference between the two. VR is what most people think of right away — an entirely contrived digital environment, like what one sees in a video game. AR, on the other hand, visualizes the real world, but adds something along the way. For example, you may see a picture of an actual living room with a digital chair and lamp inserted into the photo. Both AR and VR have their place in CRM.

In the case of VR, the visualization of places that don’t yet exist becomes possible, such as the realized design of new buildings and the radical remodeling of entire floors within existing buildings. Buyers can walk through a building or renovation project before signing the construction contract.

With AR, the range of possibilities is even greater: there are already smart mirrors, which reflect a customer’s image — but donning an outfit being considered for purchase, a new hairstyle, or different cosmetics and accessories.

According to Zion Market Research, the global AR/VR market will surpass $800 billion by 2025.

Here, there and everywhere

So where is AR/VR taking CRM as it grows? There are a number of areas where it’s taking root and proliferating rapidly.

Retail. One of the most compelling reasons for CRM to employ AR/VR is simple: It attracts customers through its sheer “cool” factor. According to BRP Consulting’s 2018 Digital Commerce Survey, 48% of consumers surveyed said that they are more likely to patronize retailers who use AR. Smart mirrors and immersive experiences are part of the allure, of course. And Macy’s, for example, has implemented VR technology in a number of its locations, enabling customers to shop for furniture.

Publix Positions for the Future

Frozen and Refrigerated Buyer – While it grapples with how to translate its legendary customer service prowess to online shopping, the chain dips a toe in the loyalty card pool and debuts a new foodie-centric format.

Another day, another accolade for Publix Super Markets. The 1,220-store Lakeland, Fla.-based chain recently landed the top spot among grocers named to Newsweek’s 2019 America’s Best Customer Service list. Citing the “impersonal forces” currently transforming retail, the magazine’s editor-in-chief said it seemed like a good time to recognize ways in which companies like Publix nurture their relationships with customers through personal interaction. She added, however, “Analysts predict that by 2020, one-fifth of the country’s multi-trillion dollar retail business will have moved to the web, slashing the number of workers needed.” And therein lies one of the biggest challenges facing Publix as it moves into an increasingly digital future: how to translate a stellar in-store experience fueled by highly motivated, well-trained associates into a positive online experience as well? One thing’s for sure: It’s not gonna be easy.

Why? Publix recently entered into a partnership with Instacart to provide home delivery of online orders, completely eliminating any contact with store associates — the biggest thing that made the chain stand out. As a result, “Shopping online at Publix has been reduced to a more expensive alternative to shopping online at Walmart or Kroger,” says Don Stuart, managing director at Wilton, Conn.-based Cadent Consulting Group.

“It’s definitely not a long-term solution,” agrees another source close to the company, who believes the chain is still evaluating its options. In order to ensure an excellent experience, “The person who brings the order that last mile to the customer’s door should be a Publix associate. That’s part of the brand and shouldn’t be farmed out.”

Beyond that, says Hayley Howard, manager of business analytics at Cadent, “The company absolutely needs to find ways to personalize the online shopping experience or add value somehow in order to differentiate itself from other retailers.” Because right now, she says, its e-commerce

program is, at best, middle-of-the-pack.

“Just yesterday, I saw the first ad for BOPIS [buy online, pickup in store] from Publix,” reports Paula Rosenblum, co-founder and managing partner of Miami-based Retail Systems Research (RSR) and a regular Publix shopper. Honestly, though, “I think they hope customers don’t use it much.” Not only does it keep shoppers out of stores, “It’s also a real profit-killer,” she says. “But they’re working to keep it up.”

The good news for Publix is the company can afford to sacrifice some profit. While the best chains are operating on 1.5% profit lines, Publix is typically in the 4 to 4.5% range. “They may have to come to terms with a 3% bottom line instead,” says a source.

Read Full Article: Publix Positions for the Future

Study: Tariffs, terrorists & tsunamis are today’s retail supply chain threat

REFRIGERATED & FROZEN FOODS – The recent threat of increases in tariffs are causing disruptions to today’s retail supply chains, therefore supply chains are vulnerable to many unexpected disruptions, including terrorism and natural disasters, according to a new report from BRP, Boston.

The study, “Tariffs, Terrorists & Tsunamis: Minimize the Impact of Supply Chain Disruptions with Agile Strategies,” outlines why 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.

“While tariffs are today’s area of focus, supply chains can be unexpectedly disrupted by the three T’s – tariffs, terrorists and tsunamis,” says Ken Morris, principal. “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.”

This report assesses the impact of tariffs and other disruptive forces on retailers’ global supply chains, and includes proactive steps retailers can take to build resilience into their global supply chains through the use of best practices in organization, processes and systems.

The steps to taking an agile approach to global supply chains are:

  • Energize the product lifecycle management process.
  • Gain total visibility into global trade management.
  • Focus on how well transportation spend is being optimized.
  • Develop a dynamic process model of the global supply chain.
  • Create a rigorous spend analytics capability.

Read Full Article: Study: Tariffs, terrorists & tsunamis are today’s retail supply chain threats

Hudson’s Bay Launches Omnichannel App

Chain Store Age – Venerable department store retailer Hudson’s Bay Co. (HBC) is providing a very modern mobile shopping solution.

Brampton, Canada-based HBC is launching a new bilingual iOS app that features functionality for customers shopping online or in store. Key features include a curated homepage featuring the latest brands and new arrivals, the ability to scan product barcodes to search for additional styles and sizes and detailed descriptions, free, fast delivery of in-store purchases, tracking of order shipments, and the ability to save favorite items.

“At Hudson’s Bay, the customer is at the heart of everything we do and their input drove many of the developments of our new app,” said Adam Powell, VP -commerce, Hudson’s Bay. “With mobile now exceeding desktop shoppers on, the new app is fast, effective, and adds value, ultimately evolving our digital experience. In developing, we honed in on what would help make the Hudson’s Bay shopping experience easier and more engaging, from start to finish, both online and in stores.”

New features and updates will be made to the app over the next several months. The app can be downloaded from the App Store for iOS devices.

HBC’s new app appears to be well-timed. According to a recent survey from Boston Retail Partners, 41% of respondents plan to increase their shopping frequency on their phone or tablet within two years, while 51% consider product information a key mobile app/website feature.

Founded in 1670, HBC is the oldest company in North America. HBC’s portfolio includes 350 stores around the world, including Saks Fifth Avenue, Hudson’s Bay, Lord & Taylor, and Saks Off 5th.

Read Full Article: Hudson’s Bay Launches Omnichannel App