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Social Commerce Best Practices: Optimize Mobile, Match Products To Platform Strengths

 

Retail TouchPoints – Social media is no longer just a place for building brand awareness or loyalty: it’s another potential storefront, a frontier where the customer journey can take on fresh new forms. There are approximately 3.2 billion active social media users today, according to Hootsuite. The major platforms have enormous audiences that are too big to ignore.

The vast majority of retailers already are active on social media, with 92% of brands using two or more channels, according to Brandwatch. However, engaging in social commerce takes greater effort than just maintaining a presence on a social media platform, and the process of delivering sales through these third-party sites carries its own unique risks and rewards. Joining social commerce early adopters such as Burberry and Target, are brands such as apparel retailer MM.LaFleur that are just beginning to explore this terrain.

“Big-ticket items that typically involve a lot of research and consultation from a sales associate are not as conducive for social commerce,” said Jeffrey Neville, SVP and Practice Lead at Boston Retail Partners in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “However, social media does open the door for consumers to dialog with a retail associate to move them down the path to purchase.”

MM.LaFleur has used social media both for relationship building and driving incremental revenue, according to Neville. The retailer’s Instagram presence has been driving sales online, and it uses the tools provided by social media to empower in-store associates, inspiring trust in shoppers and helping them choose the right merchandise.

Read Full Article: Social Commerce Best Practices: Optimize Mobile, Match Products To Platform Strengths

Kennedy: ‘Lab’ developing ‘socially responsible algorithms’

Daily Gazette – I don’t mind that Netflix has me pegged as liking British police dramas or preferring series with strong female leads. But would I want my supermarket loyalty program to text me personalized product recommendations after I was “recognized” walking into the store?

Both are examples of using Big Data – our online clicks, visits and signups – to create algorithms that claim to know us and try to predict what we want. String algorithms together and you get artificial intelligence, or the science of making machines do things “intelligently” — that is, in ways that humans would.

AI, as it’s known, is top of mind with many retailers. Consultant Boston Retail Partners predicted last year that 45 percent of retailers will utilize AI by 2020, most to optimize their online interaction with customers.

Read Full Article: Kennedy: ‘Lab’ developing ‘socially responsible algorithms’

Retailers Take Stock of the Winners & Losers Post Bon-Ton

Sourcing Journal – Though the press has had a lot of fun with the retail apocalypse storyline, former Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren said the reality is a lot less dramatic.

Speaking to CNBC, Lundgren said rumors of the demise of department stores circulated throughout his 40-year career, but even with the recent turmoil, it’s not going to happen. “There will be a shake out,” he said. “There’s going to be winners and losers.”

On one end of that spectrum is Amazon and on the other, he said, there’s The Bon-Ton Stores, which recently began liquidation sales following the company’s February bankruptcy filing.

“Amazon has done a great job of attracting this loyalty customer through their Prime program but they’re the only pureplay—if you can still call them that—online retailer in the top 100 retailers,” he said. Further, he said those who are putting too much stock into e-commerce at the expense of brick-and-mortar, are missing the fact that it still only accounts for 10 percent of retail.

As for Bon-Ton, he said the company, which had a mountain of debt, made a fatal mistake that’s all too common these days. “The key is don’t be a highly leveraged retail business because you cannot survive the ups and downs of consumer changes.”

With Bon-Ton out of business, Perry Kramer, senior vice president and practice lead at Boston Retail Partners, a retail management consulting firm, told Sourcing Journal the effects will be felt across the landscape, resulting in a boon for some and a misfortune for others.

Given that Bon-Ton’s travails were well documented, Kramer said it’s likely the retailer’s competitors were already laying out plans to capitalize on the vacancy.

“The biggest winners will be the regional competitors who already have a strong understanding of the merchandise mix and customer experience that resonated best with Bon-Ton’s customer base,” he said, listing Boxcov’s and Belk as possible benefactors. “The most opportunistic competitors have already been working to negotiate discounted merchandise for the next few seasons to take advantage of the procurement gap that will be created by the Bon-Ton closure.”

Beyond snapping up stock, he also sees opportunity for these stores to tap into Bon-Ton’s credit cardholders, who could be wooed with favorable perks.

Ultimately though, Kramer sees a dim future for some of the company’s landlords. “In many cases, the closing of these stores, which are most often an anchor store in malls, may be the straw that breaks the back of several malls impacted by the store closures across 26 states,” he said, adding the smaller stores in those centers may be hurt as well.

Read Full Article: Retailers Take Stock of the Winners & Losers Post Bon-Ton

Amazon service poised to popularize in-car delivery

Luxury Daily – Ecommerce platform Amazon is upping the ante on shipping services with the debut of in-car delivery. After convincing consumers to open their homes for deliveries with Amazon Key, the retailer is now expanding its capabilities to placing packages in shoppers’ cars. In recent years, Amazon has set the trends in ecommerce services, which may turn vehicle deliveries into a mainstream expectation.

“As home delivery continues to accelerate, many consumers have reported stolen packages from their doorsteps,” said David Naumann, vice president of marketing at Boston Retail Partners, Boston. “Amazon and other delivery services have begun taking photos of packages delivered to doorsteps to confirm delivery, but that doesn’t prevent thieves.

“Offering in-car delivery is another option to provide greater security for package delivery.”

Mr. Naumann is not affiliated with Amazon, but agreed to comment as an industry expert. Amazon was reached for comment.

“Consumer adoption of in-car delivery will resonate will some, but not all consumers,” Boston Retail Partners’ Mr. Naumann said. “Some people may not feel comfortable providing a delivery person access to their vehicle, especially if there is anything of value in their car.

“However, many consumers will likely embrace the added convenience and security of in-car delivery offers,” he said. “It is all about providing consumer multiple options – and consumers love choices.”

Read Full Article: Amazon service poised to popularize in-car delivery

5 Important Consumer Demands Retailers Need to Know

Material Handling & Logistics – Last mile logistics are a complex undertaking that has recently been at the forefront of the dialogue around the “Amazon Effect” and how it impacts consumers, retailers and logistics companies alike. Consumer expectations for faster delivery times are growing rapidly, and retailers are tirelessly strategizing ways to provide these services. And logistics companies are looking toward new technology to make the last mile of delivery more efficient and less costly.

Nearly two times as many consumers say they took advantage of same-day delivery in the last 12 months versus the year prior. And consumers aren’t happy when same-day isn’t an option: nearly 1/3 of consumers now say they feel ‘frustrated’ when a company doesn’t offer same-day delivery.

Delivery speed has become a crucial aspect of the online shopping experience and a major decision factor for online shoppers. 53% of consumers have abandoned a purchase because of slow delivery times. That’s a lot of missed opportunity!

Over the last year, we’ve seen a number of retailers add same-day delivery to their options at checkout. In fact, Boston Retail Partners’ 2017 Digital Commerce Survey showed that same-day delivery was offered by 51% of retailers in 2017. While that may sound like retailers are making real inroads, more than half described their service as “implemented and needs improvement.”

Read Full Article: 5 Important Consumer Demands Retailers Need to Know

Why achieving unified commerce should be a priority

TheRecord – If unified commerce is high on your priority list this year, you’re not alone. Citing a recent survey by Boston Retail Partners (BRP), Retail TouchPoints reported that 81% of retailers will be using unified commerce platforms by the end of 2020.

And BRP “identifies cloud-based unified commerce — the use of a single platform to support commerce for stores, mobile and the web — as the linchpin to competing in a fast-changing, omnichannel environment.”

Increasingly, a unified experience is also defined as a personalised experience. “Consumers no longer ‘need’ to go shopping — if a consumer wants an item she can pull out her smartphone, click a button, and the item will be at her door within a day or two. The advent of online shopping has made us constant consumers,” said BRP in a 2017 report, Personalising the Customer Experience. “Because of this constant ability to shop and easily research the lowest price, retailers — especially those with brick and mortar locations — need to further differentiate themselves to entice customers into the store. Providing a more personalised experience and offering value-add services can help even small retailers differentiate and compete successfully against companies like Amazon. The best and most powerful way to succeed is through personalisation.”

BRP’s report cited these findings from other studies, 84% of consumers choose to interact with sales associates when at a physical retailer (Salesfloor), 87% base purchasing decisions from the advice of a retail employee (Salesfloor) and 46% of shoppers will buy more from a retailer that personalises the shopping experience (eMarketer).

Read Full Article: Why achieving unified commerce should be a priority

Fashion aggregators duke it out in a crowded market

Glossy – Google “Balenciaga sock boots,” and a line up of different retailers arrange themselves on the results page, all offering the same item for the same price. If you have the $995 needed to actually make the purchase, you’d be faced with options to buy from Nordstrom, Net-a-Porter, Farfetch, Ssense, Bergdorf Goodman, Matches Fashion, or Balenciaga’s own e-commerce site, in that order. Tweak the search — remove “sock,” for instance — and the same retailers show up again, this time in a new order.

Who ends up making that sale, and why, is a question marketers at emerging luxury marketplaces like Farfetch, Net-a-Porter and LVMH’s 24 Sèvres are fighting to solve. It’s crucial, since they’re largely competing on the same inventory, save a few brand or collection exclusives here and there.

Paid search drives business, but for these companies to move away from the expensive acquisition strategy, there’s more at work in the path to purchase than who appears first in a Google search.

“For this industry, it’s more nuanced than who can buy up the most SEO,” said Ken Morris, principal at Boston Retail Partners. “Luxury customers need to be taken care of and catered to, and there’s an different playbook to follow when it comes to both getting them in the door and keeping them there.”

“The luxury customer is not the average customer thanks to exclusivity,” said Morris. “There are savvy digital strategies behind sourcing potential customers by linking together lifestyles — people in certain clubs, yacht owners, travelers. You can sift through purchase histories across other industries and zero in, if you know how to use that data properly. It’s a matter of keeping track of these people, and then making sure the value of acquiring them is greater than the cost of doing so.”

“Taking care of the luxury customers you have isn’t a simple business. They need concierge, white-glove treatment and the people who provide it are the people who win,” said Morris. “This is incredibly important when you’re in a field where 20 percent of your customers drive 80 percent of your business.”

Read Full Article: Fashion aggregators duke it out in a crowded market

Deliver Us From Amazon: Why The E-Commerce Titan May Not Win The Same-Day

Investor’s Business Daily – Roadie, a startup that gets everyday folks to deliver packages while on their way to wherever they’re already driving, has notched a lot of oddball same-day delivery jobs that Amazon (AMZN) doesn’t do. A glass aquarium from Fountain Valley to Long Beach, Calif. A set of keys to someone locked out of her house in Georgia at 2 a.m. A box of trial evidence from San Francisco to Napa in time for a panicked lawyer’s court date.

The driving force behind this latest retail trend, as ever, is Amazon. Its Prime same-day delivery service follows a free-shipping perk that is now a de facto requirement for online shopping. But after scrambling to catch up to Amazon on free shipping, these old brick-and-mortar titans are rushing to stay ahead of the e-commerce giant on same-day delivery. And this next online battleground might actually tilt in their favor, some analysts say.

Speedy delivery doesn’t come cheap. Customers could pay anywhere from $5.99 to $9.99 per shipment for the pleasure. But demand continues to mount, which makes it “absolutely essential” for retailers in order to compete in this “instant-gratification economy,” said Retail Metrics head Ken Perkins, who thinks one-hour delivery might be the next goal. “People want to see a package on their door when they return from work.”

Boston Retail Partners analyst Scott Langdoc knows that serious pain. As a former C-suite exec at “mini-Webvan” delivery company PDQuick at the start of the new millennium, he says that Google Maps would have made all the difference.

“If I had the tools that are available today, starting with Google Maps but fast-forwarding to the (artificial intelligence and machine learning) tools that are available today, it’s amazing to think what I could’ve done at my scale or what Webvan or Kozmo could’ve done at their scale,” he said.

Like many of its peers of the time, PDQuick didn’t survive. It was bought out and went back to its roots as a scaled-down SoCal neighborhood delivery service, Pink Dot.

“What we’d intended to do before the 2001 implosion was basically do what Shipt did, which was to generalize the delivery and logistics capability for any retail platform so we could bring in inventory. A retailer brought in drivers and you would be able, based on location, to provide that capability,” said Langdoc.

“Fast forward 15 years, that is what Shipt is; that is what Instacart is.”

Read Full Article: Deliver Us From Amazon: Why The E-Commerce Titan May Not Win The Same-Day

How Smaller Merchants Can Get Amazon-Style Logistics

PYMNTS.com – Divey Gulati knows firsthand how challenging it can be for eCommerce merchants to fulfill and mail orders. After all, Gulati and a co-founder once had their own eCommerce business.

While Gulati and his co-founder managed to automate practically every function, there was just one piece of their business they couldn’t wrap their heads around — shipping and logistics.

As a result, Gulati helped build ShipBob, which provides merchants with Amazon-style logistics. An end-to-end fulfillment solution, the company provides warehousing for customers and package delivery in one to two business days, along with additional software features that help merchants manage their inventory.

 

The company is also eyeing same-day delivery, since the market is trending strongly toward same-day delivery. According to the “2017 Digital Commerce Benchmark Survey,” conducted by Boston Retail Partners, some 65 percent of retailers will offer same-day delivery within the next two years.

As of 2017, 51 percent of retailers said they offer same-day delivery, a massive jump from the 16 percent offering it only a year before. Increasingly popular and helping to make those same-day deliveries happen, third-party apps like Uber and Lyft have moved up from 20 percent of the same-day market to 32 percent over 12 months.

In all, consumers want their purchases on their doorsteps faster than ever before. Two-day shipping just may not cut it in the future.

Read Full Article: How Smaller Merchants Can Get Amazon-Style Logistics

‘It’s the way of the future’: Express debuts a new store concept for the modern worker

Glossy – Today, Express launched a new store concept in NYC dedicated to the modern worker. It’s a testing ground for a number of experiential activations the 38-year-old retailer could roll out to its 600-plus stores.

Located on Madison Avenue in Manhattan, the longstanding store has been revamped to feature product “stories” dedicated to a variety of work styles — for example, there’s a space for the office worker and one for the more creative type. There’s also a lounge-style workspace, equipped with charging stations and WiFi. Kornberg expects that shoppers will browse, work, stay a while. The fact that updates mirror American malls’ buzzy transition to lifestyle centers was no mistake.

With its new concept store, the retailer is moving in the right direction, said David Naumann, vp of marketing at consulting firm Boston Retail Partners. “Stores must now encompass both worlds — the sensory experience generally available in the physical world, and the unique and personalized shopping experience common in the digital world,” he said. “To meet consumer expectations and survive in today’s challenging retail climate, most retailers will need to transform their retail and customer engagement models to be successful.”

Read Full Article: ‘It’s the way of the future’: Express debuts a new store concept for the modern worker