2019 E-Commerce Outlook Guide

Retail Touch Points – 16 experts share their insights into top digital retail trends for 2019.

The saying goes that “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” By contrast, what happens in e-Commerce doesn’t stay within the digital sphere; increasingly, it affects virtually all segments of the retail industry.

The new world of retail is an intersection of digital and physical. An increasing number of e-Commerce pure play companies are seeing the real benefits of moving into the brick-and-mortar realm. But physical retail is getting a much needed update from the next frontiers of technology, featuring AI, voice commerce and visual recognition solutions.

Retailers and solution providers are working to adapt the store shopping experience to the reality that consumers are entering store aisles led by their smartphones. But when it’s time to expand operations beyond U.S. boundaries, companies are embracing e-Commerce, which has broken down borders, making global retailing a practical reality for retailers of all segments and sizes. And even though stores are still where the vast majority of transactions take place, it’s the rare shopper journey that doesn’t include at least one digital touch point.

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Jeffrey Neville, Senior Vice President and Practice Lead, BRP

It’s no secret that returning customers are better for your business than new customers. Studies have shown that a returning customer is less expensive to convert and has a higher average order value than a new customer.

However, the e-Commerce industry continues to focus mainly on the acquisition of new customers by adopting the latest technologies and marketing strategies. While this is necessary to remain competitive, there is simply no substitute for having loyal patrons.

Enhancing The Post-Purchase Experience

By crafting a post-purchase experience to minimize stress and maximize convenience, retailers make an investment in a sustained relationship with their customer. After a customer clicks “buy,” they enter a phase of uncertainty, where they are unsure whether their product will arrive on time or whether it will appear in one piece. Retailers who provide the right clues and reassurances can turn this period into a powerful moment of trust for the brand. Customers who shop without a sense of risk will feel more comfortable making repeat purchases in the future.

Read to full article to see Jeffrey’s suggested 8 best practices for optimizing the post-purchase experience.

Read Full Article: 2019 E-Commerce Outlook Guide

Harvey Nichols transforms into Holly Nichols for women’s wear push

Luxury Daily – British department store chain Harvey Nichols is getting in touch with its feminine side in a multichannel makeover in honor of its newly renovated women’s floor.

For the month of September, the retailer has changed its name to Holly Nichols, with both its bricks-and-mortar and online presence reflecting the updated persona. While a promotion for its updated store look, the campaign also hits as the United Kingdom celebrates the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, allowing Harvey Nichols to align its marketing with broader themes of female empowerment.

“Brands today shouldn’t think twice about celebrating historical ‘wins’ and emphasizing their core principles,” said Beatrice Egan, senior consultant at Boston Retail Partners, Boston. “Staging this female takeover not only creates buzz but reinforces the brand’s steadfast values.”

“Changing the name to ‘Holly Nichols’ above its doors and on social media shows the brand’s firm commitment to female empowerment,” Boston Retail Partners’ Ms. Egan said. “Referencing a historical London moment reminds consumers of Harvey Nichols’ strong British legacy.”

“Consumers will remember this display of character for years to come,” Ms. Egan said. “Harvey Nichols is hoping to imprint on customers two brand equities: one, they continue to support women’s rights and two, they are a British brand with a strong history. Consumers want to shop at brands they feel connected with,” she said. “This extends beyond social media and the right merchandising mix to shared values and experiences.”

Read Full Article: Harvey Nichols transforms into Holly Nichols for women’s wear push

The Evolution Of Retail Tech: What We Have Learned, Where We Are And Where We’re Headed

Retail TouchPoints – Since the dawn of retail in the late 1800s, the retail industry has continued to influence present-day consumer expectations through the use of cutting-edge technologies. From the first cash register and bank-issued credit cards, which were introduced in the 1950s to provide “pay later” options and encourage more consumer spending — to the advent of online shopping enabling digital transactions between consumers and businesses, no other industry has experienced such extreme shifts in consumer behavior as a result.

Whether a startup or a seasoned household brand, longevity is more than a promise or a boardroom mantra or a rock bottom price; it’s a deliberate commitment to focus on the customer at every level, every stage and on every platform — in real time. That, according to key finding from the 2017 POS/Customer Engagement Survey conducted by Boston Retail Partners (BRP), is the future of retail, and one that will require new technology to provide the kind of unified customer experience that is personal, mobile, seamless and secure, rather than disparate technology and stand-alone systems that for decades have duplicated cost structures at almost every customer touch point. Convenience is also key to the experience.

Personal: Taking cues from those who proactively send consumers personalized offers, flash sale notifications and product recommendations, many brand manufacturers in retail are discovering that “knowing” or identifying the customer right from the start is the key to personalizing the shopping experience. That’s why 70% of retailers indicate customer identification is their top customer engagement priority, with the most prevalent technologies including WiFi (43%) and mobile web sites (40%), both of which over 70% of retailers plan to use in the next three years.

Mobile: Mobile devices including smartphones, tablets and wearables have not only changed the way shoppers research and purchase but also elevated customer expectations toward service. That’s why 49% of retailers (up from 31% in 2016) are using mobile solutions for store associates, with 89% planning to offer a mobile solution within the next three years, while 84% plan to implement mobile POS.

Seamless: By the end of 2019, 71% of retailers plan to have a unified commerce platform in place, with cloud technologies the basis for offering a centralized POS, cross-channel and fulfillment services, real-time visibility and access to product and customer information and analytics.

Secure: With data theft and fraud a growing threat to retailers and consumers alike, most survey respondents indicated a move toward a multi-layer security plan to protect sensitive customer and organization data. In addition to 96% planning to implement end-to-end encryption by the close of 2019, 73% will offer a single-token solution within three years.

Convenience: Thriving brand manufacturers and retailers have learned that providing today’s savvy customers with what they want means offering more efficient pathways to purchase. Evidence of this can be seen in the growing use of online location finders, live chat widgets and in-stock features. Moreover, with options for curbside pick-up (such as Target’s rapidly growing Drive Up feature), 24-hour delivery and multiple shipping possibilities from potentially thousands of sites around the globe, choice is allowing customers to experience the kind of shopping they crave from beginning to end.

Read Full Article: The Evolution Of Retail Tech: What We Have Learned, Where We Are And Where We’re Headed

Retail Expert Says Kaepernick Ad Won’t ‘Negatively Affect’ Nike

WBZ4 – CBS Boston – The selection of former NFL player Colin Kaepernick as Nike’s new spokesperson has some praising the athletic-wear company and others threatening to boycott it.

On Labor Day, Colin Kaepernick tweeted a picture of a new ad for the 30th anniversary of Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign. It shows a tight shot of the athlete’s face and reads “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”

Retail Expert Says Kaepernick Ad Won't 'Negatively Affect' Nike

Comments from Ken Morris, Principal, BRP:

“It is always true that negative press is good press.”

“They’re picking a side and I don’t think that’s going to negatively affect them over the long run.”

Boston retail consultant, Ken Morris, said that “despite the backlash, the ad will only do good things for Nike, given the company’s younger demographics.”

“It’s a calculated risk. For every 25 people wo aren’t going to buy Nike products, 50 are going to buy Nike products.”

Watch Video Clip: Retail Expert Says Kaepernick Ad Won’t ‘Negatively Affect’ Nike

Online retailers are competing to win over hot new designers

Glossy – Emerging designers, particularly those who have built up social media followings, are now seen as keys that can unlock a new customer for the retailers that carry them. Online retailers like Net-a-Porter, MatchesFashion, Moda Operandi and the e-commerce sites of luxury department stores are competing on newness, exclusivity and an ability to discover the next big names in fashion to give customers a reason to shop there and to keep coming back.

On Thursday, Net-a-Porter launched a new program called “The Vanguard,” offering a rotating pool of designers access to a guided mentorship program led by Net-a-Porter executives and team members. It entails business strategy and marketing support, social media production, PR and technology resources. In exchange, the designers will sell their collections exclusively through Net-a-Porter. The first four designers to participate in The Vanguard are Les Reveries, Ruh, Gu_de and Martinez. All the brands are international, which speaks to Net-a-Porter’s ongoing mission to attract a global customer, and some speak to emerging customer trends: Ruh, for instance, is a sustainable clothing brand for modest apparel targeting Muslim consumers, while Gu_de is a locally made, Korean-based handbag brand.

“The Net-a-Porter buying team selects brands based on design and directional brand perspective. We pursue brands that we believe have the potential to grow into meaningful businesses,” said Lisa Aiken, Net-a-Porter’s retail fashion director. “With social media, we’re seeing new brands make a larger impact in fashion within a shorter period of time.”

“You have to take care of luxury customers, especially online,” said Ken Morris, principal analyst at Boston Retail Partners. “They want to feel like they’re being catered to, like they’re unique, like they’re in on something other people aren’t. Exclusive collections from up-and-coming designers is a differentiator.”

Read Full Article: Online retailers are competing to win over hot new designers

Price and Promotions Wars: How to Avoid the Race to the Bottom

Retail TouchPoints – In the world of pricing and promotions, the five most dreaded words are “a race to the bottom.” That’s a contest where the only thing worse than winning is coming in second.

It’s true that price wars and their companion, overly generous promotions, can definitely eat into (or even destroy) retailers’ profit margins. Just over half (52%) of consumers receive weekly or monthly promotions for items they would have happily paid full price for, according to a Forrester Research study conducted in May 2017 and updated in April 2018.

It’s also true that getting the price right — for each customer, at each touch point and at the optimal time of the day, week or selling season — can seem like an insurmountable obstacle. But as complex and daunting as the challenges are, most retailers have access to both the data and the tools to make smart pricing and promotion decisions. But what they too often lack are the actions required to make the data and solutions work effectively.

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The big data revolution and the advances being made with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning have important personalization applications in the pricing and promotions arena. “Retailers like The North Face ask customers question on their web site, and then are able to connect the right products with their best customers at the best times,” said Nathan Beckstrom, Senior Consultant at BRP Consulting. “So, at the exact time a high-value customer is looking for a waterproof parka, it’s in front of their faces. Another customer that doesn’t spend at that same dollar amount would see something else, like an accessory. While it would take an individual an inordinate amount of time to figure that out, machine learning can go in, make generally good decisions to put that in front of the customer and be successful.”

Additionally, individualized or region-based pricing can backfire for retailers. “Sears and Kmart ended up paying millions in fines when they did this some years ago,” said Beckstrom in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. Even if the actions are legal, a lack of pricing consistency can hurt a brand’s image: “Customers typically want retailers to be consistent across the board,” he added. “It’s better to incentivize with gift cards and promotions versus having one customer pay $50 for an item and another paying $75 for the same item.”

Read Full Article: Price and Promotions Wars: How to Avoid the Race to the Bottom

Lane Crawford offers guide to living well in multichannel campaign

Luxury Daily – Chinese department store chain Lane Crawford is helping consumers elevate their well-being through a campaign that invites them to learn and play.

“Good Feels” includes a series of workshops that allow shoppers to get in touch with their artistic or spiritual sides. Beyond serving as purveyors of physical goods, retailers are increasingly positioning themselves as one-stop shops for both acquisition and personal improvement.

“Lane Crawford has recognized that consumers are more and more seeking experiences over material items,” said Beatrice Egan, senior consultant at Boston Retail Partners, Boston. “The emphasis on health and wellness experiences and becoming a lifestyle brand is a global trend.

“Increasing customer engagement through these wellness workshops should drive more store traffic at Lane Crawford stores and ultimately more sales,” she said. “For example, after attending a workshop about getting a better night’s sleep, it might inspire customers to shop for a silk eye mask and Frette bedding.”

“Consumers are ditching their shopping bags for salt caves, luxury work out classes and organic meal delivery programs as ways to enhance their health and lives,” BRP’s Ms. Egan said. “Lane Crawford is positioning the brand as not only a destination for lifestyle goods, but a Lane Crawford way of living.”

Read Full Article: Lane Crawford offers guide to living well in multichannel campaign

What can luxury retailers learn from Amazon Prime Day?

Luxury Daily – Ecommerce giant Amazon is hosting its largest annual promotional event, which can serve as an example to luxury retailers as they hope to make inroads with their online shopping strategies. Starting on July 16 and taking place throughout a 36-hour window, Prime Day is expected to generate billions of dollars in sales for the online marketplace. This record-breaking shopping event also serves as an opportunity for legacy brands to capitalize on consumers’ spending during this “Christmas in July” period.

“Luxury retailers can emulate some of the marketing principals of Prime Day and organize virtual events that engage their customers,” said Ken Morris, principal at Boston Retail Partners, Boston. “Rather than deep discounts, luxury retailers can focus on limited availability of exclusive products for a specific time period or only available to premier loyalty members.”

“While some luxury retailers have begun selling some of their merchandise on Amazon, most have limited their product assortment Amazon to avoid cannibalization of the brands’ sales,” Mr. Morris said.

“Keeping a good share of their product assortment exclusive to the retailer’s brand ecommerce site is the best approach to motivate customers to visit their site on a regular basis,” he said. “It is also imperative to have a steady cadence of new items, promotions and events to keep customers engaged with the brand.”

Read Full Article: What can luxury retailers learn from Amazon Prime Day?

2018 Holiday Guide – Putting Personalization into Practice

Retail TouchPoints – Integrating personalization into retail marketing and communications strategies is becoming more important every day. Especially during the highly competitive holiday shopping season, consumers are looking for relevant promotions, messaging and interactions from the brands they visit online, in-store and via every other touch point.

The 9th annual Retail TouchPoints Holiday Guide offers strategic insights, tips and real-world case studies that drive home the value of delivering a more personalized retail experience.

Perry Kramer, senior vice president and practice lead at BRP, shared these comments:

“The key to success in meeting consumers’ last mile expectations is having the right product in the right place, so that you are buying it once and touching it once.”  Putting product in the distribution centers or stores that are geographically close to their final destinations makes the last mile both shorter and speedier.

“You don’t necessarily have to offer two-hour delivery, but if you offer two-day delivery, you have to meet that expectation 99.9% of the time,” said Kramer. “Customers may be buying something they need for the weekend or as they are heading out on vacation.”

The growth of BORIS (buy online/return in-store) has meant increased convenience for consumers, but has created a new set of issues for retailers — particularly when the items purchased online are not carried in the brick-and-mortar store. “Some retailers are limiting the impact of BORIS by offering customers who are returning products a coupon for X percentage off anything they purchase in the store on the same day,” said Kramer. “This is a great way for retailers to garner some additional sales from customers returning merchandise.”

Read Full Article: 2018 Holiday Guide – Putting Personalization into Practice

Ease in Payments And Ordering Are Central to Restaurant Success, a Survey Finds

Digital Transactions – What do diners want most when they go out to eat? Apparently, easy ordering and payment. That’s the big takeaway in the “Restaurant Digital Crossroads: The Race to Meet Guest Expectations” report released Thursday.

Hassle-free ordering and payment are especially important to younger consumers, defined as those between 18 and 37 years old. Seventy-four percent of them said ease of ordering and payment is extremely important to them, yet only 45% of restaurants meet that expectation, found the report from Boston-based BRP Consulting, which specializes in retail and restaurants.

“For Millennials, digital is shorthand for taking friction out of the order and payment process, allowing them to shop the way they want wherever they want,” the report said. “They, along with Gen Z, also value interactive technology and digital content (music, movies, games, digital shorts) more so than older generations.”

While restaurants whose primary guests may not have the same expectation now, BRP says such demands will become “table stakes in two years.”

Read full article: Ease in Payments And Ordering Are Central to Restaurant Success, a Survey Finds