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Despite Anchor Store Closures, Malls Can Secure Success With Dining, Experiences, Entertainment

Retail TouchPoints – As many as 30% of malls will need to close due to the oversaturation of shopping centers in the U.S., estimates Coresight Research. But the need to reduce significant square footage isn’t all bad news. While more than 1,100 department stores are set to close between 2018 and 2023, mall operators can secure future success by:

  • Focusing on potential “anchor” replacements, but not in the form of large format stores;
  • Prioritizing high-end dining and experiences to cater to future generations of shoppers; and
  • Embracing the concepts of “destination centers” and “retaildential” complexes.

While it’s true that many malls are suffering and may close, others are finding new ways to attract more shoppers. Malls range in grades, from A++ to D. High-performing Class A malls constitute only 20% of the market, yet represent 72% of total mall sales, according to data from Green Street Advisors. These “A” malls have experienced double-digit sales growth since 2012, Coresight reported.

Within “A” malls, occupancies remain in the high 90% range, said Michael Brown, a partner in the retail practice of A.T. Kearney, and author of the report The Future of Shopping Centers. For the most part, those malls will be safe from the expected 30% of malls anticipated to close. But with so many department store closures on the horizon, there will still be spaces opening up, even at some of the top-performing malls.

“Most of the retailers we see that are anchors — and I literally mean anchors — they’re not driving traffic and they’re holding down the mall,” said Ken Morris, Principal at Boston Retail Partners. “They didn’t pivot to online sales right away and were late to the game. Those are the people that are anchoring a lot of the failing malls, especially in the C and D class malls.”

Morris highlighted the Apple store as a retail environment that modern retailers should strive to copy in some ways, particularly if they desire attention from mall operators.

“There’s something for everyone [at the Apple store], regardless of if you’re six or seven years old, or 70 years old,” Morris said. “It’s an event. It’s theater, and the reality is that’s going to draw people all of the time.”

Read Full Article: Despite Anchor Store Closures, Malls Can Secure Success With Dining, Experiences, Entertainment

Unified Commerce is Here: The Customer Experience of the Future

MarTech Series – According to a Latest Report, 73% of Customers Want Order Tracking Across all Touchpoints but only 7% of Retailers Currently Offer “Start Anywhere, Finish Anywhere” Order Capabilities.

Customer-centric retailing and selling are the new business models. The new model goes beyond the traditional horizon of omnichannel, breaking down the lofty walls between internal intent silos and the potent customer experience platforms.

” Unified commerce and a customer experience (CX) that transcends channels are the foundation of the new retail model.” – BPR

The future of customer experience is now, and Unified Commerce would play the biggest role in assigning performance-related metrics to the use of emerging technologies — AR, VR, AI, and video for commerce. BRP’s 2018 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey of top North American retailers offers insights into retailers’ current priorities and initiatives as digital and physical retail environments converge to facilitate a seamless experience across channels.

The report also compares retailers’ priorities with customer expectations – based on recent results from the 2018 Retail Consumer Study conducted by Incisiv and sponsored by BRP and Windstream Enterprise – to understand how retailer priorities align with customer expectations.

Read full article: Unified Commerce is Here: The Customer Experience of the Future

73% of shoppers want to start, end shopping anywhere

FierceRetail – As many as 73% of consumers want the ability to start and end their shopping journey on any platform they see fit, yet only 7% of retailers currently offer a completely unified commerce experience. According to a new report from BRP, 50% of retailers said they are planning to implement the ability to start a sale anywhere and finish a sale anywhere in the next three years.

But in the meantime, the report solidifies that retailers are struggling to keep up with consumers’ omnichannel demands.

Perry Kramer, senior VP and practice lead at BRP, says there are several reasons why retailers seem to be scrambling to keep up with customer expectations regarding the shopping journey. In part, many retailers have yet to assess the new customer journey and address what is required to deliver the seamless experience that these shoppers expect.

“A good first step is to begin with the concept of building blocks that can be leveraged as part of a holistic customer journey,” Kramer told FierceRetail. “This approach allows a retailer to focus on the areas that are most impactful to the consumer, which varies greatly based on each retail segment. Additionally, this approach allows a retailer to flex and adapt with the rapidly changing set of customer expectations while leveraging past development as opposed to constantly starting over again.”

“The areas of customer experience, customer journey and unified commerce are all moving very fast and morphing like a piece of playdough. If a retailer starts chasing today’s norm without the ability to flex and rapidly change, they will be behind the competition by the time they implement their changes,” Kramer said. “A key guiding principle should be ‘quality needs to exceed quantity.’ This should not be confused with not experimenting, taking risks and learning from misses. The important message is to learn from your misses and do not miss because of quality—miss because you dared to challenge the norm and were willing to learn from it.”

Read full article: 73% of shoppers want to start, end shopping anywhere 

The Retail Firmament: Email And The Customer Experience

MediaPost – Retailers are crawling toward delivering a holistic customer experience. And they have a long way to go, according to The Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Benchmark Survey, a report by BRP.

Most retailers use personal email — 81% say they do. And 12% expect to use it within three years. But 45% admit their email marketing needs improvement. And not all are succeeding at delivering a unified cross-channel experience to customers.

Of over 500 North American retailers polled, 81% pursue a multichannel or omnichannel program, but only 5% have reached a “true unified commerce model,” the study states.

The result is a “faux” omnichannel model, according to BRP, a retail management consulting firm.

Overall, the top priority of the respondents is to increase customer loyalty — 53% are pursuing this goal. The second objective, cited by 42%, is to optimize the customer experience.

Read full article: The Retail Firmament: Email And The Customer Experience

Study: ‘Seamless shopping’ is still a pipe dream

Chain Store Age – Retailers know it is critical for shopping experiences to be seamless and frictionless, yet these experiences are still few and far between.

While most consumers expect the ability to shop effortlessly across channels, only 7% of retailers currently provide a complete unified commerce experience that allows a customer to “start the sale anywhere, finish the sale anywhere,” according to the “2018 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey,” from Boston Retail Partners (BRP).

Knowing that consumers will often stop shopping a brand after just one bad customer moment, retailers are making big plans to converge digital and physical retail environments to facilitate a seamless experience across channels going forward. Within three years, 50% of companies plan to offer a complete unified commerce experience that allows a customer to start and finish the sale anywhere.

To help retailers prepare for this journey, BRP offers the “E5 of Customer Experience”: Educate, Engage, Execute, Enhance and Enabler.

“With customer expectations continuing to rise, it is promising to see how many retailers are focused on adding new capabilities to enhance the shopping experience,” said Perry Kramer, senior VP and practice lead at Boston Retail Partners.

Read Full Article: Study: ‘Seamless shopping’ is still a pipe dream

73% of Customers Want Order Tracking Across all Touchpoints but only 7% of Retailers Currently Offer “Start Anywhere, Finish Anywhere” Order Capabilities

BRP’s 2018 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey Analyzes and Compares Consumer Expectations to Retailer Capabilities to Identify Opportunities

Boston, MA – May 24, 2018 – According to a new report from BRP, rapidly evolving customer expectations are driving a major transformation in retail. The 2018 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey combines research on customer expectations with survey findings on retailers’ current capabilities and future plans to highlight areas of opportunities for retailers. As consumers will often stop shopping a brand after just one bad customer moment, it becomes critical for retailers to make the shopping experience seamless and frictionless.

“While most consumers expect the ability to shop seamlessly across channels, only 7% of retailers currently provide a complete unified commerce experience by allowing a customer to ‘start the sale anywhere, finish the sale anywhere,’ with another 50% planning to implement it in three years,” said Perry Kramer, senior vice president and practice lead at BRP. “With customer expectations continuting to rise, it is promising to see how many retailers are focused on adding new capabilities to enhance the shopping experience.”

BRP’s 2018 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey of top North American retailers offers insights into retailers’ current priorities and initiatives as digital and physical retail environments converge to facilitate a seamless experience across channels. The report also compares retailers’ priorities with customer expectations – based on recent results from the 2018 Retail Consumer Study conducted by Incisiv and sponsored by BRP and Windstream Enterprise – to understand how retailer priorities align with customer expectations.

The key survey findings are organized around the E5 of Customer Experience:

  1. Educate – Customers start the purchasing process by researching the brand and products so it is critical to ensure they and the store associates have information and tools that are easy to access and use.
  • 62% of consumers check reviews/ratings before visiting a store
  • 61% of retailers offer consumer product reviews for research
  1. Engage – The first step in customer engagement is to identify the customer early in the process and offer associates the ability to leverage customer information to allow personalized interaction.
  • 64% of consumers are fine with retailers saving purchase history and personal perferences if more personalization is offered
  • 61% of retailers make in-store and online shopping history available to associates to tailor the customer experience
  1. Execute – To meet and exceed today’s elevated customer expectations, retailers must deliver unified commerce capabilities and empower associates with the right tools to optimize the experience.
  • 73% of consumers want the ability to track orders across all points of interaction
  • 42% of retailers offer the ability to track orders across channels
  1. Enhance – Gathering feedback to understand customers’ likes and dislikes allows for a continuous improvement loop and helps empower associates to create a desired customer experience.
  • 51% of consumers will stop shopping at a retailer after 1-2 poor in-store shopping trips
  • 62% of retailers plan to improve their in-store customer experience within three years
  1. Enablers – Delivering a personalized customer experience requires the right technology and network.
  • 68% of consumers are more likely to choose a store offering an automated returns process
  • 13% of retailers offer an automated returns process

To download the complete 2018 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey, visit:

https://brpconsulting.com/download/2018-unified-commerce-survey/.

The 2018 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Survey platinum sponsors are Aptos and Manhattan Associates, gold sponsors are Cayan, ECRS, enVista and PCMS, and the silver sponsor is STORIS.

About BRP

BRP is an innovative retail management consulting firm dedicated to providing superior service and enduring value to our clients. BRP combines its consultants’ deep retail business knowledge and cross-functional capabilities to deliver superior design and implementation of strategy, technology, and process solutions. The firm’s unique combination of industry focus, knowledge-based approach, and rapid, end-to-end solution deployment helps clients to achieve their business potential. BRP’s consulting services include:

Strategy | Business Intelligence | Business Process Optimization | Point of Sale (POS)
Mobile POS | Payment Security | E-Commerce | Store Systems and Operations | CRM
Unified Commerce | Customer Experience | Order Management | Networks
Merchandise Management | Supply Chain | Private Equity

For more information on BRP, visit http://www.brpconsulting.com.

Most Retailers Haven’t Mastered Personalization Yet

eMarketer – Much has been written about value exchange and the push-pull of consumers’ willingness to give up personal info for personalization, offers or other supposed special treatment. Many US internet users, however, are reluctant to reveal anything more than their name and email address to marketers. 

At the minimum, a retailer should be able to discern and differentiate a consumer at some point during a shopping journey. An April 2018 BRP (Boston Retail Partners) survey of retailers in North America found very different capacities for identifying customers in-store vs. online. That’s not completely surprising since digital activity has been easier historically to track than behavior in-store.

Read Full Article: Most Retailers Haven’t Mastered Personalization Yet 

RETAILER OF THE YEAR: Albertsons

Frozen and Refrigerated Buyer – Will an upcoming merger with Rite Aid be enough to turn things around at the nation’s second-largest supermarket chain? Industry observers aren’t so sure.

Plain vanilla,” “mediocre at best,” “generic,” “tired,” “middle of the road,” and “meh.” Those are some of the ways a panel of industry observers described Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons. So why the heck did we name it our 2018 Retailer of the Year?! Well, keep in mind that the title doesn’t necessarily go to the best operator. For better or worse, we’re looking for a chain whose actions over the past year have influenced the industry in a significant way, and Albertsons clearly fits the bill.

While Amazon-Whole Foods may have been the obvious choice for Retailer of the Year, the truth is we’ve done that story to death. Yes, e-commerce is the wave of the future, but “traditional” brick-and-mortar isn’t going any- where anytime soon, and after its mega-merger with Rite Aid is completed later this year (more on that coming up), Albertsons will have a whopping 4,900-plus locations nationwide, serving more than 40 million customers per week. It also announced several unique initiatives in the past few months and recently welcomed a new president and COO with a history of transforming under- performing companies, so there’s reason for optimism.

Comments from Perry Kramer – Page 24:

On the flip side, the merger will also allow Rite Aid to increase its presence in the grocery business, says Perry Kramer, senior vp and practice lead at Boston Retail Partners, Boston. “Rite Aid has a very significant urban foot- print, and many of their stores have recently been refreshed or remodeled,” he reports. “Those locations provide a great opportunity to expand frozen and refrigerated offerings, including Albertsons private label brands, which will help extend brand recognition and improve margins in those stores.” Another benefit of the merger with Rite Aid is the addition of a large amount of consumer data to enhance Albertsons’ customer data analytics, says Kramer. “Analyzing the data will enable the company to build a much more extensive view of its customers,” which will help it improve the customer experience both online and in stores.

Comments from Perry Kramer – Page 26:

In addition to using POS and loyalty data to improve customer analytics, Albertsons is likely to utilize real-time transactional data to improve its in-stock positions, which will become even more important as the company grows its digital presence, including online ordering and home delivery, adds Kramer.

One area that could truly become a competitive advantage for Albertsons is its own brands, most of which originated with Safeway, which many pundits list as one of the chain’s greatest assets. “The company has done a good job with its private labels in individual stores,” says Kramer, citing sales of more than $11 billion in fiscal 2017. However, “There’s a significant opportunity to continue to expand store brands across Albertsons’ many banners. When consumers see the same brands in different stores and when they shop and browse online they will become household names.”

Comments from Perry Kramer – Page 28:

But Kramer likes the idea of partnering with an established player in the meal kit space. “It allows Albertsons to rapidly roll out this new capability while learning the meal kit delivery business without a major investment of capital or time. Once it has an understanding of this rapidly changing market, the retailer will have the ability to bring the operation in-house if it makes sense.” He adds, “I think the move demonstrates Albertsons’ recognition that it needs to be ahead of trends if it’s going to continue to grow.”

Read Full Article: RETAILER OF THE YEAR: Albertsons (pages 22-28)

Selfridges invests in art via contemporary commissions

Luxury Daily – British department store chain Selfridges is turning part of its flagship location into a permanent gallery, mixing shopping and the arts. Located in Selfridges’ soon to open Accessories Hall, the Art Block will showcase a rotating series of large-scale sculptures. This project is one of three contemporary art installations Selfridges is putting up this year, part of its larger investment in the arts.

“Selfridges’ Art Block project is a great way to create a memorable experience while shopping,” said Gene Bornac, senior vice president and practice lead at Boston Retail Partners, Boston.”Linking the Art Block to a newly opened entrance will create new traffic and generate buzz for the historic flagship location.” Mr. Bornac is not affiliated with Selfridges, but agreed to comment as an industry expert.

“The art world is a leader in fashion and style for many, and by partnering with artists, Selfridges can associate themselves with style and expression beyond product,” Mr. Bornac said. “This creates a nice differentiator against product-only competitors.”

“The Art Block will provide consumers with more reasons to visit Selfridges that are not linked to traditional shopping and product cycles,” Boston Retail Partners’ Mr. Bornac said. “Selfridges should see an increase in foot traffic around the Art Block and a social media lift from shoppers who are eager to associate themselves with art and the exhibits.”

Read Full Article: Selfridges invests in art via contemporary commissions

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’