Frozen & Refrigerated Buyer – From Amazon to Walmart, everyone’s looking to take a bite out of traditional supermarket sales. How does frozen fit into the mix? We asked a panel of experts what to expect in 2018.

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“The biggest opportunities outside traditional POS and e-commerce are almost all data oriented, including better use of business intelligence, increased leverage of promotional planning and demand forecasting to drive product-by-product pricing decisions,” says vp and practice lead Scott Langdoc of Boston-based Boston Retail Partners. “The more automation and analytics that can be applied to assessing past performance and projecting future demand, the better a retailer can ‘dial in’ the proper blend of projected margin and volume,” he explains. But the technology that appears to hold the most promise is using transactional/loyalty card data to create more personalized pricing to drive specific behaviors. “Retailers that continue to use loyalty programs with simple two-tier pricing can’t win against competitors, including Amazon, that have this kind of analytic DNA in their blood,” he remarks.

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At the other end of the spectrum, Langdoc says premium private label is a particular interest. “Changes in buying behaviors and advertising influence give grocers further opportunities to better position their own brand product offerings, especially when they emphasize quality and taste along with value.” He adds that near instant customer feedback via social media is helping retailers make rapid adjustments to both individual products and whole categories. “Being more agile than competitors or national brands gives grocers the ability to optimize product offerings to a broader customer base.”

And they’ve got technology that makes the task even easier. “The rapid advancement of mobile ordering and location/GPS intelligence is giving QSR and fast casual brands in particular more opportunities to capture customer demand that would typically be directed toward traditional grocery shopping,” says Langdoc. “If dinner is only a single click away and it’s ready at the exact time you arrive for pick up because you gave the restaurant permission to track your location via GPS, that will appeal to consumers — especially millennials — and is a real threat to grocers.” But supermarket chains can do it, too!

Read Full Article: UNDER ATTACK!

Report: 45% of retailers expect to use AI within 3 years

MarketingDive – Retail management consulting firm BRP released its 2017 Customer Experience/Unified Commerce Benchmark Survey and found 55% of retailers are focused on optimizing the customer experience to increase customer loyalty with tactics including improving the mobile shopping experience and creating a unified experience across all channels per a press release.

The survey also found that 45% of retailers intend to begin using artificial intelligence within three years to enhance the customer experience.

In the press release, Perry Kramer, vice president and practice lead at BRP, described the customer experience in unified commerce as more complex than in pure e-commerce or brick-and-mortar retail environments adding the complexity “expands exponentially” as technologies including social media, the Internet of Things, (IoT), artificial intelligence and machine learning impact the retail sector and its customer journey.

The unified commerce customer experience highlight by BRP points to one of the challenges facing traditional retailers, which is having to provide expected in-store experiences like being able to physically examine merchandise and interact with sales associates as well as unique and personalized e-commerce shopping engagements that are now expected by many consumers. While many retailers are already active in e-commerce to varying degrees, they will need to adopt newer technologies to stay current with consumers’ expectations.

BRP’s Kramer framed next-gen technology as exponentially expanding the complexity of retail, suggesting a significant issue retailers could face going forward will be the learning curve that will coincide with the maturation of emerging tech like AI, the machine learning subset of AI and even the proliferation of IoT devices. While technology might be a source of complexity, it is also very likely to become the future solution to the challenges facing retailers adjusting

Read Full Article: Report: 45% of retailers expect to use AI within 3 years

Personal + Mobile + Seamless + Secure = Unified Commerce for Retailers

Card Flash – Unified commerce goes beyond omni-channel, putting the customer experience first, breaking down the walls between internal channel silos and leveraging a common commerce platform. Retailers are moving in this direction with 71% planning to have a unified commerce platform within three years.

According to a new report from Boston Retail Partners (BRP), the mobilization of retail and a renewed focus on customer centricity is the catalyst for the new retail paradigm of unified commerce. According to the 2017 POS/Customer Engagement Benchmarking Survey, retailers understand that the always-connected consumer expects a personalized, seamless experience wherever, whenever and however she shops and they are focused on delivering a unified customer experience.

Critical to unified commerce are the four key pillars that define the required customer experience: personal, mobile, seamless and secure. Personalization of the customer experience is key and offering more mobile options and real-time retail are necessary to make the experience seamless across channels. To ensure the trust and loyalty of the customer, data security is also critical.

BRP’s 2017 POS/Customer Engagement Survey of top North American retailers offers insights into retailers’ current priorities and initiatives as the digital and physical worlds converge to facilitate a seamless experience across channels.

Read Full Article: Personal + Mobile + Seamless + Secure = Unified Commerce for Retailers

Venmo expands to third-party checkout as successes pile up

Mobile Commerce Daily – PayPal’s Venmo is now a major competitor in mobile payments with the launch of its checkout service on retail applications that features innovative sharing capabilities and follows a successful year marked by 140 percent growth.

Users on mobile applications such as and Munchery can now check out seamlessly with Venmo capability by saving their account information and eliminating the need to consistently enter payment info but also allow users to split the cost with others. The peer-to-peer payments app will likely offer major competition to others attempting to conquer the mobile payments space, as the platform garners attention from a wide range of millennials by adding a social aspect.

“There is a lot of competition in the mobile payments space to send and receive monies between friends, but what makes Venmo a big deal is the social aspect they add to basic payments,” said Paul Dubie, manager at Boston Retail Partners. “The user is not just paying a friend back for lunch; they can add a taco and beer emoji along with their thank you.

“This message gets shared within the user’s social network, and perhaps even making another friend jealous they missed out on ‘Taco Tuesday,’” he said. “Social media sharing is great for businesses of any kind, and it is here to stay.

“Venmo has done a great job of capturing this feature in their app and it is their point of differentiation.”

Read Full Article: Venmo expands to third-party checkout as successes pile up

Do Online Pureplays Need Stores?

HFN – Pureplay online retailers—in the absence of physical stores—face their own set of omnichannel challenges. While some believe digital pureplay retailers have omnichannel all figured out, others might say, “Not so fast.”

Although they certainly are well ahead of brick-and-mortar retailers when it comes to ecommerce, technology infrastructure, supply chain management and fulfillment, the absence of physical stores or showrooms is a huge omnichannel disadvantage, according to some industry observers. In some instances, digital pureplays are also struggling—like their brick-and-mortar counterparts—with mobile retailing and the next frontier, which many expect will be social platform selling.

For all the growth online shopping has enjoyed over the past five or so years, more than nine out of 10 purchases still take place in a physical store, said Ken Morris, principal with Boston Retail Partners. The reason, Morris said, is stores still exert a powerful draw on many shoppers. “People love the theater of shopping,” he said. “They love to touch and smell and feel. You don’t get the sensory part of shopping from online.” 

Boston Retail Partners has worked with retailers of big-ticket items such as furniture. “Retailers like RH (Restoration Hardware) show the value of having showroom setups,” Morris said. “Physical stores will be necessary to the pureplays on the RH model of having showrooms, to give shoppers that sensory aspect.” He also forecasted that online shopping would eventually account for between 30 and 40 percent of all retail purchases, “but no more than that.” 

Read full article: Do Online Pureplays Need Stores?

Retailoring Retail for a Mobile-First World

CRM Magazine – Whether at home or on the go, customers frequently turn to their handheld devices to get things done, and that includes shopping.

It’s almost needless to say that e-commerce has undergone vast improvements in recent years, enabling customers to make quick and efficient transactions. For instance, it’s well known that makes it particularly easy to find certain products and order them in just a few clicks. So easy, in fact, that recent research from Forrester indicates that the e-commerce giant was responsible for 60 percent of the total growth in U.S. online sales in 2015. The company has even gone so far as to activate dash buttons that allow customers to reorder frequently purchased products without a second thought, and away from their computers.

“For retailers, one of the top initiatives is improving customer engagement—the way they identify customers, the way they work with customers,” Perry Kramer, vice president and practice lead at Boston Retail Partners, says. “The increase in usage by consumers on mobile is very dramatic, and it really becomes the tool to fill every gap, if you will, in the customer engagement process. [From] identifying the customer, shopping, customer feedback, coupons, promotions—it’s the future, and the future is now.”

Read Full Article: Retailoring Retail for a Mobile-First World

Bringing the supermarket of the future to the present

Boston Globe – The raspberries on the shelves at the South Bay Target recently were uniform in appearance — plump and pink and sealed in tidy plastic boxes. Perched in the middle, however, a simple red-and-white sign pointed out a difference.

On the left were pints of berries that had arrived in the Dorchester store that same day, priced at $3.99. To the right, fruit that had been on the shelf for four days, offered at a 50-cent discount.

It was a simple experiment, aimed at testing whether consumers would trade freshness for price. But this trial run was just a small part of a larger movement that is reshaping one of our most common and consistent shopping experiences: the supermarket.

Innovators, entrepreneurs, and establishment food retailers are beginning to imagine the supermarket of the future as a space that combines technology, personalization, and local color to satisfy consumers’ ever-growing hunger for health and convenience.

Among the visions already being planned and piloted: smaller stores heavy on prepared-food options, new packaging that makes it easy to understand a product’s ingredients, in-store scanners that instantly assess an apple’s nutrition, and even delivery services that let busy consumers skip the store altogether.

Smartphones will also play a role in our grocery-shopping future. Ken Morris, principal at consulting firm Boston Retail Partners, predicts more stores will use proprietary apps or other phone-based data to make “guided” shopping experiences the norm.

Consumers will be offered coupons for items they browsed online earlier in the day, for example, or notified when they wander close to an item on their shopping list.

Read Full Article: Bringing the supermarket of the future to the present

How Real is the Retail Omnichannel?

Teleperformance Blog – A new research report by Boston Retail Partners suggests that most retailers in the USA are failing to deliver the kind of omnichannel that customers expect.

Eighty-five percent of retailers list unified commerce as one of their top priorities, meaning that the online website, app, and in-store experience should be blended and all as good as each other. However, most are struggling to achieve this goal according to the report.

Sixty percent of click-and-collect orders on Cyber Monday could not be seamlessly fulfilled suggesting that customer-focused initiatives are still a high priority, but need improvement.

62 percent of retailers in the study named customer identification and personalization of the customer experience among their top three customer engagement priorities, more than any other initiative. Forty percent listed empowering in-store associates with mobile tools, while 38 percent highlighted real-time retail, both of which will further help personalization by supporting the customer experience with better information.

Read full article: How Real is the Retail Omnichannel?

Macy’s spurs omnichannel push as broad physical retail contraction looms

Mobile Commerce Daily – With Macy’s online sales growing at a brisk pace during the recent holiday shopping season while in-store sales contracted even more than expected, the retailer is scaling back its bricks-and-mortar business and reinvesting the savings to accelerate its omnichannel strategy in 2016.

Consumers are shifting shopping behaviors online – increasingly driven by mobile – at a pace that some traditional retailers are finding hard to keep up with. While Macy’s has been aggressively pursuing a mobile strategy for some years now, news that it will restructure in 2016, including closing 40 stores, points to just how significant the evolution in shopping is.

“As one of the leaders in mobile commerce, Macy’s can continue to bolster its success by adding more real-time capabilities and analytics that enhance the customer experience based on ‘customer context’ – the interrelated factors of customer insights and environmental conditions that make the shopping experience relevant,” said Ken Morris, principal at Boston Retail Partners.

“Real-time retail is the ability for retailers to personalize the shopping experience based on an individual’s preferences, purchase history, what’s in their closet, their most recent online browsing history, time of day, weather and their physical location – all based on real-time information,” he said. “A true unified commerce experience is where Macy’s should invest.”

Read Full Article: Macy’s spurs omnichannel push as broad physical retail contraction looms

Amazon and Spotify battle for Beatles fans with playlist promotion

Mobile Commerce Daily – Amazon is competing with Spotify in an attempt to gain fans of The Beatles as Prime members through a playlist on its mobile application, alongside a series of social media posts.

Streaming music giant Spotify is ramping up awareness for the addition of The Beatles’ music to its database through Snapchat filters, push notifications and other forms of advertising. Amazon is hoping to challenge Spotify with a 50-song playlist of Beatles tunes available on its streaming service Prime, allowing users to listen through a membership or individual song purchase.

“Adding mobile music playlists to Amazon Prime may appeal to a new demographic segment and help drive more memberships,” said David Naumann, director of marketing, Boston Retail Partners. “Promoting the new Beatles playlist on social media will generate more awareness for Prime Music and inspire Amazon Prime members and potential members to explore the Amazon music library.”

Read Full Article: Amazon and Spotify battle for Beatles fans with playlist promotion