Study: Handbags, purses, personalization top Mother’s Day

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

While handbags and purses have historically been considered a “risky gift,” times are a’ changin.’

In fact, handbags and purses were the most popular gift for Mother’s Day 2017, representing six of the top 10 gifts for the holiday. Overall, the accessories category led the top gifts purchased for Mother’s Day, according to data from Loop Commerce. Results were based on sales made on the company’s GiftNow platform.

While handbags and purses have historically been considered a “risky gift” given price points and personal preferences, the tide is turning. Loop Commerce’s GiftNow platform enables consumers to purchase a specific e-gift and have it digitally delivered to the recipient. Once they receive it, the recipient can select a size and color, or exchange the gift before it is actually shipped. Lily Pulitzer, Vera Bradley, Coach, Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s and Neiman Marcus are among the retailers using the tool.

“In offering consumers the ability to send a gift up until the very last minute, retailers are adapting to the needs of their consumers, creating the seamless experience shoppers have come to demand,” said Roy Erez, CEO and co-founder of Loop Commerce.

Apparel, health and beauty, and footwear categories followed accessories for in-demand Mother’s Day gifts. The apparel category was led by outerwear and active wear, followed by the health and beauty category, with products like fragrances and cosmetics. These product insights demonstrate what shoppers actually prefer to buy as Mother’s Day gifts when given the choice and flexibility of buying merchandize without the risk and associated barriers, Loop Commerce reported.

Women represented 62% of the gift senders this Mother’s Day, but men spent 42% more than women buying gifts this Mother’s Day season. Mothers who received gifts from GiftNow made the most of their experience — 28% utilized the service to customize their gift by changing size or color.

Meanwhile, 64% of all gift recipients accepted their e-gifts “as-is.” Only 8% exchanged their gift to select something different, which suggests that gift senders were very successful in selecting a thoughtful, personal gift using the GiftNow service.

Fifty-four percent (54%) of gifts purchased on Loop’s GiftNow platform were sent to a recipients greater than 50 miles from the sender. Interestingly, 62% of women sent a Mother’s Day gift to a recipient greater than 50 miles away, as compared to only 40% of men.

Mobile device usage grew for both browsing and buying gifts. Specifically, 76% of consumers browsing online used their mobile devices (handheld and tablets combined), versus 24% browsing on desktop. While the majority of online purchases are still made using desktops, transactions on mobile devices grew to represent 40% of transactions made on the platform during the Mother’s Day season.

And not everyone was prepared with a gift for Mom. Over 44% of total Mother’s Day gifts sent using the GiftNow platform were purchased by procrastinators. These last-minute gifts were purchased two days before the holiday, when on time shipping is impossible for most retailers. Conversely, 27% of gifts were purchased over the past 30 days and scheduled in advance for digital delivery on Mother’s Day with GiftNow.


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Received a favorite Mother’s Day gift? Thank a chatbot

BY Lisa Seacat DeLuca

This year, consumer spending for Mother's Day was on pace to reach a record high.

According to the National Retail Federation's annual study, shoppers were set to spend $23.6 billion, spending an average of $186 per mom. And everything from flowers, gift cards and clothing to jewelry, personal services and consumer electronics were on shopping lists.

But did all that shopping land the perfect gift?

Gift-giving has become all about personalization — a trend that’s created real pressure for retailers. Time-pressed shoppers who search online quickly realize the sheer volume of gift choices available and may abandon their shopping carts — or the retailer completely — if the experience is too frustrating.

That's where chatbots can help. Playing matchmaker between retailers and their customers, artificial intelligence-based chatbots sift through retailers’ troves of products to find the best fit based on the customer's individual real-time needs. This technology also picks up on shifts in data, helping retailers and shoppers alike jump on hot emerging trends. Even during high traffic times like Mother's Day this past weekend, retailers are still able to provide the one-on-one, engaging experiences customers demand — and shoppers can leave feeling confident they found the best gift.

The global market for chatbots already reached $88.3 million last year, and is on its way to becoming a $1 billion market by 2023, according to Credence Research. Within the retail sector, chatbots are already successfully walking the virtual shop floor to deliver a more engaging consumer experience.

Here are three examples how:

• RareCarat's "Rocky the Artificial Intelligence Jeweler" guides buyers through the buying process for the perfect gem. Rocky, which uses IBM Watson Tradeoff Analytics and Conversation services to offer informed recommendations, taps into a deep trove of data that includes 10 million data points on diamond prices and parameters, and more than 500,000 user searches. The process has helped the company exchange more than 50,000 messages with users.

• The majority of the traffic for is online. To replicate an engaging in-store shopping experience with e-commerce shoppers, the retailer features GWYN (gifts when you need). GWYN is a Watson-powered gift concierge that converses with shoppers and then makes personalized recommendations. According to early results, customers answer an average of five questions per session and interact with the bot for more than two minutes. To date, 80% of customers had a positive experience with GWYN and want to use it again.

• Harry & David, which offers gift baskets, baked goods, fruit and food gifts, will be the next beneficiary of the capabilities of GWYN. This means that consumers can type in something as simple as, "I'm looking for a Mother's Day gift,” and will be guided through questions to the item that best suits their idea of the ideal Mother's Day gift. According to data based on thousands of GWYN users shopping for Mom, chocolates (11%), were a top pick.

For retailers, cognitive technology offers several benefits along the path to purchase. Cognitive technology is capable of continuous learning, so it can become increasingly smart about the customer's unique needs over time. It can enhance the shopping experience specific to each customer. And its ability to understand natural language lets it learn from the vast amounts of unstructured data being generated each day, such as the 50,000 messages that RareCarat exchanged with its clients.

There are many potential uses of AI-powered technology beyond understanding and interpreting customer preferences, such as making more accurate product recommendations. AI-powered technology also has the ability to do tasks like managing inventory based on predictive modeling or identifying ideal locations for a future store.

Retailers know that customers are not going to get any less demanding in the future, especially when it comes to their loved ones, and that there are disruptors with unique business models always ready to try to capitalize on unmet consumer needs. Using cognitive technology — whether it's a chatbot or other applications — will help retailers deliver a personalized shopping experience and tailor future interactions in ways that will keep shoppers returning to your site, long after they've found that perfect Mother's Day gift.

Lisa Seacat DeLuca is a technology strategist, Cognitive Incubation Lab, for IBM Watson Customer Engagement, which powers a full spectrum of solutions including cognitive engagement offerings that are delivered as a service and on premise.


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Lidl to make U.S. debut June 15—with low, low prices

BY Marianne Wilson

German discount grocer Lidl is set to shake up the competition with prices that promise to turn up the heat on its U.S. competitors, who are already engaged in a price war.

Lidl on Wednesday revealed the locations of the first 20 stores it will open this summer in the United States, starting on June 15. (See end of story for listing). The stores — in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia — are the first of up to 100 locations the grocer plans to open across the East Coast by next summer.

Lidl, which operates 10,000 stores in 27 countries, is known for its low prices. The company said Wednesday shoppers can expect grocery prices that are up to 50% less than other supermarkets in the United States. (Based upon a price comparison of comparable products sold at leading national retail grocery stores, the company said.)

The Lidl stores opening this summer are all newly constructed freestanding facilities that Lidl owns and developed. Each will have a footprint of 20,000 sq. ft. and feature only six aisles. About 90% of the high quality groceries available at Lidl will be exclusive brand products.

The merchandise mix will include standard grocery items, along with an on-site bakery, cheeses, fresh and frozen seafood, wines, organic foods and gluten-free options. Stores will also feature a selection of non-food products that will be in stores for a limited time. The selection will include fitness gear, small kitchen appliances, toys, and outdoor furniture and other non-food items.

In the United States, Lidl will find itself head to head with another German low-price grocer, Aldi. In February, Aldi announced an aggressive $1.6 billion investment in its stores, with plans to remodel and expand more than 1,300 of its locations by 2020.

"We are excited to open our first stores in the United States in a few short weeks," said Brendan Proctor, president and CEO of Lidl US. "Lidl is grocery shopping refreshed, retooled and rethought to make life better for all our customers. When customers shop at Lidl, they will experience less complexity, lower prices, better choices, and greater confidence."

Lidl established its U.S. headquarters in Arlington County, Virginia in June 2015. Since then, it has announced regional headquarters and distribution centers in Spotsylvania County, Virginia; Alamance County, North Carolina and Cecil County, Maryland.

Below is a list of the 20 stores that will open in Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina during the summer of 2017:

City, State Address
Kinston, N.C. 4050 W Vernon Ave
Greenville, N.C. 1800 East Fire Tower Rd
Wilson, N.C. 3520 Raleigh Rd Parkway West
Sanford, N.C. 3209 NC 87 South
Rocky Mount, N.C. 940 N Wesleyan Blvd
Winston-Salem, N.C. 3315 Sides Branch Rd
Havelock, N.C. 547 US Hwy 70 West
Rockingham, N.C. 705 US 74 Business East
Wake Forest, N.C. 1120 South Main St
Spartanburg, S.C. 8180 Warren H Abernathy Hwy

Greenville, S.C.

2037 Wade Hampton Boulevard
Virginia Beach, Va. 6196 Providence Rd
Hampton, Va. 2000 W Mercury Blvd

Culpeper, Va.

15169 Brandy Road

Chesapeake, Va. 4033 Portsmouth Blvd
Norfolk, Va. 6440 N Military Hwy
Newport News, Va. 11076 Warwick Blvd
Richmond, Va. 12151 W. Broad St
North Chesterfield, Va.

Richmond, Va.
1311 Mall Drive

5110 S Laburnum Ave

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