TECHNOLOGY

Warehouse club chain’s new digital tool drives in-store engagement

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Sam’s Club associates now have the information they need to improve shoppers’ in-store experiences in real-time.

By adopting the Medallia Experience Cloud solution, Sam’s Club is stepping up the functionality and performance of its Member Experience Voices (MxVoices) tool. This is a Web-based customer service feedback platform where members can rate their club experiences.

The platform is helping Sam’s Club’s fulfill its vision of engaging in two-way dialogue with members. Using a mobile device supported by the new architecture, associates can collect and access member feedback in MxVoices in real-time, and use the feedback to improve its member experience.

“With Medallia’s help, our associates have real-time and actionable data that help them provide the best possible shopping experience,” said Tracey Brown, Sam’s Club’s chief experience officer.

“Associates in every location have the information they need at their fingertips, 24/7, in an easy-to-use app,” she said. “That empowers them to take action to solve member problems, and we’re seeing member satisfaction scores rise as a result.”

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TECHNOLOGY

Specialty apparel retailer sells subscription boxes filled with baby clothes

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Gap Inc. is carving out a niche in the increasingly popular monthly subscription box segment.

The specialty retailer’s Baby Gap brand has introduced the “Baby Gap OutfitBox,” a quarterly subscription box focused on baby merchandise for sizes 0- 2T. Each box is customized with six Baby Gap mix-and-match pieces, based on customers’ selected style preferences. Gap plans to expand the program with additional sizes, 3T and 4T, in the near future, according to the company’s website.

Each year, members are entitled to four boxes, each worth worth more than $100, and each shipment will be packed with seasonally relevant pieces.

Here’s how the program works: Shoppers are required to create a new account online, separate from any accounts they use to shop online at Gap banners. Once their profile is created, customers are asked a few questions about their baby, including gender, sizes and style preferences, and Baby Gap uses these details to curate boxes.

Shoppers have 21 days to try each piece, and can keep the items they like. Unwanted merchandise can be returned for a refund. Customers are charged when the box ships. Shoppers can also postpone or skip boxes, and cancel their subscription anytime, according to the website.

The service is $70, but there are no additional membership, shipping or styling fees. Gap’s website also warned customers that there are only limited quantities available.

The service was initially introduced to a limited number of shoppers, and has been quietly expanding the program to a wider audience. In addition to a quiet ramp up, marketing has also been sequestered to social media, according to CNBC.

Gap is the latest retailer to jump into the subscription box game. Its offering is also helping the brand to carve a unique niche among more established wardrobe subscription services, such as Le Tote, Stitch Fix and Trunk Club that are already disrupting the apparel segment.

The “try-before-you-buy” element of BabyGap’s OutfitBox also takes a swipe at a similar service from Amazon, called Prime Wardrobe. The online giant’s service enables Amazon Prime members to order (and try on) from three to 15 items of clothing before they actually buy any of the items. Shoppers can keep the merchandise for seven days, returning unwanted pieces and paying only for the items they keep.

Where OutfitBox has an edge over the online giant however, is that Prime Wardrobe has a shorter try-on grace period — and does not focus on children’s apparel.

“This is a brilliant move as Baby Gap is serving a significant portion of the millennial, as well as Gen X, Y and Z audiences, and has created a connection in their preferable media channels and delivery options,” said Jim Fosina, CEO of Fosina Marketing Group. “Baby Gap could establish a foothold in this business, and eventually extend the subscriptions beyond clothing to other baby related products as the program moves forward.”

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FINANCE

Amid a Q4 loss, luxury retailer eyes growth through digital commitment

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Despite posting its third annual fiscal loss, Neiman Marcus is launching a new digital strategy to help strengthen the brand going forward.

The struggling luxury chain narrowed its net loss to $366.3 million for the fourth quarter and fiscal year ended July 29, compared to a net loss of $407.3 million in the prior year. Total revenues were $1.12 billion, a 0.5% decrease in comparable revenues from the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2016.

The company credits these smaller losses to its growing online sales. In fact, Neiman Marcus CEO Karen Katz said the retailer’s online business “will continue to outperform our store business at 30% of total sales. It will continue to grow in importance,” according to the Dallas News.

This factor is pushing the company to pursue its new “Digital First” strategy. The program is designed to further its leadership position in the luxury retail space by anticipating customers’ evolving behaviors and engaging them more deeply to drive traffic online and in stores, according to Neiman Marcus.

For fiscal year 2017, Neiman Marcus reported total revenues of $4.71 billion — a 5.2% decrease in comparable revenues. The company also reported a net loss of $531.8 million for the fiscal year compared to a net loss of $406.1 million in 2016.

In addition to growing online sales, the company credits narrower sales declines to greater sales stability at full-line stores, and improved inventory alignment. It is also benefitting from a new inventory system that allows stores to see merchandise in stock across both chains and in warehouses, according to Dallas News.

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