Retail Predictions: Six Big Trends to Watch in Blended Commerce
It’s no longer about bricks-and-mortar versus digital. When it comes to the changing retail landscape, it’s all about where they meet. As we move into 2018, it’s time to look ahead and predict what’s in store, so to speak, as the retail experience continues its evolution to meet a new world of customer needs:
1. Fulfillment Options Expand to a Full Menu. Connected-store programs that enable customers to “click and collect” — shop and pay ahead and collect items either in-store or via home delivery — will accelerate as more retailers pilot, roll out and expand offerings. Many retailers will be launching V2 (version two) of these programs and offering customers many different options. On the rise: Same-hour pickup and same-day delivery. Retailers will develop new programs so that online and mobile customers shop from local inventories, tying it to a service that delivers to the doorstep.
2. Amazon’s Physical Retail Strategy Will Reveal Itself. The juggernaut’s acquisition of Whole Foods was one of the top business stories of 2017. So far, we’ve seen Amazon taking its price leadership into the grocery field — lowering prices on many items at Whole Foods and driving traffic to stores. Over the next 12 months, we’ll see more of Amazon’s grocery strategy play out as it expands grocery delivery services and lights up Whole Foods locations as mini fulfillment points for other goods sold on Amazon.
Next up: We wouldn’t be surprised to see another big Amazon acquisition in 2018 – this time a retailer, possibly in apparel. The rationale: Both grocery and apparel fit well in Amazon’s overarching strategy to drive sales and customer loyalty in high-frequency retail.
3. Retailer of the Future Will Look a Lot Like Wal-Azon. We’re not there yet, but if you look at Amazon with a much bigger physical footprint and Walmart with a much greater digital footprint you’ll get a glimpse of the mass retailer of the future. In the model that is emerging, digital matters but so do stores.
Walmart is a great example of an aggressive response by a retailer once it realized the urgency of the Amazon threat. The company’s acquisition of Jet and the Jet team helped unlock the path forward. Now, Walmart offers in-store and curbside pickup points and continues to expand and refine them. It is tightly connecting its online property to store locations and offering many different options for customers.
4. Retailers Respond with Product Leadership/Innovation. Consider it the retail equivalent of the Netflix/Hulu/HBO/Amazon Video media-battle royale. In the same way that entertainment platforms compete for consumer mindshare — and market share — with distinctive, one-of-a-kind exclusive programming, we can expect to see the same from visionary, creative retailers. Will see more retailers operate in the style of Zara and H&M, trading in lines and brands that are not being sold through broader retail marketplaces.
Also in 2018, expect to see more store-within-a-store concepts like the Sephora/J.C. Penney partnership as retailers work to offer up traffic-driving product lines with partners.
5. Servicing Traditional and Digital Shoppers. Just as it’s not a great experience to wait in a fast-food line and see someone who has ordered ahead skip the line and grab their food, retailers in 2018 will be experimenting with how to get order-ahead/pick-up in-store just right for all customers. Initially, the focus is on running these programs effectively — getting the logistics down for in-store or curbside pickup. Then, it becomes how to answer the Starbucks question of who gets served first in an order-ahead world.
But also in 2018, retailers with more mature programs will be getting to the next order of business – working on revenue-enhancing strategies to attach sales and reward in-store trips for order-ahead customers.
6. Building a Better Box. Finally, physical stores themselves are beginning to take on new shapes. Consider the parallel trend emerging in restaurants: If a particular restaurant functions primarily as a kitchen for pickup, it doesn’t need to look the same as a sit-down location. In retail, if a store is a convenient pickup or service location, it doesn’t need to have the same footprint as a big, mainline store in the chain.
The Bottom Line
As we turn the calendar to 2018 and enter a new chapter in blended retail, one part of the plot holds up in any era: Classic retailers and brands can win out by connecting with consumers in ways that offer value, convenience and confidence in the experience.
Jaron Waldman is CEO of Curbside, a Silicon Valley startup that connects stores and restaurants with mobile customers. He previously founded Placebase, a location technology company that was acquired by Apple in 2009. Curbside works with leading retailers such as CVS, Nordstrom and Sephora and leading restaurant chains such as Chipotle, Pizza Hut and Boston Market to scale their order ahead programs.
Bringing visibility into facilities management
When customers decide where to shop, they consider cleanliness and store safety just as much as price, merchandise variety and ease of store navigation.
However, as retailers rely on third parties to manage their facilities’ maintenance and repairs, oftentimes tasks are not completed accurately — according to agreement criteria — or might be overlooked altogether. By adopting an automated facilities management solution, retailers can maintain the highest level of cleanliness and safety without stretching their already razor-thin margins.
Retailers, especially those that manage equipment needed to chill or heat fresh merchandise, must keep their facilities and supporting equipment in tiptop condition if they want to increase revenue and keep shrink levels low. For many, the optimal decision is to outsource these operations to “experts in the field.”
However, where retailers struggle is having visibility into the specific tasks being tackled or managed and accountability that all tasks covered in service-level agreement (SLA) contracts are being met. For example, companies want visibility — and a proverbial “paper trail” — into whether SLA partners are maintaining facilities in an adequate and frequent manner. Ensuring that these two factors are met, retailers can uphold the highest possible level of appearance and hygiene, and maintain their reputation in the marketplace.
Meanwhile, companies also want to be sure that if an issue does occur — whether it’s the breakdown of equipment or a simple spill in a store aisle — the situation is addressed as a matter of keeping employees and customers safe.
However, maintaining these partnerships and operations with manual processes makes it difficult to validate work orders and compliance levels. Some retailers still manage these processes with paper-based checklists shared between SLA staffers and facility managers — a process that only makes data stale by the time it gets into managers’ hands.
“While some companies attempt to speed up the process with emails, messages can still get lost in the shuffle or spam filters, making information obsolete by the time companies are ready to address issues,” said Chris Kampfe, VP of Marketing at GoSpotCheck.
A new level of visibility
The time has come for a new approach: a solution that is managed via mobile devices. When using the facilities management module from GoSpotCheck, for example, retailers can analyze detailed data from maintenance checks, site audits and janitorial inspections. By blending images, text notifications and reporting capabilities, retailers will be empowered to understand potential customer issues, troubleshoot maintenance problems and even identify training deficiencies.
For example, the solution’s “photo album” enables users to snap and organize location or category pictures using filterable analytics — such as date, site, building, area type and other tagged criteria — overlaid on top of each image. Meanwhile, by enabling alerts and follow-up notifications, users receive alerts when an audit response matches important filter criteria. Follow-up actions are sent when additional effort must be taken to resolve an issue in the field.
Finally, a mobile reporting solution makes customizable charts and graphs accessible from any mobile device. Advanced filters break down reported data by customer, building and area type, among other specifications. Armed with this information, managers get a real-time view of their site’s performance — a move that eliminates ground-level blind spots.
All three pieces also keep retailers with a vast footprint to stay on top of potential issues regardless of where stores or distribution centers may be located. By logging into the mobile app, users have the ability to stay abreast of facilities and performance and address any potential issues in real time — using real-time evidence as a guideline.
“Having this data at their fingertips can ensure that stores and distribution centers are in compliance of cleanliness and other safety standards — a factor that not only minimizes risk, but reduces exposure to liabilities, especially those caused by potentially litigious slip and fall incidents,” Kampfe said. “With real-time visibility into these operations, retailers can be sure that all contracts are being fulfilled, and waste and excess labor is being reduced — all of which result in a cost-savings for the company.”
Once retailers have integrated the automated solution into their service agreements, they can begin to expand its functionality. For example, Kampfe envisions a time when the mobile solution can be linked to “connected” systems powered by Internet of Things devices as a means of monitoring their performance.
These could include connected soap dispensers or paper towel holders. The sensors would alert managers when soap or paper levels are low, and the solution would automatically deploy a work order to SLA contractors.
The sensors can also be used to capture foot traffic throughout a facility, department or restroom. Having this data on hand, contractors or janitors could pinpoint problem areas instantly.
“This integration would enable SLA contractors to use resources when most needed, which will drive efficiency when addressing issues,” Kampfe said. “With real-time information filtered from a sensor, users can go to a specific location that is experiencing an issue, from cleaning an unkept bathroom to tending to a spill or leaking pipe.”
In the end, an automated facilities management solution is a proactive way of keeping retailers in the know and, most importantly, delivering the clean and safe facilities that customers are demanding.
Five Winning Cross-Channel Strategies for CPG
Consumer Packaged Goods companies are navigating a time where eCommerce is growing more popular than in-store experiences. But when your business model and KPIs are tied to store shelf sales, how can you get your foot in the door?
CPG marketers must go “beyond the shelf” – whether they offer on-site commerce or not – and deploy a strong cross-channel presence through store, website, email and social. This reflects the cross-channel nature of today’s shoppers and their demand for real-time connectivity.
Here are five simple strategies that drive acquisition, engagement, loyalty, revenue and subject matter expertise:
1. On-Site Email Acquisition
Every marketer knows that building and maintaining a healthy list of subscribers is critical to the success of any email campaign. In fact, the email address is more valuable than ever, as it is quickly becoming the key cross-channel customer identifier. With that being said, an easy way to build your email list is through an on-site pop-up when customers visit your site. Pop-ups are customized to reflect your brand and work with your site. You can control timing, placement and cadence so the pop-up appears when and where you want it.
2. Welcome Series
Once the customer has signed up through your pop-up, you can welcome your subscribers with a series of triggered, personalized email messages. Combining on-site acquisition with a triggered welcome series is a strategy that will greatly increase both engagement and revenue. Each message of the series is another chance to engage the subscribers with new content and messaging, giving you the opportunity to capture additional customer data that you can use to tailor future messages.
3. Content Personalization / Predictive
After collecting customer data, you can send relevant, personalized content targeted to customers with predictive content. Predictive content takes all your content like videos, tutorials, blog posts, articles, recipes and guides and delivers them – automatically – to the right consumer at the right time to engage consumers and build long term relationships. Because content is determined through predictive analytics, each message is aimed at specific customers, creating a truly customized experience. This activity keeps appropriate CPG products prominent, while encouraging their use and likelihood of repurchase.
4. Lifecycle Management
Following a customer purchase, it is extremely important to keep consumers engaged. By sending personalized messages designed to convert again, you are increasing loyalty, preventing lapsed buying behavior and re-engaging consumers that represent the most value to your brand. What’s more, is that with the use of machine learning, you can predict likely purchase behavior and reach back to customers that purchased consumable products when it is time to replenish their merchandise. With that, you can include recommended products tailored to the recipient that will enhance the experience of products that are bought in-store or online.
5. Build an Educational Hub
For CPG entities whose sites are not used to driving eCommerce business, the strategies above can still be put to good use to leverage your site as an educational outlet and to establish market thought-leadership. A product resource center and resource-based cross-channel campaigns can improve your customer lifecycle by driving shoppers back to the store based on the content you share. CPG brands can also drive site traffic by adding a registration card or a URL on brand packaging to promote their resource center and drive back customers to the site to subscribe.
With cross-channel capabilities, marketers can reach customers at every possible touch point. By delivering personalized communication, you can keep your products and brands top-of-mind, drive acquisition, loyalty and organically establish your expertise while creating a seamless experience beyond the store shelf.
About the Author
Cindy Irons is Director of Marketing Operations for Listrak.