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What consumer app activity is on the rise?

BY Dan Berthiaume

Consumers are increasing their use of apps for a specific purpose that should make retailers happy.

According to a new survey of U.S. adults conducted by KRC Research for Verizon, 56% of consumers made a product purchase with a smartphone app in 2015. This figure includes 23% of smartphone owners who purchased a product with an app for the first time.

By age group, 70% of millennials age 18-34 made a product purchase using an app in 2015, an 85% increase from 2014. This led 66% of Gen Xers and 39% of Baby Boomers who did so.

The fastest-growing category in the survey was ordering a taxi or car ride, which increased 124% from the prior year. Overall, 22% of adults surveyed used an app to book a ride during 2015, compared to 10% in 2014.

The survey also found that, among adult smartphone users in the U.S., 26% used an app to book a restaurant in 2015, with 11% of them reserving a table with an app for the first time (72% increase).

Another 22% used an app to purchase an airline flight; with 8% making their maiden booking (54% increase).

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Three Big Take-Aways from the NRF Big Show

BY Dan Berthiaume

As always, it seems to have blurred by before it even started, but NRF 2016 is over. As the retail industry collectively unpacks it bags, sorts through business cards and decompresses, I’d like to offer a few key trends I observed during my own three days of Big Show immersion.

Back to Basics
In my NRF preview column, I predicted that exhibitors would offer omnichannel solutions that included back-end alignment or integration. This was an understatement. The biggest Big Show trend by far was a coherent focus on retail fundamentals. Order management and fulfillment, inventory tracking, assortment planning and other “blocking and tackling” functions that have been pushed out of the spotlight in recent years are once again commanding industry attention.

This is not to say that retailers have abandoned their interest in providing a highly personalized, seamless customer experience in real time. Far from it. However, retailers are realizing that the same fundamental processes which supported the traditional customer experience are just as important to ensuring the modern omnichannel consumer is satisfied.

Making the (Consumer) Grade
Buoyed by the growth of cloud infrastructure and the widespread entrance of millennials into the workforce, retailers are introducing consumer-grade devices and user interfaces in the enterprise.

The easy accessibility of cloud-based solutions means retailers can run a wide variety of functions, including in-store POS and clienteling as well as warehouse and field tasks, on ordinary or slightly customized tablets and smartphones. This reduces the up-front cost associated with purchasing more specialized retail-specific devices, although they may require more maintenance and have a shorter lifespan.

In addition, mobile-centric millennial employees will have a much lower training threshold for using the same devices they rely on for everyday activities. Many retailers are extending this consumerized approach to user interfaces for employee devices. Employees are often now provided with more intuitive and visually-focused navigation, such as being sent photos of products rather than SKU numbers.

Some retailers are taking this idea a step further with a “Tinder-style” approach that lets employees swipe right or left on a mobile device to indicate whether a task has been completed.

Not the Year of IoT
Prior to the conference, many industry prognosticators predicted the Internet of Things, or IoT, would be the dominant theme of NRF 2016. NRF has had years where emerging technologies such as mobile or omnichannel were universal topics of discussion, and common wisdom held 2016 would go down as the year of IoT.

But it won’t. IoT was certainly easy to find on the exhibit floor, with numerous vendors featuring RFID tags, beacons and other “smart” connective solutions among their wares. But the IoT technology displayed at NRF mostly served as an enabler for inventory awareness, personalization, or other important aspects of the larger seamless shopping experience.

This actually bodes well for the long-term viability of IoT in retail. Rather than jumping on IoT as a buzzword, retailers and vendors are waiting for a use case (or cases) to fully develop so it can be properly leveraged. In all likelihood a future Big Show, maybe even NRF 2017, will go down as the “Year of IoT, but in a much more meaningful way.

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Pottery Barn Kids has babies on the brain

BY CSA STAFF

Pottery Barn Kids is looking to attract more new parents by unveiling its first nursery collection.

The new collection is designed in collaboration with celebrated celebrity stylists and fashion design team Emily Current and Meritt Elliott. The collection includes the XO Nursery that features a glamorous black and white color palette, graphic prints and patterns and bold accents. The Star Nursery features dreamy pink and neutral colors with layers of soft denim and gold accents.

“We love creating little magical worlds – whether it be designing our clothing line, styling a fashion editorial, or decorating our own homes. With our first nursery collection for Pottery Barn Kids, we wanted to evoke an environment that felt sweet and playful for baby, while remaining stylish and relevant for parents,” said stylists and designers, Emily Current and Meritt Elliott. “We designed two rooms, one in soft pinks and golds, and the other, a bold black and white. We mixed classic elements like scattered stars, circus stripes and graphic hearts with touches of shiny gold and lived-in denim — and added whimsical details throughout: an arrow serves as the base of a floor lamp and a woven hamper boasts kitty ears. We are drawn to anything that feels nostalgic, and like to balance vintage-inspired elements with newer, unexpected pieces.”

The exclusive collection has over 80 pieces of nursery furnishings and accessories, including furniture, bedding, lighting, wall décor, decorative accessories and storage.

“The Emily and Meritt for Pottery Barn Kids collection is the first collaboration for Pottery Barn Kids designed exclusively for nursery,” said Sandra Stangl, President, Pottery Barn Brands. “The new collection brings Emily and Meritt’s beloved fashion sensibility to chic yet functional nursery essentials.”

To celebrate the launch of the collection, Pottery Barn Kids will host Nursery Style Events at Pottery Barn Kids stores nationwide on Jan. 23 from 4 p.m.–6 p.m. Guests who visit their local Pottery Barn Kids store will enjoy free registry and design advice, a special offer of 10% off purchases made during that event (excluding furniture), and a goody bag including an Emily & Meritt-inspired gift. Customers can also enter for a chance to win a $500 Pottery Barn Kids gift card.

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