TECHNOLOGY

2017 Breakout Retailer Award Winners Announced

BY CSA STAFF

Chain Store Age is proud to announce the 2017 Breakout Retailer Award winners. In its second year, the award honors emerging retail/restaurant concepts that are innovative in their segment and show strong potential for growth.

Selected by the editorial board of Chain Store Age, this year’s winning lineup features five forward-thinking brands  from five different industry segments, ranging from  an upstart eyewear merchant that seamlessly blends the best of offline and online to a fashion retailer whose giving-back philosophy resonates deeply with its customer base. The awards are sponsored by Paint Folks.

“Retailers have to go the extra mile to succeed in today’s highly competitive and disrupted marketplace,” said Marianne Wilson, editor-in-chief, Chain Store Age. “In their own unique way, each of the five winning brands has done just that. Although these retailers are widely diverse, they are alike in their ability to engage and delight customers, online, in store or both. And they all have a very clear pathway for growth.”

The winners, which are listed below in alphabetical order, will be honored at Chain Store Age’s annual SPECS Conference (March 12-14, 2017, Gaylord Palms, Kissimmee, Fla.) during a special presentation sponsored by SPECS.

Altar’d State

Women’s apparel retailer Altar’d State combines a bohemian fashion sensibility, affordable prices and a distinctive store experience with an ambitious mission: to stand out for good and change the world for the better.  That mission, as much as Altar’d State’s merchandise offerings, keeps customers coming back.


Bentley Pet Stuff

Family owned and operated, Bentley’s Pet Stuff is positioned in the fastest growing segment of the billion-dollar pet food industry: all natural foods. Dedicated to exceptional pet nutrition, Bentley’s has a neighborhood orientation that allows it to focus on customer service,


MOD Pizza


From the husband-and-wife team that founded Seattle Coffee Company, MOD Pizza is a fast-pizza innovator and one of the fastest-growing restaurant chains in the United States. With a purpose-driven culture, MOD is committed not only to being a cool place to eat, but an inspired place to work.


Sugarfina


Featuring gourmet sweets made by artisan candy makers from around the globe, Sugarfina is a luxury candy boutique for adults. It made the jump from online to offline with style, with stores as luxe and beautiful as the candies on display.


Warby Parker


In coming up with a radical new model for selling and buying eyewear online, Warby Parker helped pioneer a new category: retail disruption. It carried that disruption over to brick-and-mortar, with stores that seem to effortlessly meld the best of online and offline retail — in spaces unique to each locale.

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Survey: These retailers top customer service expectations

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Exceptional customer service is key to driving long-term customer loyalty — and once again, B&H Photo Video, The Home Depot and Zappos are blazing the path.

For the second year in a row, these three heavy hitters topped the 20th Annual Mystery Shopping Study. The report from Astound Commerce recognized retailers who excel in customer service through an assessment of “must-have” website features and behavior based on engagement with available touchpoints.

Winning merchants scored highest in four critical areas, including visibility, overall customer service, speed of delivery and efficiency of checkout. Retailers that ranked in the top seven had a combination of efficient and streamlined logistics, responsive and helpful customer service capabilities, and an efficient and effective digital experience.

The top performers include (in alphabetical order):

• B&H

• Gap

• L.L. Bean

• Lancome

• Moosejaw

• The Home Depot

• Zappos

“Service is the quickest route to retention. Shoppers expect efficiencies, accessible information, competency and timely information that allows for quick decision-making, avoiding any obstacles along the customer journey,” said Lauren Freedman, senior VP of digital strategy at Astound Commerce. “In today’s challenging retail environment, where short-term thinking often prevails, we hope retailers remain vigilant in their customer service investment and execution.”

The study also ranked retailers on their “customer service and help destinations,” or the ability to provide easily accessible information, links to customer service from the home page, visually effective and in-depth information and the use of icons and personnel imagery to brand this location online. The following six retailers received perfect scores in this area”

• Apple

• B&H

• Crutchfield

• Dick’s Sporting Goods

• Office Depot

• Tory Burch

In the quest for customer service, some retailers’ initiatives still miss the mark. For example, while the retailers surveyed have invested in live chat capabilities, along with improving traditional customer service options such as email and call centers, responsiveness to customer service queries in several categories declined when compared to 2015.

Call center response time increased from 5.8 minutes in 2015 to 6.8 minutes in 2016, and live chat response time increase from 10.2 minutes in 2015 to 12 minutes in 2016, the report said.

On a positive note, email response time declined by over six hours compared to 2015 (20 hours, 17 minutes in 2016 compared to 26 hours, 30 minutes in 2015).

When measuring response rates for customer service queries via email, the following five retailers posted response times of less than 30 minutes:

• Amazon – Six minutes

• Uniqlo – 12 minutes

• Steve Madden – 17 minutes

• Staples – 18 minutes

• Oriental Trading – 25 minutes

“Excellent customer service comes in a variety of forms, from proactively communicating with the customer about their order status, to timely responses to inquiries, to speedy delivery and simple returns,” said Igor Gorin, CEO of Astound Commerce. “At the top of every retailer’s list should be providing an informative, accessible and reliable experience. Doing so will elevate customer satisfaction and bolster the retailer’s bottom line.”

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Google Home helps users ‘go shopping’

BY CSA STAFF

Google Home is giving Amazon’s Echo a run for its (shopping) money.

On Thursday, Google announced that shoppers can use Google Home to order everyday basics from Google Express retailers, including Costco, Whole Foods Market, Walgreens, PetSmart, Bed Bath & Beyond and others, reported GeekWire.

As shoppers speak their order into the Web-based voice-activated speaker, Google Home will reply with a total price, and shoppers can confirm or decline the order.

A membership to Google Express’ shopping service is $95 per year, but Google Home users can try it for free until April, according to the report.

To read more, click here.

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