TECHNOLOGY

Discount retailer takes Google-based voice ordering program national

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Target shoppers across the United States can now place an order using just their voice.

Deepening its relationship with Google, the discounter is expanding its Google Express program nationwide. The home delivery shopping service enables customers to use their Google Assistant in their Google Express app or website, Google Home device or Android TV to conduct voice-assisted shopping from a variety of retailers — including Target. The program’s breadth will expand even further next year when Google Assistant is available on eligible Android phones and iPhones, Target said.

The program, which started as a pilot in California and New York City, is now available across the continental U.S. Target shoppers who meet a $35 minimum are also eligible for free shipping. Orders are picked from Target store shelves, and arrive in two days, according to the retailer.

“In the markets where we’ve offered Google Express, guests tell us they love the ease and convenience of shopping Target through Google. So we’re excited to offer this service nationwide in time for the busy holiday season,” said Mike McNamara, Target’s chief information and digital officer.

The move comes on the heels of Walmart’s partnership with Google that makes hundreds of thousands of items available for voice shopping via Google Assistant. At the time of the deal, Walmart had the largest number of items currently offered by a retailer through the platform.

Not to be outdone, Target has even bigger plans for its collaboration with Google. “Target and Google teams are working on the next chapter, building experiences that digitally replicate the joy of shopping a Target store to discover stylish and affordable products,” McNamara said.

While details are still in the works, one experience set launch in 2018 includes using voice and other innovative solutions to strengthen the retailer’s style categories, such as home, apparel and beauty. Another service will enable Target customers to link their online accounts with Google. This will allow them to receive personalized recommendations, and quickly re-order merchandise based on past Target purchases.

Also planned for 2018 is the integration of the discounter’s REDcard credit and debit cards into the mix. This gives Google Express customers 5% off of most Target purchases, and entitles them to free shipping.

The partners are also working on a program that gives shoppers the option to pick up their orders at a Target store within two hours.

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TECHNOLOGY

Camping World bolsters its brand portfolio — again

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

The largest U.S. chain dedicated to recreational vehicles is acquiring another company.

Camping World Holdings announced that it will purchase Uncle Dan’s Outfitters, a specialty retailer of outdoor gear, apparel and camping supplies. The new company will strengthen Camping World’s efforts to expand its presence in the broader outdoor lifestyle market.

Specifically, Camping World will use Uncle Dan’s Outfitters e-commerce platform to increase its customer reach and add new quality product offerings. Uncle Dan’s Outfitters will also serve as the official supplier of outdoor gear, apparel and camping supplies to the company’s rebranded Gander Outdoors retail stores across the country.

Gander Mountain, a retailer focused on hunting, fishing, camping, and outdoor gear, is one of Camping World’s many acquisitions over the last six months. In addition to acquiring certain assets of Gander Mountain, the company also acquired Overton’s, a boating and marine accessories company, and TheHouse.com, an online retailer specializing in bikes, sailboards, skateboards, wakeboards, snowboards and outdoor gear.

“Under the leadership of Brent Weiss and family for over 45 years, Uncle Dan’s Outfitters strengthens Camping World Holding’s efforts to build a seamless approach to the outdoor lifestyle market and further positions the company to expand the reach and product offerings of our e-commerce business,” said Marcus Lemonis, chairman of Camping World Holdings. “The management team not only possess strong knowledge of the outdoor outfitter market, but also has a keen eye for the development and invention of new product offerings.”

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TECHNOLOGY

Study: Majority of retailers can’t view their customers cross-channel

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

All retailers strive to provide connected customer experiences at store-level, yet efforts still miss the mark.

This was according to “Technologies That Are Changing How We Think of Brick & Mortar,” a report from Kibo. The report is based on responses from 115 retail executives.

According to the data, 64% of retailers feel they are only somewhat effective at capturing in-store data on customer preferences. Worse, less than half of respondents (42%) have in-store technologies to view customer information across all of their touchpoints — in-store, as well as among their digital channels.

These capabilities are paramount however, as the role of the physical store is evolving, as brick-and-mortar locations transition into a showroom, storefront and a fulfillment hub — all in one location. That means there is new emphasis on creating an omnichannel brand experience, and providing convenience to customers with the option to buy online and pick up in-store, or return a digital purchase to the store. Retailers are testing new programs and strategies that connect customer data to inventories in pursuit of stronger personalization and more diverse and accurate fulfillment programs.

In fact, personalization stands out as a major initiative, with 52% of retailer responses indicating they are planning to invest in it within the next 12 months or are already implementing this strategy. How-ever, nearly a quarter of retailers (22%) have a long road ahead as they have not yet begun to personalize, or aren’t sure if they even have that capability.

Inventory and fulfillment also remains a struggle as 41% of retailers lack trust in inventory accuracy or don’t have visibility. Meanwhile, only 17% have full enterprise-wide inventory visibility.

Many companies are also challenged by how to offer a variety of ful-fillment options — and their reasons for not offering a fulfillment choice vary. “My organization is not ready to implement” was cited as the leading reason for not offering “save the sale (44%) and in-store pickup (41%). “My technology won’t support it” was cited as the leading reason for not offering ship-from-store (42%).

On a positive note, in-store mobile technology commitments are on the rise, as 41% of retailers utilize mobile point-of-sale, and 76% have used displays or kiosks.

“It’s clear that retailers are still working through many technology and organizational challenges to address major omnichannel initia-tives,” said Tushar Patel, chief marketing officer, Kibo.

“Inventory visibility, personalization, cross-channel customer data and exploiting in-store mobile technologies are the key pillars in providing connected customer experiences in the store,” Patel said. “Retailers that enable themselves with the right technology and strategies in place can transform their brick-and-mortar stores into major brand assets in a time of digital ascendancy.”

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