TECHNOLOGY

Target rolling out same-day delivery nationwide, lowers fees

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Target Corp. has made a big move against its rivals in the home delivery war.

The discounter is rolling out its next-day delivery service of household essentials, Target Restock, nationwide. It’s also reducing the delivery cost, with the service now free for all Target REDcard holders, and $2.99 for all other orders (down from $4.99) — with no membership fee.

“Our guests love the speed and convenience of the service,” said Dawn Block, Target’s senior VP of digital. “And now that Target Restock is an even better value, we think the service will become increasingly popular.”

The program enables customers to choose from an expanded online assortment of 35,000 national-brand and owned-brand essentials. Customers can order up to 45 lbs. of merchandise (an online capacity tracker keeps shoppers abreast of available space), and all orders are fulfilled directly from the shelves of local stores. Orders can be placed up to 7 p.m.

To speed up the ordering process, the company recently launched a voice-activated Target Restock experience that enables customers to place orders through Google Home or a smartphone with the Google Assistant app, according to Target.

The expansion comes less than a year since the company introduced Target Restock in its Minneapolis-St. Paul hometown market. In June, the program launched with an assortment of approximately 15,000 items. Since then, the company has rapidly been rolling out the service to additional markets.

Last fall, the company estimated that Target Restock would reach 70 million people by October, or about one-fifth of the United States’ population. The nationwide expansion will now reach more than 75% of the U.S. population, according to the blog.

The program gives competitors a run for their money — literally. Amazon’s Prime Pantry also boxes up customers’ orders of everyday essentials, however the program is reserved for Prime members. Also, orders also have a $6 fee, and are delivered between one and four days.

Walmart is also testing grocery delivery. This discounter’s goal is to offer the service across 800 stores by the end of the year, a move that will serve more than 40% of U.S. households. The program, which is currently available in six markets, will grow to serve more than 100 metro areas across the country.

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TECHNOLOGY

Five Ways Retailers Can Use Messaging Apps to Stay Top of Mind

There was a time not so long ago when retailers were clamoring to launch their own apps as a way to reach their customers on mobile. However, today, the majority of smartphone download no new apps a month, spending the lion’s share of their time in just 10 top apps. The fact is retailers can no longer rely on shoppers to download their apps — they have to reach them where they are already spending their time. And with more people using messaging apps to connect with the people and businesses they love, retailers are starting to integrate messaging into their mobile marketing strategy.

Here are five ways retailers are using messaging to stay top of mind — and drive results:

Try before you buy
While online shopping enables you to make purchases, well, anywhere, being able to visualize the product in your physical space is crucial, whether it’s the ability to try on a pair of glasses or match a set of throw pillows to your couch.

In fact, even with the rise of online shopping, the ability to see, touch and feel products is one of the top reasons consumers choose to shop in stores versus online. Augmented reality has the power to change that. If websites brought the store to your screen, AR brings the store to your space.

Sephora is doing this with their newly released AR effect in Messenger. People are able to browse through different makeup looks like “smoky eye” and “monochromatic warm”, try them on using AR and then capture the look using their camera. They can easily share the picture of themselves trying on the look with friends or loved ones to receive input, and can then purchase products directly within the Sephora.

Shipping updates and receipts
Messaging is a great way to send people things like receipts, order confirmations and shipping updates, all in real-time and in the context of your conversation. No more sifting through emails for tracking numbers or whether a package is set to arrive this week or next; and what’s more, you can communicate updates on the fly. We are seeing household names like Zullily and 1-800-Flowers using Messenger to send customers updates in a way that is conversational and accessible.

Seasonal Moments
During the busy holiday season, messaging is a great way to stand out in the sea of discounts while delivering a more tailored shopping experience. For example, Saks Fifth Avenue launched its gift-guide experience for Messenger days before Black Friday to help shoppers figure out the best gift for their friends and loved ones. The bot asks shoppers several questions about the person they’re looking to buy for, including favorite drinks and vacation spots, and suggests relevant gifts from Saks.com. According to Caroline Klatt, CEO of Headliner Labs, the agency that built Saks’ messaging experience, the bot tracks conversions and clicks over time and will adjust its future gift suggestions based on what people have purchased or browsed. This is a great example of a brand capitalizing on holiday momentum to re-engage customers throughout the year in a way that is personalized and conversational.

Exclusive offers
Because of the personal nature of one-to-one messaging, it is well suited for delivering limited-time or quantity offers and creating an aura of exclusivity for your customers.

For example, Nike, who has been re-imagining the ‘shoe drop’ for their members on the SNKRS app, took this evolution one step further by debuting a launch experience exclusively on Messenger earlier this month. Using an emoji “secret knock” people were able to unlock access to the Kyrie 4 Red Carpets, a limited release shoe. Once they entered the correct “secret knock”, the camera would open, “unlocking” the shoe, which using augmented reality was placed on a pedestal in their physical environment.

People could then walk around and engage with the shoe before returning to the Messenger experience where they could purchase the shoe right then and there. Using messaging, Nike was able to deliver an exclusive offer in an interactive and engaging way. And what’s more, after dropping the Kyrie 4s exclusively in Messenger, SNKRS sold out of the shoe in under an hour.

Stefanos Loukakos is the head of Messenger Business at Facebook.

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CustomerService
TECHNOLOGY

Study: Most consumers opt for online customer service

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Automated customer service interactions are changing the role of contact centers, and how retailers are solving customer issues.

As companies include more help options via their websites, mobile apps, or other digital tools and resources, 80% of consumers try to resolve their issue somewhere online before contacting customer service, according to a new report from CFI Group and Radial.

Advances in digital technology and artificial intelligence are broadening the role of contact centers by providing customer service across the customer service journey. As a result, 60% of customers try visiting the retail company website before contacting customer service. Another 34% visit the retailer site with a mobile device. Only 21% said the company website is “not at all helpful.”

Those who find website tools helpful have a satisfaction score of 86 (on a 0-100 scale), compared to 40 for those who see the site as not at all helpful.

When it comes to offering more automated interactions, retailers are adding more chatbots or IVR self-serve tools to customers. There is also increased attention being given to visual IVR tools. Currently, 18% of customers are familiar with visual IVR, and 55% said they are likely to use visual IVR if given the option.

Despite these digital enhancements, the role of the service agent is not going away. In fact, retail contact centers that integrate agents within the rest of the company can expect dividends through greater customer lifetime value (CLV).

However, this requires agents that are well-integrated with the company (38%), have experience (38%), are well-trained (49%), and have the tools needed to help (55%). Customers who interact with these well-integrated professional agents have higher customer satisfaction (+19%) than the average customer, according to the report.

“Contact centers play a critical role in a retailer’s success. Professional agents who are well integrated with the company have a significant impact on sales, customer satisfaction, and loyalty,” the report explained.

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