TECHNOLOGY

These innovations are driving retail growth

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

A retail transformation is well underway, and it is being lead by retailers’ investments in technologies that improve the customer experience.

This was according to Ramping Up Retail Innovation,” a study from Retail Systems Research (RSR). The data revealed that retail winners believe customer-facing innovations are very important (93%), followed very closely (88%) by the value of automating operational processes will create the efficiencies needed in order to fund those customer innovations.

Similarly, both retail leaders and laggards agree on the importance of improving the customer experience (CX) — and using innovation to do so. For example, 71% of leaders are committed to providing a better customer experience, compared to 68% of all other retailers. Sixty-eight percent of leaders also believe they can use innovations to build lasting loyalty with our customers, and move them to become “advocates.” Only 47% of other retailers agree on the value of this option.

When considering the technologies that can achieve these goals, retailer are not looking for “shiny, new solutions.” Rather, they are opting for core solutions that will help then scale and grow their business in the long-term. For example, 93% of retail winners and 66% of other retailers are adopting cloud computing solutions to drive innovation.

While 71% of winners are implementing new core systems, only 40% of other retailer are following suit. The Internet of Things (IoT) is a priority for 68% of retail winners, but only 40% of all other retailers agree. Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning also tops 63% of winners’ innovation lists, followed by 32% of all other retailers. And new user interfaces, such as voice recognition, are priorities for 61% of leading companies, but only 40% of other retailers.

Innovations including customer-facing robots still have a way to go as only half (56%) of leading companies call these priorities. They are only on the radar of 28% of other retailers. Despite the industry’s increasing interest in augmented and virtual reality, only 56% of leading retailers are adopting these solutions, followed by 23% of all other companies.

“When it comes to experimenting with new technologies, respondents indicate that what they are experimenting with aren’t necessarily the technologies that they assign the greatest value to,” the study revealed.

Retailers of all types may not be afraid to experiment, “but across the boards, they aren’t committing ‘real money’ to a full rollout,” the study added. “This could indicate that either it’s still early days for these technologies, or that retailers are succumbing to a traditional over- abundance of caution.”

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TECHNOLOGY

Election Day didn’t distract online, mobile shoppers

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Despite long lines at the polls, Americans still made time to shop online during Election Day — especially via smartphone.

This was according to new data from Adobe Digital Insights, which revealed that total online sales on Election Day came in at $1.48 billion. This was 13.2% year-over-year growth, which is in line with growth through the first few days in November. It also indicates that Election Day had little to no impact on online shopping behavior.

With digital shoppers headed to the polls, sales via smartphones spiked on Tuesday, Nov. 6. Mobile accounted for 25.1% of all sales, up 28.3% versus last year. As shoppers increasingly made purchases via mobile devices on Election Day, these sales drove 51.6% of visits and 32.6% of revenue. Smartphones led the way for mobile at 44.3% of visits and 25.1% of revenue.

Meanwhile, average order volume (AOV) was up slightly for Election Day compared to last year at $139, a 4% increase year-over-year. Similarly, paid search was the top promotion driver, making up 22.2% of sales on Election Day. Email was 18.0% of sales, and shopper helper sites were 5.4%. Sales coming from social networks made up 1.7% of overall sales.

While there were long waits at some polling locations, it was this news “distraction” that arguably had the greatest impact on the day, with visits to news-related sites spiking 311% vs. an average day in October. This could be because consumers needed the ability to log in remotely while they cast their vote, or used it as a search-and-shop device while accessing a second screen to consumer news and information, the data revealed.

When looking at all six days in November leading up to Election Day (Nov. 1 – Nov. 6), online spending topped $1 billion. Growth is slightly below predictions at 12.7%, but well within expectations for these early dates in the season.

“Election Day, while providing distractions in the form of news coverage and voting delays, merely drove consumers to source new ways to shop while keeping track of election results,” said Taylor Schreiner, director of Adobe Digital Insights. “Smartphone usage and news site access went up, prompting shoppers to turn to multi-screen or multi-device methods to continue searching and shopping. Predictions of a record-breaking retail season remain on track.”

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Amazon gets nostalgic with first-ever printed holiday catalog

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Amazon is combining old-fashioned marketing with high-tech flair to sell more toys this holiday season.

The online giant is mailing a printed catalog, called “A Holiday of Play,” featuring more than 1,400 toys and games for babies, children, tweens and teens, to a reported millions of homes this holiday season. The lookbook, Amazon’s first printed catalog, is organized by category and age. It is also available digitally, and can be viewed here.

Unlike the toy catalogs of holidays past, the Amazon book does not list prices with the individual items. Instead, customers use the retailer’s mobile app to scan the product images for price and other information, and to add it to their online shopping cart.

In addition, the pages are sprinkled with Amazon’s SmileCodes (Amazon’s version of QR codes) that, when scanned, takes the shopper to a page with related gift ideas.

Amazon’s toy catalog will be available at Amazon Books and Amazon 4-star stores, which will feature select featured items. Amazon’s catalog is also available for download for its Kindle devices

Meanwhile, Sears Holdings Corp. is also offering its holiday Wish Book catalog in a digital format this year. The struggling department store retailer will not publish a printed version of its iconic catalog this holiday season, one year after bringing it back into circulation for some members of its loyalty program, according to The Chicago Tribune.

Amazon’s toy catalog is the company’s latest move to win shoppers this holiday season. On Monday, the online giant announced that for the first time, it is offering free shipping on all holiday orders with no minimum order required. (There is typically a $25 minimum for non-Prime members.) The free delivery service will be available until it can no longer promise items will arrive in time for Christmas with free delivery. Items shipped with free delivery typically arrive between five to eight business days.

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