The Top 5 Technology Trends that Will Ring in 2017


It’s safe to say that 2016 has been a year full of dramatic business and technological innovations within the retail industry. While we began the year emphasizing conversations around omnichannel capabilities and empowering associates to create a great customer experience for their shoppers, we end the year discussing artificial intelligence, virtual reality and technology that helps retailers go head-to-head with Amazon.

Debates are already brewing about what will be the biggest retail technology to hit the streets in 2017. To get to the bottom of it, we sat down with our clients over the past few weeks and here are their top five predictions for disruptive retail technology entering the New Year:

  • The Rise of Amplified (Artificial) Intelligence – Retailers will tap into the power of artificial intelligence in new ways to develop semi-automated processes for merchants
  • Unified Commerce – Retailers will bring all aspects of omnichannel retailing together to create a holistic experience.
  • Retailers to develop Amazon compete strategy – In 2016, Amazon was the de facto price comparison search engine and took an ever-increasing share of retail sales. In 2017 retailers and brands will continue to look for ways to arm themselves against Amazon, including the adoption of their own online marketplaces to expand their offerings and pricing options.
  • Supply chain optimization – To drive lead-time reduction, faster speed to market and lower costs, retailers will use technology to optimize their supply chain efficiency.
  • Order Management System as a key player – With the continued implementation of new technology designed to drive consumers to purchase more goods, retailers will increasingly adopt OMS technology to ensure a seamless customer experience.

While we have yet to see what new technology 2017 will bring our way and whether this will finally be the year that drones deliver all of our packages, this new year is panning out to be an exciting time for retailers and retail solution providers. Here at Ketner Group we are very excited to start the New Year with our clients and avidly watch the retail technology trends unfold.

Final Thoughts on 2016: Loving Where You Work

It’s a few days before Christmas, and the Ketner Group team is putting final touches on client projects, scheduling last minute holiday shopping-focused interviews for our clients and of course, managing our clients’ NRF activities to ensure they have a successful BIG Show in New York next month.

For Ketner Group, 2016 was a successful but challenging year – such is the life of a PR agency! The team worked hard to consistently secure high-value media placements in national business press, as well as hundreds of articles in retail technology publications for our clients. We also produced dozens of share-worthy content pieces that helped cement our clients’ thought leadership in retail technology and generate qualified sales leads. The team was always on the lookout to provide value to our clients and showcase our expertise in retail technology – whether through good old-fashioned proactive media pitching, providing strategic advice on marketing and PR initiatives or using our connections in retail to, well, just make things happen!

In 2016 we were sad to see a few clients go due to acquisitions and company restructuring, but in true Ketner Group fashion, the entire team responded by stepping up on new business efforts and landing new clients while also continuing to bring exceptional value to existing clients.

Excuse the sappy sentiment, but I truly believe Ketner Group has the best and hardest-working team of not only PR professionals, but genuinely good, kind and fun people. I’ve never been more proud to be a “KG’er”.

Steve Jobs once said, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way you do great work is to love what you do.”  I celebrated my 14th work anniversary with Ketner Group in November, and what a privilege it has been! Ketner Group means so much to me, and I look forward to working with the team to achieve many more successes in 2017 and beyond.

On behalf of the Ketner Group team, we want to wish each one of you a wonderful holiday, and a prosperous and healthy New Year!


Holiday Happenings: KG Clients are in the News!

xmas-cardThe holiday season is the busiest season of all for retail, which means our retail technology clients have been equally busy. Many of Ketner Group’s clients keep a sharp eye on trends throughout the holiday, such as online shopper engagement, grocery sales across channels and department store sales.

This year was no different and we’re thrilled to share a taste of their most fantastic coverage.

Here are some highlights:

DynamicAction revealed data regarding holiday promotions and returns, which appeared in CNBC, The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Internet Retailer and Chain Store Age.

360pi also revealed research regarding Amazon’s sales and inventory in comparison to other sites and online search engines, which appeared in Recode, USA Today, Business Insider and multiple articles in The Wall Street Journal including “Retailers Vie for Black Friday Dollars,” “Retailers Push Early Start to Black Friday Sales,” and “Online Black Friday Sales Gain on Cyber Monday.”

Mirakl provided insight into how to address pricing challenges on online marketplaces in The Washington Posts “A $329 Hatchimal and the challenge of online marketplaces” and OrderDynamics provided tips on optimizing inventory levels in SupplyChainDive.

Unata shared trends on grocery shopping online and its rise in comparison to in-store shopping over Thanksgiving which appeared in Progressive Grocer, The Shelby Report, Grocery Headquarters and FoodDive.

We look forward to sharing more high-level publicity for our clients as their holiday analysis continues to roll in, including a 25 Days of Shopper Insights report on eCommerce trends from Edgecase, a creative and highly informative tool to help retailers celebrate the holiday season.

Influencer Insights: Susan Reda

A Ketner Q&A with Susan Reda, Editor at STORES Media

What technology trend do you see most impacting the industry?

Machine learning. As I understand it, machine learning is a subset of artificial intelligence; the machine learns through applying algorithms to data and the more data, the more the machine grows in knowledge. Retailers who use machine learning can better understand what people are looking for. Ultimately it will lead to more accurate speech recognition, computers that can understand images – even helping to build self-driving cars (though that scares the heck out of me). Anything that helps retailers to better manage the piles of data they’ve amassed and improve decision-making will have a positive impact on retail so I’m keeping an eye on this.

How do you most like to stay up to date on trends?

I read everything I can get my hands on– often to my own detriment in terms of time management. Still, I think it’s important to set aside some time each day to read “favorites” and allow yourself the time to follow links and follow your mind’s eye. There have been so many instances where doing so led me down a path I would not otherwise have explored – and typically it’s to my benefit.   

influencer-insights-susan-redaHow do you recommend PR professionals reaching out to share news?

While I’m the first to lament my ever-overflowing Inbox, it remains the best way to reach me. That said, if I haven’t responded and the email demands a timely response; I prefer a follow up call rather than resending an email two or three times.   

What’s the best piece of personal or professional advice you’ve been given?

Bring your “A” game as often as possible, but when your plate is overflowing learn to prioritize what’s an “A” what’s a “B” and even “B-“ will have to suffice.   

How did you get involved in the industry? 

I studied Journalism at St. John’s University in NYC and my first job was with a small trade publication called Hosiery & Underwear Magazine. You haven’t lived until you’ve come up with ten stories about hosiery for each issue! Slowly I branched into coverage of other women’s apparel categories and after one-too-many “x is the new black” phrases I made the jump to covering the business of retail. I’ve been very fortunate to cover this industry for decades.

What do you think is the biggest change occurring in the retail industry?

In a word, disruption. There has never been a time where so much was changing at once. Retailers and vendors alike are on an endless trek to keep up and, if they’re lucky, to set the pace.

What do you do for fun?

I’m all about family time. Now that my children are adults and have moved out, I seize any and every opportunity to meet up with them for a visit or a dinner. And when they come home, I spoil them rotten. My other guilty pleasure is watching hockey. I’m a huge New York Rangers fan.


About Susan Reda

Susan Reda is Editor of STORES Media, the official publishing division of the National Retail Federation. She is responsible for developing all content for the magazine and additional STORES properties. With a passion for all things related to retail, Reda researches and writes multiple stories per issue, exploring the big-picture ideas, issues and innovations bubbling up in the industry. With years of experience researching and reporting on retail, Reda has written about topics ranging from digital trends and CIO priorities to organized retail crime and big data. Before joining NRF, Reda was an associate editor at Apparel Merchandising magazine, where she covered the women’s apparel beat, including juniors, swimwear and intimate apparel. She began her career as a writer for Hosiery & Underwear magazine. A Long Island native and resident, Reda holds a B.S. in journalism from St. John’s University.

Giving Tuesday lasts all year at Ketner Group

Ketner Group believes that in the office isn’t the only place we can make a difference. Our team is involved in charities and organizations across Austin and Nashville. This Giving Tuesday we wanted to share how Ketner is giving back to the community that gives us so much, and encourage you to get involved with organizations that can impact so many!

Aidan Griffin, who hails from Boston and whose blood runs green, is involved in a number of organizations in the Austin area that promote Irish culture and heritage. He currently serves the Public Relations Officer for the Irish Network of Austin, the local chapter of Irish Network USA – a business, cultural and social network for friends of Ireland in Central Texas. In his role as Public Relations Officer, Aidan is responsible for managing the public persona of the chapter through social media management, event promotion and coordination with local organizations, government entities and businesses. He is also a member of the Austin Celtic Cowboys, the Gaelic Football club in town, where he helps manage media relations and supports public outreach to grow the game in the area among the American community.

Kirsty Hughan, our lone ranger in Nashville, is the co-founder and recently appointed Advisory Board Member of Mod, a community organization that helps women personally and professionally. Through Mod’s monthly events, Kirsty works with Nashville women to better understand and achieve what they want through networking, conversation and education. She is also involved in the small business organization in Nashville and is a member of the Nashville Independent Business Alliance, or Indie Nash.

Heavily involved with Texas Exes Austin Chapter as a past board member and current young alumni committee member, Adrienne Newcomb also volunteers her time and resources with Community First! Village. Community First! Village is a 27-acre master planned community that provides affordable, permanent housing and a supportive community for the disabled, chronically homeless in Central Texas. A development of Mobile Loaves & Fishes, this transformative residential program exists to love and serve our neighbors who have been living on the streets, while also empowering the surrounding community into a lifestyle of service with the homeless.

Kathleen See works with various non-profit and community focused organizations across the Austin community. She’s been involved with the Thinkery, Austin’s children’s museum, volunteering for their annual Imaginarium gala. Most recently, she has begun donating her time to Young Texans Against Cancer. She first became involved through their annual Powderpuff football game, but has become impassioned with their mission to raise funds and awareness for local cancer research and support organizations, becoming the sponsorship chair for their 5th annual Powderpuff Football Game and assisting with fundraising for the 7th annual Spice for Life Chili Cookoff.

Each year Ketner Group sponsors a family in need during the holidays and provides school supplies to underserved children in our area. We also regularly participate in and support our local PRSA chapter. In addition, Ketner Group actively gives back to the organizations our team members are involved with, just another way KG shows its love for our team and community. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook to see how we’re giving back in Austin!

Reimagining the Retail Associate

Retail is changing faster than a teenager out of Nana’s Christmas sweater before meeting up with friends. We are witnessing major investments in omnichannel development, especially in tech-heavy areas like big data analytics, personalized marketing. Yet, investments into the role of the retail associate have not quite made it to the top of the priority list for many retailers. The tides they are a changing, however, and like an old episode of MTV Made, the savviest of retailers are undertaking the challenge of turning traditionally undervalued store associates into retail superstars.

With so much focus on high-level changes, it’s the folks on the floor who are the ultimate brand ambassadors that most directly influence customer loyalty. They can’t be seen as just a necessary expense any longer – to stock shelves or fold clothes, run the checkout or greet shoppers. When we get right down to it, no matter how many marketing and innovation dollars a company spends, the associate is the only actual person on-site to convert the sale. They have the ultimate power to win or lose a customer, once and forever.

Why Change Now?

The need for this shift is easier to understand when we look at how polarized retail is becoming. On one end it is becoming commoditized, on the other it’s becoming specialized. The intensity of competition for consumers has driven a wedge between “price retailers” and “experience retailers.” In either extreme, executives need to acknowledge that their lowest level employees can be the difference between a shopper returning to their store or looking somewhere else where they feel more at home.

Men get the reputation for hating shopping, and I count myself among that group. The thing is, I like new things, I just hate spending time in a store, wandering aimlessly and breathing recycled air that makes me thirst for a cold beer, or even just a trickle of warm water from a fountain. A good shopping experience all comes down to stripping away challenges and time-consuming activities.

Associates are already tasked with solving these challenges, like locating the right size of an item a customer likes – whether on the shelf or in the backroom, or finding and ordering it online for them. We all know that associates are there to help with these things, but in reality, too many of us have heard, “I’m sorry that’s not my department,” or “what’s on the shelf is all we have,” to even bother asking most of the time. When shoppers like me hear this, that sprint out of the store happens much sooner and sales, not just today but forever, are forfeited.

Arming Associates with Technology

Luckily, just as technology has redefined the modern shopper, technology is ready to redefine the modern associate. Some of the most successful retailers in the country have acknowledged the inefficiencies of the old model and have begun making significant investments in empowering employees. They are arming them with data-driven, engagement-oriented technologies that, in combination with supplemental training, allow them to provide a more personal, more intelligent and more supportive shopping experience.

For example, clienteling software gives employees access to shopper history and allows them to make recommendations based on data collected from every interaction a customer has, on any channel, with that retailer. In combination with face-to-face conversations in the store, associates can make better recommendations, anticipate needs more effectively, and ultimately, drive better sales.

Likewise, tools like mobile POS allow associates to finalize transactions on the fly, protecting shoppers from long checkout lines and promoting a personal connection with the same associate from a customer’s first inquiry through the completion of the sale. Less time spent in the store and fewer headaches when inside is a recipe for success.

As technology becomes even more a part of everyday life, shopping behaviors change and people raise their expectations for those they buy from. In a time of increased automation, when companies no longer feel personally attentive, human touch can provide a distinct advantage. People have a unique ability to build a sense of community, trust and loyalty.

But these human interactions can’t be purely transactional. Associates have the opportunity and power to talk to each customer, make recommendations and persuade them to buy an item. Just because they aren’t built on an ecommerce platform, don’t hold their memories in the cloud and don’t require service upgrades, doesn’t mean they don’t deserve the same attention and investment.

Election 2016 Coverage

Tuesday, November 8, 2016, will forever go down in history as the day America unexpectedly, according to underestimated polling projections, elected its 45th President. Like most of the country, Ketner Group had been keeping an eye on the debates and discussions leading up to the election and are now looking forward to how the country will change under this new leadership. We’ve pulled together some coverage we’ve seen since the announcement of the President-elect that highlight how the election could affect retail as we head into the holiday season:

Retail Federation Watching for Donald Trump’s Trade Policy

The National Retail Federation (NRF) is closely watching how President-elect Trump’s policies could impact consumer sentiment and spending as we head into the holidays.

Shortly after Trump was announced as President-elect, NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay asked him as well as other members of Congress to practice pragmatism when implementing new policies that will affect trade with other countries and the retail industry. This statement comes after Trump has made comments that would greatly impact the industry.

Forbes contributor Richard Kestenbaum takes a look at two major effect Trump’s election to the Presidency could have on retail: paralysis and costs.

The fashion industry is keeping a keen eye on how Trump’s policies will affect trade and taxes. During his campaign he released proposals he would implement during his first 100 days in office, among them would be a renegotiating or removal of major trade agreements like NAFTA and TPP and changes to the tax code which could have major implications for the fashion industry.

As retailers wrap up a difficult year, the economic uncertainty from the election, as well as trade and tax policies that could be enacted under a Trump presidency, have retailers bracing for major change in the industry.

Photo provided by Kathleen See
Photo provided by Kathleen See

Ketner Group Musings on Retail: Finding the Perfect Blend of Technology and People

In the past few years, it would seem that the appeal of “traditional” physical retail stores is decreasing. After all, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, eCommerce grew 14.6% in 2015 with online sales accounting for more than half of total retail sales growth.

Even with this tremendous amount of growth in the online channel, the store is still the heartbeat of retail. But the reality is this: What we as shoppers really want, what we crave, is for our favorite retailers to create new and refreshing reasons for us to visit their physical stores.

Spoiler alert: it’s all about technology with a human touch!

So what, exactly, does this partnership of technology and human touch translate to?

Human touch means assisted selling in the store, in which store associates capture customer preferences and provide more targeted recommendations with the help of mobile devices that contain attribute information for all retail products. The result? Associates can become highly-effective personal “style” advisors when they combine their own knowledge of a product with readily available product information and customer preference indicators.

So too does it translate to relaxed spaces in-store where customers can learn and call on associates if they need or want to. Apple has been a leader in this type of dynamic in-store environment for ages.

Photo provided by Tech Times
Photo provided by: Tech Times

Since then, other retail stores have taken note. For example, London-based department store, Selfridges, has brought that “technology meets human” feel to the store by launching a multi-sensory yoga experience by partnering with East London yoga duo, Yung Club. Smaller scale retailers like STORY have taken the store experience to another level. Their 2000 square foot Manhattan store is part magazine, part store. Every four to eight weeks, it completely reinvents itself from design to merchandise in order to address a new theme, trend or issue.

Human touch in the store becomes especially useful when it partners with technology that pulls together disparate pieces of information. Think Clueless in the real world! Consider the example of a shopper pulling up a digital version of their own closet to see if a top they’ve found at a retail store matches their skirts. Adding that insight to a full product catalogue allows the store associate to purchase that top from another store should their location be out of stock. By connecting all channels with human insight, shoppers can truly find the right product at the right moment. The end result is a delightful and share-worthy shopping experience for the customer.

The Ketner Group team looks forward to hearing more about how human and machines are working together to create relevant, intimate and memorable customer experiences. We’re excited to find out the extent to which the future success of retailers hinges on connecting these two things to build memorable brand experiences. Retailers that effectively blend human touch with technology stand apart from the rest and not only “win,” they kill it.

Not Every Trick is a Treat: Branding in a Competitive Environment

im-a-mouse-duh-mean-girlsBeing the talk of the town on Halloween requires going beyond the cliché and finding an outside-the-box costume that people will also be able to understand and enjoy. Whether scrambling last minute and slapping a mask or a witch hat on or becoming a Goodwill regular hunting for the perfect accessory, Halloween revelers take advantage of Halloween to borrow a persona that extends far beyond their everyday personality. Done right, a Halloween costume can earn you some serious kudos.

This isn’t dissimilar to retail marketers developing campaigns this holiday season. As the nights get longer and mornings get colder, they are looking for ways to cozy up to shoppers in unique ways. The ‘go viral’ mentality has led to a lot of good and bad ideas, but brands and retailers know they can’t just discount themselves into oblivion anymore. They need to find innovative marketing campaigns and brand messaging that puts a new spin on traditional tactics. Like knowing what it takes to win the office Halloween costume contest, there are a few foundational elements Halloween shares with holiday marketing.


In the age of data-driven marketing, it can be hard to remember that people can’t give feedback – positive or negative – on something they haven’t seen yet. Numbers can tell you anything you want to know about your customers, and on a macro-level, you can determine what sort of marketing those people respond to best. That is undoubtedly important when creating your brand, full stop. But when looking to stand out in an extra busy time, those numbers can be so restricting that you never find the best answer.

Riddle me this: which costume do you prefer – the store-bought ‘princess’ costume or the one that took someone a week to make after visiting four stores, busting out the sewing machine and coming up with an original costume you hadn’t seen before? Ask Google what’s more popular and you’ll see that lots of people were princesses, so you know that’s a safe way to go, but I promise you’d be more excited to have trick-or-treaters come to your door as the latter.

Numbers and data and research can lie, even if it’s by accident. They’ll tell you what isn’t the wrong move, but they can’t prove what is the right move – not in this instance and not when trying to develop a viral or even just plain compelling marketing campaign.


That’s me. I’m ‘dead Barb’ from Stranger Things. People liked my sign.

Creativity is great, but if people are left scratching their heads and whispering to their friends that they have no idea what’s going on, it’s useless. Some of my favorite costumes are when people dress up as characters from kids’ movies I haven’t thought about in years. These costumes establish a sense of belonging and an inside-joke mentality to the holiday. These costumes aren’t cliché, but they rely on a shared connection that most people have, and takes advantage of that feeling to create a positive reaction. Many of the movies I haven’t seen or barely remember are well-established, so I don’t have to know exactly what the character did in the movie or what their most quotable lines are in order to appreciate it.

Retailers can leverage their knowledge of their customers here to find unique connections they have with each other. No matter what you sell, your customers have other interests. Find the connections that fly under the radar and exploit them without alienating those who aren’t in on the joke, and you have a pretty good recipe for success. 


One thing that is sure to get people to like your costume even when they don’t know you is to have a funny costume. Costumes that take a second to figure out because they’re based on wordplay or costumes that shake the stuffiness and self-consciousness of daily life are always a big hit. They’re creative; people understand that it’s a joke and not who you really are, and they can easily join in the fun with you. The barriers to friendship, conversation or just a moment of laughter with each other when you get the joke is what it’s all about. Don’t take yourself too seriously, whether in costume or in business at the holidays, and you’ll be on the track to a successful holiday.

Halloween marks the holiday season’s earnest launch. The competition for best costume, just like the competition for holiday consumers, is tough to win. But, if retail marketers think about their holiday strategies the same way they think about putting together a good costume, they’ll be swapping out the fun size treats for king size in no time.

Stepping up Customer Service through Tech

Image courtesy of Xteener

You know a good retail experience when you see it, when you feel it, and it usually relies on really good customer service. And we’re not talking about persistent service or complicated service. Usually, great retail experiences result from going to a store you know and love, interacting with someone who knows about you and then benefiting from their knowledge. Sometimes this experience is highly local and the associate asks about your recent vacation. Other times, it’s going to a retail chain and having them understand your past purchase history in order to make a really good recommendation for an upcoming wedding. Both experiences are founded on a comprehensive understanding of your needs, motivations and desires at an individual level which are seamlessly used to provide better service.

Lucky for me, I know there’s one store where I can find this experience, and that’s Lou & Grey. Side note, I wrote about Lou & Grey on this blog before…I’m a little obsessed to say the least.

While I’m head over heals for the style of the clothes, the price point and the innovative retail experience—see my other blog post— a huge reason I come back is because of Kathy. While I live in Nashville, my family is in Connecticut and I shop regularly at Lou & Grey in Westport. There, Lou & Grey’s amazing employee, Kathy, has developed a strong relationship with my mother, my sister and me. We head to Lou & Grey hoping to catch a glimpse of her laugh and strong sense of humor. And also because she knows us really well. She knows that we tend to mostly buy clothes on sale but that we’ll splurge for something full price if we love it. She knows which clothes fit our sense of style and our body types. She provides suggestions, tells us when something doesn’t look great and gives recommendations for something that will work well with a piece we purchased last time. She’s amazing. And because she is amazing and the store is amazing, we return often and spend a lot more than we would otherwise.

Image courtesy of Xteener

What’s neat is that Kathy’s amazing customer service can be replicated through technology. Here’s why…

First, I like Lou & Grey enough to have their credit card—it gives me special offers when I spend a certain amount. That means that Lou & Grey can collect information about me right off the bat: the credit card is connected to my spending history. If linked to a CRM system, Lou & Grey employees like Kathy could also add in information about me to my “loyalty number” such as color preferences, size and taste.

Second, Lou & Grey can connect the knowledge about me to my experience in store. This way, if I visit a new store, or if Kathy has the day off, other associates can offer an experience that rivals Kathy’s. They can tap into my information to provide better recommendations and thus better service, offering new things for me to try that match my existing wardrobe and fall in line with my spending preferences.

Because I’ve developed a sense of confidence in the chain, I feel like my information is protected. I don’t worry about how my loyalty information is being used and I’m not freaked out by a new associate understanding my spending history because I’ve developed trust with Lou & Grey through their great customer service. In an ideal world, I would know how the retailer was using my information, how they protected it and what value I received in return.

If these simple changes were made to their loyalty program, and they implemented employee training to support the changes, I would shop at Lou & Grey way more often. Remember, the experience I shared with Kathy is in Connecticut. I live in Nashville. As a result, I’m limiting my shopping visits to a few times a year instead of once a month. If the retailer connected my patterns to my loyalty information and supplemented that technology enhancement with good associate training, I’d get just as good service here in Nashville, and I’d visit the store a lot more often.

In the meantime, I’ll keep talking up Lou & Grey and visiting Kathy whenever I can. And I’ll look forward to a future in which I get to learn the name of my favorite associate in Nashville.