This blog post has been provided by our intern, Meghan Farrell.
As we see every day, retail is constantly changing. Just when we think we’ve seen it all, a retailer, or solution provider, rolls out something new that disrupts the industry. Keeping up with new technology, trends and innovations is equally as hard as competing with it. So, Ketner Group has made that a little easier by compiling top retail news from the past few weeks.
“Meet Jetblack, Walmart’s click-free shopping service for upper-income New Yorkers” via Retail Dive
Walmart is stepping up its game…and its target consumer. Walmart is introducing a new click-free shopping experience called Jetblack (an ode to Walmart’s 2016 Jet.com acquisition, perhaps?). For $50 a month, customers can text this service and personal shoppers will deliver products to their homes as soon as the same day. Shoppers can also text Jetblack questions or even ask for recommendations. The service will offer products from Jet.com, Walmart, and other third-party retail partners such as Pottery Barn and Gap. Jetblack uses artificial intelligence and professional buyers across several product categories to fulfill customer requests.
The customer Walmart is trying to attract through this new service may be the most interesting part of this news. With a service that will cost $600 a year, upper-income consumers are clearly being sought after, a demographic that is not typically associated with the Walmart brand. As this service grows, it will be very interesting to see if Walmart will successfully attract this new customer base and compete with considerably cheaper subscription services like Amazon Prime.
“Sears to Shutter 72 More Stores” via Total Retail
With a loss of $424 million in its first quarter report and revenue falling more than 30%, things aren’t looking good for Sears. While many retail stores, including The Children’s Place and Gap, have had issues this year staying alive, Sears continues to outnumber its retail competitors with store closures. Sears identified 100 non-profitable Sears and Kmart locations and announced Thursday that it will be closing 72 of these stores in the near future. And many industry experts predict the retailer will be filing for bankruptcy very soon.
Sears is working hard to cut costs by closing unprofitable stores, but unfortunately, previous closures have only seen a continual decline of sales for the stores that are left. In efforts to save the company, the retailer is also working with an independent committee to sell some of its assets. These will include the Kenmore Brand to ESL Investments, Sears CEO Eddie Lampert’s hedge fund.
In order to maintain profitability, many brick-and-mortar stores have been forced to close numerous stores. Whether it’s going out of business entirely or shutting down unprofitable locations, this trend does not seem to be dying down any time soon.
“Will Best Buy’s Total Tech Support Service Boost Brand Loyalty?” via Retail TouchPoints
Best Buy has taken many steps toward improving the customer experience and support, and thus far has reaped the rewards. Last week, the retailer rolled out a new Geek Squad subscription service called Total Tech Support. This service is available for an annual cost of $199.99 which includes unlimited Geek Squad support whether it’s on the phone, in-store, on its website 24/7, or through the Best Buy Home App. This service will cover all of the subscriber’s appliances and electronics. Furthermore, it will also include discounts on device installation, hardware repairs, TV mounting, computer setup, purchase of AppleCare service or Geek Squad Protection, and more.
The nationwide expansion of the program comes after Best Buy saw successful results from a recent pilot. During this time, the Geek Squad helped 230,000 users set up, troubleshoot or fix devices in more than 400,000 instances. Best Buy tested different pricing models but shoppers preferred to pay annually rather than monthly, though Best Buy may offer more subscription options in the future.
Competitively, this was a very smart and well-timed move for Best Buy, especially with rumors of Amazon looking to directly compete with Best Buy’s Geek Squad. As consumers rely more and more on the devices in their homes, such as Smart TVs, the need for support has increased dramatically and Best Buy is in a great position to help.
“Amazon begins nationwide expansion of Whole Foods discounts for Prime members” via TechCrunch
In May, Amazon announced it would be offering a 10% discount on sales and featured products at Whole Foods for Amazon Prime members in Florida and by the end of the month expanded the offering across 12 more states. Amazon says this discount covers hundreds of products per store, plus the weekly deep discounts on featured products throughout the store. Discounts are also available for shoppers who use the Whole Foods delivery service.
The new program helps categorize Whole Foods as a more affordable grocery shopping destination, and further it from the “Whole Paycheck” image. In addition, it gives shoppers another reason to become a subscriber of Amazon Prime, and a reason for Amazon Prime subscribers to shop at Whole Foods – a win-win for Amazon. Observers can’t help but wonder if Amazon will make deals with other retailers and expand these types of offers to other stores in the future.
As we can all attest at Ketner Group, retail is a very exciting industry and one that never stops moving. In the past month alone, we’ve seen the in-store experience improving drastically, brick-and-mortar stores going online and AI doing unimaginable things. Stay tuned to see what happens next!