Advertising Week New York

Advertising Week New York: A Ketner Group Preview

With clients like Adlucent and PMG on our roster, Ketner Group understands advertising’s role in today’s retail market. For that reason, I was excited to see the retail-heavy agenda unfold for Advertising Week New York. As an added bonus, Advertising Week is located just steps away from the Ketner Group NYC headquarters in Lincoln Square.

On Monday, Sept. 23, there will be eight retail-focused sessions with smattering of related content throughout the four-day event. Curious what’s on my agenda for the week? If so, here’s a preview for you!

Retail at Advertising Week

Monday’s retail lineup will be held on the Culture Builders Stage.

A.M. Lineup

“Passion & Performance Marketing: Driving Growth & Demand While Honoring The Spirit Of Your Brand” kicks off the retail sessions at 9:45 a.m. Google, Cardlytics and Tinulti will discuss marrying passion and performance in online and local to generate happy customers.

Next, the focus shifts to data. Experian, PlaceIQ, IRI Worldwide and TrueData explore how brands can extract more from their data. Check out “So Much Data…So Little Time” at 10:45 a.m. to learn how to manage mass amounts of data and make smarter advertising decisions.

If retail is the topic of conversation, Amazon is sure to come up. At 11:45 a.m. Catalyst, Xaxis, Georgia-Pacific and Pacvue look at how Amazon is reshaping shopper marketing. “Seismic Shifts: How Amazon is Reshaping Shopper Marketing” will help retailers and and brands better understand this changing dynamic.

P.M. Lineup

One of the hottest topics in retail is direct-to-consumer brands. During “Reinventing Retail – How to Think Like DTC Startups” at 12:45 p.m., Rhone, Koio, Bombas and Dagne Dover join Digiday‘s Shareen Pathak to explore how “DTC brands are reinventing the consumer journey, [and] experimenting with customer service and retail concepts.”

Afterward, stay in your seats for the 1:45 session, “Hello to Good-Buy: Marketing Approaches to Drive the Evolving Consumer Journey.” Valassis, GSK and Universal McCann chat reimagining marketing approaches to effectively engage evolving shopper preferences.

Then, for some holiday talk. At 2:45 p.m., Open X and Essence Global take the stage for “Reaching Holiday Shoppers in the Age of Digital.” Attendees will leave with a better understanding of today’s holiday shopper and an overview of 2019 holiday consumer spending habits.

At 3:45 p.m. Constellation Brands, AT&T and CAA discuss “Beyond Digital Retail: The Future of Retail, Moving Well Past Omnichannel.” Panelists will discuss the consumer demand for customization, on-demand services, and the impact of mobile and technology.

The retail track wraps at 4:45 p.m. with “Flipping the Script: The Rise of Shape-Shifting Experience Platforms.” VMLY&R and SHOWFIELDS, the new store concept from Shopify, explore today’s top marketing strategies.

Monday wraps with a networking happy hour. Stick around for cocktails and conversation with fellow attendees.

What to Check Out After Monday

While the official retail track takes place on Monday, there are plenty of related topics to check out throughout the four-day event. So, let’s see what other sessions are worth checking out.

Tuesday largely focuses on AdTech and brand innovation. Throughout the day, hear from Burger King, brands like The Knot, LG and OceanSpray, and Verizon and Anheuser Busch.

On Wednesday, DTC, retail and the customer experience continue to be key themes. Sessions include:

On Thursday, Advertising Week will focus on female leaders in advertising and marketing at retailers and brands in a series of “Future is Female” sessions.

Meet Ketner Group at Advertising Week

Attending Advertising Week? Want to chat about the state of advertising and retail? In that case, I’d love to connect and grab a cup of coffee during the events. Send me an email and we’ll find a time to meet up.

Colorful school supplies for back-to-school

Going Back to School In Style

Kids are starting to swap swimming goggles for backpacks and flip-flops for sneakers, which can only mean one thing – it’s the end of the summer and it’s time to go back to school.

There’s always a buzz of excitement among students, parents and teachers alike as shoppers flock the stores looking for the most colorful pencil cases and the coolest fall wardrobe. To cater to these preferences, we see retailers doing new and innovative things for the back-to-school season. Take a look at these consumer and retailer trends to discover what’s cool for school in 2019.

Trend #1: The Bell is Ringing for Record Back-to-School Spending

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), the average spending per household for back-to-school shoppers is $696.70 – the highest ever recorded. And that’s not all – the average spending per household for back-to-school college shoppers is $976.78. In total, that’s a projected $80.7B combined spending for clothing, supplies, laptops and other items for the next school year.

NRF also predicts that clothing and accessories will top K-12 families’ expenses at an average of $239.82, followed by electronics, shoes and school supplies. College shoppers plan to spend the most on electronics, followed by clothing, dorm and apartment furnishings and food items.

With a strong economy and high spending all around, retailers are prepping for an increase in sales this year, but only if they continue to innovate and keep ahead of the competition.

Trend #2: In-Store Shopping Gets an A+

Despite the growth in online shopping overall, Deloitte found that most back-to-school spending will continue to occur in-store, especially for school supplies and clothing. In fact, households plan to spend 56% of their budget in stores and 29% online, with the remaining 15% up for grabs with undecided shoppers.

With kids constantly growing and having their fair share of opinions on which notebook is their favorite, it’s no wonder that in-store shopping is still the channel of choice. Students want to be able to touch, feel and see all the options in-person. Still, Coresight Research estimates that approximately 28.3% of total US back-to-school spend will be online this year, up from 26.1% in 2018. This number will likely continue to grow as online becomes a popular channel for families looking for ways to save time and beat the back-to-school rush in an increasingly popular category.

Trend #3: Retailers Help Shoppers Beat the Back-to-School Blues

It’s always fun to see retailers come up with creative ways to make back-to-school a lot more exciting, whether through fun festivities or memorable shopping events.   

For example, Walmart is hosting events such as STEM Day of Play, with DIY fun for kids. Meijer is treating incoming college freshmen to a party that includes a DJ, photo booth and interactive contests.

Retailers are also doing what they can to give back and get the community involved. Amazon is giving customers an easy way to donate a backpack full of school supplies to a student in need with Alexa. Food City hosted a back-to-school fair which gives away backpacks and school supplies to children in need.

Going the extra mile to create these experiences and campaigns will build a positive brand association in the minds of the consumers and keep them coming back beyond the back-to-school season.

Trend #4: Focus on Social Media

Of course, we can’t forget the power of social media. Students are invested in their social platforms, and it’s a great place for retailers to build up brand recognition and keep them top-of-mind.

Let’s take a look at Macy’s, who launched a back-to-school promotion that includes shoppable commercials on Snapchat and a video-sharing challenge on TikTok. By catering to U.S. teens, Macy’s is urging mobile users to record videos and inspire others to share their style. With mobile usage set to grow to 60% of back-to-school shoppers this year, it’s a great way for the brand to interact with their audience and find creative ways to meet customers where they’re at.

These four trends highlight the evolving changes that are happening around one of the biggest shopping seasons of the year. Retailers are gearing up for back-to-school sales by meeting consumers’ changing demands and getting ahead of the competition. With dedicated studying and strong execution, innovative retailers will surely ace the test!

NYC retail scene

NYC Retail Hits and Misses: Edition 1, Volume 2

A better title for this edition of “NYC Retail Hits and Misses” is “NYC Retail Hits and a Fix.” Or, a la “Friends,” in honor of its 25th Anniversary, “The One Where Whole Foods and Amazon Prime Now Redeem Themselves.” But this did not come without one last blunder.

Before we dive into my ongoing NYC grocery saga, let’s talk about some happier retail happenings.

Hit: The Lead

No, don’t worry, “The Lead” isn’t a hip new retail store or direct-to-consumer brand that you’ve missed out on. But it might be one of the hottest new retail innovation events.

Launched last year, The Lead “bridges the fashion & retail industry with the global Silicon Valley, empowering the industry’s transition to digital centricity.” With more than 1,300 attendees at this year’s Innovation Summit, The Lead is quickly capturing the attention of retailers, brands, solution providers and influencers, alike.

Last month, Catherine made the trip to NYC and joined me in Brooklyn for the summit. Over two days, we heard from innovative solution providers like NewStore, Yotpo and Afterpay. Speakers also included executives from some of the hottest young brands and retailers in the industry, including Bombas, Shinola and AYR. We heard how Bombas is creating a culture for today’s workforce, how Shinola is reinvigorating Detroit, and how AYR is reaching millennials and Gen Z.

After two days of great speakers and conversations, I’m excited to see where next year leads (pun intended) the event.

Miss Fix: Whole Foods and Amazon Prime Now

Okay, now back to the grocery drama.

As you might recall, after my last experience with Amazon Prime Now and Whole Foods, I was left without groceries. Soon after I wrote that blog, I learned the Whole Foods on the Upper West Side allows customers to shop in the store and pay for delivery anywhere in Manhattan. For a small fee of $4, my LaCroix, watermelon and other heavy items were delivered to my doorstep. Problem solved.

But not for long. On June 6, Amazon and Whole Foods ended their relationship with Instacart and moved all of their delivery in house. Long story short, when I went grocery shopping on June 11 and asked for delivery, I was out of luck. Whole Foods now only delivers to customers within 10 blocks. My nearest Whole Foods is 20 blocks away.

After a lot of back and forth, I was once again left without groceries. I was told my only option for delivery was to order through Prime Now. <Insert face-palm emoji>

After explaining my ongoing saga to the store managers, I was told to call corporate customer service. I then received a call from regional headquarters and was told to email the details and share the blog I’d previously written. This was the last I heard in mid-June.

Fast forward to early July. I see a courier delivering what appears to be a Whole Foods order from Prime Now in my neighborhood. I gave it another go. It was July 4 weekend and I had time to go to the grocery store if needed. But wah lah! Later that day, I had a fridge full of Waterloo sparkling water!

Two orders later, and the Whole Foods-Prime Now drama appear to be solved.

The NYC Retail Adventures Continue

With a Friends-themed pop up on the way and the opening of ThirdLove’s first brick-and-mortar concept, the adventures continue. If you’re in NYC, let’s grab coffee and discuss all things retail.

one-day shipping

One-Day Shipping and More: Retail News From Q2

As July begins, summer shopping continues with vacations and parties on the agenda. But has the retail news that broke in Q2 affected our habits? Will it affect the winter holidays, as well? A few trends have piggybacked after announcements earlier in the year, but here’s what’s new in payments, sustainability and shipping.

Paper or Plastic

For those that still like to pay with paper, fear not; Amazon announced their Amazon Go stores would start accepting cash. This was in response to growing backlash, as critics say it’s discriminatory against those who don’t have bank accounts. Amazon’s vice president for physical stores told Business Insider that adding more payment methods allows more customers to shop in the store. This decision feels reminiscent to when they backed out of HQ2 plans as a result of pushback from the community.

The Sustainability Bandwagon

This quarter, more brands and retailers came forward with their efforts to implement sustainable practices. PVH’s “Forward Fashion” corporate responsibility strategy is to increase transparency and sustainable practices. They’ve set a hefty goal to eliminate carbon emissions, reduce landfill waste and eradicate single-use plastics by 2030. In addition, H&M announced in April that it launched product transparency across all garments on its website.

These announcements are great examples of consumers’ growing interest in corporate responsibility. However, the bandwagon-like effect can cause a problem. Unilever’s CEO warns about “woke-washing“, or marketing campaigns that promise to improve the world but fail to take real action.

One-Day Shipping

In what USA Today described as a “drop-the-mic move,” Amazon announced its plan to upgrade Prime members to one-day delivery. Then, Walmart and Target responded with similar announcements. According to Business Insider, Walmart and Target have a “huge advantage” over Amazon because of their thousands of stores. This provides quick and efficient access to most of the U.S. population. Target has even been able to cut costs by 40% through store fulfillment. Recently, Amanda wrote a blog on the implications of “free” shipping, and now we can add one-day shipping to the mix. As retailers look to cut costs, they should also make an effort to reduce waste as they execute one-day shipping.

The breaking news that occurred in April, May and June of this year will no doubt impact our summer and beyond. There’s no going back now that we can buy sandals made out of recycled plastic, or birthday gifts online just days in advance.

4 Weddings and a Bridal Shower: A Look at How the Wedding Registry Has Changed

4 Weddings and a Shower: A Look at the Wedding Registry

It’s been a month since our very own Stacy became a Mrs. As all good coworkers do, we threw her a surprise shower before the big day. Scanning her wedding registry to pick out the best gift got me thinking. Four women from the Ketner crew in Austin have now tied the knot. So, as the retail industry has evolved, how have our registry experiences differed?

From Catherine’s nuptials in 2003 to the Tung wedding over Memorial Day weekend, a number of things have changed.

Quick facts:

  • Wedding years represented – 2003, 2012, 2015, 2019 
  • Retailers represented for wedding registries – Target, Amazon, Bed Bath & Beyond, Crate and Barrel, Pier 1
  • What were the biggest differences? A shift away from formal wedding china to post-wedding travel funds. 
  • And where did we find common ground? Come on, who doesn’t like getting gifts?

Going to the Chapel…and the Store…and Online

The argument in the industry is that despite the rise of e-commerce, brick-and-mortar retail isn’t dead. That trend can be seen in our wedding registry experiences too. Almost 17 years ago, Catherine and her husband did their registering in-store. This meant they didn’t have online access to make changes or sneak peeks to see what was purchased. Fast forward to my wedding in 2012, and Stacy’s this year. You’ll see that the store still has an important role. We enjoyed going in-person to kick off the act of registering, but found the digital experience helpful for reading product reviews and managing our lists.

In the movies, you’ll see couples buzzing excitedly through the store, using a barcode scanner to add to their wishlist. Stacy and her now-husband Alvin found that aspect of registering fun! My husband Thomas and I enjoyed the private event Crate and Barrel hosted (and still offers today). Engaged couples are allowed into the store early Sunday mornings for undistracted registering. Plus, there’s wedding vendor promos and free samples. Cake before lunch? Yes, please!

Love and Marriage, But Don’t Forget the Honeymoon!

Mariana and her husband Richie shared a home before their big day, which influenced their decision for how and where to register. Their two-bedroom apartment was pretty cozy, so they signed up for a Honeyfund account instead of a traditional wedding registry. What they wanted more than bedding or kitchen gadgets was to share experiences together. Through Honeyfund, family and friends could gift the travel-loving Fischbachs a surf lesson or a snorkeling excursion for their Hawaiian honeymoon. Although Mariana did say they received several Home Depot gift cards, which were spent pretty quick!

While Stacy and I share some similarities in our registry experience, Mariana and Catherine also have some parallels. Where they overlap is specific to their housing’s influence on wedding gift requests. While the Fishbachs opted for experiences over “things” because they were saving for a down payment, the Seeds were building a home. For this reason, Catherine needed practical things like end tables and a coffee table for their living room. She was also excited to pick out China settings. While she doesn’t use it often now, Catherine loves having something she will pass down to her kids. 

I Do…Love Wedding Gifts

Wedding season is underway, and we’re not the only ones contemplating the evolution of registries. Just last week, Retail Dive reflected on the history of the traditional registry, and Honeyfund’s founder gives her perspective there also. Here’s a stat we found interesting. Despite emerging trends around experiential requests and cash gifts, The Knot found that 97% of couples this year say they registered for retail products. 

Since we obsess over retail data for clients during the week, it’s fun when we get to discuss the overlap into our lives as consumers. Our conclusion is that retailers who will find relevance with the brides and grooms of tomorrow will be the ones that mirror broader retail trends. These retailers will provide options for both the thrill of in-store memory making, plus convenience and practicality too. Retailers should see wedding registries as a way to build brand loyalty, as couples associate a retailer with a joyful time in their lives.

Omnichannel Options for Austin Shoppers

Exploring Omnichannel at The Domain

When looking for a new place to live after I graduated college, proximity to work topped my list of requirements. Luckily, I was able to find an apartment that I loved within a seven minute distance from work. My new home also happened to be only seven minutes away from the place I sometimes jokingly refer to as my second home: The Domain, a shopping center featuring some of Austin’s best omnichannel options.

Moving to North Austin has only made that statement even more true. What once was a light-hearted joke, is more of a reality for me now. As a frequent visitor of Austin’s premier retail hub, certain stores have caught my eye. Since I’m constantly reading about omnichannel trends, I thought I’d assess how my favorite stores are implementing these tactics. For a look at how The Domain exemplifies some of the most positive trends in retail’s ongoing renaissance, check out Jeff’s blog from 2018. Without further ado, here’s what I’ve learned about omnichannel options in Austin as a local consumer.

Nordstrom Provides Expanded Order Pickup Options

When it comes to omnichannel options, Nordstrom is no stranger. Nordstrom’s app is an essential tool for digital shoppers who like to browse online before they buy. When searching for items in-app, shoppers can even custom tailor the search bar to reflect their store location of choice. Plus, the app will curate personalized outfits based on your past purchases and search history.

A few months ago, I tested out the “reservations” option, which allows shoppers to reserve up to 10 items online. Through the app, I reserved a pair of shoes. Within a couple of hours, I got a notification that the pair of shoes I picked out were ready for me to try on. Upon my arrival at The Domain, I received a second notification explaining where to go to try on the shoes. After parking, I entered through the doors to the second floor and found the designated kiosk immediately. Subsequently, a sales associate directed me to a reserved dressing room and assisted me when I requested to try on a different size.

I’d call my experience a success. As retailers start to provide more omnichannel options where the digital and physical sides of the store work together, I’m looking forward to quicker and easier shopping trips. In addition to the reservation option, Nordstrom at The Domain also offers buy online, pickup in-store. In a jam-packed parking lot, customers picking up their online orders can park in reserved spaces, speeding up their shopping journey.

Away Creates Seamless Shopping Experiences

Away, a luggage startup and lifestyle brand, caught my attention on Instagram. With its “clicks to bricks” model, the formerly online-only retailer now has seven physical locations. Lucky for us Austinites, The Domain is home to one of Away’s stores. I’m taking off on a plane to Europe this month and realized it was time to upgrade my luggage. Perfect excuse for my first trip to Away!

Before visiting the store, I researched options and decided which pieces of luggage would be best for my traveling needs. Based on Away’s website and social media platforms, I’ll admit my expectations for the store were already high. To my surprise, my experience at the store exceeded my already-high expectations.

Though I had an idea of what I wanted, I had a few questions before making the investment. One of the sales associates was quick to greet me and patient with my questions. She even looked up measurement restrictions for the airlines I am flying to ensure my luggage would make the cut. Her help ultimately led to my decision to purchase a set, including a carry-on suitcase and bag. I left the store feeling refreshed and satisfied with my purchase. What started as browsing on Instagram turned into visiting the store and making a purchase. Yet another example of an omnichannel option in action!

Omnichannel Options Are On the Rise

All in all, omnichannel is putting a spin on traditional shopping and giving consumers something to look forward to. Whether it’s through a personalized app, store navigation tool or expanded pickup options, omnichannel is only growing. I consider myself lucky to live in a city that often gets a “first taste” of omnichannel options that later evolve. The latest and greatest is right in my backyard, so to speak. If my experiences at Nordstrom and Away are any indication, the future is bright for omnichannel retail.

retail technology news

Retail Technology News Roundup: Q1 2019

At Ketner Group, our year always starts off with a deep dive into the latest retail technology trends at NRF. However, after a three-day frenzy of innovation and announcements, the retail technology news doesn’t stop – it hits the ground running. While it may be hard to keep up with every piece of news, we’ve done our due diligence of tracking the important retail technology news in Q1. Check out the following highlights for the latest and greatest in all things retail.

Amazon Continues To Make Headlines

It’s hard to imagine a quarterly roundup where Amazon isn’t included. However, the company definitely made waves in several different areas in Q1. The first was when they backed out of their plans for a New York City campus. After their announcement, the community and a number of politicians made it clear that they opposed the retail giant’s presence. Surprisingly, the negative attention worked, and the company reversed its decision.

Also in Q1, reports showed that Amazon’s online grocery sales growth had slowed in 2018. Given their struggle with Amazon Fresh and Prime Pantry, it makes sense that their continued focus is on expanding Amazon Go stores. It will be interesting to see if Amazon leaves fresh management to the more veteran grocers and continues to focus on other products. According to Retail Dive, the company has “gained traction as a destination for plenty of products brick-and-mortar stores are known to stock.”

Surprising Statistics

The exciting part about following retail technology trends is that every now and again, new statistics or studies come out that conflict with what we may have thought about shopper behavior. For example, eMarketer forecasted that more than half of U.S. households will have Amazon Prime this year, in part due to their expanded offerings of product categories. Despite this projection, shoppers spent twice as much in physical stores than at Amazon during the 2018 holiday season.

These findings are interesting to explore, especially with an overwhelming number of “retail apocalypse” stories in the news. Perhaps consumers prefer eCommerce for routine purchases, but physical stores when shopping for one-off items. What’s more, the growing number of convenient click and collect options may be another factor, as well. This also helps retailers increase foot traffic as these shoppers often end up making another purchase once in the store. Not to mention the ability to be able to touch and feel products is still very important to consumers.

Brick And Mortar Or eCommerce?

This might explain why digital native brands continued to move into the brick-and-mortar space in Q1, including Wayfair. Webrooming and showrooming have only increased in popularity as consumers continue to research products before making a purchase. Conversely, Instagram announced a new checkout feature where users can buy a product without having to leave the app. This new feature offers an even more convenient path to purchase, as a Facebook survey found 87% of people have taken action after seeing product information on Instagram. This has the potential to make a great impact, especially as many influencers continue to use the app.

Ever-Changing Retail Technology News

The speed and unpredictability behind the retail technology industry is exactly why we like it! While certain patterns may emerge, keeping tabs on industry pioneers and leaders is essential to one’s own success. If you’d like to chat about the latest industry trends, feel free to reach out to us at [email protected]!

NYC Retail

NYC Retail Hits and Misses

Greetings from America’s shopping capitol! Okay, no one actually calls it that but maybe they should. As a reminder, I recently moved to NYC and while Ketner Group always lived and breathed retail, I’m now drowning in all things retail on a daily basis. As a consumer, wherever I go, whatever I do, I’m surrounded; I can’t escape the world of retail!

My ever-growing list of NYC retail experiences has been full of ups and downs. With that in mind, consider this Edition 1, Volume 1 of a little series I call, “NYC Retail Hits and Misses.”

Hit: Happy Returns

Pretty soon after I moved, I realized I needed another sturdy pair of work flats. I’d been toying with the idea of investing in a pair of Rothy’s for a solid year. After a friend posted a review and discount code, I sucked it up and made the investment. One problem. I wasn’t sure what size to buy. I range anywhere between a women’s 8.5 and 10 depending on the brand and style. After some back and forth, I settled on a size 9. I was wrong. I loved the shoes but sadly, they were too small. Given that Rothy’s doesn’t have an NYC store, I expected the exchange process to be a hassle.

Enter Happy Returns. Despite my daily consumption of retail news, Happy Returns was not on my radar (as I was writing this blog, PayPal Ventures announced an $11 million investment in the company). Happy Returns enables “‘buy online, return to store’ for retailers without stores.” Using Happy Returns, the exchange process was, well, happy. I simply walked a few blocks to the nearest Happy Returns partner location, Paper Source. My exchange was processed by a store associate and I was on my way, but not before picking up a birthday card.

The beauty of Happy Returns is three-fold, benefitting the customer, retailer and location partner. Happy Returns processed the exchange instantly and Rothy’s didn’t wait to receive the return before shipping the larger size. Meaning I ended up with my news shoes faster than with a traditional online return. Happy Customer. The ease of the experience (not to mention the actual shoes) means that I will be a return customer. Happy Retailer. And I didn’t leave empty handed; I made a purchase at Paper Source. Happy Location Partner. All around, Happy Returns!

Miss: Whole Foods and Amazon Prime Now

As I mentioned in my Q&A, grocery shopping has been a bit of an adjustment. Since I moved into my own apartment and my pup Mackey has joined me in the city, I find my time even more limited. With this in mind, I gave in and decided to try Whole Foods “Two-Hour Delivery” through Amazon Prime Now. As Greg mentioned in a previous blog, the free two-hour delivery promotion is kind of a joke. It’s a two-hour delivery window, not delivery within two hours. Nonetheless, I ordered my groceries on a Saturday and scheduled a delivery for the following evening when I knew I’d be home.

The following afternoon around 5 p.m., I was notified that a shopper was picking my order and selected a few replacement items. My order was picked and placed in the cooler to await drive pickup. Next thing I know, it’s 8:30 p.m. on Sunday evening, 30 minutes after my scheduled delivery window and no groceries. My groceries were still sitting at a Whole Foods in…wait for it…YONKERS!

Now if you know anything about geography and getting in and out of NYC, you’re probably, like me, thinking, “That’s BONKERS!” Well after 45 minutes on the phone with Prime Now customer service, I was left with “this seems to happen a lot in NYC” (well, duh, you’re trying to get someone to deliver groceries an hour away for a minimal tip), a $30 credit in my Amazon account and no groceries.

NYC retail FAIL.

More NYC Retail Hits and Misses to Come

With almost four months of living in NYC under my belt, I have a few additional NYC retail tales stored up to tell and many more to come. Stay tuned for the next edition of NYC Retail Hits and Misses to learn more about what the retail industry is getting right and where there’s room for improvement.

Consider the Cost: Why Free Shipping Is a Shared Expense

Free shipping is basically expected nowadays. When shopping online, you may be caught off guard if you see a shipping charge added at checkout. At that point, you have a couple of options: decide if the product is worth paying $5-10 extra to have shipped; search online at another retailer who does offer free shipping; or, take advantage of in-store pickup if there’s inventory near you.

Free shipping is an incredibly powerful tool to motivate a purchase, but it isn’t really all that ‘free’ – it’s just a matter of who covers the cost. And in a cultural climate more concerned with protecting the environment, retailers and shoppers aren’t the only ones sharing the burden.

The Sliding Scale of Free Shipping

I mentioned the motivating power of free shipping and the role it plays in the buying journey. If I know a retailer offers it, I’m more likely to spend my money there, and that translates to my increasing loyalty. The way I see it, free shipping is a bit of a sliding scale, where the retailer or the shopper covers a smaller or larger portion of shipping expenses, depending on the scenario. The company may eat the cost at one time to win consumer affinity, but through devoted shopping dollars, the consumer helps to lessen the blow.

What immediately comes to mind as an example is my identity as a Target REDcard holder. I don’t have to pay for unlimited, free two-day shipping, as one does with the membership cost for Amazon Prime, but Target sure does get a chunk of my budget each month. Big picture: I see it as a great deal. The retailer is rewarded with my loyalty, and in the end, we’re both pretty pleased.

Because of my work with Ketner Group client OrderDynamics, I watch the industry closely for trends related to order fulfillment and shipping. Our friends at OrderDynamics put out a study this year called Omni-2000, in which they found that 75.7% of retailers with an eCommerce site provide free shipping with a minimum purchase. In cases like this, the retailer foots the bill to deliver your goods. However, the cost to you as a consumer is often spending more than you intended. And because you’re increasing the size of your order, the added sale helps to reduce the hit the retailer will take for covering shipping costs.

It all costs someone something – it’s just a matter of how you look at it.

A Greener Future for Free-Shipping Shopping Habits

Financial costs aside, retail fulfillment has become increasingly complex, and the associated logistics have ramifications for the environment as well. Turning orders around more quickly means more trucks are on the road. In the name of timely and convenient delivery, those trips aren’t optimized to fit the most boxes in one vehicle at a time. Plus, there’s the additional waste associated with cardboard boxes and packing materials.

With Earth Day right around the corner, this is an interesting conversation to have in the industry. I found this short five-minute video extremely insightful, discussing the environmental cost of two-day shipping, if you’re interested!

I believe because of present discussions around global warming and carbon emissions, we’ll start to see retailers become more vocal about their proactivity to reduce their global impact, while still coming through on omnichannel convenience. And if it’s an important issue in the heart of its customers, retailers ought to gain even more loyalty in the process.

I’m also curious to watch for the emergence of other fulfillment channels as retailers work on efficiencies, cost savings and waste reduction efforts. Will there be wider availability of BOPIS, BORIS and ROPIS offerings, perhaps? Incentives besides free shipping to nudge conscious consumers to select a “greener” option? Driverless cars and drones? We’ll have to wait and see.

All Is Fair in Love and Retail

Valentine’s Day is upon us and love is in the air at Ketner Group. Some of us will be watching romantic comedies (such as Crazy Stupid Love – objectively the greatest rom-com of all time). Some will be enjoying a nice dinner (now that KG has a New York office, perhaps Adrienne will enjoy a beautiful candle-lit dinner at my favorite dining establishment – White Castle). And others will be finding their own ways to celebrate (or not).

Regardless of our plans on Feb. 14, one thing will remain consistent for all of us here at Ketner Group: our love for retail. So, what can we expect this Valentine’s Day from our one true love?

NRF Projects Fewer Lovers but More Dollars

According to NRF, not everyone in the U.S. is feeling the love. Only 51% of Americans plan to celebrate the holiday, down from 55% last year and well below 2007’s high of 63%. It’s not all gloom for retail though. According to NRF’s release, “it is unclear why the number of consumers celebrating has trended downward over the past 12 years, but spending, while varying with the economy, has generally trended up.” In fact, the data shows that respondents plan to spend $161.96 on average. That’s a 13% increase from last year’s $143.56 and tops the previous record of $146.84 set in 2016. Total spending is expected to reach $20.7 billion, a 6% increase over last year’s $19.6 billion. This breaks the previous record of $19.7 billion, set in 2016.

What about those who aren’t celebrating? More than a third of those under the age of 35 who say they are not “celebrating” still have plans to spend money on themselves or spend time with other single friends. This might include buying a little something for themselves, going out to dinner, or splurging to celebrate Galentine’s Day right (What’s Galentine’s Day?).

If you’re without a Valentine this year, at least take comfort in knowing an important group will be pampered. According to the NRF data, a quarter of celebrants under the age of 35 plan to purchase Valentine’s Day gifts for their pets. And can you blame them? Dogs deserve it (cats, I’m not sure).

Looking Forward

When Valentine’s Day is over and the roses wilt, so too will the love for retail? Between this year’s government shutdown, tariffs and worries of an economic slowdown, some are concerned about the state of the industry throughout 2019. However, according to NRF, the “state of the economy is sound.” The organization estimates that retail sales this year will increase between 3.8% and 4.4%.

This growth would result in total 2019 retail sales of between $3.82 trillion and $3.84 trillion. Based on last year’s 10-12% online sales growth, e-commerce sales this year could reach between $751.1 billion and $764.8 billion. Fortunately, the success should continue, even if the candy hearts won’t.

This Valentine’s Day, the Ketner Group team will be thankful for the undying love that retail provides us with all year long. Will retail be as kind and tender to others during the rest of 2019? The numbers look promising, but as we all know, all is fair in love and retail.