Old time general store representing the basic retail model built on relationships

Coronavirus Puts the Focus Back on the Basics

Like nearly anyone offering a few words of reflection on the Coronavirus phenomenon, I’m far from an expert on the matter. I have tried for weeks to write this blog, and every two days the situation has changed so rapidly that I’ve had to essentially start over.

While I can’t offer any advice on how to assuage the public health, mental health, or economic threat this pandemic has affected, the process of learning, acknowledging, adapting and persevering that these few months have mandated from all of us is something I believe we should all take a moment to consider and to find great value in.

Like many, my first connection to Covid-19 was watching the virus take grip of China from the (physically) safe haven of Twitter, wondering along with everyone else whether what we were seeing was an authoritarian overreaction to assert political power or a global crisis exploding before our eyes.

When it burst through the border and put Italy under lockdown, I felt the emotional stress of being limited to FaceTime updates from my brother living 45 minutes from the country’s outbreak center with his wife and two kids – who as of this writing, we still understand to be healthy and safe.

When SXSW along with the City of Austin – where I live – canceled the event last minute, it felt like the most significant public acknowledgment that this crisis wasn’t just a blip on the radar or concern of only a foreign ‘other’.

Now, as we hunker down with our frozen pizzas, 1000-piece puzzles and the most organized junk drawers the world has ever seen, it’s provided the time to contextualize the moment and think about where we go from here and the lessons we should take with us.  

The benefit of being proactive

While I’m bummed that SXSW was canceled, it has proven to already be the right decision. The same goes for our clients who have had to cancel or postpone their customer events at their own expense.

Some things are just bigger than the bottom line, and I applaud the companies and executives being proactive about their broader long-term role in society even when they do so to their own short-term detriment. Their foresight and compassion had a massive effect on our ability to dampen the barrage.

It’s not always about being first to market with a new gadget or service. It’s not about being a fast follower. It’s not about taking credit as a pioneer in your field. The value comes from being quick to adapt and change to new conditions, for the betterment of all.

Flash vs substance

Having worked so closely with retail technology vendors for the past four years, it’s been very clear that most of the emphasis for building a modern retail business has been on customer engagement. When engaged, shoppers are likely to take desired actions.

We think about personalized marketing, same-day shipping, on-demand merchandise and endless aisle assortments. We talk about hyper-localization within a global economy and dynamic pricing in stores. It all sounds pretty wonderful, and it is.

But engagement doesn’t come from an innovation lab alone. It comes from personal understanding and connection to shoppers. For example, personalized marketing can only be done once you build real relationships with customers and learn enough about them to know what they want, when they want it.

If you can’t deliver on a shopper’s fundamental needs, all the work you’ve done to create new conveniences and ‘engagement’ is for naught.

Relationships and values are everything

What we’ve seen in recent weeks emphasizes this point. Families are paying more attention to grandparents than ever before. Businesses are finding ways to create more flexible, human-centric employee schedules. Dogs are getting more walks and parents are spending more playtime with their kids.

In times of crisis, we gravitate towards comfort and connection. We are drawn towards truth and fulfilling our fundamental needs. We realize more clearly what matters to us and what has been a distraction. And we see that much of our time and attention is dominated by clutter.

But who we are and what we mean to others is eternal.

When considering the future of business – all other considerations of financial management, product value, and bailouts aside – I’m sure that the companies who fare best and emerge from this with momentum will be those that have always emphasized building a brand and a culture of authenticity and responsibility, and actively cultivated customer and employee loyalty above all else.

Because when everything else gets called into question, our identity, our values – and what others know of them – are all you can rely on. It’s not only in times of stress that they matter, but it’s as good a time as any to realize the depth of their impact.

A most helpful Covid-19 legal resource:

Our client, national law firm Foley & Lardner, is offering a terrific library of support for companies navigating the complex legal ramifications of business disruption. If you’d like to get in touch with them, let us know!

Stack of newspapers that you will earn coverage in by following the advice in this blog.

How to Build a Great Retail Tech PR Program

Done right, a great retail tech PR program can have as strong an impact on a vendor’s success as their solutions have for the retailers they serve. As retailers look to innovate alongside Amazon and avoid being next years’ Sears, they’re turning to emergent technologies such as AI, machine learning, robotics, machine vision, and IoT.

But in an ecosystem full of marketing hype and hyperbole, retailers aren’t ready to trust an unknown commodity. In other words, they won’t just take your word for it. Innovation, without broad recognition, holds surprisingly little value. That’s where the influence you gain with a retail tech PR program comes in.

Retailers trust the media to be the gatekeepers of truth. Not just about the news stories, but trends and the impact and value of those trends.

Our clients at Ketner Group have been taking advantage of this to place themselves at the forefront of retail trend conversations for nearly three decades. By building close media relationships, they have earned coverage in publications ranging from The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, Bloomberg and Forbes, to influential retail, grocery and CPG trade media.

How can your company create the best retail tech PR program? Keep these four principles in mind to increase your market visibility and attract new customers, partners and investors.

1. Define your unique story.

Does your company have a promising new solution for retailers? That’s great, but how can you stand out to decision-makers from the hundreds of other technology companies that are vying for attention?

It begins by creating concise, easily understood messaging that answers fundamental questions:

  • Who is your audience?
  • What specific challenges do they face?
  • How does your solution answer those challenges?
  • What are the benefits?
  • What do your customers say about you?
  • Do you have data and performance metrics to back up your claims?

Answering these questions isn’t an easy exercise. But it’s fundamental to creating a unique brand story that differentiates your company from your competitors in the market.

2. Consider the broader context.

Every problem/solution must fit into a larger context in order to find market acceptance. If your PR program is focused only on you, you’ll never get the results you want.

For example, one of the biggest disruptions in grocery retailing is the rapid rise of e-commerce, especially from Amazon and Instacart; grocers are moving quickly to deploy their own e-commerce and delivery solutions in order to retain customers and protect market share. It’s a trend that one of our clients directly addresses.

Other clients have introduced technology for fully automated, cashierless stores; solutions to help companies navigate major supply chain disruptions; AI technology that can identify new opportunities for profit while helping retailers cut their losses.

All these are just a few of the market dynamics that are reshaping retail. And to be successful in retail technology PR, it’s imperative to frame the context for your solution and show how it addresses significant business trends.

3. Know what to say, when to say it and who to say it to.

The life of a typical editor or reporter isn’t easy. Typically, it’s marked by tight deadlines, heavy workloads and information overload. Our job as PR professionals, in partnership with our clients, is to make their jobs easier with newsworthy, timely and relevant information.

What do editors want?

For starters, editors always welcome unique, compelling data that are unavailable from anyone else. The data should add a fresh dimension to an ongoing story or reveal a new conversation the industry should consider.

Editors also appreciate commentary from thought leaders on fast-breaking industry trends, as this can support their story development with an expert perspective. If you can provide a customer that’s willing to speak, so much the better; nothing adds to a story like the real-world perspective of a retailer.

4. Create a well-rounded retail tech PR program.

Much of this blog has dealt with media relations, and it’s typically a primary focus when companies decide to hire a PR agency. However, earned media is only one facet of a well-rounded PR program. As Ketner Group president Catherine Seeds made clear in her recent blog about what to do after NRF, an effective PR program also includes:

  • Analyst relations
  • Social media
  • Digital marketing
  • Speaking engagements
  • Event participation

Together with all forms of original content—ranging from blogs to thought leadership articles, case studies, e-books, white papers and more—these are the fundamental elements of a comprehensive PR program for retail technology companies and other businesses as well.

Companies that create comprehensive programs like this, usually in partnership with a PR agency, will reap a number of benefits. Charles Dimov, VP Marketing at our client ContractPodAI, underscored this point in a blog on the connection between PR and lead generation.

At Dimov’s former company (also a Ketner Group client and retail technology company), he implemented a disciplined method of tracking qualified leads. The company traced a third of the company’s leads to PR—a result that can make a significant difference in the bottom line.

So can a robust PR program pay dividends? The answer is “yes,” and hopefully these tips can help point you in the right direction, whether you’re a retail technology company or other B2B business. Now go out and build a great PR program (and contact us if you need help along the way)!

Skeleton Excited for Halloween

Halloween Retail Is Expecting Another Graveyard Smash This Year

Do you feel that chill in the air? Have you felt uneasy, constantly looking over your shoulder feeling a presence that just might be outright supernatural? You’re not the only one – at Ketner Group, we too feel the increased paranormal retail activity that comes along with the spookiest day of the year. As such, allow me to relay some SCARY statistics with you around what to expect from Halloween retail this year.

Halloween Spending

Halloween is really a story of community. Running around the neighborhood trick or treating, attending parties and dressing up as our heroes brings us all closer together. It offers the world the opportunity to come together, rise up and declare in one strong voice: BOO!

According to the NRF’s annual Halloween survey, 172 million people plan to celebrate Halloween. “Among those celebrating, 69% plan to hand out candy, 49 percent plan to decorate their home or yard, 47% will dress in costume, 44% will carve a pumpkin, 32% will throw or attend a party, 29% will take their children trick-or-treating, 22% will visit a haunted house and 17% will dress their pets in costume.” (If you are reading this and have any pictures of pets in costumes please share to [email protected])

The Ketner Group Communications  team dressed up as our fearless leader, Jeff Ketner on Halloween 2018.
Ketner Group Communications dressed up as our fearless leader, Jeff Ketner on Halloween 2018.

Shoppers will spend around $86.27 for $8.8 billion in total spending, down slightly from last year’s $9 billion. This $8.8 billion projection will total the third-highest in the survey’s 15-year history (the record being $9.1 billion in 2017).  

Finding Costume Inspiration

Now we get to the hardest part of any Halloween: figuring out what to be. Online search is the top source for ideas (35% of consumers), followed by searching in-store (28%) and brainstorming with friends and family at 20%. Social media has grown to be an essential resource for many. This is especially unsurprising when you consider how celebrities have taken social media by storm with their intricate designs and high production value. Pinterest was cited by 18% of NRF respondents, a 13% increase since 2015; 14% mentioned both YouTube (up from 8%) and Instagram (increase from 7%).

Looking Ahead to Christmas

By November 1st we will have crossed over into a new month, a new holiday season. And as November gobble gobbles away your great fears, a new breed of terror awaits. While the weak-hearted lay in bed, counting their candy with a glimmering eye towards the dry, poorly cooked birds of tomorrow, our cauldron boils with something far sweeter: THE HOLIDAY SEASON.

According to a report from The International Council of Shopping Centers, holiday spending will increase 4.9% over last year, totaling $832.3 billion. The report also projects that 90% of holiday shoppers expect to make purchases in-store and 97% of them will buy goods online from retailers with physical stores.

Meanwhile, the upcoming holiday shopping season is expected to break records in online spending, according to a study by Adobe Analytics with holiday shoppers projected to spend $143.7B online. Amazon will, of course, continue to be a huge part of consumers’ shopping plans. A recent Episerver report states that 32% of online shoppers begin their holiday shopping on Amazon and 68% of online shoppers compare products on other retailers’ websites to products on Amazon. 

You might have thought last year was scary… but with Halloween 2019 upon us, retail frights (the friendly ghost kind) are in the air and we’re one step closer to the holiday retail season. Although the sweet sounds of the holidays are soon to be upon us… the terrors of All Hollow’s Eve still sends shivers down my spine. It’s Much Too Spooky for Me….

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]!