Austin’s Domain: Who Says Shopping Has to Be Boring?

I’ll start with a confession: I don’t really like shopping, which is a surprising admission for someone who’s worked with enough retail technology companies to populate a small mall. My idea of a great shopping trip is spending five minutes on my laptop, finding a reasonably good deal, ordering what I need online, and then calling it a day. I’m one of the millions of reasons why ecommerce sales continue to skyrocket, year after year. (And yes, my Amazon Prime account gets a hefty workout every week.)

Here’s my second confession, though: I love observing retail trends and the creative ways that retailers are reinventing themselves to get people off the couch and back into their stores. And what’s happening at the Domain, Austin’s premier shopping destination, is particularly intriguing to me. Retail is transforming at a dizzying rate, and the Domain is a microcosm of the changes in the industry.

For those of you who live outside Austin, the Domain is a thoughtful mix of retail stores, restaurants, hotels, apartments, offices – and a hugely popular Whole Foods – that’s known as Austin’s “second downtown.” It transformed 300 acres of formerly vacant Texas scrubland into a dog-friendly, family-friendly destination that’s fun to visit – even for a shopping curmudgeon like me.

I’ve had multiple occasions to visit the Domain in recent months, and each time I’ve come away convinced that it exemplifies some of the most positive trends in retail’s ongoing renaissance.

Clicks to bricks

Warby Parker, Away, UNTUCKit, Bonobos, b8ta and Casper are some of the hottest e-commerce brands around. They all have brick and mortar stores at the Domain, too, along with Amazon Books, as my fellow KGer Amanda noted in a blog earlier this year. Physical stores are playing an increasingly important role for online retailers, and some of the best can be found at the Domain. (Tip for Amazon power shoppers: take your returns to the Amazon Books location. They’re happy to take them, and they won’t mind if you purchase a book or two while you’re there.)

Turning shopping into an experience

“Experiential retail” is one of the biggest themes in retail right now, as evidenced by the 13.4 million search results on that term in Google. Retailers are focused on creating experiences you simply can’t get online – for example, sampling the coolest tech gear on the planet at b8ta or trying out a Casper mattress. But it’s not just about the experience at each individual retailer. A destination like the Domain makes the entire shopping trip an experience, with green spaces, a splash pad for kids, outdoor restaurants, an entertainment district that rivals Austin’s famed Sixth Street, and a compelling lineup of retailers, which brings up my final point.

Making it fun

People flock to the Domain because it’s fun: a great place to take your out-of-town friends who want to shop, eat dinner, let the kids run around, and experience something that’s uniquely Austin. There’s something for everyone, from luxury brands like Tiffany and Neiman Marcus to brands that are aimed squarely at the mainstream. The Domain is anything but boring; and as retail consultant Steve Dennis points out, it’s a bad time for retailers to be boring. The Domain has taken that mantra to heart.

I may not like to shop, but the Domain has won me over. And it reinforces why I love working with technology companies that are helping drive some of the changes in this fast-paced, fascinating industry.

In Defense of the Supermarket

It’s expected that by 2022, 20% of all grocery sales will come from online shoppers. And with 70% of consumers purchasing some of their groceries on the web, I’m definitely in the minority, having never ordered groceries online myself.

I’m not opposed to online shopping or curbside delivery. They’re great options for those with kids, those who have lost their patience dealing with always-full parking lots, or those without access to reliable transportation. We could all benefit from wider aisles and shorter checkout lines. Time is an important resource, and most of us feel like we don’t have enough of it.

Call me a traditionalist, but I like going to the grocery store. It makes more sense for me, whether I’m grabbing a few things or doing a week’s worth of pantry stocking. With brick-and-mortar, I can also avoid navigating the world of memberships and high delivery costs. While I make my shopping list in advance, the endless products I see as I browse the aisles can serve as meal inspiration. The unmissable “sale” stickers help, too. Also, like many others who shy away from online delivery, I like to pick out my own produce. Fifty-nine percent of complaints against online grocery services revolve around receiving undesirable or mishandled produce.

The art of the grocery store

While many grocery stores still have room for improvement, a massive amount of psychology and planning goes into getting consumers to spend more, from the store’s scent to the sugary cereals. Everything’s been thought out and tested by science, like the fact that supermarkets make it hard to find a clock or a window, so you lose track of time and keep shopping. We’re still debating what is the ideal soundtrack for grocery shopping, and if there’s an ideal genre we can all agree on.

Did you know that spraying water on produce serves only to make it look fresher? The most expensive items are at eye-level, and products geared toward children are placed lower. Dairy products are kept as far from the entrance as possible, so shoppers have to pass by more items on their way to essentials. Supermarkets have been so strategically planned to keep shoppers within their doors and spending more that it’s almost a shame not to be the subject of their mind games.

A changing industry

For those who haven’t stepped foot in a grocery store lately, it might be time for a visit. With the use of a mobile phone, it’s easier for shoppers to look up where items are, or receive promotional items as they walk down a specific aisle. In addition to location-based benefits, mobile devices have also helped with checkout, which has served as a major pain point for decades. A 2015 study found that 88% of consumers want retail checkout to be faster, and with self-scanning technology, it’s now becoming common to avoid the checkout process altogether. Hopefully, hands-free shopping carts will be the next mainstream innovation. Clunky carts with one rusty wheel are so 20th century.

I’m fiercely loyal to shopping at my grocery store (America’s third favorite), and it helps that they’re starting to address the pain points that made consumers turn to online shopping in the first place. But more than just addressing current issues, brick-and-mortar grocery stores should also offer their own unique in-store benefits, to ensure shoppers like me are visiting. It all goes back to how we all want our time to be spent efficiently, and grocery retailers should strive to ensure that brick-and-mortar shopping is worth it.

A New Mom’s Take on Amazon

Almost two weeks have passed since Amazon’s most successful Prime Day yet, and between then and now, you’ve likely seen a good deal (no pun intended) of recaps. The purpose of writing this blog is not to provide another analysis of the retail event, but rather to share my Amazon perspective as a new mom.

But before I jump in, here are some highlights from Prime Day:

  • A record-setting 100 million products were sold for an estimated $4.2 billion. (Chain Store Age)
  • Early website difficulties cost the retailer an estimated $72 million in potential sales. (Internet Retailer)
  • Retail Leader breaks down all the numbers you could ever hope to know about Amazon Prime Day here.
  • I enjoyed Retail Dive’s discussion on their podcast, “Conversational Commerce.” Have a listen: Amazon Prime Day cues up the holidays.

Our Amazon spending analysis 

Did you know you can download a report of your complete Amazon spending history? Caution: it may be eye-opening! I spotted the tip in an article and was curious to know just how much money we’ve spent over the years.

My husband and I jumped on the Prime bandwagon early in our marriage, lured by the free shipping. In 2015, we placed a mere 13 orders from Amazon – probably just breaking “even” if you compare the average cost of shipping against the annual membership price. By the next year, that number jumped to 76, as we used e-commerce more and more to fulfill our personal and household needs.

Drumroll please… in 2017, my husband and I spent more than $3,500 on Amazon. Seeing a dollar amount that included a comma was a bit shocking, but I felt more at ease when I evaluated the nature of these purchases: we weren’t just buying impulsively when we saw a good deal. The 124 orders made last year for the Reeds will tell you a lot about our stage of life. In addition to pantry staples, toiletries, and dog food, we also bought: everything to “complete” our Amazon baby registry; gifts for Christmas and birthdays; and a significant amount of diapers and wipes.

Another status check

We’re more than halfway through 2018, and the Reed family is on track to surpass the number of orders placed on Amazon last year – 79 so far! And I’ll tell you what – not much has changed.

  • After my maternity leave, I splurged for a robot vacuum cleaner to make keeping up with chores easier on this working mama.
  • As our daughter became more mobile, our shopping cart was full of baby gates to try and items to “baby proof” our home.
  • When we threw our daughter’s first birthday party last month, I turned to Amazon for everything from her outfit to balloons.
  • What’s that? My daughter needs a Disney-themed outfit for a dress-up day at daycare? Thanks, Amazon! And clothes for me too, please. I don’t have time to shop in-store, and Amazon returns are just so dang easy.

I would be lying if I said our Amazon purchasing habits aren’t instinctual. It’s a habit now – we have a need, and we turn to Amazon first. We even purchased Dash Buttons for laundry detergent and dog treats. Amazon deliveries grace our doorstep weekly. We ‘Prime Now’ – is that a verb? – groceries when we’re in a pinch. We’ve taken advantage of the expanded streaming benefits, most recently binging “Downton Abbey” on Prime Video. As our family grows, and the demands on our time do too, I can’t imagine our Amazon activity slowing down.

I’m in good company

After my deep dive into the spreadsheet of our spending, I was curious to know how my Amazon lifestyle compared to friends. So, I created a simple Survey Monkey questionnaire, shared the link via Facebook, and watched the responses roll in…

“I tend to purchase on Amazon out of convenience, even if an item is more expensive.”

“I set up Amazon subscriptions for things I want to or tend to forget about – toothbrushes, air vent filters… I know when they are delivered, it’s time for me to change them out.”

“I use Amazon even more now that they have same-day, one-day and Prime Now shipping speeds.”

“I buy as much as I can online to save myself from making trips to the store.” 

“Amazon makes my life easier!”

Other insights:

  • More than 50 friends participated, and all but two said that the price increase ($99/year to $119) would not affect their decision to renew their Prime Membership. Yes, it was a large jump, percentage-wise, but the pros of “being Prime” still outweighed the cons.
  • The amount of money my friends spent in 2017 varied greatly, ranging from $400 to as much as $8,000.
  • Most friends were on-track in 2018 to spend the same as they did last year or more.

As much as I love a good bargain… 

You may be thinking, “So Amanda, what did you buy on Prime Day?” And the answer, my friends? Coincidentally, not a thing. I love Amazon as much as my friends do, apparently, but I’m more excited about the day-to-day convenience and experience than I am about a 36-hour promotional event.

Retail Pop-Ups are Popping Off

Pop-ups are everywhere these days. What once started as an occasional, opportunistic trend has blown up to become an extremely POPular (nice one, Greg) industry worth billions of dollars that seemingly every brand and celebrity wants a piece of.

Just within the past few weeks, some interesting pop-ups have been announced:

  • Abercrombie & Fitchhas partnered with SBE Entertainment Group, a lifestyle hospitality company, for a series of co-branded events and pop-up shops at select SBE properties over the upcoming months.
  • Nordstrom, as part of its [email protected] program, has teamed up with Casper Mattresses to launch its Sleep-In at Nordstrom collection until August 26th at select locations.
  • Sephora will host an interactive beauty “house” in Los Angeles that will bring technology, products, and industry experts together for two days in October.
  • Plenty of brands will be present in the Hamptons for another highly anticipated summer of retail pop-ups.

Who’s Popping Up?

While iterations of pop-up shops have existed throughout history, Target is credited with launching one of the first contemporary pop-up shops in 2002 when it designed a Christmas-themed store on a boat on New York’s East River. Since then, we’ve seen a litany of pop-up shops by high profile players – from general consumer brands like Adidas to luxury brands like Tiffany & Co, to celebrity brands, such as Kylie Jenner’s Kylie Cosmetics and Gwyneth Paltrow’s pseudo-medicine lifestyle brand, goop, and more.

The music industry has taken a special interest in pop-ups. One of the most effective is Kanye West, who since his Yeezus album, has launched pop-up merchandise shops coinciding with his album releases that have fans lining up for the exclusive products. The most recent were his #ProjectWyoming merch bonfires for his latest album, Ye, where fans gathered around bonfires, listened to the album and purchased merchandise. Other artists have followed suit, ranging from Rihanna to Kendrick Lamar to Justin Timberlake, whose most recent album spurred a “Man of the Woods” shop in New York with Levi’s and other brands.

The Key to Successful Pop-Ups

While pop-ups obviously sell merchandise and products, more importantly, they sell an experience. In an era where long-term retail space can be expensive, e-commerce grows stronger, and customers want to be entertained, pop-ups are the perfect way to offer a completely unique experience, anywhere.

A great way to reach people is to figure out where they congregate and go to them. Nordstrom, for example, launched pop-up pods at SXSW and other music festivals across the country in 2016 to offer their shopping experience to thousands of festival-goers. They undoubtedly did their research to make sure these attendees were their target audience, and reached thousands of relevant music-lovers who were probably in a (possibly alcohol-induced) spending mindset.

Whether it’s at a festival or on a street corner, brands are seeing the benefits in the unique and flexible experiences that pop-up shops offer. As physical retail becomes more digital, pop-up shops will undoubtedly become even more unique and prevalent. With the right approach, they will allow any brand to reach new customers, bring a sense of exclusivity, or just simply engage their core audience in a new and exciting way for years to come.

Not My Dad’s Grocery Store — But I Think He’d Approve

I have retail in my blood, so it may not be too surprising that I’ve spent much of my career focused on retail, grocery and CPG technology. Mom retired from the Sears credit department back when Sears was a healthy, viable company that was well-respected in the industry. Dad spent his career at the U.S. Postal Service but always had a part-time job in a grocery store or meat market for as long as I can remember.

They’d both be fascinated by the rapid changes in retail and grocery, especially Dad, who was intrigued by Jeff Bezos way back when Amazon was merely an online bookseller. So, with Father’s Day just around the corner, it seems only appropriate to focus on the huge changes in the grocery industry that Dad always had his foot in.

The Rise of Online Grocery

Here’s a sampling of some recent data points that underscore the magnitude of those changes:

  • Online grocery sales will reach 20% of total grocery retail by 2025, climbing to $100 billion in consumer sales, according to a study by the Food Marketing Institute, conducted by Nielsen. Amazon is the clear leader here, with 18% percent market share and $2 billion annually in online food and beverage sales. Dad would, no doubt, be surprised that the online bookseller, now the giant of online retail, is Disruptor #1 in today’s grocery industry.
  • The same report notes that 1 in 4 U.S. consumers are buying some of their groceries online, and more than 70 percent will participate in online grocery shopping within 10 years. Click and collect numbers are higher, according to Nielsen Homescan data, although frequency is low, which Nielsen believes makes sense, since it’s a new service.
  • Of those shoppers buying online, Coresight Research notes that 51% opted to pick up at the store through click and collect, while the rest chose to have their groceries delivered.
  • Online shopping isn’t just about small orders, either. Fung Global Research notes that online grocery will increasingly capture larger orders. (As I write, our office just received a “pantry loading” Instacart order with snacks, breakfast foods and more Amy’s frozen dinners than you can count, ensuring that KG’ers don’t go hungry.)
  • Brick-and-mortar grocery isn’t being left behind, either. Our client, Symphony RetailAI, pinpointed some of the trends that are reshaping traditional grocers in its Supermarket 2020 findings: displacing center-aisle items with prepared foods, where shoppers spend 3X-4X more than other areas; farmer’s markets in every store, featuring local produce; reducing the number of aisles in each store and focusing on highly curated items, with an endless aisle available online; and a higher proportion of private label goods.

Back to Basics

Would Dad recognize today’s fast-changing supermarket? I think he would – after all, these changes are all about offering shoppers an increasing array of choices for where, when and how they purchase groceries and other essentials. Ketner Group is fortunate to work with a number of clients that are helping shape the modern grocery industry, including Mercatus, GK Software, Symphony RetailAI, Displaydata and others. It’s one of the most fascinating, and fast-changing, segments in retail today.

In a sense, I believe that all the advancements in technology are helping bring grocery stores around full circle, to a day when grocers knew their local customers and catered to them. Who needed Instacart in the ‘60s? Several of my family’s local grocers in Wichita Falls offered home delivery to customers – you’d simply phone in your order, then pay your tab at the end of the month. Credit checks? No need for them; Kouri’s Grocery, for example, knew its best customers by name.

Today’s new grocery technologies are helping bring back an era of greater personal service. Of course, it’s impossible for regional grocers to know every customer by name. But online shopping, personalization and mobile apps help create a deeper level of customer knowledge, along with offers that can be fine-tuned to each shopper. These technologies are also helping regional grocery chains compete against the likes of Amazon and Walmart, helping ensure that they stay relevant. I think Dad would approve.

 

#RetailRoundup

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!

An Austinite’s Take on the New Amazon Books Store

I’m a big book nerd. When I was younger, I told my parents I wanted to be a librarian when I grew up. Nowadays on any given trip to Target, I’ll take a stroll through the book section and get scan-happy with the Goodreads app, adding to my growing “Want to Read” list. So, it should come as no surprise that on a recent date night out, I told my husband we couldn’t leave The Domain before checking out Austin’s new Amazon Books store.

The Austin location, which opened on March 6, is the first in Texas and 14th in the U.S. Amazon describes the Books store as “a physical extension of Amazon.com… integrating the benefits of offline and online shopping to help you find books and devices you’ll love.” Mariana Garavaglia, head of stores and retail operations for Amazon Books, calls it “a store without walls.”

The store was buzzing on a Friday night, but there were plenty of Amazon team members on hand to acclimate us to the shopping experience. Amazon has a unique yet simple in-store pricing approach: Amazon Prime members get the same price they’d get on Amazon.com. Others pay the list price. And while there are price scanners throughout the store, employees encouraged us to check-in through the provided QR code and use our phones to look up prices. As I explored the store and discovered new titles, I enjoyed being able to easily add titles to Amazon wish lists for future purchases – hey, even book nerds need to stick to a budget.

There are 3,800 different titles in stock at any given time, and on average, books have a rating of 4.3 or more stars – the placards beneath the books show you the rating and sometimes even an excerpt from a customer review. However, what I liked most is the thoughtful curation and layout of the store. Amazon’s team looks at reviews and ratings, e-book reading behaviors, sales and pre-order information to determine what books to carry and where to place them. Signage will tell you which titles are “Most Wished For,” which are “Page Turners” finished in three days or less on Kindle devices, and which titles “You’ll Love” “If You Liked” another particular read.

Another interesting approach is how most books in the store are displayed facing outward, rather than seeing shelf after shelf of book spines. The consequence of this is that it limits the available shelf space for inventory but is designed to make it easy to “discover titles you weren’t even looking for in the first place.”

In writing this blog, I thought I’d also check out local Yelp reviews to see what others thought of the new shopping experience. There were several five-star, glowing reviews, but here were some unique opinions I saw:

  • One parent was glad that, unlike some book retailers, there weren’t toys kept in stock alongside books. Her child wasn’t distracted or confused about what they were there to buy.
  • Some compared the book selection to that of an airport bookstore, saying they preferred the robust shopping experience across town at Barnes & Noble.
  • Many observed that Amazon Books doesn’t have space to linger and read – no coffee shop, tables and chairs or reading nooks. Probably exactly what Amazon intended, but a notable difference if that’s something you want to do as you explore.
  • Some outspoken Austinites were unimpressed, pledging their loyalty to local favorite Book People.

Lastly, I was curious to know if Amazon has seen an increase in Prime membership registrations as brick-and-mortar locations have opened. If I weren’t a Prime member and learned I could shop in-store and get a better price, I may want to sign up right then to take advantage of the discount. But alas, I couldn’t find any research online about this.

What about you? Have you visited an Amazon Books store, and were you a fan?

Happy reading, book lovers!

Retail Innovation Lounge Returns to Austin on March 10

As SXSW approaches, Austin is preparing to descend into ten days of madness brought on by the four main pillars of SXSW: Interactive, Film, Music and Traffic. Amongst the hundreds of sessions happening next week, a stand-out event in retail will take place on Saturday, March 10, as some of retail’s greatest minds and thought leaders converge at the 2018 Retail Innovation Lounge.

The event, taking place at Max’s Wine Dive in downtown Austin, will bring together leading retail and brand executives and technology innovators for a day of keynotes, panels and networking. Sponsors of this year’s Retail Innovation Lounge include: Strings, Hershey Innovation, goPuff, Softvision Digital Innovation, and IDL Worldwide.

What is the Retail Innovation Lounge? 

Retail Innovation Lounge in Dallas, TX (2016)

The Retail Innovation Lounge is a global, by-invite-only executive leadership series for retail innovators, brands, investors and operating professionals focused on the future of retail in a private, peer-based environment. It was founded by Anne Marie Stephen, the founder of kwolia, a strategic advisory for emerging technologies applied in retail connecting the physical and digital worlds.

Saturday’s event will bring out the best within the retail innovation ecosystem to pitch their ideas, solutions and products to leading industry investors, media outlets and partners.

What to Expect at the Lounge

The Retail Innovation Lounge will feature a meet and greet with B. Bonin Bough, the marketing executive behind global campaigns including the first ever 3D printed food product, a customizable, real-time printed Oreo at SXSW 2014, and a chat with Jay Samit, serial disruptor and best-selling author of “Disrupt You.” As well, we are excited to announce that Edward Balassanian, founder of our newest client Strings, will give a fireside chat with Anne Marie about the exciting changes he sees for the social media landscape.

Attendees will also get a sneak peek at a new VR experience from Hershey and goPuff in a unique immersive activation, as well as a Podcast Studio with Mouth Media Network and multiple live tech and solution demonstrations throughout the day. Session themes will cover blockchain, social media, cryptocurrency, storytelling and experience creation, innovation in enterprise and brand environments and more.

Retail Innovation Lounge will also be giving out swag, hosting exclusive experiences including book signings, an evening social mixer, a future of retail documentary taping, and more. Click here to see the full line-up of speakers and technology activations.

The Best and Brightest Minds in Retail

Featured speakers for the event include:

  • Bonin Bough – Host, CNBC Cleveland Hustles
  • Jay Samit – Best-selling author of “Disrupt You” and an Independent Vice Chair for Deloitte
  • Veronica McGregor – News and Social Media Manager, NASA Jet Propulsion Lab
  • Dennis McGrath – VP Innovation, Tryer Center, Starbucks

Additionally, industry disruptors from the following organizations will be on hand to share their expertise:

  • Kroger Innovation
  • Lowe’s Labs Innovation (former)
  • Lab1886 USA, Mercedes-Benz Corporate Incubator
  • Softvision Digital Innovation
  • Strings Media Inc.
  • The Hershey Company Insights and Retail Evolution
  • Moet Hennessy Innovation
  • Store No. 8 (Innovation Hub, Walmart)
  • Walmart Digital Acceleration
  • Plug and Play – Silicon Valley Accelerator
  • Treehouse (Eco-friendly home upgrade company)
  • Carnegie Mellon Entertainment and Tech Center
  • Mammoth Film Festival, Founders

Interested in Attending?

The invite-only event will take place at Max’s Wine Dive at 207 San Jacinto Blvd from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with happy hour from 5 to 7 p.m. If you’re interested in attending, RSVP here and use access code “KGRIL”.

Our team will be posting content to the String app, so be sure to follow along here on your mobile device for live coverage of the event and post your own moments while you join us. We hope to see you there!

Online Privacy: Opting Out is Not an Option

Sharing personal information often feels like today’s digital currency. By opting in and giving away details like an email or birthday, shoppers can receive a discount on a retailer’s website. The ability to tick a box leads shoppers to believe that they have a say if information can be gathered about them, but anyone with a mobile phone or internet connection really doesn’t have a choice. Information is being gathered, whether you opt in or not.

Thinking about online privacy can be overwhelming. It makes you wonder if there is even such a thing as privacy in today’s “information overload” age. Personally, I sympathize with Ron Swanson from the TV show Parks and Recreation in this clip. Despite how much we may know (or think we know) about online privacy, there are many different aspects. Where does online privacy fit in with retailers? Is gathering data worth it when 75% of consumers find marketing personalization creepy?

Essentially, retailers gather information to build a better view of their shoppers and improve the customer experience. If they can see the ways consumers engage with their stores and websites, they can better serve them. For example, loyalty programs often fill in data gaps, and downloading a retailer’s app can track a user’s location. For retailers, the more data the better. However, Forbes revealed that half of the data retailers collect is irrelevant simply because they don’t know what to do with it.

Retailers generally don’t have bad intentions with how they use consumer data, and likewise, many people aren’t bothered about information being gathered about them. It becomes an issue when companies are not transparent about when and how they are collecting information. Shoppers will be more likely to share information if they know what data is being collected, and that it’s used to help them be better served as a customer. As always, trust is the one thing that remains of utmost importance, in any industry.

Expectations of privacy are often associated with age. So who has more trust in online privacy? Gallup research found that only 44% of millennials believe their personal information is kept private with the companies they interact with. Every other generation is even more skeptical.

While overall faith in online privacy is low, it’s important to remember that retailers using cookies aren’t the bad guys. However, data security and the threat of hackers stealing information for illegal purposes is a real cause for concern. Just last year, an internet privacy law was overturned, and internet service providers can now sell browsing history to advertisers. So while people might believe they can stop seeing retargeted ads by “opting out” of having websites gather information about them, the truth is we have all opted in as soon as we signed on.  

A Look Ahead: 2018 Retail and Ad Tech Predictions

At Ketner Group, we live and breathe retail, grocery, consumer and ad tech day in and day out. It’s what we love to do, and, more importantly, why our clients hire us! It is literally our job to stay “in the know” on what the latest trends are in those industries and use those hooks to create media coverage-worthy storylines for each of our clients.

This year has certainly seen plenty of breaking news stories (shocker, mostly about Amazon), trends that didn’t and did surprise us (chatbots will rule the world and digital platforms need to step up their game when it comes to brand safety), and enough shopping data to last us a lifetime (thank you Retail Systems Research and IHL Group!). Oh, and don’t forget the so-called “Retail Apocalypse” that dominated headlines.

As we begin to close out 2017, we look ahead to what lies in store for 2018. The Ketner Group team will be heading the NRF Big Show next month to get a first-hand look at the latest and greatest technology solutions and store implementations of that tech. We will hopefully, start to pinpoint the answers to things like “What will Amazon and Walmart do next?” and “When will Sears just die already?!”

There are plenty of predictions on 2018 trends, but we wanted to showcase just a few retail and ad tech trends.

Three Trends in Retail
According to Christopher Walton, an independent consultant and former VP of Target Store of the Future:

  • Amazon will announce H2Q location, and America will be happy. “Bet on Bezos locating HQ2 somewhere between Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina and Atlanta (both are less than a day’s drive from Bentonville, AK) or within the Midwestern Triangle of Milwaukee, Minneapolis and Chicago”
  • Pop-up retail will be hot, but it won’t solve everything. “It will all make sense until the underlying business economics of retail change (i.e. until technology fuels more productivity gains and utilizes working capita differently). The same problem that plagues retail — namely traffic — will plague pop-up shops too. Bonobos was the first penguin in the water with their guideshop concept, and they had to bail out and sell to Walmart. The pop-up concept is not different enough. It is just another side of the same coin.”
  • The narrative will move from apocalypse to reformation. “Apocalypse is a silly word. It means complete destruction. People will always need to buy stuff.

Therefore, retail and physical stores will never go away. They will just look different.

The retail stores of the future are in front of us already. They will be one-part Amazon, one-part Starbucks, one-part Bonobos and one-part Ikea, shrouded in the customer-focused ethos of a casino.”

Three Trends in Ad Tech
According to Kevin O’Reilly, CTO of TVSquared and Ketner Group client:

  • “TV is Dead” will be put to rest in 2018. “Yes, TV is changing – people consume media differently, via different channels, devices and times. While the total amount of TV viewing time has dropped in the last few years, TV is not dead … not even close. We hope that 2018 will see the end of this fearmongering and bring along realistic, fact-based TV talk.”
  • Brand Safety Means Reinvesting in TV. “Until digital assumes the responsibility and cost of brand safety – providing advertisers with more control, visibility and the assurance that they are being positioned appropriately – expect to see more and more brands come back to or increase investments in TV.”
  • New KPIs for TV. “The way in which advertisers measure TV will change significantly next year. We’re not going as far as to say measuring TV via ratings is dead, but advertisers are realizing that they can’t just rely on reach and frequency metrics. They are antiquated ways to gauge TV success. While things such as GRP, CPM and ratings certainly have a role to play in brand awareness, they don’t tell advertisers how spots drove response in the real world. In 2018, advertisers will increasingly measure TV through brand-specific, performance-based KPIs.”

If you ask anyone at Ketner Group, 2018 is poised to be a great year. Not only for the industries we serve, but for our agency as well. Stay tuned for some exciting announcements from Ketner Group in the next few months!