PRSA ICON 2018: It’s All About Relevant and Data-Driven Content

Last week, the Ketner Group team attended the PRSA 2018 International Conference, better known to the public relations community as PRSA ICON, in our own backyard here in Austin, Texas. If you are not familiar with the conference, it’s designed specifically to help the communications community enhance our personal and professional network through career development and connecting with other PR practitioners.

Needless to say, the KG team definitely networked, and we DEFINITELY returned to the office with new ideas and methods for bettering our professional craft. We heard inspiring keynotes from Do Something’s CEO Aria Finger and digital marketing pioneer Ann Handley. The PRSA ICON breakout sessions we attended were all about perfecting your messages in clear yet relevant ways, and also explored new sectors of the communications industry. Here are just a few tidbits of the best practices we learned at PRSA ICON this year:

Lesson One: Communicating should ALWAYS be about your audience

Although as communication professionals we may think we are clearly delivering our messages, that may not always be the case. As we learned at the conference, we currently live in the age where content is king, but that can lead to a vicious cycle of “churning and burning” an immense amount of content, losing sight of one key component: your target audience. For example, think of a scenario where someone is just talking at you, instead of trying to understand what experiences or topics may be relevant to you based on your experiences and former knowledge – chances are, mid-lecture your mind will start drifting away to more relevant thoughts.

Therefore, your audience should always be at the forefront of the message. Key questions like ‘what is my audience’s point of reference?’ and ‘why would this be relevant to them?’ and ‘what does my audience need?’ should always lead your messaging strategy. After all, if you lose your audience, who is going to read your content?

Lesson Two: We are all, or should strive to be, data analysts

We live in a digital age where every search and click is tracked. And while we in the PR world are notorious for disliking math and preferring words over figures, it’s time to join the data revolution. At PRSA ICON, we discussed the need for PR professionals to dive into the world of data to create an even bigger need and sense of interest for each and every story, while continuing to make our pitches and strategies not only timely but also informed and relevant. As IBM’s Brandi Boatner explained during her workshop, while the world of data is intimidating, the key here is to start one step at a time. She recommended starting with Google Trends and then identifying data sets that are relevant to your communications strategy. As Boatner explained, when you dive into the world of data, you should not try to analyze a large amount of data all at once, as both you and your audience will be overwhelmed: “A good storyteller masters things that are unseen and with AI and data analytics, you can create a communications strategy that quickly identifies and gets ahead of trends.”

Lesson Three: Social media influencers are now a staple in public relations

As industry conversations continue to heat up on the effectiveness of social media influencers, the fact is, social influencers are now and will continue to be a staple in the world of communications. (Ketner Group recently profiled one such influencer in a recent blog!) What’s more, social media influencers can help companies effectively grow organic audiences and customers they would not have had before. As we learned at PRSA ICON, leveraging social media influencers for your communication efforts is a matter of conducting diligent research to identify the right influencers that will create a new level of authentic communication between you and your target audience.

As Dr. Seuss once wrote, “The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” And in public relations and communications as a whole, there is something new to learn every day! We look forward to implementing the lessons learned at this year’s conference into our communications craft as we continue to be life-long learners in this industry.

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.

This Year’s FIFA World Cup MVP is…. Technology

As the summer heat continues to roll in, it’s the time of year that the majority of us run for the nearest pool or beach as the temperatures rise and schools let out, and the expected “out of office” messages begin to appear in your inbox on a daily basis. However, this year, the “OOO” messages may also be appearing for an additional reason, the FIFA World Cup.

It’s that magical event that occurs every four years and brings a whopping 3.4B people around the world together to tune in and root for their favorite country. And while some of the players’ faces may be familiar from four years ago, as well as the all-too familiar brands including McDonalds, Coca-Cola, Visa and Budweiser, there are also new off-the-field players making their way onto the scene.

For example, if you’ve been tuning in to the matches this first round, you may have noticed Chinese brands, such as Hisense and Vivo making their presence strongly known on the sparkling World Cup advertising banners around the field. However, the biggest player of them all making its presence strongly known at the World Cup this year is, you guessed it…technology. And this year’s technology MVP comes in the shape of a Virtual Assistant Referee or VAR.

Virtual Assistant Referee

For the very first time at a FIFA World Cup, the referees are benefiting from the use of VAR to get an eyes-from-the-sky POV. Through this technology, referees are able to track and gather data on all plays in the field in real-time. This data is then automatically transmitted to an assistant referee who is away from the field. During calls such as penalties, goals and deflections, referees are able to call on the assistant referees to get a more in-depth look at the call. While VAR is doing a great amount of good, this technology is already causing some controversy with World Cup fans, as several blame the VAR system for awarding a penalty to the French team during the Australian and France face-off, consequently leading to France beating Australia.

There is a phrase that states “no publicity is bad publicity,” and while VAR may be having its moment of fame (or controversy) on the World Cup stage, one thing is for certain, referees, teams and World Cup organizers are gathering real-time data like never before. In the spirit of progression and pushing the sport to its limit, I believe that this technology will be a key player in helping the sport advance, and I for one, can’t wait for 2026 when the World Cup makes a pit stop in North America.

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!

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!

From Monster Mash to Holiday Dash

If you’re like us at the Ketner Group, you were probably on edge throughout the entire month of October, constantly looking over your shoulder for frights, fears, ghouls, etc. The good news is that Halloween is now over, so we can relax and enjoy our trick-or-treating spoils, including candy corn, candy apples and nickels from the elderly woman around the corner.

Yet, as the spookiest time of the year ends, the retail industry is approaching the scary unknown: the holiday season. The biggest shopping time of the year says a lot about the health of the industry. How is the holiday season shaping up? And what can this year’s Halloween spending tell us about what to expect for the holidays?

Halloween Spending

Starting with perhaps the most important aspect of Halloween, HIS Markit forecasted candy sales to rise 4.1% from last year, reaching a impressive $4.1 billion. Additionally, NRF’s annual Halloween survey expected total spending on Halloween this year to reach $9.1 billion during the same time period, up from $8.4 billion last year.

This is promising news – if consumers are spending more on Halloween, then we can expect increased spending during the holiday season. In fact, NRF expects holiday retail sales to increase by up to 4% in 2017, totaling $682 billion, compared to $655.8 billion last year.

What to Expect from Consumers

After all the tricks and treats, consumers are now gearing up for the holidays in a big way. The NPD Group found that shoppers will start their shopping early this year. In fact, it will potentially be the first time that more U.S. consumers start shopping in the middle of the season (around Thanksgiving weekend and Cyber Monday) than later (early December).

In terms of shopping destinations, 2017 could also be the first time that Americans spend more money online than in-store, according to Deloitte. Meanwhile, a study by IFTTT states that about 57% of shoppers will do the majority of their holiday spending at a mass retailer like Walmart or Amazon. Overall, it’s clear that customers will be shopping in droves through both online and offline channels.

How Retailers are Preparing

Big brands like Walmart and Amazon are already announcing their holiday sales (and even in-store parties) which means it’s officially time for retailers to prepare for the holidays. We’re seeing plenty of stores hire seasonal employees– an expected every year. However, are retailers investing in new technology to prepare for the mass influx of customers?

According to a survey conducted by Brightpearl, about 58% of retailer and wholesaler decision makers currently invest in technology to manage sales spikes. 35% of those surveyed are ‘very likely’ to adopt a new solution to help effectively streamline back-office and inventory processes. While these are promising strides, Brightpearl also estimates that poor technology decisions leading into the holidays could cost retailers more than $300,000 in lost profit. Brands need to be prepared with adequate technology that won’t fail during the holiday rush.

It appears that this holiday season could be a cheerful one for the retail industry. As such, it’s essential that brands are prepared to meet customer demands with efficient technology to stay ahead of the competition. Without doing so, the real frights will come in the form of lost customers and profits – a reality that is far spookier than any Halloween lore.

*Disclaimer: I don’t actually like candy corn

The State of the Retail Workforce

It seems like clockwork that every few months, weeks or even days we see people panicking about robots taking over the world. Being one of the eye-grabbing headlines out there, many publications are very willing to suggest that entire industries will be destroyed by technology (or maybe millennials). This fear of change, along with talk of the so-called “Retail Apocalypse” (which was appropriately debunked on our blog last month), has left some questioning the future of the retail worker.

However, there’s no need for associates to worry. The truth is that there’s still plenty of opportunity for them to thrive in today’s landscape—as long as retailers are investing in them.

Is eCommerce Making Associates Irrelevant?

As eCommerce continues to grow and evolve, many facets of retail are being disrupted every day. However, research shows that consumers still value in-store shopping and the presence of retail employees.

According to ChargeItSpot, 63% of consumers believe that store associates are “extremely important” when they shop, with an additional 29% calling associates “somewhat important” to the experience. Meanwhile, Shopify suggests that 78% of consumers prefer to shop in-store. Their research also states that consumers tend to spend more time shopping in-store than on a retail website and spend significantly more money in-person.

The industry isn’t shrinking either. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of retail sales workers is projected to grow 7% by 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

It’s clear that not every consumer prefers to shop online. While it’s true that shoppers demand an easy and frictionless shopping experience, sometimes forcing them to Amazon, there’s still opportunity for in-store associates to thrive – especially if they can enhance the shopping experience for customers.

Investing in the Workforce

With the demand for in-store associates still present, a large share of the responsibility falls on retailers to give associates the necessary tools to succeed. Yet, according to research from Cisco, just 6% of retailers’ investment priorities are focused on improving employee productivity. Fortunately, stores are realizing that this needs to change.

An investment in technology can arm workers with the resources necessary to truly offer the customer-centric experience that’s necessary to excel in retail today. Also, with successes, workers will be far more likely to stay with their employer— an important benefit considering the traditionally high turnover within the industry. In fact, a recent Salesfloor study found that 72% of hourly retail associates are more likely to stay with a retailer if they have the right technology and resources, and two-thirds said access to digital tools and technology is a must-have at a future retailer.

It’s easy to think that robots, AI and Amazon will steal the roles of the retail associates in the world. However, this simply isn’t true. With strategic investments in employees and technology, stores can assure that associates are as productive as possible, customers receive the stellar service they expect and the in-store shopping experience remains key to commerce.

KG’s Top 10 Favorite Newsletters

The retail industry is rapidly changing every day, and sometimes, it can be hard to keep up. That’s why our team stays up-to-date by subscribing to newsletters that will alert us on breaking Amazon news, inform us of a good responsive pitch opportunity, or give us insight on an interesting new study. Here are our top 10 favorite newsletters to help us stay in-the-know with all things retail and technology:

Industry Dive
“Broken out by vertical – Retail and Supply Chain Dive are my top picks – Industry Dive newsletters offer a combination of breaking news and industry insight I find incredibly useful to my day-to-day work and my overall understanding of the industry. Even the format of the articles, which each include a few summary bullets at the top, makes scanning the news for relevant content simple and convenient.” –Aidan Griffin

L2 Research’s “Winners and Losers” Series
“L2 Research’s weekly ‘Winners and Losers’ video, featuring the hilarious and brilliant Scott Galloway, is a fantastic recap of the brands that are thriving (or not) in the digital age. It really is the best of both worlds for me! I get a data-driven, sometimes provocative, overview of the best and worst performing brands, AND, Professor Galloway always makes me giggle with his crazy, end of video antics. It’s a must-see!” – Catherine Seeds

RetailWire
“RetailWire’s daily newsletter includes three discussion topics that offer great insights into what industry thought leaders consider to be hot topics and it’s a great opportunity for our clients to participate in those ongoing trend discussions. RetailWire’s round up of top headlines is also provides quick reference guide for the biggest industry news of the day.” – Adrienne Newcomb

RIS News
“I’ve turned to this for a long time as another good weekly summary of top news items. It often includes some information gleaned from earnings calls, and it has interesting info on retail technology deployments.” – Jeff Ketner

eMarketer Retail
“This is a newsletter I only just signed up for recently, but have already found to be a valuable resource for data-driven trends. No matter what sort of story or content piece I’m working on for a client, it seems like eMarketer Retail always delivers a relevant data point, consumer study, or industry survey that I can reference.” – Aidan Griffin

IHL Group
“IHL publishes an “Eye on Retail Top 10 News Items” every Saturday, and it’s a succinct summary of the week’s top retail news stories from numerous sources. What I like about it: It comes out on Saturday morning, when I don’t get many emails and my inbox isn’t overflowing – and it nearly always has something useful to me.” – Jeff Ketner

RSR’s Retail Paradox Weekly
“As the tagline says, it’s ‘The Candid Voice in Retail Technology.’ The analysts’ insights into industry trends and happenings are both frank and entertaining – I recently found myself laughing out loud at Paula’s ‘Fake News’ article and her attempt to edit a Wikipedia page.” – Adrienne Newcomb

Sourcing Journal
“Sourcing Journal provides a lot of information you can’t find anywhere else, with a good focus on sourcing and manufacturing. They always have up-to-date information on the industry’s challenges and opportunities and is a great resource for anything related to compliance, sustainability, global trade and more.” – Stacy Lan

Retail TouchPoints
“Retail TouchPoints has a great weekly newsletter that explores the biggest trends throughout retail. I especially enjoy their research studies and features that dive into how retailers are using technology to excel and improve their standing in the industry. Editor-in-Chief Debbie Hauss does a great job curating this content in a way that has me looking forward to it every Tuesday.” – Greg Earl

Fortune Data Sheet
“Fortune Data Sheet provides the latest breaking news across the tech industry, highlighting the top trends taking our world by storm. Combine this with the fact that it lands in my inbox at exactly 8 am. each day and you’ve got the perfect tool to stay up to date.” – Mariana Fischbach

As a PR and marketing agency, our team needs to be on top of news and trends to craft story ideas and pitching opportunities that work best for our clients. These newsletters, and much more, help us leverage the timeliest conversations happening in in this exciting and transforming landscape. Check them out yourself to stay informed on what’s trending in retail technology!