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.

retail technology news

Retail Technology News Roundup: Q1 2019

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

Amazon Continues To Make Headlines

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

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

Surprising Statistics

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

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

Brick And Mortar Or eCommerce?

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

Ever-Changing Retail Technology News

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

NYC Retail

NYC Retail Hits and Misses

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

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

Hit: Happy Returns

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

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

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

Miss: Whole Foods and Amazon Prime Now

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

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

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

NYC retail FAIL.

More NYC Retail Hits and Misses to Come

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

Influencer Insights: Mike Troy

As editor-in-chief of Retail Leader, Mike sets the editorial direction for the publication. He focuses on providing business intelligence to senior retail and consumer goods executives to help them become more effective leaders and drive growth within their organizations. Mike leverages extensive industry experience and first-hand experience to manage content for the publication.

KG: What do you think are the biggest changes (technology or otherwise) most impacting the retail industry? 

Mike Troy: At a high level, retailers are attempting to keep pace with shoppers’ rapidly shifting expectations. Trying to stay on top of constantly shifting customer behaviors driven by new technology is impacting retail in a big way.

KG: How do you most like to stay up to date on trends?

Mike Troy: The best way to stay up to date is to read anything you can get your hands on. Read through press releases, research reports, 10-Ks, S-1’s, conference call transcripts and stuff my colleagues at EnsembleIQ write.  It is also important to learn from peers in the industry. I actively attend key industry events and listen to the thought leaders who are inventing the future.

KG: Where do you see retail headed 10 years from now?

Mike Troy: I have no idea. I’m not as smart as I used to think I was because retail is changing so fast. With technology constantly changing, it’s hard to say where any industry is going to be 10 years from now. The next big thing could come along next week or next month and ruin what sounds like a good prediction today. Directionally speaking, there are some well-established trends in place, but anyone can predict those.

KG: You must get thousands of emails a day with pitches and ideas (including from us!). Which emails stick out to you the most and why?

Mike Troy: I wouldn’t say I receive thousands a day, but the ones that stand out tend to be personalized to my brand. I’m more likely to notice pitches that make it clear the sender understands my style of storytelling.

When you’re not writing or setting the editorial direction for Retail Leader, what can we find you doing? 

Mike Troy: I’m rehabbing a house that is taking way too long and costing way too much.

KG: What’s the best piece of personal or professional advice you’ve been given?

Mike Troy: Tell the truth.

Beat the Blues on Blue Monday

You may not have heard of “Blue Monday,” but you’ve definitely felt it. Declared the most depressing day of the year, the third Monday in January is right around the corner.

Introduced in 2005 by Sky Travel, the travel channel calculated a formula based on factors like weather, debt and motivational levels.

It makes sense. I hate to be the office Debbie Downer, but there are no more holiday parties to attend, the gym is crowded with people acting on their new year’s resolutions, and you’re on a healthy kick yourself when the thing you want most in the world is a slice of chocolate cake. Not to mention you haven’t seen the sun in a few weeks.

The only good thing to come out of the phrase “Blue Monday” is the song by New Order. But even their lyrics can be applied to this depressing day: “how does it feel, when your heart grows cold?”

While the formula has been ruled to have no scientific basis, a lot of us still feel the impact. Whether you call it “Blue Monday,” Seasonal Affective Disorder, or just the winter blues, we hit a seasonal slump in the dead middle of winter. Below are some practical tips on how to make the most out of your Monday.

Mental Escape

More than just a sales tactic, there’s some sound reasoning to the fact why “Blue Monday” was coined by a travel channel. Planning a vacation or a to-list for the weekend can distract from any mundane Monday. What’s more, planning and daydreaming can give you something to look forward to, and a goal to work toward. Books and music are also good channels for escapism, especially on a budget. Music streaming services have playlists dedicated to whatever mood you’re in, so why not switch over to a mood lifter?

Physical Escape

Bears were onto this whole act of hibernation. Even though going outside and getting to the gym sounds like the least ideal activity right now, getting your blood pumping can not only make you feel better physically, but it can improve your mental mood. Elle Woods was right when she said, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.” If you’re too stubborn to leave the house, use the internet to your advantage and pop on a quick exercise video.

If possible, get some sun. It’s hard during this time of year, but the health benefits are immense, and can lead to improved sleep and lower blood pressure. If you’re lucky like us here in Austin, Texas, the sunshine does peek through every now and again during this long winter. Take a fifteen-minute break, bundle up, and soak up that vitamin D. And if you’re lucky enough to have MLK Day off, maybe make a quick escape to sunnier, warmer climate for the long weekend.

Embrace It

Sometimes, it’s hard to take advice and put it into motion. At the very least, when you’re lying in bed hitting the snooze button, practice gratitude. Start with three small things you’re grateful for and remember your source of motivation, like family, learning or new experiences. It won’t make the floor any less cold, but should make getting out of bed a little bit easier.

Remember that while “Blue Monday” hits every year, it’s just one day and is temporary. The seasons will soon change again and your mood will shift. If you’re feeling down, reach out to those around you – chances are, they feel the same.

HEB Scan-and-Go Inside Look

An Inside Look at H-E-B’s Scan-and-Go

At Ketner Group, we keep close tabs on what retailers are doing to make the checkout experience as frictionless as possible, such as the expansion of Amazon Go stores and the launch of Macy’s and Target’s scan-and-go apps. So when I heard that H-E-B, our Texas-based local grocery store, was piloting a new scan-and-go app, I knew I had to go try the technology for myself and see what the hype was all about!

Technical Difficulties

When I arrived at H-E-B, I sat in the car to download the app, expecting to easily scan and go, as the technology implies. However, I wasn’t off to a great start. I tried registering and logging in, but I kept getting the same error message over and over again. Finally, I decided to go into the store and ask for help. The store associate didn’t know what was going on, saying that it must be a server issue. I ended up leaving the store, disappointed that I couldn’t try the app out that day.

This was not a good first impression. I learned how important it is for retailers to deliver a seamless app that is easy to download and set up. Or else, it’ll leave customers even more frustrated, going against everything the app was built for. Of course, technical difficulties happen from time to time. But when they do, stores should have trained associates in place to help shoppers who are encountering problems with the app and quickly fix any issues that may occur.

Convenient and Fast

A couple of weeks later, I was in Gruene, a small city in Texas, for a friend’s bachelorette party. Before we went on a hike, we decided to stop by the nearest H-E-B to pick up a few picnic supplies for lunch. Turns out, that store was also piloting the scan-and-go app. I opened up the app and voila, I logged in successfully!

We pick out a few items for the picnic, including apples, salads and sandwiches. I used the app to scan each item’s barcode. To my surprise, the scanner was super fast! I didn’t even need to hold the phone to the barcode steadily before it read the item. Since all the items we bought had barcodes, I was able to easily scan each product and put everything into the cart.

Feeling Like a VIP

Once we were ready to check out, I walked over to H-E-B’s dedicated station for scan-and-go kiosks. All I had to do was scan the barcode on my app and it printed a receipt for me. A store associate came over as I was walking away to verify my receipt and after that, I was able to quickly leave the store.

My friends were amazed that we could skip the checkout line, and it was definitely fun testing out a concept that I often read and write about myself. I’m excited to see this technology play out as more and more shoppers use scan-and-go as their primary checkout option. There’s definitely a few hiccups and challenges that retailers should be prepared for, but I think with the proper technology and training in place, scan-and-go will help remove the primary pain point for customers. Because like we always say, no one likes waiting in long checkout lines!

Ketner Group Seeking a Spring 2019 Intern

Ketner Group is currently seeking a driven, hard-working intern for the Spring 2019 semester to support our team, with the possibility of an extended offer as a summer intern. The paid internship begins in January 2019, offering a flexible schedule of 15-20 hours per week. Between collaborating with our energetic and creative team and gaining real-world agency experience supporting our B2B clients, the intern will have many opportunities for growth.

Qualifications:

  • Entering or currently in junior or senior year of undergraduate studies
  • Possess strong writing and communication skills
  • Willingness to work independently in a fast-paced environment
  • Organized and detail-oriented
  • Previous public relations and/or communications internship experience is required, preferably with an agency
  • Ability to learn quickly and adapt to our team’s work culture

Responsibilities will include:

  • Researching media and analysts
  • Editing and/or writing client press releases and marketing materials
  • Managing editorial opportunities
  • Compiling award and speaking calendar
  • Building media lists
  • Crafting blog content for clients and internal use
  • Developing social media posts for client and internal use
  • Participating in staff meetings
  • Assisting with other duties as assigned

Application instructions: 

Please send a resume and cover letter, along with writing samples, to Mariana Fischbach at [email protected]; no phone calls, please.

New Things Are All Around – Welcome to Ketner Group Communications

I always tell people it’s the little things that make me happy – a good hair day, catching all the green lights on the way home, or finding that lost $10 bill in my pocket. That’s why today, the official launch of our new and improved Ketner Group website, I am grinning ear to ear remembering all of the (several dozen) little things that happened during the journey of creating this latest version of KetnerGroup.com.

For starters, before the painstaking, yet satisfying process of developing the new website began – Jeff Ketner and I made the bold decision to change the name of the agency to Ketner Group Communications, leaving behind Ketner Group PR + Marketing. As an agency, we have grown in so many ways over the past few years, not only in our ranks, but also in expanding our scope of services to offer social media management and digital content marketing to clients. We felt that the word “communications” better described where we are now and where we are headed in the years to come. We think it fits us quite nicely, and we hope you like it!

So, a new name meant a new logo, with a new color palette, to go along with a new website! Enter our new and amazing friends from Mixtape Marketing (bless their hearts) who have hung in there with us since November 2017 and have been the best marketing and design partners we could ever ask for! No one ever said creating a new website was easy, but the Mixtape team made the nearly year-long process of getting this sucker off the ground a fun and enjoyable experience. Our hats off to them.

As part of the new Ketnergroup.com site, we wanted the content, design, tone and imagery to better reflect who we are as a group and our philosophy as an agency. As the homepage says, we are “obsessed with exceeding client expectations” and we love showcasing our can-do culture. It’s at the heart of who we are. We are a fun group of taco and latte-loving “strategists, writers, talkers, listeners, tweeters, readers, music nerds and goofballs” who love nothing more than to see our clients win big. We think that sentiment is perfectly reflected in the new website.

While we hoped to have launched the site sooner, we had a few worthwhile roadblocks come up this past year that needed our attention – like the six new clients we brought on in 2018, which led us to hire three new employees, bringing our current KG full-time employee count to 10. We were nominated as a finalist in “company culture” for the 2018 Greater Austin Business awards, and have been busy finalizing the details to open a New York office in 2019. Oh, and we bought new chairs for our conference room – they are so nice and comfy! Like I said, it’s the little things.

I suppose you can consider this blog the digital version of a “ribbon cutting” ceremony for the new Ketnergroup.com! To make it KG official though, we celebrated with some Torchy’s chips and queso, a big chocolate cake and champagne. It’s how we roll.

Welcome to Ketner Group Communications – our door is always open!

Four Things to Learn from Your First Year on the Job

It’s hard to believe that I graduated from college and entered the working world more than a year ago. Starting your first job is a major turning point in life and can quite honestly be daunting. As a new graduate, there are a lot of things you discover that they just don’t teach in textbooks and the classroom. So, I’ve decided to compile a few pieces of advice I’ve gleaned this past year to help new graduates who are starting their first full-time job.

Be Confident

As a new professional, it’s easy to feel insecure about your work and ideas. You left your “mama, I made it” moment as a senior in college and now you’re back at the bottom of the totem pole again.

When you start to doubt yourself, remember that you were hired for a reason. Your company believes that you have the right skills and experiences to contribute to the team. It’s so important to take what you’ve learned all these years and not be afraid to speak up and be confident in your abilities. You’ll be surprised what you can do!

Make Mistakes and Never Stop Learning

You may think that since you’re out of school, you won’t need to learn anymore. But really, you should never stop taking opportunities to cultivate your skills and be adaptable with the industry. This could mean reading articles, keeping up with news or acquiring new skills.

You may also feel like you have to do everything perfectly the first time around, but don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Believe me, I’ve made plenty of mistakes on the job! But what I’ve come to find is that the mistakes will make you better, and it’s up to you to take something away from those learning pains.

Get Involved

Look around and you’ll notice that there are some incredible people to look up to and learn from. Whether it be your boss, co-worker, or any other professional in your industry, there are people willing to guide and help you if you just ask! There are also professional organizations you can join with luncheons and networking events. For PR folks, I’ve found that PRSA is a great resource with plenty of ways to connect, volunteer and meet other professionals in your area.

Do What You Love and Have Fun Doing It

Most importantly, whether you like it or not, you will spend more time at work with your co-workers than anywhere else. Take time to find out what your interests are, both in and outside of work, and hone in on those opportunities. Find a workplace that’s ideal for you. If you enjoy what you do and take time to care for the people around you, going to work every day will be fun and enjoyable. Thankfully, my team at Ketner Group has made it easy to adjust and has given me opportunities to learn and grow both professionally and personally as I’ve made my transition with a fun, taco-loving team!

So, congratulations to all the new graduates out there and remember to take a moment to breathe and enjoy this new chapter of life. Oh, and bonus advice – start saving for retirement early. I hear your 70-year-old self will thank you later!