Grocery Fulfillment: A Curbside Chat with Greg and Jeff

OK, we’ll admit it — the KG team likes to eat. And we have several very cool clients in grocery technology. So it’s no wonder that we spend a lot of time talking about the fast-changing world of grocery fulfillment. And in this blog, we’re taking a slightly different approach as our own Greg Earl and Jeff Ketner have an online chat about one of our favorite topics.

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A More Convenient Way to Get Your Groceries

Jeff: It’s the perfect day to chat about grocery fulfillment.  As I write, the KG office is getting its monthly mega-delivery of frozen dinners, snacks, sandwich stuff and everything else it takes to feed our hungry crew, courtesy of HEB home delivery. Our team’s ready to descend on the kitchen like a plague of locusts. And at noon, I’ll swing by HEB to pick up a Curbside order to take home, since our fridge at home is just about empty. Speaking of HEB Curbside, Greg, you’re one of its most outspoken fans — your love of curbside is probably only slightly behind your love of Cabo Bob’s.

Greg: While Cabo Bob’s transcends my love for everything in this world, I love HEB Curbside. As the area around my local HEB keeps developing, the store becomes more of a mad house. Even finding parking isn’t worth it for me. Being able to avoid the chaos, swing by and grab all of my groceries is a godsend. However, I will say that they could do a better job at updating their real-time inventory. Nearly every time I shop, they substitute items. This isn’t a deal breaker but can throw a wrench in my cooking plans every now and then.

I haven’t personally tried HEB delivery yet, but today’s office order went incredibly smoothly. Plus it’s much cheaper than when we used Instacart, right?

Be Careful – Not All Grocery Delivery Services Are Equal

Jeff: Yep, our first HEB Curbside pickup order was WAY less expensive than our Instacart deliveries. So I’m glad to see that Instacart is lowering its prices. Hopefully they can up their level of service, too; I tried Instacart one time with Central Market, my favorite grocery store in Austin, and it can politely be described as a disaster. The delivery was late, the communication from the person picking our order was incomprehensible, and I had a lot of trouble using my $15 off coupon code, which was the only reason we tried Instacart in the first place. A recent delivery experience from Randall’s, a perennial also-ran in terms of Austin market share, was far superior. I’m not sure who they use for fulfillment, but it was a surprisingly good experience.

Speaking of surprises, I find it interesting that our office is split nearly 50-50 among those who use grocery fulfillment and those who don’t. What’s up with our team here?

Believe It or Not, In-Store Shopping Advocates Are Out There

Greg: That’s too bad about your Instacart experience. I guess it’s difficult for them to maintain quality across all of their employees throughout the country. Speaking of quality, I think that’s exactly why some folk around here are torn on letting other people pick their groceries — especially when it comes to produce, which is very fair. I’ve received a few fruits or veggies in the past that I wouldn’t have necessarily picked for myself.  

However, some of the luddites around here just enjoy going to the store for the sake of grocery shopping – ridiculous! I think I can understand where they’re coming from though. Sometimes it’s nice to be able to pick out exactly what you want, roam the aisles and grab something that you didn’t even realize you wanted (a dangerous approach sometimes when your cart ends up well beyond your budget). Plus, a trip to the store is very worth it if there are free samples throughout the aisles.

The team especially enjoys shopping in-store at the more experiential/unique grocers including Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Costco. When you consider the option to drink a beer while shopping at Whole Foods, it does sound much more enjoyable. As for Whole Foods/Amazon delivery, the only experience I’ve had was extremely disappointing. I tried to order some prosecco for the office because Amazon touted a free two-hour delivery promotion. However, this ‘free delivery’ required a minimum that we didn’t need to reach and the ‘two-hour delivery’ meant I could select a two hour window, not that the item would be delivered within two hours of ordering. Going to Twin Liquors down the road saved me a lot of money and time. I’m curious about placing an entire grocery order though.

Jeff: Interesting! You’d expect a better experience from Amazon based on how fast they’ve been rolling out Whole Foods delivery – maybe it’s more worth it for an entire order. There sure are a lot of options out there and I don’t think we can expect the industry to slow down any time soon. There are a lot of factors for grocers to consider — cost, product selection, inventory, customer service, etc. I think we both are looking forward to seeing these services get even stronger and more rewarding, right Greg?

Greg: That’s right, Jeff. Unlike some of the colleagues, I’d honestly love to never have to think about getting my own groceries. Maybe I should move back home…

In the meantime, I can just eat Cabo Bob’s for every meal.

Forget HQ2: This Is the Big News About Amazon and the Retail Industry

Amazon and its strategies are always at the forefront of my mind. Working with retail clients operating across all sectors, I’ve seen firsthand the impact Amazon has on a thriving retail scene. On Tuesday, Amazon announced its decision to split the company’s second headquarters between Northern Virginia and New York City. So, let’s take a look at what this really means for the retail industry.

Not a Bang, But a Whimper

In almost every way, it seems Amazon’s feverishly anticipated HQ2 announcement was anti-climactic. Few other companies have the resources to add 50,000 jobs over the next few years. But as is often the case with Amazon, the eCommerce giant is doing a host of other things retailers should focus on this holiday season.

For example, Amazon is on track to drive 80% of ecommerce growth this year. This will almost certainly account for more than half of all eCommerce sales during the holiday. That’s on the heels of Amazon’s Q3 sales of $56.6 billion, an increase of 29%.

Amazon’s first-ever toy catalog arrived in mailboxes last week, signaling Amazon’s intent to duke it out with Target and Walmart for toy supremacy following the demise of Toys “R” Us (did anyone really shop there the last few years?). Amazon is also offering free shipping for all holiday orders with no minimum purchase, even for non-Prime members.  Amazon is on track to become the #1 apparel retailer in the U.S. And that’s not to mention the hundreds of brick and mortar locations gained through the Whole Foods acquisition, and Amazon’s own branded moves into physical retail with Amazon Books and Amazon Go.

So, What Does It Mean?

Does this spell doom and gloom for the rest of retail? Not at all. In the face of Amazon’s dominance, the most innovative retailers are thriving, too. Projections indicate retail sales this holiday season will increase nearly 5%, the largest gain in recent years.

Our friends at IHL Group also noted that net retail store openings are outpacing closings by a margin of two to one. Yes, retailers that failed to embrace innovation (Sears being the “prime” example) are dying. However, a new generation of dynamic, exciting retailers are more than filling the void. And stalwarts such as Walmart, Macys, Nordstrom and others have kept pace to remain relevant in a retail landscape that’s changing at the speed of Amazon.

Back to HQ2: it’s exciting news for Crystal City and New York, and congratulations on winning 2018’s biggest economic development prize. But it’s all the other cool stuff happening with Amazon and the retail industry that will be the important story in the long run.

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!

Did Amazon Find the Key to Shoppers’ Happiness?

Leave it to Amazon to keep things interesting. Now, in addition to same-day delivery of just about anything, Amazon can walk your dog, clean your house, install and set up your new refrigerator, let selected neighbors in, leave your packages securely inside your home, and who knows what else.

I’m talking, of course, about Amazon Key. Like everything else they do these days, Amazon’s announcement is big news for the retail industry. Available exclusively for Prime members, Amazon Key includes an in-home kit with a cloud-enabled indoor security camera and compatible smart lock for $249.

According to an Amazon press release, “Amazon Key allows customers to have their packages securely delivered inside their home without having to be there…each time a delivery driver requests access to a customer’s home, Amazon verifies that the correct driver is at the right address, at the intended time, through an encrypted authentication process. Once this process is successfully completed, Amazon Cloud Cam starts recording and the door is then unlocked. No access codes or keys are ever provided to delivery drivers. And, for added peace of mind, in-home delivery is backed by Amazon’s Happiness Guarantee.”

Will it Work?

An audacious value proposition? Of course. Will it work? Who knows. My guess is that a thin slice of time-starved, upper-income, tech-savvy, trusting, heavy Prime users will turn to Amazon Key.

I don’t think Amazon will hit a home run with this across all Prime demographics, though. Unprecedented technology and privacy failures have burned consumers too many times, with Equifax being the #1 culprit in recent months. Security issues with unprotected webcams offer a real concern. Making consumers comfortable with the idea of perfect strangers entering their home is another huge barrier, even with the measures that Amazon has in place. And will Amazon’s delivery people need your alarm code? The list goes on and on.

Much of the initial consumer reaction to Amazon Key was skeptical. As Huffington Post observed, “The Amazon key is designed to aid package delivery. What could go wrong?” The answer, according to the article, is summed up in one word: plenty.

What Does Amazon Key Mean for Amazon?

However, success or failure really isn’t the point. Amazon floats more audacious ideas than any other retailer, and as a result they raise the bar for the rest of the industry. Amazon Key is a clear signal that Amazon wants to take the consumer experience directly into its customers’ homes. As a result, other retailers must rethink what it means to truly serve their customers. Once again, Amazon is rapidly reinventing the norm in today’s retail industry.

Even if it’s a modest hit, Amazon Key offers consumers a basic, all-in-one home security cam and smart lock for $249, regardless of whether consumers use the service. And if Amazon wants to drive large-scale adoption, they can take it a step further. Amazon could consider not only delivering shoppers’ same day Whole Foods order, but putting a home-cooked dinner on the table. Now, that would take customer service to another level!

Retailers are fighting back this year on Prime Day


This blog was written by our intern, Madeleine Hatley.

Amazon launched their third annual Prime Day starting Monday, July 10. Prime Day 2017 was the biggest sales day in history for Amazon, surpassing both Black Friday and Cyber Monday according to the Amazon press release highlighting the outcome of Prime Day this year. Despite popular opinion, this ‘micro’ holiday is not about boosting sales. It is simply a marketing tactic to advertise their “Prime” membership that guarantees customers fast shipping for an annual fee. And, boy, does it work.

Prime Day sales grew by more than 60 percent from last year, with a “record number” of Prime members shopping across 13 countries, Amazon said. It added that “tens of millions of Prime members” made purchases during Prime Day, up more than 50 percent from Prime Day in 2016.

According to a recent Consumer Intelligence Research Partners report, from June of 2016 to June of 2017, Amazon gained around 44 million subscribers. Although Amazon refuses to disclose an exact number, estimates show that Prime currently has around 85 million subscribers.

With 30 hours to shop, Prime members flocked especially to Amazon devices like the Echo, Fire tablets and Kindle devices, with the most popular device sold being the Amazon Echo Dot. Other top sellers include DNA tests for health and ancestry, gaming consoles such as the Nintendo Switch and PlayStation Plus memberships. The sales event also slashed prices on a number of fashion items and beauty products, including marked down fashion brands such as Calvin Klein, Gant and Tommy Hilfiger, with prices going down by as much as 40%, according to The Telegraph.

An Opportunity for Retailers
Although Amazon has seen major success from its annual holiday, it doesn’t mean that competing retailers need to fret. Research suggests that Prime Day could, in fact, be helpful to other online retailers. According to an analysis from Criteo, Prime Day creates a “halo effect” for other retailers, with online traffic increasing for major ecommerce sites around 15% on Prime Day 2016 and the day after, compared with weeks earlier.

 This means that Amazon Prime Day is the perfect opportunity for retailers to cash in on the consumption culture that the online giant created, a similar effect from Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Shoppers are on the hunt for well-timed promotions within this time frame, and it’s up to retailers to lure them in beyond Amazon’s borders. For example, Claus Commerce-powered Freeshipping.com boosted profits last year when they saw an uptick in their number of orders and the average order value, when they offered a 20% discount last Prime Day according to Bezinga, indicating that positive outcomes can come out of Prime Day, even for competitors.

Time to Get Creative
Retailers are trying harder this year to grab customers’ attention and drive sales around Amazon Prime Day. Kohl’s offered 30% discounts on summer clothes and accessories for 30 hours.  Other stores like Toys R Us and Best Buy were also ahead of the game and featuring sales lasting six hours longer than Prime Day, featuring sales on Google Home.

Retailers should learn that in order to compete with Amazon, they have to be creative in the way they advertise around this holiday fueled by capitalism. They will have to market products consumers want at a reasonable price, advance technology on mobile platforms and get innovative to grab customers’ attention.

Retailers that stepped up to the plate on Prime Day in terms of competition were Wal-Mart and its digital company, Jet.com, as well as Macy’s. Wal-Mart matched many of Amazon’s discounts on various items. Market Track compared prices and determined Wal-Mart’s efforts to compete stood out the most among many companies. Similarly, Macy’s hosted their annual “Black Friday in July” sale that offered 25% off site-wide and offered free shipping exclusively on Prime Day.

With sales expected to top $1 billion this year, Amazon has seen major success in its Prime Day efforts. Now, it’s up to competing retailers to strategize their game for next year so that e-commerce customers can focus their attention on deals outside of Prime Day.

Influencer Insights: Greg Buzek

A Ketner Q&A with Greg Buzek, Founder and President of IHL Group

What technology trend do you see most impacting the field?

The single biggest trend for retail is how they compete with Amazon. Retailers must get to Unified Commerce with a single view of the order and single view of the customer regardless of how they choose to shop. And then they need updated POS technology at the store level to take advantage of these changes. Customers used to HAVE to shop, now they need a reason to WANT to shop your stores. This change is having dramatic impact on the number of stores, the alignment of personnel, and total operations. Retailers that make these changes and create a compelling reason for shoppers to visit your stores will survive and thrive. Those that don’t won’t be here much longer.

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

We read massive amount of news, and talk to a lot of retailers and non-retailers. I like to spend a lot of time on bleeding edge technology sites to understand new technologies and then think through how these might be applied to retail. Certainly conferences and vendor information plays in here as well. But we always look at these things with a minimum 3 year lens before actual deployment anywhere. Retailers are notoriously slow at technology adoption. We have to filter through the “might be” to try and forecast what likely “will be.”

How do you recommend PR professionals reaching out to share news?

Announcements just to announce a product or new person or new office are fine for local newspapers, but what really gets the attention of analysts and influencers are actual customer wins and anything with $$$ in the headline. Customer wins or case studies are most important. Otherwise you are asking us to sort through hundreds of pieces of news and determine what is real and what is vaporware.

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

Always leave a situation better than you found it. Whether a customer relationship, vendor relationship, or simply borrowing a tool from someone….leave the other person better off than when they found you.

How did you get involved in the industry? 

Before college, I worked at Hardees, Sears, Skyline Chili and a small restaurant in Cincinnati called J&Js. Once I went to college and graduate school, my first job out was with NCR and I was given that challenge of competitive analysis of the industry. This was an incredible blessing based on what I do now since most new hires only learn about their company, I was forced to learn about all the other companies in the industry. This served me well when I created an analyst firm 20 years ago.

What are three things we wouldn’t guess to be true about you? 

I dotted the i in Script Ohio performed by the Ohio State Band (wasn’t supposed to), I still may be one of the only Catholics to sing in the Mormon Tabernacle choir for a day and I got kicked out of my college dorm as a sophomore in college.

What do you think is the biggest change occurring in the retail industry? 

The decoupling of IT Spend for this year based only on a figure of last year’s revenues. Most retailers still look at IT as a cost of doing business and thus tie this year’s spend to last year’s revenues and growth. Those retailers who do that fail to see that Amazon has changed the game.  66 million U.S. homes now have Amazon Prime Accounts with Free 2 Day shipping. Amazon is an endless aisle retailer that is almost always in stock, supported by Amazon Web Services which is the largest and greatest value Infrastructure as a Service platform. Retailers that don’t realize that IT transformation is not only needed but critical to survival and don’t spend the required funds for turnaround will simply not be here 3 years. 

What do you do for fun?

I’m an avid sports fan. My son and I have for the last several years done a college football tour around the country. We love to go to different schools and enjoy the traditions and the game.


About Greg Buzek

Greg Buzek is the Founder and President of IHL Group and one of the Founders of the Retail Orphan Initiative, a charitable foundation that seeks to help the 400 million orphaned and vulnerable children around the world. In 6 years, RetailROI has been involved in 80 projects in 17 countries helping an estimated 158,000 children through clean water, education, computers, language training and care. Noted by RIS News as one of the “25 Most Influential People in Retail” and the National Retail Federation in 2015 as one of “The List of People Shaping Retail’s Future”, he has a Masters Degree in Business Administration (MBA) from The Ohio State University, and 25 years of experience in retail market analysis, business planning, product development, and consulting with Fortune 500 companies. In 2011 The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute honored Greg with the first ever Paul Singer Award that recognizes business and governmental leaders for going above and beyond their defined roles to advocate for better adoption and foster care policies worldwide.

Amazon Prime Day: Breaking Rules, Making Money

Amazon Prime Day 2016: A lesson in playing the long game
Amazon Prime Day 2016: A lesson in playing the long game

Pretty much everyone I know, knew about Amazon Prime Day. While most of them didn’t buy anything on Amazon that day, they still took the time and made the effort to look at the deals they could get on a day billed as being bigger and better than Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

 

How can such a self-serving sale day, or, as some venture to call it, a “holiday,” that’s so different from the norm succeed in retail?

Not Your Grandmother’s Sale

Let’s think about it. Why do retailers introduce sales? Traditionally, they are spurred on by a present and competitive business need, such as:

  • Shedding excess inventory or old models/styles to make space for more in-demand items;
  • Earning market share during high-sales volume times, like the winter holidays;
  • Increasing cash flow to make new investments;
  • Simply keeping up with competitors who market more aggressively on price.

But Amazon made this holiday up to celebrate their 20th anniversary last year. They’re already the largest retailer in the country and are poised to topple Macy’s as the largest apparel seller as well. It happened in the middle of July, during the mid-week grind, with no obvious holiday tie or “competitor sales”. It defied the accepted rules of engagement.

Playing Mind Games

The Power of Habit: Amazon must have read this one twice

A quick story: I was away with some high school friends last weekend. One was reading a book called “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business” (found, of course, on Amazon for $9.18 in paperback, but there are over 400 vendors and options to choose from). The author, Charles Duhigg, talks about why we do the things we always do. Duhigg tells the reader about craving an afternoon cookie every day, and obliging himself. Then, through careful self-analysis, he realized the cookie need was not a result of hunger, but because he needed socialization and a walk. The true reward for his urge wasn’t unhealthy food, but camaraderie. Now, he skips that snack and feels a lot better.

To that same end, Amazon knows that people are creatures of habit and of reward. Amazon understands social psychology better than anyone and have the resources and marketplace influence to manipulate the masses into giving them more control over their consumption habits.

So they enlist their army of marketplace sellers, eager to spice up a lazy summer sales season, who live up to Amazon’s promotional hype and make it worthwhile for casual Amazon shoppers to sign up for Amazon’s $99/year Prime membership.

Prime Day conditions both sides of the transaction to expect benefits from using its platform. For buyers, it’s seemingly a no-brainer. “Save $400 on a 4K TV, have it on the doorstep in two days, plus get free shipping on anything I want for a whole year? Yes, please!” Even though deals beyond a few big-time purchases like those TVs were minimal, shoppers are being conditioned to see Amazon as the go-to place for what they need, which doesn’t pad margins now, but creates the conditions for increased market domination moving forward.

For marketplace sellers, the financial benefits weren’t tremendous, growing only 1% from 2015. The act of participating in the sale, again, really just has the same effect as a traditional sale, as mentioned above. But marketplace sellers are encouraged by the long-term (potential) benefit of increasing their regular customer base thanks to increased traffic from the rise in Prime subscriptions. For one day, they’ve seen a bump in sales volumes, unloaded inventory and brought in new buyers to their potential pool. They’re slowly being conditioned to rely on Amazon for larger and larger chunks of their revenue, becoming less autonomous and another pawn in Amazon’s domination of everything, everywhere, all the time.

Amazon Prime Day can be debated on its single-day successes on seemingly limitless merits, and goodness knows, it’s been debated. But what is undeniable is that Amazon is a master at making us look at them, think of them, engage with them, even when we don’t know we want to, or why we’re doing it. I’d call that a success.

Can Teslas and Pizza Get People Shopping Again?

A recent Washington Post headline read, “Unemployment is down. Gas prices are low. Why isn’t America shopping?”

There are a number of possible answers. Both in the article and at the inaugural ShopTalk conference, there were numerous discussions about the U.S. being “over-retailed” – too many stores and e-commerce sites for too few shoppers. Many like to point to widespread uncertainty about the global economy and the twists and turns of the presidential election. Moreover, shoppers are spending their money differently: they are addicted to promotions and often opt to spend their hard-earned dollars on experiences like vacations or big projects like home improvement. But these don’t explain the whole truth.

In reality, the shopping experience can all too often be downright awful. On a recent weekend I spent five minutes at a big-box office products store waiting for someone, anyone to show up at the empty cash registers at the front of the store. I didn’t really feel like chasing anyone down, and I’d only gotten half of what I came for, as the pens I wanted were out-of-stock. After a few minutes of waiting I started comparing prices on Amazon. No surprises here: I found everything I wanted at a lower price, so I left my purchases at the register, walked out the door, and placed the order before I left the parking lot. It’ll likely be the last time I visit that retailer for basic office supplies.

My wife didn’t fare much better at a women’s apparel store that weekend. She stood in line at the register for what seemed an interminable amount of time waiting to pick up an order, which turned out to be a different size from what she ordered. When she headed back to the counter to order it in the right size, the sales associate promptly announced she was headed to lunch, leaving my wife stranded at the cash wrap. She placed her order online later that afternoon; however, her 40% off coupon code didn’t apply online, even though the coupon said nothing about online exclusions. It took a call to the e-commerce help desk to straighten it out – although the help desk operator couldn’t answer my wife’s questions right away, as the retailer’s systems hadn’t updated yet.

These problems fall into two broad categories: too few sales associates for many retailers (and a failure to properly train the ones they have), as well as outdated systems and disconnected technology. Is it any wonder that Amazon accounts for 1 in 3 shopping transactions, according to Internet Retailer?

Fortunately, the best retailers are making the right moves to re-energize retail and attract shoppers. Nordstrom, which consistently has some of the best sales associates in retail, is opening a small Tesla gallery at a high-end mall location. Target is spending $1 billion this year remodeling its stores and has launched 25 “stores of the future” in Los Angeles. Urban Outfitters, which recently set a Q1 sales record, firmly believes that “bricks and clicks are synergistic.” Urban bought the popular Vetri Family pizza chain last year and recently opened two flagship Anthropologie stores with “a petite shop, expanded jewelry and accessories, an intimates boutique, an 800 square foot beauty shop, a full-service shoe salon as well as over 6,000 square feet of home products,” according to RIS News.

These retailers, and many others, are clearly doing everything they can to get America shopping again. Retailers shouldn’t forget the fundamentals, though: Train your associates. And get those legacy systems to talk to one another, in real-time. Focus on these things – and continue to make stores fun, creative and innovative – and consumers will start shopping again. After all, you can’t buy a Tesla, get a makeover or get a slice of pizza while shopping at Amazon – at least not yet.

It’s an Amazon world, we’re just living in it

If you know anything about the retail industry you’ve probably heard a thing or two (or a million) about Amazon. Amazon, an ecommerce giant, provides thousands, if not millions of items to consumers from all over the world delivered to your door step within days. Retailers, physical and digital, find themselves competing with Amazon constantly. It’s hard to beat impeccably cheap prices, two-day free shipping and same-day delivery in some cities for Prime members. But now there’s something else to compete with. Amazon announced that it would be launching Prime Day, an event to celebrate their 20th anniversary. Amazon boasts that it will have deals that are much bigger than those on black Friday. Of course the purpose of this is to drive sales, but how can other retailers beat such a heavy promise?

Walmart, for one, is taking a big stab at competing with Amazon. Walmart’s CEO Fernando Medeira posted a blog titled “Why Every Day is Low Price Day at Walmart,” in which he announced they would reduce the minimum free shipping for online purchases from $50 to $35 and reduce prices on thousands of online items. “We’ve heard some retailers are charging $100 to get access to a sale,” Medeira stated in the post. “But the idea of asking consumers to pay extra in order to save money just doesn’t add up for us.” A point well made by Walmart, which was clearly taking a punch at Amazon’s Prime Day event. A few days later Walmart increased the competition a bit more with their new promotion called “Dare to Compare,” in which they guarantee that they will offer lower prices than Amazon and invite consumers to compare the prices themselves.

Though two of the biggest retailers in the world are going head to head in competing for market share based on low prices, they are not the only ones. Food Lion has also jumped on the price lowering bandwagon. They announced they would be lowering prices on thousands of items that are most important to consumers based on extensive research and frequently purchased items. To ensure that consumers are aware of the price cuts, Food Lion is using three signed deal offers including, “WOW: Lower prices on thousands of items that matter most to customers, offered for longer periods of time,” which also alludes to Amazon’s brief one-day event.

As the highly anticipated Prime Day is in full swing, many consumers are anything but impressed. Many consumers went to social media to criticize the event for its unexciting items and for the fact that there are waitlists for those items. Though Prime Day isn’t what people expected, the event still sparked a lot of competition from other retailers and interest from the media and consumers alike. The fact that other retailers created promotions in response to Prime Day deals shows just how significant Amazon’s influence is in the retail industry.

 

The Most Buzzworthy PR Successes June 2015

Public relations is such a diverse and expansive field and there is a constant stream of notable PR successes to praise. With the impactful changes that have been made across all kinds of industries this past month, there are most definitely a few PR successes to celebrate.

A big win for Apple and Taylor Swift

There is no doubt Taylor Swift is aware of her influence and is no stranger to speaking her mind. A few weeks ago, Swift released a letter to her fans, peers in the music industry and to Apple voicing her opinion on their new free streaming trial. Swift explained that Apple hadn’t planned on paying artists during this free three-month trial. Swift explained that fortunately this was not a big deal for her, but it was a huge deal for upcoming and new artists who have recently released music and depend on income and recognition to continue pursuing their music. After Swift’s argument went viral, Apple changed their terms to pay the artists during the trial. Some speculate that it was Apple’s plan all along to have someone high profile to speak out against these terms to draw attention to their new service. True or not, both artists and fans are praising Swift; plus, everyone now knows about Apple’s free trial. Read more here.

Etsy, Amazon, Walmart and other retailers remove the Confederate flag

In light of recent events fueled by racism, controversy around the prevalence and meaning of the Confederate flag has heightened. The church shooting in Charleston that left nine dead was strongly associated with the Confederate flag. Many people were disturbed by the fact that the Confederate flag, which has historical significance involving racism and violence, still flies over the South Carolina State Capitol. Despite differing opinions, the flag is causing uproar. In fact, the South Carolina legislature is deciding today whether or not to keep the flag at the Capitol. The flag’s removal has passed through the Senate, and is now in the House. Many retailers have taken an initiative to remove items with the Confederate flag from their stores. Regardless of your opinion on the Confederate flag, it is a tactful move by many retailers, as it prevents the potential for future controversy. Read more here.

Obama’s approval rating is above 50%

Also, if you happen to have internet, watch TV, or interact with other humans you are probably aware of a few successes in the last couple of weeks for the Obama Administration. One being that The Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Healthcare Act. The second: The Supreme Court ruling that the constitution guarantees gay marriage, making it the law of the land. Whether or not you support these rulings, they have led to a boost to 50% approval rating of the Obama Administration for the first time since the very beginning of his presidency. Read more here.

Brands show their support for marriage equality

The Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality, and many brands have used this historic event as an opportunity to show their support of the decision. A number of brands used Twitter and Instagram, but one company in particular went above and beyond to celebrate. Ben & Jerry’s, who has publicly supported gay rights for quite some time, renamed their chocolate chip cookie dough flavor to “I Dough, I Dough.” The flavor is available all summer at participating stores nationwide and online through the Human Rights Campaign. Regardless of the different views on marriage equality, brands have used this ruling as an opportunity to connect with current and potential consumers in a heart-felt way. Read more here.

It’s safe to say that June was a memorable month that kept the PR world busy. Stay tuned to find out what July has in store for PR professionals.