All Is Fair in Love and Retail

Valentine’s Day is upon us and love is in the air at Ketner Group. Some of us will be watching romantic comedies (such as Crazy Stupid Love – objectively the greatest rom-com of all time). Some will be enjoying a nice dinner (now that KG has a New York office, perhaps Adrienne will enjoy a beautiful candle-lit dinner at my favorite dining establishment – White Castle). And others will be finding their own ways to celebrate (or not).

Regardless of our plans on Feb. 14, one thing will remain consistent for all of us here at Ketner Group: our love for retail. So, what can we expect this Valentine’s Day from our one true love?

NRF Projects Fewer Lovers but More Dollars

According to NRF, not everyone in the U.S. is feeling the love. Only 51% of Americans plan to celebrate the holiday, down from 55% last year and well below 2007’s high of 63%. It’s not all gloom for retail though. According to NRF’s release, “it is unclear why the number of consumers celebrating has trended downward over the past 12 years, but spending, while varying with the economy, has generally trended up.” In fact, the data shows that respondents plan to spend $161.96 on average. That’s a 13% increase from last year’s $143.56 and tops the previous record of $146.84 set in 2016. Total spending is expected to reach $20.7 billion, a 6% increase over last year’s $19.6 billion. This breaks the previous record of $19.7 billion, set in 2016.

What about those who aren’t celebrating? More than a third of those under the age of 35 who say they are not “celebrating” still have plans to spend money on themselves or spend time with other single friends. This might include buying a little something for themselves, going out to dinner, or splurging to celebrate Galentine’s Day right (What’s Galentine’s Day?).

If you’re without a Valentine this year, at least take comfort in knowing an important group will be pampered. According to the NRF data, a quarter of celebrants under the age of 35 plan to purchase Valentine’s Day gifts for their pets. And can you blame them? Dogs deserve it (cats, I’m not sure).

Looking Forward

When Valentine’s Day is over and the roses wilt, so too will the love for retail? Between this year’s government shutdown, tariffs and worries of an economic slowdown, some are concerned about the state of the industry throughout 2019. However, according to NRF, the “state of the economy is sound.” The organization estimates that retail sales this year will increase between 3.8% and 4.4%.

This growth would result in total 2019 retail sales of between $3.82 trillion and $3.84 trillion. Based on last year’s 10-12% online sales growth, e-commerce sales this year could reach between $751.1 billion and $764.8 billion. Fortunately, the success should continue, even if the candy hearts won’t.

This Valentine’s Day, the Ketner Group team will be thankful for the undying love that retail provides us with all year long. Will retail be as kind and tender to others during the rest of 2019? The numbers look promising, but as we all know, all is fair in love and retail.

NRF 2017, Here We Come

In most industries, the holidays are a time to disengage from the hustle and bustle of work, plan for 2017 and clean out the junk folders to start the New Year feeling refreshed. But as we all know, quite the opposite is true in retail. And once a new calendar gets pinned to the wall, the heat really starts to turn up as we make final preparations for the biggest conference of our year, NRF’s BIG Show.

This year, the Ketner Group team has been as busy as ever, meticulously preparing, pitching, coordinating and managing all sorts of client announcements and on-site briefings. As the newest member of the KG team and a rookie to the realities of NRF life, I have to admit it’s been impressive watching our team stay (mostly) stress-free, while securing some truly terrific opportunities for publicity next week, without losing sight of client needs in the now.

As our entire office goes wheels up this weekend, heading from sunny and warm Austin, Texas to the hopefully not-so-cold and not-so-gray Big Apple, I expect to feel the same excitement and confidence in our client outcomes as our veterans who have been mastering the NRF process for over ten years.

We look forward to seeing a lot of familiar faces, connecting with new clients and having NRF ’17 mark the start of another great year at Ketner Group, for our clients, and for the retail industry in general. Good luck everyone!

Ketner Group clients at NRF, and where to find them:

 

NRF 2017: Don’t Throw Away Your Shot in the Greatest City in the World!

For those of you who are theater nerds like me, perhaps you caught the mashed-up reference to two songs from the critically acclaimed, Tony award-winning Broadway musical, Hamilton. (For those of you who didn’t catch the reference, I’ll forgive you only if you can score me 5 tickets to the show next Tuesday!)

Image provided by Kathleen See
Image provided by Kathleen See

But, back to the matter at hand. Those of us working in the retail industry know there are exactly nine days until NRF begins. As of right now, the race is on to be in the room where it happens -“it” meaning where the best and brightest in retail come together to showcase the technologies that will change the way consumers shop in 2017 and beyond. (I’d also like to say I threw in another Hamilton song reference in this paragraph. I’ll let you figure that out on your own.)

The Ketner Group team has attended and supported our clients at NRF for nearly 15 years, and we’ve learned a few things along the way – one big one is to wear comfortable shoes and stay hydrated in between your Starbucks trips! Here are a few additional PR tips to keep in mind as we enter these last few days before the BIG show:

Don’t save all your announcements until January. Most vendors spend months planning their NRF announcements. But why cram all your news into a three-day period? We counsel our clients not to save everything until NRF, but rather to adopt a release strategy for before, during and after the Big Show.

Announcing significant customer wins and new technology in the months leading up to NRF is a great way to build momentum going into the show and to trumpet your successes to prospects. During the show, your news faces stiff competition from hundreds of other press releases, but one or two newsworthy announcements can help drive booth traffic and create a buzz during NRF. After the show is a good time for announcements, too; editors’ inboxes will be a lot less crowded, many of your competitors will emptied their arsenal of news at NRF, and your news will have room to breathe.

Don’t expect to brief everyone at NRF. While NRF presents a terrific opportunity for face-to-face meetings with key editors and analysts, you won’t be able to meet with everyone on your list. The top editors and analysts are in high demand during NRF and have tightly packed schedules; many of them will have their entire days booked in 30-minute slots starting at 6:30 a.m., and paying clients and prospects will have top priority. It is important to respect the fact that they may not be able to meet with you; briefings before or after NRF can often be more relaxed and unhurried.

In keeping with this, we advise our clients to connect with key influencers in the months leading up to NRF. Schedules are more open, and it’s an excellent time to bring analysts and editors up to speed on your company’s latest products, customers and other developments. During these briefings, you can also lay the groundwork for a possible meeting or product demo at NRF.

Leave the PowerPoints at home. The editors and analysts you meet at NRF will likely be cramming 30+ vendor meetings into their day – which can mean an equal number of mind-numbing PowerPoint presentations. We advise our clients to scrap the PowerPoints during NRF. After all, if you’ve done your briefings in the fall, then an NRF meeting can be a chance to build a one-on-one relationship. Offer editors and analysts a comfortable place to sit (their feet will be aching!), bottled water and treat them the same way you’d treat your most valued customers. Find out in advance what they’d like to focus on during the meeting: demo, product roadmap or customer announcements. If an editor is accompanied by a sales rep, be sure to give him or her equal time, too.  After all, editors and analysts have to make a living, too, and many of the lead generation programs offered by the top retail and analyst firms can produce solid results.

 If companies prepare properly, NRF can get the new year off to a running start. Don’t forget, history will have its eyes on New York during those four days this January – what will you do to earn your shot in the greatest city in the world?

Retail’s BIG Show: #NRF16 Client Recap, Part Two

If there is any indication that this year’s NRF show was the most exciting yet, it’s that we need two whole blog posts to recap just how great it was. Our clients were among the best and brightest out on that show floor, demonstrating cutting-edge retail technology and hosting thought-provoking BIG !dea sessions. They were invaluable additions to the educational atmosphere of one of the industry’s longest-running events, but don’t just take our word for it, see for yourself:

Photo courtesy of Kathleen See
Photo courtesy of Kathleen See

Predictix

Continuing to stay “one step ahead of the competition,” as observed in PYMNTS, Predictix announced during the show that it has entered a strategic partnership with Infor to resell Predictix applications to its customers as a part of Infor CloudSuite Retail. This announcement, along with Predictix’s impressive 40% YOY SaaS growth, generated buzz for the predictive analytics company. Adding to the excitement, Aaron Surasky, Senior Director, Assortment Planning and Analysis for The Home Depot, led an NRF BIG !deas session where he discussed how retailers are working with Predictix to create differentiated, locally relevant assortments while operating multiple channels and stores to an audience of more than 200.

Check out some additional awesome coverage of Predictix from the show by Apparel, Retail TouchPoints, B2Becommerceworld and Just-Style.

Shopatron

The week was an exciting one for Shopatron as well, which announced that “it is now part of a unified omnichannel commerce solutions company called Kibo,” by merging with MarketLive and Fiverun according to RIS News . In a MultiChannel Merchant recap of the companies’ merge, Shopatron founder Ed Stevens (now COO of Kibo) and MarketLive founder Ken Burke “talk about how the responsive redesign and the enhanced back-end capabilities helped Modell’s {Sporting Goods] become an omnichannel success story this holiday season.”

Starmount

In the world of omnichannel, just-style was impressed with Starmount’s newly-unveiled Store Inventory application, which helps retailers maintain more accurate store inventory and allows store associates “to engage customers and process transactions.” Starmount used its time at NRF to demonstrate how this addition to its Customer Engagement Suite is an asset to retailers.

Thoughtworks

Included as a “Top 10 Takeaway” by RIS News, Thoughtworks took the opportunity at NF to highlight the new e-commerce engine it built for Mitchells‘ website. In addition to putting a spotlight on its latest project, Thoughtworks also connected with many retail industry professionals to learn from and share with the behind-the-scenes retail software experts.

Unata

In addition to meeting and networking with other members of the retail community, this year’s NRF for Unata also highlighted a major endeavor that is in-progress between the digital grocery solutions company and regional grocery chain, Lowes Foods. In a video interview with Retail Touchpoints, Michael Moore, CMO for Lowes Foods, spoke on how the partnership is “bringing to life a whole new customer experience” known as “retail-tainment” with the help of Unata.

Retail’s BIG Show: #NRF16 Client Recap, Part 1

NRF’s 105th annual conference featured over 30,000 attendees, a plethora of thought leadership sessions from retail’s top leaders and a vast selection of innovative new technologies— too many to even count— however, in the midst of all the activity, our clients definitely shined through the crowd at Retail’s BIG Show bringing their own innovative stories into the mix.

Photo courtesy of Kathleen See
Photo courtesy of Kathleen See

360pi

According to RIS News, 360pi’s session, “Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Flattery: Learn from Amazon” hosted by VP of Marketing, Jenn Markey, was a session quick hitter with the company’s “Holiday’s Insights Executive Intelligence Report,” which covered various pricing strategies of the world’s biggest retailers like Amazon, Target and Walmart. The report’s most interesting insight revealed that though Walmart is usually within 5% of Amazon’s Prices, the pricing disparity increased to 10% during the holiday season with Amazon’s exclusive membership-only shopping opportunities.

Advanced Pricing Logic

This year at NRF, Advanced Pricing Logic presented their easy-to-use analytics interface, PRICEXPERT, which combines the use of price optimization and competitive data. At their booth, APL got the chance to showcase their innovation that can enhance the way retailers and other businesses meet their financial goals. APL was also able to network with many retailers and top tier media alike.

Birdzi

With thousands of attendees from the retail industry, Birdzi utilized the conference to network with big names in the retail industry and the media. Birdzi had the chance to connect with fellow industry players and share how they’re transforming retail through their state-of-the art personalized shopper engagement platform.

CART

At NRF, CART presented how their website can help navigate the ever-changing industry of retail technology. With over 5,000 solutions, CART was able to show how their innovation can aid with searching and learning by connecting retailers to a variety of solutions and products. By demonstrating how their service works, CART was able to network with a variety of retailers and members of the press.

Displaydata

As the leading, global supplier of fully graphic, 3 color electronic shelf labels and in-store location management, Displaydata took NRF by storm by showing how their innovative system leads to better sales, profits and customer loyalty. By demonstrating their dynamic solution, showcasing their electronic shelf labels and offering interactive tours with real-time consumer interaction, Displaydata was able to boast their dynamic pricing tactics.

Adam Blair of Retail TouchPoints went on to highlight Displaydata’s capabilities in his NRF recap post.

Mirakl

This year at NRF Mirakl had the opportunity to meet with a vast amount of retailers and the press about their e-commerce marketplace platform and Best Buy Canada’s launch of its online marketplace. With constant networking all around the conference, Mirakl was very busy making their name known to the big players in the retail industry and earning their spot on Retail TouchPoint’s “What were The Hot Topics of #NRF16?” coverage round-up.

To be continued…

Retail’s BIG Show: How We’re making the most of it

A lot can happen in four days.

You can go from an obscurity to a viral sensation. If you take a step for every second of those four days, you would find yourself almost 164 miles away from where you started. You can meet your future spouse in line at the grocery store and then spend the next three days trying to decide whether or not you should make the first move (you should, by the way).

Photo courtesy of Kathleen See

Long story short, a day holds a lot of potential. Multiply that by four, and you’ve got yourself almost an entire workweek to do something really cool. Like travel to an exciting city, make new friends, reconnect with old ones and learn something new.

On Jan. 17-19, we are excited to do just that at NRF’s BIG Show, the biggest retail event of the year. Here’s how we plan to make the most of those four days in the Big Apple!

BIG !dea Sessions

If there was ever a question about how to jump a retail hurdle, the answer is in one of these sessions. Delivered by industry leaders from all walks of the retail world, these talks highlight innovative new strategies and products that are being used to make retail seamless.

Kevin Sterneckert of Predictix will speak alongside Aaron Surasky, senior director of assortment planning and analysis at The Home Depot, on the art of personalizing store inventory to meet local expectations. For session details, click here.

In the pricing world, Jenn Markey of 360pi will give participants the inside scoop on Amazon’s pricing strategy this past holiday season and lend insight on how to compete without starting a price war. Jenn’s session details can be found here.

There will be something for everyone for those taking advantage of these sessions. A full schedule can be found here.

Rock & Roll Retail

One of our personal favorites, Rock & Roll Retail, definitely deserves some recognition. Executives from retailers such as Schlotsky’s, Spencers, Radioshack, along with leading industry influences, will literally rock out at this after-hours networking event. It’s hilarious, fun and a great way to meet new people.

Retail ROI’s SuperSaturday

Retail ROI’s SuperSaturday is the perfect way to brush up on all things retail technology-related before NRF. Along with the focus on retail data and trends, comes the more charitable keynote speech by country music star Jimmy Wayne’s on the importance of protecting children. And of course, all sponsorships of the event are donated directly to help orphans through the Retail Orphan Initiative. 

EXPO Hall

We are thrilled to have our clients presenting their innovative retail solutions on the exhibition floor, and you should be too. From new product launches to intriguing thought-leadership, stop by these booths and see why they’ve checked in at the country’s biggest retail show:

To learn more about or schedule time to catch up with these solution providers, along with Birdzi, CART, Mirakl, ThoughtWorks or Unata at the conference, email [email protected].

NRF 2014: The REALLY Big Show

If you could sum up the NRF 2014 show in one word, it would have to be “big.” And this time, as attendees know, it was “REALLY big!”

Our Ketner Group team descended upon New York recently along with 30,000+ other NRF attendees, and the show was big in every way: More attendees than ever. More exhibitors on three different levels of the Javits Center. More social buzz (check out the #NRF14 social  infographic from the National Retail Federation). And for Ketner Group, a full schedule of editor and analyst meetings for our retail technology clients. It was an exhilarating, information-packed, exhausting event that underscored why NRF is THE “can’t miss event” for retail.

What were some of the big impressions we walked away with? Here are some thoughts based on the meetings I participated in, as well as a few other nuggets.

Omnichannel and Big Data were key topics. Despite all the buzz about omnichannel, there was widespread discussion about siloed channels, inconsistent pricing, and an inability to forecast and plan across channels. I came away convinced that true omnichannel retailing is still several years away, at least, for many retailers; one analyst said flat-out that “no one” is doing a good job in planning and forecasting omnichannel demand.

And while nearly every vendor claimed to be leveraging Big Data in some way, one analyst says that only 15% of Fortune 1000 companies will be prepared to use Big Data correctly by 2020. For all of us who make our living in retail technology, it’s a sobering reminder that there’s still a big gulf between hype and reality in some cases.

The really hot topic of discussion at NRF was data security; the Target and Neiman-Marcus security breaches were top of mind, and since the show, the news about security has only gotten worse. Clearly PCI compliance isn’t enough, especially when someone with inside knowledge can access information, as appears to be the case with Target. Suddenly, chip and pin is on its way to becoming a household word – and from my perspective, it can’t happen soon enough.

Retail’s Big Show Will Showcase Hot Technologies For 2014

President and CEO of National Retail Federation, Matt Shay, speaks at the 2013 Big Show
Matt Shay, President and CEO of National Retail Federation, speaks at the 2013 Big Show

It’s NRF time again and the Ketner Group Team is getting ready to head out to New York next week to attend the Big Show! Leading up to what should be a convention full of new and trending retail technologies, renowned retail industry analyst, Forbes contributor and Ketner Group friend, Paula Rosenblum, shares in her most recent article, “Retail’s Big Show Will Showcase Hot Technologies For 2014,” what she predicts to be the best selling retail technology solutions of the year on display at retail’s “Big Show” next week. This year, Rosenblum expects the biggest tech trends to focus on keeping consumer satisfaction and attention with competitive prices and seamless online and in-store experiences. Retail is a crazy roller coaster ride of an industry, and the Ketner Group team looks forward to an exciting 2014!

Here’s a short summary of what Rosenblum lists as her “Top Five” of 2014.

1. Technology to improve the customer experience in stores. It’s not a secret that more shoppers are moving online to make their purchases. Retailers are finding ways in-store technology can differentiate and improve in-store experiences so customers  keep coming back.

2. Cross-channel Order Fulfillment. Because consumers want instant gratification these days, retailers are making sure that merchandise is always in stock, whether physically or virtually. Customers don’t want separation of in-store and online—they want brick-and-mortar stores to have e-commerce-style inventories.

3. Promotion and Price Optimization. According to Rosenblum, Black Friday has become the Superbowl of shopping and promotions. In order to attract the most customers, retailers are investing in technologies that help uncover the most effective promotional and end-of-season prices.

4. Big Data and Predictive Analytics. Big Data is everywhere. Adoption of analytics is becoming widely popular for retailers and they are looking to these technologies to determine what consumers really want so they can sell smarter.

5. Data Security. Thanks to the data breach Target suffered in December, Rosenblum says this shot up to her list. Retailers will be looking for ways to protect not only their customers, but themselves, as well.

For more information, check out her full article here on Forbes.

KG Clients Make Big News at NRF: Retail’s Biggest Week in Review

The biggest week in retail has come and gone, but let’s not leave NRF behind so quickly! KG had a great time at the trade show and we were thrilled to see our clients making some big news. Take a look at a few of the top clips from NRF this year!

 

CrossView
Forbes – No Jamba Juice Line For You: iPhone That Order In With PayPal

Digby
CNBC.com – How Mobile Technology Is Revolutionizing In-Store Shopping

Predictix
Supply Chain Shaman – The BIG Show: Clouds of Sensors and Sensing
RIS News – Best of NRF 2013: Top 10 Takeaways
Chain Store Age – Retailer Tech Deployments in the Spotlight at NRF

Profitect
Apparel – Going to NRF’s Big Show
RIS News – Best of NRF 2013: Top 10 Takeaways

Ketner Group had quite a year at NRF 2013 and now we can only hope to make the next round even more successful. Until NRF 2014!

4 Easy Ways to Refresh Your Company’s Branding Without Spending Too Much Money

Have you ever gone into your closet at the change of a season looking for something to wear to mark the change (it’s finally chilly!)—and left disappointed? After ignoring your fall/winter clothes for the better part of half the year (in Texas), your clothes seem boring, blah and so last season. Well, instead of throwing on a pair of jeans and whatever t-shirt looks good with a scarf, refresh your wardrobe by mixing what you already have up a little.

The same concept is true for your company. A web designer once told me that companies usually spend a lot of time and effort building a website they’re happy with, then leave it stagnant. Then after two years, they’re unhappy with it again. I have worked with clients who are never completely happy with their company messaging and try to do a complete rewrite every year. I get that—the market changes, customer needs change, you find what works, what doesn’t—but there has to be a better and less time-intensive way to refresh a company’s brand without a complete overhaul of your website, collateral, messaging, etc.

1. Blitz your Blog. Reorganize and refresh the design of your blog instead of your entire website. Give your blog’s template a shiny new look—change up your categories, or add more. Putting more internal and external (promotional) focus on an interactive and ever-changing messaging avenue such as your blog will allow your company to respond more quickly to changing trends or hot topic industry news. And you’ll be less likely to grow tired of your website.

2. Create an evolving campaign. Evolving campaigns are brand initiatives that involve a central static idea with variable details/messages that change based on different tradeshows, product launches, customer events or promotions your company is planning. For example, take a look at our Be Spectacled campaign. Our central idea is our monocle man’s Be Spectacled slogan, which challenges our visitors to make their public relations program shine (with us, of course). Currently, we’re focusing our Be Spectacled efforts on NRF 2013, a huge retail technology-industry tradeshow. In the past, we’ve focused the campaign on South by Southwest Interactive. Our Be Spectacled evolving campaign lives in a prominent location on our homepage, and this helps our website stay up-to-date with our changing focus.

3. Quarterly reviews of messaging with sales team. The sales team is a great source of information when it comes to messaging. They’re out in the field every day speaking with prospects and customers, so they are loaded with information about the most common challenges prospects experience and can see first-hand what messaging points resonate with prospects and customers. Sales teams can point to the benefits your company’s services provide that are most important and helpful to customers. Sit down with your sales team every quarter to refresh company messaging. This ensures that it changes little by little instead of in huge chunks—which means less time and effort on the marketing team’s part!

4. Socialize. Social media can be an easy and cost-effective way to give your company a boost in chatter and activity. If your company is not on LinkedIn, Twitter and/or Facebook, yet, then you probably should be (with some exceptions). Brands should be involved with even more—Instagram and Pinterest are a must for brands right now. Ketner Group is even dabbling in some Instagram and Pinterest activities. Already in the social world? Change your social media profile photos and information. Something this little could provide you with a breath of fresh branding and is something your followers may notice.
On that note—follow Ketner Group on our other social pages—Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.