Omnichannel Options for Austin Shoppers

Exploring Omnichannel at The Domain

When looking for a new place to live after I graduated college, proximity to work topped my list of requirements. Luckily, I was able to find an apartment that I loved within a seven minute distance from work. My new home also happened to be only seven minutes away from the place I sometimes jokingly refer to as my second home: The Domain, a shopping center featuring some of Austin’s best omnichannel options.

Moving to North Austin has only made that statement even more true. What once was a light-hearted joke, is more of a reality for me now. As a frequent visitor of Austin’s premier retail hub, certain stores have caught my eye. Since I’m constantly reading about omnichannel trends, I thought I’d assess how my favorite stores are implementing these tactics. For a look at how The Domain exemplifies some of the most positive trends in retail’s ongoing renaissance, check out Jeff’s blog from 2018. Without further ado, here’s what I’ve learned about omnichannel options in Austin as a local consumer.

Nordstrom Provides Expanded Order Pickup Options

When it comes to omnichannel options, Nordstrom is no stranger. Nordstrom’s app is an essential tool for digital shoppers who like to browse online before they buy. When searching for items in-app, shoppers can even custom tailor the search bar to reflect their store location of choice. Plus, the app will curate personalized outfits based on your past purchases and search history.

A few months ago, I tested out the “reservations” option, which allows shoppers to reserve up to 10 items online. Through the app, I reserved a pair of shoes. Within a couple of hours, I got a notification that the pair of shoes I picked out were ready for me to try on. Upon my arrival at The Domain, I received a second notification explaining where to go to try on the shoes. After parking, I entered through the doors to the second floor and found the designated kiosk immediately. Subsequently, a sales associate directed me to a reserved dressing room and assisted me when I requested to try on a different size.

I’d call my experience a success. As retailers start to provide more omnichannel options where the digital and physical sides of the store work together, I’m looking forward to quicker and easier shopping trips. In addition to the reservation option, Nordstrom at The Domain also offers buy online, pickup in-store. In a jam-packed parking lot, customers picking up their online orders can park in reserved spaces, speeding up their shopping journey.

Away Creates Seamless Shopping Experiences

Away, a luggage startup and lifestyle brand, caught my attention on Instagram. With its “clicks to bricks” model, the formerly online-only retailer now has seven physical locations. Lucky for us Austinites, The Domain is home to one of Away’s stores. I’m taking off on a plane to Europe this month and realized it was time to upgrade my luggage. Perfect excuse for my first trip to Away!

Before visiting the store, I researched options and decided which pieces of luggage would be best for my traveling needs. Based on Away’s website and social media platforms, I’ll admit my expectations for the store were already high. To my surprise, my experience at the store exceeded my already-high expectations.

Though I had an idea of what I wanted, I had a few questions before making the investment. One of the sales associates was quick to greet me and patient with my questions. She even looked up measurement restrictions for the airlines I am flying to ensure my luggage would make the cut. Her help ultimately led to my decision to purchase a set, including a carry-on suitcase and bag. I left the store feeling refreshed and satisfied with my purchase. What started as browsing on Instagram turned into visiting the store and making a purchase. Yet another example of an omnichannel option in action!

Omnichannel Options Are On the Rise

All in all, omnichannel is putting a spin on traditional shopping and giving consumers something to look forward to. Whether it’s through a personalized app, store navigation tool or expanded pickup options, omnichannel is only growing. I consider myself lucky to live in a city that often gets a “first taste” of omnichannel options that later evolve. The latest and greatest is right in my backyard, so to speak. If my experiences at Nordstrom and Away are any indication, the future is bright for omnichannel retail.

This Week’s Retail Round Up

With the retail industry changing on a day-to-day basis, there’s always something that’s trending in the news. From the havoc that Lilly Pulitzer created with their launch at Target, to the possibility of having robot technology take over the retail world, this week was filled with some fascinating trends.

Lilly Pulitzer for Target causes shipping frenzy via CNN

Lilly Pulitzer, known for bold colors and prints, announced earlier this year that it would partner with Target to release a new, more affordable line of bags, shoes, dresses and much more. This news created some major hype amongst people all over the country, and according to CNN, lines started forming early as 5 a.m. on Sunday, April 19 for the highly anticipated collection.

Within hours, it was sold out online and in stores across the country. And people were irate. Target announced that the inventory would not be restocked because the collection was only available for a limited time. Once people realized that #LillyforTarget was essentially a thing of the past, people were furious. And today, Target is facing the backlash, but are “learning from these experiences and sharing with our online and store teams,” according to a statement.

Sam’s Club makes being a member more valuable via Retailing Today

Sam’s Club announced on April 22 that they would implement five new services, including those that are focused on financial services, theft protection and the possibility of saving members as much as $2,300 annually. These new services will allow Sam’s Club to differentiate themselves from Costco and other competitors, as well as simplify how their consumers work, live and conduct their businesses. Sam’s Club, who has been dedicated to low prices on bulk goods and quality products for many years, embarked on this change in response to their CEO’s push in increasing the value of membership and multiplying services involved with business, home and life. With these new services, Sam’s hopes to attract new members, maintain their existing ones and promote their $100 Plus level membership.

Services offered from providers with recognizable brands include:

  • Identity theft protection from industry leader Lifelock at a 25% discount on annual rate.
  • Accounting services and tax preparation from 1-800Accountant, a network of accounting experts that provide bookkeeping and tax filing through a simple platform, starting at $29 a month.
  • A Sam’s Club Business Lending Center that gives access to as much as $350,000 of capital by connecting business members to lenders and credit options through Lending Club, Smart Biz and Sam’s Club Business MasterCard.
  • Enhanced payment processing solutions provided by First Data. This will bring in-club business consultants and centralized payments and point of sale technology to business members to help simplify operations.
  • Online marketing services provided by Web.com with a 36% discount. Web.com has created member-exclusive digital marketing bundles, including do-it-yourself (DIY) and do-it-for-me (DIFM) plans for digital marketing services.

Will retailers I-up the latest in robot technology?  Via Retail Gazette

Tech innovator, Toshiba, has introduced a humanoid robot to the retail world in Japan. They have introduced this “lifelike” communication technology to attract people into stores, where androids have been greeting and assisting consumers around the store and aiding human employees. Currently, the robot is being used as an attraction or as a form of entertainment, but Toshiba’s Business Development Division Group Manager, Hitoshi Tokuda, thinks that this robot can revolutionize the shopping experience. Toshiba is hoping to develop a robot that can eventually do what a human does in regards to customer service.

The robot is powered by 43 motors and blinks and talks. Apparently, the robot named Pepper can understand about 80% of conversations and is set to launch across 1,000 stores in Japan. This new development has set the bar high for customer experience for retailers wanting to expand in Japan. These androids could be a solid investment that has the power to change communication and employ more staff, but businesses could also lose their brand’s personality without face-to-face human interaction. These new robots are setting an intriguing stage for the future of retail.

 

Retailers’ Aging POS Platforms in Need of a Makeover via Retail Info Systems News

As the times change, so do the needs of consumers and POS platforms. Older platforms, traditionally used for scanning merchandise and completing basic transactions, are reducing consumer engagement. In fact, most POS platforms are about 6.9 years old; the need for upgraded technology is now becoming essential for empowered consumers that are expecting much more than a register. Consumers are now demanding POS as the “omnichannel point-of-service” where retailers engage consumers and build loyalty. The retail industry needs to address these outdated systems or face potential compliance penalties, security risks and even a hindered ability to reach growing business needs. According to EKN Research, the need for more up-to-date systems is attributed to four key factors including the EuroPay, MasterCard, VISA (EMV)-liability shift, the growing need for mobility, omnichannel POS integration and the introduction of new payment methods.

 

Amazon Takes aim at the B2B market via Retailing Today

Amazon is now thinking about delving into the B2B world with retailers like Staples to launch Amazon Business marketplace that is stocked with millions of business products. Amazon says that their business customers will benefit from free two-day shipping on eligible items, multi-user business accounts, approval workflow, payment solutions, tax exemptions, customer support and so much more. Amazon Business will give businesses the convenience of shopping online in an expanded marketplace with the selection, convenience and variety of Amazon.

Some of the features of Amazon Business we think are super awesome are:

  • Business Accounts: Create a single or multi-user business account, invite additional users to join the account and define groups of users to easily share payment methods and shipping addresses.
  • Free Two-Day Shipping: Fast, free shipping on orders of $49 or more on tens of millions of eligible items, plus access to even faster shipping options.
  • Multi-Seller Marketplace: View multiple offers on a single product page for easy price comparisons, as well as shop sellers that consistently meet the performance and service requirements that businesses expect.
  • Business-Only Pricing: Business-only prices on select items and quantity discounts from select manufacturers and sellers.
  • Business-Only Selection: Business-only items combined with Amazon’s vast selection provides access to hundreds of millions of products, including hard-to-find items like traffic signs, industrial deep fryers, antibodies, 55-gallon steel drums, dent pullers and much more.
  • Purchasing Approval: Create approval workflows to enable better spending controls.
  • Amazon Tax Exemption Program: Make tax-exempt purchases and manage tax exemption permissions across an organization.
  • Amazon Corporate Credit Line: Place orders and finance purchases using a Pay-in-Full Credit Line or a Revolving Credit Line.
  • Comprehensive Product Information: Rich product pages and studio-quality photography, as well as dimensions, CAD drawings and manufacturer how-to videos.

 

 

What other retail stories in the news caught your eye this week? We’d love to hear what you think about the Target/Lily Pulitzer ordeal, and if you’ll be using Amazon Business for your company!

What’s Happening in Retail | October’s Biggest Stories

Photo courtesy of Seth Sawyers on flickr
Photo courtesy of Seth Sawyers on flickr

This autumn has graced us with some much-needed cooler weather here at Ketner Group, but the retail industry is still turning up the heat! Retailers are faced with data security concerns, mismatching omnichannel expectations, forecasting the holiday season and revitalizing the concept of physical retail.

Here are some of the hottest retail stories from this month:

 Integrated Solutions for Retailers – “Kmart Investigates Payment System Breach”

Recently reported in Integrated Solutions for Retailers, Kmart announced a security breach of their payment data systems. According to a press release issued on October 10, Kmart’s parent company, Sears, filed a report with the Securities and Exchange Commission and Kmart immediately began working with an IT security firm. The breach was found to have started in September, caused by malicious software that was undetected by Kmart’s anti-virus software systems. The retailer was able to remove the malware, but has reported a number of credit card and debit card numbers were stolen. Kmart will be providing free credit monitoring protection to any customer who used a credit or debit card Sept. 1 2014 through Oct. 9, 2014. The company advises any customer concerned about the breach to contact their customer care center.

Wall Street Journal – “Amazon to Open First Brick-and-Mortar Site”

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that online retail pioneer Amazon.com will be opening its first physical store on 34th Street in New York City. The site is set to begin operation just in time for the holiday-shopping season. Chain Store Age noted that 50% of purchases made online are from a retailer with a physical location, and that Amazon’s move showed that the company prioritizes omnichannel retail, silencing melodramatic remarks on the decline of physical retail. It’s worth noting that the retailer has studied the outlet concept and scouted locations for years, and while the store remains experimental, Amazon’s timing couldn’t be better. If they do fully capitalize on the opportunity, the addition of physical immediacy to their pricing and delivery platforms will become an astonishing trifecta.

Chain Store Age – “NRF: Holiday Sales to rise 4%”

NRF 2014 Holiday StatsAccording to a press release from the National Retail Federation and reported by Chain Store Age, holiday spending is forecasted to reach $616.9 billion, making it the first time since 2011 that holiday sales increased more than 4%. Retailers are expected to highlight competitive pricing and inventory exclusivity as Americans keep to their household budgets. NRF also predicts retailers will hire between 725,000 to 800,000 seasonal workers for the 2014 holiday season, a 14% increase from 2013.

OrderDynamics – “Retailers missing the mark on customers’ omni-channel expectations”

A joint study by our client OrderDynamics and Opinion Matters revealed that online retailers are not offering the services that customers want. For example, 54% of online shoppers want a named delivery date, but only 15% of retailers offer the service, usually offering next-day delivery instead, which only 10% of shoppers pay for. This mismatching of services is a critical weakness in omnichannel retail campaigns. Customers only see one relationship, and one engagement and discrepancies in meeting their desires anywhere, anytime, from any device could destroy the relationship entirely. For more information about the survey and the retailer benchmark, read the report ‘Customer Relationships: The rules of attraction’.

360pi – “Believe it or Not, Amazon is not the King of Cheap Online Prices”

Another recent report by our client 360pi partnered with Wells Fargo took an in-depth look at competitive pricing, indicating that Amazon’s pricing model is not as edgy as customers believe. The joint study found Amazon has lost to Wal-Mart and Target in key categories such as clothing, electronics and housewares. Furthermore, Target, whose products were shown by the study to be consistently 5% cheaper, announced that they will match Amazon as well as Wal-Mart. The study also notes that Amazon’s prices have been rising due to new investments, which may give a slight skew to the results. However, Time’s report says that the battle for online sales dominance is nowhere near over.

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.