SXSW Gets Intelligent, Raises as Many Questions as Answers

SXSW 2017 was a terrific week spent in the presence of some of technology’s brightest minds, music’s best acts and film’s most creative souls. For Ketner Group, the event was a chance to lose sight of reality and dive into the fascinating beyond, the next era of the intersection between technology and humanity. It’s exhausting work, but hey, someone’s gotta do it.

It seems that with each passing year, SXSW does a better job of asking questions than providing answers. Maybe that’s because each one-hour session doesn’t do the experts on stage enough justice. How can someone who has dedicated their life to mapping the human brain using machine learning break that work down in one hour, while sharing a stage with the founder of Siri and a biologist learning how to grow everything we need by having intelligent systems program atoms and microbes? It takes the hour just to fully realize how much smarter these folks are than you!

But understanding the question that needs solving is the key first step to success. And we saw a few critical questions arise that anyone involved in commerce and technology will need to consider within the short and long term to ensure their prosperity. Some will be answered before SXSW 2018, and some not for many years, but the work starts now. Let’s dive in.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, these are some of the most hyped technological concepts out there. And they were everywhere at SXSW 2017. And really, they should be. AI and machine learning will be incorporated into nearly every aspect of retail, from logistics and distribution to marketing to in-store and online customer experience.

AI has the power to greatly reduce the stress of manpower on a retail business, opening up human capital for more valuable roles that drive better experiences. Intelligent systems will understand human language and new age personal assistants will make Amazon’s Alexa look like a pet rock.

And as the founder of Kasita revealed, even your living room will be AI-heavy to the point that it may actually be artificial intelligence in physical form. TVs, window blinds, thermostats and many other items will become smart gadgets, learning how to adapt to your lifestyle and reduce your time spent doing menial tasks, which include buying things like groceries or razors. Watch out, because this one is going to be fun.

Conversational Commerce
Siri started the voice command personal assistant craze that has since grown into a full force commerce craze. But based on nearly any metric – capability, adoption, competition – it hasn’t yet hit the mainstream and is nowhere near its full potential. Alexa and Google Home can’t understand complex speech patterns, can’t infer deeper meaning from simple requests and are prone to making real mistakes, like ordering something because it overheard someone on TV or a demanding child say it. Chatbots will combine the best of speech recognition and cognition to make customer service a breeze. No, really.

Our voices will eventually replace our hands as our primary machine operating tools, and how retailers integrate this technology into their omni-channel platforms will be fascinating to watch.

Social Commerce
The golden rule in payments innovation is not to compete against other forms of digital payments, compete against cash. Social commerce has long been an area that retailers have felt could be the next frontier in omni-channel commerce. And as they started to understand its potential, conversation apps outpaced them. So what’s the future of social commerce? Think small.

Commerce on social media or conversation apps is not a significant growth area for enterprise level business, at least not yet. And part of this is the limitation of highly complex payment, banking and regulatory systems.

Instead, this is an area in which independent businesses, individual sellers and developing nations are the true pioneers. In fact, according to Facebook’s Director of Commerce & Payment Partnerships, Facebook alone has over 5 million businesses registered, many using it as a critical platform to do business.

Sellers can create mini-storefronts on their Facebook or Instagram pages, listing the products they have for sale, deleting the posts once they’re no longer in inventory. They can use peer-to-peer payments apps like Venmo to manage cashless and remote transactions, and communicate instantly via apps like WhatsApp and create a marketplace for their goods much broader than available within the constructs of their physical environment and local infrastructure. 

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The question for major retailers will be whether they can integrate massive SKU count assortments into this sort of framework, if the social and conversation apps will evolve with their platforms to enable a simple integration, or if social apps will avoid the invasion of commercial interests on an otherwise personal interaction space.

What Now?
For now, we wait, we watch and we marvel at the technologies that are revolutionizing our world. Within retail itself, we’ll continue to see the automation of process, the personalization of marketing and experience, and the simplification of consumption. Where we’re going, we don’t need answers (right away), we just need the right questions.

Influencer Insights: Susan Reda

A Ketner Q&A with Susan Reda, Editor at STORES Media

What technology trend do you see most impacting the industry?

Machine learning. As I understand it, machine learning is a subset of artificial intelligence; the machine learns through applying algorithms to data and the more data, the more the machine grows in knowledge. Retailers who use machine learning can better understand what people are looking for. Ultimately it will lead to more accurate speech recognition, computers that can understand images – even helping to build self-driving cars (though that scares the heck out of me). Anything that helps retailers to better manage the piles of data they’ve amassed and improve decision-making will have a positive impact on retail so I’m keeping an eye on this.

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

I read everything I can get my hands on– often to my own detriment in terms of time management. Still, I think it’s important to set aside some time each day to read “favorites” and allow yourself the time to follow links and follow your mind’s eye. There have been so many instances where doing so led me down a path I would not otherwise have explored – and typically it’s to my benefit.   

influencer-insights-susan-redaHow do you recommend PR professionals reaching out to share news?

While I’m the first to lament my ever-overflowing Inbox, it remains the best way to reach me. That said, if I haven’t responded and the email demands a timely response; I prefer a follow up call rather than resending an email two or three times.   

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

Bring your “A” game as often as possible, but when your plate is overflowing learn to prioritize what’s an “A” what’s a “B” and even “B-“ will have to suffice.   

How did you get involved in the industry? 

I studied Journalism at St. John’s University in NYC and my first job was with a small trade publication called Hosiery & Underwear Magazine. You haven’t lived until you’ve come up with ten stories about hosiery for each issue! Slowly I branched into coverage of other women’s apparel categories and after one-too-many “x is the new black” phrases I made the jump to covering the business of retail. I’ve been very fortunate to cover this industry for decades.

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

In a word, disruption. There has never been a time where so much was changing at once. Retailers and vendors alike are on an endless trek to keep up and, if they’re lucky, to set the pace.

What do you do for fun?

I’m all about family time. Now that my children are adults and have moved out, I seize any and every opportunity to meet up with them for a visit or a dinner. And when they come home, I spoil them rotten. My other guilty pleasure is watching hockey. I’m a huge New York Rangers fan.


 

About Susan Reda

Susan Reda is Editor of STORES Media, the official publishing division of the National Retail Federation. She is responsible for developing all content for the magazine and additional STORES properties. With a passion for all things related to retail, Reda researches and writes multiple stories per issue, exploring the big-picture ideas, issues and innovations bubbling up in the industry. With years of experience researching and reporting on retail, Reda has written about topics ranging from digital trends and CIO priorities to organized retail crime and big data. Before joining NRF, Reda was an associate editor at Apparel Merchandising magazine, where she covered the women’s apparel beat, including juniors, swimwear and intimate apparel. She began her career as a writer for Hosiery & Underwear magazine. A Long Island native and resident, Reda holds a B.S. in journalism from St. John’s University.

A #RetailRoundUp Featuring KG Clients in the News

ketner-group-clients-in-the-newsAs public relations professionals and people who just generally love our jobs—seriously, working for Ketner Group is amazing!—we are always thrilled to help our clients secure valuable media coverage to share with their teams and their customers. The past couple of months, we’ve been excited to hear what our clients have to say about a bunch of hot news items including Amazon Prime Day, back-to-school, Macy’s closings and Walmart purchasing Jet.com.

Amazon’s Prime Day 2016

Amazon’s Prime Day 2016 was one for the books. The second annual global shopping event experienced an all time high in global merchandise sales. Amazon surpassed all expectations by more than 60% in worldwide sales and more than 50% in the U.S., as shared on CNBC. As the single biggest day in company history, Amazon offers its members a one-of-a-kind experience unlike any other. In Retail Dive, ThoughtWorks Retail states that Amazon truly hooks its customers on being a valuable “member” by offering a very a personalized experience.

What does this mean for marketplace sellers? Should they compete with the eCommerce leader or join the opportunity to increase sales? Our client 360pi noted in Retail TouchPoints that, “Amazon marketplace seller deals dominated last year’s Prime Day event,” and was estimated that twice as many small business were expected to participate in this year’s event. 360pi was also featured in Internet Retailer, Ecommerce-Journal and TWICE.

Dynamic Action also shared their thoughts in the WWD article, “Retailers Counterpunching Amazon Prime With Sales of Their Own.”

Walmart/Jet.com

If you haven’t heard already, Walmart is on track to accelerate online growth and expenditures by purchasing eCommerce retailer Jet.com Inc. for an estimated $3 billion. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. plan to maintain distinct brands and offerings, continuing to focus on the company’s Everyday Low Price strategy. Will this move give Walmart the competitive edge they need to compete with Amazon? Jenn Markey, VP Marketing at 360pi offers insights in RIS News as to what this means for the retail industry, stating that this acquisition will give Walmart “significant online data capacities and insights,” while moving away from retailers’ head-to-head pricing wars. The retail industry will continue to shift toward assortment and product differentiation strategies. 360pi also shared their thoughts on the subject in Apparel Magazine and MarketWatch.

ThoughtWorks Retail was quoted in The Washington Post on the subject, Dianne Inniss was skeptical that Jet and its promise of low prices could do much to help Walmart steal market share from Amazon: “Amazon has been moving away from price as a differentiator in favor of seamless convenience and deeper integration of its products and services into customers’ lives.” They also commented on the subject in Internet Retailer, Fierce Retail, Retail TouchPoints and Marketing Land.

Mirakl similarly mentioned Amazon in their thoughts on the purchase. In WWD, Adrien Nussenbaum, U.S. chief executive officer and cofounder said a WalMart deal to buy Jet.com would be “a clear endorsement of the marketplace model, where third-party sellers offer products on a retailer’s site. Amazon’s success with this model has put a ton of competitive pressure on Wal-Mart.” Our client Kibo Commerce also shared their thoughts on the story in Mobile Commerce Daily.

Macy’s Store Closings

It was announced at the beginning of August that Macy’s plans to close 100 of its underperforming department stores as an effort to greater connect with their customers. As a store with strong brand recognition and following they cannot continue to operate in its current form. In RIS News, ThoughtWorks Retail innovation strategist Dianne Inniss offers insights as to how Macy’s plans to move forward in their current model shift. “Macy’s can be no more in its current form. The brand can survive but the current model cannot…Macy’s need to fundamentally rethink how they manage their technical and business architectures in order to be more nimble, responsive, engaging and relevant to the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s customers.”

In the same article, Mirakl’s Adrien Nussenbaum agreed, “Macy’s is an iconic retailer with a long history of success, and one of many victims of Amazon. In the same week that Jeff Bezos pockets roughly $800 million personal dollars, Macy’s is forced to suffer a tremendous physical retail loss.”

Mirakl and ThoughtWorks were also quoted in Chain Store Age and ThoughtWorks’s opinions were shared in Internet Retailer.

Back-to-School

With summer ending, wallets are emptied from travels and consumers are looking for back-to-school savings more than ever. How do retailers compete for consumer dollars and break through the online retail impact? ThoughtWorks Retail offered solutions in The Baltimore Sun to get customers in the door and turn them into a loyal customer. “The key is to find opportunities to build trust, to build affinity and to create habits.”

In “Promotions, E-Commerce Seen Denting Back-to-School Sales,” in WWD, Dynamic Action also commented on the subject.

We look forward to watching how the current retail model evolves with the help of our awesome clients and their groundbreaking technologies. Stay tuned for more client news as the busy fall retail season continues.

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.

 

#RetailRoundUp

It has been a very busy week for the retail industry, from being able to shop and buy items from Nordstrom with just a simple text, to the new-found ways to utilize pop-up stores. Check out the top stories this past week from the retail world:

Nordstrom enables shopping via text via Retailing Today

Imagine a world where you could text someone what you wanted, and all of a sudden it’s yours. Well, for all of those shopaholics out there, it’s time to rejoice. Nordstrom has launched TextStyle at all of their  116 U.S. stores, and it’s basically revolutionized retail. TextStyle allows shoppers to make purchases from a personal salesperson or stylist, and enables associates to send new product recommendations to customers with a text message. If the customer would like to purchase the items, they can by simply replying with ‘buy’ and a unique code. Shoppers can also send their salesperson a text message with a product description or photo. All purchases are completed with the customer’s Nordstrom account information, and items are shipped directly for free.

Of course this isn’t the most mind-blowing news around. There are many retailers that have similar programs like this, but Nordstrom is now the only retail company in the U.S. that offers customers who opt-in the ability to shop and buy with just a text message. TextStyle provides consumers with a unique, efficient and extremely personalized way of shopping.

Target addresses digital channels after overwhelming demand for Lilly Pulitzer collaboration via RIS News

April 19, 2015, is a day that will live in infamy. It was the day that the Lilly Pulitzer collaboration with Target, #LillyForTarget, launched, sold out in minutes, crashed the company’s website and left many people angry, sad and extremely disappointed. Target’s CEO, Brian Cornell, noted that the company was disappointed their, “digital channels were not able to properly accommodate the surge in traffic at the time of the launch.”

Since that chaotic event, Target has been working to redeem itself and its digital business. Target announced during their Q1 2015 earnings call, that the company will make a $1 billion investment in technology and supply chain. Kathryn A. Tesija, executive vice President, chief merchandising and supply chain officer, ensures the company will continue to invest in technology and supply chain to allow their guests to shop on demand, and to improve the economics of its online business meaningfully. Target is now “working to address root causes and learn from the experience” as they prepare for the upcoming holiday season and the accelerated growth of the company.

Jo-Ann Fabric among first retailers to partner with Pinterest’s new Buyable Pins via Chain Store Age

We’ve all been there… well most of us. You’re scrolling through your Pinterest feed and you basically fall in love with everything you see. You re-pin it, thinking that you might attempt to create it later. After a while, you finally have time to create this beautiful masterpiece that is supposedly simple to do. But then you realize achieving the perfection that is pictured on Pinterest is basically unattainable, and your sad attempt hardly resembles it. Well, look no further because you can finally buy items from Pinterest directly from the site!

Pinterest is embarking on their first attempt in e-commerce by partnering with various retailers, including fabric and craft specialty retailer Jo-Ann fabric and Craft Stores, for their new Buyable Pins. Currently, there are over 4.2 million pins linking back to Joann.com. With buyable pins, consumers can find a product, pin it to their board, and directly purchase it off of Pinterest.

The Buyable Pins are expected to launch on the Pinterest iOS app this month and for Android and desktop later this year. Other retail partners for Pinterest’s Buyable Pins include Macy’s, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus and Ethan Allen.

Pop-Ups: How temporary storefronts are changing brand loyalty via Fierce Retail

Pop-up stores are a big trend this year. Though the concept of placing a shop within a shop to attract attention to new designers and collections is nothing new, but the concept of a pop-up shop today has evolved into something much more intricate. The 2015 pop-ups are used as a sort-of beta test for a physical presence for retailers that have previously only had an online store and to see how it might change brand loyalty.

Many retailers are joining this trend, including e-commerce giant Amazon with its launch of a holiday pop-up store in 2014. Brands such as Zappos, The Grommet, Crest & Co. and Boohoo have recently introduced their first pop-up store. Even the highly anticipated buzz for the sold out Lilly Pulitzer collection for Target was fueled by a pop up shop in New York’s Bryant Park.

This growing trend for retailers utilizing pop-ups can be attributed to a few important reasons. First, retailers are starting to realize that pop-up stores are a feasible way to increase sales and presence in the marketplace. Secondly, these temporary stores are a great way to track customer approval for the transition from online to brick-and mortar in a temporary setting. Lastly, opening a temporary store is relatively inexpensive with little risk, which is great when testing something new. Pop-ups are not only a great way to assess costs and success; they’re also a great way to promote a brand.

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.

What’s Happening in Retail: May’s Biggest Stories

At Ketner Group, we are not ashamed to admit that we get a bit geeky when it comes to new retail stories and technology implementations. It seems like every week there are retailers that have made the move to make mobile or omni-channel technologies part of their business operations, feature stories on retail movers and shakers or ground-breaking research on what consumers want and expect from their favorite retailers and brands.

Here is a quick look at recent and notable retail stories from the past month:

RIS News – “The Five Most Powerful Women in Retail“
Recently reported in RIS News, women increasingly hold the top positions across the retail industry and are influencing society like never before. Forbes’ annual look at the most powerful women in the world is chock full of politicians, philanthropists, media personalities, technologists, and five retailers. The five retailers named to the coveted list were:

  • #64 Rosalind Brewer, CEO, Sam’s Club, Walmart Stores
  • #75 Miuciia Prada, owner, fashion designer, Prada
  • #76 Carol Meyrowitz, CEO, TJX
  • #79 Tory Burch, CEO, Tory Burch
  • #93 Sara Blakely, founder, Spanx

Retail Touchopoints – “EBay Urges Users To Change Passwords Following Database Hack”
Retail Touchpoints recently reported that E-Commerce giant eBay has confirmed that one of its databases was compromised by a cyberattack between late February and early March 2014. As a result, the company is asking users to change their account passwords as a precaution. he company said there is no evidence of unauthorized access to financial or credit card information, which is stored separately in encrypted formats, according to an announcement on the company blog. There has been no indication of increased fraudulent activity on the eBay site.

Internet Retailer – “China Officially Passes the U.S. in E-Commerce”
According to Internet Retailer and reports from China’s Ministry of Commerce, online retail sales in China totaled $296.57 billion in 2013, 13% more than U.S. e-retail sales of $262.51 billion. Official estimates of 2013 online retail sales, Chinese consumers now buy more online than do their U.S. counterparts.

Online retail sales in China in 2013 totaled 1.85 trillion yuan ($296.57 billion) in 2013, representing 41.2% growth from 2012—triple the growth rate of overall retail sales in China, according to the Ministry of Commerce. China’s online shopping total is 13.0% more than 2013 U.S. e-retail sales of $262.51 billion, which grew 16.9% in 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Retail Customer Experience – “Target Forms New Digital Advisory Council”
Recently reported in Retail Customer Experience, Target Corp. announced it has formed a Digital Advisory Council. According to the company, the panel of technology industry leaders will help guide Target’s omnichannel strategies and push Target to innovate faster, and discover new ways to leverage technology to enhance the guest experience, both online and in stores. The council includes experts with varied tech backgrounds, and is comprised of:

  • Ajay Agarwal, managing director of Bain Capital Ventures;
  • Amy Chang, CEO/co-founder of Accompani; formerly led Google Analytics;
  • Roger Liew, CTO of Orbitz Worldwide; and
  • Sam Yagan, CEO of the Match Group and CEO/founder of OkCupid.

Mobile Marketing Magazine – Forrester Predicts $114bn of US Mobile Purchases During 2014
According to a recent Forrester report and reported in Mobile Marketing magazine, Purchases made on smartphones and tablets in the US will hit $114bn (£68bn) in 2014, according to a report from Forrester. Despite the lower number of regular tablet users than smartphone owners in the US – currently around 100m and 200m respectively – Forrester expects two-thirds of this revenue, $76bn, to come from tablets due to their larger screens and form factors better suited for shopping. It’s worth noting that mobile users making purchases on their devices are still in the minority – 38 per cent of smartphone owners and 31 per cent of tablet owners in 2014. However, those figures are expected to rise to 55 per cent and 61 per cent, respectively, pushing total mCommerce revenues in the US to $293bn.

Stay tuned next week for updates on the top news stories from the upcoming IRCE show. The Ketner Group team will be in Chicago for the annual event! If you are there, give us a shout @ [email protected].