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!

Projected Father’s Day Spending Reaches All-Time High

This blog was written by our intern, Madeleine Hatley.

Dads, and retailers, will be getting some extra love this year on Father’s Day, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey conducted by Prosper Insight and Analytics. Total spending for the holiday is expected to hit a record high of $15.5 billion.

Consumers are spending differently this year and are focused on the experience rather than the gift. For retailers, this means traditional tactics such as ads featuring sporting goods or cars will not suffice. When it comes to marketing around Father’s Day, retailers need to add a personal touch to effectively reach their target consumer.

“This is especially true when looking at the buying habits of millennials, most of whom crave a deeper connection to the brands they support when they shop for Father’s Day gifts,” said Elaine Kwon, founder of e-commerce management firm Kwontified, in a recent Fierce Retail article.

Kwon further explained, “that shoppers love the delight of sharing a “cool new brand” as something that makes for a terrific gift. She foresees new brands with cult followings to transition strongly this Father’s Day. For example, she named brands such as Bevel and Dollar Shave Club.”

NRF says the average shopper will spend $134.75 this year on Father’s Day gifts. Beyond experiences, other popular gifts include gift cards, clothing and consumer electronics. Each of these categories are projected to sell over $1 billion this year. Gifts for handy dads such as tool boxes and DIY items were less popular but still expected to generate $885 million in sales. Retailers should curate their assortments and discount strategies across various categories to make the most of Father’s Day sales.

“Planning an assortment that goes beyond the usual cologne or bathrobe will work wonders for retailers looking to stand out. Since so many gift-givers want to surprise their dads with an experience, show how your products can tie into an exciting outing through your marketing campaigns,” recommends Angelica Valentine in a recent Quad Analytix blog referencing the NRF report.

Surprisingly, NRF reported that 39.9% of consumers plan on buying their gifts in department stores compared to only 33.7% planned to order gifts online. From rural strip-malls to major department stores, it has been a disastrous two years for retail. We keep hearing about the “retail apocalypse” and how everything is moving to e-commerce. Similar to Mother’s Day this year which also had record-high sales projections, many consumers still come to brick and mortar stores to touch and see, and make sure the gift is perfect for dad.

“Shoppers are planning to spend more than ever this year, and retailers have a lot to gain from this 8.4 percent larger projection over 2016 if they can tap into the right data,” said Valentine.

Last month, despite the projected increase in Mother’s Day spending, the retail industry experienced an unexpected decline in retail sales during May. We’ll have to wait and see if Father’s Day is able give the overall retail industry a boost for the month of June.

And there’s a niche market that definitely benefits from timely, gift-giving holidays. I am part of the majority of consumers (64%) that will buy greeting cards this Father’s Day. A sweet note adds a personal touch that any dad would appreciate. Personally, while shopping for the perfect card for my dad, I opted for a humorous approach (you know, dads love dad jokes). I decided on a Star Wars card with Darth Vader on the front that says, “We can’t pick our fathers so I sure lucked out with you.”

From all of us at Ketner Group, Happy Father’s 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.

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.

Giving Tuesday lasts all year at Ketner Group

Ketner Group believes that in the office isn’t the only place we can make a difference. Our team is involved in charities and organizations across Austin and Nashville. This Giving Tuesday we wanted to share how Ketner is giving back to the community that gives us so much, and encourage you to get involved with organizations that can impact so many!

Aidan Griffin, who hails from Boston and whose blood runs green, is involved in a number of organizations in the Austin area that promote Irish culture and heritage. He currently serves the Public Relations Officer for the Irish Network of Austin, the local chapter of Irish Network USA – a business, cultural and social network for friends of Ireland in Central Texas. In his role as Public Relations Officer, Aidan is responsible for managing the public persona of the chapter through social media management, event promotion and coordination with local organizations, government entities and businesses. He is also a member of the Austin Celtic Cowboys, the Gaelic Football club in town, where he helps manage media relations and supports public outreach to grow the game in the area among the American community.

Kirsty Hughan, our lone ranger in Nashville, is the co-founder and recently appointed Advisory Board Member of Mod, a community organization that helps women personally and professionally. Through Mod’s monthly events, Kirsty works with Nashville women to better understand and achieve what they want through networking, conversation and education. She is also involved in the small business organization in Nashville and is a member of the Nashville Independent Business Alliance, or Indie Nash.

Heavily involved with Texas Exes Austin Chapter as a past board member and current young alumni committee member, Adrienne Newcomb also volunteers her time and resources with Community First! Village. Community First! Village is a 27-acre master planned community that provides affordable, permanent housing and a supportive community for the disabled, chronically homeless in Central Texas. A development of Mobile Loaves & Fishes, this transformative residential program exists to love and serve our neighbors who have been living on the streets, while also empowering the surrounding community into a lifestyle of service with the homeless.

Kathleen See works with various non-profit and community focused organizations across the Austin community. She’s been involved with the Thinkery, Austin’s children’s museum, volunteering for their annual Imaginarium gala. Most recently, she has begun donating her time to Young Texans Against Cancer. She first became involved through their annual Powderpuff football game, but has become impassioned with their mission to raise funds and awareness for local cancer research and support organizations, becoming the sponsorship chair for their 5th annual Powderpuff Football Game and assisting with fundraising for the 7th annual Spice for Life Chili Cookoff.

Each year Ketner Group sponsors a family in need during the holidays and provides school supplies to underserved children in our area. We also regularly participate in and support our local PRSA chapter. In addition, Ketner Group actively gives back to the organizations our team members are involved with, just another way KG shows its love for our team and community. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook to see how we’re giving back in Austin!

Election 2016 Coverage

Tuesday, November 8, 2016, will forever go down in history as the day America unexpectedly, according to underestimated polling projections, elected its 45th President. Like most of the country, Ketner Group had been keeping an eye on the debates and discussions leading up to the election and are now looking forward to how the country will change under this new leadership. We’ve pulled together some coverage we’ve seen since the announcement of the President-elect that highlight how the election could affect retail as we head into the holiday season:

Retail Federation Watching for Donald Trump’s Trade Policy

The National Retail Federation (NRF) is closely watching how President-elect Trump’s policies could impact consumer sentiment and spending as we head into the holidays.

Shortly after Trump was announced as President-elect, NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay asked him as well as other members of Congress to practice pragmatism when implementing new policies that will affect trade with other countries and the retail industry. This statement comes after Trump has made comments that would greatly impact the industry.

Forbes contributor Richard Kestenbaum takes a look at two major effect Trump’s election to the Presidency could have on retail: paralysis and costs.

The fashion industry is keeping a keen eye on how Trump’s policies will affect trade and taxes. During his campaign he released proposals he would implement during his first 100 days in office, among them would be a renegotiating or removal of major trade agreements like NAFTA and TPP and changes to the tax code which could have major implications for the fashion industry.

As retailers wrap up a difficult year, the economic uncertainty from the election, as well as trade and tax policies that could be enacted under a Trump presidency, have retailers bracing for major change in the industry.

Photo provided by Kathleen See
Photo provided by Kathleen See

Ketner Group Musings on Retail: Finding the Perfect Blend of Technology and People

In the past few years, it would seem that the appeal of “traditional” physical retail stores is decreasing. After all, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, eCommerce grew 14.6% in 2015 with online sales accounting for more than half of total retail sales growth.

Even with this tremendous amount of growth in the online channel, the store is still the heartbeat of retail. But the reality is this: What we as shoppers really want, what we crave, is for our favorite retailers to create new and refreshing reasons for us to visit their physical stores.

Spoiler alert: it’s all about technology with a human touch!

So what, exactly, does this partnership of technology and human touch translate to?

Human touch means assisted selling in the store, in which store associates capture customer preferences and provide more targeted recommendations with the help of mobile devices that contain attribute information for all retail products. The result? Associates can become highly-effective personal “style” advisors when they combine their own knowledge of a product with readily available product information and customer preference indicators.

So too does it translate to relaxed spaces in-store where customers can learn and call on associates if they need or want to. Apple has been a leader in this type of dynamic in-store environment for ages.

Photo provided by Tech Times
Photo provided by: Tech Times

Since then, other retail stores have taken note. For example, London-based department store, Selfridges, has brought that “technology meets human” feel to the store by launching a multi-sensory yoga experience by partnering with East London yoga duo, Yung Club. Smaller scale retailers like STORY have taken the store experience to another level. Their 2000 square foot Manhattan store is part magazine, part store. Every four to eight weeks, it completely reinvents itself from design to merchandise in order to address a new theme, trend or issue.

Human touch in the store becomes especially useful when it partners with technology that pulls together disparate pieces of information. Think Clueless in the real world! Consider the example of a shopper pulling up a digital version of their own closet to see if a top they’ve found at a retail store matches their skirts. Adding that insight to a full product catalogue allows the store associate to purchase that top from another store should their location be out of stock. By connecting all channels with human insight, shoppers can truly find the right product at the right moment. The end result is a delightful and share-worthy shopping experience for the customer.

The Ketner Group team looks forward to hearing more about how human and machines are working together to create relevant, intimate and memorable customer experiences. We’re excited to find out the extent to which the future success of retailers hinges on connecting these two things to build memorable brand experiences. Retailers that effectively blend human touch with technology stand apart from the rest and not only “win,” they kill it.

Stepping up Customer Service through Tech

lou-and-grey-customer-service
Image courtesy of Xteener

You know a good retail experience when you see it, when you feel it, and it usually relies on really good customer service. And we’re not talking about persistent service or complicated service. Usually, great retail experiences result from going to a store you know and love, interacting with someone who knows about you and then benefiting from their knowledge. Sometimes this experience is highly local and the associate asks about your recent vacation. Other times, it’s going to a retail chain and having them understand your past purchase history in order to make a really good recommendation for an upcoming wedding. Both experiences are founded on a comprehensive understanding of your needs, motivations and desires at an individual level which are seamlessly used to provide better service.

Lucky for me, I know there’s one store where I can find this experience, and that’s Lou & Grey. Side note, I wrote about Lou & Grey on this blog before…I’m a little obsessed to say the least.

While I’m head over heals for the style of the clothes, the price point and the innovative retail experience—see my other blog post— a huge reason I come back is because of Kathy. While I live in Nashville, my family is in Connecticut and I shop regularly at Lou & Grey in Westport. There, Lou & Grey’s amazing employee, Kathy, has developed a strong relationship with my mother, my sister and me. We head to Lou & Grey hoping to catch a glimpse of her laugh and strong sense of humor. And also because she knows us really well. She knows that we tend to mostly buy clothes on sale but that we’ll splurge for something full price if we love it. She knows which clothes fit our sense of style and our body types. She provides suggestions, tells us when something doesn’t look great and gives recommendations for something that will work well with a piece we purchased last time. She’s amazing. And because she is amazing and the store is amazing, we return often and spend a lot more than we would otherwise.

lou-and-grey-storefront
Image courtesy of Xteener

What’s neat is that Kathy’s amazing customer service can be replicated through technology. Here’s why…

First, I like Lou & Grey enough to have their credit card—it gives me special offers when I spend a certain amount. That means that Lou & Grey can collect information about me right off the bat: the credit card is connected to my spending history. If linked to a CRM system, Lou & Grey employees like Kathy could also add in information about me to my “loyalty number” such as color preferences, size and taste.

Second, Lou & Grey can connect the knowledge about me to my experience in store. This way, if I visit a new store, or if Kathy has the day off, other associates can offer an experience that rivals Kathy’s. They can tap into my information to provide better recommendations and thus better service, offering new things for me to try that match my existing wardrobe and fall in line with my spending preferences.

Because I’ve developed a sense of confidence in the chain, I feel like my information is protected. I don’t worry about how my loyalty information is being used and I’m not freaked out by a new associate understanding my spending history because I’ve developed trust with Lou & Grey through their great customer service. In an ideal world, I would know how the retailer was using my information, how they protected it and what value I received in return.

If these simple changes were made to their loyalty program, and they implemented employee training to support the changes, I would shop at Lou & Grey way more often. Remember, the experience I shared with Kathy is in Connecticut. I live in Nashville. As a result, I’m limiting my shopping visits to a few times a year instead of once a month. If the retailer connected my patterns to my loyalty information and supplemented that technology enhancement with good associate training, I’d get just as good service here in Nashville, and I’d visit the store a lot more often.

In the meantime, I’ll keep talking up Lou & Grey and visiting Kathy whenever I can. And I’ll look forward to a future in which I get to learn the name of my favorite associate in Nashville.

Influencer Insights: Paula Rosenblum

A Ketner Q&A with Paula Rosenblum, Co-Founder and Managing Partner at RSR Research

As we enter the start of the holiday shopping season, what technology trend(s) do you see most impacting the field?

Cloud, obviously. But that’s not holiday season only…it’s a trend that’s moving around the industry. Oddly, it seems more vendor-driven than retailer-driven, but retailers do seem to be starting to embrace it. And price comparison shopping is only growing in power.

What are your go-to resources for staying up to date on retail and hospitality trends?

I subscribe to a ridiculous number of publications, both B2B and B2C. The Wall Street Journal reportage has improved, Bloomberg has Shelly Banjo, who is a great source of accurate reportage, Reuters has Phil Wahba, Smartbrief is a good content aggregator and I receive several of those. I also read Twice, Advertising Age (that’s a really good one, actually) and Forbes. My friend Walter Loeb is my best source for department store related information. He’s also my role model. He’s 91 and still going strong. I want to be like Walter when I grow up!

What would you most like for people to understand about Retail Systems Research?

We don’t do any competitive intelligence whatsoever. We are all about market intelligence and understanding broad trends currently happening in the retail industry today. We try not to look too far into the future, since there are too many things that once seemed impossible that suddenly become possible. We are the most pragmatic, objective and practical people we will find, and we’re a fascinating blend of talents.

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

Be fulfilled, be happy, and be kind. Above all, strive to be fulfilled in yourself, not by things. And remember, it never costs a penny to be kind.

What do you do for fun?

I’m an amateur photographer, and love to go out shooting with a long lens. I also still love spending time down in St Croix where I can snorkel and visit with my friends, the fish! In a month or two, I’ll love driving around in my convertible in Miami as well. Right now, I’m hunkered indoors because it’s so bloody hot and muggy!


About Paula Rosenblum

Paula Rosenblum is co-founder and Managing Partner at RSR Research and is widely recognized as one of the industry’s top retail technology analysts. She was selected as one of the “Top 50 Retail Influencers” in 2014 and 2015. She also writes a weekly blog for Forbes. Previous to her 12 years as an analyst, she spent over 20 years as a retail technology executive and CIO at companies including Hit or Miss, Morse Shoe, Domain Home Fashions and others. Paula received her MBA in 1991 from Northeastern University, with a major in management of High Technology firms and was nominated to the Beta Gamma Sigma honor society. She’s active in a variety of organizations supporting human growth and development, and has been involved with the RetailROI charity since its earliest days.