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About: David Salisbury

Recent Posts by David Salisbury

Fall of Sears, GenZ & the Rise of Retail Innovation


At a time when Amazon aggressively expands into India, Australia, and South-East Asia via Singapore, it’s also time to remind ourselves how the giants can fall.

Retail Innovation is at an all-time High

The Wall-Marts, Amazons, and Alibabas of today are not invincible. While they may cannibalize Macy’s, Target, Kroger and dozens of other retail big-box brands, new entries into the U.S. such as Lidl and Aldi challenge the status quo of grocery retail.

The era of omnichannel Internet of Things in retail is truly upon us. New levels of convenience mean older retail brands have little chance of keeping up.

Target has acquired same day delivery company Grand Juncture, but is it enough? Price wars between Wallmart and Amazon mean the future looks grim for department stores in 2017 what has been dubbed a retail Apocalypse by the media.

The Customer Centricity of Price and Speed

Technology has never been more implicated in retail’s bid to be omnichannel and deliver customer-centricity. If E-commerce was just the trigger, and what’s left are micro battles of innovation and fulfillment, even where innovation meets entertainment. These are wars of digital influence, branding and the future at new scales.

Amazon is now releasing a new service called instant pickup that will have your order ready within 2 minutes.

According to Reuters, the beta includes locations such as five college campuses including the University of California at Berkeley for now and will expand to additional sites, including neighborhood spots within cities, by end of year. Pickup points currently are open at campuses in LA, Atlanta, Columbus, OH and College Park, MD.

Why the Sears Downfall is Important

To be obsessive about innovation means not to take anything for granted and Amazon has done well to embed these values into its culture of excellence and pioneering spirit. This is something executives at Sears failed to do.

Sears has substantial doubt about its future, just as Macy’s is undergoing a shakeup in management. In retail, the winners win big, and the losers keep declining. For Sears, the fall has is a multi-year drama, with lessons, few of us are equipped to fully understand.

The end is near the analysts have been saying for years about Sears. There’s no patching up the bleeding when the fall is from that high. On June 7th, Sears Holdings Corp. announced it will close an additional 72 Sears and Kmart Stores, boosting its total to 250 in this year alone.

Retail and the Future

The rise of e-commerce and Amazon have mirrored the end of Sears, and many believe more big-box retailers will be cannibalized by Amazon as it increases its upwards momentum and scale. The story of Sears is pretty incredible, and you would have to remember its height to appreciate its fall.

The retail carnage today is a story of not adapting to the future, in technology and how the new consumer behaves. This kind of agility is a business model, it’s a mindset and a philosophy and a way of handling management. For retail entrepreneurs, it’s also the ability to risk trying new things in the marketplace.

Amazon isn’t just a technology company; it has successfully adapted to become a consumer-centric AI and entertainment company. This is because that’s where the future lives. GenZ, the youngest studied group in retail, are now graduating from University and have grown up not just with mobile devices but with new ideas on what experience and entertainment look like.

What is GenZ Teaching us about the New Consumer?

 

Gen Z is defined as the cohort of individuals born after 1995 who are successors of the Millennial generation.

  • GenZ prefers mobile to human customer service and voice to mobile.

 

  • GenZ consumers are pragmatic savvy discount-native shoppers.

 

  • GenZ shoppers aren’t just technology addicts, they are entertainment addicts in new and distinct ways.

 

  • GenZ consumers are experiential and enjoy shopping in brick-and-mortar stores.

 

  • GenZ shoppers have grown up with Amazon and take convenience, speed and omnichannel for granted, but value authentic retail branding of small-box merchants.

 

According to a study by the NRF and IBM:

Technology namely mobile devices, e-commerce, video on demand and on-demand services are just the new normal to young people in the GenZ cohort. Their social lives, experiences in the real world and online life are completely intertwined. Digital influence itself is a means of their social experience. This is important for even local retailers to understand.

GenZ may have less discretionary spending than previous generations, as the workforce changes and as society as a whole adapts to technology. GenZ displays new and distinct eating patterns in a continuation of the preference of Millennials where cooking at home is on the decline in favor of apps that deliver meals and food on-demand.

Mobile devices dominate but many GenZ increasingly use a voice interface to interact with their mobile smartphones. In addition, a new range of smart speakers in the home means GenZ are the early-adopters of these technologies, along with their younger Alpha siblings.

GenZ also sees technology increasingly as a means for entertainment and instant fulfillment. For retail experiences, entertainment has to be considered a bigger motivation than education for young people in general. Changes in how retailers do showrooming mirror the new trend of consumers to do BOPIS; where the store experience is just a part of the retail customer experience. The rise of retailtainment also means in live-video and video games, both verticals Amazon have gotten into via its acquisition of Twitch.

Quality still matters. While we’ve come to associate younger Millennials as discount bargain off-price shoppers, GenZ still signals quality as the defining factor of the greatest importance. Increasingly this means being an ethical, authentic and sustainable brand as well.

The Customer Experience now means a lot more in GenZ’s consumer preferences. This means having solid retail foundations and retail basics.

GenZ are more aware of their private data and willing to barter it for exceptional results. In an era of cyber breaches, mobile Ad-blockers and greater emphasis on AI and product suggestions, GenZ do appear more open to sharing data for greater retail personalization.

GenZ do appear to use social media differently than Millennials. Greater video consumption and less time spent on older networks such as Facebook and Twitter mean more time spent on Instagram and Snapchat.

They are less likely to indiscriminately share their personal lives and opinions, as they are witnessing different kinds of drama online. This also means, they are harder to reach by brands online.

While GenZ still love stores, it’s fairly obvious they expect mobile interaction as well. They are more comfortable with E-commerce than any other generation. They are more influenced by digital influence than any other generation but still are for the most part store-centric in how they spend their time interacting with retail.

Edit: This article represents the opinions of the author only and doesn’t represent the views of any organization.

Follow us on LinkedIn, for all things retail trends, retail tech, and retail innovation.


Michael Spencer is a content strategist, futurist and marketing consultant. He was named a 2016 LinkedIn Top Voice and blogs on technology trends as well as retail. He’s based in Montreal and manages social media branding for tech startups, in addition to blogging. LinkedIn | Twitter.


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The Rise of QR Codes in Retail


QR codes are proving to be the long lost holy grail for apps to impact the real world. QR codes for retailers and merchants are actually a lot more than that as well.

Retail stores can benefit from this consumer trend by implementing the tech in their stores and to help their small businesses grow.

QR Codes are Sustainable Tech

Our Micro Receipts enable shoppers to reduce the paper footprint on their digital receipts by up to 80% with QR codes as a means of uploading receipts on to mobile devices to access mobile coupons.  

The Cashless Interactive Consumer

Facebook’s new stealth entry into the Chinese app market even relies on QR codes of WeChat.

WeChat Pay has become so ubiquitous in China, it’s led to a cashless society of mobile natives.

It’s taken a bit long for QR codes to become popular again in the West, but increasingly more apps are seeing the new movement including Snap Inc., Amazon, Spotify, among others.

QR Codes and the Future of Payments

GenZ are the most mobile generation ever, and in a landmark study by the NRF and IBM, we understand their patterns better than ever.

QR codes help connect people and things in the IoT of retail better than another other tool. Amazon’s Futuristic store called AmazonGo enables remote check out via QR code sign-in to your Prime account.

Popular peer to peer (P2P) app Venmo now has a rewards program with Wells Fargo via QR codes.

According to PYNMTS, wholesale dominance in China along with a demonization movement in India, the biggest mobile payment markets of consumers in the world, signals that QR code dominance may spread globally.

As mobile payments options increase, options like Paypal are aggressively increasing their partnerships as cloud options proliferate such as Stripe and even E-commerce options such as Shopify have their own payment. It would not be surprising to see them too go down the QR code path to legitimate convenience and speed.

Benefits of Using QR codes In-Store

The benefits of using QR codes in-store could be as versatile as the apps they are paired with. However, the rise of RFID and QR codes with products in -store means the digital influence is more varied and offers more powerful retail and retailtainment experiences.

In the sharing economy such as seeing with Ofo and Mobike in the rise of bike-sharing giants in China, QR codes are again the major access point.

The benefits of QR codes for retail stores might include:

DIGITAL INFLUENCE

  • Leveraging digital influence for a more customer-centric in-store experience

SHOWROOMING

  • Providing value-added education on products in showrooming

RETAIL-ED

  • Pair in-store appointments (with a solution like Booxi) with product information.

AUTOMATED PROMOTIONS & DISCOUNTS TO DRIVE TRAFFIC

  • Pair in-store promos with an option such as PromoPRNT for discounted deals that reach every customer.

PAYMENT SPEED

  • To enable mobile payment in the fastest and most convenient way possible (e.g. WeChat Pay).

REDUCE WAIT TIMES, CHECKOUT QUEUES AND LINEUPS

  • The way to by-pass lineups entirely is called showrooming, which is the opposite of BOPIS (buy online pick up in-store).

Here QR codes are presented on products where customers can scan “dynamic” QR codes and buy the items online and have them delivered to their homes or work offices. This completely bypasses the need for lineups, queues and traditional inventory management of online retailers where the store (sometimes just a pop-up location) is more for branding than for selling directly.

INTERNET OF THINGS WEB MOBILE APPS

Even Google with Google Chrome has experimented with QR codes. If convenience wins in the future, connected devices mean the mobile interface will supplement voice-first interfaces.

WeChat’s dominance in China means Amazon is likely to facilitate the same kind of ubiquity. It’s experimenting with an Alexa-enabled Dash wand and practically giving them away.

As in China, Japan and Asian locations, QR codes are the norm, rather than the exception. It’s hard not seeing the West follow suit, regardless of its initial and apparent allergic reaction to first-wave QR code movement.

Since mobile device penetration rates are expected become universally global by 2022, QR codes are the dominant way that retail stores can leverage digital influence and may become as common as native apps and loyalty programs themselves.

QR Codes Enable Mobile Ubiquity

Given how advanced China is in using QR codes via WeChat, we can be inspired as retailers and marketers with their real-world applications, many of which for us Westerns, it’s difficult to imagine:

Offering discounts for those using QR-codes can help incentivize their use.

  1. Sharing bikes
  2. Sharing social media accounts
  3. Post and reply to job boards
  4. Identify pets (and senior citizens with dementia)
  5. Marketing attribution and KPIs in physical retail experiences
  6. As a personal ID at events (otherwise known as conference signage)
  7. To connect anything in-person with something virtual
  8. To easily link products and items with coupons/discounts
  9. Link to exclusive access to a YouTube Video
  10. Gain access to transport schedules and other public info
  11. To act as gateways to Email Newsletter sign ups
  12. Incentivize mobile natives to do something
  13. Connect to online ads with additional images on physical for-sale signs
Learning and Copying China, The Future is “Grab and Go”

When Snapchat released so-called “Snapcodes” in early 2015, when in 2013 they seemed “dead” in the west, only now in 2017 can we fully appreciate their innovation in doing so.

QR codes are already part of the sharing economy and new way our civic life is being influenced by mobile and digital influence.

iOS 11 itself will support tons of QR code types.

Since the future is grab and go, the way smart cities evolve means new mobile touch points everywhere as the Internet of Things grows to become part of our daily reality.

In a world where everyone has mobile devices, QR codes become the ID badge of the future where we sign-in to a faster experience.

The future store has computer vision, LIDAR, anonymous facial recognition and smart shelves, carts all working in synergy. This enables new ways consumers can interact in physical environments without undue latency.

If China exists in an “alternate reality” where QR codes are population, it’s spreading. This is because it works.

The Western companies that help to make this mainstream here are at a huge advantage over their competitors. The same for small businesses who adopt this technology to improve their customer experience.

The main benefit of QR codes is they are a good advertising best practice with nearly unlimited creative potential.

Can you spot the QR code?

Are QR codes the Future of Mobile Loyalty Programs?

If China is painted with QR codes, it will be hard for the West to resist their appeal. Indeed, Facebook’s Chinese Colorful Balloons app is a proxy for this. Facebook rewards would be the ultimate loyalty program if it worked. Facebook may not be the most daring innovator, but we know they can at least copy.

If Millennials and GenZ seek unique experiences and are the first generation to grow up totally immersed in mobile life, pioneers of QR codes like Kik, stand a lot to gain. Aspiring to be the WeChat of the west is a lofty goal.

The intersection of retail, chatbots and QR codes is not fully understood. It’s monetization potential however if fairly obvious, offer a more unique way at providing convenience.

Why QR codes Make Sense in 2017
  • Most people have mobile phones (generally called increasing mobile penetration)
  • More phones now can read QR codes (without downloading an app). Especially true if you own a Xiaomi, Motorola, Samsung, Lenovo or the latest iPhone.
  • Success stories of using them are now common
  • Internet speeds are faster
  • Changing consumer behavior: namely a preference for off-price retail
  • The global brands are opting in to using them

This includes pioneers such as Alipay.

As you can see for retailers, this is bigger than just mobile payments. This is a mix of creative advertising meets brick-and-mortar retail and services.

Small businesses can hop on the QR-code band-wagon too, and stores can create promos both digitally printed receipts and mobile app entries into mobile coupons for their shoppers.

Follow us on LinkedIn, for all things retail trends, retail tech, and retail innovation.


 

Michael Spencer is a content strategist, futurist and marketing consultant. He was named a 2016 LinkedIn Top Voice and blogs on technology trends as well as retail. He’s based in Montreal and manages social media branding for tech startups, in addition to blogging. LinkedIn | Twitter.

 

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How Retailers Can Keep up with Amazon

Even as teen shoppers and GenZ remain favorable to physical stores, keeping up with Amazon is a growing concern for retail stores, chains, and even independent merchants.

Besides following the best customer experience tips in Retail, there are many things brick-and-mortar stores and locations can do to navigate the post-apocalypse retail experience.

Amazon is a great ecosystem of convenience, entertainment and a store of everything, but it also uses this to build and retain customer engagement.

Small box stores can replicate some of Amazon’s business model, to win loyalty as well. Here are some ideas on how to do it:

Improve Technology in the Store

Offering promotions in-store with QR codes and mobile, or on digital receipts with loyalty promotions can help with repeat sales, improve purchase frequency and retain customers better over time.

Digital signage and touch screens are also on the rise. According to Retail Dive, the multi-touch screen market, is set to almost triple from $6 billion in 2016 to $16 billion by 2023.

Offer Experiences that Add-Value

Adding value means offering in-store experiences that create synergy with your retail brand and your ideal customer. This might be as simple as offering on-site education around your niche vertical or retail industry or showrooming new products in a way that’s aligned to your customer base.

Creating “ah-ha” micro moments around your retail brand is also relates to your social branding and mobile presence. Being authentic to your audience means sharing your journey as a small business retail owner, about the staff via Instagram stories.

Emphasize Human Connection

While Amazon is replicating natively owned brands to craft products that might scare vendors, Amazon is becoming a technology and AI company of retail. So what’s the counter for that?

By offering intimate in-person experiences and high-quality human interactions at a location, you are offering an experience Amazon cannot offer. This means more than good customer service.

This could mean, events, classes, meet-ups, guest speakers, musical performances, anything that your customers might value. Your product and your audience are part of your brand. By doing marketing with the user-generated-content of your best customers, you are promoting a more authentic brand.

By emphasizing human elements of education, community, added value services, and branding into local seasonal events, you are humanizing your brand not just as a location to shop, but as a local community hub.

Incentivize Upselling with Improved Suggestions

According to Vend, using the rule of 3 can help leverage cross-selling and up-selling better to monetize loyalty customers and provide them with enhanced product interactions.

Most SMB merchants cannot afford to spend on sophisticated algorithms used by today’s tech giants to help personalize recommendations, the rule of 3 simply states offering options to customers such as the Requested, the Alternative, and the Dream. For every store and type of customer, this may mean different things.

Having a gamified mechanism in place that is tailored to discount, mid-price and luxury niche products, it becomes easier to recognize a high-value customer and what most appeals to them and namely, how to increase their customer lifetime value to grow your business.

Rewarding customers for their loyalty appropriately is one of the keys to retargeting customers while remaining genuine with upselling offers that are properly timed.

Inspire, Entertain and Delight with Visuals

One of the best blogs on retail displays in-store has to be Insider Trends. We are visual creatures, and the lure of stores are the grand displays, the off-price tantalization and the gorgeous sense of luxury and I want that window shopping.

Retail must not only look good, it must seduce us with class, style, and artistic creativity. Visual storytelling, bringing in influencers for social marketing, doing video content, it all fits in how visual the attention economy is becoming.

The new consumer wants to feel treated at your store, and most of it is possibly a visual feast of experience. This is neglected often in how we think about retailtainment, that combination of how entertaining our store experience is to our target audience. Don’t neglect the importance of style. Amazon is convenient, but it has no sense of style, the design of its website isn’t the greatest. Apart from Whole Foods and a few book stores, Amazon still has no visual wow-factor of physical stores, not having opened up many yet.

As a retail store, you can still differentiate yourself visually and it’s important to do so to attract your customers in the process of discovery. Check out 50 best uses of visual merchandising in retail.

Grow your Niche Vertical

If Amazon is the A-Z everything store, as an independent retailer you are a specialist in a niche. By choosing to have a smaller location you are catering to a very specific sub-set of customers in retail.

As Amazon goes for scale and e-commerce, you should go for quality, culture, and community. As a retail entrepreneur by choosing a niche vertical where there isn’t too much competition, you can quickly differentiate your retail brand in your location by being the best at what you do in the geographical area.

Stores aren’t going out of style anytime soon. In fact, as e-commerce disrupts retail store departments, Malls and heavy-zone commerce, independent stores in more rural locations and unique urban settings increase in value.

As a small business, you cannot focus on being everything to everyone, it really does not make sense. So be what you are, and do it exceptionally well. By doing that you don’t have to worry what the other guy is doing.

Invest in your Employees Better

Retail is a high turnover business, and the Lightspeed’s Speaker series recently contributed a great live-video on this.

As an independent retailer, you have a unique opportunity to train, build rapport and empower retail employees that can translate into your brand being more customer-centric.

Creating an internal culture that’s genuine and professional, can translate to better customer service. You can follow Lightspeed’s speaker series, topics, and webinars here.

Research how to Automate Marketing

As an independent merchant, you don’t have the time or the budget necessarily to hire a full-time marketer.

At the POS, turning to integrations and software add-ons is or can be a big help. Investing in the right marketing automation or a customer-centric way to scale your business that incorporates machine learning that adds significant ROI is the right way to go.

Machine intelligence in the future of retail is not something you want to ignore.

At some point in the future, even small businesses need to leverage the cloud and software. Artificial intelligence will one day learn about your customer preferences and help you serve them better.

There are a lot of software tools out there, some might promise more than they deliver. Explore software integrations that can save you time as business owners, help automate tasks and improve customer service.

For some businesses, this might be loyalty or email marketing, for others, it may be creating in-store promotions better.

With the rise of digital influence comes new consumers who are mobile natives, and there are tried and tested ways to get their attention and motivate them to follow your retail brand and come to your retail store that ultimately can help you thrive as a business.

I hope this article on how to keep up with Amazon was useful to you, if it gets good results we may decide to make another article on this topic or turn it into a series for store owners and local retail merchants, stores, and shops.

Retailers can keep up with Amazon by recognizing what they can and can’t do well and creating memorable experiences in-store that sync with the values and preferences of their high-value customers.

 


Michael Spencer is a content strategist, futurist and marketing consultant. He was named a 2016 LinkedIn Top Voice and blogs on technology trends as well as retail. He’s based in Montreal and manages social media branding for tech startups, in addition to blogging. LinkedIn | Twitter.

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Artificial Intelligence in Retail

What is the hottest topic in retail blogs for 2017? Besides the so-called retail apocalypse, it’s AI in retail.

The Connected Consumer

There is a fairly good reason for this, it’s connected to the future of how consumers search, press buttons in apps to get stuff in the real world done and how we connect with services, goods, connected devices, fun experiences, and most of all with each other.

Advances in computer vision and real-time NLP means AI is more actionable, and we are seeing this on the front lines of retail innovation.

AI Can Serve Small Shops and Stores Too

In 2017, even local merchants can upgrade their stores with exceptionally good foot traffic sensors, loyalty marketing retargeting that’s basically automated and do ad-tech promos right at the POS basically for free.

Perhaps as Tom Goodwin states, the future of retail pertains to everything being shoppable. Amazon’s Alexa devices certainly do seem priced for everyone, their most popular Dot device is currently under $50.00, for less expensive than equivalents from Google Home, Apple’s Home Pod or Facebook and Alibaba alternatives.

Mobile and the Voice-First AI Interface

The new consumer who is more experiential and discount off-price orientated is also savvier and connected with new ways of doing local search, product discovery and accessing e-commerce on mobile devices.

This means how younger Millennials and GenZ shoppers want to experience stores and the physical retail brick-and-mortar environment is also changing.

Slicing Inventory, Logistics and Product Discovery Differently

AI is also inviting retailers and e-commerce native companies to showroom their products in the discovery stage of their customer audience and offer speedy delivery with omnichannel efficiency.

We can also witness this in the powerful way AI facilitates product suggestions via algorithms which have developed extremely well over the last few years.

If YouTube, Netflix and Amazon are doing it, it’s probably a good way to implement product suggestions that increase customer retention, purchase frequency and average customer lifetime value across channels.

Have native algorithms that correlate past customer purchasing and what similar customers have purchased with your preferences means A.I will soon be able to personalize our experience incrementally better and better.

The Cashless Consumer, Localization Intelligence and Proximity Offers

The reinvigoration of QR codes, self-service, and mobile payment options means North American shoppers can increasingly exist without carrying cash or plastic on hand.

While we are still years behind Asia on this, it is most definitely coming as we can witness with digital receipts apps that offer mobile coupons within them.

In fact, the intersection of localization apps, machine intelligence and retail is one of the greatest unsung successes of AI in retail. Increasingly, it’s becoming clear beacons are only one way to implement how these offers might work.

A.I.’s Future in the Retail Landscape

With Alibaba and Amazon’s success, the future of AI in retail appears very bright. These companies are able to invest in A.I at such a rate as their dominance in their markets is likely to expand and grow very quickly.

This actually helps independent stores feel more unique and special. The bridge between being human centric and how algorithms work will increasingly narrow. Retail is adapting to and providing an accessibility to consumer goods that feels convenient and easy.

This also means that AmazonGo like stores will soon become a reality, as common as cashless transactions are now occurring in places like China. In fact, in China AmazonGo stores already exist in one form or another, see Bingobox.

Targeting Customers in Real-Time

Sending real-time personalized messages don’t have to be app-centric either, it could be done via promotions on the receipt at the point of sale itself.

In an age of ad-blockers and Email inboxes that don’t beg a high CTR rate, having signage that’s digitally printed may be an easier answer for local merchants to implement.

The barriers against the convenience of digital signage are evaporating. When machine learning is integrated better with software and hardware at the point of sale level that connects to the solutions of retail independent software vendors, a lot of progress can be made in a relatively short time.

Working with varied partners at the POS, VAR and ISV levels means at Star Cloud Services, we’re a unique innovation-hub to service independent retailers better.

Machine Learning Distributed via the Cloud

Retailers are learning just how many of their operations can be impacted by an increasing array of machine intelligence.

  • Product Selection
  • Retail and Mobile Payments
  • Retail Search
  • AI embedded commerce
  • Chatbots and personalized customer service
  • Supply chain augmentation
  • Retail Robotics

RFID and QR Codes are still Secret Weapons

While for some of us RFID and QR codes seem out of date, the opposite holds true. Each of them is on the rise in retail innovation solutions that we’ve yet to fully encounter at a mainstream level in North American retail.

The way consumers will sign-in to their Amazon Prime accounts as they walk into AmazonGo stores is said to be via a QR code. If that doesn’t signify the future of how seamless and immediate QR codes can be for the new consumer than nothing can.

Star Micronics itself offers a QR code for micro-receipts for the environmentally conscious consumer. This simultaneously uploads the receipt on to your smart phone for easy record keeping. Saving 80% of paper and being mobile-centric, this kind of offering might be standard practice in a few years time.

Artificial Intelligence in Retail Has only Just Begun

While Amazon goes on a hiring spree and as e-commerce evolves, it’s really brick and mortar stores where AI has a lot of exciting R&D to make retail experiences even more enjoyable.

As the retail apocalypse trims sectors of department stores, apparel, and malls that no longer sync and are customer-centric, new possibilities are emerging about what retail might become.

To say that artificial intelligence is making the lives of consumers more convenient, easier and better – would be an understatement. CB Insights is treasure trove of companies on the leading edge of AI.

Retail robots are starting to look a lot more interesting with inventory, at the warehouse and maybe soon even as retail sales associate assistants.

If retail is about audiences and creating more amazing experiences and not just stuff, as retail owners and retail entrepreneurs we have to re-think how brick-and-mortar can fulfill customers.

We have to think about how to implement more humanity in the form of being more customer-centric, with the help of smarter solutions enabled by artificial intelligence.

How human beings experience retail is changing, artificial intelligence will play an increasing role in how we do commerce at all levels.

 


Michael Spencer is a content strategist, futurist and marketing consultant. He was named a 2016 LinkedIn Top Voice and blogs on technology trends as well as retail. He’s based in Montreal and manages social media branding for tech startups, in addition to blogging. LinkedIn | Twitter.

 

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Retail Events that you Can’t Miss

For the busy store owner or the aspiring retail entrepreneur, there are increasingly “must-see” retail innovation and networking events that occur worldwide that enlighten our vision of a retail industry in disruption.

These events connect store owners with retail news, independent software vendors (ISVs), value-added-resellers (VARs) and those working in the industry as a whole, with each other.

These events are not like reading a blog article on Shopify or learning about an aspect of customer experience on Vend; this is an opportunity to connect with peers, solutions and get an inside perspective on the latest trends in retail.

Another important ROI for merchants and retail consultants is the forging of partners for your business both technical and human, software and hardware, to help you keep track with retail innovation as a whole.

Independent Retailer Conference

When: July 30-Aug 2, 2017

Where: Las Vegas Convention Center

Specialty: The Independent Retailer Conference is a “pop up conference” within a trade show experience dedicated entirely to and expertise that can help independent merchants.

Why Go: All about the unique lifestyle and responsibilities of indie store owners with a focus on delivering in-store and e-commerce operational insight.

Website: http://independentretailerconference.com/

ASDLV

When: July 30-Aug 2, 2017

Where: Las Vegas Convention Center

Specialty: Highest margin merchandise, on-trend new products, widest selection, one place at one time.

Why Go: A lot to see.

Website: http://www.asdonline.com/static/home.html

Retail Now

When: August 6-9, 2017

Where: Paris – Las Vegas

How much: $450 – $1395

Specialty: It’s the only show that focuses strictly on technology providers (resellers, software vendors, payment professionals, manufacturers, and distributors).

Why Go: Partnerships

National Retail Federation

When: January 14-16, 2018

Where: New York City

How much: $850 – $2575 http://nrfbigshow.nrf.com/register

Specialty: Big box retail

Why Go: The Biggest retail show with a huge variety of exhibitors and events.

Website: https://nrf.com/

Dx3 Canada

When: March 7-8, 2018

Where: Toronto

Specialty: Canada’s largest technology event focused on Data, Creativity, Innovation, and Commerce.

Why Go: Interesting intersection of digital marketing professionals from Canada’s leading brands, technology companies, and retailers.

Website: https://dx3canada.com/

ASDLV

When: March 11-14, 2018

Where: Las Vegas Convention Center

Specialty: Highest margin merchandise, on-trend new products, widest selection, one place at one time.

Why Go: A lot to see.

Website: http://www.asdonline.com/static/home.html

Shoptalk

When: March 18-21, 2018

Where: Venetian – Las Vegas

How much: $1850 – $3500

Specialty: Next-gen commerce

Why Go: Great industry speakers, high c-level retail exec presence

Website: https://shoptalk.com/

Shopify Unite

When: April (Mid)

Where: San Francisco

Specialty: E-commerce, Shopify ecosystem, Shopify partners

Why Go: Shopify is gaining in importance in the retail of the future.

Website: https://unite.shopify.com/

Shoptalk Europe

When: October 9-11, 2017

Where: Copenhagen

Speciality: Shoptalk Europe is the pan-European event for innovation in retail and ecommerce.

Why Go: 200+ world class speakers, from all of Europe and the usual ecosystem stakeholders and industry retail vertical experts.

Website: https://shoptalkeurope.com/https://shoptalkeurope.com/

World Retail Congress

When: April 17-19, 2018

Where: Madrid, Spain

Specialty: Retail and Shop Fitting Equipment & Service, Catering and Hospitality Industries

Website: https://www.worldretailcongress.com/

Retail Business Technology Expo (RBTE)

When: May 2-3, 2018

Where: London Olympia

Why Go: RBTE is the must attend event for retail and hospitality organizations looking for the right tools, solutions, innovations, and advice on how to best run their business.

Website: http://www.retailbusinesstechnologyexpo.com/

Retail Technology Events

Increasingly there are digital events that intersect with retail and commerce from IoT, to robotics, to consumer electronics, AR/VR innovations and so many more great events.

POS leaders such as Vend are doing Meetups in key cities of the world to increase dialogue with independent merchants. Meanwhile, at Lightspeed, they are conducting a speaker series that streams live on Facebook.

As the very nature of what a commerce event means also changes, small business owners and store managers have new opportunities to interact with technology providers.

At a future date, we may put together such a list for the complete summary of events in North America and elsewhere that intersect with retail technology, POS, independent software vendors (ISVs) and value-added resellers (VARs).

 


Michael Spencer is a content strategist, futurist, and marketing consultant. He was named a 2016 LinkedIn Top Voice and blogs on technology trends as well as retail. He’s based in Montreal and manages social media branding for tech startups, in addition to blogging. LinkedIn | Twitter.

 

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Why Social Media Still Matters in 2017

List of most useful social media hacks for small businesses

As a SME, you may find it challenging to navigate the fast-paced world of social media.

Visual storytelling, video, influencer marketing, so much is changing so quickly.

Social media is more important than ever! Nearly everyone owns some form of social media account so why not embrace it and get your business to reach out to as many people as possible?

The bottom line is, it helps to get your products and business seen and improves connectivity between consumers and your brand.

Here are some hacks to ensure you to improve your social media strategy.

Taking High Quality High Resolution Photographs

With social media platforms like Instagram, your photographs need to be the best of the best. There are millions of photos being uploaded everyday so high resolution is a must for retailers, to get your business to stand out.

With high quality photographs you can establish your own, unique brand identity and create a memorable marketing campaign for your consumers.

This will impact how successful your visual storytelling is.

Embrace Visual Story Telling

Embracing visuals while story telling is a top hack that many businesses fail to include!

37% of marketers say visual marketing is the most important form of content for their business.

Not only can stories convey information, especially your brand identity, stories help allow your business to build a relationship with your customers. Visual storytelling helps to humanise your brand.

Build a relationship through Instagram stories

After all, the more connected you feel to a brand, the more likely you are to buy from them.

Did you know that Instagram Stories has seen an exponential growth and now has 100 million daily active viewers? That’s two-thirds of the daily active population of Snapchat!

Check out Instagram’s new “story” feature – a great way to increase hype about a particular product you want to sell or discount you are promoting. Other new features include selecting multiple photos.

Try posting quotes as images to captivate attention, even in small doses and retain your customer loyalty.

Create Content on Your Website that Adds Value to Social Media

Blog articles are a fun and fantastic way to give something back to your consumers. You could even alert them to your social media channels on the blog!

Why not try some product boards that sync with your seasonal campaign? It will help your customers decide exactly what they want from your company according to the season!

Embrace Interactivity

Creating fun polls on blogs or via Facebook for your customers is also an innovative way to engage your customers.

Why not get the best of both worlds and create polls to find out what customers like about your business?

Choosing the Right Instagram Hashtags

Did you know that at least one insta hashtag averages 12.6% more engagement?

But it’s important to be strategic and know what your followers want and are searching for. Check out https://later.com/blog/ultimate-guide-to-using-instagram-hashtags/ for more info on this.

The best hack is to include some hashtags with your location to inspire your community as a SME. Try using a branded hashtag, unique and specific to your company. A hashtag containing the content of your image is another way to boost consumer engagement.

Hashtag Overload

But what about hashtag overload? Yes it can happen and we’ve all done it.

Try not to exceed 30 #hashtags as you could lose your brand identity and engage customers who are unlikely to be interested in your products.

Using a Pin Scheduler for Pinterest

This helps the organisation of your online brand. You can choose when you want your pins to go out, the exact date and time to boost interest and hype for your business at exactly the right time.

Pinterest analytics tool suggests the optimal time is Saturday mornings and late weekday evenings, between 8pm and 1am. So set your pins to these peak periods!

Consistent Use of Your Social Media Outlets

If you stop using a social media outlet for a long period of time, your followers will simply lose interest.

Instead, leverage your vast audience right at your fingertips and keep them keen!

Video Matters More Than Ever

Video is taking marketing by storm! In a few years, would you be reading this article or watching it?

64% of marketers expect video to dominate their strategies in the near future.

Video is becoming the future of content marketing. YouTube receivers more than 1 billion unique visitors every month. It captures interest and in an age of information overload, it’s vital for small businesses to offer content that is easy to digest.

Focus more on high engagement channels

Instagram has more than 600 million users while Twitter only has 313 million active users.

It is Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat and Youtube that are taking the consumer by storm, with a clear focus on visual images.

After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Why Twitter and Facebook have lost their ROI?

In recent years, there has been a decline in engagement of Facebook and Twitter. Younger consumers use Facebook differently, usually to connect with friends. They do not expect marketing campaigns on their feed.

These social media outlets are becoming a mass of pictures, statuses, links, articles, video games, messages and spam and many are trying to escape it.

Top Instagram Schedulers

Schedugram, Later and TakeOff are the top insta schedulers. These apps allow you to upload photos and videos from the web, crop, add filters and text to your photos. You can manage multiple Instagram accounts, bulk upload multiple posts for Instagram and track competitors!

Use the Best Post Schedulers

For your social media, Buffer, Edar and Hootsuite are the best post schedulers. Buffer shares your content at the best available times throughout the day so that your followers and fans see your updates more often.

You can even analyze your posts all in one place!

Use the Best Image Editing Tools

Canva, Picmonkey and Pablo for Buffer are fantastic image editing tools, making design simple for everyone, even the not-so creative amongst us!

You can create designs for Web or print: blog graphics, presentations, Facebook covers, flyers, posters, invitations and so much more.

Best Places for High Quality Images

Try https://www.pexels.com/ or https://unsplash.com/. They share beautiful, free, stock photos perfect for your business and will quickly engage your consumers.

Create Campaigns Don’t Just Be Social

Make something more of your social media strategy.

By using social media you can build a recognisable brand, unique to your business. Having a strong brand through campaigns compels and creates a relationship with the customer, keeping them wanting more.

Don’t Forget Reddit!

With 234 million unique users and 8 billion monthly pageviews, Reddit is the 7th most visited site online!

Reddit is a great way to keep your finger on the pulse of the internet and get answers from highly engage, niche communities.

Once you’ve built up a posting history, you can begin harnessing Reddit to grow and improve your business.

You can pay for Reddit ads, where you can tag people based on their interests and the subreddits they have subscribed to. Or post something authentic and interesting that happens to do with your own business. For a lot of entrepreneurs, their business is an extension of their life and it won’t come across as inauthentic to share it in certain contexts.

You can even use it for market research and get feedback on your business and brand!

You Can Still Succeed Without Pay to Play

A loyal and organic engagement involves a mix of strategy and creativity.

Use emojis in your online vocabulary to boost engagement. Used correctly, emoji’s don’t just humanize your brand but helps you to captivate more attention.

Why not strategically pin a post that encapsulates exactly what your business is? This makes it easier for your customer to grasp your brand. Even align your posts with trending interest and leverage popular hashtags.

Try posting quotes as images and communicate with your audience through language and imagery.

Finally, make your business fun and interactive! Host competitions, quizzes and ask your customers to “tag a friend who” to create authentic and organic engagements in your social media strategy.


Sarah Jane Callender is a Freelance writer and student at Lancaster University studying Politics and English Literature. Sarah enjoys championing small businesses and is interested in digitalization, the gig economy and its impact on politics and economics. With a passion for travelling, she rarely likes to stay in the same place for long but loves the comfort of home. LinkedIn | Twitter

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How does T.J Maxx Thrive in an Era of Retail Decay?

There are two major kinds of retail feelings as a shopper, the store that is a discount friendly place with tons of customers, and those that make you feel you are walking into a retail museum. On that note, what can we learn from T.J. Maxx?

Don’t Look Like a Museum

T.J. Maxx is a rare bright spot in a troubled year for retail department stores.

In an era of pesky Millennial shoppers, everyone wants to be a discount store. Retail analysts are noticing the big three of Macy’s, Nordstrom and Kohl’s are trying to pivot in that direction to imitate TJX, the parent company of T.J. Maxx. Retail museums don’t earn customer trust, but maybe smart discounts do?

Win the Trust of Millennial Shoppers

Attracting thriving consumers has a formula, and it’s called off-price retail. Selling much cheaper apparel and home goods, works.

Millennials have bough into the dollar store and discount store arena. Where window shopping isn’t only for quality, it’s for that good deal that you just can’t resist.

Keep Management Lean

TJX has an interesting strategy in terms of management and leadership as well, their c-suite is very spare. They have roughly half the c-suite positions that does Macy’s, for instance. Keep administration tight.

Vendor Ecosystem & Buyer Intelligence

According to Forbes, TJX have around 5x the buyers of Macy’s. This means while each one is meticulously trained for 3 years, to recognize value, style and quality; their mission is also to give the end customer the vest value of the merchandise from around the world. Their role in offering a customer-centric product, cannot be underestimated.

The best buyers also know how to create excitement with the unusual values of famous brands. Therefore, how their approach manufacturers might require very customer arrangements. The right balance between matching customer preferences and getting profitable performance for shareholds is also key.

Empower Your Store Merchants and Associates

Many people in retail will tell you the merchant, the store associate, is the heart of the retail organisation. If this is so, why don’t retail brands treat them as such?

They are after all, the men and women who are customer facing and whose passion for service and product translate into profits. The merchants themselves create the enticement of promotions and uncover for new styles and contemporary trends that can translate into excitement for the customer.

Create unique stores, unforgettable departments. The merchant and store associates’ role is thus the a key part of any store organisation.

Create Treasure Hunt Ambience

In a discount or off-price context of retail, what does the customer expect? Giving them what they expect is the art of customer service.

Here it may not be able customer service of human interaction. It may be more about creating as TJ Maax does; a retail environment where treasure hunting for a good bargain, is fun.

Your store doesn’t have to pamper your customer with friendliness, if the price is right. T.J.Maxx stores are less friendly, but the customer shopping there does not expect the same kind of care since she is on a treasure hunt in a discount atmosphere.

Do What Works

By doing what works, TJ Maax owner could open 1,300 more stores. There’s a window to do this and for this brand, the time is now. So timing of growth is of course exceptionally important.

Back in May, TJX executives said the company had sales strength in apparel, accessories and its home categories, and traffic to its stores actually increased. So in the offprice-era here is one of the big winners thus far.

Appeal to the New Consumer

In an era when online is stimulating the discount-mindedness of the consumer, you have to beat the legacy retailers at their own game. This means as stores like Macy’s and J.C. Penny are shuttering locations, you take over their turf and steal their customers from them.

Be the next thing, as the legacy department store chains die. It turns out, we can learn as much from the retail winners, as we can from the mistakes of the retail losers. The retail apocalypse is not just a retail trend, it’s something that can be studied and learned from.


Michael Spencer is a content strategist, futurist and marketing consultant. He was named a 2016 LinkedIn Top Voice and blogs on technology trends as well as retail. He’s based in Montreal and manages social media branding for tech startups, in addition to blogging. LinkedIn | Twitter.

 

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Sephora’s Smart Store is like a Grab and Go Spa

When small is better. Retailers have long understood that smaller stores enable a personlization of the in-store experience, in beauty, it’s all about the consultations and on-site expertise.

Sephora is taking steps to make sure it doesn’t fall victim to the “retail Apocalypse” with the launch of “Studio” boutiques that are roughly half the size of a typical Sephora store.

The new stores, the first of which is launching on Newbury Street in downtown Boston, will be made to fit into the neighborhoods in which they’re located, and focus on makeup, Fast Company reports. The boutiques will intentionally not be in malls to allow old and new customers to more easily pop into stores.

Triumph of the In-Store Experience

The boutique format will be just 2,000 square feet, according to a company press release. Retail Dive reports, that the new compressed boutiques will offer consultations and beauty services. The 75 Minutes custom markers will offer either skincare consults or a mini-facial, not unlike a spa experience.

Technology such as touch screens enable a more up-close and personal interaction where customers can try out foundation, lip or concealer shades. Think YouTube of makeup come to life at a store!

Sephora is thus pioneering a new way of showrooming and sampling that combines both in-store experience and cutting edge omnichannel technology. Offering same-day pickup of online orders is a nice touch.

According to Daphne Howland, Sephora & Ulta have basically disrupted the beauty counter — a department store mainstay — with a more a new fresh streamlined presentation of beauty products, with improved self-service sampling and of course the most helpful staff!

The studios will be about 2,000 square feet, less than half the size of a typical 5,500-square-foot Sephora store. Sephora is experimenting, and is bound to delight customers. This almost feels like a hybrid kind of futuristic retail where pop-up meets favourite store status.

Sephora itself described the venture:

As planting its “smallest footprint” in the country, and these new locations will be freestanding.

The New Model of Store Experience: Studio Concepts in Beauty

Sephora knows a thing or two about customer-centric innovation:

  • Chatbots
  • Showrooming: in-store tech as the service of product discovery that encourages online sales.
  • Interactive AR
  • Embedding “learning and playing” (Retailtainent) into its brand experience

The first-in-the-nation, small-format store is one of Sephora’s most digitally enhanced U.S. locations, with an integrated Beauty Studio for skin care and makeup that is central to its goal of an elevated pre- and post-visit customer experience, according to CEO Calvin McDonald.

“It has all of our latest digital thinking,” McDonald said during a pre-opening store tour yesterday. “It’s our most personalized services. It’s really driven out of our vision to create experiential retail through ‘teach, inspire, play’ across digital, stores and at home.”

Retail at the Crossroads of Retailtainment and Showrooming

Sephora already has more than 400 locations around the U.S., and this adds a bit of mystery and spectacle to a solid brand.

The future store models employ customer-centricity with digital thinking first in mind. Smaller stores are great test runs for digital enhancement of customer experience.

The retail beauty sector has not fallen prey to the retail apocalypse apparel has seen. Since beauty is an industry that’s so up close and personal, they can take showrooming to its technological perfection.

The “teach, inspire, play” motto fits perfection in an omnichannel medium with strong ties between mobile, in-store, at home and online touchpoints.

It’s hard to imagine a Grab and Go spa or beauty bazaar showroom, not being a fun experience for the demographics of this retail sector.


Michael Spencer is a content strategist, futurist and marketing consultant. He was named a 2016 LinkedIn Top Voice and blogs on technology trends as well as retail. He’s based in Montreal and manages social media branding for tech startups, in addition to blogging. LinkedIn | Twitter.

 

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It’s a Retail store Game of Thrones in the retail apocalypse

2017 might go down as the year legacy retail and department stores were finally disrupted. With in-store traffic in decline and the rise of E-commerce, many department stores are struggling with massive debt, shrinkage of customer base and cut-throat competition.

As consumer preferences change, many retailers have are shuttering stores in an effort to survive and balance their budgets in an effort to stay relevant. Here are some of our picks of the falling empires of Retail and ones that might go bankrupt in the near future.

As retail tries to pivot, there will be casualties and 2017 is seeing a sharp spikes in the maladaptive.

Sears

Sears has survived two world wars and the Great Depression, but it doesn’t look like it will survive the retail apocalypse, nor the advent of technology’s importance in retail. In just 8 years, sales have been cut in half, and each month it survives it’s burning through cash.

As Retail Dive points out, it’s hard to ignore the bleeding of Sears. Let’s not forget, Sears still has 1,200 stores and Kmart locations. Even with online controversy brewing over Sears Canada, and in spite of an extra $200 million recently, the downward spiral is getting out of control.

Selling off assets and closing stores only makes it a prime target for the media’s attention. Not heeding to severance obligations in Canada, has the makings of a PR disaster.

Sears is that symbol of American decline in infrastructure, in other words, the death of the mall. A once commercial Super power and pioneer of the catalog, even Sears itself acknowledges the end is near.

The Sears brand is broken, and the path to cash generation is pretty well non-existent. With nearly 300 store closures this year, and the sales of its popular Craftsman brand to Black and Decker for $900 million signalled the fall of a once unbeatable giant.

Sears has been mentioned as a possible bankruptcy candidate in the next several quarters.You don’t lose nearly 20% of your stores in one year, with a viable way to stop the bleeding. Fiscally the amounts to Q4 2016 revenue falling to $6.05 billion from $7.3 billion in the year-ago period, and same-store sales plunged 10.3%.

Macy’s

The era of department stores having more than 1,000 stores may be coming to an end. Wal-Mart may have over 4,000 stores in the U.S. but Macy’s isn’t Walmart. Macy’s reported a 5.2% drop in comparable sales for the first quarter in May. Once titans are on the decline, it’s they enter cliff of the retail apocalypse territory.

The rise of Ulta Beauty and T.J Maxx means Macy’s is slowly becoming irrelevant, compounded by Amazon’s mainstream success.

In 2017, Macys’ was expected to close 68 stores and axe 10,000 jobs, but it could be more. This amounts to 15% of all of its stores. Is Macy’s the next Sears? It’s looking very much like that, with Target eventually next.

Target

We don’t think of Target as a victim of the retail apocalypse, but unfortunately, it has not done e-commerce as well as say, Best Buy has. With same-stores sales down 1.5% in 2016, it’s not looking good for consumer faith in their brand.

Target no longer has competitive advantages that differentiate it. It’s “Store of the Future” plans were abandoned. Amazon Pantry and 85 Million Amazon Prime members will cut into your bottom dollar. Wal-mart’s acquisition of Jet.com, has meant Target is fighting a losing battle on all sides.

Target is surrounded by smarter and bigger enemies, and the consumer can sense the panic.

Target simply can’t afford to play into the “price-wars” or race to the bottom that is Wal-mart and Amazon’s discount game. Target is in a middle ground, and that’s a very dangerous place to be in retail in 2017.

To be cheap but chic might have worked in the 1990s, but it’s hard to be seen as a different kind of big-box store. As Amazon opens up different kinds (non-grocery) of physical stores, Target probably has the most to lose.

Online sales are however increasing modestly and Target increased target earnings for Q2 recently, with as good as can be expected results of the May launch of a brand called Cloud Island, which offers nursery decor. Target is holding its own for now and on point in the first half of 2017, since Amazon and Wal-Mart are doing very well.

Bebe Stores

The women’s apparel retailer will move to operate online, after closing all of its 180 stores and dodged bankruptcy. Bebe, a brand with a solid reputation for chic fashion suffered some key c-level departures and has had a rather rapid decline.

The thwarted future of the Mall and rapid shifts in consumer spend has busted up the apparel department store outlook, with American Apparel, The Limited Stores and Wet Seal all hurting badly in the retail apocalypse. Bebe is lucky to get online unscathed, though it might find the pure play game is more than it can handle.

J. Crew

Even a preppy young-professional garb brand like J. Crew is feeling the pinch of the retail apocalypse as the discount era in apparel hits full-swing.

Going upscale is a risk as many Millennials are going “back to basics”. If you alienate your core customer, there’s no turning back as they are finding out. A $2 Billion debt problem amid declining sales, according to Retail Dive to the tune of a Q4 5% drop, to $572.6 million, means things are getting serious.

David’s Bridal

David’s Bridal sells women’s wedding apparel and accessories and has been on bankruptcy watch by insiders for quite some time. As a niche retailer, some analysts believe the brand already hit its ceiling and now can only decline. The departure of CEO Pam Wallack points to uncertain leadership, and Moody’s analysts do not favor their outlook.

Claire’s Stores

A store that likes to call itself a “girl’s best friend,”is a bit of an oddity in 2017. Unfortunately young women teens and tweens have a lot of options these days. Last year around this time Reuters reported they had a debt load of $2.4 billion, and things have gone downhill from then. With Sales continuing to slip, with 2016 Q4 slide of net their sales of 5%, they are in the heart of the storm that is the retail apocalypse.

With over 4,000 stores closing thus far in 2017, apparel itself has been decimated. According to Retail Dive:

Claire’s is being blown away by the same headwinds facing teen apparel retailers American Eagle, Abercrombie & Fitch and Aeropostale

As in all things, poor market trends are made worse by substantial debt, where survival is a matter of months, not years.

2017 Retail Bankruptcy Watch

While there are too many retail brands and chains on the verge of bankruptcy, generally accepted names on the edge include:

  1. David’s Bridal
  2. Charlotte Russe
  3. Neiman Marcus Group
  4. Sears Holdings
  5. Indra Holdings (holding company owner of Totes Isotoner)
  6. Velocity Pooling Vehicle (DBA Motorsport Aftermarket Group)
  7. Chinos Intermediate Holdings (parent of J. Crew Group)
  8. Everest Holdings (manages Eddie Bauer brand)
  9. Nine West Holdings
  10. Claire’s Stores
  11. Boardriders SA (sporting subsidiary of Quiksilver)
  12. Bon-Ton department stores
  13. Fairway Group Holdings (food retailer)
  14. Tops Holding II (supermarket operator)
  15. 99 Cents Only Stores
  16. TOMS Shoes
  17. Evergreen AcqCo 1 LP (parent of thrift chain Savers)
  18. Charming Charlie
  19. Vince LLC (clothing retailer)
  20. Calceus Acquisition (owns Cole Haan footwear)
Retail Apocalypse Conclusion

While many retail legacy brands will be impacted by the retail apocalypse, others brands are thriving. It’s a climate of adaptation and a retail chain disruption unlike we have seen since 2008.

The ugly truth is the U.S. mall is making way for the new retail, a bloated U.S. physical retail infrastructure that is just begging to be trimmed. Stores will come and go, but the customer experience is adapting to consumer preferences, and it’s clear e-commerce and technology are a big part of that.

Whether it’s a move to smaller more intimate stores that can provide better in-store experiences, or more to discount offerings, retail verticals are rapidly adapting.

Whether we are witnessing a retail apocalypse (or a myth) or a retail game of thrones, take your pick, but the white walkers and bankruptcy are coming for many of our old favourites. It’s time to turn the page in the history of retail.


Michael Spencer is a content strategist, futurist and marketing consultant. He was named a 2016 LinkedIn Top Voice and blogs on technology trends as well as retail. He’s based in Montreal and manages social media branding for tech startups, in addition to blogging. LinkedIn | Twitter.

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29 Pinterest Hacks for Small Businesses

Pinterest may be one of the most underrated social media for small businesses, especially retailers. For SMB retailers, Pinterest is the ultimate tool to drive customer engagement, create strong visual brand, and most importantly, sell products.

Pinterest has over 150 million active users and out of that 150 million, 87% of Pinners have purchased a product because of Pinterest. Even more, 93% of Pinners have used Pinterest to plan for a future purchase.

This means, Internet users across the world are utilizing this social media site mostly for the purpose of making a purchase. Pinterest is the first mainstream social media to successfully pull this off.

With all this said, if you are an SMB retailer and do not currently have a Pinterest account, you need to get started now! Here are 29 Pinterest hacks to get you started.

Boards

1.Shared Content Boards

If you collaborate with a lot of business partners, influencers, or just love utilizing user generated content, shared content boards are for you! Follow these steps to create your shared content board.

2.Video Board

Video content is growing in popularity on social media, including Pinterest. Since Pinterest is becoming more video-friendly, consider creating a board for all of your video content.

3.Contest Board

Create a contest board! Pinterest contests are great, but they can get messy if not organized and maintained correctly. Create a shared content board and run a Pinterest contest so all of your customer’s pins will be in one location.

4.Lifestyle Board

Pinterest users tend to use this platform to search DIY projects, home décor, fashion trends, recipes, etc. The common trend here is lifestyle improvement. Whether you own fashion boutique or a pet grooming shop, find a way to incorporate your business with a lifestyle board full of fun tips.

5. “How-To” Board

Speaking of DIY projects, Pinterest reigns queen of them. Incorporating a “how-to” board onto your Pinterest page can be extremely helpful for customers who are visiting your page in hopes of getting some tips from an expert.

Content

6.Strong Visual Appeal

Pinterest is all about the visuals! Being a photo-based social media platform, it’s important to pin visually appealing and attractive photos with your posts.

7.Longer Pins (images)

Since images in the Pinterest feed have a 235 pixel limit on width, it’s important to utilize longer images on Pinterest. Follow the 2:3 aspect ratio when pinning images with 600 pixel wide by 900 pixel tall images or 800 pixel wide by 1,200 pixel tall images.

8.Blog Content

If your blog focuses on popular Pinterest categories (home, art, fashion, food, etc.), share your blog content on Pinterest! Create a fun image to pair with your post, add a short description, and pin away! Also consider using a shared content board to feature guest blog writers.

9.Customer-centric

Pinterest is all about the customer! It’s hard to self-promote on Pinterest because it is a social media that is mostly used for self-improvement, whether that be fitness tips, recipes, or to shop. Think about the things your customers would want to see on your Pinterest and post on those topics.

10.Curated vs. Native

Make sure to leverage both native (self-created) and curated (created by another user) content on your Pinterest. If you’re struggling to curate content, try tagging influencers and user that you would like to interact with in your pins.

11.Infographics

Since the Pinterest feed accommodates to longer images, infographics are perfect for pinning! Use a free infographic maker like Venngage to get started.

12.Create content for mobile

75% of Pinterest usage takes place on a mobile device. It’s important to keep this in mind and optimize your pins for mobile devices.

13.Set-up & use rich pins

Rich pins provide more context about idea by showing more information directly on a Pin. Set up and use rich pins to add product information, recipe ingredients, article descriptions, and information on downloading apps.


Integrations

14.Pin scheduling tools

In order to stay relevant on Pinterest, you have to pin often. Use a Pinterest scheduling tool like Tailwind or Hootsuite to pre-schedule your pins and save time in your social media marketing.

15.Include a “Pin It” button on your blog

Get other people to share your blog content by including a “Pin It” button on your blog, and make sure your blog post is set up to seamlessly convert into a visually appealing pin.

16.Pin automation (IFTTT)

IFTTT (if this, then that) is a great site for automating follows, replies, and more on social media. If you want to automatically follow anyone who repins your content, or repin content that mentions your business, try IFTTT for Pinterest.

17.Social media monitoring tools

Utilize social media monitoring tools to see who is talking about your business and if you are receiving positive or negative feedback. You can use Google Reader to track your Pinterest reputation – and it’s free!

18.Use Pinvolve to convert your Facebook posts to pins

Pinvolve is a tool that will allow you to automatically convert your Facebook posts into pins, making it easy to stay consistent across all social media platforms.

19.Use photography tools for your pins

Don’t have time to take your own Pinterest worthy photos? No worries – there are plenty of free photography tools like Pablo by Buffer that you can use to source your Pinterest photos. Also try these 14 outstanding free stock photo sites!

Optimization

20.Pin it for later links

It’s a busy world we live in and not everyone has time to read or watch content as they see it. Try adding a “pin it for later” link on your posts as an easy way for viewers to save your content for later.

21.Keywords

Use 20-30 keywords in your promoted pins to ensure that your pin gets noticed and shows up in the right category.

22.Usa CTA in pin description

Add a clear call-to-action in your pin description. Whether your CTA is “Buy Now” or “Read More”, it will help drive more engagement on your pins.

23.150 to 300 word descriptions

Add a clear and concise description that provides just enough information on your product so that viewers will want to learn more. Using between 150 and 300 words is the ideal description length for pins.

24.Include links in pin and board descriptions

If your goal is to drive viewers to your site or blog, include the link in the pin and board description. Having the link right in the description increases the likelihood for viewers to click through to your site.

25.Utilize Pinterest Analytics

If you’re new to measuring analytics, start with Pinterest Analytics! Pinterest provides a great set of analytics including pin impressions, daily viewers, and general audience analytics to help you measure the success of your Pinterest strategy and make the necessary adjustments.
Style

26.Use light images over dark ones

Research shows that lighter-colored images are consistently repined more than darker images. Make sure to use brighter colors and lighting to increased likelihood of your pin going viral!

27.Choose the right cover photo for your boards

Pinterest is a visual social media site, so it is important to make sure that your cover photos match the visual style of your brand. Take some time to evaluate your business’ visual style and find some killer photos to add for your Pinterest cover photo and board images.

28.Seasonal pins

Create a seasonal campaign by pinning images, products, and articles that are most appropriate for each season. For example, fall is a great time to promote candles and fall décor, sweaters and scarves, DIY Halloween costumes, or pin your best homemade pumpkin pie recipe.

29.Create a visual style

Part of building your brand is creating a visual style – the same thing goes for Pinterest. Create a visual style that you can use across all pins that fits well with your business and stick to it.

Pinterest is a great place for local retailers and SMB merchants to improve their findability and create product and infographics that deliver them added value traffic to their websites.

In an era when Facebook and Instagram Ads don’t work as well as they once did, hacking Pinterest is becoming more important for small businesses that need to find new ways to stand out. We hope this guide as helpful to you in how to optimize the user of Pinterest for retail marketing.

Happy pinning!


Brianna Moriarty is the Marketing Communications Associate for Star Micronics with a focus in content creation and social media marketing. She frequently writes content to help small businesses build their marketing strategy and social media presence. Outside of her writing, Brianna enjoys traveling, music, fitness, and lots of coffee. LinkedIn | Twitter.

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