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TouchBistro Partners with Chase’s WePay to Power Food Service Payments

One of the restaurant point of sale software solution leaders, TouchBistro has partnered with J.P. Morgan chase. TouchBistro is a startup based in Toronto that is a leader in providing iPad point-of-sale (POS) software specialized for restaurants and food services. They announced the launch with Chase, where TouchBistro Payments will be powered by WePay. J.P Morgan Chase acquired WePay in October of 2017.

TouchBistro themselves are just off a fresh round of funding in the spring of 2017 of $16.3 million. According to LinkedIn Data, TouchBistro has over 200 employees as of March, 2018 and have shown a 2-year increase of 160% in head count.


The payment innovations mean time-saving convenience for busy restaurant owners and patrons where instant payment processing can now occur with integrated mobile payment devices that allow customers to easily pay at the table as they choose – tap, chip and traditional magnetic strip.


Alex Barotti, founder of TouchBistro.

Already a serious player in POS solutions for food services, partnership like these puts pressure on the likes of Lightspeed, Revel and Shopkeep to keep pace in terms of payments innovations. TouchBistro is part of a growing movement of mPOS solutions finding traction in the hospitality and retail sector, where smaller POS solutions are creating better customer experiences in restaurants, stores and at small business locations.

“With TouchBistro Payments powered by WePay, our restaurants will onboard instantly, so they can start taking payments the moment they unbox TouchBistro,” said Alex Barrotti, founder and CEO of TouchBistro.

Essentially, according to Business Insider, WePay’s service makes it easier for players in the space, specifically independent software vendors (ISVs) and business app developers, to integrate payments into their own software with its APIs, which in turn could make Chase a more attractive option for these providers.

TouchBistro tablet


TouchBistro already integrated with Square in 2016, and now serves up through the new WePay relationship, TouchBistro gains a promotional platform to market its restaurant point-of-sale solution on and other channels.TouchBistro has in the area of 12-14k eateries it serves with its iPad POS solution, and Chase with 5k branches itself has around four million small business clients.

TouchBistro is already bridging restaurants with finance, and the new payments partnership is a sign they understand the efficacy of partnerships that augment their brand and will be able to offer even better payment experiences for the B2B2C, customers of their customers.

WePay’s payments-as-a-service API essential affords 4 million small business customers the ability to accept digital payments instantly and to get paid faster. In the new era of POS it’s becoming increasingly clear that partnerships are a significant differentiator for POS solutions to get one step ahead of their competitors. With this solution, food service entrepreneurs will be able to instantly do payments and on-board on demand, instead of waiting the ten days to two weeks for a payment processor to begin accepting credit card payments.

We’ll be covering key retail trends as they occur, stay tuned for more related articles.

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 Retail Apocalypse Myth and the Future of the Store

As multichannel and omnichannel retail becomes the norms in retail, the relationship between E-commerce and the future of retail sales is blurring the lines. There are two distinct realities, the North American reality is where retail sales at stores still exceeds 90% of total revenue. In places like China, mobile and E-commerce is pushing online sales faster and further.


In 2017, according to S&P Global Ratings retail sales is approached $1 trillion in sales and is arguably 10-15 years ahead of North America. Even with a great spike in big-box retail bankruptcies and store closing in America, the majority of retail sales still occurs in store. According to a recent study by Microsoft and the Retail Council of Canada, Canadian retail is even more bricks-and-mortar. Meanwhile, Amazon only recently arrived in Australia, while it’s growth in India vs. Flipkart in 2017 was significant.

The super scary headlines of the “retail apocalypse” are a myth, but not for the reasons you think. The National Retail Federation in early February released its 2018 economic forecast that is projecting retail industry sales will grow between 3.8 and 4.4 percent over 2017. Yet that too, is not necessarily accurate since this takes into account E-commerce growth. The truth, is closer to somewhere in between. Foot traffic in stores is down, and E-commerce growth is up; though it’s still not a significant amount, for all the hype that Amazon gets.


  • Between 2010 and last year, Amazon’s sales in North America quintupled from $16 billion to $80 billion.
  • While more than 5,000 stores closed in 2017, compared to the total number of retail stores in American, that’s a negligible number.
  • According to the NRF, 98% of retail businesses employ fewer than 50 employees which means independent retailers while not in the headlines, are the real story of American retail.

(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)


The story of dying Malls is true, yet so is it that most E-commerce businesses aren’t profitable. The new breed of online retailer such as Warby Parker, Blue Nile and Frank + Oak actually adopted and opened up physical stores because they are more profitable to build customer experiences and a loyal retail brand-following. While Amazon has been slow to build a presence in physical retail, Whole Foods and AmazonGo may signal a beginning of this.

  • In 2018, it’s expected around 3,600 to 4,000 retail stores will close, but new ones are opening up.
  • We know the future is dim for retailers who weren’t agile such as J.C. Penney, Toys R Us, RadioShack, Macy’s and many more, yet many others are adapting and thriving.
  • Independent and local merchants are still opening new stores embodying a smarter retail entrepreneurship more in sync with the preferences of the new consumer and up-and-coming retail verticals such as Vape, Cannabis, and discount or off-price apparel.
  • For yet another year during the Holidays, according to ShopperTrak, foot traffic has declined at stores (YOY of 1.6% in 2017). E-commerce is winning the big retail events and in Asia with Single’s Day (on November 11th) the same thing is occuring.
  • According to ICSC Research Team and PNC Real Estate Research, different sectors related to store openings and store closures very closely. Apparel, footwear and home entertainment were down, while variety stores, Misc. retail and department stores were up. These changes signify changes in retail real-estate prices and consumer trends.

Since upwards of 65% of Americans are Amazon Prime members, and these members who own Alexa decies or watch Amazon Prime Streaming actually spend more per year, Amazon’s retail sales will definately increase in 2018 and onwards. How much this impacts the long-term percentage of retail sales at brick and mortar stores say in 2025, is a matter of much debate and discussion among analysts.


The retail apocalypse spoke to two major trends that are occuring in this decade in America. The bankruptcy of some chain stores, mostly apparel stores, and the economic distress that is occuring in some rural communities and suburbs. The retail transformation is different in different countries. According to PWC, in China online retail is growing 30% (YOY) while physical store only 7%. This means the overall trend is towards online retail slowly taking marketshare away from physical retail.

At the other side of the spectrum is Canada, where some 92% of all retail sales occurs in physical stores. So is the retail apocalypse a myth? Yes, however retail’s transformation means there will be new winners and losers as the industry rapidly adjusts to economic, consumer and complex demographic as well as technological trends.

However, the future of retail is not black and white. Chinese E-Commerce leaders such as in 2018 will enter the U.S. According to Slice Intelligence, Amazon accounted for 27.2 percent of Black Friday’s online sales, 30.1 percent of Cyber Monday’s and 28.4 percent of all online sales to happen during Cyber Week. Give what we know of the mobile ubiquity of Millennial consumers, in the 2020s we can expect the influence of online commerce to continue to permeate and grab marketshare from physical stores. This will be due to increasing competition between Amazon, Walmart and newcomers, not the demise of the physical store in any way, shape, or form.

We’ll be covering key retail trends as they occur, stay tuned for more related articles.

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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5 Reasons Why Northern Virginia is the Frontrunner for Amazon’s Second Headquarters

With news that Northern Virginia was toured this week by Amazon reps along with the other two candidates close to Washington D.C., there’s widespread speculation Amazon is making its decision of the top 20 candidates.

There are many reasons and indicators pointing to Northern Virginia winning the bid, however. The Amazon representatives reportedly breakfasted with Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam.

The D.C. area is close to Amazon’s increasingly close ties to the capital, and sports the right mix place of high-profile colleges, a strong transportation system, and high concentration of powerful people. The $5 billion headquarters is expected to bring 50,000 job and attract serious talent for Amazon on the East coast.

After all, Amazon’s CEO, Jeffrey P. Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post is now the richest person in the world. It would only make sense to be close to the heads of government and other important people.

1. The Traffic Spike

Recently many publications reported the story that saw a local news site called’s important discovery of an unusual spike in traffic to an article from December titled “County Wins Top Environmental Award. The article from the US Green Building Council” went into some detail how Arlington County was the first in the US to be selected for an environmental award. The reported spike in traffic was in the area of 6,000 unique reads.

Washington ties for Amazon

AP/Alex Brandon

2. Lobbying for Amazon’s Future

As Amazon approaches Tech monopoly status with recent entries into healthcare, logistics and even banking, Amazon has accelerated lobbying efforts with powerful people in Washington. After acquiring the Washington Post in 2013, Bezos has increased lobbying spending by more than 400% over that time for Amazon, to ensure Amazon’s safety and security moving forwards.

The company needs to be seen as a job creator that America needs that should not be broken up or face anti-trust regulations simply for out-innovating its competition and for having a business model that is extremely customer centric.

Amazon needs to choose one of the Washington locations for its HQ2 project, since such a significant investment would win brownie points with the heads of state and more important, secure long-term relationships that help Amazon align with the leadership direction of the country.

Northern Virgina

3. Three of the 20 Finalists are in the D.C. Area

The biggest indication that the winner will be Northern Virginia (Arlington) is that of the twenty finalists from all over the country and Toronto, fully three of them are surrounding the D.C. area. This is a clear indication of Amazon’s intentions to bolster its relationship with the state and leadership, and cement its place in the national psyche not just as a consumer fulfillment everything store, but as a company that stands for American values, integrity and leadership.

4. Amazon’s CEO Already owns a Home in the Area

Bezos doesn’t own just any home, he owns the largest home in the district, according to Business Insider. The CEO of Amazon reportedly owns two mansions in the Kalorama section of Washington.

This means Amazon executives are already comfortable and settled in the community with a home and the Washington Post, having the HQ there is a seamless no-brainer, and Amazon is all about doing what works.

5. DC is a desirable location for Many Reasons

Here we come to other evidence, which is not to be underestimated. The real-estate listing company Zillow surveyed dozens of housing experts and economists on what city they believe could land Amazon. The candidates to come out on top? Northern Virginia and Atlanta, coincidentally the two top favorites by analysts as of early March, 2018.

This all started in September 2017, with Amazon’s famous announcement that it will build the new campus, called HQ2, in a North American city. The coverage has received widespread press and stimulated public debate on the merits of many North American cities as being business friendly centers of the future.

Amazon plans to make its final choice by the end of 2018. Amazon is seeking 8 million square feet of office space, to grow into over 10 years or more, including 500,000 square feet beginning in 2019. The D.C. metro area has a balanced combo of livability, transportation, education, workforce and esteemed high-education facilities to foster the young talent that Amazon’s HQ2 is expected to attract.

Northern Virginia is therefore the logical Amazon destination, with its stellar close proximity to key policymakers in DC, and possessing emerging tech industry sector to boot. At this point, touring the other seventeen finalists may be more of a formality than anything.

It’s time to consider Arlington, Northern Virginia is the frontrunner favorite to land Amazon.

We’ll be covering key retail trends as they occur, stay tuned for more related articles.

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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Millennials are Changing the Future of American Restaurants

For restaurants in America, it is the best of times, and it is the worst of times, at the same time.

With changes in consumer preferences in 2017, we saw how difficult it is for apparel chains and Malls in the era of the discount shopper in what was dubbed by the media (clickbait headlines), the “Retail Apocalypse”.

Healthy Eating and Mobile Both Impact Food Choices

In 2018, there’s some growing evidence the restaurant business is changing too with new patterns of food consumption behavior especially among Millennials. On-demand food delivery apps have gained significant traction among consumers below 40. This means less customers are eating out, and fast food itself is changing.

Is the restaurant industry bubble bursting in 2018?

The number of independent restaurants in the United States fell 3% last fall to 346,105 units, a decrease of 10,952 units from the same period last year, according to the most recent fall census from NPD Group.

The Future of the American Restaurant and Diner is Shifting

The future of food like retail, is undergoing a period of transformation. The future of Restaurants in America is at a paradox point in its history. Millennials can’t cook and don’t as much, yet mobile is increasingly impacting their food choices. As the quality and variety of food choices has risen, so too has the competition for independent food businesses to stay competitive and stay in business.

In 2017 we know that, according to Business Insider, food sales were down, and alcohol sales were down. This is form a report by TDn2K’s Restaurant Industry Snapshot, tracking sales at 27,000 restaurant units from 155 brands, generating about $67 billion in annual revenue. We also know that chain-restaurants have been especially struggling in the new era of food.

The on-demand convenience economy has changed how Millennials relate to eating out. This has impacted the food industry and the number of restaurants in the US declined about 2% last year (according to a report by NPD Group).

Independent restaurants appear to have made up most of the drop, with a decline of 3%, while the number of chain outlets saw a small uptick. This is a growing concern, in an already competitive industry for local communities and small businesses who depend upon people to frequent their establishments.

Food and music are such key ingredients of the American lifestyle but trends in eating and ordering food may be changing the history of the restaurant, family diner and small business food chain. Americans are overwhelmed by choice, and while restaurants represent such a revitalizing force of urban and small town life, and while food is still in many respects at the center of our cultural conversation, how we eat is changing.

Bringing the Restaurant Customer Back

Restaurants need to think about how to retain customers and bring them back. In early 2018, Star micronics via Star Micronics Cloud, has come up with a solution to help. It’s called PromoPRNT. Here is what it does:

PromoPRNT for Restaurants

Available through the Star Cloud Services dashboard, this new service will empower you to create printed promotions on your receipts. The receipts can communicate discounts, loyalty offers and a location based marketing campaign to help retain and increase repeat customers.

The services has gone live with a beta. PromoPRNT includes two separate services, Promo Maker and Promo Manager. Promo Maker is a quick and easy way to design receipt promotions and add them to your printer receipts.

Promo Manager is the tool that allows the length of a promotional campaign to be scheduled. Merchants and Restaurants can also track promotion campaign insights through the Promo Manager tool. With PromoPRNT, you will be able to deliver incentives directly into customers’ hands.

The Future of Restaurants

Small business food owners need to buckle down with their IT and marketing initiatives to reach the new consumer. Last year was according to multiple sources, “the worst restaurant year since the recession,” affirmed QSR Magazine. Dinner “traffic,” the industry term for the number of walk-in customers, has been falling for five straight years, says market-research firm NPD Group Inc.

Independent restaurants have to rethink their digital strategy to retain customers and drive engagement and traffic. If Millennials are being blamed for this puzzling restaurant trend, it’s part of wider evidence that Restaurants need to improve their mobile strategy with customers below 40. In a future article, we will outline how this can be accomplished.

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 Amazon has Changed Retail in 2018

The rise of Amazon’s stock over the last three years is something for the ages and illustrative of the fact of how Amazon prioritizes growth, scale and innovation differently from the rest of the Retail industry.

With such a business model, Amazon has redefined the business model of the subscription service with Amazon Prime. In an era when online commerce only accounts for 10-15% of retail sales, it’s difficult to imagine how much add-on value Amazon has created from Alexa, to Prime Video to getting into logistics, grocery delivery and even now, seemly, into Healthcare.



In an age where retailers are struggling to delivery customer journey in an age of consumer experiences, Amazon is setting the bar pretty high to deliver digital experiences that help convert retail sales on Amazon itself from its Prime members.

For example, in Germany, India and Japan viewership of Amazon Prime Video actually surprasses that of Netflix. With Amazon spending nearly as much as Netflix itself in original content in 2018, we can also expect the number of Amazon Prime members globally to eventually surpass Netflix’s 110 million global users.

So with retailers struggling to define and delivery customer experiences, Amazon is not only improving Alex and its app at a quick pace, it’s adding value in multiple ways and constantly innovating even the standard which consumers consider valuable, and even what “experiences” mean in the new era of retail.



Meanwhile Amazon overtook Microsoft in market capitalization. Amazon’s AWS cloud offering basically beat Microsoft at their own game. AWS has growth 3x faster than Microsoft in the cloud and as Alexa overtook the likes of Siri and Cortana, Amazon is beginning to challenge Google in consumer facing artificial intelligence with its myriad smart speakers, smart screen and proposed Alexa smart glasses. In 2017, AWS brought in $18 billion of revenue for Amazon.

Amazon has thus turned retail into the front lines of technology innovation. From its AmazonGo store to its impact in logistics, events such as Prime Day to being the dominant E-commerce player in the west, Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods was well timed and we can expect many more acquisitions by the retail giant in the next few years.

Amazon Go automated grocery store is posed to launch, Feb, 2018.



Amazon’s legacy up until 2018 is however, the very definition of how consumers define customer experiences. If Amazon can entertain consumers with an ecosystem of value and digital and consumption services, and an evolving companion such as Alexa, it changes how retailers must create engagement in their store in order to satisfy the higher expectations of their shoppers.

For the future of retail Amazon keeps augmenting its value to consumers and its growth in new markets and related value propositions. This means Amazon is no longer simply an E-commerce retailer but a consumer fulfillment technology growth company. Amazon prioritizes anything that adds value to the consumer. Brick-and-mortar stores must also think of every way they can add value to their shoppers, in a related way.

Amazon has started a bargain-bin microsite, a new area on its website for “$10 and under” items. This is yet another strategy Amazon is using to compete on the discount front to compete with the likes of the Wish App and dollar stores. With its in-house fashion brands, it is also taking on fast fashion retailers, Walmart and others. Amazon has also positioned itself as a hardware company getting into the smart home of consumers with Echo devices. For the retail industry, this means giving consumers experiences in the home, becomes key as well.



Amazon in the hyper-competitive apparel industry is also investing its private label brands that are winning the appeal of consumers. Walmart is trying to keep up with the acquisition of the likes of, ModCloth and Bonobos. Amazon’s gains in socks, underwear and apparel means they are taking away business from the likes of Macy’s and J.C. Penney.

Amazon is thus showing the retail industry at large that discounts, convenience and brand-recognition all matter. We know from studies that around two thirds of Amazon Prime members are buying shoes, apparel, or socks and underwear on the E-retailer’s website. As Prime membership continues to evolve Amazon should have a larger marketshare in the fashion and fast fashion retail segments.

Small business retailers can instead focus on off-price and second hand apparel offering to compete with the race to the bottom of discount prices and deals by the likes of Amazon and Walmart. The hyper competitive apparel industry, is about to get a bit more competitive in 2018.



It’s been almost 24 years since Amazon launched an online book selling business, and now Amazon rules the Cloud with AWS, is a strong E-commerce player, is investing nearly as much as Netflix in original video with Amazon Prime Video and has rapidly launched a fresh vegetables grocery and logistics business.

Amazon reminds retailers to have a growth-mindset over simply being profitable. Amazon has consistently sacrificed profits for innovation. This radical emphasis on growth had made them what they are today along with a philosophy of customer-centricity. Amazon doesn’t keep up with today’s’ consumer with changing preferences, it leads them in new directions.



Amazon also continues to fine-tune to hire the best talent. Amazon itself is creating retail jobs. Amazon currently has 3,900 job openings in Seattle, and 12,000 worldwide on a corporate level. This means, excluding Whole Foods, Amazon has created 130,000 jobs last year and continues to hire. In 2018, Amazon will also announce the location of its second HQ as it decides among the twenty finalists. Industry analysts expect the location to be near Washington D.C.

As we approach an age where robots and the automated E-commerce warehouse becomes more of a reality, retailers need to take special investments in who they hire on the leadership and executive management level. This is because the entire world is undergoing a period of technology transformation in retail, which requires a new mindset that’s agile and data-driven.

Amazing in North America, like Alibaba in China, is radically changing the retail outlook of 2018 and moving forwards and how consumer fulfillment via mobile and at home are taking place. Independent retailers must aggressively differentiate their services with an emphasis on the local community and human-centric customer service to keep up. Amazon has changed retail significantly in just the last decade, but the next decade is expected to be even more transformative.

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 Benefits of mPOS for Retail Merchants in 2018

At Star Micronics we are demonstrating some of the latest POS and mPOS innovations. This is important since in an age of an emphasis of retailers and merchants on the customer experience, mPOS has some significant advantages.

We know that in the period of 2018-2023 several important innovations are taking place in the evolution of the check-out experience. mPOS among other benefits, enables retail sales associates to check out customers from anywhere in the store, increasing transaction speed and efficiency.

At Star Micronics, we have a TSP654II AirPrint, the first 80 and 58mm receipt and ticket POS printer on the market to be Apple AirPrint certified. With AirPrint tech, it’s yet another innovation for easy mobile printing that integrates the best with Apple iPad, iPhone, iPod and MacBook users on any private network. The huge benefit of this is of course, this won’t require any specific printer drivers. This is because with AirPrint support pre-installed on iOS devices, the user is able to connect to and print from the required printer.

The Potential of mPOS is a Work in Progress

The enormous potential of mobile point of sale and its ability to transform the in-store customer experience remains very much part of the transformation of local retailers and independent merchants the world over. Retail associates often express a preference for this kind of mPOS display for its convenience and sleekness of operation.

According to a recent report by Business Insider Intelligence, the mPOS device market is expected to grow from 3.2 million mPOS devices in 2014 to 27.7 million by 2020. While enterprise retailers lag on mPOS adoption, this doesn’t seem to be the case with independent merchants for whom the cost efficacy of mPOS is a superior option.

According to Mobile Payments Today, there are still some significant barriers for mPOS to dominate the POS ecosystem, including OS compatibility complexity, battery life and the cumbersome weight of tablets for stores associates in some situations. However for the majority of local stores, the benefits still outweigh the drawbacks and improve customer facing service.

mPOS Provide a Superior Customer Experience

Retail Dive reports that for the consumer, mPOS is preferable. 51 percent of Americans believing that traditional cash registers are outdated, according to a report by I Love Velvet. What is remarkable about the study, is a full thirty-five percent of respondents said that they would shop at a store more often if it offered an mPOS solution.

Star Micronics has the mPOP is a multi-function system designed to cater to mPOS needs. At just 10cm high and 30cm wide, the mPOP™ is easily transportable and offers a contemporary alternative to a traditional cash register or EPOS system that is gaining popularity in stores. Star mPOP’s sleekness and simplicity of design is easily compatable to work with a wide range of retail, hospitality and payment software packages.

The Emergence of mPOS as the New Normal for Small-Box Stores

With retailers demanding maximum flexibility and ease of use, Mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) tech is not just a growing fixture for many retailers throughout the world, it’s the new norm for smaller brick-and-mortar stores. This is also because cost and space savings matter more than ever.

In addition, A Juniper Research study found that mobile POS devices, such as tablets and smartphones, will handle over 20 percent of all retail transaction value around the world by 2021. For retailers in 2018, this is the right time to transition to an mPOS solution as retailers especially want ergonomic mPOS solutions.

Star Micronics is considered one of the leaders in providing receipt printer solutions such as an mPOS printer with the most simple and seamless integration with Apple iOS, Google’s Android and Microsoft’s Windows mobile devices.

mPOS Means a More Personalized Checkout Experience

The mPOS delivers customers a more personalized experience. Customer service and check-out can be a more intimate and timely experience. Sleeker design of the cash register and miniaturization also improves face-to-face customer relationships and rapport, with the tech more in the background of the store, the customer service relationships can therefore really stand out.


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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Digital Signage for Modern Retailers

Image credit: Sophatar and Pexels.

With modern retail comes more real-world applications of the Internet of Things. With 5G quickly approaching, how consumers interact visually with brick and mortar stores is changing.

In the age of data-driven store management, in-store screens and strategically placed signage are gaining in ROI. It’s the age of dynamically driven content and digital Ads in-store that are fully integrated with POS software means new opportunities for retailers.


In-store digital signage can enable retail stores to boost customer engagement. As the new consumer becomes more reliant on their smartphone than interacting with retail sales associates in some bricks environments, the associations between commonly bought products that are bundled becomes increasingly a focus for retailers.

Star Micronics recently spoke with the founder of Sophatar. You can view the video here.

Sophatar makes signage more contextual and relevant by linking it with receipt transactions in real-time integrated with the POS. They offer a subscription service that is hardware independent that automatically creates content customized by actual retail transactions.

  • By matching products that are frequently bought together, Sophatar’s digital signage solution can increase conversion and retail sales.


  • Digital signage can significantly boost cross-selling and retarget repeat customers in innovative ways increasing personalization.


  • Sophatar increases basket size by improving the relevance of signage in brick and mortar stores.



By using receipt and POS data, Sophatar’s use of screens and contextual digital signage based on actual sales transaction means higher ROI than traditional digital influence in-store.

Since the content is dynamic, visually appealing and automatically generated, it’s the next-era of digital influence in-store. With Millennials and GenZ shoppers highly responsive to screens, these visual cues can help boost basket size, improve average customer lifetime value, drive repeat sales and facilitate new paths to purchase at retail locations for a variety of small businesses.


Many small business retailers don’t realize these kinds of solutions are becoming much easier to implement. Retail locations can actually use any TV or computer monitor and either connect an inexpensive Apple TV box that runs Sophatar’s signage app, or signage web page or simply a tablet using the built-in web browser.

Offering retail customers improved digital customer experiences doesn’t have to be complicated. Sophatar will even create the digital product images for you, you don’t even need images of the products you sell.


Since Sophatar is integrated with the receipt data and POS, they automatically create the relevant digital signage that increases basket size, boosts revenue and promotes cross-selling among your best selling and frequently purchases products.

Sophatar® POS Signage™ is a low monthly subscription service that builds customer engagement while solving signage problems of the past. It’s affordability, contextual based automated content and relevance based on actual sales data sets it apart. By displaying a retailer’s best selling products, it creates the most value and impact on digital influence in-store.

Visit Sophatar partner page on Star Cloud Services here. Join us on Tuesday the 27th at 2:00 p.m. for a quick webinar, to learn about the benefits of Sophatar Digital Signage.


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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Amazon Prime Members Drive Apparel ahead of Target

According to retail think tank Coresight Research, two thirds of Amazon Prime members said they shopped on Amazon for footwear and clothing. Amazon’s private label apparel boom is making Amazon’s apparel popularity a serious rival to Target.

Sorry Walmart and Target, Fashion is becoming a popular product category among Amazon Prime shoppers.


CoreSight Research goes on to point out that its Amazon Prime members who are mostly like who shopped at Target’s physical stores to switch to Amazon. Interestingly, Target apparel shoppers are more likely than average to have an Amazon Prime membership. Following Target, big-box retailers who are losing to Amazon include Walmart, Macy’s and JCPenney who also rank disproportionately high in terms of how many apparel shoppers they have lost to Amazon fashion.


According to the report, shopper traits that Target and Amazon share is their image of lower pricing. Still, Amazon and Target are vying for second place after Walmart that has in recent times grabbed several trendy apparel startups.

Retail dive reports that Amazon’s private-label ranges are the fourth most-bought clothing or footwear “brand” on Is Amazon destined for fashion apparel dominance? It’s too soon to say, but clearly they are gaining shoppers from other big-box apparel leaders.


Coresight Research founder-CEO Deborah Weinswig says that Amazon is being perceived as an off-price apparel retailer.

  • Daphne Howland of Retail Dive agrees that 2018 is shaping up to be a year of Apparel success for Amazon.
  • According to digital marketing agency CPC Strategy, more than half (52%) of online apparel shoppers are turning to Amazon.
  • Only Nike, Under Armour and Hanes ranked higher than Amazon’s private labels on Amazon itself.
  • Amazon continues to take online apparel sales marketshare from Target, Macy’s and JCPenney as they double-down to compete against Walmart.
  • Nearly half (45.9%) of all survey respondents (CoreSight, 2018) overall said that they had shopped for apparel on Amazon in the last year.

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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6 Ways to Improve the In-Store Experience for Independent Retailers

Image Credit: Pixabay

It’s a great time to be a retail entrepreneur, because we’ve entered the age of community, connection and customer experience is now at the foreground of the retail industry. For brick and mortar stores it is an exciting time to learn how to sync with the new consumer who values all the added things that makes shopping in person great.

The retail brand might span the spectrum of digital influence, but the bottom line of small businesses owners still is based on the physical space where over 90% of retail sales actually still occurs in North America. This means the store is still the center of the journey of millions of shoppers each year, but what the store is and how we experience it is undergoing a period of transformation.

The retail industry is undergoing a period of hyper-adoption and hyper-abandonment as consumer preferences are shifting rapidly catching up with holiday trends, mobile and how we experience ubiquitous convenience in the retail journey. The preference of the shopper is everything in the new retail. Here are our top picks for local retail stores to adapt and create more exciting and immersive environments and customer experiences.

1. Make Holiday Returns Easy and Cross-Sell

Stores need to make retail returns as smooth as possible. In the new era of holiday shopping, there’s been a spike in holiday returns compared to years past. Having a seamless return policy and friendly staff at key stages of the customer journey is essential. Small businesses and local retailers need to consider how their store can mange the return process in a way that amplifies repeat customers and rewards loyal customers. Every time a customer comes to the store, it’s a loyalty marketing opportunity.

2. Create a Retail Brand Experience that Converts Shoppers into Brand Advocates

The best way to improve the in-store experience is to make it easy for shoppers to fall in love with your retail brand. Happy customers in your store is the best visual cue and word of mouth, all successful retail brands understand and know how to implement this. By creating exceptional products, in-store design and displays and campaigns that give back to the community, independent retailers can win new repeat customers who can turn into digital advocates among their peer circles and online.

Attention to detail in the store, amazing products, competitive discounts and delightful hospitality all contribute to an elevated customer experience of and shopper impression of your brand. Referral programs and contests are a great way to tap into and incentivize how shoppers can benefit from becoming advocates for your store’s growth.

3. Create Immersive Environments that Feed All the Senses

Stores that engage all the five senses can appeal to different kinds of customers with the best strategy. Multi-channel is great but in the physical space a store that delights visually and is emotionally agreeable with the best customer service can also be an entertaining and educational environment to perk the interest of the shoppers each having their unique journey in your store.

Make it easy to touch products, have background music and amenities that makes your store comfortable and inviting. Have associates that mirror the kind of values and behavior you want your retail brand to represent. Engaging the five senses means more than it did decades ago, as shoppers visiting your store means they are also on a digital break from their smartphones and might not just crave products, but experiences. Many shoppers will also expect social interaction at your store, and thus keeping your associates happy might be the key to creating a delightful in-store experience.

4. Track the Analytics of your Store and Implement Changes Accordingly

Even small business owners need access to retail data on their store. The best tools we know of are Dor’s foot traffic counter and Thirdshelf’s loyalty analytics suite. Store owners equipped with the right data can constantly tweak their in-store experiences, marketing campaigns and loyalty program to all work together in a cohesive whole. If big retailers are obsessed over customer data and in-store behavior, independent retailers should also consider the importance of customer data.

Without data, it’s difficult to measure the efficacy of in-store experiences and variables on the customer experience. Small business owners need to sweat the details and brick-and-mortar stores now have access to software integrations and tech that can help.

5. Embody Key Principles of Retailtainment

To create trendy and harmonious in-store experiences, retail stores need to fully understand what “retailtainment” is. Simply put, stores that are more fun to shop at will invite repeat customers. Depending on the type of retailer, age and gender of your best customer and your store’s location, this will mean different things.

Retailtainment is the fusion of retail and entertainment and creating events and fun marketing campaigns will mean shoppers have added incentives to show up and buy. When they do show up it’s important your store an environment that anticipates their needs and provides another level of interaction, community, education, value and originality. Only then, are you creating added-value customer experiences that can augment the reputation of your brand. People don’t share products, they share experiences of products.

6. Reward, Inspire and Engage

Exceptional retail brands have an ability to make shopping easy, fun and rewarding. Canadian retailer Frank + Oak create a seamless mobile experience, your store might do something else really well. For store managers and small business retailers they must ask themselves, is this rewarding, inspiring or engaging for our best shoppers?

Customer services, giving back to community, holding events or classes to bring people together, having an amazing loyalty program that incentivizes repeat purchase, these are all things that reward, inspire and engage us in relationship to brick-and-mortar stores.

Retail entrepreneurs must engage customers not just at the product level, but a in creating an ecosystem of inspiration. That is part science, part art, and part community building and advocacy. It’s clear in 2018, that the role of stores is shifting from pure product distribution to a much more experience-centric model that blends and resonates with the values, preferences and shopping habits of your 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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Montreal Retailer Frank and Oak Scores New Funding

Retail startups need examples of retail brands that can make it. You can add Frank + Oak to the list of trendy retail startups who seem to be making steady progress. The montreal based retailer recently announced a $16 million Series C round of funding.

One of Canada’s Retail Entrepreneur Success Stories

In a hyper-competitive market of apparel, Frank and Oak has quite a fan base in Canada. Founded in 2012, this means they have raised nearly $40 million to date. They are a direct-to-consumer clothing brand with a knack for resonating with their shoppers while providing affordable products.

For retail entrepreneurs in the great north, they are shining example of success. Starting offer by offering personalized menswear, they have now scaled to 16 retail locations across Canada. Frank and Oak bring time limited discount deals to their mobile app, and so far so good.

“We’ve always been big believers in being a content, lifestyle driven brand. Using video as a medium to communicate Frank & Oak’s brand story effectively is very valuable to us.” ~ Ethan Song, Co-founder and CEO

Know your Customer, Apparel for Millennial Brand Exceeds Expectations

In just a few short years they have transcended the old-fashioned newsletter, and now serve up decked out AI-powered recommendations to members with a feature called Style Plan. It’s exciting to see retail entrepreneurs try innovative and experimental things like this that tap into Millennial intimacy with their smartphones and sub services. With stores in Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Ottawa and other parts of Ontario they know what they are doing.

By creating affordable but stylish clothing brand, they cater to a niche and know their audience. Frank and Oak offer pieces that average between $50 to $60, with a target audience between 25 and 35 years old. They have developed a formula that could be valuable to up-and-coming retail entrepreneurs and independent stores with some ambition to scale.

Like Lightspeed POS, much of their funding is local to Quebec. This round was led by Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, with participation from Goodwater Capital and Investissement Québec. This is truly exciting for the emergence of Canadian retail brands. Frank and Oak excels at sensitivity to fashion and product tastes of their audience and trying new and innovative approaches to customer engagement.

Since Frank + Oak was born online, they have a very heavy digital and mobile presence. Their understanding of digital, data and advertising to Millennials is highly sophisticated. Their focus on the mobile experience is truly pioneering for an emerging Canadian retailer. If you own a retail startup or are a store manager, this is one brand to study to increase your retail brand appeal.

While the digital transformation is now a rite of passage for retail businesses in the era of omnichannel retail, Frank And Oak is one of those rare hip yet smart visionary companies that was a precursor of online commerce and a brand that pivoted both to include women’s wear and physical retail and encapsulate it into their brand experience.


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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