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Top Retail Tech Startups Impacting the In-Store Experience

Small businesses must leverage apps, integration and the world of APIs to succeed.

As digital marketing becomes increasingly costly and as Email marketing becomes less effective, small business owners must try new things.

As millennial shoppers embrace experiences in retail stores in new ways, small business merchants and owners must adapt.

Technology at the Service of In-Store Experiences

Retail customers are more “mobile native” than ever and to generate revenue, local merchants must try out new technology to improve foot traffic at their locations and to fight the onslaught of e-commerce and third-party commerce marketplaces.

Independent retailers may be increasingly required to adopt new technology in order to keep up, grow their business and succeed in a retail industry that is facing daily disruption.

Technology Startups Intersecting Retail

There are dozens of solutions that speak to the in-store experience and help integrate a better customer experience for small business retailers.

Recently CBInsights did a review of some of the featured solutions, the retail store tech startups making an impact. Here is the updated infographic they created.

For SMB retailers, these retail tech solutions aren’t just “bells and whistles“, but the new way to keep up to augment the POS and in-store experience.

The new omnichannel experience is what customers now expect in retail, as new consumer habits are transforming the retail industry.

Retail Entrepreneurs in the Age of Technology Add-Ons

In 2017, retail owners and SMB entrepreneurs have more “tools” at their disposal than ever, and sometimes not knowing a tool exists for a business problem, is itself the greatest obstacle.

By putting a spotlight on solutions to key retail areas, we want to connect retail entrepreneurs with the future of retail and key startups innovating in the field.

In this article, we attempt to break down some of the solutions into their respective verticals giving an accessible way to learn more about them and adopt a solution that can help you scale your business.

Brick and mortar retailers are increasingly augmenting their stores and customer experience with data based approaches, analytics and marketing automation to keep up with their e-commerce cousins and competitors.

New and recent retail entrepreneurs can easily do their research, and adopt the best ones for their business right from the beginning.

In-Store Experience is Now Business Critical

Optimising in-store experience has entered “business critical” territory, as shopper engagement depends on also on mutli and omni channel fulfilment and using new tech to power more customer engagement.

What appears to be a bit fringe today, might be standard practice of the retail of tomorrow.

Small business owners and retail consultants need to keep up to date on the best solutions to be in sync with the changing shopping behaviours of the new consumer.

Enhancing the POS and Embracing Data at Physical Stores

Enhancing how a retail business can grow; we’ve taken CB Insights data as a starting point to launch our own investigation of solutions we think can add value to SMB retailers and local merchants.

When we read CB Insights new overview of the store of the future, we were so impressed we wanted to dig a little deeper.

Automated Ads at the POS

Star Cloud Services provides next-gen receipt Ads (Promo PRNT), mobile coupons (AllReceipts app), digital receipts and paper saving Micro receipts, among other solutions we are working on in the IoT of retail.

Among the most promising retail tech startups to impact brick-and-mortar stores and physical retail, are some of our partners. To see an up to date list of Star Cloud’s Solution partners go here.

Top Retail Tech Startups Impacting the In-Store Experience

Dor Technologies

Category: Location Analytics, Proximity Marketing, Customer insights, Data augmentation for retail locations.

Founded: May 22, 2015

Location: San Francisco, CA

Website: http://www.getdor.com

Crunchbase: https://www.crunchbase.com/product/dor#/entity

Funding: $3.8 Million

Blog: http://blog.getdor.com/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company-beta/6629267/

Quote from About Us:

Dor is the first retail traffic counting solution to be accurate, affordable and easy to install in virtually any store.

What they Do

They have developed a thermal foot traffic sensor, cellular network hub and analytics dashboard for retailers.

Why they Matter to the Future of Retail

They democratise data for local merchants and small-chain retailers.

Thirdshelf

Category: Loyalty & Marketing Automation for SMB Retail, Custom Loyalty Programs, Email Marketing and Customer Retention.

Founded: 2014

Location: Montreal, Quebec

Website: https://www.thirdshelf.com

Crunchbase: https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/thirdshelf#/entity

Funding as of Jan 2016: $800k

Blog: https://www.thirdshelf.com/blog

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company-beta/3338945/

Quote from About Us:

Thirdshelf automatically analyzes retail transactional data to create a tailored loyalty program that works.

What they Do

Grow sales and build high value relationships with your customers. Thirdshelf is the easiest way to create a unique loyalty rewards program, automate personalized email or SMS offers and manage your customers – all through a single solution.

Why they Matter to the Future of Retail

Giving SMBs a way to do loyalty-marketing automation at scale with white-label loyalty programs.

Itemize

Category: Fin Tech, Expense management, Personal Finance, Receipts

Founded: June 1, 2010

Location: New York, NY

Website: www.itemize.com

Crunchbase: https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/itemize#/entity

Funding: $1M as of June 2014

Blog: https://www.itemize.com/blog/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company-beta/1374246/

Quote from About Us:

Itemize’s solutions simplify expense capture and expedite reimbursement for business expenses.

What they Do

Itemize is a financial technology company focused on extracting data and value from receipts and invoices. Potential benefits include revenue, cost, and risk management gains for large and small companies.

Businesses employ Itemize for bookkeeping, billing, tax tracking, VAT reclaim, compliance, and audit, while consumers can track and analyze purchases, obtain work reimbursements, track health care purchases, and generate insurance and tax documentation.

Why they Matter to the Future of Retail

As receipts continue to evolve from paper to digital, Itemize is poised to become one of the leading platforms for digital receipt management for consumers, businesses, and financial supply chain partners.

Vend

Category: Store Management Systems, Point of Sale, SaaS, Retail Technology.

Founded: August 1, 2009

Location: Auckland, NZ

Website: http://www.vendhq.com

Crunchbase: https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/vendhq#/entity

Funding as of Dec 2016: $46.49M

Blog: https://blog.vendhq.com/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/3949587/profile

Quote from About Us:

Vend is a cloud-based retail platform that makes it easy for retailers to take payments, make sales, manage inventory, and reward customer loyalty. Vend works on iPad, Mac and PC, and offers a wide-range of add-ons, including accounting, ecommerce, analytics, staff rostering and more.

What they Do

Vend is cloud-based point-of-sale and retail management software that lets retailers run their business in-store, online, and on-the-go.

Why they Matter to the Future of Retail

As one of the highest rated all-in-one POS solutions, Vend empowers small business merchants globally with one of the leading POS systems for retail entrepreneurs.

Focal Systems

Category: Shopping Cart Tech – Retail Technology, Apps

Founded: June 1, 2015

Location: Menlo Park, CA

Website: https://www.focal.systems/

Crunchbase: https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/focal-systems#/entity

Funding as of June 2017: $2.5 Million

Blog: TBA

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company-beta/11050885/

Quote from About Us:

Focal Systems helps retailers and manufacturers increase their sales and profitability by making the grocery shopper’s experience more enjoyable and efficient. We do so with the Focal Tablet , which retrofits on existing shopping carts to provide an interactive and informative experience.

What they Do

Focal Systems is bringing AI to the grocery store. With GPU servers on the aisles and a grocery cart rigged up with a tablet computer and cameras, the company’s deep learning algorithms help shoppers find products, spot sales and pay for groceries without stopping at the checkout counter. The same setup alerts retailers when products are out of stock.

Why they Matter to the Future of Retail

Focal Systems could become a computer vision solutions leader in grocery and retail, automating the shopper’s journey with in-store solutions and faster checkout.

Databerries

Category: Location analytics and proximity marketing

Founded: 2014

Location: Paris, Ile-de-France

Website: http://databerries.com/

Crunchbase: https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/databerries#/entity

Funding as of March 2017: $17.86M

Blog: TBA

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company-beta/5400727/

Quote from About Us:

DataBerries offers digital and personalized marketing solutions leveraging consumers’ offline behavior. We monetize your geolocation data. We target your prospects based on the places they attend in real life with the geolocation of millions of smartphones continuously. Insights on Real life targeting and offline habits.

Why they Matter to the Future of Retail

Offline insights is a critical component of geolocation data that’s in demand.

Booxi

Category: Smart Appointment Booking & Management

Founded: February 21, 2013

Location: Montreal, Quebec

Website: https://www.booxi.com/

Crunchbase: https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/booxi#/entity

Blog: https://www.booxi.com/blog/index-en/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company-beta/3548560/

Quote from About us:

Using artificial intelligence applied to business logic, we unleash the power of a virtual assistant working for professionals and businesses, as well as assisting with administrative resources.

What they Do

Providing smart solutions that simplifies appointment based business management with a virtual assistant and marketing automations.

Why they Matter to the Future of Retail

For the retail service sector such as hair salons, yoga studios and other retailers with regular educational events; chatbots and virtual assistant automation can help with appointment facilitation that impact bottom lines.

Bizness Apps

Category: Internet, Mobile Apps, Android, IOS, Mobile

Founded: July 1, 2010

Location: La Jolla, CA

Website: https://www.biznessapps.com/

Crunchbase: https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/bizness-apps#/entity

Blog: https://www.biznessapps.com/blog/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company-beta/1584298/

Quote from About Us:

Bizness Apps creates mobile solutions suited for local businesses with small budgets and big ideas. Mobile apps solutions for commerce, loyalty, reviews, referrals, communication, and more.

What they Do

Bizness Apps is a mobile platform enabling small businesses to easily create, edit, and manage applications online.

Why they Matter to the Future of Retail

Small business retailers are becoming more aware of the importance of that fact that to be customer-centric they must upgrade their mobile-first solutions.

Salesfloor

Category: Workforce Tools

Founded: 2013

Location: Montreal, Quebec

Website: http://salesfloor.net/

Crunchbase: https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/salesfloor#/entity

Funding: $3M as of Feb 2016

Blog: http://salesfloor.net/blog/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company-beta/3487243/

Quote from About us:

Salesfloor is on a mission to unlock the power of today’s sales associate by connecting them with shoppers online and in-store. We believe that associates are product experts, trusted advisers and social influencers for customers in their local communities. We are rethinking the role of today’s salesperson and making every retail sales job a small business opportunity.

Why they Matter to the Future of Retail

By leveraging retail associates and empowering them with new technology, human-centric customer service optimized with data can mature into better omnichannel customer experiences.

QM Scientific

Category: AI, Personalization, Data augmentation and Shopper Tracking Intelligence.

Founded: 2014

Location: San Jose, CA

Website: http://qmscientific.com/

Crunchbase: https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/qm-scientific#/entity

Funding: $100k as of August 15, 2014

Blog: http://qmscientific.com/the_blog.html

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company-beta/3862767/

Quote from About Us:

QM Scientific is empowering the next generation consumer retail experience in-home, in-store and online through deep learning and computer vision. By mining data from Point of Sale, Loyalty systems, the web and partner IoT devices, QM Scientific’s AI retail platform continuously learns individual shopping habits and preferences.

What they Do

QM Scientific is a shopping intelligence company whose platform empowers consumers to make smart buying decisions in real time.

Why they Matter to the Future of Retail

As machine intelligence evolves in retail with more connected devices and data integrations, one-to-one algorithms will evolve to provide even better product suggestions in real-time.

Quri

Category: Shelf Monitoring

Founded: 2009

Location: San Francisco, CA

Website: Quri.com

Crunchbase: https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/quri#/entity

Funding: $31.488M as of October 2015

Blog: http://quri.com/blog/post/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company-beta/2612146/

Quote from About Us:

Quri is a retail intelligence company that provides instant visibility into the performance of products and promotions in retail stores. As a retail intelligence and analytics company, Quri gives consumer brands and retailers the visibility to see what their shoppers are seeing and the analytics to immediately correct the problems they find.

What they Do

Quri is a retail intelligence company providing real-time visibility into the performance of products and promotions in retail stores.

Why they Matter to the Future of Retail

Quri enables retail optimization at scale using data to tweak sales, improve performance and drive revenue. Crowd-sourcing real-time consumer data can help retailers optimize their customer experience.

Moki

Category: Digital & Interactive Displays, Saas, Cloud Computing, Analytics

Founded: February 9, 2012

Location: Lehi, Utah

Website: https://moki.com/

Crunchbase: https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/mokimobility#/entity

Funding: $11.41M as of April 2016

Blog: https://moki.com/blog/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company-beta/1049376/

Quote from About Us:

Moki provides cloud-native (SaaS) software that makes it easy to provision, manage, secure, maintain and effectively measure tablet kiosks – at any scale.

What they Do

Moki enables digital interactions in physical environments with its leading mobile software platform.

Why they Matter to the Future of Retail

In the age of popup retail, food trucks, retail kiosks and mobile POS systems, rising digital influence in hybrid retail physical environments requires more support than ever.

Satisfi

Category: Instore bots & Chatbots, Saas, Analytics, Software, A.I.

Founded: July 15, 2016

Location: New York, NY

Website: http://biz.satis.fi/ or http://www.satis.fi

Crunchbase: https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/satisfi#/entity

Blog: http://blog.satis.fi/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company-beta/10871904/

Quote from About Us:

Satisfi enables conversations, that are typically between a customer and employee, to be collected and leveraged to develop richer, more personalized experiences.

What they Do

Satisfi is an intelligent engagement platform that combines the speed and accuracy of automation and the personality of a live person.

Why they Matter to the Future of Retail

In an age of chatbots, new consumer behaviors will drive new interaction points for physical retailers and the AI in mobile devices.

The intersection of chatbots, customer service and location-based mobile enhancements means digital influence will increasingly become automated with more personalized artificial intelligence.

As chatbots become more “human like”; in-store retail customer service will be augmented in new ways.

Augment

Category: Augmented/Virtual Reality Tools, E-Commerce, 3D Technology, Mobile

Founded: October 1, 2011

Location: Paris, Ile-de-France

Website: http://www.augment.com/

Crunchbase: https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/augment#/entity

Funding: $4.8M as of March 2016

Blog: http://www.augment.com/blog/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company-beta/2620333/

Quote from About Us:

Augment is the leading venture-backed augmented reality software solution, helping businesses merge physical and virtual experiences through real-time product visualization.

What they Do

Augment is a mobile app that letting businesses visualize their 3D models in Augmented Reality, integrated in real time in their actual size and environment, to boost sales and create interactive print campaigns.

Why they Matter to the Future of Retail

As more augmented reality hits mobile; retail stores will also do digital signage and feature products via AR to attract shoppers.

At NRF in 2017, the innovation lab featured many showcases on the impact of AR in retail settings.

Index

Category: Omnichannel Analytics, Personalization, Retail Tech, Enterprise Software

Founded: March 1, 2012

Location: San Francisco, CA

Website: http://www.index.com/

Crunchbase: https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/index#/entity

Funding: $26M as of June 2016

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company-beta/2760057/

Quote from About Us:

Index is challenging the status quo of how retailers engage with their customers. We are a retail software company that brings the personalization and measurement of online commerce to the offline world.

What they Do

Index is a retail software company that brings the personalization and measurement of online commerce to the offline world.

Why they Matter to the Future of Retail

Measurement of ROI, personalization, omnichannel and POS integrations are all hot topics for the future of retail.

Unified customer profiles across channels and driving opt-in with mobile solutions is becoming a necessity for retailers.

ShoppinPal

Category: Inventory Management, E-Commerce, Mobile

Founded: 2012

Location: San Francisco, CA

Website: http://www.shoppinpal.com/

Crunchbase: https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/shoppinpal#/entity

Funding: $1.57M as of July 2016

Blog: http://www.shoppinpal.com/blog/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company-beta/2352348/

Quote from About Us:

ShoppinPal is mobile commerce platform for brick & mortar retail stores that turns traffic from location-based and social media apps into sales. Our solution, fully integrated with leading retail point-of-sale systems, helps retail stores drive more foot traffic and create loyal customers.

ShoppinPal helps retail stores convert social media and location-based app users into customers by enabling an optimized mobile storefront for quick transactions. Their integrations with the industry’s leading point-of-sale systems allows for easy product promotions, real-time inventory information, and seamless payments so shoppers can pick up orders from their local store that same day.

What they Do

ShoppinPal helps retail stores convert social media and location-based app users into customers by enabling an optimized mobile storefront for quick transactions.

Why they Matter to the Future of Retail

As digital influence has scaled into the mobile influence of location-based apps, retailers must leverage how their customers use mobile.

If first impressions now occur on mobile devices, retail brands must optimise their mobile presence, even if they are primarily brick-and-mortar stores.

Divido Financial Services Ltd

Category: In-store Financing, FinTech, E-Commerce, Financial Services

Founded: 2014

Location: London, England

Website: https://www.divido.com/

Crunchbase: https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/divido#/entity

Funding: $3.69M as of Sept 2016

Blog: https://www.divido.com/blog

Quote from About Us:

Every year consumers buy things on instalments for $500 billion and Divido’s technology is making that a better experience for everyone; omni-channel, multi-country and multi-lender.

Divido is a ‘Finance as a Service’ provider; a platform for merchants, lenders and intermediaries that want to offer instant new credit as a payment option to their end-consumers and corporate clients. Backed by the investors behind Skype, WorldPay and TransferWise the company launched late 2015 and currently has 300+ partners using its platform including some of the world’s most well known brands. By the end of 2017 Divido will operate in 9 countries.

What they Do

Divido is a platform for merchants, lenders and intermediaries that want to offer instant new credit as a payment option.

Why they Matter to the Future of Retail

FinTech, payments and transactions are increasingly implicated at retail stores. The payments industry is changing at a dynamic pace, with third party transactions being normative.

Shyft

Category: Workforce Tools, Mobile Apps, Scheduling, Messaging

Founded: July 1, 2015

Location: Seattle, WA

Website: https://myshyft.com/

Crunchbase: https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/shyft#/entity

Funding: $1.6M as of July 2016

Blog: TBA

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company-beta/10311929/

Quote from About Us:

Teams enjoy using Shyft for swapping shifts, managing their work schedule, and communicating with each other because it feels effortless and natural. Simply join your store location in the app and invite your team.

Why they Matter to the Future of Retail

Empowering Retail associates is the mission of a number of tech startups that intersect with retail. Since the modern day store associates are mobile friendly, giving them an app with tools that they and the store managers can use makes a lot of sense.

Purple

Category: Guest WiFi, SaaS, Analytics, Wireless, Big Data, Mobile

Founded: August 1, 2012

Location: Chadderton, Oldham, U.K.

Website: https://www.purple.ai/

Crunchbase: https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/purple-wifi#/entity

Funding: $8.1M as of Sept 2016

Blog: https://purple.ai/blogs/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/6549424/profile

Quote from About Us:

Purple is a digital platform for Intelligent Spaces. Our cloud based solution provides you with the same in-depth understanding of physical spaces that website analytics have delivered for years.

What they Do

Purple WiFi provides a cloud based social guest WiFi and location analytics platform, integrated natively with enterprise WiFi manufacturers and custom firmware for many others.

Why they Matter to the Future of Retail

Wifi location analytics on a global scale with brand engagement touchpoints for stores. Physical locations are getting access to valuable data easier than ever. For customers having wifi access can be an important perk.

Lightspeed

Category: Point of Sale, POS Systems, E-Commerce, Mobile Payments, Restaurants, Retail Tech, Cloud Storage, Retail, Mobile, Analytics.

Founded: March 20, 2005

Location: Montreal, Quebec

Website: https://www.lightspeedhq.com/

Crunchbase: https://www.crunchbase.com/organization/lightspeed-retail#/entity

Funding: $126M as of Sept 2015

Blog: https://www.lightspeedhq.com/blog/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company-beta/1557218/

Quote from About Us:

We’re more than just a high-tech point of sale. Our philosophy combines the tactile with the digital, the cutting-edge with the tried-and-true. We believe that retailers of all sizes should have access to top-tier technology, giving them the resources they need to succeed in a rapidly changing industry.

What they Do

Lightspeed provides point of sale and ecommerce solutions for retailers and restaurateurs to manage their businesses.

Why they Matter to the Future of Retail

As leading POS solutions gain a global presence, they are integrating e-commerce and restaurant POS more proficiently with a wider range of integrations and add-on partners.

Booker

Category: E-Commerce, Web Development, SaaS, Enterprise, Software, Mobile

Founded: 2007

Location: New York, NY

Website: https://www.booker.com/

Funding: $77M

Blog: https://www.booker.com/blog

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company-beta/1299813/

Quote from About Us:

Booker is transforming the way local services are managed by businesses and discovered by consumers. Booker also enables service business to sell their services online, through their website and a network of partner sites and apps, creating a seamless online booking experience for consumers.

What they Do

Booker is a web-based platform enabling businesses to sell their services online, through their website, network of partner sites and apps.

Why they Matter to the Future of Retail

As online commerce emerges at faster growth rates, brick and mortar retailers must use hybrid technologies, omnichannel, multi-channel and mobile strategies in order to stay relevant.

The In-Store Experience Matters

As we have seen, there are increasingly a wide array of technology startups that can impact the customer experience in brick and mortar stores. Innovation is occurring on many levels, not just led by Amazon.

These are not limited to POS and analytics companies, but include categories that didn’t even exist five years ago.

It’s increasingly becoming clear that retail must embrace technology that adds value to the behaviours of the new consumer and optimizes the customer experience in stores to help new merchants grow.

As we continue our exploration of retail trends and POS trends, we hope to continue to inform small businesses and local merchants as to the many solutions that can deliver them ROI and help their stores and locations succeed.

As tech startups mature like some of the above have into global companies, it’s clear retail’s transformation has only just begun. Feel free to share this article if it was valuable to you and follow us on LinkedIn.

The in-store experience is being augmented by new technology, such as our own Promo PRNT solution that enables POS Ads that simplify customer loyalty offers at SMB retail locations.


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 Changes History

The Everything Store Strikes Again

When Amazon enters a market all-in, it changes history. This is especially true with how Amazon has changed the scope of possible disruption in the grocery market retail industry.

With the everything-store Amazon acquiring Whole Foods, this immediately puts the world on notice that Amazon is taking on the future of grocery.

Grocery has been a slow moving sector, however, this signals Amazon’s entry into brick-and-mortar in a big way. Whole Foods has 465 stores in North America and the UK and will continue to operate as a separate entity. However, this syncs well with the omnichannel assault on food namely:

  • Whole Foods stores (located in upscale urban neighborhoods: Amazon’s sweet spot of premium customers)
  • AmazonGo scan and go technology; that automates checkout and requires less staff.
  • Amazon Fresh Pickup

With the $13.7 B. dollar acquisition Amazon is set to put its grocery innovation on fully display facilitated by dash buttons and dash wand-compatible with Alexa.

Amazon Increases its Brick and Mortar Blueprint

WFM gives Amazon immediate scale, density and a competitive team to take on the big grocers and adds 67,000 employees. This significantly adds to a workforce of already 351,000 at Amazon.

Whole Foods, started in Austin TX in 1980, had profits of $15.7 billion in net sales and profits of 507 million.

News of the acquisition knocked off immediately $40 billion of the market cap of major grocery retailers and consumer packaged goods companies. Let’s not forget, the US market for food and beverage is $795 billion; or roughly 30% of all US personal spending excluding cars and energy.

Amazon Acquires via WFM
  • Massive brick and mortar footprint with high-value customer base
  • Top Data on their high-end consumer habits
  • Distribution infrastructure for grocery delivery (nobody is losing their jobs yet)
  • Employees, warehousing, merchandising, etc…
Who does this Disrupt?

A Wall Street firm Cowen has calculated that a combined Amazon/Whole Foods grocery presence means it’s already automatically the #5 overall grocery retailer in the United States.

This puts pressure on the price-wars of the future of food. It puts pressure on the likes of:

  • Walmart
  • Safeway
  • Costco
  • Kroger
  • Trader’s Joe’s
  • Ahold Delhaize, and others.

Amazon Invests Big

This is Amazon’s biggest acquisition to date, by about 12x. If Amazon can get this right, it weakens Walmart’s hold at the top of the Fortune 500. Amazon is scaling as the premium retailer and in the process becoming a technology company.

Unless the above direct competitors innovate, it’s unlikely that they will be able to hold market share against Amazon’s assault on the grocery market.

As Scott Galloway of L2 pointed out before the fact, grocery is primed for disruption and Amazon is the likely one to do it (no pun intended).

What does Amazon’s Mega acquisition of Whole Foods mean for the future of online grocery?


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 Can Retailers Leverage User Generated Content to Increase Sales?

If you’ve looked into marketing options and best practices for your retail business, you may have seen the term “user generated content” being tossed around quite a bit. For retailers and small businesses, leveraging user generated content is a great way to grow your marketing and sales for little, to no cost.

What is User Generated Content?

User generated content (UGC) is defined as any type of content including videos, photos, blogs, tweets, etc. that has been created and published by unpaid contributors. In the case of retail, this would be content created by your customers. This can range to Instagram photos of featuring your new line of summer wear, or Facebook Live video of your bath bomb dissolving to create the most relaxing bath time.

Now the question to ask is: Do user generated marketing campaigns actually work? The short answer is yes!

Improved Brand Engagement

New Consumer Buy-In

  • 86% of millennials say that UGC is a good indicator of the quality of a brand.

Increased Conversion with UGC

More Trustworthy Content

Organic vs. Driven UGC

Now that you know what user generated content is and have seen some statistics to back up the benefit of UGC campaigns, let’s talk about what it can do for your brand. Leveraging UGC on social media portrays that your brand is so likable, that people want to promote it themselves.

Sometimes UGC comes from different motives. Many brands will hold a photo contest in order to leverage user generated content, whereas others generate it more naturally.

For example, if you follow any millennial females on Instagram, you may have seen the famous red bathing suit post that “broke the Internet”. Sunny Clothing Co. saw the opportunity to make their Instagram post go viral by posting a photo of a woman in a red bathing suit with the caption telling their followers that they can get that same bathing suit for free by reposting the photo and tags Sunny Clothing Co.

For an SMB retailer, this is a genius way to organically boost your social media following and take advantage some free user-generated marketing. It was in fact so genius, that the company underestimated the success of the post. They ended up with so many responders that they had to put a limit on the number of red bathing suits they could give away.

Personalization and Contests

Coca-Cola, on the other hand, found a more subtle way to run their UGC campaign. Within the past year or so, you may have noticed that Coke began putting people’s names on their bottles.

You may have even found yourself searching through to find a Coke bottle with your own name on it.

So how is this campaign helping to create user generated content? We live in a digital age where everything and anything we do gets posted to Facebook, sent in a Snapchat, posted to Instagram, or even sent to a group chat on iMessage. And for some funny reason, people love finding their name on things!

With the combination of that and our obsessions with sharing our day-to-day tasks on social, Coke created a wildly successful UGC campaign.

>

How to Leverage UGC

Before you go off and launch your very own UGC campaign, there are first a few questions you will need to ask yourself. Do you want to drive the UGC? Do you have the budget to give away prizes for top posts? Will the content generated by your customers be consistent with your brand?

Creating Campaigns that Live On

It’s important to remember that leveraging user generated content can be as simple as using a social media monitoring tool to see when your customers are talking about your brand, or it can be as complex as starting an entire UGC campaign like Sunny Clothing Co. or Coca-Cola.

While Sunny Clothing Co.’s UGC campaign was very successful, it was also very short lived, as it was only a one-day contest. Coke, on the other hand, is going on their second summer of their “Share a Coke” campaign.

Elevating your Bottom Lines with UGC

It is important look at your goals and why you want to leverage UGC, and how your business can benefit from it.

If your business needs to increase brand awareness and trustworthiness or targets Millennials or GenZ, UGC is a good fit.

In fact, UGC content may drive more ROI and help you as an independent merchant than more traditional approaches.

UGC can work wonders increasing brand advocacy and resonating with your audience, while boosting those bottom line revenues and sales as a retailer. Try a UGC campaign for yourself, and grow word-of-mouth referrals and your retail business more authentically!


 

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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Retailing – The Worst of Times and the Best of Times

Some of the smartest institutional investors in the world, including behemoth Berkshire Hathaway, have washed their hands of retail. The daily store closings and near weekly retail bankruptcies have become as predictable as my dog needs a walk.

And yet I remain firmly convinced that for retail entrepreneurs and small business owners there has never been a better time to be in retail, and I’m not smoking anything!

Let me be very clear, for anyone who follows me or any of the other retail mavens and bloggers out there, you know retailing is going through, arguably, the most consequential changes in 100 years. Suffice it to say that many retailers have succumbed, and much more will fall.

Commoditization

The internet has become the most efficient manner to sell almost anything, but particularly commodities. That’s the stuff we purchase and consume repeatedly. This would have occurred EVEN if Amazon had not become the force that it has, but it has exacerbated the challenges for big boxes selling those commodities.

We can expect an ongoing bloodbath between Walmart, Target and Amazon and others, as they continue to tighten ever-thinning margins, improve supply chains and continue to recalibrate their last mile strategy.

For another institution of the twentieth century, the department store, the skies are also very cloudy. To quote Warren Buffet, “the department store is online now”. It’s also fair to say that over the course of the last half century the DNA of that institution has morphed into something less recognizable and less relevant than their founders conceived. There is only so much you can dilute the ‘secret sauce’ before it completely loses its taste.

Their meager attempts at recalibrating were hamstrung by overly confident directors, increased debt, faceless consolidation, unrelenting discounting, and Wall Street expectations. They were further undermined by operational efficiencies imposed at the expense of their (once) valued customers and an indifference to changing market forces, demographics, and consumer spending habits.

Interdepen-Dance

Further, one cannot separate the department stores’ woes from that of the major malls that they anchor. Their successes and failures are inextricably connected. As we have watched the sales fall at department stores, we have witnessed a similar drop in “foot-fall” (love that term) in the malls.

We know that the US is over-retailed with nearly twice the square footage as the next most retailed country. And according to a recent Credit Suisse research report, more than 8,600 brick-and-mortar stores are expected to close their doors in 2017.

Retail analyst Jan Rogers Kniffen told CNBC in May of last year that he predicted 400 of the 1,100 enclosed malls in the U.S. will close in the coming years, and only 250 of the remaining will thrive. This runs roughly parallel to the number of ‘A-class malls’ that currently exist; and surmises the fallout will be distributed among the B, C, and D properties. Todd Henderson of Deutsch Asset Management was quoted in a recent interview saying, “There are A-class ‘trophy malls’, and then there are the rest”.

New Point of Sale

Future cultural anthropologists will analyze the correlation between the disruption in our buying patterns and the fact that we are all walking around with the ‘new point of sale’ neatly tucked away in our purse, backpack, or back pocket. Just as in store sales have diminished, online has been experiencing double-digit annual growth, almost since its onset. Forrester predicts that by 2020 U.S. online sales will exceed a half trillion dollars.

So why am I an enthusiastic supporter of indie retailing given the industry carnage? Because I believe that much of the current retail woes are caused by too much of the wrong stuff, in the wrong places, at the wrong time.

Additionally, there are now and will continue to be unmet wants and needs, across diverse market segments. Looking at the most successful upstart concepts of recent years (Bonoboos, Birchbox, Warby Parker, Shinola Detroit, Casper, Kendra Scott, etc.) they have several things in common.

Many are digitally native, vertically integrated companies who control their own destiny’s and understand the real nature of omnichannel, as a holistic means of operating. Most of these companies are highly focused niche brands who exist to serve a targeted market; rather than being all things to all people, which is where so many retailers have failed. Additionally, they have entered the realm of the retail real estate with a solid on-line footing and an avid following.

There are several conditions in place that further help to support my optimism regarding indie retailers and small business start-ups. These include 1) Low barrier to entry and a level playing field; 2) Consumer’s desire to support local businesses; 3) Readily available space and access to funds, and 4) Low cost and high impact of new media.

Low Barrier to Entry

The Internet has put much more people in business than it has taken jobs away. We know that Amazon, E-bay, and Etsy have all become launch pads for third party retailers who would have been greatly challenged without them. Many if not most of these players have complementary websites and some even have physical storefronts, temporary or permanent.

The very best of these players have worked to develop legions of social media ‘brand advocates’ who engage with and support the brands as well as post glorious, often personalized imagery online for all to share. These kinds of individual expressions often result in a level of brand awareness that would have cost untold millions of dollars to generate back in old ad days.

Going Local

Back when my retail design firm was helping entrepreneurs take steps to up their game; we knew what was necessary to make them ‘look national’ to generate a following and establish their brands. Today with the backlash against all that is big and ubiquitous, even the national brands are trying to look local, and community connected. It is much easier for a ‘home grown’ business to look, well, homegrown. One of the greatest brand values that a company can foster today is authenticity, and you can’t fake that.

Many new retailers are approaching real estate quite differently. Some have tested concepts with highly effective pop-ups, both as freestanding spaces as well as co-tenancies within existing retailers. Also, the days of intransigent mall landlords who won’t give a start-up the time of day are mostly over.

The most progressive among them have even initiated programs designed to identify and assist start-ups. In its inception in the 90’s, Mall of America launched a retail ‘incubator program’ intended to identify and support just such retail start-ups; the program, which I talk about in my book, proved to be highly successful. Mall management will need to consider making similar investments to compensate for the loss of many specialty chains.

Filling a Niche

As I alluded to at the beginning of the article, price transparency and distribution efficiency, aided by the internet, have contributed to the commoditization and downfall of many of today’s retailers. Too many of the once distinguished players felt forced to compete on price; usually by stripping away all that differentiated them from their completion (think lower left on the price/value matrix).

The huge window of opportunity for indie retailers and start-ups is to become a ‘prospector’ in search of a category, product, or service that they can “own”. That defining brand must embody a keen sense of value, authenticity, and personalization, and its ‘story’ must evoke a strong emotional connection to its audience (think upper right on the price/value matrix).

Fertile Ground

The search for experience over mere consumption has been the subtext of many recent articles on retail survival, including some I’ve penned. That said, a brand or concept that truly celebrates the culture, nuance, and immersive participation into a specific product or service can redefine or reinvent an entire category.

Whether it be food, beverage, sports & recreation, collecting, make-tailing, heritage & ancestry, or the sharing economy; there are enthusiastic audiences who will find discretionary dollars to spend on their passions, in almost any economy. It’s the entrepreneurs and indie retailers job to connect and engage with those enthusiasts in a manner that a big box or pure-play online retailer simply can’t. Advantage, indie retailer!


Sanford Stein is a retail trend forecaster and speaker, are the founder of RETAIL SPEAK and the author of the 2015 IBPA Award winning RETAIL SCHMETAIL. A product of an ‘immersive’ retail upbringing as the son of a mid-century American merchant. He witnessed his dad and uncle go from “accidental retailers” to brand builder’s; and while in his teens was laying out stories on his bedroom drafting table. A half-century later, with over 400 retail design projects under his belt, he’s now cultivating his lifelong passion for all things vehicular. LinkedIn | Twitter

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Why is the iPad POS so Popular for New Retailers?

To say that mobile point of sale systems are becoming popular would be an understatement.

mPOS, as it is sometimes called, means having all the power of a cloud POS system in the comfort of a tablet or iPad for easy access and cozy design.

Some of the most popular POS solutions we love are leveraging this trend, including Vend, Shopkeep, Revel, Square and so many others. Many of these utilize Star Micronics hardware and printers.

Few of them realize their Printers are now cloud-connected devices that can do more. Such as offer customers digital receipts, mobile coupons and even customize promotions on the receipt themselves in “always-on” inexpensive advertising campaigns that reach EVERY customer. That’s what an exciting future solution we call Promo PRNT is all about.

So, why is the iPad POS so popular? iPad POS systems offer great opportunities for startups and a smoother transition from bulky terminals for merchants looking to make a switch. Here are some of the reasons why the iPad POS adoption is among the top POS and retail trends of 2017.

Popularity of the iPad tablet

iPad is by far the tablet of choice. iPad users generated 70.8% of tablet-based web traffic as of January 2015, 59% higher than the second place contender, Samsung, who rang in at 11.5%.

What does that mean for new retailers in North America, and restaurants in particular? It means it`s the tablet that both customers and staff are familiar with, which makes it an easy first choice.

User Experience

The iPad POS system is simple. Its ease of use makes staff training simple, straightforward and fast – a definite advantage for retailers with high staff turnover. When it comes to implementing an iPad POS system, advises Touchbistro, “the last thing you want is a custom, complicated user experience. You want out of the box simplicity and that’s exactly what Apple aspires to.”

Software Updates & Security

How does iOS ensure security? According to review site Merchant Maverick: “iOS security updates occur regularly and automatically, across all Apple devices. iOS is generally known to be less virus prone than all other operating systems. Apple explains: “iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch are designed with layers of security. Low-level hardware and firmware features protect against malware and viruses, while high-level OS features allow secure access to personal information and corporate data, prevent unauthorized use, and help thwart attacks.”

Faster Checkouts

Thanks to the speed of the cloud, coupled with the ever-updating software of the user-friendly iPad, checkout times tend to be faster, making for a better customer (and staff) experience.

Customer Engagement Tools

One of the biggest benefits of an iPad POS system is “the increased access to customer engagement tools, which include paper vs electronic receipts, customer tracking tools, and marketing capabilities to help you integrate the systems that monitor customer transactions and customer relations.”

Powerful Features

Many iPad POS systems come with powerful features that often aren’t available on traditional systems. These features include inventory tracking, direct ordering for restaurants, shipping integrations, loyalty solutions and more.

Cost Savings

With a cloud-powered iPad POS system, startup costs are significantly lower than with a traditional POS system, and more readily available to any business owner with an iPad and a reliable internet connection. The iPad POS makes starting a small business more accessible for merchants with less capital and provides a more centralized solution to running a successful business.

Conclusion

These are among the many reasons why new retailers choose an iPad POS system. As Touchbistro advises, “Go with your needs, what your staff knows and your customers are familiar with: a simple, reliable, and easy to use iPad.” And that is the key to iPad`s popularity with new retailers.


 

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 SMB Can Benefit from User Generated Content

Retail brands and small businesses are starting to learn the efficacy of resharing the content of their customers in creative ways, otherwise known as user generated content.

In an age of word of mouth, peer influencers and micro attention spans on mobile devices; if marketing is going to be customer-centric; content may as well come from them as well.

After all; a 6.9x increase in engagement is considerable.

The younger generation has retailers in a pinch with their distrust of traditional advertising. Of course, we can’t even blame them for being ad weary, when the Atlantic (via Sprout Social) reports that “the average consumer is bombarded by over 3,000 advertising messages a day. In a world of ad blindness, how can a small business get the word out about their products? The answer is simple: give customers incentive to advertise to themselves.

Chewy.com is a good example of a brand that demonstrates the value of building and celebrating an active customer community base. UGC is after all at the intersection of customer success, testimonials and social media itself as a social commerce platform. It is one of the most effective means of obtaining brand trust, awareness and advocacy in the age of authentic marketing.

What’s There to Gain from UGC?

User generated content (UGC) refers to written content, social media updates, images, and video content created for a brand by customers. UGC gets more shares than brand curated content and, according to the Later blog, “Millennials trust user generated content 50 percent more than other types of media.” And it’s not just Millennials that prefer UGC. A recent Harris study (via Curalate) found that 62 percent of adults in the United States report being influenced to make a purchase based on a friend’s social media posts.

In an era where content itself is becoming stoppable; one has to wonder at the future of UGC for SMB merchants as a trend that is particularly effective.


With user generated content garnering so much free traction, companies which don’t take advantage of the free promotion are missing out on a huge opportunity to grow their brand and increase customer engagement.

Reach the Right People

Creating a user generated content campaign gives a brand visibility among their followers’ social media networks. Audiense reports that “84 percent of people are more likely to trust opinions from people they know than from traditional advertising.”

Since many of a brand’s second degree connections will also fall within their target demographic, a UGC campaign is a great method to gain traction with potential customers.

Small Businesses Reap Big Profits

Although UGC Campaigns are beneficial for brands of every size, they’re especially beneficial for small businesses. Since small businesses have less red tape than larger companies, they’re often able to be more creative and offer customers a faster response time than their contemporaries. This creates quick and measurable growth for the business in question.

Small businesses can also use UGC campaigns to promote in-store sales and events, thus engaging their local community and bringing traffic into their stores.

Since major brands have already been gaining a lot of ROI from UGC, it might be time small businesses implement it to cater to the new consumer.

Getting Started with UGC

There are a few options for small business retailers looking to start their own UGC campaign. Before getting started, it’s important for retailers to hone in on their brand’s message or theme, and to figure out what type of campaign is most in alignment with the lifestyle of their brand.

Image-driven campaigns are the most effective, so creating an effective campaign means choosing which type of image will work best with the product and demographic.

Quick and Easy Way to Get Started

The fastest way for a small business to get started with UGC is to create their own branded hashtag on Twitter or Instagram, and to invite customers to submit photos for the chance to have their image reposted on the brand’s page. When doing this, it’s important to give followers specific guidelines for the image and to post examples of the type of image the brand wants.

For some customers, the potential to have their image shared with a brand’s following is incentive enough to generate content for the brand. For others, the incentive to win a prize or receive a discount on their next purchase will prove the most effective.

Promos on receipts are very compatible with UGC, as one of our up coming products can leverage it for small business retailers.

Source: images and graphs for this article from Mary Meeker 2017 trends deck.


Jasmine Glasheen is a Freelance Writer and Retail Strategist. A panelist on RetailWire’s BrainTrust, Jasmine has been published on Retailwire, Independent Retailer, CART, and many others. She was formerly the editor of Off-Price Retailing magazine, and has been quoted both in Forbes and in RetailDive. When she’s not at her keyboard, you’ll find her guzzling kombucha or dancing like a maniac. LinkedIn | Twitter

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Top POS Trends for Independent Merchants

The point of sale is evolving quickly in 2017 to accommodate new demands on retailers and to better integrate smarter software integrations for independent merchants.

There are many POS trends that point to an augmentation of how data can be democratized for Mom and Pops retail stores. When choosing a POS solution, small businesses have to do their research more carefully than ever.

The POS is a tool, and your businesses’s growth is at stake, that tool can now complement an increasing array of performance metrics and sub verticals of your business.

For retail entrepreneurs, POS systems and POS solutions are some of the most researched software that relates directly to their business.

POS solutions are evolving in ways that are leading POS systems into the 21st century. Retail entrepreneurs now have easy access to powerful software that are becoming cheaper than ever, more mobile and able to do more to grow your business than ever.

This is allowing physical merchants to keep up with their sophisticated data-centric e-retailer cousins. From payments, to automation; from hardware to analytics and insights; the POS is becoming the real deal.

In this article we’ll explore some of the major trends and a few surprising innovations. We’ll also uncover some of the bigger POS trends.

1. Shopify Starts to Build Hardware

The Canadian e-commerce solution is having a stellar start to the year as can be seen in its Unite 2017 event. With new partners such as Amazon and Buzzfeed, Shopify can scale this year like never before.

In April, Shopify announced their first hardware product, a chip-and-swipe card reader.


Shopify is banking on the trend of online sellers to sell in physical retail, with its simple card reader.

Key Takeaway: Payments and new hardware are still a hot topic for new retail businesses.

2. The Tablet and Mobile POS Market Grows

Whether its iPad POS solutions, or other kinds of tablets; the mobile POS boom is on. U.S and global growth of more convenient mobile POS solutions is quickly showing to be the new normal in some retail verticals.

Mobile POS is going Mainstream
It’s growing at 9.2% a year according to Capterra via Quickbooks. As Cloud based solutions became mainstream, so too now are mobile POS solutions. This occurs often in hospitality, convenience, retail and service stations where tablets are more useful for data access and of course checkout.

For the SMB space; mPOS makes a lot of sense, where cost-effective hardware is meeting the mobile-first era. This means it’s easier than ever to become a retail entrepreneur; with smarter and less costly hardware and software.

You can do more with an mPOS for your small businesses than you may realize.

Key Takeaway: As Cloud POS became the new standard years ago, it’s looking like mPOS might do the same.

3. Lightspeed POS Introduces Analytics

Lightspeed recently introduced a new analytics tools suite, for deeper insights for its merchants.

The new retail analytics tool is a data upgrade to its retail POS solution. This is appealing since independent merchants need to understand their customers, inventory, employees and sales better than ever to offer them an improved in-store and customer experience. Some highlights include:

  • Insights into sales, employee, performance and inventory
  • Am I keeping the right inventory?
  • Which items always run out?
  • How do my best customers shop?

 

Key Takeaway: Analytics at the Point of Sale has a Bright Future

In continuing to build the best point of sale company for independent businesses, we recognize the importance in providing a suite of comprehensive tools to seamlessly run a business. We launched Lightspeed Analytics because we noticed that independent retailers needed not just access to their data but also wanted actionable insights from a next-generation analytics tool. – Dax Dasilva (Lightspeed CEO)

It’s the age of prescriptive analytics, and Lightspeed bolstered by their partnership CrankLogic, are on the right track.

As POS systems get better access to data and machine learning; the ceilings of what a good POS solution can do for a retailer or SMB merchant must also get higher. This is especially true for analytics, marketing automation and loyalty.

You can book a demo here to learn more about it. For loyalty analytics, try Thirdshelf.

Key Takeaway: Retail analytics at the POS is improving at light speed.

4. Quetzal Upgrades their iPad POS for Boutiques

Quetzal announced this month a partnership with Star Micronics, where they will be providing support for Star’s all-in-one mPOP™ peripheral with their new and improved iPad® point of sale system.

Quetzal is proving specialty retail is increasingly aligning with mPOS solutions.

Thew new software interface includes improvements such as:

Key Takeaway: iPad POS is the Solution of Choice for Boutique and Retail POS Owners

  • 100% offline functionality (Quetzal is a leader in this domain for iPad POS).
  • Quetzal POS will be more intuitive for employees, store owners and managers.
  • Built-in Loyalty program, gift card and store credit system with no processing fees.
  • Fully compatible with Star’s mPOP peripherals, saving valuable counter space for SMB retailers.
  • Quetzal POS also provides a digital receipt solution for their customers with Star’s AllReceipts™ app.

Interested in an iPad POS? Learn more about Quetzal here.

Key Takeaway: the iPad POS is trending for POS Retail owners.


See it on Amazon.

5. Star Micronics Launches new Printer: TSP143IIIU

The TSP1413IIIU is being called a game-changer for tablet and mobile POS.

  • It connects directly to an iPad or iPhone using the Apple Lightning cable for reliable USB communication and simultaneous charging.
  • According to Retail Wire, it’s the only entry-level USB receipt printer solution today to communicate and charge simultaneously and directly with an iPad or iPhone.
  • Intelligent POS by iZettle fully integrate with it as well, bringing the mobile tablet POS field forward.
  • Learn more on the TSP141311U here.

 

Key Takeaway: Printers are getting Smarter and connecting Merchants with the Future.

6. POS Systems Achieve new API Integrations

The age of value-add-ons is influencing how POS solution ecosystems evolve. This means software providers are becoming better connected with their partners. You don’t have to look far in the POS systems world to see how this occurs.

Vend had impressive and deep integrations and add-ons seen here. Shopify has an army of apps in its App Store, primarily for E-commerce players.

As Lightspeed continues to acquire and add major segments to its business, it has also developed wide ranging third-party solutions that can provide additional value to any independent merchant or retail startup.

Typically this consolidation of software with the POS solution as node now in the cloud; can be characterized into a few major branches:

  1. Payments
  2. Loyalty
  3. Analytics, Reporting and Artificial Intelligence
  4. Accounting
  5. Email Marketing
  6. Employee Scheduling and Management
  7. Inventory and Warehouse Management
  8. Niche Specialty Solutions (such as for Hospitality, Restaurant, E-commerce, etc…)

Each POS solution has native strengths and weaknesses, but will also have third-party integration strengths and weaknesses.

Key Takeaway: Value add-on apps are gaining machine intelligence and enable SMBs to specialize even further.

7. Mobile Payments and Cashless Solutions

While major smart phone companies are developing next-gen biometric and other post NFC solutions, the mobile wallet has not caught on with consumers as fast as some anticipated.

Mobile wallet users have so many choices, and are aware that mobile payments can lead to more impulse buying. While mobile payments are increasing with PayPal, and there’s buzz around Apple Pay, Android Pay, Samsung and Google Wallet, offering multiple payments options is still a good idea for merchant.
Key Takeaway: Mobile wallet adoption is slow but

8. Vend London Giveaway – Spring 2017

The UK’s leading ePOS, Vend recently announced a great giveaway.

Here is an example of a London retailers using Vend to build their retail business; Number Six, East London.

The giveaway entails great rewards and the competition ends June 12th, so there’s not much time left. Here are the rewards:

  • £20,000 Retail Growth Package giveaway + all the tools you need to attract more customers, gain control of your inventory, and create beautiful customer experiences. The £20k is thanks to the following:
  • £6,000 of retail technology from Vend and Star Micronics
  • £7,000 of retail support from the British Independent Retailers Association and Albion
  • £8,000 of street marketing from Jack Agency

Key Takeaway: Independent Merchants in London are front and center with this offer that has a big upside.

9. Rise of Cloud Computing and Cloud Point of Sale

The legacy point of sale system is dying; as POS systems and peripherals in the cloud continue to gain impressive traction.

This is leading to not only more accessible and flexible solutions like having your POS on an iPad, it’s leading to a decrease in total spend independent merchants must make for even more robust and connected solutions.

For value-added-resellers (VARs), this means a proliferation of new potential products that integrate software and hardware in new ways. Cloud POS systems are also aggressively connecting to niche and speciality stores and increasingly to omnichannal solutions.

This means Restaurant POS, e-commerce, and an emphasis on data and analytics for brick-and-mortar retailers is on the swift incline. Leading POS solutions are also battling it out in important new global territories expanding their reach and acquiring companies to improve their value propositions.

Cloud POS has come a long way in the last decade; and with the integration of technology, IoT and machine learning; it’s going to reach even higher in the decade ahead.

Key Takeaway: the Cloud POS is leading to a very dynamic ecosystem of innovation around software customized to each industry.

10. Mobile & Unified Commerce

In 2017 we are seeing the POS more than ever, adapt to mobile-first solutions of the “new consumer”. What does this mean? It means Millennial shoppers are using their mobile devices in-store more than ever, making the push for omnichannel retail even more key for small businesses.

When Shopify acquired Kit last summer, the chat-bot that can help automate retail marketing; many analysts could feel the potential of the emergence of a new kind of marketing automation that taps into mobile.

The proliferation of POS solutions now that offer POS for iPad, Tablets and so forth; is showing the turn of the tide. With e-retailers opening up stores; and smaller independent chains improving the mobile experience of their websites; multiple channels now must adapt to consumer-centric behaviors.

Adapting to the holistic customer experience of your customers as a small business, has never been greater. In choosing the right POS solution, you are one step closer in the direction of a unified commerce provider.

Emerging solutions that intersect with the POS are increasing in their ability to convert and track ROI. Digital signage, shopper tracking, sensors like Dor, IoT and even receipt promotions are showing new “always on” solutions that can help increase the sales of your business.

Key Takeaway: Mobile first consumers are driving new trends in retail and in-store solutions.

11. Unique In-Store Experiences Will Drive Sales

In the modern day POS, tech startups that can deliver formidable retail experiences in-store and at location will help the business of independent merchants thrive.

This is important to point out; as customers aren’t just interested in buying, they are engaged at different points of the shopping journey.

As a retailer you have to think long and hard what will truly impact the customer experience of your specific high-value customer. Will Email or loyalty marketing really drive foot traffic? Or does a new kind of marketing, advertising and brand awareness suit them better?

QR codes, post and pre sales solutions, and mobile-centric experiences such as digital receipts, all have the ability to help customers be more engaged in-store itself. In some retail sectors we are already seeing clever use of magic mirrors, RFID tagging, iBeacons, digital signage, augmented reality. For other locations still, technology at the service of employees can boost customer service.

While the POS is usually thought of as inventory management, sales insights and that place where hardware meets software at the point of purchase; it’s becoming even more. It’s becoming a tool to augment customer experience.

Key Takeaway: Marketing automation, receipt ads and the IoT of retail could shake up how small businesses grow.

12. Retail Industry Adjustments

Changes in the retail sector of 2017 have resulted in some big headlines. With rising minimum wages, the downsizing of retail square footage in the U.S. and retail bankruptcies; all of these trends impact the POS. The changing of the American mall towards retailtainment is duly noted as well.

The new overtime rules started last summer in the U.S., and a reduced labor pool in some areas impact the level of customer service some stores and SMB services are able to provide.

Changes in consumer behaviors are starting to impact specialty stores and retail verticals that are growing much faster online, than in bricks-and-mortar. The POS solution that you choose as an independent merchant can impact employee management to a considerable degree, so do your homework.

Key Takeaway: Retail store closures are stimulating innovation as the retail industry shifts in more ways than one.

13. Mobile Ordering

In a world where nearly 70% of U.S. consumers own a smart phone, mobile-first trends are important for new small businesses.

As SMBs in the food space know all too well, the mobile ordering trend is hitting the mainstream. This means you can order food from Facebook, in Facebook Messenger, via Amazon Echo “skills” and in over a dozen popular food-centric apps.

Independent merchants can leverage this to their advantage to gain traction for their business.

Partnering up with a popular app in your ecosystem, potentially a partner of your POS solution, can go a long ways – just make sure the App has some traction with your high-value and ideal customer.

Omnichannel fulfillment in an app-centric world means giving the consumer more choice. Mobile payments and digital receipts or mobile coupons, and the ability to print Micro Receipts instead of longer versions of paper wasting receipts is likely a good choice to give your customer.

Engagement at the point of sale (POP) is a good point to reach the consumer; since they are already using mobile significantly in most retail situations and locations. Mobile ordering itself, catches the consumer half way between your product and the mobile-first world where we increasingly are spending significant amounts of time.

Key Takeaway: Chatbots, mobile ordering, receipt solutions and new in-app kinds of engagement are changing how we interact with merchants.

14. Emergence of Next-Gen POS Solutions

The next generational POS system will be an all-in-one solution. That is; it will be able to do all that a POS system can do today and more. What does this mean? It will be the go-to CRM for retailers and independent merchants.

It will give sales insights by location, in-store and online at multiple points in the customer journey. Moreover, it will do marketing automation as an indispensable part of the future POS. What does this mean? It will help you as a retailer do better up-selling and cross-selling to your customers in a personalized way automatically.

The POS of the future brings and democratizes data for the SMB retail, but also automates valuable actions to better engage each customer on a one-to-one basis. Better segmentation and personalized offers to your lists, easier integration of advertising in your store and improved loyalty all-around.

From a POS on an iPad to an intelligent cloud-connected printer, devices in the store will be smarter and operate with sophisticated machine intelligence to improve the customer experience of your business.

Key Takeaway: the POS is getting smarter and integrating marketing better into its core features. With the introduction of native analytics and loyalty; the POS systems of the future will be even more powerful.

15. Data Augmentation of the POS

As major tech companies are in a war for the best applications of artificial intelligence, so too are the top POS systems in a race to the best retail data and analytics.

The quality of the data will enable not simply insights for business owners and independent merchants, but suggested actions, integrations with apps and chatbots to facilitate those actions.

As the POS gets smarter, physical and brick-and-mortar retailers need access to data their e-commerce cousins have had for years.
Key Takeaway: there is a big push for merchants to have better access to data, insights and machine intelligence driven automation in brick-and-mortar stores.

16. Saving Space

In the real world of independent merchants and SMB retailers, every square food (square inch) of space matters. When Star released in 2015, the mPOP, it’s sleek design was made merchants who wanted the best hardware and who had special environments such as pop-up stores (such as Retailers in Asia) where space can matter more.

The trend of mPOS and POS systems on iPad is all about convenience, but physical space is one of the main considerations. Lower costs and better space management, means these mPOS solutions also give the customer more quality time with the sales associate; improving the human-centric aspect of the customer experience.

Now in Spring of 2017, Square POS bundles with Star Micronics printers and hardware are a popular space saving option.

Key Takeaway: new hardware solutions can save Merchants valuable space at check-out and help improve customer experience.

17. Relative Ease of Adoption

As an independent merchant you want the hassle free solution that can save you money while helping your grow your business. With today’s leading POS systems you will get a plug-and-play experience that’s easier than ever from your printer to your customized white label loyalty program.

With thermal printers packaged with many POS solutions, that facilitate digital receipts, mobile coupons and the ability to create Ads on printed receipts, not only are the POS systems of today easy to adopt; they connect retailers to a new ecosystem of tech solutions.

This means a retail entrepreneur hustling on the street can deal with what’s most important; their customer and running their new store and small business.

Key Takeaway: many new POS tools and printers have plug-and-play simplicity meaning they are easier to use, manage and operate than ever.

18. Why New Retail Entrepreneurs Prefer Mobile POS

There may be other reasons to the gaining popularity of the mobile POS options such as iPad and Table POS systems. They may function in a food environment; such as a food truck, a pop-up stand at a festival and other environments where mobility is important.

Also, since we are people become more accustomed to mobile vs. desktop access to the web; it stands to reason that there is a certain “cool factor” with having a POS on a mobile device.

Easy access to stats and insights; keeping up with our business from anywhere; are some of the obvious reasons small business owners are also prefer a POS on a tablet. It’s lightweight sleek design also means more time to have a face to face with the customer, de-emphasizing clunky legacy hardware; in preference for easy mobile access.

According to solutions like Shopkeep, mobile payments are facilitated by having an mPOS. Certainly for small business owners who are Mac users; the iPad POS is a no-brainer.

According to Capterra, a majority of retailers prefer using a mobile POS system. Employees cite “ease of use” as being a decidedly important factor; with a majority of iPad retailers accepting such payment options as Apple Pay for example.

Key Takeaway: Retail owners and store managers are looking for greater convenience from their POS solutions, and easy touch systems that are also appealing for their employees.

19. Doing Less with More POS Trend

Another trend we are seeing in some retail segments for instance as Revel Systems points out in the food kiosk space; is literally getting more done with less staff.

Old school retailers will tell you customer service is key, however futurists will point out that the POS is becoming more intelligent than ever with better integration to machine intelligence that will contribute to automation.

With future concept stores that include computer vision and mobile replacing checkout altogether; the POS could be at the center of “doing more with less”, quite literally.

In particular, tracking, scheduling, training and doing more with employees via the POS seems to be a significant trend. Not only are POS systems getting more significant reporting, sales insights and analytics; they are becoming more employee management friendly.

Independent merchants and SMB retailers are always looking for better performance from technology to help them optimize staff, offer real-time insights on inventory and optimize the customer experience and doing more with less has become the new gold standard for POS systems.

Key Takeaway: the impact of the POS on employee management is increasing; as the POS becomes better integrated with artificial intelligence.

20. EMV Adoption and Tightening Security

Related to the POS and payments is EMV, which stands for Europay, MasterCard, Visa (EMV) standard.

This is a global standard for credit cards to authentic transactions and for merchants to prevent fraud. U.S. Merchant that do not accept EMV, may be liable to absorb the cost of the chargebacks as they relate to EMV, which can result in major issues.

U.S. adoption has been slower than in some other parts of the world. Fraud prevention and tightening security is very relevant for some retail verticals in particular and some POS systems facilitate solutions to this. Since EMV chips encrypt each payment with unique transaction codes, this greatly reduces the potential for card-skimming, identity and data theft at the merchant’s location.

Key Takeaway: while EMV adoption is still slow in some areas, fraud prevention remains a high priority for independent merchants.

21. The POS as a Human-Centric Force

As in 2017 we’ve seen store closures; the old refrains of human service in the store experience have never been greater. The POS system is a tool for independent merchants to improve the customer experience.

In a world of mobile, retailtainment, in-store events, showrooming, reverse showrooming and creating a feast for the senses, how can the POS impact the human experience?

How can a small business truly be customer-centric? Focusing on POS add-ons that relate to employees, checkout, customer service and analytics that help you know your customer and their loyalty experience are all great places to start.

As Vend states; those retailers who can “promote product quality, transparency, & sustainability will flourish”, therefore look for a POS that augments and embellishes how your business is able to do this. Can you automate offers via SMS, can you reach people on receipts? Reaching your customers; also means cutting through the digital noise and standing out for your humanity.

How a retailer can do loyalty and leverage user-generated-content can have a big impact on their word-of-mouth business that promotes customer retention and increases growth. Knowing who your high-value customers are and treating them right, is the key to your business.

Key Takeaway: the POS is also enabling retail entrepreneurs to adapt to the new values of their Millennial and mobile native shoppers.

22. The Rise of New Specialty Retail Verticals

Diving into the National Retail Federation’s hot retail verticals is interesting. However pending legal issues it’s some unsung heroes of independent retail that are rising; namely Cannabis and Vape. Both are set to ride the wave of the Millennial consumer and hit all-time highs in the decade ahead.

Vape, otherwise known as E-cigarettes, are a safer alternative to tobacco and first entered the US market in 2007, an industry which has grown tremendously in popularity. Cannabis, is set to do the same.

While Amazon and dollar stores have shown impressive growth in the last decade, the new consumer is showing off-price and second-hand stores have a bright future. Starting a business in the right retail vertical is key to success and choosing the POS system that best matches that business. A good POS solution will also provide education on customer experience and retail trends; that will save you time and effort.

Key Takeaway: Inspite of regulatory slowdowns, Vape and Cannabis are still on pace to increase in importance as new specialty retail verticals are on the rise.

23. Changing Economy to On-Demand

New verticals are rising as entrepreneurs and small businesses discovery new opportunities broadly called the “on-demand” economy. In an era where technology startups are adding value to POS software integrations; new retail verticals and SMB services are also forming.

Whether it’s delivery services for food apps; to new ways of seeing hospitality, retail and the home; merchants are learning how to “hack” how the economy and the very nature of work is changing.

The on-demand economy is opening to an era where becoming an entrepreneur is in some cases more feasible than working in a traditional industry. The value of “creating your own job” is also

As e-commerce has changed the consumer’s expectations; customers also seek product education in-store at another level. The modern POS solution will be able to provide an impact for the “on-demand” needs and preferences of the mobile native consumer.

Examples of this are the ability to “order ahead”, book appointments and order and even pre-pay all on mobile devices. Small businesses must find new levels of convenience to offer their customers to retain them and to keep them coming back to their location. As such, independent merchants must keep pace with the latest customer experience trends.
Key Takeaway: retail must keep pace and adapt to a changing workforce and economy.

24. Changing Leaders of POS Systems

While Shopkeep is a North American solution, Vend and Lightspeed are investing in their global reach. Vend boasts some 19,000 merchants; and while Lightspeed has double that; that is mostly due to acquiring e-commerce and Restaurant POS businesses. Revel has an impressive reach but is specialized in iPad solutions for typically kiosk merchants, mobile and smaller foodie merchants.

Shopify is showing tremendous growth, but is comes from a background specialized as an e-retailer solution. How they partner with other firms is showing their dominance of the future, with minted partnerships with the likes of Amazon and BuzzFeed. Shopify is showing signs they are innovating at a rate which typical Cloud POS solutions are, and will be increasingly unable to follow.

We found this breakdown of POS by vertical to be helpful. Merchant Maverick hosts many agnostic POS reviews showing there are many 5-star worthy POS systems of note. Merchant Mavericks also has useful comparison charts such as this one for the best iPad mobile POS system.


Key Takeaway: who the leaders are of cloud POS for independent merchants is becoming more clear; however there is still a diverse array of dozens of high-quality POS solutions.

24. Top POS Review Sites

Choosing a POS is typically a major consideration of an independent retailer. Luckily there are a variety of high-quality articles, reviews, customer ratings and comments from actual customers to sort through. Typically I suggest you take a look at the big three of POS review sites such as:

  1. Merchant Maverick – View their blog here.
  2. Software Advice – View Retail Point of Sale here.
  3. Capterra – View Point of Sale category here.

It’s important to cross-reference these three top resources for the most unbiased view and to read customer comments carefully. Then proceed to do a free trial and constantly look for the best option.

The point of sale field is quickly changing and POS solutions are showing incredible value and adaptability to the changing tides of retail and the needs of small businesses and local merchants.

Key Takeaway: researching the right POS solutions is one of the most important choices a retail entrepreneur will make to start their business.
There’s no right or wrong POS system, but finding the right point of sale solution and add-on apps for your businesses can help your business grow. I hope some of these trends were useful to you. Serving independent merchants with new tools is what we do at Star Cloud Services. Stay tuned for more POS and retail trends.


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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Top 5 Companies Defying Retail Stores Closure Trend

In the retail apocalypse, there’s the doom and gloom narrative all over the headlines. However, there’s also a lot of retail success stories.

In this article, we’ll highlight some of those stories.

Dollar General

Tennessee-based Dollar General Corp. now operates 13,601 stores in 44 states, offering name-brand consumer products that are frequently used and replenished — such as apparel, household, cleaning, health, beauty and baby products — at low prices and in convenient neighbourhood locations.

Dollar General intends to open 1,000 new stores in states where it does business, including Georgia. It also plans two huge new distribution centers.

The company has grown from approximately 72,000 employees in 2008 to more than 130,000 anticipated employees by end of 2017.

Ulta Beauty

This $4 billion-a-year company will open 100 new stores, just as it did last year, and plans to double its store count, reaching an estimated 1,700 locations in the next few years. This remarkable success story has been aided by the closure of department stores, once the major beauty retailers, as they continue to lose market share to the likes of Ulta and its rival, Sephora.

People buying beauty products want to see and try them in order to make their choices, and they don’t want to travel far, making it necessary for Ulta and other beauty retailers to operate lots of brick-and-mortar locations. Ulta stores offer low, medium and high-priced items, some 20,000 of them! They also offer a wide range of in-store beauty services and a level of customer service that make for memorable buying experiences and give Ulta stores great drawing power.

E-commerce is important in beauty, as Ulta itself has shown with its 62% e-commerce growth this quarter, largely because of targeted marketing and its Ultimate loyalty scheme, which now fuels 90% of sales. With nearly 21 million members, it exceeds Starbucks’ program and gives Ulta the data it needs about its customers and stocks as well as where to expand. Ulta seems well positioned to remain one of the bright stars of the retail world.

Aldi

Aldi, which operates 1500 stores in 32 states, is planning a substantial expansion across the U.S. with plans to have nearly 2,000 stores from coast to coast by 2018. It plans on opening 45 new stores in California alone this year.

The German chain also plans to open more than 1,000 new outlets in the UK. Some towns will benefit from having as many as eight Aldi stores, according to Matthew Barnes, CEO of the chain: “If you look at the population, we think not only could we have a store in every town and city, but for every 25,000 to 30,000 people.”

The secret to Aldi’s success? Aldi’s prices are roughly 35 percent to 40 percent below what a typical supermarket charges, while rival Walmart’s prices are about 13 percent to 15 percent below the traditional chains, according to Jim Hertel of WillardBishop, a consultancy to the food retailing business.

The secret to Aldi’s low prices lies in its no-frills business model, which requires customers to bag their own groceries. Its stores are far smaller and lack the huge displays and decor of its rivals, which makes them far more economical to operate. They carry about 2,500 items, less than 10 percent of the 40,000 to 50,000 assortment found at most grocers.

“For example, rather than carrying 20 versions of everything, we offer only the best of customers’ must-have groceries, including fresh produce and organics, dairy, gluten-free foods, USDA Choice beef and bakery items,” according to an Aldi statement. “This helps ensure our customers can save up to 50 percent on their grocery bill while filling their pantries with high-quality products.”

The no-frills concept appears to be a very successful model indeed.

Bonobos

Bonobos, a popular retail website for men, didn’t plan to open physical stores until customers, wanting to try on the clothes before buying, started asking for them.

“People like to touch and feel clothing. They want the human interaction. The experience of being in a store is something customers appreciate,” says Erin Ersenkal, Bonobos’ chief revenue officer. “It’s great for helping us with repeat customers and acquiring new ones.”

With 30 hands-on locations — which Bonobos calls Guideshops — the company is tailoring the experience to its customers, with its unique retail concept of orders placed by customers online following in-store shopping and fittings.

The plus side to the guide shop is that Bonobos can keep all of its sizes, colors, fits, and fabrics in stock at all times for you to try on. There’s only one of each item variation on the showroom floor, but because of that, there’s enough room to carry every single item that Bonobos sells at once.

As soon as you walk into a store, one of the Bonobos’ helpful employees (called guides) will appear and help you find exactly what you’re looking for, in exactly the size you need for a perfect, comfortable fit. Then you can order online, and your clothing will be shipped to your home free of charge in a day or two.

This strategy is hugely successful: Bonobos is opening another 20 stores this year and plans to have 100 stores by 2020.

Sephora

JCPenney has been partnering with Sephora stores for ten years and is extending the program with plans to open 60 new locations this year. Sephora currently operates inside more than half of the 1,000 JCPenney stores and is credited with increasing revenue per customer at these locations.

The partnership also boosts Sephora’s reach beyond its more than 360 free-standing stores in North America and extends to JCPenney’s website as well, where shoppers can access content and an expanded selection of beauty products from Sephora.

“When we first introduced a Sephora inside JCPenney in 2006, it was a revolutionary concept. JCPenney was one of the first department store retailers to forgo the traditional beauty counter and work with a global beauty brand to build a dynamic Sephora shop inside its stores,” said Angela Swanner, senior VP for Sephora inside JCPenney. “Ten years and nearly 600 locations later, Sephora inside JCPenney has become a leading beauty destination that will continue to be a growth driver in 2016 and beyond.”

The hallmark of its New York superstore is the Sephora Beauty TIP (an acronym for teach, inspire, play) Workshop, an experiential, immersive experience that uses a variety of technologies to allow clients to come together and take group beauty classes with Sephora’s makeup artists. There are various studio setups for fragrance and skincare, where individual consultations are offered. The Fragrance Studio has a cool system, InstaScent, which allows shoppers to explore 18 scent families through an innovative, dry air-delivery system.

Other innovations include the Tap and Try station, which, as you could probably guess, is a way you can tap to try on all kinds of makeup products and shades virtually — literally, no makeup remover needed. Then you can head back to the Skin Studio, where you can get a free mini-facial with a custom-to-your-skin-type regimen.

Driven by the success of this concept, more Beauty TIP Workshops, and experiential technologies will go out to other stores soon. These are just some of the stores defying the retail apocalypse trend, there are so many others as well. While retail space is showing consolidation in 2017, new experiences and consumer behaviors are shaping the stores we love.


 

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 Ways Alibaba can Increase SMB sales and Profits

What company is showing 60% year-over-year growth in retail? No, it’s not Amazon. It’s the Amazon of China, called Alibaba.

Single’s day held on November 11th, may have been the greatest Retailtainment event in history last year, breaking its record, that’s $17.7 billion during the 24-hour event.

Alibaba also has a different relationship with independent merchants.

1. ALIBABA IS THE CHAMPION OF SMB

Alibaba is the largest online/offline retailer in the world. “Offline” is the term replacing “bricks & mortar” in the world of the original online businesses; the e-commerce success stories that are now adding “offline ” physical stores to their ecosystem.

While Amazon’s sales are bigger, they have virtually no offline footprint.

Alibaba is rapidly expanding physical stores as part of Jack Ma’s “New Retail” concept. In addition, the focus is now on growing e – com in North America where they have little presence.

Virtually unknown in the Western world, Jack Ma is the genius driving Alibaba’s phenomenal growth. “Alibaba” sums up the corporate culture – “open sesame”.

Alibaba Takes People Seriously at all Levels

It was founded in 1999 by Jack Ma originally as an e-com SMB business to business website. To this day SMB remains at the heart of Alibaba.

It then expanded into consumer e-commerce. From this base it moved into data centric cloud computing services, shopping search engine and electronic payment services.

Alibaba Advocates for Independent Merchants

18 years later, Alibaba hosts 10 million merchants, and has estimated that those businesses account for 30 million jobs. Ma recently made headlines globally when he promised to create 1 million U.S. jobs by linking up U.S. small businesses to sell in China.

Jack Ma is now moving Alibaba into what he calls the “New Retail”. New Retail is the combination of online selling and bricks & mortar all tied together through state of the art logistics and big data.

Alibaba and the New Retail

At the heart of this strategy is the concept of “Entertainmentization” – that is, attracting the customer with leading fashion, art and lifestyle icons into the store.

In short, making the pop culture the center of the shopping experience. This retailtainment trend is at the heart of how the new consumer enjoys experiences in-store.

“New Retail” leverages the knowledge gained from the sum total of Alibaba’s reach. Here are examples of Jack Ma’s genius.

– In September 2014 he engineered the largest IPO in history – US $25 billion! (these guys don’t talk in millions anymore)

– In March 2014 Alibaba acquired a controlling stake in ChinaVision Media group establishing a foothold in the entertainment business.

– In December 2015 Alibaba bought the South China Morning Post newspaper, ensuring that Ma’s message had a broader audience.

– On June 9, 2016 Alibaba introduced the first “internet car”. At $22,000, deliveries start this fall. A major step to fulfilling Ma’s belief that the car of the future will be a robot you engage on a daily basis. 80% of the car won’t be related to transportation, it will be an extension of your office, on the road.

– In Feb 2017 Ma’s New Retail Plan took a major step forward with the partnership with the 4700 store Bailian Chinese group. This would be like Amazon joining forces with Walmart.

– April 2017 Alibaba is playing a major role in the development of Malaysia’s new digital free trade zone.

* THE SMB TAKEWAY
You can leverage the knowledge of “New Retail”.

This perspective is not from one trapped in the world of bricks and mortar. It is moving the online mentality to the physical store.

The goal is to make China that world leader in retail innovation.

2. YOU CAN BUY ON ALIBABA


Alibaba is the world’s largest online business – to – business trading platform for small businesses.

Everything you need to know is only a click away. All commodities are covered. All at direct import pricing that is competitive with the giants.

This video shows how it is done.

3. YOU CAN SELL ON ALIBABA.

This video takes the mystery out of selling in China. It also takes the expense out. No travel, no searching for agents.

4. IT IS ONE STOP SHOPPING. ALL YOUR SUPPORT FUNCTIONS ARE ON ALIBABA.

Once again, everything Alibaba does is designed to make the SMB business as simple and as inexpensive as possible. Giving SMB all of the tools that big business has, at your disposal.5.

5. EVERYTHING IS GUARANTEED

The goal of Ma is to boost the fortunes of small business. Alibaba has the simplest mission statement “to make it easy to do business anywhere”. Chinese business is based on trust. Alibaba guarantees everything.

Dip your toe in the water. Get involved in the Alibaba loop.


Gary Hayes is a savvy veteran of Canadian Retail, where he implemented the BAYMART discount store concept in the BAY as well as Vice President of Smart Set, then VP of Reitman’s in the 80’s. Most recently, Gary developed and executed the Giant Tiger fashion apparel strategy, effectively bullet proofing GT against Walmart. Gary is now a thought leader and consultant with Retail Adventure, and the ultimate retail trend watcher. LinkedIn | Twitter.

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5 Reasons Why the Retail Apocalypse is a Myth

This is a weird time to be in retail. The Atlantic and Business Insider are warning that the end is nigh due to the so-called retail apocalypse.

While it’s true that the retail as we knew it will never be the same, it’s a great world for startups and innovators.

With every revolution, there are those who say it’s the beginning of the end. Retail calls for a shift in paradigm to compete with Amazon and cater to the Millennial mindset. It’s time to throw out the red tape that’s been holding us back.

The New Consumer Enjoys In-Store Experiences

How does one sell to the 72 percent of Millennial consumers who value experiences over things? Sell them on the experience.

Advancements in technology offer retailers new opportunities for experiential retail, such as Rebecca Minkoff’s #SeeBuyWear campaign, which empowers customers to shop for designs immediately after they’re shown on the runway.

In-store experiences are most effective when they quickly respond to seasonal events and trends, so creative teams need to be given some leeway for fast implementation.

The U.S. Has too Much Retail Space

Remember the old adage, “If you build it they will come?” Well, not so much. The United States has more retail square footage per person than anywhere else in the world. In the last few years, our magnanimity has caught up to us.

With more customers gravitating towards online shopping and experiential retail, 40 square feet of retail square footage per person has resulted in oversized, poorly cleaned retail outlets that underwhelm the modern cosumer.

Store Closures Grab the Headlines; Negative Bias

Far be it from the media not to catastrophize when given the opportunity.

Reports of store closures, buyouts, and bankruptcies get the most traction; and journalists write what people want to read. Plus, our brains are prewired towards negative bias, so bad news implicitly grabs (and holds) our attention. As we’ll see in a moment, retail doomsday prophecies don’t hold up to the cold hard facts.

Amazon Is Improving Retail Experience

Whatever your stance on the retail superpower, they’re nothing if not adventurous. Between launching AmazonGo, low priced private in-house brands, and Jeff Bezos announcing a brick and mortar book store in New York City , the company is a master at retail innovation.

Customer expectations are rising along with the enhanced retail experiences Amazon can afford to provide. Retailers can either lament Amazon’s success, or learn from Amazon’s successes and failures. Amazon is testing much of the newest retail technology so that other retailers don’t have to.

Retail Sales are Increasing in 2017

Most importantly, the retail sales crisis is a fallacy. According to Paula Rosenblum, “Retail sales in the first quarter of 2017 increased 4.1% over the first quarter of 2016.”

It’s true that many retailers failed to innovate and are falling by the wayside; it’s also true that innovative retailers, such as Warby Parker and Top Shop, are thriving. Retail success is here for brands unafraid to make a move.

There isn’t a retail apocalypse, innovation has simply caught up with consumer behavior; and the usual winners and losers are facing the music. This signals it’s a new era for how retailers and small businesses think about experiences in-store and how they optimize the customer experience.


Jasmine Glasheen is a Freelance Writer and Retail Strategist. A panelist on RetailWire’s BrainTrust, Jasmine has been published on Retailwire, Independent Retailer, CART, and many others. She was formerly the editor of Off-Price Retailing magazine, and has been quoted both in Forbes and in RetailDive. When she’s not at her keyboard, you’ll find her guzzling kombucha or dancing like a maniac. LinkedIn | Twitter

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