In May 1897, Mark Twain was on a world speaking tour. While in London, he heard that an American newspaper had printed his obituary. When told about this, Twain remarked, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”
The retail industry could say the same.
It is true that we have seen the likes of Sports Authority, Rue21, The Limited, Wet Seal, and BCBG Max Azria file for bankruptcy protection. In addition, many department stores, such as Sears, Macy’s and JC Penney have closed locations. However, the so-called “Retail Bloodbath” may not mean an end to brick-and-mortar stores.
In fact, the US Census Bureau recently reported that retail sales were up nearly 4% in the first six months of 2017, compared with the same period last year.
These data suggest that multi-channel retail—including brick-and-mortar stores—is not going away. So, how can retailers stay afloat and even excel at both traditional and digital shopping? The key is to bridge the online and offline gap. You need to re-create the offline experience online. And, in turn, generate an “endless aisle” experience in the store.
Use your online experience and interactions to drive foot traffic to brick-and-mortar stores. Email, push notifications, and social media all provide you with opportunities to promote local discounts, products, and events that can drive shoppers to stores. Store locators, product reservation tools, and ship-to-store options can boost revenue, while increasing convenience for the shopper. And there is that added benefit: while the customer is in your store to pick up that special item, it is likely that they will acquire additional items on impulse.
This can also apply in the other direction. If a product is out of stock in your store, “endless aisle” technology can allow your customer to order the item online while standing next to the shelf. Integrated IT systems mean that customers can return online orders in-store instead of having to mail them back and wait for a replacement or refund.
Successful retailers are using information from online channels in their offline marketing. For example, Best Buy displays product reviews and ratings on the shelf next to the product. Providing consistent product data across channels ensures that customers who found a great product online can find that same item in-store. By improving SEO and enriching product information, Primeau Velo was able to decrease customer online search time and increase in-store sales simply because shoppers could more easily find products they were seeking.
Another tactic is to personalize catalogs, adverts, and mailers based on online data. When retailers can draw insights from online interactions, printed materials can extend the digital experience and provide a seamless customer journey—from e-commerce to catalog to conversion.
Regardless of your retail industry, all your markets and channels need to tell the same story. This way, your customers will encounter a consistent brand and product experience no matter where they start their journey.
But to accomplish this, you need a single source of accurate product information.
When your catalog production in Europe can draw from the same information as your e-commerce engine in the U.S., you can go to market more quickly with new seasons or assortments. You have the means to enrich your product content so you are relevant to customers no matter which channel they are using. You can also more easily align offline experiences and online interactions, creating a consistent and satisfying customer experience.
The result? You build stronger relationships with your customers and realize higher sales and greater customer loyalty.
Kathryn Zwack, Senior Content Marketing Manager
You have probably heard the news and it isn’t good. Sports Authority is gone. The Limited is gone. Shoes.com – gone. Payless Shoes – gone. Wet seal – gone.
JC Penney, Macy’s, Nordstrom have all reported declining sales. Even Kohl’s is hurting. The latest report was Target—also down—for the fourth straight quarter.
Meanwhile, there was an 11% increase in online and non-store retailers and an increase among restaurants and bars. I guess folks get hungry while shopping online and then go out to eat.
At the same time, Wal-mart revenue is up. And, of course, Amazon is up and prepping for another “Prime Day” in a couple of months.
We can surmise why some of these retailers are not doing well and why others are cleaning up. But let’s take a look at what the analysts say.
Wal-mart has cut prices and improved in-store traffic, while Target has less foot traffic. Wal-mart is also improving its e-commerce performance, which the company says rose more than 60% in Q1 2017 and are the highest ever. Wal-mart’s growth surpassed even that of Amazon and was attributed mostly to Wal-mart, not its recent acquisitions of Jet.com, and Moosejaw, which provide access to a more affluent and sophisticated shopper.
Wal-mart has expanded its online catalog to more than 50 million products up from just 10 million one year ago. The company also now offers free two-day shipping on orders that total more than $35 and a discount to shoppers who order online but elect to pick up select products in-store. Wal-mart is capitalizing on its close proximity to a large percentage of the US population—something that Amazon cannot easily counter.
Other innovations include investing in online grocery ordering that provides curb-side pickup services by busy moms and dads. Wal-mart also is investing in new technologies to speed shelf stocking to ensure that products are there where and when consumers need them.
In turn, Amazon has turned their popular Alexa device into your own personal style consultant with Echo Look. The device sits quietly in your closet and takes full-length photos and short videos upon command with a built-in camera to help you see yourself from every angle. This complements Amazon’s efforts to become a bigger player in fashion—introducing several private label apparel lines and hiring hundreds of personnel to manage the category.
These are only a few of the interesting trends that we are seeing in the retail industry. We hope to hear and see more at IRCE on June 6-9 in Chicago. Stop by our booth (#739) or sign up for a meeting in our private room (#W472) to discuss how inRiver PIM can help you address these, and other, disruptive trends in retail.
Kathryn Zwack, Senior Content Marketing Manager, inRiver Inc