Digitizing Your Brick and Mortar: Where to Start

If you’re looking to bring digital into your brick and mortar, but don’t know where to start…. don’t worry, you’re not alone. With the ever-changing digital landscape and expectations of today’s always-on connected shoppers, retailers everywhere are facing the same challenge. So, where do you start?

The simplest answer is that in-store digital should be leveraged to solve a current problem. Today’s consumers are more informed than ever before and are mobile focused. They have higher retail experience expectations and demand personalization. Digital technology can come in a variety of forms to meet these needs, but without a clear objective, even the best technology can have low adoption by your staff and customers.

Digital can be a solution when you need to:

  • Reframe your customer’s experience – from neutral or negative to positive
  • Create an immersive environment – make your customer’s aware of their options
  • Empower your staff – reduce turnover and instill trust to your team
  • Integrate the technology systems and channels – connect the in-store experience to the pre and post store visits

Whether you are looking to bring in digital display screens, data capture technologies, mobile order and pay, digital check-in, interactive selling or simply wish to improve your customer’s in-store experience through their mobile device, bringing digital in-store does not have to be daunting. The first step is to determine what problem digital may help solve based on your needs and budget.

There is no digital “silver bullet.” First set your goal, then evaluate various digital technologies to find what’s best for you and your brand. Identify what you can learn from digital and develop a measurement plan.

And remember, “going digital” does not mean your traditional signage should be removed. A balance of the two can create an optimum in-store experience.

 

Written by: Dan Chiado, TPN Account Director

 

 

 

Hotwire’s Handle on FOMO

Missing out on something awesome is a total bummer. It leaves you feeling hopeless, disappointed, discouraged. It’s the sort of sorrow that drains you until you reach a point where you confront yourself and say, “Never. Ever. Again.”

The people at Hotwire know this pain. And they know exactly how to use it.

But that’s not a bad thing…

Hotwire loyalists love the rush of adventure and journey into the unknown. If you’ve never booked a hotel on the travel site, it comes with a catchy quirk — all hotels are booked blindly — you don’t know where you’ll be staying until after you pay—but the mystery doesn’t stop there. 

Those in the loop to receive Hotwire emails receive regular Mystery Deals throughout the week. Even if the recipient isn’t looking to travel, the email still triggers curiosity — a tactic that could inspire spontaneity, or simply keep Hotwire top of mind. In other emails, urgency comes into play, as many of Hotwire’s Hot Rates live under a running clock. When time’s up, the deal goes down and customers miss out on what could have been.

Often times customers land spectacular stays at a great savings. Millions love it.

So whether it’s a mystery offer or ticking timer, Hotwire makes FOMO a fun thing with a stroke of suspense, drama and gamification.

It’s a smart play that their passionate customers not only seek, but appreciate, too.

What We Expect to See From Amazon in 2018

At this point, its clear that Amazon has become more than just another e-commerce company that we all shop from. They are also a digital content provider, research destination and marketing channel. And, with their first brick and mortar opening to the public earlier this week, their bigger step into grocery last year and other recent innovations, everyone seems to be watching and wondering what’s next. Based on what we know and are seeing, here’s what we expect from Amazon in 2018: Sensor Replenishment, Voice and Camera-Enabled Machine Learning.

Continued Alexa Growth

Amazon Alexa is growing at a faster rate than any other voice platform. Today Alexa is used mostly for Setting timers, playing songs, reading the news, and shopping.  Shoppers that utilize Alexa purchase 30% more than Prime members that do not utilize alexa, and 70% more than non-Prime members. With this much potential growth, Amazon looks to be doubling down on voice. We expect to see continued aggressive discounting on the device to get the Amazon Echo into more homes and continued improvements and skills.

Amazon Dash Replenishment Program – More Automatic Reordering

Early 2018 Amazon announced that several manufacturers are producing smart products that integrate with Amazon to automatically reorder for consumables when supply runs low. 3M, Blustream, Epson, HP, and Kenmore are some of the key players in this program. It is expected that several more devices will follow suit.

Amazon’s Dash Replenishment leverages multiple sensors to analyze when a consumable is running low inducing a buy order to replenish the product before it runs out.  Printing paper, ink, laundry detergent, and coffee are some of the products that will be available through Amazon’s Dash Replenishment.

Machine Learning Video Camera

Amazon is capturing voice. So, what’s next? View. Amazon has technology that they are releasing to developers to utilize Machine Learning-enabled video cameras. We know Amazon is obsessed with tracking through sensors, and now they will continue to develop on their camera tracking. The next step from here is to follow a similar path to Alexa, where amazon will offer the technology to be included in the manufacturers’ end so they can continue to dominate auto-replenishment and more.

 

Written by: Rami Odeh, TPN VP, Digital Commerce

Why I don’t believe in “The Retail Apocalypse”

So much is being written about a “retail apocalypse” and many spent 2017 talking about the death of brick and mortar.

However, despite what pessimists might say, shoppers and data are telling us a slightly different story and the stats just don’t support such a doom and gloom situation…

  • 4,080 net new stores opened in 2017 (more than the number of stores that closed)
  • 71% of US shoppers still prefer to buy in-store (even if the product is available on-line)
  • 85% of US shoppers want to shop in-store because they want to “touch and feel” before they buy
  • 66% of millennial find store associates “extremely important to their shopping experience”

Sure, certain categories like Fast Fashion and Beauty have taken a hit in-store, but 2017 saw significant store count growth for the Dollars (General and Tree), value brands like T.J. Maxx, Grocers; Lidl and Aldi and beauty brands Sally Beauty and Ulta are demonstrating that brick and mortar retailers are still essential in today’s shopping ecosystem.

An evolution is taking place and brick and mortar retail is at the core.

What is changing are shoppers expectations and what they are looking for when they walk into a store. The right assortment at a good price is no longer enough. Today’s shoppers want more AND they want what they want immediately and they want to have an enjoyable experience. The “currency” of shopper satisfaction is now comprised of Value, Convenience, Discovery and Experience tightly wrapped in Personalization and topped with a shiny bow that is Technology.

While this may sound complex, it represents an opportunity that brick and mortar stores are uniquely positioned to deliver if they take advantage of all of their assets and ensure they are working together toward a common goal of delivering on what the shopper wants. By leveraging an entire store environment, associates on the floor, internal systems/operations and the right technology, retailers can create a “surround sound” affect to ensure the shopper walks out satisfied.

To do this, brick and mortar retailers have to abandon the “one size fits all” approach and move towards having a variety of store footprints that can deliver different brand and shopping experiences. Showrooms, express, pop-up, shop in shops (and a few that have yet to be revealed) all have a purpose and are here to stay. Within those store types, successful retailers can define the role of their associates and provide them with the proper tools and tech to support all shopper needs from basic fulfillment to expert advice. Systems and operations must move beyond self-check-in and inventory-control to be truly connected and assist in the delivery of a seam-less, frictionless, even channel-less shopping experience. That is what shoppers want and expect today – even if retailers aren’t structured to deliver it that way. Connecting on-line to off-line is a retailer problem, not a shopper’s, and connecting all of their systems and operations is the way to do it and make it personalized.

Brick and mortar retailers must become more agile and nimble, accept that partnerships and acquisitions are necessary to remain relevant and succeed. And most importantly, retailers must understand that piloting, testing, measuring and learning are essential and critical to continued success.

Written By: Tracy Faloon, TPN Chief of Client Integration

 

Sources: IHL Group, TimeTrade survey, ChargeItSpot Study, Fortune, ChargeItSpot Study

CES2018: Reflections and Looking Forward

After a few days’ rest and some time to digest my experiences at CES 2018 last week, one things for certain: we are moving at a consistent and fast pace into some pretty amazing times. And I’m not talking about robots. Well, maybe I am… as long as they do not call me “master”, because that’s just weird.

No, I’m talking about the convergence of technology advancements that are all happening at once. In previous years, many felt overhyped. But now I feel certain in my prediction that my kids won’t need to learn to drive a car. It’s like we are headed to a new point on the horizon. And it’s going to be glorious… well, and quite scary for some.

AI is the new data

Last year’s CES was overrun with sensors providing data and metrics. Now artificial intelligence is here to provide the big “so-what” to all that data. AI enabled was the term to use when talking about personalization for all manner of items ranging from sports to health to food. While AI is the underlying tech connecting all the items below, 5G is providing the bandwidth.

Everything is connected

Sensors, IoT, whatever… now my toilet is connected and my baby’s bottle is tracking feeding.

The connected home was in full swing at CES. And, as opposed to last year, “smartified” products told a more complete story. Of course to a hub/each other, but also to content services like how whirlpool partners with yummly or how a folding clothes machine wants to be your fashion expert. And how will we interact? While many of the appliances sported touch screens, the dominate interface was voice.

Voice is the Interface

Since Alexa boomed onto the CES stage last year, we’ve been talking about the emergence of the conversational interface. Well, it’s here. Prior to the show, there was tons of discussion about who would win? Alexa or Google Home…. Despite Google’s best effort, I still felt Alexa had the upper hand with integrations, shopping, and being embedded in household objects. But a greater feeling was how similar the situation was to iOS v Android and there’s room for both (maybe Bixtby as well?) to coexist. With the rise of voice, inevitable questions come up like how will it impact mobile usage (people will use mobile less) and what does it mean for brands (a voice driven world will be a game changer).

Autonomous vehicles are close

Yes. I know they are actually here. But they are getting closer to being a reality for me. And I can’t stop thinking about how it will impact delivery. It’s become easy to imagine my Amazon/Blue Apron/Pizza packages will be delivered by a self-piloted shipping pod (Dominos and Ford partnered to show a pizza test solution right out of a recent Black Mirror episode).

We aren’t getting enough rest

Last year, we weren’t drinking enough water. “High tech” water bottles were everywhere. This year, AI driven mediation, sleep, and rest technology was peppered throughout.

The evolution from “I bought it online” to “it’ll be here in 2 days” to “it’ll to here in 2 hours” is on the trajectory to “Ben, this is your future assistant. Just letting you know I saw you had a stressful day. Your kid will be home from practice on Pod XYZ in 45 minutes. She has not done her homework yet. I’ve warmed up the shower for you to relax in and have picked out the family dinner for the evening. The ingredients are in the fridge.”

Or maybe it won’t say that. It will just do those things as we move from convenience and personalization to prediction.

Written by: Ben Gauthier, TPN VP, Innovation + Technology

CES 2018: More Connected Than Ever

Another successful CES is wrapping up and it did not disappoint.

While there were no major announcements this year, the event truly wowed and delivered more of everything: more speed due to 5G, more screens that fit in every space imaginable, more content to view, more ways to capture images, more ways to power devices, more ways to connect the online and offline worlds, the ability to understand more about you and the ability to automate tasks, like driving, so you have MORE time to do meaningful things.

In 2017, the big news was connected everything and the rise of Alexa. This year was a coming out party for Voice command. Whether its Alexa, Google, Bixby, Cortana or Siri you can magically talk to almost everything now in order to get information, get things done without the touch of a finger and instantly buy.

There was not one tech introduction that felt incredibly breakthrough. But, there were definite improvements and builds on past developments. As a marketer (and as a mom), its exciting to see more technology for the connected life. ARTIFICIALLY intelligent things are truly going to change our lives—how we do things, how we communicate, how we shop/buy. And, it gives us as marketers more ways to constantly connect with consumers and move them to engage or buy brands. From connected fridges to speakers—the route to reach consumers is becoming more complex and we have to be mindful of communicating to both the machine and the consumer in meaningful ways. A few examples…

Kohler Konnect – More from your bathroom

KOHLER Konnect, a new platform and suite of smart fixtures that can interact with owners through voice commands, adapt to user preferences and collect data to provide valuable water usage feedback. “When people talk about smart homes, they always leave out the bathroom,” Kohler innovation practices director David Funk explained. “We wanted to bring tech into the bathroom. Now you can talk to the mirror and ask it anything you would ask of an assistant.”

Samsung – More from everyday living

Samsung will also double down on smart home technology this year, promising to bring connectivity seen in its popular Family Hub smart fridges to other machines around the home.

Samsung Electronics’ Family Hub Refrigerator offers “connected living” and is both a storage and communication device. With a built-in screen on its door, family members can leave messages, see what’s in the fridge while at the store, adjust the thermostat or even check on a sleeping baby in the next room.

Users will be able to direct their vacuum cleaners or query milk expiration dates with a voice command. Samsung’s SmartThings network will connect to devices from other manufacturers, including Ring’s video doorbell, Philips Hue lights, and Netgear security cameras.

Polaroid – More from your moment

Have digital photos left you longing for something more … tangible?

Retro Meets Modern at CES with the first immersive Polaroid Originals experience showcased in a colorful and creative exhibit. Meet the Polaroid OneStep 2 camera – an analog instant camera that is a proud successor to the original Polaroid OneStep camera that democratized instant photography 40 years ago. Polaroid instant digital products are the perfect blend of retro instant prints and modern digital camera technology.

Written By: Amy Lanzi, TPN Managing Director, New York

The Amazon Effect on eCommerce and CPG Brands

The use of digital technologies in conjunction with changing shopper behaviors is making eCommerce an indispensable part of CPG omnichannel success. Brands seeking to convert online consumers should focus their attention on convenience, and how important it is in the shopper journey. According to Jennifer Silverberg, CEO of SmartCommerce, “Consumers might not care that something is more expensive, but if they can order it online and they don’t have to go to the store, they will.”

eCommerce and its ease of entry is growing and brands are taking notice. In fact, strong growth is forecast in several eCommerce shopping channels:

  • Computers and consumer electronics total $62.7B in 2017 and that number is expected to hit $97.6B by 2021[statista]
  • Apparel and Accessories eCommerce dollar sales come in at $86B and is expected to reach $96.4B by 2021[statista]
  • Auto and auto parts currently sit at $51.6B with growth projected to reach $57.4B in 2019[statista]
  • U.S. online grocery sales totaled $7B in 2015 and that total is expected to more than double to $18B by 2020[statista]

The biggest driver of eCommerce growth continues to be Amazon.  Amazon’s success isn’t just a byproduct of its huge inventory and rapid service. The online shopping behemoth, according to Yaakov Kimelfeld, Chief Research Officer for Kantar Media, “is not a retailer anymore; it is the largest behavioral marketing company in the world.” Amazon understands shopper motivation not just with purchases but with research. Fifty-five percent of product research that led to a purchase started on Amazon.com compared to 28 percent of the same on search engines. Amazon is now the preferred starting point for product research. How did that happen?

Amazon’s march toward eCommerce preeminence starts with its creative customer service model.  Amazon lives at the perfect intersection between shopper and brand. By understanding shopper behaviors and patterns, they’re able to create actionable plans that can make a more immediate impact for consumers. They’ve also built brand affinity and awareness by positioning brands in the immediate shopper path of purchase. With a heavy focus on the customer, Amazon can optimize constantly, giving their consumers more of what they’re looking for, and driving conversions and shopper loyalty for brands. The shared success model is a driver of Amazon’s eCommerce dominance.

Where does that leave retailers like Walmart?  The shopping giant is responding by spending more on mobile and digital technologies to expand their online shopping capabilities. They’ve strengthened their presence in the eCommerce market with their purchases of men’s internet clothing brand Bonobos, and the innovative online shopping company Jet.com.  Another recent Walmart acquisition is Parcel, a New York-based same-day delivery startup that specializes in perishable grocery delivery, an attempt to leverage the former acquisitions and compete heavily in a market where they have no brick and mortar stores.

CPG brands know that being competitive in today’s convenience shopping environment means the buying process needs to be as painless to the shopper as possible. Luring consumers into buying your product is only half of the equation. Giving them the easiest path to purchase the moment they want to purchase will win the day.

Competition Intensifies in the Voice Controlled Smart Home Market

Amazon, Google, and Apple battle it out for purchasing power in the smart home market. TPN’s Digital Marketing and Commerce Team monitor these brands and how their products continue to boost growth in eCommerce. Watch this week’s TECH+DMC minute below to learn more.

TechDMC October 10, 2017 from TPN on Vimeo.

Shopper Marketing Trends: How Mobile and Digital Keep Changing the Marketing Landscape

Digital and mobile are making the shopping cycle (research, discovery, awareness, and purchase) much shorter and faster than ever before. The growth of digital technology has given consumers access to copious amounts of product information—and they are accessing it. Subscription-based services centered around specific shopper data are delivering an engaging personalized experience, turning shoppers into repeat visitors.

Digital and mobile aren’t just changing the shopper experience. They’re changing the pattern of behavior shoppers exhibit before they purchase. Today, most consumers’ first impulse when contemplating a purchase includes digital research. According to a survey done by Kenshoo, 70% of shoppers use a mobile phone while in a retail store to read reviews. What’s more, 85% of prospective shoppers visit Google to research purchases before they buy. That’s followed by Amazon (72%) and eBay (38%).

What does all this mean for brands and their efforts to drive retail sales? It means they must adjust the way they communicate who they are, and how they say who they are to their audience. Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook states that for brands to grow in the new marketing landscape, “they must focus on three areas:

  • Focus on your brand mission
  • Building communities
  • Engaging those communities long-term

Building and engaging communities is something Amazon has done successfully given its position as the most important component in many consumers’ shopping journeys.

The world’s largest online retailer has now also become the second most used platform for search (behind Google) for product research. Amazon customers go even further with their research, as users also check for background information and alternatives, an important way to comparison shop with brick and mortar stores.

With the number of products Amazon carries and over 300 million active account holders, and now its reputation as a media platform where users and visitors come to research and compare products, the online retail giant is becoming a place where brands are turning for focused ad campaigns. Marketing directly to consumers through an e-commerce channel like Amazon gives you an already engaged and ready-to-buy audience.

There is a significant transformation taking place in the retail space, and digital and mobile are the prominent drivers in altering long-standing shopper behavior. With the rise of digital and the convenience of mobile, consumers shop everywhere and at any time. And that’s the sweet spot for Shopper Marketing.

The Changing Face of Online Ads

TPN’s Digital Marketing and Commerce team keep a constant eye on innovation to keep our agency and clients informed. Earlier this summer, we highlighted the latest news and trends surrounding online video ad content and viewing. In an ever-changing shopping landscape where consumers are making more and more purchases outside of the store, it is increasingly imperative to reach shoppers online. 64% of consumers say they are more likely to buy a product online after watching a video, making online video a key vehicle for targeting shoppers and making the buy happen right where they are.

Learn more about how the online video ad space is evolving and watch the TECH + DMC minute below.

TechDMC Report 17 July 2017 from TPN on Vimeo.