Using AI to Provide Shoppers With Guidance & Personalization

Artificial Intelligence is now being used by B&M retailers for everything from supply chain management to personalized apparel recommendations. Knowing that shoppers want guidance and personalization, smart retailers are using AI engines to create style pairings for shoppers, while also factoring things in like inventory levels and seasons. Then, these pairings can easily be applied to every shopper touchpoint. The result: sales. And, resulting analytics can then be used to refine the strategy and product mix.

TechDMC – February 5, 2018 from TPN on Vimeo.

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

Meet Me Where I Am

Technology and e-commerce have contributed to a monumental shake-up in shopping behavior. Shopping is no longer a deliberate, compartmentalized, discrete act. Today it’s something much different. It’s spontaneous, deconstructed, and integrated into the flow of everyday life. We are seeing more and more retailers with new store formats, new models and new ways of engaging consumers and shoppers. They are showing up in unexpected yet meaningful ways, creating engaging retail moments along the consumer lifestyle journey and are enabling shopping and the buy to happen anywhere.

Pop-up retail is a perfect example of meeting consumers everywhere they go (shopping-related or not). The craving for convenience quickly created a $50 Billion industry that stretches way beyond what we’ve traditional seen. From home decor Frontgate to retail behemoth Amazon, brands are actively experimenting with pop-ups. We now see mobile pop-ups that relocate to follow consumer traffic and pop-up store hubs that allow brands to rent temporary space creating an “always new” shopping experience. Some use pop-up formats as testing labs to learn about new product or technology potential. In return, brands get a unique opportunity to connect and interact with precisely a targeted audience before competitors do. Couple that with incredible distribution velocity and you get a bullet-proof recipe of success.

The battle for consumer attention reaches an entirely new level as brands bring retail everywhere consumers go, even into their homes. 

Meeting shoppers wherever they are is not limited to out-of-home solutions. Today, brands are bringing physical commerce to the most sacred place of all: our homes. Warby Parker’s try-on program means that you don’t have to stop by one of their stores to pick a frame: with up to five styles sent right to your home you can now choose your perfect fit without even stepping outside. And StitchFix business model is grounded in making your home a store branch: shopping pre-selected items and transacting is frictionless. We’ve already witnessed eCommence reaching extreme flexibility: online transactions are happening everywhere, as consumers do grocery shopping on a train, make restaurant reservations from their cars, and manage Amazon subscriptions while brushing their teeth. What we’ll see next is physical shopping becoming a true on-the-go deal, redefining what we used to call brick and mortar retail.

 

Written By: Elena Petukhova | TPN VP Planning

 

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

Amazon Go Is A Game Changer

We have seen time and time again that convenience is king. A frictionless shopping experience will allow many customers to get their grocery shopping done quickly, and efficiently. There is no need to wait in line to check out. No need to pay at the register. This is a long overdue break-through innovation that will give Amazon a competitive edge in the grocery space.

 

Not only does the promise of convenience drive a competitive advantage for Amazon in the grocery space, but through technology, Amazon is able to drive efficiencies and, in return, reduce cost of operations in running a grocery store.

 

Business Model Advantage

Amazon is going to have the ability to apply their customer-centric methodology to the grocery space by driving convenience and lowering costs to the consumer.

 

Amazon will save money with their Computer Vision, Algorithm, and sensor fusion technology. Through Amazon’s Computer Vision, a customer will be able to take what they want off of the shelf, and it will be added into their virtual shopping cart. If a customer decides they do not want a certain product, they only have to place the item back on the shelf in order to have it removed from their virtual basket so they do not get charged for the item. This will save Amazon employee costs because they will not need their stores loaded with people restocking all the items that people leave in random spots of the store before checkout.

 

Second, shrinkage due to theft will become a thing of the past. Billions of dollars a year are lost due to theft in the retail space. With Amazon’s technology, theft will be a thing of the past.  Allowing computer to manage the virtual cart eliminates human interaction, which, in this case, eliminates theft.

 

Third, checkout will be an unnecessary expense for Amazon since the checkout process will take place in the shopper’s pocket automatically on their mobile phone. This will also reduce the number of employees, which will result in lower overhead for Amazon Go.

 

Finally, and most importantly, is the Amazon shopping algorithm. Amazon knows more about its customers through shopping behavior than most people can imagine. Amazon has the ability to learn from its customers within a geographic location to ensure that the right type of inventory will actually be available for purchase. What does this mean?  This means that Amazon can expect to see revenues of a football-field sized Walmart with a physical brick and mortar footprint the size of your local convenience store!

 

All in all, this is huge and I am optimistic that this will put pressure on existing grocery chains to “step up their game” in technology and convenience in order to compete with Amazon in this space.

 

The good news for grocery consumers will be that we can all expect huge improvements across the board in multiple chain grocery stores and improved pricing as others shift to compete with Amazon Go.

Maybe The Best Brand You Haven’t Heard Of… Yet.

I wouldn’t be surprised if you have never heard of KITH, and in the likelihood that you haven’t, consider this a short introduction to one of the most innovative and hottest streetwear brands that is redefining the sneaker industry.

It’s founder, Ronnie Fieg, is transcending the industry by carefully crafting his products and retail landscape to be indicative of what consumers find relatable, exciting, and motivating to be apart of. He has disposed of the typical seasonal calendar and rather created a 365-day invitation to product offerings and rotating retail format that keeps consumers engaged, surprised and delighted.

Specifically, his store format, located in New York City, is of particular intrigue as it includes one-third product offering while functioning as one-third art gallery and one-third ice cream/cereal bar (awesome). The use of purposeful digital integration, experiential components, and an ever-changing product offering to limit complacency and drive continual store visits makes this a must-study for innovative store formats of the future. Ronnie certainly has my interest and I promise that next time I’m in New York I’ll be taking a visit to KITH, as should you.

Written by: Brad Sauchak, TPN Associate Planner

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

Digital & Social Content Predictions for 2018

Digital and social content changes quickly! Brands must ensure their content is evolving just as quickly to meet consumer demand. We’ve been looking at the major trends. Here’s what you can expect to see:

VIDEO DOMINATES

Did you know that in 2017, 90% of all social content shared by consumers was video?1 Video must be woven into content marketing plans as consumers are overwhelmingly expecting this content type. Social platforms like Facebook have also placed a higher emphasis on video content, but its the marketers job to design video to grab attention within the first three seconds.

MORE EPHEMERAL CONTENT

Ephemeral content has been on the rise for three main reasons: 1) it’s mobile first, 2) it’s perceived as being more authentic given the content is often ‘scrappier’ and 3) it often sees higher engagement as consumers typically only have 24 hours to view it before it disappears. Snapchat pioneered this space, but Instagram and Facebook developed products to take advantage of the trend too.

INFLUENCER MARKETING GROWS

While Influencer marketing has been on the rise for some time, the space is maturing. We’ve seen the landscape divide into four main segments: Micro influencers (1k – 30k followers), the ‘Power Middle’ (35k – 250k followers), the Established Influencers 250k – 5MM, and Celebrity Influencers. Influencer marketing has become an important tactic as it ads authenticity to brand messaging and has more credibility with consumers.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE GETS CONVERSATIONAL

Consumers have been reaching out to brands on social media with customer service inquiries for years, but Artificial Intelligence (AI) and chatbots have become so advanced that full dialogs can not only help answer common consumer questions, but can also help guide the shopper journey via a conversational experience.

AUGMENTED REALITY BRINGS NEW BRANDED EXPERIENCES

Pokemon Go put Augmented Reality (AR) in the spotlight, and the technology continues to grow as it has true potential to bring deeper, more immersive brand experiences to consumers. Nissan recently launched an AR Star Wars experience in their dealerships that enabled customers to view cars through their phone and highlighted Nissan’s Intelligent Mobility technologies.

Social Media Marketing Trends 2018

Written by: Andy Perez — TPN Content & Social Marketing Director