As consumer behavior towards retailing zigs and zags from one trend to the next its up to us who embrace retail technologies to pursue a culture of retail innovation. Retail innovation must meet customer demands wherever they may be, which, in today’s age as I’ve said before could be through their phone on the go, on a iPad watching tv on the couch, or from their desk at lunch. Doesn’t matter where they prefer to shop, you must meet them with something that can deliver that product or service to them no matter what, or you will surely lose in the battle for new sales to other, more innovative retailers. Here is a list of retailers embracing retail innovation and scoring new customers in the process.
As of recently, you may be hard pressed to find a retailer investing more into retail innovations that improve customer experience and match new millennial expectations than Macy’s. They have made strides to test a multitude of retail innovations like in store mapping, GPS, location awareness, Apple Pay, and more. These are unique offerings that aim to attract new age buyers, with a more personalize, digital approach. The important part about this is that, because of so many different channels and buyer preferences, there needs to be lots of options to bring new traffic in the store. With Macy’s their true spirit of retail innovation has allowed them to pull ahead with millennial’s by accessing new app out there, trying out Shopkick as a immediate distribution point of coupons as someone enters the store, in store mapping, order online pickup in store and on it goes. Key take away, you need to throw a lot of stuff out there, and this is why Macy’s has continued to stay ahead in such a competitive environment.
Best Buy, with it’s focus in all things new in electronics, has had trouble keeping up with the likes of Amazon and others selling primarily online first. This category is particularly tough being in technology where people buying the merchandise are most likely online looking at it where many other retailers are fighting for the same buyer. With this struggle, Best Buy has taken some aggressive and smart moves to put itself ahead. For starters, Best Buy has committed to a true omni channel strategy, investing $100 million in digital retail innovation, IT, and customer experience for fiscal 2016. Hubert Joly, Best Buy CEO has even dedicated a digital innovation center for the brand in Seattle to pioneer and become a true retail 2.0 success. (Full Disclosure: we are working progressively with Best Buy to make a solution that brings new customers to the store with hyper local marketing) Best Buy has now stepped up its shipping and in store pickup avenues in order to reach consumers when they need a more convenient service than two day shipping. Best Buy has also run a number of pilots with startups, and smaller companies who are helping to innovate on the customer experience, like curbside pickup and ship from store. Best Buy will continue to invest in new technologies that helps the customer find them and buy from them, no matter which channel that customer is looking to buy from.
In the battle for retail innovation supremacy, Target has made some very intelligent moves to get more people buying in store or online. My experience with Target is again from the perspective of providing powerful retail innovation, but this particular experience was in presenting a project to some of the Target team leaders. What I could tell is Target has been actively looking into new lines of products, but more importantly they are constantly looking into the latest ways of improving how they can distribute products around the store to more proactively sell its customers. For instance Target used monitoring of shoppers to determine if they were an expecting mother, in order to deliver a more relevant coupon to this mother, since they are at the peak of their spending when the baby is about to be born. Additionally, Target has put a lot of effort into improving their mobile applications to improve the customer experience, and importantly enough to keep customers focused on buying from Target. One great example of this is the Cartwheel app from Target which gives exclusive deals to shoppers in store or online which they can add coupons to, and at checkout provide their Cartwheel barcode, to redeem all the deals found. I actually have used this app several times and actually found several quite good deals on here.
Starbucks has is teeth fully sunk into retail innovation. How you ask, well for one they were one of the initial brands to get in on PayPal’s checkout system, meaning any person could checkout with their PayPal account. This goes back to a fundamental lesson in retail, don’t make it hard for the customer to pay you. With this initiative and many others launched Starbucks is a solid company with a sound business model and consistent willingness to test new innovations in retail.
When it comes to footwear, the unrivaled king is Nike. This is due in part because of their major brand endorsements and their massive sports event’s partnerships, but there are many other factors going for Nike as we will see. Nike has done well creating products that really fit the brand, and more importantly are in tune with consumers trends towards smart wear (devices that monitor health, distance, speed etc. during training activities). With their continued trend towards smart wear it is unlikely they will fall to competition very soon. In addition Nike has pursued some interesting concepts in retail stores with pop up shops, which can be set up quickly, and offer a good spot for launching new footwear and athletic wear products. On a different end of the spectrum, Nike Mexico created a nifty Facebook app which let’s consumers earn points for each kilometer walked or run, which could then be redeemed for merchandise. Nike has taken an interesting approach here, and all of it seems to be paying off with their stock continuing to climb, and their brand continuing to gain popularity.
While I did try hard to stay away from retailers that weren’t primarily brick and mortar, Amazon is simply too big, too innovative, and too much of a threat. Amazon isn’t afraid to push the boundaries of retail expansion, and they do so with a lot of force behind them. With a massive distribution network, Amazon is able to control nearly half of all eCommerce sales in the US. This is scale, but it’s not innovation which is where they really excel. With intelligent picking systems, automated product recommendations, and digital enhancements to their shopping experience (like one click checkout) they have upped the ante for any retailer offering online commerce. Amazon has also perfected the drone system, which, is not even legal yet and they have already beaten everyone to the punch. At Proximo, we are already looking into the capabilities of drone delivery for the hyper local communication and shopping platform Proximo.
This may sound disgusting, but it has much more merit once the ideas comes across. SuperBrugsen, a Denmark based retailer has used the power of crowdsourcing in our modern day society to derive fresh, local foods for its stores. The company offers foods for people to vote on within its website. The most popular choices are then taste tested, and stocked at its stores. This is a way to keep your most loyal customers shopping. Who isn’t going to shop at a store they helped pick out the food for? We’ll see if the trend really catches on, but if crowd sourcing takes off in grocery stores the way it has in the taxi industry, chances are they will do pretty well.
If your an active social media user, you know the important of likes, whether it be for marketing, for personal use, or shopping the “Like” is one of a kind. In C&A’s case they have adapted their stores to deliver a like count on each product they carry. It’s a digital “Ok” to buy, but does it work? We have not actually seen them anywhere in action but it may actually cause someone to choose a more expensive, or higher quality product over the next one. This is a unique approach to retail innovation which is yet to be proved, but does have some merit to go from as social media becomes ever more popular in consumers eyes.
With Burberry, the story is about radio frequency identification. The company launched it’s program back in 2012 and has since used the chips in products along it’s supply chain to track where products, are, how they move about the warehouses or stores, and can give shoppers insight into what they are buying by bringing up a web page related to the product. Additionally, Burberry’s use of RFID goes with you as you enter the changing room to start a video of the product being made, and it’s journey along the runway. All this to make the shopper feel at piece when they buy a $300 jacket.
Looking ahead the retail landscape will change alot. If you though the brick and mortar store was going away, you may want to place another bet. As new technologies come out like Proximo, it makes it easier to connect with consumers, on their mobile devices or not, to deliver one of a kind retail experiences. I do believe one next step along the evolution of shopping in store will be a virtual buy it now button, which will be brought up as you walk along technology enabled smart tags on clothing, or within the stores technology itself. This could work with the smartwatch, which is also another tool yet to be really taken advantage of by retailers. It will be interesting to see who uses the right combination of retail innovation to drive the customers experience in such a way that they want to buy then and there. All I know is I love bringing new and great products to market to help retailers succeed in their endless battle to drive customers to store, and shoppers to buy.