The Retail TouchPoints Blog

Jul 25

Urban Flight: Why U.S. Retailers Need To Adapt To Domestic Migration

By Graeme McVie, LoyaltyOne

There is a significant migration underway in America. Big city dwellers are on the move — not necessarily to the suburbs, but rather to more affordable, up-and-coming metropolitan areas. According to census data released earlier this year, Americans are leaving cities like New York, Chicago and Detroit in favor of mid-size cities like Austin, Raleigh and San Antonio. 

While there have been periodic, often cyclical shifts in population between cities of different size for younger people and from the Frost Belt to the Sun Belt for older ones, this latest trend includes all population groups and encompasses many different demographics. These current shifts require a new thinking on customer engagement across industries, but is and will continue to be felt strongest in the retailer sector.  In short, retailers can’t operate under traditional assumptions of who their shoppers are going to be moving forward.  

The impact of this new round of urban flight on retailers is already dramatic. Some have already lost significant market share to existing competitors that have made adjustments in their merchandising strategies or to retail newcomers that have a more targeted value proposition.

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Jul 24

Are You Speaking Your Customer’s Language [Across Devices]?

By Alicia Fiorletta, Senior Editor 


Relevancy motivates shoppers to purchase certain products and remain loyal to specific brands and retailers. However, the entire notion of personalizing browsing and buying experiences can seem like a daunting task, even for the largest of retailers. 

Retailers shouldn’t through in the towel, though! Research from SDL confirms that it’s more important than ever for retailers to prioritize personalization, and focus on creating seamless experiences across all channels and devices. 

In the fourth installment of its “Five Truths For Marketers,” SDL confirmed the importance of language in driving buying decisions. We already talked the importance of content; language is a natural extension of that. 

The survey of Millennials indicated that 82% of people are more likely to buy if promotional materials are in their language. Online shoppers also are more likely to buy (75%) if web site content is in their language. When it comes down to language’s overall impact on sales, 56% of consumers said language was more important than price. Yes, you heard that right; at the end of the day, retailers should focus on localizing their shopping experiences instead of their discounting strategies. 

Although this research is compelling for brands and retailers with an international presence, U.S. retailers also should be taking note. After all, one in four Millennials living in the U.S. speak a language other than English at home. 

Language is driving success for best-in-class retailers, but let’s get down to the good stuff: Omnichannel demands and expectations. 

In the fifth and final installment of the survey, SDL focused on how consumers see brands, and what they are seeking in terms of the overall experience. 

More than half (60%) of Millennials said they expect a consistent experience from brands, whether they’re shopping online, in-store or via mobile. 

With 30% of Millennials admitting that they touch more than four devices over the course of 24 hours, it’s no surprise that 58% said they expect to engage with a company whenever they choose and through which ever channel or device they want. 

Now is the time for retailers to pump up the omnichannel volume, and tailor their experiences by consistently tracking customer behaviors and attitudes. 

At the conclusion of the survey, SDL encouraged executives to ask themselves the following questions: 

Jul 23

What’s In The Box?

Subscription services are cropping up more and more, providing customers with a monthly dose of products they may not otherwise know about. 

From Birchbox, to BarkBox, Plated and NatureBox, these start-ups are engaging a passionate group of consumers and are driving product discovery. 

But do these businesses successful retain customers and keep them loyal? The RTP team shares their thoughts and experiences with subscription services: 

Debbie Hauss, Editor-in-Chief: This type of model can work well for companies trying to expand their consumer base or test new products. It also can help introduce a new brand on a smaller scale in order to test the concept for a larger introduction. Product quality and diversity will be key to success. Beyond sample subscriptions, other types of subscription services have seen limited success, in my opinion. For example, my son tried a shave club but wasn’t happy with the quality or selection. I tested a wine club subscription but when the company wanted me to pay a fee on top of the monthly cost of the products, I balked. Generally, I wouldn’t put all my marketing “eggs” in one subscription box strategy.

Alicia Fiorletta, Senior Editor: I think the key to a successful subscription service is providing a great selection of products, flexibility and service. I’ve tried my hand at a few subscription services. After a year I unsubscribed to one service because the company started sending me the same product samples over and over. in my opinion, the value of these services is discovering new products. So the fact that I was getting the same product made me lose interest. However, I’m now a happy member of another service, which tailors the boxes based on personal tastes and styles. Customers also get to get a sneak peek at their boxes, and swap out products they already have or don’t like. This makes customers more satisfied with their monthly purchase, and gets them excited to try the new products. 

Kim Zimmermann, Managing Editor: I think the key is to make it affordable and easy to sign up and opt out. I know several friends who are dog owners who have a subscription service for dog products and love it. I might not want to pay for a big bag of treats that will go to waste if the dog turns his nose up at them (as mine sometimes does), but if I can try the out as part of an affordable subscription, the dog may stop barking incessantly at the mailman and actually look forward to deliveries. 

Glenn Taylor, Associate Editor: Subscription boxes aren’t guaranteed to satisfy consumers every time they’re delivered to someone’s front door. However, the guessing game that comes along every month can bring a sense of excitement to the consumer as long as the products are on the mark most of the time. If the business model constantly evokes a positive feeling, I think it can be valuable to little-known businesses that have partnered up with subscription box companies to distribute their products.

Brian Anderson, Associate Editor: SMBs and start-ups can greatly benefit from partnering with subscription service companies — such as NatureBox — due to the considerable boost in brand awareness. It is common for detailed information about each product to be shipped in these box services, providing customers with additional insights on the brand and its entire product line. This level of reach is oftentimes unavailable to smaller retailers, so partnering with companies that offer box subscriptions can help the company grow exponentially.

Samantha Polak, Editorial Intern: I think subscription boxes are a great concept for picky shoppers and those who continuously suffer from buyer’s remorse. Personally, I can spend hours in a store debating between two brands, wondering which one I’m actually going to like and if it will be worth the money. Subscription services can resolve this “checkout anxiety” by providing consumers the chance to sample products before purchasing full sizes. The boxes also introduce shoppers to new brands and products that they wouldn’t have otherwise tried, helping up-and-coming businesses grow their consumer base and increase brand loyalty.

Krystal Vadhar, Social Media Manager: As someone who enjoys trying out different subscription services, I see many benefits from enlisting in this new business model. There seems to be a subscription box that caters to all types of interests, age groups, hobbies and much more. Likewise, there are many different businesses that range in different prices. The biggest pro I see from this model is the fact that these services ship the items directly to you on a timed basis (usually monthly). Consumers enjoy shopping and even more so, receiving presents. By subscribing to these boxes, they are signing up to gift themselves multiple samples of presents every month! In turn, consumers can try out products in the convenience of their own homes and decide whether or not they would like to purchase more items. 

What are your thoughts on subscription services? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Jul 22

Retail Sales Soar Despite Drop In Store Traffic

By Alicia Fiorletta, Senior Editor 

The summer may be prime time for consumers to leave town and hit the beach, but that doesn’t mean they’ve stopped spending. 

Although shopper traffic declined 9% year over year, overall retail sales for June 2014 actually increased, according to research from Euclid

Clothing and apparel saws the largest jump in year-over-year sales (4%), while general merchandise saw 1% growth over the same period of time. 

For its monthly retail benchmark report, Euclid analyzed shopper activity and behavior during the entire month of June. 

So what caused the significant drop in traffic?

Euclid pointed to vacations, holidays and the World Cup as the primary culprits. After all, who wants to shop when their friends and colleagues are gathering at the local pub after work and on the weekends to watch a soccer game? These same factors also caused the slight decrease in repeat visits during June. 

It will be interesting to see how store traffic changed in July, as retailers were not only facing the World Cup and vacation schedules, but also the July 4th holiday, which is a paramount time for consumers to disconnect.

But at the same time, many retailers went gangbusters during the long weekend, holding special sales and events to drive foot traffic. 

How do you think retailers will stack up in July? Do you think consumers were eager to hit the stores?

Click here to access more of the findings. 

Jul 21

Local Couriers Vs. National Shipping Providers: The Customer Experience Race

By Rob Howard, CEO, Grand Junction

The $46 billion local delivery and courier industry is booming in the US, with more than 4,000 companies. While couriers have long been used for customer (or “last mile”) delivery in densely populated areas of the world such as Europe and Asia, it seems that when the average American thinks of delivery, they tend to only think of big name players like FedEx and UPS. Why? It could be that your packages are delivered during hours when you’re not typically home, or that you didn’t take notice of the truck that dropped them off. However, it’s very likely that you have received a package delivered by a courier — even when you order that package from Amazon. Yes, even Amazon employs a national network of couriers for its Prime deliveries. How else did you think that video cable got from an Amazon Fulfillment Center to your doorstep less than 24 hours after you clicked “Purchase”?! 

Couriers don’t just deliver small packages. On the contrary, couriers are able to provide a wide range of service levels for (quite literally) any product a consumer or business purchases. Because of their size and focus on a limited geography, local couriers are able to do things that FedEx, UPS or the semi-trailer trucks you see every day on your commute, cannot. First and foremost, they can personalize their service based upon the shipper’s needs. Looking for same-day delivery from a retail storefront, scheduled delivery with a one-hour window, or two-person delivery and installation with packing material removal? Check! Have a delivery that requires a pickup truck, cargo van or box truck (like those you can rent from U-Haul)? The local delivery and courier industry has you covered.

When asking why companies prefer to use FedEx or UPS instead of local courier companies — despite the fact that couriers can provide greater flexibility, faster service, and competitive rates — the answer is as simple as they come: No one ever got fired for using FedEx or UPS.

This underlines the biggest perceived difference between the large national shipping companies and local couriers — the customer experience. According to a CEI report, 86% of respondents would pay more for customer service and quality, however, only 1% of customers feel that vendors consistently meet their expectations. This is a particularly startling statistic for any type of company performing a customer delivery because they have two customers to keep satisfied: The shipper who has contracted the courier to deliver its products, and the shipper’s customer (or, the person or company receiving the product.)

With all of this in mind, let’s take a closer look at how couriers “stack-up” against the UPS’s and FedEx’s in the customer service race.

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