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The Local Connection: How Independent Retailers are Joining Forces to Flourish

For some small business, local relationships are key.

 

Traditionally, independent retailers have sought out their locations quite deliberately––an up-and-coming neighborhood or a particularly hot development, for example. However, things are changing, and unexpected sites (think abandoned buildings and the like) are turning out to be the winning ticket for like-minded business owners aiming to sell the idea of craftsmanship through their goods.

 

Take Boxpark in Shoreditch, London, for instance. Coined the “pop-up mall” for the people, Boxpark is made up of 61 shipping containers. The concept was founded in 2011 by CEO Roger Wade, and it allows independent retailers and artists to set up shop with relatively low lease expenses. The beautiful thing here is variety, underscored by the fact that even mega retailers have dropped by with “installations.” Gap experimented at Boxpark with an edited assortment called “Black is a Color.” For larger retailers, Boxpark is perhaps less about sales and more about brand exposure in a more artistic light.

 

A second London example is We Built This City, located in Carnaby. The shop showcases a curated selection of over 250 artists every month from area neighborhoods. The idea is to market souvenirs for tourists that depict a more accurate, genuine and artistic representation of the city, versus the cheaply made, mass-produced mugs, magnets and other paraphernalia so often found throughout London.

 

Another example is Strange Invisible Perfume in Venice Beach, California. Small and independently owned, this botanical perfumery is located right next to Le Labo, a major competitor, which might seem counterproductive. As it turns out, the two businesses have worked together to become a one-stop perfume destination for customers. The retailers also share similar brand beliefs and principles, which center on a bohemian, holistic perspective that weaves in an Old World dedication to their craft.

 

Lastly is Lacausa in Silverlake, Los Angeles. The name itself has a double meaning: their origin of LA (Los Angeles), CA (California), and USA (United Staes of America). In Spanish, the name means “the cause,” which references owner Rebecca Grenell’s mission to produce garments only under ethical environments in an LA factory and warehouse.

 

As these shops and collectives highlight, for many customers, the local connection is key. From featuring independent artists to developing products with local tie-ins, native relationships are a valuable commodity.

Snapchat: How Retailers Can Capitalize on the Craze

Branded filters cost a pretty penny, but the potential for exposure is huge.

 

Snapchat filters are not-so-slowly becoming the way Millennials prefer to communicate (at least, for fun). While older generations might find the filters silly, some retailers are capitalizing on their potential––that is, the fact that so many Millennials are exposed to them on a daily basis.

 

Snapchat filters use special effects to turn selfies (both still and video) into an animated image of the user’s choosing, such as a cat, a dog or a cowboy. The “snaps” disappear in 24 hours. Several celebrities––particularly those admired by Millennials––are avid Snapchat users, and whether they know it or not, many act as advertisers for brands via the products visible in their Snapchats.

 

So, what’s involved for a brand to deliberately capitalize on Snapchat’s momentum? Basically, three things: investment, strategy and archives. Let’s take a look:

 

1. Investment. Sponsored Snapchat filters are supposedly worth around $750,000 per filter for holidays. Weekday filters are around $500,000. You might be wondering which brands would ever invest that kind of capital for a simple filter. Fox Studios did for “The Peanuts Movie” around the Halloween time period, as did Gatorade during the Super Bowl.

 

2. Strategy. Remember that snaps go away in 24 hours, which understandably undermines the huge price tag. It’s a huge reason that the branded filter has to be done right. Think humor, impact and the capability to create buzz, but without being over-the-top or too “in your face.” The filter should relate to the brand without being overtly focused on the product. A toothpaste brand, for instance, could produce a filter where users brush their teeth to a sparkling sheen. The goal is to make users forget the content is branded at all––in other words, a seamless experience.

 

3. Preservation. In just 24 hours after it’s posted, a Snapchat photo or video is gone. But your branded content can be preserved via a compilation video of various users interacting with the filter. If it’s good enough (and funny enough), the compilation video will be shared on other social media platforms, even further expanding exposure.

 

Last May, Snapchat co-founder and CEO Evan Spiegel estimated the company’s daily active users at 100 million. More than 65 million of them, he said, send photos or videos to friends daily. Millennials absolutely love their Snapchat, and though it’s not an easy task for brands to take advantage of this particular medium, the dividends could be huge.

For Lagging Retailers in Canada, Customer Focus Has Been Lost

Recent study shows that technology will be key to improving brand performance

 

The customer experience and giving consumers want they want is a critically lagging element when it comes to the Canadian retail industry, according to a PwC Total Retail 2016 study. The findings particularly apply to attracting, converting and retaining the Millennial demographic, a generation that’s always on the lookout for modern, simple ways to shop, especially online and via mobile.

 

In fact, over 40 percent of Millennials between 18 and 34 years old reported that they make online purchases monthly and want to seamlessly use a mobile device in the brick-and-mortar store. This underscores the overarching understanding that in today’s marketplace, customers expect a continuous experience––from browsing and product comparisons to after-purchase customer service.

 

Additionally, Canadian Millennials use mobile devices more often than the typical consumer on a global scale, with 50 percent saying they utilize a device for store coupons and promotion codes. This figure is a full 15 percent lower worldwide.

 

Cost is another influencing factor in Canadian retail. A full 66 percent of Canadians surveyed said price is a top driver when they’re shopping with a preferred retailer. However, 63 percent said they’d consider purchasing a product online from another country if the price was more appealing.

 

Here are a few more important findings from the report:

 

• 46 percent say the main reason they shop online is for convenience.

 

• 68 percent purchased their first online order more than three years ago.

 

• Almost 40 percent of respondents under the age of 34 report that social media has had an impact on their perception of their favorite brands, building respect and appreciation.

 

As the Canadian retail industry looks ahead, it seems as though technology will be at the forefront. Brands will need to re-focus their attention on the customer while improving current systems that create and blend the omnichannel shopping experience. From a seamless, personalized purchase path to stronger loyalty programs, the customer should be at the helm––and retailers should be at their service.

Grocery Shopping with Millennials

The largest generational is challenging the food industry with their take on grocery shopping.

 

A trip to the grocery is store is something many Millennials grew up doing with their parents, but it looks like tradition hasn’t won them over. According to recent research from Mintel, almost 40 percent of Millennials are opting to purchase groceries online, compared to a mere 8 percent of non-Millennials who do the same thing. The information, shared in Mintel’s report “The Millennial Impact: Food Shopping Decisions,” underscores the notion that this demographic expects products when they want, wherever they are.

 

Considering that Millennials are the largest generation (and that their spending power keeps growing), the ways in which they shop for food will extend to the food industry as well as incoming generations.

 

Where do brick-and-mortars fit in? The study suggests that Millennials tend to make a trip to the store for specialty foods, such as Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. A full 52 percent said they don’t find conventional grocery stores as attractive an option as their speciality counterparts, which Millennials view as more authentic and more varied in ethnic choices.

 

Additionally, 47 percent of older Millennials (ages 29-38) say they tend not to trust larger food manufacturers, who often supply conventional grocery stores. Similarly, about 63 percent prefer smaller, as-needed trips to the store more often rather than stock-up sessions intended to last a long period of time.

 

The fact that many Millennials prefer to live in urban areas also affects their tendency to shop smaller, since storage space in their homes is likely at a premium. Being a health-conscious demographic, Millennials also would rather buy fresh food when they need it, rather than something they may or may not need that’s been processed to maintain shelf life.

 

It would follow, then, that the fresh sections of the grocery store are typically where most Millennials can be found while shopping. Just over 60 percent of older Millennials focus on fresh food, followed by 48 percent of the younger group. As a whole, this generation is also more likely to try new cuisines, which helps save money by reducing restaurant meals. They’re also strongly attuned to food lifestyle choices such as vegan or paleo.

 

Perhaps predictably, mobile also plays a role. Many Millennials are using their devices in-store to jot down shopping lists (about 67 percent), research products (about 63 percent, and to consult recipes (about 57 percent, which represents a potential opportunity for branded products). Older Millennials also turn to rewards and loyalty programs and might opt for a store with more meaningful benefits. Almost 60 percent say they only shop at grocers who feature these programs.

 

The future of the food industry in relation to Millennials remains to be seen, but additional opportunities are plenty, from apps and coupons to shopping lists and scannable labels––all of which would likely resonate with this powerful demographic.

Mobile Wallets Are a Win-Win

Report shows that digital wallets are gaining popularity––as long as consumers see immediate benefits 

 

In the world of retail, the consumer wants to be first––and they respond best to marketing when there’s something in it for them.

 

At least, these are the findings of the 2016 Mobile Consumer Report compiled by Vibes, a mobile marketing firm. The study showed that consumers deliberately search for marketing campaigns that include some sort of immediate benefit, from easy-to-use coupons to customer loyalty programs.

 

The study also showed a general trend toward more consumers utilizing mobile wallets, such as Android Pay and Apple Wallet. With convenience at the heart, this technology makes coupons and loyalty programs an upfront benefit––and in some cases, they’re the reason consumers are using mobile wallets at all.

 

Here are some key findings from the study:

 

1. More than 80 percent of smartphone users surveyed rank mobile coupons as more convenient than the printout counterparts that must be physically taken into the store.

 

2. Almost 60 percent of consumers reported that their opinion of a brand would shift more positively if they received digital coupons and offers that they could save in their smartphones.

 

3. Approximately half of those surveyed said that when they click on a digital ad, they’d rather land on a mobile coupon page than the brand’s homepage, a transactional page or the retailer’s app download page.

 

4. A full 94 percent of mobile wallet users report they like saving personalized offers and coupons.

 

5. Just over 30 percent of smartphone users use a mobile wallet.

 

6. Just under 60 percent of those surveyed said they’d like to have text alerts delivered when updates on their orders are available.

 

7. Almost 80 percent of smartphone users say they’d view a retailer more positively and they’d increase their brand loyalty if they were to receive surprise rewards, exclusive content and mobile “happy birthday” messaging.

 

Jack Philbin, CEO and co-founder of Vibes, says the primary shift here isn’t in the customer-perceived value of coupons and loyalty programs, but rather how these benefits are delivered. The immediate nature of mobile delivery is a game-changer, he said, and provides big benefits to both consumers (convenience) and retailers (brand awareness and loyalty), making this form of digital consumption a win for both sides.

Social Media: Marketing Godsend or Just More Noise?

The future for social media and marketing is optimistic, but doubts remain

 

For marketers, social media could almost feel like a godsend. Consumers across all demographics have embraced Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and a multitude of other platforms. Social media offers a unique, personalized, “friendlier” way to reach consumers––but does it actually work? Does it convert to sales? The general consensus is rosy, but not without critique.

 

Optimism comes into play when one considers how ubiquitous smartphones have become. More than 70 percent of women over the age of 18 have a smartphone, according to a recent report by Blackhawk Engagement Solutions. The primary use? Social media. As for dollars, more than $12 billion of the $69 billion spent in e-commerce during the 2015 holiday season was transacted via smartphones. That’s almost 60 percent more than those figures in 2014’s holiday season.

 

Impressive numbers, but in reality, social media’s influence whittles down to very little, says Jason Goldberg, SVP of commerce and content practice at Razorfish. A “buy” button embedded on Pinterest sites for major brands likely generates somewhere around 10 units of sales, he said. Engagement rates are similar for Snapchat and Twitter.

 

Point being, social media simply isn’t a huge driver when it comes to conversion––at least, not generally speaking. Some niche markets have seen success thanks to buyable pins on Pinterest, such as Madesmith, an online handmade goods marketplace, and Daily Chic, an online apparel retailer.

 

Part of the issue––aside from social media predominantly being a means of socializing––is that shopping on mobile typically isn’t as easy as on desktop. Consumers generally feel comfortable browsing, researching and comparing price points on mobile, but when it comes time to buy, they prefer the desktop experience.

 

However, that doesn’t undermine the power of social media to increase brand awareness among consumers, as well as market to them in a more personalized way. Rodney Mason, GVP of marketing at Blackhawk Engagement Solutions, predicts 2016 will be a big year for social media––that is, if brands can get on board and shift their thinking to align more closely with the mindset of the average consumer, who is firmly planted in the social media landscape.

 

According to a study by Blackhawk, 55 percent of consumers lean on social media to become educated on products, sales and marketplace happenings. Social media also allows consumers to have “conversations” with brands, as demonstrated by Babies “R” Us’ #BabysFirstKiss campaign, which encouraged consumers to post photos of a New Year’s kiss with their babies. This allowed users a chance to share part of their lives––a main draw of of social in the first place––while also getting the word out about Babies “R” Us.

 

Capitalizing on user-generated content is one way brands can continue the conversation on social media and generate content that resonates with other consumers. Another way is customer service, which also works to humanize a brand.

 

It seems we’re at the beginning of how social media plays with marketing, and 2016 will be a formative year.

How Target is Making Changes––and Making Strides

From groceries to inventory, the brand’s work is paying off, its CEO says

 

In a market where customers care about a customized experience from start to finish, mega-power retailer Target is proving they know what they’re doing. According to CEO Brian Cornell, traffic to the brand has been increasing for five straight quarters, and 2015 signaled a new dedication to the customer experience. It seems 2016 will work to further that progress, from taking a new look at loyalty programs to driving home more personalized assortments.

 

For Target executives, guaranteeing a positive customer experience starts on the ground: ensuring that inventory is stocked both in stores and online, which begins with working toward a sustainable supply chain system. To that end, the brand plans to put $1.8 billion this year into supply network and technology upgrades, followed by an additional $2.5 billion in 2017, according to a report by ABC News.

 

The work seems to be working. Target’s out-of-stock stats were 40 percent lower in 2015 over 2014, said Cornell. Additionally, Arthur Valdez, previously with Amazon, joined the Target team as EVP and chief supply chain and logistics officer. Several other high-level staffing changes have taken place since Cornell assumed the reigns in 2014. The brand’s Canadian operations were also shut down.

 

A renewed emphasis has been set on Target’s grocery business, the goal being to increase customer perception that the food is fresh and varied. This effort has led to grocery sales growing faster than the brand’s overall business during the last six months of 2015. The work will continue as Target teams up with IDEO and MIT Media Lab to come up with new ways to address the grocery sector.

 

Growth is a key element in Target’s current dialogue, as well. Two new brands will debut this year, based on customer feedback regarding products that support style, parenting and wellness. The Finnish brand Marimekko also partnered with Target for a limited-time assortment of approximately 200 items for an average price below $50.

 

The changes in assortment also mean that some offerings will be going away across all categories––primarily those that don’t sell well.

 

Ultimately, Cornell feels the decisive steps the brand is taking are making a difference.

 

“Guests are telling us with their feet and their clicks that we’re focusing on the right things,” he said in an interview featured on Target’s corporate site. “Our efforts around the fundamentals are improving operational performance and delivering the right foundation for future growth. And we’re just getting started.”