Blogs

Marketing Stack From Hell

Steve Jobs thrived at balancing the complexity that drives powerful computational systems with the simplicity required for utility. “Simple can be harder than complex,” Jobs said. “You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move…

A Lesson in Personalization From Beauty By Design

As has been written about ad nauseam in this e-newsletter and countless others retail trade publications, personalization is the Holy Grail for retailers. After all, done right, personalization elevates consumers’ lives and promotes engagement by providing products and/or content that tune into and even anticipate the needs of customers. The benefits of personalization to the customer…

Email Isn’t Perfect, But it Gets Better Every Year (2018 Included)

The comedian Tracy Morgan once observed that we “spend too much of our lives on email,” and, as a result, he argued, “we’re losing our communication skills.” That’s hardly a novel claim, but when you consider the fact that we send 269 billion emails each day — 35 emails for each person on Earth — one…

Other Staff Bloggers
Technology

Steve Jobs thrived at balancing the complexity that drives powerful computational systems with the simplicity required for utility. “Simple can be harder than complex,” Jobs said. “You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move…

As has been written about ad nauseam in this e-newsletter and countless others retail trade publications, personalization is the Holy Grail for retailers. After all, done right, personalization elevates consumers’ lives and promotes engagement by providing products and/or content that tune into and even anticipate the needs of customers. The benefits of personalization to the customer…

Each day, the world seems bigger, more diverse and moves much faster. Predicting the future — always a dubious proposition — seems like a fool’s errand in this climate, given the dizzying pace of disruption. But as Peter Drucker once said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” For retailers, that…

Marketing

The comedian Tracy Morgan once observed that we “spend too much of our lives on email,” and, as a result, he argued, “we’re losing our communication skills.” That’s hardly a novel claim, but when you consider the fact that we send 269 billion emails each day — 35 emails for each person on Earth — one…

In his book "The Tipping Point," author Malcolm Gladwell described the Band-Aid solution as the best kind of solution because it “solves a problem with the minimum amount of effort, time and cost.” Gladwell’s point is excellent, but only if you’re trying to patch a problem while maintaining the status quo. If the status quo…

Marketing is hard enough without the uncertainty of macro disruptions. But lately, the threat of a macro disruption seems to lurk behind every corner. Natural disasters, terrorism, the possibility of nuclear war, a tweeter-in-chief who can send the stock market in one direction and the media echo chamber in another with 140 characters or less.…

E-Commerce

It’s no secret that there has been a shift in shopping behavior due to growth in millennial spending power, aging of baby boomers and the growth of online shopping. These changes are impacting pricing and demand, and are creating a disconnect for retailers and brands between what they're charging and how much consumers will actually…

When I see people hunched over their phones, eyes fixed on screens, I think of the evolutionary chart that hung in biology class. The chart depicted a chronology of human ancestors, each one slightly more upright than their predecessor, until finally, we arrived at modern human, standing tall, except for when he or she is…

Professional Development

It’s not often that you get to hear from retail legends like Jim Sinegal, co-founder and director of Costco Wholesale Corp. That’s why I was so excited to attend his talk at SAP’s Retail Executive Forum, which was held in New York City earlier this month. And he didn't disappoint. Sinegal served as the CEO…

I’m excited to announce that this year Total Retail is a media partner for Retail East: The CPG & Retail Executive Summit. The event, which is returning to New York City for the fourth consecutive year on May 16, will be a great opportunity to network with retail and consumer products goods (CPG) professionals as they…

Operations & Fulfillment

The USPS announced new prices for 2018. Shipping Services have an announced 3.9 percent increase, but that may not be the true impact.

FedEx Express, FedEx Ground and FedEx Freight, subsidiaries of FedEx Corp., will increase shipping rates effective Jan. 1, 2018 by an a

Both FedEx and UPS have announced new, temporary holiday surcharges that will impact shipping costs for e-commerce businesses this holiday season. UPS In June, UPS announced a new peak season charge applicable during selected weeks in November and December 2017 for U.S. Residential, Large Packages and Packages Over Maximum Limits. The increase means that every…

Customer Retention

I always love to learn about unique partnerships in the retail space, and I recently heard about one that involves two of my faves — food and jewelry — so I thought I’d share it with you. The partnership, which launched in June, is between online jewelry retailer BaubleBar and FoodKick by FreshDirect, an on-demand business…

Recently while I was in the mall, I saw the sign below in a storefront window. Marketers can drive revenue by making strong offers, either online or in this case at retail. I wouldn't consider this example to be a strong offer. Take a look. Can you tell me why? While the offer, “30% Off…

Omnichannel

The retail industry is facing an epidemic. As retailers continue to use markdowns to entice shoppers and drive traffic into stores, consumers are becoming increasingly price sensitive, leading them to expect sales at every turn. A recent study by First Insight took a deeper dive into the expectations of consumers, finding that 70 percent need…

It’s among the most frustrating parts of retailing: You built a strong assortment plan. Great product mix. Good margin. Customer response is better than you had hoped for. You're ready for an outstanding selling season. Yet the allocation process drops the ball. Too many large dresses in store A while the racks are empty in…

As I go through the discovery process with prospective SPI customers, there's a moment in almost every engagement when one of the planners or allocators shows their current multitab, multidimension, multipivot table, holographic (OK, I exaggerated on the last point) homegrown Excel spreadsheet. It always impresses. I'm genuinely in awe of the complex usage of…

Mobile

It's official: Digital technology has permanently altered the retail landscape. To examine why and how, Synchrony Financial took a deep dive into this reality with its current report, "Driving Shopper Engagement Through Digital Technology," which includes data from the 2016 Synchrony Financial Digital Study. The study, which gathered insights on mobile adoption and digital usage,…

What follows is a list of the Total Retail content in 2015 that generated the most reader comments. You’ll see that our readers are highly engaged when it comes to content on shipping rates — who isn’t when it has such an impact on your bottom line — social media marketing, payment options and cooperative…

If you’re a skeptic like me, all of the talk of beacons in retail stores sounds a little too pie-in-the-sky. Beacons, as you probably know by now, are devices that communicate with shoppers’ smartphones in the hopes of improving their in-store shopping experiences. When placed in-store, beacons use Bluetooth technology to detect nearby smartphones and send them ads, coupons or supplementary product information.

Merchandising

As consumers continue to seek convenience and instant gratification via mobile devices, retailers are challenged with thinking about new ways to generate customer interest and loyalty. To develop insights in these areas, Synchrony Financial recently tracked existing and emerging trends impacting both the retail and mobile payments space and published them in a new report. The report…

There’s been a lot going on lately at Bluefly, the online seller of women's, men's and children's apparel and accessories, home furnishings and décor and beauty items from both high-end niche as well as up-and-coming brands. Earlier this spring, for example, Bluefly unveiled a new look, including a site redesign, new logo, new branding, and…

Consumers are getting comfy. Over the past few years, we’ve seen a shift in how consumers dress for both work and play. From casual tennis shoes and T-shirts at work to yoga pants at the local watering hole, fitness wear is moving beyond the gym and hitting the streets. According to NPD Group, "athleisure" clothing…

Management

As you've probably heard by now, President Obama announced the Department of Labor’s final rule updating the overtime regulations for middle-class workers yesterday. While the White House said the ruling is expected to boost wages for workers by $12 billion over the next 10 years, it's not going over well with many business associations, including the…

The National Retail Federation (NRF) today released a study authored by a University of Georgia economist who found that retail jobs pay wages that are highly competitive with those in other industries. The NRF's report, Wages in the Retail Industry: Getting the Facts Straight, is part of its Retail Jobs Week, an initiative from the trade association to educate Washington lawmakers about the value retail jobs deliver for millions of workers and the economy as a whole.

I'm at the Shop.org Annual Summit in Seattle and having a great time catching up with old friends and colleagues, meeting new contacts, and learning about new digital marketing strategies and technologies. Also, as usual, as I walk through the exhibit hall I'm being greeted by smiling vendors, eager to share with me information about their latest and greatest shiny new objects. For the most part, I actually enjoy talking with vendors and learning about their wares. But I have noticed many folks — retailers, probably — with their badges turned the other way or tucked into their jackets, and I know why: they don’t want to be singled out and aggressively sold to by vendors.

Customer Service

Influencer marketing isn't new; using celebrities to sell products is an age-old practice. However, a new type of influencer marketing — using regular customers as brand spokespeople — is on the rise. Highlighted in a National Retail Federation (NRF) article, “Customers Are the New Celebrities,” this trend of curating a group of select social media…

While Facebook's users are getting their first taste of the new "Reactions" emojis that recently rolled out, marketers are already working to better understand the impact they will have on their social media efforts. Facebook Reactions, in case you missed it, are a collection of six emoji that can be clicked on all posts and…

Six hundred billion dollars. That’s what advertisers are set to spend worldwide in 2015. Social media powerhouses Facebook and Twitter have rolled out new ways to target consumers through advertisements. But is the return on investment there for the companies that are fronting the bill? According to Gallup, 62 percent of consumers say that social…

Brick-and-Mortar

I’ve just returned from the National Retail Federation’s Big Show in New York City, and I thought this would be a good opportunity to give those of you who didn’t make it to the show some of the major takeaways I have after spending two days wandering the vast Jacob Javits Convention Center. So without…

With this being the last issue of Total Retail Report of 2015 (it returns on Mon., Jan. 4), we thought it would be a good time to put together a list of our most popular content of the year. This content is ranked in order based on the number of page views. Our best wishes…

It’s not April Fool’s Day! Just before the holidays, Lowe's really is introducing two robotic shopping assistants at one of its Orchard Supply Hardware stores in San Jose, Calif. According to a press release from the home improvement retailer, the autonomous robots — called OSHbots — were developed by Fellow Robots, a technology company that specializes in the design and development of autonomous service robots, in partnership with Lowe's own Innovation Labs.

Catalog

There are plenty of Christmas catalogs in the mail this year — some great, some just OK, some forgettable. Here are my faves for 2015: The Folio Society "Christmas 2015 Collection" An impressive package in a large envelope with letter, three inserts and two catalogs (one just of children’s gift books). This high-end U.K. book…

PATIENT: “Doc, we do tests, but I don't feel that we learn much from them. What are we doing wrong? What should we change?” CATALOG DOCTOR: "Try building your tests differently to get clearer, more actionable results. Here are some tips for what to do, and what not to do.” Optimizing an Offer Test The goal:…

PATIENT: “Doc, I really need to cut catalog program costs again, but without impacting sales. We've already done the standard things like lighter paper, fewer pages, operational efficiencies, and so on. What's left?” CATALOG DOCTOR: “You've done well so far. What's left isn't as easy as the standard cuts. Most require study and elbow grease.…