Editor’s Note: Retail Trends From INNOVATE 2011
Here are just five of several retail trends I learned about at INNOVATE 2011, the Retail Innovation and Marketing Conference sponsored by the National Retail Federation, held last month in San Francisco:
1. Assume your customer is a cross-channel shopper. Retailers must understand that cross-channel is here to stay; they have to build their business processes around that fact. "The shopping process is a multi- channel process for customers today and, as a result, retailers need to communicate with them in an integrated way," said Van Baker, vice president and research director for retail and manufacturing advisory services at Gartner Inc., who spoke at a session that discussed disruptive business models and how they're poised to influence retail.
2. Think carefully before using group buying sites. No one can deny the success and popularity of daily-deal sites such as Groupon and LivingSocial, but there are potential drawbacks to using these services, several speakers noted. "There's the possibility that the wrong customers — existing customers who'd likely purchase merchandise in your store anyway — may be getting the deals," said Bill Bass, president of the Charming Direct division of Charming Shoppes, who spoke at a session on how customer insights can shape retailers' futures. "This could have a huge effect on margins, devalue brands and cannibalize sales to existing customers," he said. But Greg Bettinelli, senior vice president of marketing at daily-deal fashion site HauteLook, said that deal sites and the deal mentality is here to stay. "I think after Sept. 2008, our lives changed forever," he said. "Value became cool again. And with gas prices currently hovering at $4 a gallon, I don't think the mind shift around finding the best deals is going away anytime soon."
3. Don't just jump into f-commerce. More and more retailers — large and small — are opening up Facebook storefronts as a way to offer shoppers "anywhere e-commerce," or the ability to purchase merchandise wherever they happen to be online. But the buzz at INNOVATE was that opening a Facebook store might not be the best use of a retailer's time. "I've looked at the J.C. Penney Facebook store … there's nothing special about it," said Gartner's Baker. "It looks just like J.C. Penney's website, but it's taking customers off of it and putting them on Facebook."