Blogs

UPS Begins Preparations for a Freight Strike

I had the following email forwarded to me yesterday from a UPS Freight customer. And I have to say, I can’t believe UPS is doing this! The news starts at paragraph three … UPS Freight will not be picking up freight as the freight contract with the Teamsters gets close to the vote. Essentially, UPS will not be…

Do Buzzwords Get in the Way of Progress?

Have you read a column in the past week, month or year that's void of buzzwords? Probably not. In the age of 5,000-plus choices of what partners, technologies or agencies to choose from, I find it uncanny how the marketplace is fraught with complex ways to explain simple things. Blame it on analysts who define…

Teamsters-UPS Have Tenuous Agreement in Place: What it Means for Retailers

As most of the industry is aware, the most recent five-year UPS/Teamsters National Labor Agreement expired in July. However, the parties extended and have been operating under the same agreement as they negotiated a settlement. In July, UPS and the Teamsters announced they had reached a tentative “handshake” deal for both Freight (LTL) as well…

Other Staff Bloggers
Operations & Fulfillment

I had the following email forwarded to me yesterday from a UPS Freight customer. And I have to say, I can’t believe UPS is doing this! The news starts at paragraph three … UPS Freight will not be picking up freight as the freight contract with the Teamsters gets close to the vote. Essentially, UPS will not be…

As most of the industry is aware, the most recent five-year UPS/Teamsters National Labor Agreement expired in July. However, the parties extended and have been operating under the same agreement as they negotiated a settlement. In July, UPS and the Teamsters announced they had reached a tentative “handshake” deal for both Freight (LTL) as well…

Even though the potential strike at UPS hasn’t yet been averted (the current labor agreement is set to expire July 31, and the two parties haven't ratified a tentative agreement), the company has decided that now is a good time to impose intra-year rate hikes. UPS already changed its fuel surcharge tables for air export…

Marketing

Have you read a column in the past week, month or year that's void of buzzwords? Probably not. In the age of 5,000-plus choices of what partners, technologies or agencies to choose from, I find it uncanny how the marketplace is fraught with complex ways to explain simple things. Blame it on analysts who define…

Email marketing is going on 20 years as a viable direct marketing channel. Although it has proved itself to be a recession-proof channel, how we do email hasn't changed dramatically over those 20 years. Change is coming, though. Are you ready to change with it? The consumer inbox still has limited interactivity and sporadic constraints…

As brands and retailers endeavor to unlock the mystery surrounding consumers’ shopping habits and behaviors, the question of product quality vs. price comes into sharper focus. According to recent research from technology company First Insight, consumers are increasingly choosing quality. In fact, 53 percent of consumers who responded to a First Insight survey said product quality was the…

Technology

New research from Voicebot.ai reports that nearly one in five adults in the U.S. already has access to a smart speaker (e.g., Alexa, Google Home), although they might not necessarily have their own. This equates to roughly 47.3 million people, or 20 percent of the U.S. adult population. Considering that Amazon.com didn’t release its Echo speaker until…

1966. That's the year the first “chatterbox” appeared. Fifty-two years later, chatbots are on the verge of completely changing the customer/retail shopping experience. Like site search in the 2000s, many of these emerging customer touchpoints are being automated using a combination of simple keywords and rules-based logic. On one hand, these messaging bots can streamline…

There's lots of buzz surrounding digital-native brands and what's making them so disruptive and relevant today. While the definition of digital native is evolving, they are companies that launch as web-only retailers with the belief that superior technology can be a differentiator. They often engender loyalty by projecting authenticity and effectively leveraging social media. More…

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…

The future is now. This thought went through my head several times this week at Shop.org in Los Angeles, especially when I was sampling some of the virtual reality (VR) immersive experiences that were on display on the trade show floor. The VR experiences I've demoed in the past have been proof of concepts designed…

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…

Omnichannel

Supposedly, Tori Spelling once said, “bad shopping habits die hard.” The "Beverly Hills 90210" actress was probably talking about her own shopping habits, but in a larger sense, Spelling, who helped personify consumerism in the 1990s, when the mall was king and Amazon.com was merely another dot-com, pretty much nailed today’s retail business, where bad habits…

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…

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…

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.…