Age of Amazon: Stores’ Lack Of Responsiveness Is A Prime Problem

Pretty much all brand marketers agree that “responsiveness: the ability to source, understand and then quickly react to feedback, preferences and needs” is crucial to the delivery of an exceptional customer experience as expectations driven by Amazon and the on-demand economy have shaped consumers’ views.

But all too few can say that their businesses can meet those expectations.

In a CMO Council survey of 153 senior marketing executives (54 percent of whom are CMOs), 90 percent concede responsiveness is important, if not critical, to attracting and retaining customers and maintaining competitive viability.

However, only 16 percent of marketers feel their organizations are extremely responsive to the consumer, failing to make changes to products, packaging, services and experiences based on real-time consumer requests and feedback.

Is Anyone There?

The CMO Council study, The Responsiveness Requirement: Meeting the Consumer When and Where It Matters to Drive Growth, was conducted with Danaher Corporation’s Product Identification Platform companies, examined the level of success (or lack thereof) when it comes to responding “in the moment,” whether it is a physical or digital touchpoint.

“Customers fully expect for brands to engage at the speed of light—after all, it is exceptional customer experiences from brands like Amazon and Starbucks that have proven that rapid response, personalization and real-time (or near real-time) omnichannel engagements are possible at the push of a button or click of an app,” said Liz Miller, SVP of Marketing for the CMO Council. “This is engagement at the speed of digital, and the customer expects a similar level of responsiveness across all experiences, regardless of whether the channel is physical or digital.”

In general marketers feel they are able to respond or react to consumer feedback, requests, suggestions or complaints specific to marketing campaigns in less than two weeks — which to app-centric consumers may feel like a lifetime.

For the most part, 78 percent of marketers surveyed are able to meet that expectation, with 43 percent actually saying that they are able to respond to the consumer within 24 hours, effectively setting the expectation with consumers that responsiveness is possible.

In those cases, the averages are skewed by online interactions, which are naturally immediate. When it comes to brick-and-mortars, though, that’s when the problems of immediacy show themselves.

About 77 percent of respondents admit it can take up to 90 days to respond and react to customer feedback, suggestions or issues, with 36 percent needing up to three months to respond. In other words, the equivalent of several lifetimes as far as consumers are concerned.

Source: CMO Council

Among the solutions the CMO Council is proposing to spur marketers to ramp up their level of responsiveness:

  • Starting strategic conversations internally to bring product packaging and physical touches like POP displays and promotions into the customer experience dialogue. This isn’t just about printing and getting packaging made; it must be discussed as a critical touch in a multi-touch, connected experience.
  • Setting the expectation that procurement must act as a strategic partner and not just a cost-cutter. Together, marketing and procurement must identify vendors that can meet responsiveness goals, not just budgetary ones.
  • Demanding transparency. Marketers need to develop supply chain relationships that provide continuous data streams with the intentional goal of total transparency across the supply chain to track everything from creative iteration and collaboration to works- in-progress.
  • Broadening the meaning of omnichannel to including everything from social posts to product packaging. It is time to bring physical and digital together, if for no other reason than this: The consumer thinks of us as one brand—not a physical brand and a digital one.

“With recent great advances in digital media delivery, unfortunately, the capability to make changes to physical media has been a laggard,” says Joakim Weidemanis, Group Executive and Vice President, Product Identification at Danaher Corporation. “Many people simply don’t know what’s possible until they decide it will be so. Advances in technology today allow business leaders to demand more speed, higher quality and greater transparency from their partners and vendors than ever before. Even more powerful for global brands is that such technology is available all over the world.”

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Location Acquisition Race Heats Up, As NinthDecimal Buys MoLOGIQ

Amid a spate of location-centric deal-making, NinthDecimal has acquired MoLOGIQ, a mobile audience platform, in a bid to accelerate the building of new data programs to meet the demands of marquee brands and agency partners.

As part of that effort, which is largely focused on cross-screen attribution, the the company is also forming NinthDecimal Labs, a new group dedicated to advancing the next generation of location-centered marketing solutions.

The MoLOGIQ audience platform processes “billions of data signals” from its software, public demographic data, land parcel information, and voter registration rolls.

Its SDK is present in more than 50 million unique devices, which provides rich data signals for both Android and iOS. MoLOGIQ’s geo-spatial infrastructure connects the mapping of users’ devices to their household addresses in a privacy-friendly manner, thereby enabling the bridging of online and offline data sets to drive a range of marketing applications.

Over the past three years, Cupertino-based MoLOGIQ has mapped 50 million devices to household addresses, enhancing the reach and scale of NinthDecimal’s own Household Graph.

“Clients are increasingly asking us to solve problems that go far beyond the traditional uses of location data, especially those related to omnichannel ROI measurement capabilities,” said Mike Fordyce, CEO of NinthDecimal. “In our industry, rapid innovation and time to market is critical for success. As a part of NinthDecimal Labs, the MoLOGIQ team will play an important role in accelerating the development of new solutions.”

GeoMarketing: Why did NinthDecimal decide to acquire, as opposed to partner, with MoLOGIQ?

Mike Fordyce: In order to have success in our industry – which is constantly evolving — we recognized a long time ago that innovation, as well as being flexible and nimble to change, needed to be a part of our DNA. Acquiring MoLOGIQ allows us to quickly incorporate their products and data technologies with no limitations. Just as important is the ability to integrate the MoLOGIQ team into the NinthDecimal culture – increasing the level of collaboration that goes beyond a traditional partnership.

That said, we also value the many partnerships we have throughout the industry with other leading companies as they too are key to our effort in addressing the growing demand from our customers and the broader market.

What specific offerings of NinthDecimal does MoLOGIQ complement? Does it enhance or complement NinthDecimal’s attribution capabilities? How?

The addition of MoLOGIQ both complements and expands our leadership in several different ways, including:

  • MoLOGIQ’s digital visualization technology builds upon NinthDecimal’s existing visual data solutions for offline attribution measurement and insights.
  • Its 50 million devices mapped to household addresses, enhances the reach and scale of NinthDecimal’s own proprietary Household Graph.
  • The combination of MoLOGIQ’s SDK, location data, and device data further enhance NinthDecimal’s measurement solutions, providing the industry with the largest measured audience for offline attribution.
  • MoLOGIQ’s DMP technology will allow NinthDecimal to expand its data management capabilities as more and more customers are looking to NinthDecimal to help them manage their data.
  • MoLOGIQ’s SDK presence in more than 50 million unique devices will help power NinthDecimal’s audience intelligence platform, Location Graph as well as its industry leading offline attribution solution, Location Conversion Index.

Does the timing of the acquisition say anything about the larger state of the location/mobile ad tech space? Or was this simply a good opportunity for NinthDecimal?

From an industry perspective, it’s an incredibly exciting time. The changes being driven by location intelligence are more disruptive than ever. As advertising becomes increasingly data driven, major brands across all industries are completely reorganizing and changing their focus to capitalize on it. From programmatic to people-based marketing to the digitalization of all media.

For NinthDecimal, the results we are delivering have not only led to triple-digit growth in our data and measurement lines of businesses but also created an increased demand from our partners. More and more they are looking to us to help them solve competitive and growth challenges that go well beyond the traditional uses of audience intelligence.

This is the driving force behind NinthDecimal Labs as we look to not only address today’s business opportunities but also help capitalize on those that emerge in the future.

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Walmart Paves The Way For Grocers With Higher Paid-Search Spending

In addition to its recent acquisitions of e-commerce platforms Jet.com and Bonobos, Walmart is already fighting back against Amazon’s burgeoning challenge in brick-and-mortar grocery space, as the Bentonville retail giant led all paid search advertisers in spending over the past year, a study by marketing platform AdGooroo found.

Walmart’s search spending jumped by more than 1,500 percent from 51,000 to an estimated $858,000 on “on 124 non-branded grocery store and grocery delivery” keywords in Google search from June 2016 through May 2017, AdGooroo said. Among the terms covered in AdGooroo’s analysis were  “grocery store,” “groceries delivery,” “grocery delivery service,” ‘online grocery shopping” and “supermarket.”

The retailer’s moves seemed to coincide with other efforts to support its position as the nation’s largest grocer. In addition to its purchase of Jet.com, Walmart has struck delivery partnerships with Uber and Lyft. It’s also expanded its curbside grocery pickup service as many other retailers have, such as Target.

The sudden and significant rise in Walmart’s search spending could also be a sign of Jet.com’s influence on the retailer, which Walmart acquired in September last year, spent an additional $82,000 on the keyword group during the period, up from just $3,000 in the 12 months preceding June 2016.

Aldi Follows Walmart

Right behind Walmart in AdGooroo’s paid-search rankings among grocers was Aldi, with $441,000 spent on the keyword group.

As the German supermarket chain expands its U.S. stores from 1,600 to 2,500 by 2022, its paid-search expenditures were up from $40,000 over the 12-month period.

Interestingly, Aldi averaged just $9,000 per month in spend on the keyword group from June 2016 through February 2017. Like Walmart, the chain’s spending surge appeared to be in concert with its other strategic moves, particularly when it comes to ensuring a stronger online presence in preparation for U.S. expansion roadmap.

In general, grocery brands’ invigorated SEO shift mirrors wider market moves designed to capitalize on the importance of social media channels like Snapchat and mobile micro-moments consumers turn to when it comes to making shopping decisions.

Where’s Amazon In All This?

Overall, AdGooroo found that Walmart captured a 19.1 percent share of total clicks on the 124 non-branded grocery keywords over the 12-month period, followed by Aldi (11.6 percent click share), Kroger (7.6 percent click share), Safeway (6.7 percent click share) and Fry’s (4.2 percent click share).

“Although the same top five retailers for ad spend also ranked in the top five for click share, Kroger and Safeway swapped places, showing that Kroger had a more efficient campaign than Safeway, since it spent less and received a larger share of clicks on the non-branded grocery keywords,” AdGooroo’s report said.

As for where Amazon was in all this paid-search activity, Amazon ranked 9th in AdGooroo’s ad spend survey on the non-branded grocery keyword group with $134,000 in spending from June 2016 through May 2017. Amazon also came in 9th in terms of clicks with a 2.8 percent click share.

Its acquisition target, Whole Foods, which has struggled technologically for a while, ranked 18th in ad spend with $51,000 spent on the keyword group over the last year. That represented a decrease for Whole Foods from the $57,000 the company spent on the same keywords from June 2015-May 2016 — and dismal 19th in clicks with a 1.2 percent click share.

In a separate study of retail sales growth by the National Retail Federation and Kantar Retail, Walmart’s ramped up search focus could have played a role in keeping it in the top spot.

“At 55 years old, Walmart may be the oldest new kid on the block, but it still has the energy and mindset of a startup as it continues to successfully battle the competition,” said Stores Media Editor Susan Reda said. Stores is the official publication of the NRF.

While main tale associated with retail these days seems to be one of retrenchment and struggle, as major brands like Macy’s and JCPenney shutter dozens of outlets, the NRF/Kantar Retail study sought to shine a brighter light on an industry taking steps to address omnichannel demands from consumers.

Retailers will always be measured by sales numbers, and ranking the leaders is important,” Reda said. “But so are the stories behind the numbers — it’s those stories that bring the Top 100 to life. The nation’s largest retailers are posting strong vitals. They’re embracing creative disruption, reinventing physical stores as places for brand experiences and exploring new ways to connect with the consumer.”

Considering that 90 percent of consumer transactions happen in a physical store, and that the majority of that that 90 percent is focused on grocery purchases, the challenge for independent markets and chains will rest on how well they play the SEO game, especially as the rise of voice-activated, Connected Intelligence assistants like Siri and Alexa are poised to have a greater impact on the answers consumers receive to their spoken search queries.

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Wisconsin Startup Points The Way For Grocers To Challenge Amazon/Whole Foods Onslaught

Even before the looming prospect of a combined Amazon and Whole Foods upending the grocery space, supermarket independents and chains alike appeared to be ready to meet consumers’ desire for crafting seamless online/offline shopping experiences.

As eMarketer has noted in its look at e-commerce grocery shopping, the number of consumers who purchase groceries digitally will rise significantly this year. Citing research from retail marketing and analytics software company Unata and consultancy Brick Meets Click, close to one-third (31 percent) of U.S. internet users said they were “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to buy groceries online in 2017—up from 19 percent in 2016.

While much of the focus on the broader on-demand delivery space has tended to revolve around what is happening in major cities like New York and San Francisco, GrocerKey has been ramping up its work with grocers in its native Wisconsin for the past two years.

With online grocery sales expected leap 355 percent to $123 billion by 2023 from  $27 billion in the U.S. in 2014, according to Brick Meets Click, it’s clear that the marketplace won’t belong to one player. And that’s what GrocerKey is planning for,

In essence, GrocerKey is a white label solution for grocers that want to create their own e-commerce shopping platform and operate it under their own brand name, as opposed to relying on a third party like Instacart or Postmates.

GrocerKey’s main client — and lead investor — is Janesville, WI-based Woodman’s Market, which runs 18 stores across the state and in northern Illinois.

The Madison, WI-based startup’s grocery focus goes back almost 10 years, notes CEO and founder Jeremy Neren.

“I ran an online on-demand grocery delivery service in Madison, WI for close to a decade. That led up to starting GrocerKey. We warehoused the product ourselves for over 8 years. I had a strong desire to expand that business, and in an effort to make the business more scalable, I shifted the operation from a warehouse model to operating out of a local grocery store and leveraging their inventory. That local grocery store happened to have their own e-commerce platform powered by the market leader in white label e-commerce grocery technology.”

Duly inspired, Neren and his team pivoted into starting GrocerKey and began pitching local grocery retailers.

“In early 2015, we were able to partner with Woodman’s Markets, the largest grocery chain in Wisconsin,” Neren said. “They not only contracted with us to use our technology, but licensed us to help them physically build the business on their behalf. Woodman’s also invested about $2.1 million in GrocerKey and they are our lead investor.”

In addition to Woodman’s, GrocerKey has recently signed up three other supermarkets on top of its 11 existing retail partners — Neren won’t disclose the names just yet. The company, which has over 100 employees, is planning to build out functions that will allow for its supermarket clients’ customers to blend online and in-store shopping.

GeoMarketing: On-demand delivery is generally viewed as concentrated in upscale, tech-centric, large cities. How would you describe the demand in Wisconsin and the Midwest for grocery delivery?

Jeremy Neren: No doubt about it – there is larger consumer demand for e-commerce grocery in other parts of the country. That said, the demand is increasing everywhere in all markets. We did 5,000 orders with an average $150 basket-size last month out of a half-dozen stores on ShopWoodmans.com and a small marketing budget. It’s all growing organically.

Every market has its own unique pull. In Madison and Milwaukee, you tend to have some awful weather for a substantial part of the year. That’s a natural driver of this business – people don’t want to go outside in zero-degree weather anywhere.

So we try to tailor services to the individual markets we’re in and see what makes sense for that individual retailer. This is definitely not a cookie-cutter approach.

What are the pain points GrocerKey solves for the markets you work with?

The biggest pain points we’re trying to solve for grocers in e-commerce is that their stores are designed for the brick-and-mortar environment, not e-commerce fulfillment. Right now, there’s a surplus of brick-and-mortar stores in the U.S. So retailers are motivated to get into e-commerce, for one, to leverage those existing stores. They don’t want to spend even more money to build a warehouse to develop a separate e-commerce business.

So the question is, “How do we take an inherently inefficient environment and create an efficient business on top of it?”

In many cases, retailers don’t often have great intel on exactly where products are in their store. So we create a “pick-path” in their store — then, when you’re assembling an e-commerce order, you’re using the most efficient path possible to shop for whoever is taking that e-commerce order. That allows the store to reduce labor costs and then ultimately provide a better value for the customer.

What are the issues GrocerKey solves for consumers?

The biggest challenge is out-of-stocks. As a consumer, if you don’t see the item you want on the shelf, you move on and grab another similar item. If you buy an item online and when it’s delivered, it’s not there, that’s a miserable experience.

How do you solve for that? We let the consumer choose a backup item in case their first choice isn’t available and we provide suitable backup options for staff that assemble online orders.

How do you help the markets you work with spur interest and usage of on-demand grocery delivery?

We are doing more work with third-party platforms to create adoption. We’re utilizing the strength of the retailer’s brand and providing them with a number of robust marketing tools that are built into our platform.

The role of Connected Intelligence and voice-activated search and ordering through Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Okay Google, and others is becoming mainstream. What impact will that have on the way people shop for groceries?

We’re bullish on the idea of voice-activation. E-commerce is all about convenience and removing friction when it comes to the shopping experience. Voice-activation and artificial intelligence advances that idea of convenience. It’s going to be an integral piece of e-commerce and shopping going forward. It’s already having an impact, as people are ordering groceries on Amazon now.

What do you think the Amazon/Whole Foods deal means for established grocers?

The Amazon deal demonstrates the need for grocery retailers to move faster in their digital efforts. There was already pressure to do so, given the rise in consumer demand and pressure being put on those stores by Amazon. So that pressure will only increase with Amazon having a nationwide brick-and-mortar presence to add to its arsenal of digital tools to reach consumers and bring them into their overall ecosystem.

It requires an entirely different operational approach than what Amazon is accustomed to, in terms of translating its e-commerce approach to serve customers in-store.

It’s also important to consider that strengthening your digital presence does not simply mean e-commerce, it means providing more touch points to reach consumers — e-commerce is a component of that, but you must also consider how to augment the in-store experience via digital touch points such as value added native mobile apps.

What’s next for GroceryKey?

We’re in the process of launching several retailers. And we’re trying to encompass more in-store shopping tools, so we’re becoming more of an omnichannel platform as opposed to a strictly e-commerce company. You can build your shopping list and give them the same item availability and pick-path information that we give to e-commerce shoppers. Eventually, that functionality will lead to mobile self-checkout within the store.

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Back-To-School Retail Sales Will Reach $857.18 Billion This Year

Too soon to think about back-to-school? Not for U.S. retailers: In the months of July and August, back-to-school shopping season sales will reach $857.18 billion — a 4 percent increase over 2016’s record-setting year, according to a report from eMarketer.

Five key categories will see a significant spending uptick this summer, per eMarketers analysis: Apparel and accessories, books and music, computers/consumer electronics, office equipment, and toys/sporting goods. In other words, it’s time for marketers in these categories to start thinking about promotions and experiences that will drive back-to-school related sales — even though September is still three months away.

However, as estimated back-to-school spending has grown since last year, the retail footprint has shrunk — meaning that online (both desktop and mobile) will play an even more critical role in driving both e-commerce and the physical sales that still occur.

This trend became clear in 2016, when approximately 85 percent of 1,000 parents told Retale said they use a smartphone to aid back-to-school shopping.

“The use of mobile to help with back-to-school shopping has risen nearly 10 percentage points year-over-year, according to our data,” Pat Dermody, President of Retale, told GeoMarketing at the time. “It’s clear that the omnichannel customer journey continues to define the way most people approach their purchases, and people continue to discover the advantages of leveraging mobile in their shopping.”

As such, marketers would do well to keep in mind three major factors influencing the mobile parents who are actually paying for the bulk of back-to-school purchases:

  • YouTube Matters: It’s not just for Gen-Z — both Millennial moms and dads are heavy users of the platform. In fact, 86 percent of all Millennial dads watch YouTube videos for guidance on parenting topics from cooking a meal to finding back-to-school products for their kids.
  • Video Ad Uptick: Whether on YouTube or not, video ad consumption is on the rise for both kids and parents. As such, “video is not a nice-to-have — it is a must-have,” Facebook’s Irene Chen explained in a panel discussion earlier this year. Just make sure that the video makes sense without sound or uses subtitles; plenty of users watch on the go in situations where it isn’t appropriate to have the volume up.
  • Intelligent Search Changes Everything: For every online purchase resulting from a search, Google sees multi-channel retailers receive an additional 400 in-store visits — a statistic that reinforces how crucial search is to brick-and-mortar businesses. But search has changed since the (relatively recent) days in which a query would result in a list of webpages. As such, to show up in the “knowledge graph,” businesses need to think about the entities fundamental to their category — like how to rank for unbranded search terms (“notebooks for back-to-school” as opposed to “Office Max,” for example), and where their customers are. Do they search on Google? Do they use Snapchat, or are they more likely to be on Instagram — or both? Alexa? Are they using Uber? Businesses today need to push their information to all of these digital services; it’s not enough to just put it on the web.

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Think With Google: Customers Want Brands To ‘Know Them Better’ Across Devices

53 percent of consumers will abandon a mobile site that takes more than three seconds to load, and 89 percent of U.S. marketers report that personalization on responsive mobile apps and websites has increased their revenue — hardly a surprise considering Think With Google’s report on the three trends shaping the future of mobile and connectivity, which sees customers asking brands to “help me faster, know me better, and wow me everywhere” with immersive experiences.

Immediacy has always been key to serving consumers on mobile, but with the advent of intelligent assistants like Amazon Alexa and Okay Google — which can answer voice queries instantly and get ‘smarter’ about their users over time — the bar for both speed and personalization across all devices has been raised even higher.

So, how can marketers deliver?

Get To Know Me

By now, marketers know that customized content is key to engaging consumers across devices. That said, it bears repeating that “personalization is a strategy, not a feature,” as TWG’s report states. “We have an opportunity to be smarter with data, using important signals about customers—such as browsing behavior or CRM data—to shape their experiences.”

As an example, TWG cites a recent Maybelline campaign: The brand was preparing to launch new products for a type of makeup application, contouring, and it used Google Insights to make “how-to” videos, which were then personalized by customer intent, demographic, and more. The result? Maybelline’s videos racked up a reported nine million views.

Don’t Forget About New Devices

Essentially, consumers are, at the base level, looking to be recognized for who they are by their favorite brands — regardless of device.

63 percent of people expect brands to deliver a “consistent experience” every time they interact. For marketers who have been paying attention to lessons learned from experiments in omnichannel, this stat should come as no surprise — but marketers now need to take this lesson and incorporate it when it comes to a new suite of devices and touch points. Anymore, it’s not just about synchronization across mobile, tablet, and desktop; as usage continues to skyrocket, connected assistants (Amazon Echo, Google Home, Microsoft Cortana) and IoT devices matter just as much.

“As consumer behaviors shift, it will be important to rethink the investments we make in the user experience,” TWG’s report concludes. “Removing friction and bridging the gaps between channels — all while treating each customer as a unique individual — will be key.”

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Staples Brings In Former Agency Exec Michelle Bottomley As CMO

Staples has hired Michelle Bottomley, an executive with a background in ad agencies and financial services, as its Chief Marketing Officer.

In this role, Bottomley, who succeeds the retiring Frank Bifulco, is charged with running marketing across Staples’ channels. Among her first priorities involves helping to promote the company’s new emphasis on delivery in North America.

She will report to Staples’ CEO and President Shira Goodman.

“Michelle brings tremendous breadth and balance in the marketing profession, and has a well-earned reputation as a leader of high-performing teams,” said Goodman, in a statement. “Her strong background in business-to-business marketing, including working closely with and leading sales teams, and deep expertise in digital marketing will be critical as we transform Staples to be a solutions provider for businesses.”

Bottomley joins Staples from her post as Global Chief Marketing and Sales Officer at the human resources consultancy Mercer. She has held CMO role at credit card issuer Barclaycard after a 10-year run at Ogilvy & Mather, where Bottomley last served as COO of the WPP Group agency’s New York office.

Staples’ in-store kiosks have been part of its omnichannel strategy.

Staples Faces Wider Retail Challenges

Among the challenges Bottomley faces, along with other retailers, is driving Staples’ online-to-offline integration and discovery. Over the past year, Staples has narrowed its focus to North America, having closed down operations and ceased investments in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.

In May, Staples launched a campaign — the fourth such national marketing and advertising effort in its 31-year history. Under the tagline “Staples – It’s Pro Time,” the marketing effort sought to connect the brand to the daily life of professionals in the workplace.

The goal was to look beyond retail and address the complete spectrum of Staples customers, from consumers to small and mid-sized businesses, and enterprise customers.

As part of Staples new focus beyond retail, Goodman recently told analysts durng the company’s Q1 earnings that it expects 60 percent of sales to come from deliveries.

Staples’ Business Lounge is another part of it the chain’s attempts to appeal to professionals.

The company has 1,225 stores, along with 40 warehouses and “fulfillment centers” across the U.S. Goodman discussed the challenging retail environment right now and how Staples plans to combat it.

“Let’s look at retail for a minute, if you take technology as an example, technology was responsible for half of our comps decline in retail,” Goodman said (via Seeking Alpha) in mid-May. “That’s both due to the industry as well us by pulling back from promotional technology, but having said that, we sold higher-end technology. Our team did an amazing job of attaching that with services. They leveraged their expertise to find the right technology for our customers, and as a result, gross margin dollars are up. And I think that is really indicative of our strategy.”

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