Catalina Brings In Ex-Kraft Exec Tom Corley To Head Retail Analytics

Shopper analytics provider Catalina has appointed Tom Corley as Global Chief Retail Officer and President of U.S. Retail.

Corley, who has held executives posts at Kraft Foods Group and CPG sales consultancy Acosta, will lead Catalina’s U.S. retail business and provide additional leadership to Catalina’s retail clients in Europe and Japan.

“We are excited to welcome Tom to our leadership team,” said Andy Heyman, CEO of Catalina. “Catalina is focused on expanding our capabilities and value proposition to help retailers efficiently grow and meet the opportunities of a fast-changing marketplace. Tom brings a fresh perspective to those efforts and a deep understanding of how to drive win-win relationships between CPG manufacturers and retailers given his extensive experience working with both parts of our network.”

Catalina has struck a number of high-profile partnerships with location data providers like PlaceIQ and has been tapped by Pinterest to expand its insights into CPG purchasing decisions.

By its nature, CPG brands have tended to rely on retailers to manage point-of-sale and marketing campaigns at the store level. Over the past three years, CPG brands have been aggressively exploring new ways to reach connected consumers directly, typically via app-based offers to drive store visits. But the ability to capture attribution data — did this mobile ad lead to an actual sale — has required layers of proof.

And that’s the challenge Catalina faces in a crowded analytics landscape where so many companies are promising to deliver the facts on in-store attribution. Finding the right allies and helping demonstrate Catalina’s positing in the retail space is what Corley is charged with.

He’s got a lot to work with already, as Catalina boasts of its partnerships with retailers encompass more than 27,000 stores in the United States and 53,000 globally, reaching more than 528 million shoppers with personalized digital and in-store marketing solutions that drive trial, loyalty and sales volume for retailers and CPG brands. Catalina’s advanced shopper analytics and team of 150 data scientists deliver powerful, actionable insights that improve marketing performance and efficiency.

“Catalina is creating exciting new opportunities for retailers to connect with shoppers to build loyalty and engagement,” said Todd Morris, Catalina Global Go-to-Market President. “Tom is the right person to drive those innovations forward and build even deeper partnerships with our retailers.”

“I am excited about the value Catalina delivers to its partners and in the investments it continues to make in advancing its technology to drive shopper intelligence for retailers,” said Corley. “Catalina has an unparalleled opportunity to be a catalyst for retailers as they work to more effectively engage shoppers, including the 97 percent of households that shop at brick and mortar stores every week.”

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Target Adds Google Voice Assistant Shopping Nationwide

Target is the latest brick-and-mortar brand to sign on to accept requests made by owners of the Google Home through their voice-activated Google Assistant (aka “Okay, Google”) for delivery or pickup via its local online shopping marketplace Google Express.

In essence, the arrangement represents an expansion of Target’s existing use of Google Express.

Starting today, Target shoppers at most of its 1,800 stores in the United States can access items through Google Express and with the Google Assistant (except for Alaska and Hawaii). Target will offer two-day delivery, as well as free shipping for any orders over $35, Google says in a blog post.

Coming In 2018

Most of the capabilities of shopping through Google Express won’t be available until 2018. For example, after the new year, Target customers will also be able to use their Target loyalty membership through REDcard to get 5 percent off most Target purchases and free shipping when using Google Express. In addition, in 2018, Target shoppers will be able to link their and Google accounts, so the service will remember all their favorite items.

“We’re teaming up with Google to create innovative digital experiences using voice and other cutting-edge technologies to elevate Target’s strength in style areas such as home, apparel and beauty,” Target says. “Work is underway for Google and Target teams to bring this all to life.”

In August, Walmart unveiled plans to rollout a similar voice-activated shopping via Google Express and Google Home tools for its 4,700 U.S. stores and its fulfillment network “to create customer experiences that don’t currently exist within voice shopping anywhere else,” including choosing to pick up an order in store (often for a discount) or using voice shopping to purchase fresh groceries across the country.

These partnership on voice-activation comes roughly a year after Google Home debuted as a Connected Home product to augment Google Assistant.

“Shopping isn’t always as easy as it should be,” Sridhar Ramaswamy, SVP for Ads and Commerce, said in a blog post at the time of the Walmart deal’s announcement “When was the last time you needed to pick up something from the store but didn’t have the time to make the trip? Or you went to the store only to realize they didn’t have the brand you wanted? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could get what you want, however you want, from the stores where you already shop? We launched Google Express and shopping on the Google Assistant to do just that: make it faster and easier for you to shop your stores like Costco, Target and  Walmart.”

Okay, Google, Target shoppers are ready to talk.

Target’s Many Omnichannel Steps

For Target, the expanded Google partnership follows a series of steps designed to tackle one of the primary challenges facing its omnichannel strategy by rivals like Amazon. In August, for example, Target acquired transportation tech company Grand Junction to promise same-day delivery to customers to match one of key appeals of Amazon’s discount shopping subscription program, Prime.

It’s the latest salvo store brand has taken to meet consumers’ demands in the age of Amazon and e-commerce. Those demands include personalized recommendation and satisfying customers’ purchasing preferences, such as online shopping/in-store pickup.

But as Amazon has expanded its discounts and two-day shipping with its Prime membership option, and has just heralded its Instant Pickup option, retailers have turned to one advantage they still possess — at least for the moment — in relation to Amazon: proximity to their customers and known inventory, which makes it possible to offer the ultimate convenience of letting someone click “buy” and then having it brought to them within a few hours.

The Rise Of Connected Intelligence, The Knowledge Graph

In general, the adoption of voice-activation and on-demand delivery/pickup follows the wider capabilities stemming from the rise of Connected Intelligence and the Knowledge Graph, which have propelled personalized, one-to-one connections between brands and digital assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant, Microsoft’s Cortana, and Samsung’s Bixby as they enter the mainstream of consumer behavior.

While Amazon’s Alexa has assumed an early position as a leading voice-activated assistant, Google has stepped up its push into the space as its aligns its services to brick-and-mortar brands such as Panera Bread, which became one of the first national restaurant chains to begin offering voice-activated ordering and payment through Google Assistant.

The voice-activated ordering is currently available in Panera’s hometown of St. Louis and at its six locations in the Silicon Valley area. A full rollout of voice ordering is expected to come to all of Panera’s 2,000-plus U.S. locations by the end of the year, the company has said.

Other national brands that have formally aligned with Google’s voice-activated virtual assistant to accept spoken orders via the delivery marketplace Google Express, including Costco, Guitar Center, Kohl’s, L’Occitane, Payless, PetSmart, Road Runner Sports, Sur La Table, Ulta, Walgreens, and Amazon’s Whole Foods.

In the case of Target, the retailer has been aggressively — and at times, fitfully — revising its omnichannel strategy. For example, earlier this year, it decided to abandon its sub rosa e-commerce program called Goldfish, which was dubbed as the “store of the future.”

Before that, in August 2015, Target started a beacon program with Estimote to round out its in-store sales assistance. It’s unclear how vital the beacon program has been — or even whether Target has continued to use it —  since the company has not discussed those efforts publicly. Along the way, Target’s experiments with interactivity has included retail pop-ups and a showcase IoT-based connected home store in San Francisco.

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To Promote Soft Surroundings’ Store Expansion, Affiliate Marketing Helps Reach Influencers

Even as many major retailers pull back on the number of stores, women’s apparel chain Soft Surroundings is continuing its cross-country expansion.

The fashion retailer, which originated as a catalog company in 1998, has just opened its 54th location in New York last month. But a large part of its marketing has some tie to its publisher roots: Soft Surroundings has begun working with affiliate marketing platform Pepperjam to extend its reach to “marketing influencers” in the hopes of inspiring other consumers to walk through its locations.

“We have changed our affiliate philosophy in the last couple of years,” says Kim Hess, Soft Surroundings Affiliate Marketing Analyst. “We are not hugely promotional since we believe that the more coupons you offer, you train your customer to wait for a sale, thus avoiding paying full price. We do not want to steal the sales away from our other channels (specifically email and organic), so we limit our coupon publishers. We really appreciate the content publishers efforts for bringing in new customers and truly influencing sales. We will continue to grow the content publisher reach.

“We have recently signed on with ShopStyle, so hopefully we will see a nice increase of traffic, sales and brand awareness,” Hess adds. “I appreciate the update on new content publishers that appears in my inbox — and I always vet them.”

We checked in with Maura Smith, SVP Head of Affiliate Marketing for Pepperjam, to explain how the company’s publisher-marketing partners can connect online-to-offline sales for clients like Soft Surroundings.

GeoMarketing: How does affiliate show the overlap between engaging content and advertising?

Maura Smith: Affiliate marketing is one of the most effective revenue sources when it comes to merging content creation and advertising. Influencers and publishers can sustain their content by monetizing it to engage viewers and convert views into clicks. Influencers can incorporate affiliate links into their blog posts and social media campaigns ultimately blending content with advertising seamlessly- engaging their reader and creating a revenue stream. Affiliate marketing provides a unique content marketing approach, encapsulating all forms of digital–email, display, social, search, website–and enhancing opportunity for affiliates and brands alike.

How can affiliate sales drive online-to-offline store visits for brick-and-mortar brands?

The evolution of technology has derailed the myth that affiliate marketing is an online only marketing channel. Customer journeys are not single touchpoints, but rather a web of interactions across channels and mediums– not all of which necessarily result in a conversion. The same holds true for affiliate marketing. Online interactions with affiliate sites may encourage a conversion in a brick and mortar location making capturing the customer interactions a challenging task. Online to offline marketing tactics include the use of promotional codes tracking campaign effectiveness through brands’ POS systems. This strategy can also be leveraged in a reverse scenario for offline to online conversions. The use of codes in radio, podcasts or word-of-mouth can now be tracked to publishers through technology available to brands through Pepperjam.

How does it help close the gap between online and offline commerce?

Brands are adapting to changing commerce by enabling holistic tracking to ensure that purchases are attributed to the appropriate digital channel. Take, for instance, the use of codes in radio, podcasts or word of mouth that are used to complete online purchases. Transactions associated with these code redemptions can be attributed back to the true referrer of the sale with the use of the proper technology. Additionally, omnichannel purchases such as those that are influenced online but physically picked up in a store are now able to be tracked back to an affiliate referral source. Brands must realize that their network of affiliate marketing publishers is a distribution resource to marketing opportunities both online or in-store serving up new and innovative opportunities as the market changes.

Additionally, the rise of influencer marketing cannot go unnoticed when it comes to commerce, both online and offline. Influencers are naturally known for their digital marketing savviness; however, this reach extends offline as well. Sophisticated influencers leverage the power of their audience to engage in offline regional activities and special events. They can aid in closing the online to offline gap through targeted campaigns with a focus on consumer geography and demographics. The tactic of targeting a specific audience fuels brands to drive value in omnichannel engagement and conversions.

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How Walmart Plans To Connect With App Content And Services Through Button Marketplace

Walmart is the latest retailer to sign on to Button Marketplace, an app engagement and payments platform that connects mobile content and commerce brands.

In addition to adding Walmart, the Button Marketplace has also added more than 30 diverse new retailers to the platform. These include fashion companies such as Gap, Express, and Under Armour; digital travel brands such as Hotwire, HomeAway, and VRBO; retail giants such as Target, QVC, Walgreens, and Sears; among many others.

The Marketplace is run by a company called Button, which provides the connective tissue between complementary mobile apps and websites to promote loyalty and payment.

Just by way of explanation, last May, The Weather Channel app began featuring Button Marketplace apps from Uber, Groupon,, Caviar, and Resy.  As a result, its users would be able to hail a ride, sign up for a deal, get a food delivery, or make a reservation without leaving The Weather Channel to connect with those functions. In addition to maintaining engagement, The Weather Channel could potentially drive revenue through affiliate deals to promote those separate app functions.

As Walmart seeks to combat rival Amazon to be the primary online and offline shopping center for consumers, the extension to other apps within its own mobile base could help it prove its own greater convenience to consumers.

Michael Jaconi, founder and CEO of Button, was particularly ebullient in announcing what he believes the benefits are to the retail giant.

“Walmart joining Button’s Marketplace is one of the greatest accomplishments for the company to date,” said Jaconi, at his company’s Tap 2017 conference. “Enabling Walmart to expand the partnerships that matter most to them to the mobile channel is a core ingredient in their digital growth strategy. Now, with Button playing an important role in that strategy, I’m confident our platform will deliver the highest-converting channel for mobile buyers that exists.”

Jaconi backs up his claims by noting that as mobile commerce continues to grow, with smartphone sales expected to reach more than $102 billion in 2017 alone, retailers are seeking new avenues to tap into the growth of the mobile economy and acquire new users for the highest converting channels they have — their apps.

Back in February 2016, we spoke to Mike Dudas, Button’s co-founder, chief revenue officer, about the role that mobile was playing in blurring the lines between online and offline for retailers.

“We are focused on mobile commerce,” Dudas told us at the time. “But what’s really surprising is that mobile commerce is actually happening in store. For example, Walmart saw that something like 10 percent of their mobile transactions are happening in store on device.

“People want to walk in to a store and if it doesn’t have the good on the shelf, they say, ‘Guess what, I’ll buy it from you on my phone.’ You’re going to see retailers responding to this. You’re going to be able to buy anything and get it delivered at the biggest, most savvy and sophisticated retailers. There’s going to be a much bigger shift to transactions that occur on what some would call ‘remote commerce,’ but I would call “proximity commerce,” as I tap the phone and pay with a credit card.

“Then, there’s this whole class of transactions that occur with services like Uber, and other platforms where you can book anything from food to hospitality to movie tickets,” Dudas said, foreshadowing the dozens of partners Button has signed up since.

The Walmart deal follows its recent aim at Amazon by partnering with Google on voice-activated shopping.

Owners of the Google Home will be able to speak orders to their voice-activated Google Assistant (aka “Okay, Google”) for delivery or pickup via its local online shopping marketplace Google Express. The Walmart connection came on the heels previous store partnerships with Costco, Target, and Whole Foods, which, coincidentally, is being acquired by Amazon for $13.7 billion.

In addition to adding Walmart and other retailers, Button is also concentrating on publisher apps as well. It has signed up social news outlet Buzzfeed, which will be able to tap into mobile commerce apps in the same way The Weather Channel’s app is through the Button Marketplace.

“Buzzfeed is the king of merging content and commerce in the most authentic way,” said Jaconi. “Incorporating mobile shopping for consumers within their properties is an exciting opportunity, and the variety of Button Merchants combined with Buzzfeed’s content creates endless possibilities for all partners – a win, win all around.”

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What Location Strategies Are Major Brands Using To Make Retail Relevant Again?

The challenges of omnichannel retail are well known by major brands and while the situation is largely a “glass half full,” there are signs that marketers’ focus is sharpening when it comes to using location data to shape the way they understand and reach their customers.

That’s the gist of a report by location data provider Blis, which rounded up thoughts by marketing executives at Verizon, Microsoft, Coca-Cola, Best Buy, DSW and Chili’s. It explores the current thinking by retail marketers on how to leverage location data to bolster their marketing strategies.

The report, Transforming Customer Engagement with Location-Based Technologies, finds that brands feeling confident in their ability to employ geo-data to drive foot traffic.

Executives at of DSW and Coca-Cola in particular emphasized location data’s ability to allow for greater personalization and context when communicating with their customers, while Microsoft and Verizon touted location insights as providing the connective tissue among a range of media channels as well as emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence/machine learning, voice-activation and Connected Intelligence, and smart homes/cars.

The bottom line: location is essential to communication between brands and consumers in terms of promoting discovery and engagement.

John Carroll, VP General Manager, E-Commerce, Coca-Cola North America: “It’s important that the linkage between what we’re trying to communicate with our brand to what the consumer is doing contextually is clear. It’s also important that we have the opportunity to really drive an experience online, whether through video, creative banner ads, or creative copy. We want to have a brand-building experience online and to drive purchase closer to the shopper.”

Wade Allen, VP Digital Guest Experience & Analytics, Chili’s (Brinker International): “Considering the way consumers use their mobile phones and the need for immediacy in our society, you can’t help but question whether or not we should shift more money out of television advertising and into the digital world. I don’t know what the right percentage is, but my belief is we can’t follow the 80/20 or 90/10 model anymore. Instead, we need to get closer to a 60/40 or 65/35 model with the smaller amount being digital.”

Shari Rossow, VP Retail Operations, Best Buy: “We’re trying to make it easier for customers to start and stop anywhere. It’s now a basic expectation for how we all shop.”

Beth Rick, Sr. Director, Transformation, DSW Inc.: “If you had every single piece of customer data, you could organically become a part of their lives wherever they are. You would be in the fabric of everything, because you would know where they’re located, what information they’re looking at, how they’re using it, what they’re interested in, what their behaviors are; and at that point in time, we would just try to make shoes part of their life… They would just think about shoes and DSW is the place they would go.”

ShiSh Shridhar, Director, Business Development, Data, Analytics & IoT, Microsoft: Retail Sector: “That physical experience is one aspect of it: digital and physical should complement each other. The other aspect is that there will be a lot more channels embedded into how we buy. There are a lot of capabilities available today through things such as cognitive services and artificial intelligence that are going to be used. For instance, the phone camera becomes a channel. We will be capable of pointing a phone camera at a product such as a pair of shoes someone is wearing, and the phone can identify what those shoes are, show prices at different retailers, and then we can buy with a single click.”

Jamie Crespi, Blis VP Marketing

We also checked in with Jamie Crespi, Blis VP Marketing, for her view of the questions posed by the company’s report.

GeoMarketing: What are retailers doing to engage with consumers more effectively in the digital space?

Jamie Crespi: As the findings of the report shows, personalization is top of the retailers’ agenda to get through to consumers across multiple digital touchpoints. It’s important that they use the abundance of data available to them to make their targeting as relevant and interesting as possible, while ensuring they’re serving the right ads on the right devices at the right moment.

This is where location data comes in, as it helps retailers to better understand their customers (and potential customers) and brings the physical and digital worlds ever-closer together. Location data is one of the richest forms of data available for retailers looking to engage with consumers more effectively. It provides brands with contextual insights while allowing them to understand the impact of ads on their consumers behaviors. Brands using location data are able to efficiently target potential customers and drive them in-store.

What is the business value of leveraging location data, and what are the potential risks?

Accurate location data means great message relevancy for brands which leads to a higher likelihood for consumer engagement. At the end of the day, reaching the right consumers with the relevant creative to drive an action is really what it’s all about. Additionally, as our contributors like ShiSh Shridhar of Microsoft and Beth Rick of DSW point out, driving in-store foot traffic is a major bonus to leveraging location data. It’s important to think about location data as an insights and planning tool, not just a means by which to deliver advertisements.

To many, leveraging location data (and leveraging it in a more robust way outside of just geofencing) is still a relatively new concept, but it’s quickly becoming absolutely integral for businesses with brick and mortar locations. Their businesses are reliant on people visiting their stores – for this reason, there’s no reason not to test it.

Source: Blis

How will location-based technologies become part of a greater digital strategy?

David Garcia, Director of Experience Innovation at Verizon, makes a really interesting point when he says how exciting the idea of converging location services with other emerging techs such as AI and IoT are.

At Blis, we’ve already started to use machine learning to predict where consumers will go to offer richer insights to brands and allow for better planning. Being able to accurately identify people who we know are either highly likely or definitely going to visit a store is invaluable as it eliminates waste in spend and increases campaign performance; and this is something we can do with the help of AI.

As David puts it, when these things start to click, you’ll see things you couldn’t have imagined. We believe it’s crucial to keep innovating to better understand consumers.

What trends will have the most impact on location-based advertising in 2018 and why?

One of the biggest developments of 2017 has been a shift towards Cost-per-Visit (CPV) models of measurement. We were early adopters back in April, and have begun to charge clients based only on the people that actually visit target locations. The response has been great as it reduces the risk for advertisers who aren’t sure if they’re getting good returns on their investments and puts the onus back on the vendors. We feel this movement will only grow and develop into 2018, as more platforms like ours move away from click-based metrics and towards models which foster more trusting relationships between vendors, agencies and their brands.

What impact will voice activation/intelligent assistants like Alexa, Siri, Okay Google have on the way geo-data is used for marketing and advertising?

This again ties in with David’s point, and it’s certainly going to be exciting to see how these types of technologies will combine. Ever since they’ve come onto the scene, brands have been wondering how best to harness their potential. One of the key benefits of these services, like Siri & Okay Google, being on your handheld devices is that you can use them when you’re out and about. I’d bet that plenty of voice searches are relevant to their location, as you may need to be reactive when looking for a business or service and this is when your intelligent assistant knowing where you are will come in handy. It also gives local businesses new opportunities to pick up customers.

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Voice-Activated Intelligent Assistants Are Already Influencing Holiday Shopping

While the temperature is still in the 80s across most of the U.S., it’s not too early for retailers to think about the holiday season: Over a third of customers will start their shopping for the December holidays in October or earlier — and voice-activated intelligent assistants are already influencing consumers’ gift choices as a search tool, according to a new report from eMarketer.

As students head back to school and shoppers turn their attention to the fall and winter holidays, several trends from last year will hold true: Customers will start research early; they will look to their mobile and connected devices for guidance throughout the shopping journey both in-store and out; and retail sales — both physical and ecommerce — will grow. The key shift is in how customers looking for gifts are making their searches — and what kind of digital options they expect from the retailers they will patronize.

What does this mean for marketers?  Well, “consumers expect variable fulfillment options,” eMarketer‘s report states. “Half now buy online and pick up in-store.”

As such, implementing in-store pickup programs should be of great importance to retailers as they begin now to prepare for the holiday season. Several have seen the writing on the wall: Target, for its part, offers in-store pickup and also recently rolled out same-day delivery in advance of the holiday sales push.

Secondly, as voice-searches continue to surge — especially those made via voice-activated intelligent assistants — they will continue to impact the way that customers discover and choose products across the board. This is a trend for retailers to be mindful of now, considering that eMarketer reports that the technology is already assisting users with searches related to the holiday season.

“The way to participate [here] is for a business to develop a ‘skill,’” said Bing Ads’s Purna Virji in a panel discussion on the topic last month. “To use a travel example, if Expedia had a skill that it creates for Cortana, I could talk to Cortana to book me a flight. I could say, ‘I’m going to Boston next week, can you get me a hotel?’” This works for retailers as well.

Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, brands can begin the process of listing or correcting their digital location information, products/offerings, and more such voice-activated assistants may see them as the best option to recommend when a consumer makes a branded or unbranded search.

As J. Walter Thompson’s Elizabeth Cherin explained in a conversation with GeoMarketing at Cannes Lions this year, “This idea of algorithm optimization [is] like the new SEO: Brands [need to get their] underlying data layer ready for consumption by these devices.”

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Amazon Adds ‘Instant Pickup’ Points To Brick-And-Mortars

Amazon is rolling out instant pickup points on five college campuses where shoppers can collect their items immediately after ordering, Reuters reported Tuesday — a move aimed at shortening delivery wait times as well as expanding the company’s brick-and-mortar ambitions following the launch of pop-up stores and its major acquisition of grocery emporium Whole Foods.

Here’s how it works: Shoppers on the Amazon mobile app can select from several hundred pre-available items at each “kiosk” location. Then, Amazon employees in a back room load the ordered items into lockers within two minutes, and customers receive bar codes on their mobile devices in order to access them.

The initial limited rollout reportedly sees Amazon making a physical push for fast-selling items that shoppers might not ordinarily order online — like drinks or snacks — as well as a few more substantial products, like phone chargers. So, is Amazon aiming to compete with vending machines?

The Retailer Response

While the rollout might at first appear to simply put Amazon in competition with Coke machines, the long view of the impact is quite different. This isn’t about soft drinks: As Forrester analyst Ananda Chakravarty put it, “this might work for some electronic gadgets that are not commonly available at vending machines, [but] two minutes is too long to wait for a soda can.”

Instead, this indicates that Amazon has the drive — and likely, the means — to begin putting instant pickup into practice for a much wider range of products. Might real-time pickup of shoes or books be next, further threatening brick-and-mortars?

Perhaps. But the silver lining for physical retailers is that their stores already function as instant pickup points; it’s simply about integrating the technology aspect so that customers can find or purchase their products on demand.

As we wrote earlier this year, brick-and-mortar businesses are actually the backbone of delivery enterprises like Postmates, which uses the city and the city’s retailers essentially as its warehouses. These types of partnerships could be one of the keys to competing with the likes of Amazon: The physical store locations act as stockrooms, and companies like Postmates provide the immediate or near-immediate local delivery — acting as a competitor to Amazon Prime.

“In a sense, yes, what we’re allowing these retailers to do is to emulate what Amazon is doing with Prime Now,” said Holger Luedorf, former SVP of business at Postmates. “They can do the same thing because they have a great variety of goods, and the only thing they are missing is the logistics piece. And that can be solved [through] partnerships.”

Additionally, retailers like Kohl’s have seen success through embracing buy online, pick-up in-store programs to address the “instant” aspect. After all, brick-and-mortars don’t need take their time rolling out instant pickup “kiosks”; they have the stores.

For its part, Target has taken a direct step to tackle one of the primary holes in its omnichannel strategy by acquiring transportation tech company Grand Junction to promise same-day delivery to customers — a clear step to address Amazon’s moves as retail undergoes a rapid transformation.

Amazon’s next steps are unknown. But the brick-and-mortar future will almost certainly continue to rely on on-demand partnerships — both with Amazon and with other competitors — and “instant pickup” is an option that existing retailers need to embrace now.

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Department Stores’ Pains Eased In Q2, But Challenges Are Digging In

This past week’s earnings results for Macy’s and Kohl’s were brighter than expected, but that doesn’t mean troubles afflicting major retailers are fading.

As eMarketer pointed out on Thursday, Macy’s same-store sales slipped 2.8 percent — the 10th consecutive quarterly drop.

Meanwhile, Kohl’s same-store sales were essentially flat, falling 0.4 percent year-over-year, continuing a dynamic that was seen for the past five quarters.

Even Nordstrom’s reversal was fairly meager, as it delivered a same-store sales gain of 1.7 percent.

On Friday, JCPenney posted a 1.3 percent declines in same-store sales, a bit worse than the expected fall of 1.2 percent.

The retailer, like its rivals, have been aggressively pursuing in-store omnichannel strategies designed to combat online showrooming, even as it and other major store brands shrink the number of locations they have.

For JCPenney, it did point to some bright spots in its home, fine jewelry, footwear and handbag, and Sephora beauty units.

“The company has gained customers across these segments — including younger shoppers who might previously have shunned JCP,” GlobalData Retail’s Saunders told CNBC about JCPenney’s focus on the home, footwear, and fashion categories.

Looking at how broader shifts away from malls and other big boxes have seen a retreat in foot traffic, eMarketer, citing RetailNext data, says that through July, sales and traffic at US brick-and-mortar stores have declined each month since at least January 2014. Both Macy’s sand Kohl’s, for instance, said on Thursday Q2 traffic declined.

“Department stores themselves also have failed to keep up with fast fashion rivals like Zara,” eMarketer says. “They also have shot themselves in the foot with frequent promotions and one-day sales.”

Some observers find that omnichannel moves, such as advancement of mobile-based loyalty programs, are unlikely to reverse the trajectory of department stores’ dwindling fortunes.

“It’s all band-aid stuff, said Mark Cohen of Columbia Business School in an interview with eMarketer. “The slope of the curve of their performance continues to point downward. The slope may be abating a bit, but not turning up. Macy’s is the poster child of the whole sector. The department store genre is in decline.”

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Domino Mag Teams With Amex On Hamptons ‘Platinum’ Pop-Up Shop

Domino, the content and commerce company focused on home décor, unveils its latest summer experiment in “experiential marketing” and co-branding in the Hamptons with American Express this weekend.

At same time, Domino is planning an upcoming Los Angeles collaboration with luxury retailer Fred Segal for the end of the year.

American Express and Domino will host “Platinum Summer” at the Topping Rose House, a tony hotel and restaurant in Bridgehampton. The Topping Rose also happens to be an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property.

The Platinum Summer will be open to the public Saturday, August 5th and Sunday, 6th from 10:00am – 6:00pm each day, and feature an “immersive Domino experience” that includes products chosen by Domino editors that are intended to celebrate summer and the “American Express Platinum lifestyle.”

Merchandise will range from beach tote essentials to housewares to perfect host gifts and lawn games.

As a direct appeal to high-end shoppers who frequent the Hamptons — and as an example of the kind of rewards programs available to its upscale cardholders — American Express Platinum Card Members will have special access to private shopping hours before it opens to the general public.

The alliance with Amex follows last month’s with collaboration with Walmart’s e-commerce brand Jet on a 1,500 square foot popup store in Brooklyn that showcased the connection between online and offline consumer experiences.

“For Domino, bringing our content and commerce to life through successful in-real-life shops and experiences is a big priority,” said Nathan Coyle, Domino CEO. “Today’s modern media company must drive revenue through many sources and offer premium advertisers and consumers something not offered anywhere else. Domino’s unique voice and devoted fan base have proven to be a winning formula with our experiential programming to date.   We are so happy to partner this summer with a premium brand like American Express and, this holiday season, a legendary retailer like Fred Segal to create more extraordinary experiences in 2017.”

Fred Segal’s LA outpost

“We are very excited to bring this unique shopping and interactive workshop experience to our Platinum Card Members in the Hamptons this summer,” said Janey Whiteside, executive vice president and general manager of Global Charge Products, Benefits and Services at American Express. “As a member of the Platinum Collective, Jessica Romm Perez, Editor-in-Chief of Domino, along with the Domino team, worked with us to curate this amazing collection and one of a kind access for our card members to enjoy as a part of this Hamptons popup.”

Separately, this holiday season, Domino and Fred Segal, LA’s iconic taste-making retailer, will collaborate on an exciting new project at Fred Segal’s new Sunset Boulevard flagship store, opening this fall. More details will be announced in coming weeks.

For Domino, these marketing alliances not only demonstrate its value as bridge between online and offline experiences, it also serves to highlight the media brand’s evolution.

First launched as a magazine in 2005 under publisher Condé Nast, it was closed four years later. Then, in 2013, the popularity of Domino, which was still potent among design enthusiasts, sought the title relaunched later that year as a quarterly magazine with with an e-commerce website.

Domino Summer Product Showcase

In terms of the benefits it is providing to marketing partners like Amex and Fred Segal, Coyle outlined the different strategies at work.

“For Amex and our Hampton activation this Friday through Sunday, part of the benefits for Amex are around Domino creating exclusive experiences for Amex Platinum Cardholders,” Coyle told GeoMarketing. “Specifically, the three workshops we are conducting over Saturday and Sunday are only available to Platinum Cardholders.

“For Fred Segal this holiday season, this will be the first time that Fred Segal has partnered with a publisher for one of its shop-in-shop experiences,” Coyle added. “Fred Segal of course has a long history of creating shop-in-shops for some of the coolest fashion and accessories brands — this will be the first time doing so with a publisher like Domino — with a proven track record of creating best-in-class experiences with our retail pop up shops.”

But the questions remain: Do these kinds of collaborations help drive foot traffic?

“They absolutely help drive foot traffic as we use our various marketing levers to promote the shops,” Coyle responded. “For example, we have over one million subscribers to our email list, and we are able to geo-target against that list to invite individuals in close proximity. We also use our social media channels and the digital and print publications to promote these programs.”

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Retailers Ramp Up AI Efforts, But Feel The Strains Of Catching Up

While brands from West Elm to Harley Davidson to Cosabella ramping up the use of artificial intelligence to better predict and connect with consumers, only 52 percent of retailers say that they’re able to manage real- time customer interactions, according to a global survey of 717 store brand marketing execs by Forrester and AI platform Emarsys.

That said, brands are scrambling to catch up. About 78 percent of retail organizations polled said spend on AI marketing technologies will increase over the next 12 months by at least 5 percent or more.

“AI is helping us to target specific segments of customers, which is increasing our customer base and helping us in addressing their needs,” one European respondent said.

Additionally, retail marketers plan to deploy AI marketing technologies to address foundational requirements for supporting real-time customer interactions, such as understanding cross-channel customer behavior (81 percent), mapping customer journeys (80 percent) and cross-device identity resolution (78 percent).

At the same time, about 65 percent of retailers voiced concern about attempts to keep up with consumers’ rapidly evolving tech choices and the complexity to form cross- channel customer relationships.

To get a better sense of where brands’ comfort with AI stands, the survey grouped retailers into four groups:

  • Experts (11 percent) who demonstrated true AI marketing readiness across all three dimensions.
  • Opportunists (34 percent ) who excelled at two of the three dimensions.
  • Novices (28 percent) who excelled at only one of the three dimensions.
  • Laggards (27 percent) who clearly struggled across all dimensions.

A clear majority of respondents (88 percent) “strongly agree or agree” that AI will reinvent the retail industry and dramatically change what the company does (81 percent).

In addition to finding ways of interacting with customers on their own terms, the bottom line of this call for “reinvention” is the pressure to personalize the shopping experience from Amazon.

Sales on July 11 surpassed Black Friday and Cyber Monday, making it the biggest day ever in Amazon history, the e-commerce giant said in a press release, noting that more than 200,000 women’s dresses — and more than 200,000 lightbulbs —  were purchased by customers on Prime Day 2017.

When asked about West Elm’s AI strategy, VP of Innovation Luke Chatelain told GeoMarketing, “We believe AI has a role in all facets of the technology we create. From programmatic emails to personalized product recommendations, we’re working to create better, more streamlined customer experiences that are personalized to each user.”

In the report summary, Emarsys and Forrester offer this additional guidance for retailers shifting to AI: “Misconceptions of tech skills required for AI marketing hinders mainstream adoption. Users are after all consumers too, they must get their hands-on AI-powered marketing tools to understand, control and teach it to get the best results.

“Not all firms will have all the required skills in the marketing organization, and given the talent shortage, it’s also likely that firms won’t be able to rely on external recruitment to fill the gaps,” the report warned. “Decision makers must educate themselves in all things AI, and ensure that for AI to work there is first and foremost excellent data stewardship, and not necessarily the need for marketers with tech skills.”

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