Why Pulling Out of Amazon Is the Smartest Decision for Your Brand

Nike announced that as part of the company’s focus on elevating consumer experiences through more direct, personal relationships, it will stop selling its merchandise directly to Amazon.com. Here’s why Nike made the right decision.

Nike announced that as part of the company’s focus on elevating consumer experiences through more direct, personal relationships, it will stop selling its merchandise directly to Amazon.com. Here’s why Nike made the right decision.

Partnering with Amazon undoubtedly has benefits — namely, a built-in audience and speedy delivery options. However, it’s crucial to consider what you’re jeopardizing in exchange. You’re losing control of how your brand is presented. Even if you’re lucky enough to benefit from Amazon’s search algorithm — another thing brands have no control over — you essentially have no say in how your brand experience is delivered.

Last year, Nike partnered with Jet.com, and given what Jet’s chief customer officer said, I’m not surprised. David Echegoyen told Footwear News, “the way in which people find, discover and use your product is as much part of the experience as the fact that you buy them and use them.” Echegoyen explained that Jet’s focus would be on delivering an experience that would allow both brands to utilize customer insights to enhance their experience. And because Nike products would only be sold direct from the brand on the Jet site, the confusion and brand dilution that shoppers often experience on marketplace platforms would effectively be eliminated.

What every brand should seek in its retail partners — and, really, all partners, to the extent that it’s possible — is recognition of the importance of delivering a cohesive brand experience at every touchpoint, and the desire and capabilities to do so. The advantages of owning your brand experience are abundant.

Control Your Customer Journey

By limiting the channels where your products are available, you’re better able to deliver the best experience to your customers. This includes everything from product recommendations to delivery preferences, the physical unboxing experience, and more. This controlled approach also serves as a preventive measure against counterfeiting issues that could otherwise tarnish your brand’s reputation.

Own Your Data

Amazon traces every shopper’s step, utilizing that data to make product suggestions based upon its own algorithm. These are insights that would be incredibly valuable to brands, arming them with information that can help to deliver a better experience across all platforms, ultimately earning loyal customers. The problem is Amazon owns that data and doesn’t share it with brands. Now, selling direct to consumer on your own channels provides you with 100 percent of your data, the benefits of which warrant its own article. With a compatible, focused retail partner, there may be more room for a discussion about data sharing.

Secure Better Profit Margins

It’s difficult to predict revenues when the sales process is out of your hands. Going direct to consumer gives brands the most control over profit margins. However, as a new or emerging brand, third-party channels are commonly part of the mix. Profit margins are dependent upon the type of partner and the value they bring to the table — or in this case, the cart. Amazon controls the market, so the terms of merchant agreements are almost certainly dictated. However, when you have a like-minded partner dedicated to delivering an experience, the terms may be subject to negotiation.

Shatter the Delivery Myth

Thanks to the “Amazon Effect,” brands and retailers have had to figure out how to meet delivery expectations. My company conducted a 2019 study that revealed online shoppers weigh shipping costs and delivery speed more heavily in their purchasing decisions than ever. Consider that 58 percent of respondents said shipping costs greatly impact their decision to make an online purchase, and 62 percent said free shipping was the most influential factor in their decision to make future purchases. By utilizing sales and transportation data from your fulfillment team, you can map your customers’ journeys and customize shipping pricing and delivery speed to meet their unique expectations.

Selling through partners can be a huge asset, but it means there will always be an intermediary between you and your customer. If your sales channels include third-party retailers, make sure you’re all on the same page. Amazon can bolster brands in the short term, but to build a sustainable business, you must control how customers experience your brand, wherever they are.

Maria Haggerty is CEO and one of the original founders of Dotcom Distribution, a premier provider of B2C and B2B fulfillment and distribution services. 

WWTT? Walmart Learns Important Lesson About Third-Party Sellers This Holiday Season

I’m not sure when Ugly Christmas Sweaters became a thing, but they seem to show up regularly each holiday season, spurred by Ugly Christmas Sweater parties and people who enjoy making poor fashion decisions. However, it seems this trend has gone awry for Walmart Canada.

I’m not sure when Ugly Christmas Sweaters became a thing, but they seem to show up regularly each holiday season, spurred by Ugly Christmas Sweater parties and  people who enjoy making poor fashion decisions. However, it seems that what used to be ironic sweater-wearing has turned into shock-value sweater-wearing for some individuals, and there are sellers out there who will gladly cash in on that trend. And so we have the recent problem that Walmart Canada faced when a number of highly inappropriate Ugly Christmas Sweaters were made available for purchase on walmart.ca by one of the third-party sellers, Fun Wear, that sells its merchandise on the site.

The sweater that has caused the most uproar features a bug-eyed Santa Claus in front of a table with three lines of a white substance, with the words “Let It Snow” below. Okay, so not great. But then it gets way worse.

https://twitter.com/HurrbaSousJohn/status/1203353309396029440?

Unfortunately for Walmart, this is more than an embarrassment for selling something tacky and enduring some snickering from the Internet. The product description, partially seen in the tweet above, is particularly problematic:

“We all know how snow works. It’s white, powdery and the best snow comes straight from South America. That’s bad news for jolly old St. Nick, who lives far away in the North Pole. That’s why Santa really likes to savor the moment when he gets his hands on some quality, grade A, Colombian snow. He packs it in perfect lines on his coffee table and then takes a big whiff to smell the high quality aroma of the snow. It’s exactly what he needs to get inspired for Christmas Eve.”

On Saturday, Dec. 7, Walmart Canada removed the product, and issued an apology. A spokesperson provided the following quote to Business Insider:

“These sweaters, sold by a third-party seller on Walmart.ca (our website in Canada), do not represent Walmart’s values and have no place on our website. We have removed these products from our marketplace. We apologize for any unintended offense this may have caused. These sweaters were not offered on Walmart.com in the US.”

Despite the removal of the product and the apology, the reference of “Colombian snow” has the National Agency for the Legal Defense of the State in Colombia prepared to sue. According to the Washington Post and El Tiempo, on Dec. 10 the agency stated that Walmart’s apology about the product from a third-party seller on Walmart.ca was not enough. Agency director Camilo Gómez Alzate provided this statement to El Tiempo, reported by the Washington Post:

“The Walmart sweater is an offense to the country. It generates damage to the legal products of Colombia and damage to the country’s reputation. Although Walmart apologized, the damage was done.”

So the lesson to be learned here: third-party sellers may expand the amount of business you do and the revenue you pull in, but you can’t always trust that their products will be in line with your company’s values. This was not the only Ugly Christmas Sweater that Fun Wear had up on Walmart Canada’s site … and the majority of them were in rather poor taste.

While Walmart may have policies in place to limit undesirable products from third-party sellers, it’s clear these policies are either difficult to enforce or they’re not being enforced. The consequence of losing customers over this is one thing, but having Colombia’s National Agency for the Legal Defense of the State sue if appropriate reparations aren’t made is an even bigger problem for the retailer.

What do you think marketers? Is it worth it to have third-party sellers offer their products on your sites, checked or unchecked, or are issues like this enough of a reason to avoid third-party relationships? Oh, and yes, Amazon is selling products with similar and identical designs.

 

UPS Begins Preparations for a Freight Strike

UPS has now begun discussions with UPS Freight customers to inform them of the potential for service disruption and the need to arrange alternative carriers. Because it cannot guarantee against a work stoppage, UPS can’t afford to put its customers’ volume at risk of being stranded in the UPS system.

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 picking up freight starting before the voting period (based on the below schedule) and will not resume operations until the vote has been completed.

This will have the same effect of going on strike. Luckily, it’s only UPS Freight this time. Here’s the email:

Dear (Customer Name):

UPS and the Teamsters Freight National Bargaining Committee concluded the current round of discussions on October 25, 2018. UPS’s offer, which we believe should be ratified, is an offer that rewards our employees with wages and benefits at the top of the industry and compensates them for their contributions to the success of the company. 

A union-hall vote, in which Teamster employees will go to their local union hall to cast ballots, is expected to take place November 7-11. At this point, UPS does not have an extension in place to the current UPS Freight contract.

To ensure transparency and not put your volume at risk, starting Thursday, November 1 UPS will not pick up any UPS Freight volume with a delivery date after November 8. The last day UPS will pick up UPS Freight will be Thursday, November 1 for five-day shipping commitments; Friday, November 2 for four-day shipping commitments; Monday, November 5 for three-day shipping commitments; Tuesday, November 6 for two-day shipping commitments; and Wednesday, November 7 for one-day shipping commitments.

If you have a bundled contract, or incentives dependent upon UPS Freight volume, we will ensure you experience no negative financial impact.

The UPS Small Package National Master Agreement (NMA) has been ratified. Customers can remain confident UPS is ready to continue to serve its small package customers throughout the holiday season and beyond.

We appreciate your patience as we work through this negotiation.

What This Means for Retailers

A strike could have a major disruption to retail and e-commerce businesses that rely on UPS Freight. Apart from DC-to-store shipments and some store-to-store loads, the less-than-load (and truckload) carriers transport inbound freight to DCs and warehouses once they clear ports, not to mention larger (non-parcel) deliveries directly to customers.

UPS has now begun discussions with UPS Freight customers to inform them of the potential for service disruption and the need to arrange alternative carriers. Because it cannot guarantee against a work stoppage, UPS can’t afford to put its customers’ volume at risk of being stranded in the UPS system. UPS is actively working to empty its network of freight by Fri., Nov. 9. UPS doesn’t want customer inventory custody issues as loads are abandoned throughout the network.

UPS Freight is the fifth-largest provider of LTL services, with $2.6 billion revenue in 2017. Keep in mind that even with UPS Freight in service, there was already a capacity crunch in the LTL market. Today’s announcement will leave many retailers scrambling to find alternative carriers.

I guess if there’s any good news, it’s that — unlike small parcel, which is dominated by the FedEx and UPS duopoly — there are many LTL alternatives in every region. Shippers that need help transitioning freight away from UPS have several options. They can directly contact other LTL providers or work with 3PLs and freight brokers. If they need referrals, Shipware is happy to help. Email rob@shipware.com.

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.

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 industries? Blame it on a competitive marketplace and people trying to stand out with that killer phrase that describes what they do? Blame it on retailers striving to explain and justify what they do to their corporate leaders? Or startups striving to associate new ideas to mainstream challenges? Or blame it on consultants for making the simple complex and charging for it.

What it doesn’t help are retailers. In a perfect world, retailers live their brand. They look for simple ways to communicate with a broad spectrum of customers, and need creative yet practical approaches to words. You’re a merchandiser, an e-commerce company, and a lifestyle brand, and it can be a cultural challenge to balance buzzword frenzy with simple words the market needs to hear about your company. My main problem with buzzwords — and I’ve been as guilty as anyone in the use of them, just read a few of my columns — is using terms in loose context can minimize the impact of the term and make it actually more confusing. Therefore, in the spirit of no buzzwords, this column is just that: real talk for real retailers.

Lets start with a few buzzwords:

  • Disruptive technology: This begs the question of how disruptive your disruptive technology has to be for you to claim that it’s truly disruptive vs. just moderately irritating.
  • Ecosystem: This buzzword got big in mid-2014, 2015 as Luma Partners really promoted its Lumascape. Next thing you know every vendor is using it and every internal IT team began following suit to describe their “data lake strategies” and “technology road map.” I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to referring to my business interdependencies using the same terminology we use to talk about global warming and our attempt to save the planet.
  • Millennials: Are millennials really a buzzword? They might be. They’ve become more than just another generational grouping. As more millennials enter the workforce, replacing the retiring baby boomers, we will continue to spend a lot of time talking about the impact they’re having on the intersection between business, technology and our interpersonal lives. Maybe more importantly, we will continue to try to figure out why they break up with each other via text.
  • Thought leadership: This buzzword was prevalent for many years, and I still don’t really know what it means — or maybe I thought I did and really didn’t. I was awarded Thought Leader of the Year in 2016, and had trouble describing the award outside of … unfortunately, it seems to be entrenched and positioned to bother us for another year. I’ve been trying desperately to think of a new term that could supplant it, but question if I’m enough of a thought leader to make that happen.
  • Storytellling: I have to confess that I’ve coached and advised leaders to use stories to convey important things about their businesses because a good story resonates better than death by Powerpoint presentation. Now we’ve got storytelling classes, storytelling departments, and even storytelling gurus. Once gurus come into the picture, we’ve officially hit buzz status
  • Artificial intelligence/machine learning: These are likely the most overused, misunderstood and confusing buzzwords. How many times have you heard, “We have AI.” While this area of discipline and technology advances will reshape much of what we know today, any buzzword that conjures up impending doom of the human race isn’t helping in a dynamic business world.
  • Big data: I have trouble with anything that starts with “big” as a modifier of an industry trend. What’s big, and is there bigger? Much like the term disruptive, big data is an overused phrase that doesn’t serve many outside of its sellers. Google, Facebook, Amazon.com, Microsoft, Apple have big data. If you really want to understand big data in our society, there’s a great book: “The Human Face of Big Data.” Warning, this book is big, literally. In the end, the term does little to help you contextualize marketing problems or your own internal data challenges.

We’re in a world of endless information. Buzzwords in my opinion distort real talk and make complex concepts harder for the masses to address in situational marketing. Have fun with it by infusing a NO Buzzword culture or, better yet, force the offender to fully explain the term in the context of your business. And remember the goal of words is not to show how smart you are versus; they are a way to level set on complex ideas.

Make the complex simple!

Understanding the Gender Effect of Technology Disruptors to Meet Consumer Expectations

Shopping preferences of men and women are diverging as each gender responds differently to disruptive technologies. This dynamic was highlighted in our new study, “Mind the Gap: The Gender Effect on Shopping Habits and Technology Disruptors.” In fact, according to the results, men are less likely to embrace disruptors like mobile shopping, Amazon.com, and discount retail than women.

Shopping preferences of men and women are diverging as each gender responds differently to disruptive technologies. This dynamic was highlighted in our new study, “Mind the Gap: The Gender Effect on Shopping Habits and Technology Disruptors.” In fact, according to the results, men are less likely to embrace disruptors like mobile shopping, Amazon.com, and discount retail than women.

Forty-four percent of male respondents to our survey cite being able to touch and feel a product as a main driver that takes them in-store, a sentiment shared by only 33 percent of women respondents. Surprisingly, men are much more likely to shop at full-priced retailers (42 percent) over discount retailers (18 percent), while women are more likely to shop at discount retailers (38 percent) over full-price retailers (31 percent).

Furthermore, only 22 percent of male respondents reported frequently shopping on mobile devices compared to 40 percent of women, and only 46 percent of men are frequently shopping on Amazon vs. 60 percent of women that are doing so.

As the retail industry continues to struggle to meet the evolving tastes of consumers, the results shed light on the importance for retailers and brands to rethink how products are dispersed between stores and online.

Women Are Driving Online Purchases

Not only are men shopping less frequently than women on Amazon and mobile devices, they’re making fewer purchases as well. Sixty-seven percent of male respondents made two or less purchases on a mobile device in the month prior to the survey vs. 62 percent of women. In addition, 22 percent of women made five or more purchases on Amazon in the last month vs. only 14 percent of men who did the same.

Men Are Less Likely to Use Amazon to Check Prices

Only 21 percent of men frequently use mobile devices to compare prices while in a physical store vs. 31 percent of women, and 54 percent of men say they check Amazon for products and prices before shopping elsewhere vs. 67 percent of women.

Women Prefer Discount Retailers More Than Men, But Online Discount Retailers Are Gaining Traction With Men

Top discount retailers are seeing a decidedly female in-store clientele. Only 13 percent of men surveyed frequently visit TJ Maxx vs. 30 percent of women. However, online discount retailers seem to be gaining traction with men, as 30 percent of male respondents frequently shop at online discount retailers compared to 22 percent at traditional brick-and-mortar discount retailers.

While predicting product preferences and pricing will continue to be a challenge given the constantly changing tastes of consumers, those able to “mind the gender gap” by tapping consumer-driven data to offer differentiated products that are priced right will be at a tremendous advantage despite these diverging shopping habits.

Amazon Accused of ‘Surge Pricing,’ Misleading Consumers During Prime Day

According to a recent report, a vendor who sells direct through Amazon has stepped forward to accuse the e-commerce giant of misleading business practices. Specifically, the vendor said that Amazon jacked up the suggested retail price of its product on Prime Day 2017 to make it seem like the discount consumers were getting was far better than it actually was.

According to a recent report, a vendor who sells direct through Amazon has stepped forward to accuse the e-commerce giant of misleading business practices. Specifically, the vendor said that Amazon jacked up the suggested retail price of its product on Prime Day 2017 to make it seem like the discount consumers were getting was far better than it actually was.

In the report, Jason Jacobs, founder of Remodeez — a company that makes nontoxic foot deodorizers and other odor-defense products — said he’s been doing business with Amazon since 2015 and has an agreement with the company that lists his product with a suggested retail price of $9.99. However, he found that on Prime Day, that price was nearly doubled.

“They showed the product at $15.42 and then exed it out to put ‘$9.99 for Amazon Prime Day,’” Jacobs told FOX Business. “And on the final day, the price was like $18.44. So, we put a support ticket in right away and I rallied some friends through social media to go to their complaint board and complain.”

Credit: FOX Business by Remodeez

Jacobs said the suggested price came back down to $9.99 the following day, but a little more digging showed that this wasn’t the first time Amazon did this to this product. Over the past year, Jacobs found that the suggested price of the product had been bumped up on two different occasions to more than $15. Important to note, Amazon’s agreement with Remodeez does enable it (Amazon) to set its own pricing as it sees fit.

Jacobs noticed that each time the price was increased over the past year, it correlated with media attention directed at its product. That coverage, in BuzzFeed on numerous occasions and in Forbes, led to an increase in demand for the product and, as it turns out, an increase in the suggested retail price. And those increases, according to Jacobs, caused sales to tank.

“It’s not like they’re bumping it by a buck and making a little bit more money,” he said. “They are really tanking sales and it kind of has a ripple effect to us, being a small company trying to do demand planning.”

Dynamic Surge Pricing

This kind of business practice from retailers isn’t uncommon. In fact, dynamic surge pricing — where retailers quickly change the price of products based on data-driven algorithms that look at things like demand, inventory and competitors’ prices — is a hot trend in the industry.

Think of it like surge pricing on an app like Uber. Though it did get out of hand and cause quite a controversy at one point (because of a screwy algorithm), Uber’s surge pricing is designed to enable the cost of a ride to reflect the current level of demand at any particular point in time.

It’s a practice that could make sense if executed correctly at retail. But without proper explanation to the customer, it more or less reads as a shady business practice. And the Federal Trade Commission keeps an eye out for that type of misleading sales information. Its recommendation is to make an item available at “list price on a regular basis for a reasonably substantial period of time” before setting a sale price. If a retailer appears to be veering away from that recommendation, the FTC can go after it.

Customer-Centric?

And that’s the case right now with Amazon. As part of its review of the company’s agreement to buy Whole Foods, the FTC is reportedly looking into whether the discounts that Amazon offers are actually as good as they seem to be. The FTC’s interest, more specifically, stems from a Consumer Watchdog complaint. In a report published in early July, the organization claimed that Amazon “routinely uses inflated and fictitious previous prices” to offer misleading discounts.

Not the kind of thing you expect from a company that claims right there in its mission statement that it puts the customer first…

Amazon refuted the Consumer Watchdog report, calling the study “deeply flawed” and based on incomplete data and improper assumptions. “The conclusions the Consumer Watchdog group reached are flat-out wrong,” the company said in a statement. “We validate the reference prices provided by manufacturers, vendors and sellers against actual prices recently found across Amazon and other retailers.”

And in response to the vendor accusations reported by FOX Business, Amazon said “Our customers expect to come to Amazon and find the lowest prices and we work hard to meet or beat them for all customers, across our entire retail selection. The world’s prices fluctuate all the time and we seek to match the lowest price.”

The Effectiveness of Pop-Up Shops and Partnerships

During a recent visit to New York City, I passed through Grand Central Station. There, I saw a hotbed of shopping activity: A section of Grand Central had been converted into a series of pop-up shops. What had happened to the retail bust?

Group of friends sitting outdoors with shopping bags - Several people holding smartphones and tablets - Concepts about lifestyle,shopping,technology and friendshipDuring a recent visit to New York City, I passed through Grand Central Station. There, I saw a hotbed of shopping activity: A section of Grand Central had been converted into a series of pop-up shops. What had happened to the retail bust?

The small pop-ups were doing a brisk business, selling everything from jewelry to men’s toiletries to candles. The shops were small, but had tons of personality. The experience was interactive and fun.

This was not an isolated incident. Pop-up shops are making their presence felt across the retail industry. The concept is not new — bazaars and flea markets have existed for many years. But lately, pop-up stores have become ubiquitous in everything from restaurants to rock festivals.

They are used by online retailers who are looking to experiment within the bricks-and-mortar space, and by chain stores who want to experiment with new locations and venues. Fashion retailer Nordstrom has launched pop-ups at music festivals that offer products and feature photo booths.

According to PopUp Republic, a service provider to the pop-up retail industry, pop-up shops have grown into a $50 billion industry and expected to grow further in 2017.

Why do retailers invest in pop-ups? Smaller retailers or Internet start-ups can launch a low-cost shop to test the waters without a significant time or money commitment. A new bricks-and-mortar retail storefront can cost tens of thousands of dollars to launch and often requires a lease of at least five years.

With a pop-up shop, the commitment can be a matter of months, with an investment of a few thousand dollars. And consumers seem to love it. They can touch and feel the merchandise and get to know the creator or store owner. The interaction often results in a loyal following. According to pop-up expert, The Lion’esque Group, one international foods and goods marketplace increased their e-commerce traffic by 300 percent through pop-ups.

Another growing retail concept is the store-within-a-store. Large retailers have been partnering with smaller businesses to set up areas within their stores for a differentiated experience for the shopper. Macy’s announced a partnership with beGlammed to provide at-home grooming and makeup services, and Neiman Marcus recently announced a partnership with Le Metier de Beaute to provide services such as manicures and blowouts at affordable prices.

Plus, JCPenney has had a partnership with Sephora for years, providing a cute area within the store where shoppers can purchase cosmetics and get quick makeovers. In its 1st Quarter Earnings call, JCPenney mentioned Sephora as one of the areas in the store with positive comp store sales and there are plans to add 16 new Sephora locations in June. These partnerships fulfill the goal of the retailer to pull in a different customer set, while also fulfilling the desire for a quick, differentiated experience for the customer.

For retailers who want to test the waters with a low-cost concept, partnering with another retailer or setting up a pop-up shop may be a viable solution. And for the customer, it provides a new, interactive shopping experience.

Next time you’re in Grand Central during the holiday season, check out the shopping arcade. It may be a nice place to pick up that unique gift or chat with a person who makes hand knit scarves by hand.

Note: The views expressed in this blog are those of the blogger and not necessarily of Synchrony Financial.

Retail’s Future: The Store as Entertainment

When was the last time you went to a store and felt happy just by being there? Remember the movie, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”? In it, Holly Golightly lovingly looks into the Tiffany store window on Fifth Avenue and says “… nothing very bad could happen to you there …” In today’s digital world, how can stores create the feeling of engagement and excitement that Holly felt?

Audrey Hepburn
Source: Pixabay

When was the last time you went to a store and felt happy just by being there? Remember the movie, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”? In it, Holly Golightly lovingly looks into the Tiffany store window on Fifth Avenue and says “… nothing very bad could happen to you there …” How wonderful to feel that about a store experience! Whether feeling special or entertained or valued, stores that make you feel that “nothing bad can happen” have a special place in the hearts of their customers.

In today’s digital world, how can stores create the feeling of engagement and excitement that Holly felt when looking at the Tiffany’s store window? Our surveys show that customers are still interested in shopping at stores, but the store experience they value today is very different than what they valued in the past. And their expectations of the future will be very different as well.

In the “Synchrony Financial Future of Retail Study,” when asked about the most exciting ideas for the future, 55 percent of consumers surveyed picked “an in-store experience that entertains me” as one of the top three most exciting ideas. And according to the “Synchrony 2016 Affluent Study,” about 70 percent of shoppers say they would rather spend money on experiences over spending on things. The message is clear — shoppers want to be entertained when shopping.

Below are some new shopping formats that we may see in the coming years as brands respond to this sentiment:

  • Experiences merged with shopping. Various categories are now being added to the retail experience. Examples include coffee shops, cafés, music experiences, bars or complimentary products or services inside the store. It’s a big reason why local “markets” are making a resurgence across America. Some call it “retail-tainment.” The retail experience can be a place to gather or a place to just relax and have fun.
  • Crafts and learning within the store. Retailers can let shoppers see how a product (like a leather belt) is made from scratch. While this experience is already being used, it may become more mainstream in the future.
  • Retailer apps that are interactive and combine the digital and store experience. For instance, a customer can pick out clothes and reserve a dressing room right from the retailer’s app. This is both a timesaver and a delighter.

Ryan Mathews, a Futurist at Black Monk Consulting says,

“So, the question then is, if you don’t need to go to a place to get stuff, what do you need to go to a place for? And that’s kind of what we call higher engagement things: the experience, advice, consultation, fun. It’s moved beyond transactions into real relationships.”

So, looking to the future, the bricks-and-mortar store may no longer be a place to just pick up a sweater or a pair of shoes. It may be a place to meet your friend for a drink, learn to mix a cocktail and pick up that cute scarf that goes perfectly with the pants you’re wearing. For the Holly Golightly of the future, that could be the next “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” experience.

Note: The views expressed in this blog are those of the blogger and not necessarily of Synchrony Financial.

Ding Dong, Prime Day Is Here

‘Twas the night before Prime Day, when all through the lands, consumers were searching for their favorite brands. Online purchases were placed by the shoppers with care, in hopes the 2-day delivery soon would be there.

‘Twas the night before Prime Day, when all through the lands
Consumers were searching for their favorite brands;

Online purchases were placed by shoppers with care,
In hopes the 2-day delivery soon would be there.

What am I, a farmer?All right, look, I may have been a literature and creative writing major in college, but I am not qualified to parody any more of that classic Christmas poem. I’m sorry. Send your complaints to mward@napco.com.

Sternly written complaint drafted? Excellent. Let’s talk Prime, and I don’t mean Optimus.

The number of Amazon Prime members is a fairly guarded secret, but according to a CNN Money article from January 2016, nearly half of the households in the U.S. have a membership, with the total estimate being 54 million memberships. That’s a whole lotta boxes.

Cats love Amazon Prime
TRUTH.

Nevertheless, Prime Day is upon us. I know this because I couldn’t look at a single thing online in the past week without coming across this most joyous of newly made up shopping holidays, July 12:

Will the sales be any better than last year? (Fact: While a bunch of people complained about the sales for 2015 Prime Day, sales in the U.S. were up 93 percent.)

What sort of deals should shoppers prepare themselves for? (Get your credit card ready: Prime Day is going to feature more than 100,000 deals worldwide exclusively for members.)

Are other retailers trying to soak up some of the Prime Day juice? (Walmart is offering a five-day period of free shipping, with no minimum purchase and open to all online shoppers.)

The bigger thing here, in my opinion, is to recognize just how HUGE of a disruptor Amazon is.

Sure, Amazon is essentially our e-tailing overlord, and we have accepted it willingly. I won’t say “no thanks” to the ability to order 40 pounds of cat litter, as well as a retro-style dress (thankfully not in the same box), and have them delivered to my doorstep in two days, thanks to my wonderful Prime membership. Hello future, I love you.

But the real disruption — and I’m sure the experts, a.k.a my really smart colleagues over at Total Retail, could do a WAY better job digging deeper into the retail nitty gritty — is this: Amazon has the power and ability to create a shopping holiday in the middle of July, and proved it successful in 2015 on the first Prime Day when customers ordered 34.4 million items worldwide, breaking its Black Friday records.

Other retailers who have some serious FOMO are jumping in, trying to get a piece of the holiday Prime Day pie. Will they be successful? We shall see.

But keep this in mind: If Amazon can disrupt the natural order of the retail industry’s Black Friday and typical holiday shopping ahead of December by creating its own day of shopping delight in July, what’s next?

Or more importantly, who’s next?

Jeff Bezos and the robot uprising