March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb they say – except up here in New England where March stayed like a Lion throughout, dropping over 4 ft of snow. The silver lining? Huge spikes in grocery shopping across the region as consumers prepared for each nor’easter by buying out aisles of food and beverages, in case they were stranded and/or lost power. But let’s put aside this metaphorical snow globe we seem to be living in here in the northeast, and take a look at the bigger picture of recent happenings across the industry in March.
“Without Toys R Us to sell its products, toymakers need to rely on Amazon and compete for the limited shelf space in big-box stores. As such, Jefferies analyst Stephanie Wissink estimates as much as 15 percent of all Toys R Us’ toys sales could be lost for good.”
After more than half a century in business, the iconic U.S. retailer is winding down as stores have already begun to liquidate. A liquidation will most likely result in the closing of all of Toys R Us’ 800 stores in the U.S. and will be a blow to the toy industry, which has relied on it for providing row after row of toys at premium prices. Toys R Us accounted for 15 to 20 percent of U.S. toy sales last year, figures that will now be split by other retailers as well as lost sales. It seems as though Toys R Us relied a great deal on its traditional method of selling toys, and did not opt to create more of a hybrid online and offline experience which is what separates brick and mortar retailers that continue to be successful in 2018.
Our Take: The announcement about Toys ‘R’ Us shuttering its US operations added to the “retail apocalypse” narrative, when in reality the landscape of the toy market has changed so drastically and suddenly, that this is primarily a result of evolution in the toy industry itself and not only a lack of interest in brick and mortar retail. Instead of dolls, train tracks, and nerf balls, kids today prefer iPads and fidget spinners, which can be bought just about anywhere other than a store that exclusively sells toys. As one writer put it, “Toys R Us is a remnant of a bygone era, when shopping was done under a roof and not from your phone, when Amazon was a river, not a retail behemoth, and when computers were humongous devices and the internet a computer scientist’s fantasy.” Although the nostalgia will remain for many whose lives, especially around the holidays, were shaped around visiting their local Toys R Us store, the future never stops coming and as always we will just have to adapt and evolve to the new ways of toy shopping.
“Marketers need to transition their brand from “voice-friendly” to “voice-focused,” writes Collin Holmes.”
The introduction of voice technology in the retail industry has created a great deal of buzz as giants like Google, Amazon, and Apple are competing to create the best user experience as predictions state that voice-activated shopping sales could reach $40 billion by 2022. This means that marketers must envision how to convey their messages and business content in an effective manner through voice. For example, “Find Italian restaurants near me”, is specific enough to garner plenty of results like lists and map features that combine elements of geolocation as well as connections to local restaurants which may be pushing certain ads or promotions within a given area. Voice technology is not exclusive to these results, but as the industry grows, it seems as though the trend of connecting consumers to physical store locations and restaurants via AI based voice interaction will surely grow.
Our Take: When you look at the landscape and introduction of these voice-controlled smart attendants, which allow for maximum convenience by offering a personal assistant to provide you with any digital inquiry you may have, the arms race so to speak, is fierce. Between Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Apple HomePod (perhaps better known as Alexa, Google, and Siri), which combine features such as design, sound, usefulness, and connectivity all while using voice technology to create the ultimate user experience, this paradigm is growing fast.. 2018 looks like the year brands take voice technology more seriously and how it affects customer experiences, and we will have to pay close to attention to see how this trend evolves in the near future.
“When you look at shopping and retail, one of the top issues people have is with checkout,” Iannone said. “[Consumers] are walking around with a computer in their pocket, so let them use that computer to complete the transaction.”
The checkout process at supermarkets, department stores, and other big-box retailers has remained unchanged for decades and continues to be a source of frustration for physical retailers due to long lines and lackluster interactions. With the influx of new technology, like artificial intelligence (AI), as well as scan and go, the old ways of checking out of a store are changing. Through the use of a camera with machine vision that can track product movement, consumers are able to walk into a store, select an item and leave. A push notification acts as a receipt. According to AI platform, Standard Cognition, the experience should just be about shopping, not waiting in line or scanning items. “If you’re not thinking about this now, then you’re too far behind,” said Jordan Fisher, co-founder, and CEO of Standard Cognition. “You need to have a solution in mind today to deploy tomorrow.”
Our Take: We’ve all been there, waiting in line in the store, trying to decide which register to go to, whether or not self-checkout will be faster, and more. But in this age of rich technological advances, where we can buy just about anything with a few clicks or swipes on our mobile devices, why on earth are we still waiting in line? There are no lines when you add items to your Amazon cart or order a pair of sneakers from Nike, so common logic says we should be able to apply these features to physical retail. That’s where artificial intelligence (AI), the savior to eliminate lines and allow consumers to buy what they want and need, comes into play. This is technology that is not only convenient but necessary. It can enrich the shopping experience, create happier customers who are willing to take their time viewing and buying more items, and provides people with more time in their day to take part in useful tasks instead of waiting in lines. Thankfully, this is not some far-fetched thing in the future, but is here now, and is expanding to a store near you.
ShopAdvisor’s Picks of the Month:
Men Are More Likely to Shop In-Store and Pay Full Price – Krista Garcia, eMarketer