If time is the greatest luxury for modern consumers, Nordstrom is steadily proving that convenience is one of the foremost things it can offer its shoppers.
The department store is expanding its Reserve Online & Try In Store service to over 40 stores nationwide, following the success of its pilot in six last year.
The premise, which is built around making it easier for customers to shop in the way that they want to, enables app users to select items they like, then book to have them set in a fitting room for them in the store of their choice, ready to try on in person. There is no commitment to purchase at any stage.
“Many of our customers like to feel and try on clothes and shoes before they purchase them and we’re excited to offer them a more convenient way to do so,” says Shea Jensen, senior vice president of customer experience at the company. Read the full story, including further insight from Jensen, via Forbes.
The big story on the web this week was of course about shopping coming to Instagram, but backing that idea even further comes the fact mobile browsing overtook desktop for the first time. That’s a huge deal for retailers.
Meanwhile also worth catching up on is an in-depth view on how Nike embraced sustainability, an exploration of what Gen Z and Millennials love and hate about social media, and an update on wearables from the world of Will.i.am. Don’t forget to also sign up for our Snapchat Masterclass taking place on November 22.
30 seconds. That’s the time stamp being aimed for in a number of retailers’ click and collect services – an objective to get the customer in and out in the quickest way possible. It’s an ambitious goal, but a level of convenience that’s highly relevant, not to mention desired, by time-starved customers.
Arguably for fashion, however, there’s a much smarter move. Nordstrom, for instance, is starting to prove the need for something a little more personal in the transaction too.
It has just introduced a new “Reserve & Try In Store” feature to its app – a way to help make the shopping experience easier for customers who like to touch, feel and try on items before buying them. The basic premise is that you reserve up to 10 items on your smartphone, select your closest store and then head to it in person where a personalised fitting room is waiting for you with those specific pieces. You don’t part with any cash until you decide what it is you want to buy.
It’s all about the convenience of online shopping but with some real world experience thrown in; all of that negating the need to drag a package home, try the items on once you get there and then realise what it is you don’t want before going through the often laborious returns process. It follows others including Westfield, Asos and Jaeger trying out real-world fitting room services attached to online orders in the past.
The whole thing is also just a lot warmer. Let’s face it, no matter where you go, the majority of click and collect systems feel like a cold and hard transaction. You show up to a counter often hidden at the back of one of the floors, stand in line for a considerable amount of time (despite that 30 second goal), hand over your information and wait while the parcel is found for you. Generally speaking, when it comes out, it’s not even wrapped in the nice packaging you might get in store, but in the sort that usually comes with an online sale.
Everything about it is impersonal. In fact, there’s little to differentiate it from standing in an Argos store waiting for your number to be called to collect the box on the rack you’ve been waiting for. Great for Argos, not so suited to a tactile fashion brand.
And all of that comes at a time when consumer demands have never been higher. Click and collect is an expectation now; not a novelty but the norm. If you don’t offer it, you’re behind.
In fact, omnichannel at large is an expectation; 68% of millennials now demand an integrated, seamless experience, regardless of the channel, according to Accenture. With services like click and collect, there’s more need than ever therefore for fashion brands to do something different to stand out from the competition.
After all, 78% of millennials also say they’d rather now spend money on desirable experiences over products. Never before has the experience economy been so ready for exploitation. Having a fitting room attached is almost not enough of a leap therefore, which is why artificial intelligence (AI) has a part to play.
Beyond the offer from Nordstrom, what if the reserve opportunity became a personal shopper service? Not in the traditional sense, but in a way that means those 10 items you’ve reserved also come with further suggestions for items you might like. Some basic data insights tied in, and the system should be able to recognise other pieces you’ve browsed ahead of time, perhaps lingered over for a little longer on the app, watched the videos for and so forth.
Add in a recommendation engine, that AI in action, and it could also include another rail with looks it knows match your tastes, coordinate with the ones you’ve reserved and even marry up to your purchase history. All of that done on an opt-in basis, of course. It’s a ripe opportunity for upsell and cross-sell, not to mention with an engaged customer already committed to dwell time.
That fitting room you try it on in should also be a connected one, like the Polo Ralph Lauren experience from Oak Labs (as above); with a sales associate on speed dial to get you other sizes, colours and more, as well as immediately check you out. This heightened version of convenience is also the perfect move for renewed clienteling; more than just a member’s club with a stylist on hand (as Nordstrom also offers), but a hands-on personalised experience enriched by machine learning.
This would suit luxury brands – especially those already operating in a relatively connected space, like Burberry. But so too could it run the gamut of digitally-savvy high street retailers, department stores and beyond.
Yes there are going to be those consumers who want to get in and get out; pick up their order and leave, make use of lockers, drive-thrus and more, but there are also those who would like something a little more enriching, seamless and useful for the time spent. A personalised version of what’s otherwise become nothing more than a transactional Argos encounter, rather than an engaging brand experience.
Competition in the pureplay fashion e-tail sector is heating up, but omnichannel retailers are also upping their game, which means yesterday’s news from Zalando (pureplay) and Target Corp (omnichannel) makes interesting reading.
Basically, Zalando is powering ahead, investing in expansion, and has the rise of m-commerce to thank, while Target is going hell-for-leather into click and collect as it sees this as key to its future. And it’s bagged a top exec from Amazon to help it get ahead.
Zalando: M-commerce and apps
Europe’s biggest pureplay online fashion store is investing heavily in growth and said m-commerce is becoming even more important to its business.
The eight-year-old German company offers over 1,500 brands in 15 European countries and is going head-to-head with Asos. The UK rival is building a massive warehouse in Berlin, moving physically into Zalando’s home market as well as virtually after its EU sales rose 29% in the last quarter.
Is Zalando worried? It doesn’t seem to be. Management board member Rubin Ritter told a conference call that “we don’t have to be overly concerned about what the competition is doing”. He’s not worried about Amazon growing its fashion footprint either as he says Zalando has more fashion expertise.
I suppose it’s easy to be that dismissive when last year’s sales rose 33.6% to €2.96bn, when it made adjusted operating profit of €107.5m and when it’s predicting 20% to 25% growth this year. OK, that 2016 estimate is a slowdown, but the bigger Zalando gets, the slower its growth rate has to be. Yet even at the lower end of that forecast, it’s an impressive rate.
What was particularly interesting about the latest figures was that 59.9% of site visits came from mobile devices in Q4, up from 47.9%, as the firm focused on app development. Its apps downloads more-than-doubled from 7m in 2014 to 16m in 2015.
The point about m-commerce is that it drives sales growth by its very nature because we don’t have to be sat at a computer to shop. We can do it on the bus, while walking the dog, just about anywhere we can get a mobile signal. It’s one of the reasons Zalando’s number of active customers rose 22% to almost 18m at year-end with average orders-per-customer at an all-time high.
The company is investing around €200m this year in driving further growth (it spent €70m last year) and hopes this expansion will allow it to take a 5% share of the European fashion market soon, up from 1% now.
Target: Collect in-store
Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, a currently-buoyant Target Corp is showing that pureplay retailers don’t have the online fashion space to themselves. In fact, it’s showing that the existence of physical stores can boost online sales for a company.
And it hopes an exec from a pureplay background can help boost those sales even more. It just announced the appointment of Arthur Valdez, who was an Amazon exec, to head up its omnichannel supply chain transformation.
His appointment is part of a process during which the firm has been boosting stock levels at its stores in order to fulfil more online orders via click and collect. The company said its increased stock levels in its 1,800 stores helped boost its click and collect orders to 30% of all online orders in Q4.
The company’s online sales are surging (by 34% last quarter) and it wouldn’t have been able to offer click and collect so widely if it hadn’t put in place various improvements to the availability of its in-store stock for online customers. Last week it said out-of-stock metrics were 20% better than they were a year ago. Newcomer Valdez, who spent 16 years at Amazon, will be in charge of making sure that improvement continues.
This post first appeared on Trendwalk.net, a style-meets-business blog by journalist, trends specialist and business analyst, Sandra Halliday
ebay.co.uk is predicting Sunday November 30 to be its busiest shopping day of the whole year.
‘Super Sunday’ as it’s been dubbed, falls of course between Black Friday and Cyber Monday – traditionally the two big days for in-store and online sales respectively in the US. Those holiday dates are becoming increasingly resonant in the UK too as retailers offer equivalent deals and savings to entice shoppers in the run up to Christmas.
eBay is predicting over seven million Brits will head to its site within 24 hours, between them purchasing 1,800 gifts per minute from a selection of over 800 million items worldwide.
Tanya Lawler, VP for eBay Marketplaces in the UK commented: “This Christmas, above all, people want convenience and selection. Online and multi-channel retailers are able to offer fantastic depth within their product ranges and combine this with convenient local collection services like Click & Collect – the perfect formula for today’s time-poor holiday shopper.”
Not surprisingly, mobile access is expected to play a big part, driving 59% of (global) traffic. Peak time for that day is also expected to be between 8pm and 9pm.
Big winners will include Xbox, iPad, Bose Sound Bar, Lego and Playmobil, as already trending on the ebay.co.uk/Christmas shop. Each hour Brits are also currently purchasing everything from five teddy bears to 258 mobile phones and 318 handbags.
Given it’s the day before Thanksgiving in the US – meaning retailers are about to go all out on heavy promotions – here’s a special round-up of all the ways they’re using social and digital to help lure the seasonal shopper and start converting those all-important Holiday sales…
eBay debuts shoppable touchscreens and digital storefronts for Sony, Toms And Rebecca Minkoff in San Francisco (as pictured) [TechCrunch]
Target launches “most digitally enabled campaign” in its history, pins hopes on Pinterest this holiday season [Co.Create]
Pinterest opens API to retail partners [TechCrunch]
Google’s Eric Schmidt invests in retail tech designed to help personalisation and data measurement [WWD]
Here’s why ‘The Internet of Things’ will be huge, and drive tremendous value for people and businesses [Business Insider]
Why companies desperately need to make wearables cool [Wired]
How brands get shoppers to volunteer their personal data: transparency and better experiences [PSFK]
Social media drives less than 1% of shopping sessions, study says [Fashionista]
Fashion retailers are still failing to optimise email marketing for mobile [Econsultancy]
What retailers can learn from mobile commerce in the UK [Shop.org]
15 stats that show why click-and-collect is so important for retailers [Econsultancy]
Note: Look out for a separate holiday-specific digital round-up later this week, featuring all the top retail campaign stories as well as insights into the biggest innovations being pushed for the festive season.