The Lookout

Rakuten, Japan's ecommerce leader, seeks to expand global retail footprint

Japan magnifying glassChecking in on international ecommerce trends from time to time is valuable. At the Asia Media Summit, Rakuten emphasized expansion into markets beyond Japan, where the company is responsible for a third of all online transactions. Their stated goal is to increase outside-Japan revenues from the current 10% level to 70%. In the near term, they’re looking to set up operations in an additional 7 markets, for a total of 27 so far.

New shopper touchpoints where food meets health

woman dr w green apple 2At BMC, we think the intersection of food shopping and health is an important space to watch for opportunity. A shift driven by the increasing use of mobile devices is beginning to change the relationship between patient and healthcare professionals to one of more continuous care. We think this will expand options for shopper touchpoints that help guide food purchase decisions against a specific health goal.

Digital disruption and grocery shopping trends

Green grocery basketWhen a shopper becomes digitally connected, they are going to be influenced by whole new set of touchpoints earlier in the process and herein lies opportunity. Read this recent blog. It describes a valuable scenario that shows the way grocery shopping could play out in the future. Tara Demarco does a great job of showing how shoppers could be influenced by direct communications from manufacturers and bloggers, and even leverage personalized nutrition filters . . .

Macy's adds in-store GPS at NYC flagship

Macy's app iconThe addition of in-store GPS to Macy's iPhone app for its flagship NYC store is one more sign of how shoppers are going to be able to navigate stores more easily in the future – and be guided to featured products and deals while they’re in the store, too. The GPS systems, provided by suppliers such as Meridian and Point Inside, are becoming more accessible to retailers (and museums and hotels and hospitals).

Shopper data - who will control it?

Lock and KeyWe think it’s important to keep watching the idea that shoppers can and will take more ownership and control of their data in the future. In this Baynote blog, Marti Tedesco explores the idea that IBM carbon nanotube technology could make micro-personalization possible; shoppers could wear their data into the store for seamless communication with retailers in the future. We wondered about shoppers "micropersonalizing" the data they want to share - by deciding which information they want to supply to which businesses and retailers. Doc Searls. . .

Another multi-channel move for Toys 'R Us: In-store payment for online purchases

legos 2Toys ‘R Us joins a growing list of retailers who now accept in-store payment for online orders. We think the shift signals a growing awareness among retailers of how multi-channel the shopping experience has become. As more and more shoppers seek and expect a blended experience, the boundaries between online and offline are softening. By accepting in-store payment for online orders, retailers

Shopkick moves into new territory on the path to purchase

Shopkick app logoShopkick’s redesign aims to capture the couch-to-store loop of the path to purchase. The new focus on layout and color aspires to extend the app’s footprint to include more pre-shopping browsing. Gamification isn’t gone entirely, but it’s not as prominent as it once was. Sarah Lacey says “Why fix something that wasn’t broken?” in her Pandodaily review. But we think Shopkick is just leveraging their strength in creating intent motivation to better serve shoppers' needs by entering the path to purchase before the store.

Walgreens reaches for shopper touchpoint with new mag

Walgreens logoThis weekend, Walgreens reached out to a major shopper touchpoint with the introduction of their new Happy and Healthy Magazine in many Sunday newspapers. Did you get yours? The glossy magazine will appear twice a year, and it's heavy on “solutions” – both health and lifestyle - for a wide variety of shoppers. We think this new retailer magazine is important to note for two reasons.

Ecommerce growing in Latin America

South AmericanWe need to look in different places to get a full picture of leading-edge retail innovation, as Tom Van Aman observed in our recent blog on change, so Shane Happach's Huffington Post story caught our eye. Latin American shoppers are enthusiastically embracing ecommerce, which means that the leading traditional retailers across Latin America will be competing aggressively for this new business so they can better serve their customers.

Helping shoppers choose healthier food

Healthy food choicesCan a video game help people make healthier food decisions? What about a dietician in the supermarket?  A gaming expert recently joined the faculty of UConn to explore creating gaming environments that ultimately teach health prevention and improvement lessons.  For the supermarket-based game, the player’s cart is measured and rated based on the degree to which it contains healthy food. For a perspective on how dieticians in supermarkets can help shoppers improve their health through better food choices, see this pdf from Black Belt Ray Stone.

Kohl's kiosk alters the path to purchase

The pKohl's kioskath to purchase took a quick digital turn for me at Kohl’s last week when they didn't have the turtle-neck shirts in-store that I wanted. “Try using the kiosk,” the store associate suggested. I did– and I used the coupon that gave us 30% off all purchases that day – and the shipping was free. I felt pretty satisfied. But I wasn’t the only shopper with a problem that turned into a purchase thanks to the kiosk.

Flit: Making a mobile shopper touchpoint more like the mall

Mall shopperAbout that mobile shopper touchpoint. Moving from retailer site to retailer site on a mobile device is a drag - but looking across multiple retailers is part of the fun and sport of shopping. A new app called Flit claims to solve the problem by giving shoppers access to over 1,000 stores in the same “place,” so to speak. Flit is part of an ecommerce retail trend that aggregates offerings from different retailers into “marketplaces” where shoppers can move among them easily, similar to the way they do at a mall.

Studying mall rats with smartphones

woman shirt phoneThe Westfield Group, a mall operator whose revenues exceed Google, has launched a laboratory in their downtown San Francisco mall to study how shoppers are using smartphones to merge on-line & off-line worlds as they shop. It’ a great test & learn response to the fast changes that retail is undergoing – and the most practical approach for any business these days, whether new or established.

Leapfrogging the big box

Fun FrogWill technology and ecommerce allow developing countries to skip the big box store? Sanjeev Sanyal, a Global Strategist at Deutsche Bank, argues that this is possible in India -- and that small stores will be better equipped to compete with online sales than today's big boxes. He writes in Project Syndicate: "We know from international experience that online shopping undermines hypermarkets [big boxes like Super Walmart] more than neighborhood stores, which often offer . . ."

Thinking the unthinkable

Horrified Cartoon LadyYou think Amazon or Facebook could never seriously compete for grocery business? Nobody thought housing prices would fall before the meltdown, either. Mike Spindler is running a fascinating thought experiment in a series of blogs that explore these very possibilities at The Branded Pantry. He imagines Amazon networking a series of Depots through partnerships with existing retailers like WaWa -- giving  customers convenient access to a wider array of merchandise and new reasons for "going to the store." Facebook, he says, is a natural for the "Health Through Better Lifestyle" market.

Customers don't care?

Don't care 2Don't read this blog too quickly or you might miss the message. What Jon Bird is saying is that customers care a LOT about exercising their new power in the retail marketplace to get what they want, when they want it, and at a price they’re willing to pay. What customers don’t care about is whether it’s hard for any individual retailer to meet his or her needs, because there are plenty of other retailers standing in line to take care of them, if for some reason you can’t.

Kinecting with Coca-Cola

Korean KidsEveryone is focused on finding ways to engage younger shoppers, and this Coke vending machine in a South Korea  seems to be doing a pretty good job getting their attention. It's also distributing a bunch of free Coke, at least to those who are willing to dance for it. You can watch the video at David Hill's Singularity Hub blog.

What Walmart To Go really means to retail

Delivery box with wheelsWe think Walmart’s To Go program for same-day delivery is less about a direct competitive challenge to Amazon, and more about the race to establish the right capabilities for success in 21st century retailing. Despite the program’s limitations (it’s only available in select markets and for select products) and even though Walmart characterizes it as a response to Amazon, we think it significantly raises the bar for everyone in retail.

Starbucks goes hyper-local

Starbucks logoRetailers typically try to achieve hyper-localization by altering the assortment in specific stores, so Starbucks’ novel approach to localization caught our eye. They’re designing the exterior of a new wave of stores to reflect the materials, attitudes, and styles of the area where the store is located.  This  Fast Co article explains the program. The new stores are smaller, modular, factory-built and assembled on-site, but their exteriors vary. The façade of a Colorado store is clad in Wyoming snow fencing, for example.

Toys 'R Us adds a business line: Streaming video

Spinning top 2Toy 'R Us recently announced they will offer a service that streams and downloads only family-oriented movies and TV shows. It’s a great example of how retailers are tapping digital opportunities to enter new lines of business that will grow sales and leverage existing customer relationships. It’s a pretty competitive market. Netflix, Amazon, Apple and Walmart are already present, but Toys 'R Us is betting that shoppers will like the non-subscription pricing structure, and that they’ll value the collection of exclusively family-friendly movies.

What if Google dominated grocery?

Fruit patternWhat would happen to shopping patterns if a major e-retailer like Google, Amazon, or Facebook grabbed a big role in food marketing and distribution? It would surely change the options for the “every household, every week” grocery shopper – and the competitive landscape for retailers. BMC Black Belt Mike Spindler explores these scenarios in a provocative series of blogs at The Branded Pantry. More than creative speculation, they offer grounded foresight into how the digital march to dominate groceries will play out.

Bilingual health kiosks going into Sam's Club

SoloHealth KioskThe new SoloHealth Station kiosks being installed in Sam’s Club stores around the country are another expression of retail-based portals into the health care system. The bilingual kiosks will provide free screening for vision, blood pressure, weight, and body mass index – but beyond being a symptom checker/health assessment, “it also helps connect consumers to local professionals through their databases,” says Stone Hearth News, “helping people enter the most appropriate and accurate point in the health care system.”

Target, Toys, and QR codes

Target logoIt will be interesting to see how shoppers respond to Target’s tactic of putting QR codes on 20 of its top-selling toys this holiday season. The QR codes enable shoppers to purchase the toy online while they are in the store, and the strategy is aimed at heading off showrooming for Amazon. Hmmm. In our experience, the most successful strategies do a good job meeting shopper needs vs. being a response to the competition.