RelevanceReport 5.30.14

Amazon by bike; ugly sweaters and grabbing shoppers on the go: The BloomReach Relevance Report

Drop everything. The BloomReach Relevance Report is out. What possibly could be more important? Don’t answer that. Just read.

Restoration Hardware goes for another turn of the screw

Restoration Hardware turned its third-quarter earnings call into a love story, BuzzFeed reports, complete with a pre-call video featuring CEO Gary Friedman striking a chill pose in a comfy chair and telling analysts that Restoration was building a brand like Apple, Tesla, Google and Facebook. He even summoned the words of late Apple CEO Steve Jobs, talking about the crazy ones and all that. Theatrics aside, retailers would be wise to pay attention to Friedman and Restoration. Experience is going to be the retail differentiator of 2015 and beyond. No one is going to out-Amazon, Amazon. The best strategy is to strive to be the unAmazon by making shopping an experience, not a transaction. Starbucks, which made its name on experience, appears to be doubling down on the idea. And there is no doubt will be seeing much more of it.

Of course I don’t seriously like this sweater, really

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Wait. What? You’re saying those sweaters are ugly? The BRRR has reason to believe, a closet full of reasons to believe, that sweaters that make the wearer look like he or she tangled with a Christmas tree are perfectly stylish. But, OK, if you want to laugh, go ahead. Turns out so-called ugly Christmas sweaters have become a thing. Macy’s, Kohl’s, Forever 21, Penney, Party City and online outlets are all selling them to customers who are buying them with eyes wide open. I particularly like the “snuggly ugly” label coined by Party City, but that’s just me. And if there was any doubt about the buzz factor behind the ugly holiday wraps, the San Jose Sharks propelled the fashion statement into the stratosphere with a rap video. No, you don’t have to watch the whole thing.

Mobile dominance shows no signs of letting up

The big story of holiday shopping season 2014 is mobile. Now the Consumer Electronics Association has weighed in with a report that says that seven out of 10 shoppers use their mobile phones while shopping. Most actually would rather consult their smartphones than a salesperson to get information about products, which says something about shoppers, but might also say something about sales forces and how they’re trained. The trend of using phones during shopping excursions has big implications for retailers who for years have focused on trying to increase conversion on mobile devices. The report dovetails with IBM’s finding that more than half the people shopping in the early days of the holiday season were shopping on mobile devices, Walmart’s announcement that more than 70 percent of its digital traffic was from mobile on Cyber Monday and BloomReach’s own data that indicated that mobile conversion is on the rise as a percentage of all online sales.The accelerating trend toward mobile means that retailers might want to rethink the way they approach mobile channels. Maybe it’s about more than just conversions.

Amazon finds yet another way to pedal goods

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Yes, Amazon continues its march toward world domination. Shoppers now spend nearly a third of their digital shopping lives on the Amazon site, Search Marketing Daily reports. The research, conducted by Kantar Media, Millward Brown Digital, and Unmetric, listed Walmart, Best Buy and Target as the retailers that ranked in the No. 2 through No. 4 spots. But for an idea of Amazon’s dominance, consider that No. 2 Walmart captured 3.73 percent of consumers’ time on shopping sites, according to Search Marketing Daily. Amazon also continues to search for ways to get products from the cloud to customers in the real world. The latest answer to the same-day delivery challenge? Bikes. The Wall Street Journal first reported that the Seattle online retail giant is trying out delivery by bike in Manhattan. It seems that the building down the street from Macy’s Manhattan flagship that Amazon bought is the centerpiece of the experiment. Could it be that Jeff Bezos is looking for his own miracle on 34th Street?

Capturing the mobile shopper

Sears Hometown & Outlet stores are working on the mobile conundrum, in part by encouraging showrooming among its customers, says Search Marketing Daily. Yes, showrooming, as in creating showrooms where customers can touch and try large appliances and other big products before ordering them and having them delivered. David Buckley, the retailer’s chief marketing officer, says that’s only one part of the company’s strategy, which includes Google + pages and local listing pages. Sears Outlet is also trying different mixes of desktop and mobile search ads to see how the changes affect sales. It’s part of a continuing focus on consumers’ changing habits, including Sears Outlet’s attempt at figuring out what kinds of products consumers research at home before going shopping and what they search for in the store, while shopping. Furniture retailer Rooms to Go has a digital strategy of it’s own to deepen its relationship with customers, the National Retail Federation reports. The key is arming sales associates with tablets so the salesperson doesn’t have to abandon a customer while he or she goes to check on the availability of a couch in a certain color, for instance. The system also creates a digital receipt that the store can use to personalize offers the next time a customer visits. The thinking is that there are often long gaps between furniture shopping trips and so staying connected to customers is all the more important.

Shopping is the mother of invention

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David Rekuc over at Entrepreneur has put together a fun list of seven retail innovators. Maybe what’s most fun about it is thinking of what’s not on the list. It’s inevitable with these list things, that readers will object to some items that are included and go bonkers over some things left off. What about Sylvan Goldman, for instance, who invented the shopping cart? No, not the digital spot where you park your potential Amazon purchases while you decide whether you really, really need them. The actual cart that you fill up with stuff in a store. Rekuc acknowledges that lists are always open to debate and he encourages readers to send in their ideas. Please do. I can’t wait to see what comes in.

Quote of the Week

“The more holiday cheer you have, the uglier you want your sweater to be.” — Joey Dunne, who operates two Chicago-area ugly holiday sweater pop-up stores, told the Chicago Tribune.

Dudes in sweaters photo by TheUglySweaterShop.com, delivery bike by John Dill, newspapers by Jon S. published under Creative Content license.

Mike Cassidy is BloomReach’s storyteller. Contact him at mike.cassidy@bloomreach.com; follow him on Twitter at @mikecassidy.