How Uniqlo Will Show Your Body Temperature Rise In The Mirror And More

What You Can Learn From The PSFK Future of Retail

I attended the PSFK Future of Retail event last week in NYC. 

Even though the event had a focus on the retail industry, all 10 pillars can equally be applied in different industries. In the end, it comes down to understanding the human behavior of psychology and choice, the importance of communities and relationships, and how you use it to create engaging and personalized experiences in person and across different channels.

The speakers at the NYC event last week were all fantastic. The stories were the perfect complement to the pillars. I had read a few articles about MikMak prior to the event; however, it was much more helpful to hear the story behind the brand from the founder, Rachel Tipograph. It is a perfect example of how a brand can eliminate obstacles.

Here are the 10 pillars with key trends and brand examples shared by PSFK - along with a few of my comments.

1. Create Confidence

  • PSFK Examples: The Pirch, Sephora
  • PSFK Key Trends: Product Immersion, Guided Recommendations

I am a big fan of Uniqlo. Their Heattech apparel is a Winter necessity for layering. They now have smart mirrors to validate the technology and create confidence for customers in the stores. To learn more about strategies that contribute to online shopper confidence, check out this article.

2. Perfect Partnership

  • PSFK Examples: Virgin Hotels x Gap, Insta Cart x All Recipes
  • PSFK Key Trends: Cross-Channel Rewards, Additive Experiences

During the event, PSFK shared the partnership where you can have a Gap wardrobe delivered to your Virgin Hotels room. Westin and New Balance partnered together to help travelers keep their commitment to a healthy lifestyle with exercise. No more excuses for skipping that workout.

3. Optimize Ownership

  • PSFK Examples: Patagonia, GoEnjoy
  • PSFK Key Trends: Cultivated Expertise, Always-On Support is a great example of a company that optimizes ownership. Service Cloud enables companies to deliver a superior support experience. The app exchange provides clients with integration options galore to complement the platform. Customers get the most value with products they understand. new training platform Trailheads cultivates experts with gamification and badges. The best part, it’s free!

4. Democratize Access

  • PSFK Examples: StitchFix, Rebecca Minkoff
  • PSFK Key Trends: Customer Concierges, Aspirational Experiences

Customer concierges and aspirational experiences were two key trends highlighted. Stitch Fix and Trunk Club are just two examples of businesses that promote your very own ‘personal shopper’ that curates items specific for you. If you prefer the aspirational experiences, talks about 3 examples of brands experimenting with virtual reality.

Finally, for your next trip, book a stay at a Marriott to experience the first  ever VRoom Service. Samsung and Marriott partner to  bring virtual reality to your room.

5. Eliminate Obstacles

  • PSFK Examples: Starbucks, Hointer & Macys, MikMak
  • PSFK Key Trends: Anywhere Purchase Platforms, Shop Ahead, One-Click Transactions

Eliminating purchase obstacles is a pretty popular one. How can you make it an effortless experience for the shopper? Amazon one click purchase is downright dangerous!

You know the feeling of seeing the slip from UPS or Fedex when you missed a shipment? The people at Shyp relate to that feeling as well as the need to keep up with the nomads that move every year (I bet a lot of college and city dwellers fit into that category). Shyp just announced that it will eliminates addresses. When you use the app to ship, you only need to know the username of the recipient.

We all know the hardest part about online shopping is the fear that it will not fit. Unless you are familiar with the brand and sizing, you may not be willing to drop the cash or credit for the item. Fear no more, Try is a new service that partners with brands so you can try the clothes on prior to the purchase. Bloomingdales, Barneys, J Crew, Reformation, Topshop, and Zara are just a few on the list of the retailers.

6. Promote Transparency

  • PSFK Examples: Amazon Elements
  • PSFK Key Trends: Storied Products, Reciprocal Relationships

People want to know the origin of the product. Where was it made? Was it fair trade? There is a story about the lifecycle of each garment - for both the materials and the process. We should understand the impact it has on the environment, and the quality. Zady is establishing a new standard with its clothing line. They are educating consumers about the product, people, and planet. Sustainability is not only important for the food we consume, it is in the clothing we wear.

7. Encourage Advocacy

  • PSFK Examples: Sony, Chevrolet x Whatsapp
  • PSFK Key Trends: Shopper-Led Exchange, Crowd Buy-In

In the world of social media and influencers, it is no wonder there is a focus to encourage advocacy. Every brand should build this into their DNA. In one of my blog posts, I shared how you can learn from Bonobos and master customer advocacy with three simple tips. For additional tips, this article on ways to identify potential brand champions, is also a good one.

8. Cultivate Community

  • PSFK Examples: Bjornborg, Audi
  • PSFK Key Trends: Cultural Hubs, Collaborative Marketplaces

More brands are creating methods for customers to be a part of the community or featured on the website when they tag social media pictures like #revolveme for Revolve Clothing. During Spring Break this year, American Eagle had the world’s largest unretouched selfie in Miami as part of its ‘Love Your Real Selfie’ campaign.

Second hand store, Vestiaire Collection launched #theonethatgotaway campaign. They invite users to post a story about the piece of clothing that they saw - and never purchased. The hope is that one of the other 4 million users has that piece of clothing to sell.

All the links on Stylinity are shoppable. It is a collaborative community for brands and individuals that love to take a selfie. Stylinity has a StylePerks program that awards people when someone makes a purchase from their selfie.

9. Recognize & Personalize

  • PSFK Examples: Walgreens, Moda Operandi
  • PSFK Key Trends: 360-Degree Service, Predictive Assistance

People expect personalization. There is no reason why we should receive emails that are irrelevant to us. Brands need to have a clear analytics strategy to understand the customer and the appropriate actions. HBR recently did a good article on selecting an analytics vendor. Brands should also think about how they will leverage data across all channels to help drive the right degree of personalization for when and how to connect with each customer.

10. Deliver Delight

  • PSFK Example: Kenneth Cole
  • PSFK Key Trend: Insider Exclusives

Alice & Olivia and Tory Burch are two of my favorite brands. It is dangerous that they are just a few short blocks from one another. Not only do I love their style, both Stacey Bendet and Tory Burch are a true inspiration for building successful empires. As a frequent shopper, I get to enjoy pre-sale events and receive gifts in the mail during the holiday. Last year, I was so delighted when I opened a perfectly packaged copy of the Tory Burch Color book. And just a few weeks ago, Alice & Olivia delighted me with two free tickets to the Meatpacking Open Market kickoff event. Sometimes, you can also simply create the illusion of exclusivity as shared in this article.

I am excited to see the future of retail and how brands will balance the technology with the personalization. Even though I love technology, my loyalty is always with those that I can have a personal connection. Here is a post inspired by my experience with Alice & Olivia - a brand with authentic personality.

What do you think about the 10 pillars in the PSFK Future of Retail?

Yours Truly,

Randa Green

3 Trends In Retail Customer Engagement

As a consumer, we have access to everything on demand, with a touch of our fingertips. Each channel plays an important part of the overall customer journey. Even though we can get same day delivery by Amazon or the luxury brand Net-A-Porter, studies show that 71% of respondents would prefer to shop in a physical Amazon store vs. online.  

While I am passionate about the omni-channel experience and how brands can maintain consistency across channels, I will focus on how brands can best engage when customers choose to go in the store.

Customer Engagement

Retail is no different than the standard business conference, Bar Mitzvah, holiday party, or wedding. We have the desire to interact with friends, meet new people, and share those experiences with our groups of ‘friends’ and ‘networks’ on Facebook and LinkedIn. We are busy bees in a world of constant movement that crave the opportunity to relax and be at ease with an effortless experience.

Here are three trends in retail that are your next big tickets to success when it comes to in-person customer engagement.


Photo-Booth’s Create A Memorable Experience

Connect with your customers by providing them with a way to create memories with friends. At parties, there are photo booths for guests to have a memento from the event - select stores provide the same opportunity to share your experience across social media. Whether it is at Steve Madden with my dog,  or being photo bombed by a group of girls at Uniqlo in NYC during the St. Patrick’s day parade, I will remember those experiences brands. Retail shops with less budget and space for bulky photo booths can create the same social atmosphere with displays curated specifically for selfies - free marketing at your service.

In-Store Collaborations Are A Win For All

Another great way that retail stores encourage social interaction is through events and collaborations. I recall a time at Desigual when they had a makeup artist, mini gift bags,  drinks , a DJ, and a catwalk to showcase looks put together by the stylists. I am confident that Saturday afternoon was the most I ever spent on one visit to Desigual - and as a bonus had my makeup professionally done for the evening.

Not only does the store generate a lot of foot traffic by the signs outside, it keeps customers in the store longer to spend more money, and is a fantastic way to promote other brands, stylists, and artists. Customers who were acquired through word-of-mouth have a 37 percent higher retention rate. (McKinsey) Think about how you will develop your  influencer marketing platform.

Neighborhood Events Support The Community

Finally, make it even more social by gathering other stores in the area. Alice & Olivia was kind to provide me with two complimentary tickets for a kick-off party  for Meat Packing Open Market . It was a concert with food and drinks for a weekend of  in-store events and discounts from retail stores and restaurants in the area. Who doesn’t love an opportunity to invite a friend and share a fun evening!


Smart Target Discounts Save Customer Time

When you attend industry conferences, you often have access to an app designed specifically to simplify the attendees experience and avoid carrying schedules and paper ads that end up in the trash. The same concept exists at different levels for in-store shopping experiences from basic to smart and targeted discounts. While clipping coupons from the Sunday paper is one of my favorite past times, it is delightful that technology is here to help us along the shopping journey. We will see even more with emerging technologies such as iBeacons and near-field communication.

Interactive Displays Educate Customers

The shift in e-commerce  brands opening physical stores or ‘Clicks to Bricks’  brands are leading the path with the most efficient ways to integrate their back-office inventory systems, CRM, and more into the showroom like experience. As stores remove paper displays and tear down signs, they open valuable space for LCD monitors and iPads that complement the back-office systems and create an interactive method to engage shoppers. Stores can be creative with uses for those devices - for example, display information on the monitor based on interactive hangers (IH), show latest Pinterest pins of favorites for social proof, integrate with your customer support via web video or chat, or simply let them browse your website.

Mobile Checkout Completes Customer Experience

Have you ever wanted to purchase a product from a store only to find the line so long that you leave? You save a few bucks at the expense of a poor experience at the store. You may or may not return, to purchase the product or anytime, based on the loyalty of the particular brand. Apple and other brands that have mobile kiosks make it effortless to complete your purchase. For some established brands, integration to back-office systems may be an issue - expect that to change in the near future. The endless amounts of apps for devices do make it easy for new brands to start pure mobile - in this case, they have the advantage.

Food & Drink

A Restaurant or Cafe Creates A More Social Atmosphere

Most parties are centered around the food and drink. Obviously, food and drinks are a great way to encourage customers to stick around the store longer to shop. While restaurants in stores are not a new thing, they are popping up more frequently. It is a great way to lure people into the store. I recently chose a new morning stop for my bagel with cream cheese and jelly (the cafe at Urban Outfitters in Herald Square). I was pleasantly surprised by the tasty fresh raspberry jam vs. the type at the cafe just one block down Broadway. After two days of breakfast, it was time to try the lunch - only to find myself casually looking in the store when the line was too long. I held back from the photo booth - at least during that visit!

Everyone Loves Free Stuff

Opening a full restaurant or cafe is a big hit to the bottom line for most small shops. Even for large retail chains, you may only see them in the hotspot locations like 5th avenue in NYC or Magnificent Mile in Chicago. Shops that are small or have a tight budget can choose to provide free bites and drinks to guests on select days - just remember to be consistent with clients and days of the week. You bet customers will shop while they sip a free drink.

These were just a few examples of how you can engage customers through social, technology, and food. Think about how you can include them into your plans. Be creative, and most of all, be authentic and have fun along the way. In future posts, I will dig deeper into these topics - with technology being the primary focus.

I would love to hear your comments. As a customer, what are your favorite trends you see in retail stores?

Yours Truly,

The Pukka Panda



Limit Your Customers Choices To Increase Sales by 600%

Limit your customer choices to increase sales and provide the best customer experience.

In Sheena Iyengar, 'How to Make Choosing Easier' TED Talk,

Over the past decade, we have observed three main negative consequences to offering people more and more choices. They’re more likely to delay choosing — procrastinate even when it goes against their best self-interest. They’re more likely to make worse choices — worse financial choices, medical choices. They’re more likely to choose things that make them less satisfied, even when they do objectively better. The main reason for this is because, we might enjoy gazing at those giant walls of mayonnaises, mustards, vinegars, jams, but we can’t actually do the math of comparing and contrasting and actually picking from that stunning display.
— Sheena Iyengar: TED Talk

Read about her results of 600% sales increase when limiting the jars of jam from 24 to 6. Studies show that the magic number is somewhere between 1 and 6. 

So how do you best limit the options to equal the magic number. Each comes with a different price tag for the business and customer. In fact, we develop new methods and use tools to help us limit the choices so we can make a decision.

4 Methods to Limit Choices

  1. By Product: Business provides a limited amount of product options for customers. They keep it simple for them and the customer.

  2. By Business Design: Business strategy is built around curating the right products for the chosen market. This is often a local boutique approach - whether it is food or clothing, it is applicable.

  3. Technology: Business leverages e-commerce through search results, filters by color, style, etc, big data, or machine learning to limit choices.

  4. Personal Service: Business provides a personal shopping like experience to help in customer choices based on close relationship. Personal shopper or individual stylist.

Working for a technology company with a focus on product and service, I am passionate about the perfect mix based on the customer profile and strategy for a business.

If you are okay with limiting your market or products, the answer could be simple. Once you want to grow the business, a decision must be made on how to help limit the products or services to guide the customer to a purchase. After all, if the business has too many choices, how will it ever achieve market leadership in any them?

While technology options available to enable customer experience span several industries, I am particularly interested in fashion and SaaS businesses.

To stay on a positive note: Which brands are doing it well? How could they leverage technology to improve the customer experience - while they maintain the right balance for their target audience?

Stay tuned for future posts on these options.

Yours Truly