This Week In Retail Marketing Innovation - July 15, 2019

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Generation NEXT Franchise Brands Redefines the Food and Tech Industry with Robots Reis & Irvy

Luxury brands Louis Vuitton and Bulgari are among the top-ranked brands that are expanding their presence on WeChat, the Chinese messaging app that has more than 1 billion users and supports various marketing activities. 

But WeChat offers more than just messaging – the app also functions as a mobile commerce hub that allows transactions, loyalty programs, and other features to their billion users. Luxury brands understand the power of WeChat, and have upped their marketing efforts to gain the most market share amongst Gen Z.

Other luxury brands have gained popularity on WeChat by offering popular streetwear and sneakers to Gen Z. They have also recruited famous brand ambassadors Kris Wu, Hu Ge, and Yang Yang to promote their products and stay competitive

Unlike a traditional online marketplace, WeChat brands primarily use brand ambassadors and store pages to sell their products. Otherwise, customers can scan QR codes at brick-and-mortar stores to reach their company pages, or learn about them via online ads.

Louis Vuitton gained popularity among Gen Z WeChat users by selling limited-edition streetwear products at its virtual pop-up shop within the app. Their brand ambassador, former boy band member Kris Wu, generated enormous buzz online, making the campaign even more successful.

Bulgari also recruited Wu as a brand ambassador, but focused its efforts on letting users customize products, check inventory, make store reservations, and pick up online orders in stores, according to Retail Dive. The enhanced elements of convenience resonated well with Gen Z.

A similar in-store WeChat integration is being used in a Perch deployment with MAC, where, once a product has been selected, the customer then has the opportunity to purchase through WeChat.

The number of luxury fashion brands that have at least one WeChat store jumped 70% this year, in efforts to join the bandwagon and use the app to gain popularity among the youngest generation.


Brooklinen, a DTC Online Retailer, Successfully Opens a Pop-Up Shop in Manhattan in Under Four Weeks

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Brooklinen, a DTC luxury bed sheets, pillows, comforters, and blankets brand successfully went from an online-only retailer to a pop-up shop owner in under four weeks. The pop-up shop opened in New York’s SoHo neighborhood in November 2018.

Married couple and co-founders Rich and Vicki Fulop launched Brooklinen on Kickstarter, and within two years, it grew to over $25 million in revenue. While their online performance was enough to keep the business going strong, they seized a real estate opportunity that they “couldn’t ignore.” 

In an interview with Retail TouchPoints, Rich Fulop said, “It all came together very quickly. We had our eyes on a physical retail execution for a long time, and we knew the holiday season would really be the best time to get a sample of the shopper’s appetite. We didn’t want to go with the showroom model where we would just ship from a warehouse. We wanted people to be able to take away.”

In order to build and market the pop-up location in under a month, Brooklinen partnered with Stitch Labs, a retail operations management platform. With Stitch Labs’ help, they were able to understand the needs of customers and how to operate a brick-and-mortar space.

One of the biggest challenges they faced was organizing their inventory, since all 2,000 SKUs could not be housed at the pop-up shop. But with the help of Stitch Labs, they built a system that would allow customers to successfully order products in-store and have them shipped to their home if the items were not in stock at the brick-and-mortar location. 

Brooklinen was most successful, however, because of the brand awareness and popularity they had already established with the online community. Customers knew of the pop-up opening and came ready to buy.

The pop-up store remained open until late February 2019. After the success they experienced with a brick-and-mortar shop, the co-founders hope to open additional stores nationwide.


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Walmart Labs Partners with Path Forward to Give Caregivers Another Shot to Re-Enter the Workforce

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On June 12th, Walmart opened Walmart Labs in Reston, VA, its technology-focused subsidiary, and hosted a classroom full of those interested in a “returnship.” 

In partnership with nonprofit Path Forward, Walmart defines “returnship” as career path for mid-career professionals who’ve left the workforce for personal reasons such as caregiving, pursuing additional education, and others. 

According to a survey by Harvard Business School, nearly one-third of respondents voluntarily left their jobs for caregiving alone. Path Forward’s executive director, Tami Forman, commented: “I think that’s why these programs have become so popular. That’s a pretty big group of people overall, and the vast majority are women.”

The Walmart Labs Reston location is looking to hire for 8-10 new positions over the next few weeks, including positions such as app developers, HR managers, and more. Throughout the U.S., there are at least 100 returnships available at other Walmart Labs locations in Sunnyvale, San Bruno, and Hoboken. 

In order to be eligible for a returnship, candidates need five years of professional experience and need to have taken a “career pause” of at least two years for caregiving, according to Retail Dive

This is Walmart’s second year partnering with Path Forward to host returnships, and said in a blog post that the program brought in more than 30 women last year to work in paid engineering, user experience, product management, and data science.


Retailers continue to push for customers’ “emotional loyalty” through experiential benefits

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Retailers have been boosting the number of experiential rewards on their apps in attempts to secure emotional loyalty from customers. According to Gartner’s third annual L2 intelligence report, the number of experiential rewards on retail apps jumped to 78%, compared to 61% last year. 

Experiential rewards include birthday perks, surges in bonus points, invites to exclusive events, free shipping, and more. According to Gartner, securing emotional loyalty through means of personalized experiences forms the “most long-lasting type of loyalty” among customers. 

 Over the past few years, retailers have focused on loyalty programs and made it easier for new customers to join them. The loyalty benefits via app trend has replaced the store-branded credit card, and a previous study reported that 93% of businesses with advanced personalization strategies increased their revenue in 2018.

Adoption of loyalty programs grew 13% over last year, specifically across the activewear, big box, and department store sectors, according to the report. The number of loyalty program benefits will continue to grow as personalization continues to capture consumers’ attention.


Sounding Smart by The Retail Water Cooler

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PetSmart Inc.’s S&P credit rating moved up to “B-” from “CCC” after Chewy’s initial public offering was made, allowing the retailer to repay about 15% of its term loan, according to S&P Global. The retailer is looking forward to improving store performance and increasing revenue over the next year.