ThinkstockPhotos 654078994A brand's guide to winning at retail. By Pete Beck 

Cultivating the inspired consumer

Brand positioning in today’s retail landscape requires flexibility and clever finesse. Savvy retailers today know that customers now expect highly-tailored brand experiences, yet it’s in a brand’s best interest to present its products and stories consistently to everyone, everywhere. So, as a brand building strategy, how do you manage these often-conflicting expectations?

The ultimate win is to inspire customers to purchase through connection to their values, so they are inspired to return for more experiences and products with your brand. To help your brand win big with your target consumers, consider these points as you create a flex strategy.

The Brand

Define your brand position as the purest expression and experience of your brand. Then, work to develop appropriate brand rules as you will need to adapt the presentation over a variety of environmental and customer conditions.

It is critical to clearly define the core brand essence and build in flexibility that you are comfortable with prior to presentation negotiations with your retail partners.

The Consumer

Consider first who the consumer is. What kinds of experience will they expect and what experiences can you provide? Then work to deliver something meaningful and ideally unforgettable, and create something surprising yet authentic that will delight the consumer. Retail provides the opportunity to create the emotional connection with your customers in the most pure and physical way.

To connect with the consumer artistically and impactfully, it is important to consider the presentation of the product in the most visually intuitive way possible. Recognizing complementary visual and copy support can be integral to effective product presentation. In the most pure presentation, you must develop a brand positioning strategy that the customers can emotionally and functionally connect with in the absence of additional visual and copy support. For example, if you are presenting a speed story, does your presentation look fast in angle, color, and finish?

The Retailer

To tell a resonating story about your brand, it’s important to note the retailer’s goals and expectations, and then look at the conditions your brand is currently operating in. What are the operational preferences or concerns? Details like sight line, footprint requirements, preferred materials, hanging hardware and security systems are key spatial elements to take into account as you optimize your presentation.

To achieve customer follow through, consider the person who will interact with the consumer in the retail environment. How much education and interaction will be required of the store associate? The key is to create inspired brand advocates on the floor. Store associates have the power to amplify and convert, or on the flip side, to potentially erode your brand. Think about how you may evolve the way you can more emotionally connect to the associate through the delivery of your “training” materials – Can you create something exciting that is more memorable than a brochure or standard web content?

The Takeaway

Surprise and delight for the ultimate customer experience.

The most effective brand positioning strategies are those that motivate their consumers to aspire to the best versions of themselves through creative environments. These effectively translated campaigns communicate consistently across channels despite the natural differences in the target consumer, existing environment, and tiered presentation budget.

Building your retail strategy with this in mind will not only help ensure successful product launches, store openings and day-to-day success, but will also resonate with consumers so they will care to come back and tell their friends.

Pete Beck is executive vice president of client service at IDL Worldwide.

Glick GWhile there has been some concern about the Trump Administration’s onslaught of executive orders in the first months after taking office, the retail market believes the Administration’s policies will mean good things for the retail industry, and benefit developers, investors and retailers. By Gary Glick

Since the Great Recession, the U.S. economy has slowly but steadily improved. This continued to be the case in 2016. For most of the year, the yield on the 10-year Treasury remained at historic lows, the economy continued to add jobs, unemployment dropped below 5 percent, real gross domestic product growth settled in at about 2 percent, energy prices remained exceptionally low and the stock market reached historic highs.

Despite all of these positive factors, commercial real estate continues to face some hurdles. 

The Changing Retail Landscape

The wild card for the economy-at-large and for commercial real estate is the “Trump Factor.” On the one hand, the Trump Factor could be very positive for the economy: President Donald Trump has plans for significant infrastructure spending, tax reform (including significant tax cuts for corporations, which could result in off-shore jobs returning to the U.S.), and the rolling back of regulations that impede lending and business growth.

However, the Trump Factor could “spook” business as a result of the president’s unpredictability and increasing evidence of a tendency to “flip-flop” on policy. It appears that business generally views the Trump Factor positively, as evidenced by the way the stock market has reacted since the election and the unexpected run-up in the 10-year Treasury rate of about 1 percent.

Despite dire predictions for retail sales and shopping centers in 2016 due to the prolific rise of internet shopping, retailers and retail developers continue to evolve quickly to attract customers; most are attempting to add Amazon-proof uses to their shopping centers. For example, restaurants and fast casual dining have replaced many of the tenants traditionally found at shopping centers.

Movie theaters have made a major comeback, offering enhanced amenities such as fully reclining seats and high-end food and alcohol. “Experiential” is the buzzword for retail developers: Create an enhanced experience at shopping centers to attract consumers away from their homes because, even with high-speed internet and large-screen high definition TV in their homes, people still crave interaction with others in communal environments that provide entertainment and unique shopping experiences. 

Since the recession, high-end retail and off-price retail have done extremely well. It is everything in the middle that has suffered, particularly big box category killers (whose offerings can be found as easily or more easily on Amazon) and non-high-end department stores such as Macy’s, Kohl’s and Sears. Many of these retailers have made strides to attract consumers to their stores or internet portals. They have down-sized, matched Amazon prices, offered better in-store experiences and service, and provided omni-channel options between their own internet sites and stores, with in-store or fast home deliveries.

Retail Predictions for 2017

Taking into account all of the above factors, Cox Castle Nicholson, in this year’s annual retail forecast, predicts 2017 will be another good year for most sectors of the retail real estate market, and we expect capital will continue to be available for retail investment sales and borrowing, albeit at a slightly higher cost above the historic lows of the last few years.

However, new shopping center construction likely will continue to be largely stagnant in 2017 due to anemic new home building in undeveloped and suburban markets. Retail development likely will continue to be driven mostly by the repositioning of poorly performing regional malls, the renovation of existing retail centers, new in-fill development (often paired with a multi-family component), and some new ground-up construction in robust economic pockets such as Silicon Valley.

We also expect that foreign investment will rank as the highest source of available capital for real estate in 2017. The demand for U.S. real estate among foreign capital providers stems largely from geopolitical uncertainties, including the economic downturns in Greece and China and the Brexit vote.

Many foreign investors still view U.S. investment as the best opportunity for safe growth, as do many domestic investors struggling to obtain returns in other investments comparable to the rates of return on commercial real estate. Because of cap rate compression and demand, much of this capital is now flowing into secondary and tertiary markets with the expectation of higher returns.

Despite the uncertainty of the Trump Factor, the U.S. continues to remain the “gold standard” for real estate investment. Considering the expectation of a continuation of a low interest rate environment (even with the prospect of gradual increases), low unemployment, low energy prices and a robust U.S. stock market, over the short term we continue to believe that the U.S. economy will outperform other developed markets, thereby continuing to provide an environment for significant capital to find its way to retail real estate investors and borrowers in 2017.

Gary Glick, a partner at Cox Castle Nicholson, specializes in shopping center development and retail leasing, representing both developers and retailers.

ThinkstockPhotos 522152569Here's what you can do to ensure your growing needs are protected and supported. By Rafael Lourenco

When you sell online, you know it's important to protect your business from credit card fraud. What you may not realize is that as your business grows, not only will your fraud-protection needs change, but the type of fraud prevention system you use can help or hinder growth.

There are three main ways outdated or insufficient fraud protection can cause your business to stall: by failing to support sales into new markets, by blocking valid orders, and by taking employee and management time away from core business activities. Outsourcing fraud protection rather than trying to handle it in-house can foster growth instead of holding you back.

Restricting sales growth

The global reach of e-commerce is a positive for merchants, as long as they have the anti-fraud resources to safely sell across borders. Those resources include cross-border transaction screening, but there's more that a business needs to grow internationally. Staffers who can contact customers in a variety of languages, across multiple time zones and in a way that meets local customer service standards, is the key to avoiding false declines and strengthening customer relationships.

For example, a cosmetics retailer that starts out selling online in the U.S. knows there are potential markets in Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. But as a small company, it may have neither the staff, resources nor the expertise to detect e-commerce fraud in orders placed from abroad. When a flagged international order needs to be checked by calling the customer, the cosmetics company may not be open during business hours in the customer's home country. And finding customer service staffers who are multilingual, well-versed in fraud prevention techniques, and fluent in local manners and customs isn't easy.

If this company sticks with internal fraud-screening processes, it almost certainly won't be able to sell into those markets abroad, and that sets a limit on its ability to expand. By outsourcing its fraud-prevention program to a company that has the capacity to screen cross-border orders and deliver international customer service, the company gains the freedom to sell into new markets and reach new customers.

Supporting your business development

There's another way that underdeveloped fraud-prevention programs can hurt small companies as they grow—by pulling attention away from the core business to deal with order screening. In the case of our hypothetical cosmetics company, it's easy enough at first to assign one customer service agent to manually screen flagged orders because there are only a few orders total each day. Meanwhile, the marketing and management teams start drafting plans for the company's own private-label line of makeup.

But as the company's customer base, media profile and order volume grow, both fraud screening and core business functions begin to suffer. Soon, the occasional all-hands-on-deck crisis during sales peaks becomes a regular occurrence. The company's plans for its own cosmetics brand languish as everyone gets pulled into the fraud-management process. At some point, the company's owners and managers have to decide if they're in business to sell cosmetics or to screen orders for fraud. If they choose to outsource their fraud screening to a service that can handle sales peaks without compromising fraud protection, they can get back to the heart of their business and their goal of developing their own products.

Outsourcing fraud management

Many times, online retailers switch to outsourcing after they experience one of the situations above – they've run into a hard limit on safe expansion, or they're overwhelmed by in-house order screening as their order volume grows. Ideally, though, the move to outsourced fraud protection should happen before growth takes off and before the company hits a growth plateau in its home market. Certainly, any company that's planning a major marketing initiative, product development program, or international expansion should first review its fraud protection plans to make sure they'll support, not impede, these plans.

By outsourcing fraud prevention before it's a crisis, e-commerce companies can keep their focus on sales growth and product development, while also enjoying the peace of mind that comes from professional fraud protection.

Rafael Lourenco is the vice president of U.S. operations at ClearSale, a Card-Not-Present fraud prevention operation that protects e-commerce merchants against chargebacks. Visit http://clear.sale/ for more information.

jachsStar Ride Kids will create JACHS boys and girls apparel and sleepwear.

Vintage inspired, American contemporary lifestyle brand JACHS New York has partnered with Star Ride Kids to take its brand into childrenswear. Marking the N.Y.C.-based brand’s second license, Star Ride will develop girls apparel (sizes 0-16), boys apparel (sizes 0-20) and children’s sleepwear under the JACHS brand and its other labels, including JACHS New York, The Original J.A.C.H.S. Manufacturing Co., and JACHS Girlfriend.

JACHS’ exclusive licensing agent, Merchant Factors, brokered the deal.

“At our Bleecker Street store we have young parents ask us every day does this come in kids size,” JACHS Founder & CEO Hayati Banastey says. “We realized there was a demand in the market for high quality, vintage inspired childrenswear. So we started making a few custom pieces, which sold out immediately. This gave us the confidence to partner with a true children’s apparel expert, and design a full JACHS kids line with Star Ride.”

“Star Ride’s mission is very similar to JACHS,” Star Ride’s Vice President of Sales Henry Shalam adds. “To deliver fashionable and high quality items at a reasonable price. We’re very excited to translate that into kids, leveraging JACHS’ strong brand recognition.”

Star Ride anticipates a Spring 2018 launch and plans to sell department stores, specialty stores and mid-tier stores in North America as well as online retailers. For more information and sneak peeks of the collection, visit JACHS on Instagram @JACHSNY.

iStock retailRetail companies should focus on backend systems that connect engagement portals with customers to ensure a seamless retail experience. By Antoine Rizk

Looking back on the evolving retail industry over the last 10 years, it’s clear to see how much the landscape as a whole has changed, just as industries like healthcare, banking and supply chain have evolved as well. The one thing that hasn’t changed in the retail industry is the overall focus on the customer and their experience.

With today’s evolving technology landscape, we have seen a shift in how retailers are interacting with, tracking and facilitating solid customer experiences. As technology advancements and new customer engagement portals — such as web, mobile and social media and e-commerce giants — entered the scene, tracking customer data and turning that into actionable results has become more complex.

Backend systems for retail companies have evolved from siloed ERP, CRM and order management systems, to an integrated platform that provides a single source of truth for customer, order and inventory data in real-time, making that data available to all existing and future front-end, customer-facing systems. This evolution is causing modern retailers to rethink their utilization of data to build better experiences for their customers.

Rethinking Data Utilization

Now the question is, how can modern retailers take what they’re learned from the past and focus on the utilization of data to build better experiences on the backend today? Everyday new retail models are entering the scene and out of those models surface new ways to connect with consumers. The only way to stay on top of these new and emerging trends is to track, analyze and develop concrete strategies for customer data.

Consumers today are more dynamic and complex than ever before, and retailers must be able to keep up and shift their own strategies to make sure that customer retention is maintained. An integral part to providing the best customer experience is managing data. Luckily, technology in the form of data and application management platforms now exist. These types of platforms can be used to manage data from the application layer and beyond, allowing for secure, adaptable and scalable data management, and a real-time customer view based on relevant data.

By using data, retailers can really get to know the ins and outs of their customers, and tailor experiences exactly to them. It’s just like any good relationship – in order to make the other person happy, one must pay very close attention and learn as much as they can about them. This includes their preferences, habits, likes and dislikes. Same goes for the relationship between retailers and customers. To maintain a good relationship with customers, retailers must pay very close attention.

Putting Customer Experience First

Retail organizations and retail professionals need to re-think their approach to customer experience to be successful in today’s evolving – and competitive – marketplace. The following tips lay out how to put the customer’s experience first and thrive in today’s retail space:

1. Focus on the customer – The customer experience must be considered from a customer-centric perspective, not from an enterprise-centric perspective. This means acknowledging that the entire ecosystem is at the service of the customer journey.

2. Create a backend system using an omnichannel approach – The backend system must allow sufficient integration to ensure that a customer purchase process will flow seamlessly across the information systems: e-Commerce catalog, payment services, order management services, fulfillment services etc. It must also provide the ability to federate identity across systems. Throughout the purchase process, the customer’s identity needs to be recognized and security of payment flows need to be ensured.

3. Utilize data and turn it into actions – Retailers need to allow for information to flow seamlessly across their entire network of suppliers, distributors and partners to enable them to make proactive decisions and optimize the customer experience. By sharing data, they will be able to optimize and monitor supply chain processes, deliver tailored customer profiling and services, and make the customer journey seamless across all entities in the retail ecosystem.

Data: The Key Puzzle Piece

Evolving to the needs of the customer has never been more important than it is today for retailers. Using data to do this is not only wise, but also necessary to stay on top of industry and buyer trends. Retailers need to put a data-driven focus on the customer, develop strong backend omnichannel approaches and utilize all of the data that they can get their hands. The key piece of this puzzle is ultimately data. Data can unlock clues to what the next emerging retail customer experience trends may be and help retail organizations and professionals prepare for what’s to come.

Antoine Rizk is vice president of global supply chain solution marketing at Axway. He is responsible for developing global strategies for product implementation and integration, as well as taking Axway’s API and B2B offering to market. 

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