Today, we’re taking a look at 10 innovations in US retail that retailers and marketers should be following in order to keep up with competitors. They include some of the big guys like Lowe’s, Walmart and Bon-Ton as well as a collection of midsize innovators like Dollar General, Meijer and Kroger.
Invasion of the LoweBots? Lowe’s is extending customer service robots to 11 San Francisco area stores in an innovative customer service move. Kroger owned Mariano’s opened its newest “grocerant” – grocery with restaurant sections – in Chicago. Bon-Ton rolled out BOPIS at all 7 of its brand stores across the US. That would be “buy online, pickup in-store.”
Twenty-five Detroit-area Meijer stores will offer free, one-hour grocery delivery service to shoppers who pay $99 annually for a Shipt app. Muji opened its first suburban US Japanese retail in Paramus, New Jersey, adding to its six New York City and five California locations. A new Market Force Information survey says Wegmans beat out Trader Joe’s as the most popular US grocery store for the first time in four years.
According to app research firm Applause, Groupon is the most popular flash sales app. Sears launches a Showcase shop-in-shop fashion boutiques in-store to try to win back shoppers. Walmart and MoneyGram partner in new program that lets customers transfer money digitally without needing credit cards. If reading about all these innovations has left you hungry and needing a caffeine fix, check out Starbucks’ newest food offering – New York bagel balls – at 7,000 of its coffee shops across the US.
Editor’s update: Here’s an innovation we came across after publishing our post and we’ve added it here as a bonus! Guess who just launched a brand-new concept store? It’s Kmart and they’re calling their new Des Plaines, Illinois “A Whole Lotta Awesome” store. Could they make a comeback with enough investor support? Check the story from Brand Channnel below.
Robots to invade Lowe’s Cos. Inc.’s West Coast stores to serve customers
They look something like oversized vacuum cleaners but their owners say they have a bit of autonomy built into them.
Lowe’s Cos. Inc. will introduce robots designed to interact with customers at some of its West Coast home improvement centers beginning next month.
Starting in September, Mooresville-based Lowe’s will install LoweBots into 11 San Francisco Bay-area stores with the idea of helping customers and aiding in inventory duties.
The store-based robots come from Kyle Nel and Lowe’s Innovation Labs, which was formed by the company in 2014 to determine how customers’ expectations are changing. Mooresville-based Nel, who is executive director of Lowe’s Innovation Labs, says Lowe’s first deployed robots in its Orchard Supply Hardware store in San José, Calif., as a test. Via bizjournals.com
Kroger opens ‘grocerant’ concept
“Grocerant” is the term used by executives to describe the nearly 74,000-sq.-ft. space in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood. The first floor of the two-story location largely features prepared food stations including an oyster bar, gelato shop, Nutella bar, barbecue, and the chain’s first-ever burger bar and chopped salad station.
The second floor features an expanded assortment of produce, a charcuterie and cheese shop. Via fierceretail.com
Bon-Ton adds BOPIS (Buy Online Pickup In-store)
Bon-Ton Stores has announced the launch of a “buy online, pick up in-store” feature for shoppers across all seven of its banners and their respective websites.
Milwaukee-based Bon-Ton operates Boston Store, Bergner’s, Carson’s, Elder-Beerman, Herberger’s and Younkers stores. Each will now offer the service.
Bon-Ton tested the program for several months in its Milwaukee market before launching BOPIS company wide. Via fierceretail.com
Meijer to launch Metro Detroit home delivery
Southeast Michigan residents soon will have another option to get their groceries without leaving home.
Starting Sept. 15, smartphone app Shipt and Grand Rapids-based Meijer will partner to offer delivery grocery services of 55,000 items seven days a week. Deliveries from 24-hour Meijer locations will be made available to shoppers around the clock and orders can be delivered in as little as one hour.
Representatives for both companies told The Detroit News that 25 Meijer stores in Metro Detroit will offer the service, which constitute the majority of stores in the region. Via detroitnews.com
Muji opens first suburban store
Muji has opened an outpost in Paramus, New Jersey. The 8,600-sq.-ft. store in the Westfield Garden State Plaza is a first for the Japanese retailer, it’s the first suburban store in the United States.
Muji opened its first U.S. location nearly 10 years ago in New York City and now has six locations there and five in California. But the stores are all located in cities where the brand’s quirky mix of high-quality basics ranging from apparel to kitchenware and beauty products appeals to urban shoppers. Everything is sold under Muji’s own brand.
The Paramus location, while only 15 miles outside of Manhattan, marks an important step in Muji’s expansion, according to a company statement. Via fierceretail.com
This Is the Grocery Store That Americans Love More Than Trader Joe’s
America has a new favorite grocery store that beat out Trader Joe’s, and it’s expanding to even more locations. According to Business Insider, Wegmans scored the highest in customer satisfaction in an annual survey by Market Force Information. That means Wegmans beat out both Publix and Trader Joe’s, which came in second and third, respectively.
“This is the first time in four years that Trader Joe’s did not rank first,” according to the survey results. Wegmans is based in upstate New York and has 90 total locations, all on the East Coast and mostly in New York and New Jersey. The next lucky state on the list is North Carolina, where there will reportedly be “multiple sites in the Raleigh-Durham area.”
Although much of the country has never visited a Wegmans because of its limited locations, the shoppers who do get to go have created a loyal following that contributed to it snagging the No. 1 spot. One of the reasons people claim Wegmans is the best grocery store is the value: you get a whole lot for what you pay for. The store-brand staples like olive oil and pasta imported from Italy can’t be beat, and the bakery’s pastries and cakes are birthday-party worthy. Via yahoo.com
How flash sales sites are winning retail’s mobile app wars
Make no mistake: Flash sales are by no means the phenomenon they were just a few years ago, when sites like Groupon, LivingSocial, Gilt Groupe and Zulily dazzled investors and helped lead retail out of its Great Recession-era malaise. But there’s still a place for the flash model—especially on mobile.
In fact, Groupon does mobile better than any other retailer, at least according to the results of a new survey conducted by digital quality and testing firm Applause and published under its Application Resources Center (ARC) aegis. After analyzing more than 1.2 million mobile retailer app star ratings and consumer reviews across Apple’s App Store and the Google Play storefront, ARC determined that Groupon has racked up an industry-high user sentiment score of 83 points out of 100. Furniture flash sales site One Kings Lane, which was acquired in June by Bed Bath & Beyond, follows in second at 82 points. Still another flash sales merchant, Rue La La, rounds out the top five at 77.6 points. Via retaildive.com
Sears launching Showcase shop-in-shop apparel boutiques
Sears took a beating early this year when a survey released by Prosper Analytics & Insights revealed that just 1% of American shoppers called the chain their favorite place for apparel. In terms of shopper preference share for women’s clothing in particular, Sears dropped 53% year over year: In fact, at the end of 2015 Sears ranked 15th overall among women’s apparel favorites, behind nonprofit chain Goodwill, according to Prosper data.
Sears, once very much a go-to place for apparel and many other items on Americans’ shopping lists, has swiftly responded with a plan to create boutiques within stores, an approach that has worked well at Best Buy, J.C. Penney, and Nordstrom.
“We are creating an experience for our members unlike anything in the U.S. retail industry — a fashion-forward, shop-in-shop apparel collection featuring established and popular international fashion brands,” David Pastrana, Sears Holdings’ president of apparel, said in a statement. “Showcase at Sears gives our members access to fresh international trends, styles and fashions at an affordable price — and only found at Sears.” Via retaildive.com
Walmart’s new money transfer program
Walmart has partnered with MoneyGram to launch a new money transfer platform.
The new program is an extension of the companies’ existing partnership that lets Walmart customers send money to other locations or accounts. It improves the money transfer experience for shoppers and offers a streamlined process and new feature that tracks transfers.
“We are pleased to be a part of this exciting opportunity to help Walmart deliver a true omnichannel experience. For nearly 20 years MoneyGram and Walmart have worked together to provide our customers with the highest quality and most convenient financial services,” says Juan Agualimpia, MoneyGram’s chief marketing officer and Walmart senior leader. “This new offering is a testament to our combined commitment to our customers.” Via fierceretail.com
Starbucks rolls out New York bagel balls at more than 7,000 locations
The husband and wife team of Nick and Elyse Oleksak have a lot to celebrate. Starting Tuesday, their New York City bakery is bringing cream cheese-stuffed bagel balls to Starbucks’ more than 7,000 U.S. locations.
Starbucks first began selling Bantam Bagels in a few dozen of its New York shops in 2015, before rolling them out to some 500 stores in New York City, Philadelphia and Indianapolis. On Tuesday, the coffee company revealed that the itty-bitty bagels would hit stores nationwide.
“We always said, ‘Wouldn’t these be a perfect fit for Starbucks?'” Elyse Oleksak, co-founder of Bantam Bagels, told CNBC. “The Starbucks customer looks for elevated versions of iconic food and they’re always on the go.”
This isn’t the first bakery deal Starbucks has struck this year, as it tries to make food a larger piece of its business. In July, the company partnered with Italian baker Rocco Princi to bring artisan bakery items to its upscale Roastery locations. Those are slated to open in cities like New York and Shanghai starting in 2017 Via cnbc.com
Can ‘Awesome’ Store of the Future Concept Make Kmart Cool?
So there’s no better time for Kmart to unveil a new retail experience and concept it’s calling a “Whole Lotta Awesome.” The intention: to win over members of Generation Y — or as Bloomberg puts it, “the $600 billion buying power of millennials” — who have put Kmart far down on their list of preferred bricks-and-mortar shopping destinations, not to mention e-commerce sites….
In addition to flashy launch elements such as having Chicago Bulls veteran Scottie Pippen on hand to sign autographs (and support Kmart’s exclusive distribution of the Risewear athleisure and basketball shoe collection it’s been promoting with the Rise Challenge tour; hashtags #risechallenge and #risewithkmart) and members of the city council of the Chicago suburb on hand for the ribbon-cutting, Kmart rolled out a number of nifty new store features.
Among them: “Shoparazzi,” a “free personal concierge service” that when provided with a customer’s shopping list, will do the shopping for you (if Kmart doesn’t carry the product, they will find it at another store and it will be waiting for you at checkout); an upgraded pharmacy staffed with a wellness consultant; and a nod to the success of dollar stores called “Aisle of WOW!” which Kmart describes as “a special section of the store dedicated to low-priced items, limited-time only ‘Real Deals’ and ‘Dollarpalooza,’ offering a wide selection of items, all priced at $1.”
There also are enhanced beauty, pet care and grocery sections; enhanced aesthetics and in-store design, typically not Kmart’s strong suit; and even the addition of a “full-service paint shop” for the DIY crowd featuring more than 1,500 colors. That last gambit makes sense as Kmart aims at an aging millennial generation that increasingly is becoming parents and homeowners addicted to Fixer Upper and other HGTV shows. Via brandchannel.com
Innovation keeps on rolling in retail
There’s always lots of learning in following the innovators in retail. We hope you enjoyed the latest roundup of retail news and innovations. Upcoming in the Cashback Industry News, we’ll be looking at e-commerce in the Middle East and Africa, UK and EU. We’re always glad to hear from readers and your story suggestions are welcome any time.