Category Archives: Marketing

Artificial Intelligence in Brick and Mortar Retail

Retail Law Advisor Goulston & Storrs PC

Headlines about brick and mortar retail tend to be dominated by how these establishments are in decline while online retail is burgeoning. Fortunately for brick and mortar retailers, their demise is not preordained since tools from the online retail universe may also help them succeed. One such tool is artificial intelligence (AI), which is expected to grow rapidly in the next few years.

Online retail is able to target customers easily because of the large data collection that occurs with every transaction. However, brick and mortar retail establishments may employ various AI tools to collect data to tailor in-store shopping experiences and target consumers. For example, video and/or audio surveillance can be used to track shopper activity in stores, and stores can then predict customer preferences and behaviors by analyzing and conglomerating in-store surveillance. Such surveillance methods can use facial and/or voice recognition software to analyze facial and voice expressions to understand how customers react to particular products or experiences.

Robots are another AI tool that may help brick and mortar retail compete more effectively with online retail. Robots may enhance the physical shopping experience in many ways. Humanoid robots can be deployed into retail establishments to greet customers, answer questions, and guide them through the store. Lowe’s has piloted a robot program at its Bay Area stores, where robots help customers search for products and guide them in the stores. Also, robots are being used and expanded to check and resupply inventory, deliver products, and assist with checkout and payment.

Finally, the collection of sales data can help retailers personalize a customer experience and ultimately help increase sales – whether in-store or online. Data can be collected online and then used in stores, or data collected from a customer’s previous visit can be used to enhance his or her next visit to a bricks and mortar store. “Machine learning” can discover patterns in a customer’s behavior and then make suggestions or produce incentives, such as instantly printing coupons for products that are likely to be desirable to an individual customer. The same data collection can be used to better tailor inventory, customize shopping experiences, adjust pricing, and refine product selection. While all of these techniques are equally useful online retail tools, their utility in the bricks and mortar environment may help these physical establishments remain competitive with their online counterparts

I Was Invited To Buy “DRONE INSURANCE”!

No I do not usually look at email advertisements.

Before I clicked on “SEE MORE”, I tried to imagine what I needed drone insurance for. I thought it was a delivery person who was PO’d at me because I am very difficult to deliver anything to.

I live at the same address as about 50 other people. Yes I have a mailbox with my name on it, but many things (like checks) sometimes need a signature. The difference between me and the other 50 people at my address is location. They all live in a 6 story building. I live in a “cottege” at the end of the entrance corridor in a big courtyard surrounded on three sides by 6 story appartments.

Yes, they usually call my cell phone (usually when I am busy writing or washing my hair or cooking).

Nobody has tried a drone on me yet! I have a 110-year old palm tree right in front of my house! Now THAT should keep most drones away without buying insurance!!!

Maybe if a drone crashed in front of my house somebody would listen to my idea: Deliver to what the French call a “relais”: a nearby store that accepts packages for people in the neighborhood. Certainly smarter than paying a delivery person to wander around “like a chicken with his head cut off”.

Finally my curiousity got the better of me and I looked at the advertisement before hitting SPAM!

It was for MY DRONE!

 

CVS Move Into Former Upper East Side Grocery Store Space

The Upper East Side will be getting another CVS pharmacy, as the retailer reportedly signed a lease to occupy space formerly home to a grocery store on the corner of East 86th Street and Second Avenue.

CVS plans to open a 15,649-square-foot location on the ground floor of the Yorkshire Towers building by the first quarter of 201, a CVS spokeswoman told Patch. The retail space was most recently home to a Food Emporium

The pharmacy company finalized a 15-year lease to rent the space, Commercial Observer first reported. One of the landlord’s representatives told Commercial Observer that CVS was eager to rent the space due to its proximity to the Second Avenue Subway.

How Retailers Can Stay OFF The Closing List

MultiChannelMerchant

In April, Swiss brokerage firm Credit Suisse released a report that sent shock waves through the retail universe. It predicted that more than 8600 brick and mortar stores could shutter before the end of 2017. That would make it the worst year on record for store closures. It’s the stuff of nightmares for retailers.

Whether or not you believe the Credit Suisse analysts are right, you can avoid being one of those stores — all it really takes is providing the experiences that today’s consumers demand. Movie theaters in the 1980s faced a similar environment when home video hit big. The industry feared that once people could rent and watch videos at home, nobody would pay to go to a theater and they would all go out of business.

In April, Swiss brokerage firm Credit Suisse released a report that sent shock waves through the retail universe. It predicted that more than 8600 brick and mortar stores could shutter before the end of 2017. That would make it the worst year on record for store closures. It’s the stuff of nightmares for retailers.

Whether or not you believe the Credit Suisse analysts are right, you can avoid being one of those stores — all it really takes is providing the experiences that today’s consumers demand. Movie theaters in the 1980s faced a similar environment when home video hit big. The industry feared that once people could rent and watch videos at home, nobody would pay to go to a theater and they would all go out of business.

Integrate Ecommerce and POS inventory
Omnichannel shoppers see no difference between your ecommerce and POS offerings and neither should you. Make every store’s inventory visible to online shoppers so that you can take advantage of the “buy online, pick-up in store” model. Integrated ecommerce and POS inventory management systems show real-time availability so consumers do not face unexpected out-of-stocks at brick and mortar locations. If an item is not available at the customer’s selected store, provide fast and free transfer from another store.

Use brick and mortar stores as fulfillment centers
Every physical store should also double as a fulfillment center for web orders. This opens up every item in inventory to sales from any channel and reduces time in transit for ecommerce orders. Orders that are automatically routed to locations closest to customers can reach front doors faster than from a central warehouse, often overnight or within two days without incurring express shipping charges.

Go mobile
It’s official — mobile internet usage has surpassed desktop traffic. If your website does not display properly on mobile devices, you’re missing out on a huge number of consumers. But just displaying properly is no longer enough. Navigation, inventory visibility and checkout must all be optimized for mobile users. This has massive benefits for brick and mortar as well when customers on the go can locate items in your stores; they may even make purchases from inside a competitor’s location.

Automate ordering with vendors
The long-time promise of just in time inventory management finally eliminated worries about out-of-stocks. Set minimum and maximum thresholds for SKUs and let your retail management platform automatically order the right amount of inventory from suppliers at the exact right moment. When you know every product you sell will be automatically replenished before it sells through, you do not have to keep as much inventory on hand and can open up shelf space for additional offerings likely to attract customers. You also don’t have to worry anymore about selling out on popular items and sending frustrated customers home empty handed.

Empower every employee as a checkout
One of the worst things that can happen in a store is when customers with intent to purchase leave upon seeing long checkout lines, or can’t find anyone to take their money. The in-store experience must be as smooth and easy as it is online — consumers are no longer willing to wait. Arm every employee with a tablet loaded with mobile POS software so they can complete transactions, look up inventory, and place customer orders from anywhere in the store.

Personalize direct marketing to customers
Target individual customer segments with the offers most likely to appeal to them through marketing automation. Integrate online and POS customer data to segment personas effectively and send promotions that are personalized to known preferences and likely to bring customers into stores. Specific behaviors should trigger customized messages, and look for opportunities to leverage ecommerce and in-store offerings. For example, an abandoned shopping cart may trigger a reminder message that could also include a note like, “this item is also available at your nearest store, would you like us to hold it for you?”

Expand inventory exponentially with drop shipping
Drop shipping today does not resemble what it looked like 15 years ago. Many vendors offer drop shipping that can use your branding and fulfill lightning fast. Offering items for sale that you do not have hold in inventory opens up your website to endless opportunities and it can also be integrated into “buy online, pick up in store.” Give customers the option of having the item sent to their homes or to their nearest store with no shipping charges. If they select a store, simply have the vendor pack the item along with your next regular order.

The next time you see a headline about a retailer closing stores, refer back to this list. It will become clear that one of the major reasons the merchant is in trouble is because it is not responding quickly enough to the changing demands of modern consumers. Provide the experiences today’s empowered shoppers expect and you will have much less to fear from predictions of impending doom.

Transit agencies use ‘Pokemon GO’ to encourage ridership

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) and other transit agencies are using the “Pokemon GO” game to encourage public transit ridership.

Several of Metro’s rail stations serve as “gyms,” where players of the game can train and battle Pokemon, the agency announced this week. Additionally, many stops serve as “Pokestops,” where players can gather equipment needed for the game.

“For those of you who aren’t too keen on walking long distances, Metro buses and trains are a good traffic-beating option with many stations near the type of community gathering places favored by the game,” Metro officials said in a press release.

Additionally, the agency created a Twitter handle dedicated to updates about the augmented reality game, which requires players to walk around their environments to capture virtual creatures.

However, Metro cautioned players to remain alert and aware of their surroundings while playing the game. On Twitter, MTA New York City Transit (NYCT) and several other agencies have issued similar warnings.

Meanwhile, Houston’s Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Miami-Dade Transit and others also sent out tweets encouraging Pokemon GO players to use transit to catch Pokemon.

Flagler Global Logistics From Latin America to your table

Flagler Global Logistics processes perishables from Latin America for the Southeast

Company says patented fumigation and “cold-chain” processes add shelf life to fruits and vegetables

Company’s success opens up Miami as an alternate distribution hub for Latin American exporters

Tired of seeing moldy blueberries, decaying grapes or wilting asparagus in your refrigerator?

Dave Bouchard, president of Coral Gables-based Flagler Global Logistics said that the patented fumigation process his company uses on imported fruits and vegetables, plus careful temperature and humidity control, can add up to 10 days of shelf life to products at retailers — and in your fridge.

“Our system is designed to receive, process, fumigate, pack and ship perishables as quickly as possible with strict temperature and humidity control,” said Bouchard during a tour of the company’s 114,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art South Florida Logistics Center near Miami International Airport. He took over the company earlier this year, after previous stints as CEO for DB Schenker Logistics for the Americas and as an executive with Ryder System.

“Consumers benefit from longer shelf life and lower costs,” he said.

The fumigation process is a key part of 3-year-old Flagler Global’s success, Bouchard said. So too are the company’s strategic location — near MIA, rail lines and highways — and newly installed equipment that speeds processing time, he said.

Flagler Global was set up by its parent, Florida East Coast Industries (FECI). Building on its expertise in intermodal transport (Florida East Coast Railway — FEC — is an affiliate) and its extensive real estate holdings (like the land where Flagler Global’s logistics center is built), FECI decided to invest millions in the venture.

 

Washington state DOT seeks input on rail-car program revival

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is seeking information from railroads and intermodal logistics companies to help determine if the department should revive the the former Washington Produce Rail Car program.

The department last week issued a request for information seeking proposals from parties interested in restoring the program. The deadline for submissions is May 2.

Federal funding may be available to support the program, but input from the freight community will help the department determine if it should pursue such funding, WSDOT officials said in a press release.

“Both the number and quality of submissions is important to this process,” said WSDOT Freight Rail Policy and Program Manager Chris Herman. “We’ll be looking at the level of demand, as well as assessing the experience of each submitter in managing temperature-controlled fleets and meeting strict service requirements for perishable shipments.”

The Produce Rail Car program originally launched in 2006 with federal and state funding. The program was suspended in 2012 when several private companies were expanding in the market.

Forwarders report zero freight on wretched Asia-Europe trade

Forwarders are reporting a growing number of enquiries for zero freight rates on container shipments from Asia to North Europe, even as spot rates on the trade and on Asia-Mediterranean this week matched the lowest levels ever recorded.

Asia-Europe rates hit $205 per TEU, a level it fell to on June 19, and spot rates to the Med dropped to $195 per 20-foot container, the level it hit on Oct. 16 last year, according to the the Shanghai Containerized Freight Index.

Even though March is the slack season, the year-over-year comparisons are ugly. Asia-North Europe is almost 70 percent down on the same week last year, and Asia-Med is down 76 percent. The comparisons can be found on JOC.com‘s Market Data Hub, along with rates and volumes from all major east-west trades.

JOC.com contacted several forwarders, carriers and shippers about the zero freight reports and no one was prepared to go on the record because of the sensitivities around talking freight prices. However, there was widespread concern about falling rates.

A forwarder with offices in Hong Kong and China said two customers shipping about 100 containers a year to Europe out of three cities in the mainland said they had received a quote for zero freight and wanted him to match it.

“It is absolutely ridiculous. I still don’t know if a carrier actually offered this rate, but if zero freight gets into the market, that would be a disaster,” he said.

The head of ocean freight for a top 10 global logistics provider confirmed the trend of customers asking about zero rates and he warned the market was currently so unstable it was heading for a meltdown.

“Something dramatic is going to happen. The question is not if, but when, and it will hit everyone like a ton of bricks with service disruptions as carriers merge or go out of business,” the Shanghai-based logistics executive said.

The Asia-Pacific head of a European forwarder said he was seeing requests for spot and long term rates of between $50 and $100 per container. “We are not taking up this business, but today average rates offered by shipping lines are around $75-100 per TEU and 150 per 40-foot container,” he said.

“We have no intention to go below cost and we still sell with a profit in most cases, but indeed the margins are very much under pressure.” The forwarder said it was clear from meetings with carriers that they are ready to do whatever it takes to raise rates. “They cannot survive at today’s levels.”

With carrier profitability at such precarious levels, he said bankruptcies were becoming a very real possibility. “Imagine what happens to a sailing schedule if one of your alliance partners suddenly becomes insolvent. Looking the situation today, there is a real possibility of this happening. It is not a desirable situation for anyone,” he said.

For forwarders to quote zero freight rates, it would have to either be offered by container shipping lines, or the rate would be low enough to enable forwarders to offer zero freight and recover the difference through excessive haulage and delivery charges. However, it is worth bearing in mind that in China, the Ministry of Transport forbids the offering of freight rates of below $50 per TEU, with the Shanghai Shipping Exchange monitoring tarrifs and deals on behalf of the MOT.

The three major container carriers contacted by JOC.com said they had no hard evidence of lines offering rates at such give-away levels. An executive from an Asian shipping line said there were rumors in the market that zero freight was being quoted, but he said such a trend, if real, would not be sustainable and would result in problems for the shipping industry.

“Carriers would be better off laying up ships and shippers would not be in a position to maintain a smooth operation in their supply chain,” he said.

Another carrier executive agreed that rate levels have now reached the point where laying up vessels has become financially attractive. “It is getting quite ugly, but as long as we have carriers going for market share and others are subsidized by their governments, things will not necessarily improve,” he said.

The continued operation of loss-making carriers was also questioned by a major Asia-North Europe shipper, who pointed to new rumors of debt-wracked Hyundai Merchant Marine being merged with loss-making Hanjin Shipping.

“I just don’t understand the reasoning behind that. Why merge a loss with a loss in the hope that it becomes a positive?” he said, expressing frustration with the extreme volatility that has consumed the market in the past two years.

“We contract 70 percent of our cargo for the year and every week the rate drops. That means me, and everyone else in the business, has to continually explain our position and defend the contracts. These days we don’t even know where the vessel will be next week — it could be idled, or cancelled, or even scrapped.”

Contact Greg Knowler at greg.knowler@ihs.com and follow him on Twitter: @greg_knowler.

Plowz & Mowz: Just Like UBER!

Knew it would happen! An “APP-BASED” business like UBER for driveway plowing.

Source: J&R Lawns & Landscapes
J&R Lawns & Landscapes in Syracuse uses new app to order plows from an phone app.

In the winter of 2012, after a major snow blast to Syracuse, New York, Wills Mahoney’s mother got stuck in her driveway. As she sat, she watched several plows go by, but couldn’t get one to her property. And there it was, the inspiration for Plowz & Mowz, an on-demand, residential plowing and mowing company, founded by 33-year-old Mahoney and college friend Andrew Englander.

“We are truly the only on-demand snow plowing app on the market today. You can go with other websites, but their turnaround time is about 48 hours, and they’re going to have to give you an estimate,” claimed Mahoney, whose company now serves 30 markets, including Boston, Cleveland, Chicago, Minneapolis and Milwaukee.

Customers download the app, type in their information, get an exact price on a snowplow and then that request is dispatched to drivers who contract with the company. Generally, those drivers are already out on their routes. They can accept or reject the job, depending on distance and schedules.

“It’s very similar to the Uber model,” said Mahoney.

Residential snowplowing is actually a growing business, as harsher storms hit the nation with increased frequency. There are approximately 30,000 residential plowing companies and three times as many who plow commercial properties, like malls and offices.

“The vast majority of the residential market is single contractors. It is highly fragmented,” said Martin Tirado, CEO of the Snow and Ice Management Association, who calls the app a “disruptor.”

“Some of the bigger companies that do this,” he added, “like Brightview, [formerly Rockville, Maryland-based Brickman] they only comprise 3 to 4 percent of market share, and they’re the biggest one out there.”

Jeff DeLine, a Plowz & Mowz provider for three years, said he has seen demand for snowplows surge dramatically.

“Easily hundreds more requests for each event,” said DeLine, owner of J&R Lawns and Landscapes in Syracuse.

DeLine employs about 30 drivers and uses Plowz & Mowz for additional revenue that he said comes without extra hassle.

“It just fills a gap in our current routes,” said DeLine. “We don’t have to gather customer information, we don’t have to gather their billing information, and we don’t have to bill them after the service is completed. All we have to do is show up to the job, plow it and send a picture when it’s completed.”

Last winter, when Syracuse was unusually dry, DeLine dispatched five trucks to Boston, which was seeing record snowfall. He said he made $15,000 on the trip and could not have done it without the app.

“It wouldn’t have been feasible to travel there and do that based on the amount of work that we would have had to do to gain customers there at the drop of a hat,” he said.

While there is no significant competition to Plowz & Mowz yet, there are still challenges to this model. It works for residential, but would need to be much larger scale to serve commercial properties, which require heavy equipment. The model also does away with old-fashioned customer relationships.

“It’s going to be a significant change and more challenging. Before this, people had a route, operators, drivers, they were familiar with the properties in advance. Now they don’t know,” said Tirado. “The property could have steep inclines and declines, sensitive landscaping, where are you going to put the snow? Before, people did on-site inspections. It’s going to be more challenging, but I certainly think people will adapt to it.”

Mahoney said he hasn’t had many issues with customer satisfaction. He notes that drivers have Google Maps, providing a picture of the property, and that customers can upload photos and instructions to their requests. Mahoney claims to have grown his app into a “multimillion-dollar company” in just three years. He said he has help from an angel investor and will be raising more funds soon.

No question, the promise of quick help after a storm is very attractive. With a possibly epic winter storm bearing down on Washington, D.C., where Plowz & Mowz does not yet operate, CNBC.com put a call in to a northern Virginia plow company Thursday to find out about weekend service. After sitting on hold for at least 10 minutes, we were told they could not guarantee a plow before Monday.

 

 

 

 

Omnichannel Marketing, Visibility and Perfect Order

One of the biggest business changes wrought by the rise of the Internet is omnichannel retailing – the ability for consumers to make purchases at any time in any place, and then have the product directly delivered to any address in the world.
This creates a major challenge for suppliers who don’t yet have fully operational EDI and automated, real-time processing. Consumers don’t just want products on demand – they also want accurate information concerning product availability, when the product will ship, and when it will arrive. Providing this information requires that the supplier’s ERP and EDI systems are integrated, and that real-time updates flow between EDI systems, the retailer’s ERP, and the customer interface.

EDI providers make much of the technical coordination easier by providing infrastructure that seamlessly connects the supplier’s and retailer’s EDI systems. This, in turn, makes it easier for perfect orders (orders that meet 20 criteria first specified by R. Wang at Constellation research) to be accomplished, with suppliers fully participating in omnichannel orders.

Visibility
Perfect orders aren’t necessary, most of the time, to satisfy consumers’ needs. But many of the criteria are crucially important. Just as visible, real-time order tracking is vital for omnichannel sales, the same visibility for all orders can work wonders in getting orders perfect (or close to it).

EDI Made Simple: A New Approach
This paper will present a clear, simple path to successful implementation of a highly productive and profitable EDI initiative in your company. If you’re about to bring EDI into your processes, this brief will help you avoid the potential pitfalls encountered when approaching it without this guidance. If you’ve attempted to implement EDI already, you’ll likely recognize at least some of the problems we describe, and gain from our explanations on how to avoid them.