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How Ulta Beauty is Revolutionizing the Cosmetics Industry

The way women shop for beauty products is changing. While there was once a strong divide between consumers who purchased luxury and low-priced cosmetics, consumers have increasingly demonstrated an interest in mixing and matching across many brands and price ranges. Customization is the new trend in retail these days, and mixing and matching gives consumers the power to wholly personalize their looks.

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The Importance of Buy Online, Pick Up in Store

Kohl’s recently made headlines by becoming the next big retailer to add a buy online, pick up in store option for its customers, forging the ultimate connection between the digital and physical shopping worlds. The service is offered at every single Kohl’s location in the country. By the end of the year, it will also be available on tablets and mobile phones. In an effort to add better customer service, Kohl’s has added special parking spaces for those who have made pick up orders.

Buy online pick up in store may not be the most flashy or colorful way to improve a shopping experience, but consumer demand for the service is huge. PetSmart added it when it became its customers’ second most requested feature (the first was similar, an online feature displaying a product’s in-store availability). Best Buy was one of the first retailers to test out the concept, and it quickly took off as a key initiative that transformed the electronics retailer into the omnichannel magnate it is today.

Consumers like buy online, pick up in store because it provides the best of all worlds—the convenience and efficiency of online shopping, the ability to touch and feel a product before you take it home, the elimination of shipping fees, and the ability to receive a product within only a few hours of ordering it. Retailers like buy online pick up in store because it drives traffic to their physical locations and also gives them a competitive edge over ecommerce giants like Amazon.

Lee Peterson, executive vice president with retail consultant WD Partners Inc., explains that brick-and-mortar retail chains have an incredible advantage because they already have potential fulfillment centers everywhere. They’ve “already done the hard part,” he says. “They’ve invested in physical infrastructure (stores) with strategic geographic distribution.”

Kohl’s, for instance, has about 1,200 stores, so it is likely we all live at least relatively near one. By offering buy online, pick up in store, Kohl’s has now given us the opportunity to obtain products in the fastest possible way, something Amazon cannot do without a wealth of physical stores.

Other companies who have recently added the option to either buy or reserve a product online for in-store pick up include Target, Nordstrom, Home Depot, Toys “R” Us, Walgreens, Best Buy, Barnes & Noble and The Limited.

After listening to what customers wanted, The Limited is one retailer who chose to provide the opportunity to reserve items for pick up rather than purchase them in advance. Whether or not customers end up buying items they reserve, the program can still be beneficial for The Limited. It still drives people into the stores, where they will see other products and are likely to decide to buy something different. A survey of 5,100 U.S. consumers, conducted by UPS, found that 45% bought something else while picking up an order in a store. I imagine that number will only grow as the concept of buy online, pick up in store becomes more popular and more retailers add the service.

The survey also found not only do consumers want to pick items up in a store, but they also want to return them there, even those items ordered online. In fact, 61% preferred returning items to a store. Even more, 70% made a new purchase in the store while making that return. Conversely, less than half of those surveyed made another purchase while returning an item online.

It is all about encouraging customers to come into the store in any way we can. What these studies tell us is that consumers want to come in as long as their favorite retailers offer them the right reasons to do so. Buy online, pick up in store is what consumers want, and the retailers who give it to them will greatly benefit.

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Omni Channel Experience, Personalization
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The Unique Ways IKEA Builds Loyalty

“In today’s Experience Economy, the experience is the marketing,” say James H. Gilmore and B. Joseph Pine II in their book, The Experience Economy. I am not sure there is a company that better embodies this sentiment than IKEA. I have previously written on Ikea’s mastery of personalization and creating an exciting in-store experience, but the largest furniture retailer in the world has begun to move far beyond the initiatives that already make it stand out. Lately, it has offered some truly unique ways to build customer loyalty.

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Omni Channel Experience, Personalization, Technology
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What The Starbucks/Spotify Partnership Means For Retail

Starbucks and Spotify recently announced a revolutionary partnership that will give both Starbucks customers and employees the power to control the music played inside Starbucks locations. Starting this fall, more than ten million members of the Starbucks loyalty program will be able to use Starbucks rewards points to pay for Spotify music and stream it over a store’s speakers.

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Thriving Malls
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How Prom Jam at GGP’s Woodbridge Center Inspires Teens Each Year

In 2010, GGP’s Woodbridge Center decided it would become the official prom headquarters of central New Jersey. The Woodbridge team wanted to find a way to improve the mall’s sales and spread the word about the great prom fashions Woodbridge retailers had to offer. From this notion, Prom Jam was born, and what began as an initiative to increase sales quickly grew into an engaging, unforgettable, life-changing experience for teens in the surrounding area.

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Personalization, Technology
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Retailers Prioritize Education and Inspire Students

Today, retail is all about making your customers feel like an integral part of your brand’s community. It is about involving them in the creation of products, educating them on the way these products are made, and, perhaps most importantly, making each customer feel like his/her favorite brands genuinely care for them. One way retailers are beginning to accomplish these tasks is through working directly with students to promote STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education, higher education, and overall confidence in their creativity and entrepreneurial skills.

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Omni Channel Experience
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Creating Stories Out of Stores: The Importance of Storytelling in Retail

This spring, Nickelodeon opened its first flagship retail store in London’s famed Leicester Square. The store features merchandise from some of its most beloved franchises, from SpongeBob SquarePants and Dora the Explorer to vintage characters like Ren and Stimpy. Nickelodeon has a few other stores around the world, but this is the first “destination store,” as executive vice president of consumer products at Viacom, Ron Johnson calls it.

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Westfield San Francisco Debuts Bespoke

On May 28th, Westfield Corporation and Forest City Enterprises launched Bespoke, a 37,000-square-foot event, co-working, and tech demo space, inside Westfield San Francisco Centre. The space is a groundbreaking innovation center, a place for tech and retail companies to collaborate and experiment. What makes it most special is its location—smack dab in the middle of the mall, surrounded by 200 retailers and restaurants with access to the more than 20 million people that visit the mall each year.  

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Personalization
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All the World’s a Stage: Retail is Theater

The oldest toy company in the world, Hamley’s, recently opened Europe’s largest toy store in Moscow. The 73,000-square-foot, two-story space offers children and their families a chance to explore nine different worlds, including the Enchanted Forest, LEGO World, Magic Kingdom, Safari and Space. Inside the store, kids can ride go-karts, test drive a full-scale model of the Star Wars Millennium Falcon, and stand beside an over forty-foot tall LEGO rocket, made from 1.9 million LEGO bricks. “Each world mixes retail, attraction, and entertainment to provide a feast for the senses,” the NRF reported.

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Social Entrepreneurship and the KIND Brand

The KIND Snacks company recently celebrated its 11th anniversary. In honor of this exciting birthday, founder Daniel Lubetzky released his book, Do the KIND Thing, which discussed his belief in the idea that it is possible to both do well and do good. KIND was founded on the principle of providing healthy and delicious snacks while also making the world a better place. How is it attempting to do that? The mission is right in the product name: by spreading kindness.

It may sound surprising a company who sells tasty and nutritious snacks could have been formed with social impact goals at its core, but it is precisely through these bars—and the message these bars send—that founder Daniel Lubetzky has set out to change the world. Through KIND’s AND philosophy, PSFK explains, Lubetzky urges all of us to “challenge conventional wisdom through the dual pursuit of objects that are in a fight for attention with one another.”

Snacks, Lubetzky believes, should be both healthy and taste good. Companies should be able to provide a valuable, successful service and inspire positive change in the process. It is possible, he says, to both make money and do good. That good-doing need not come after a company finds success. Rather, companies can be founded on the principles of doing good in conjunction with the rest. It is why Lubetzky calls KIND a not-only-for-profit business.

The KIND Movement, as it is called, encourages KIND customers to commit acts of kindness in their communities. “Big act or small, we encourage it,” the website says, “from writing a letter to someone who inspired you to planting thousands of trees to simply taking the time to say ‘thank you.’”

Lubetzky’s father, a Holocaust survivor, inspired him to begin this movement. When his father was starving in a concentration camp, he was once given a scrap of food by a soldier who noticed his suffering. While it may not sound significant, Lubetzky says this was an incredible risk for that soldier and it was acts of kindness like this that helped his father through it all.

The Movement seeks to conquer seemingly simple tasks that could have profound effects on people’s day-to-day lives. “How can we make people smile more?” and “Why does kindness make humans happy?” are questions posed on the KIND website.

One way it begins to answer these questions is by hosting kindness events, such as a recent partnership with Zulily to host Kindness Safari at zoos throughout the United States. The event was part of the Kind Parents, Kind Kids initiative and sent kids on a kindness-themed scavenger hunt though the zoo. The activity encouraged acts of kindness, such as asking kids to write a thank you note to the caretaker of their favorite animal.

This past May, KIND launched an initiative in honor of National Military Appreciation Month. They encouraged consumers to tweet a thank you message to a soldier with the hashtag #thankskindly, and turned all tweets into handwritten notes. The KIND team later delivered those notes to deserving military and veterans around the country, and each tweet resulted in a $1 donation to military nonprofit Cell Phones For Soldiers, up to $10,000.

KIND also encourages customers to share the kind things they do with the hashtag #kindawesome. Photos and text shared with this hashtag appear on a special page on the KIND website.

Every month, KIND donates $10,000 to a different crowd sourced charity, suggested and voted for by the KIND community. All of this perpetuates the concept most lauded by consumers today: co-creation. Consumers want a say in what their favorite companies are doing. KIND not only gives consumers a say, but it gives them an opportunity to have a hand in doing good.

Through this philosophy, KIND has established itself as a very special type of omnichannel brand. Here, I do not only use omnichannel as a reference to the combined digital and physical strategies that lead to sales, but rather as a reference to the holistic presence the message to be kind has given the brand. When customers hold open doors for their friends, KIND is in their heads. When they plant a tree or write a thank you note, KIND is on their minds. When they want to raise money for their favorite charity, they can go to KIND for help.

Of course, KIND takes it many steps further by allowing them the ability to share those acts with hashtags and attend special kindness events. Thus, a more complete type of omnichannel then we’d even think possible. KIND provides customers emotional satisfaction through doing good, social satisfaction through sharing those deeds, and physical satisfaction through providing good food that’s good for them. This is the KIND AND philosophy.

Of course, KIND acknowledges that the success of a movement seeking to spread kindness could be a bit difficult to measure, but it has decided to start by keeping a running tally of KIND acts committed and submitted online by customers. The ticker has reached over one million kind acts so far.

Back in 2013, Lubetzky told the Stanford Lawyer:

“Companies have combined businesses and social causes before, but the small way in which I think I’ve contributed is by pioneering a model where the social and the business are integrated with the DNA of the entity. And the business model actually advances those goals together, rather than separately. You advance the business objectives in tandem—the more products that are sold, the more you can foster cooperation, the more you advance the social and business mission.”

This idea seems to be gaining traction, with companies like BucketFeet being founded with a specific social movement embedded into its core mission and brands like ModCloth reinventing themselves to operate with a change-evoking cause. This is, in my opinion, where the majority of retail is headed. Consumers, especially millennials, want the places they buy from to help them make a difference.

While social impact is a driver of the KIND brand, Lubetzky acknowledges that no one is going to remain loyal to a company that doesn’t sell a good product, which is why his major focus has always been on producing a bar that is both delicious and healthy and also only contains ingredients people can recognize and pronounce.

With this in mind, KIND sold one million dollars worth of bars in its first year alone. While KIND products used to be sold exclusively in high-end stores, they can now be found virtually anywhere. It was reported in January that KIND currently sells about 20 million bars per month.

In addition to social impact and superior products, Lubetzky believes that a company culture that encourages disagreement is key to innovation. He told PSFK that he encourages his employees at all levels to bring up their points of view and that he prioritizes creating an environment that is open to sharing ideas. You must be willing to be self-critical and to bring in people who are better than you at certain things, he said.

Every morning, Lubetzky rides the subway to work and hands out #kindawesome cards to people he sees committing acts of kindness. The recipients are encouraged to redeem the cards online for a package containing KIND snacks and another #kindawesome card. The latter empowers them to celebrate someone else doing something kind. It is little things like this that can spark big change, that, as Phillip Haid explained the company’s goal in The Financial Post, can “trigger a chain of random acts of kindness around the world.”

Through all of this kindness, Lubetzky may also be triggering a new type of retail.

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