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How A Hybrid Model Can Help Retailers Survive The Online-Shopping Trend

How A Hybrid Model Can Help Retailers Survive The Online-Shopping Trend

With shoppers finding much of what they want online, the future of the brick-and-mortar store can seem bleak.

Such major retailers as J.C. Penney, Lowe’s, Gap and Family Dollar, among many others, have announced plans to close at least some stores across the United States this year.

Is it possible, though, that an answer for what’s troubling retailers these days could be a hybrid model that marries digital with an in-store experience? Already some are trying such an approach, as when Amazon opened a Black Friday pop-up store in Madrid where customers could browse, scan the QR code to learn more about any item that drew their interest, and instantly make a purchase online.

“This no-pressure concept is becoming increasingly popular as today’s customer strongly rejects any hard-sell tactics,” says J.J. Delgado (www.jjdelgado.xyz), a former Amazon marketing manager in Europe who led the largest sales day in the company’s history.

“Instead, they favor an environment that allows them to make their own choices based on all the information that is available to them.”

Retailers have been facing a sea change in their customers’ shopping habits for some time now. A recent Harvard Business Review article pointed out that some stores are handling the problem by cutting the number of employees and reducing the amount of training they give employees. But the three Wharton School of Business professors who wrote the article conclude that approach is counterproductive.

In Delgado’s view, retailers can’t waste time lamenting what was. They need to adapt to what is.

“The future of shopping is not in decline, it is evolving,” he says.

Delgado offers a few suggestions on how a hybrid of digital with brick-and-mortar can work for retailers determined to survive in the digital marketplace:

The customer must experience something they can’t online. Shopping has become a multi-sensorial experience that goes much further than a mere retail transaction, Delgado says. It is about replacing the traditional shopping experience and putting the customer at the center of the whole retail process. “The customer wants authenticity and something of real value, not just monetary value but emotional value,” he says.

Store staff must provide the human connection not available online. “That human connection is the store’s trump card and they must play it right,” Delgado says. “Maximizing that connection and combining it with online connectivity is fundamental to creating the ideal hybrid experience.”

Companies must seek innovative ways to manage their new reality. The changing retail landscape is paving the way for deals between manufacturers, retailers and delivery companies to create ‘mashups’ that allow them to combine their strengths and combat their weaknesses, Delgado says.

“Amazon is the main player in this game, as we have seen with their acquisition of Whole Foods Market,” he says, “but many others are following suit.”

One example is the clothing chain Zara. The chain’s London store features interactive mirrors and high-tech facilities, and combines traditional shopping areas with online areas where customers can scan QR codes and make orders that in many cases are instantly delivered to the store on the same day.

“Some see the digital transformation as the cause for store closures, but it’s very possible that this same digital transformation also could provide the solution to retail woes,” Delgado says. “It is clear that we will soon see more hybrid-retail strategies as retailers seek ways of consolidating their online and offline presence to deliver a seamless customer experience.”


About J.J. Delgado

J.J. Delgado, co-author of Think Video: Smart Video Marketing & #Influencing (www.jjdelgado.xyz), is a professional speaker and digital-marketing expert. He is a former employee of Amazon who led the largest international-sales day in the company’s history. In addition, he was recognized as one of the Top 15 unofficial LinkedIn influencers of 2018. He has helped drive the growth of many organizations, including Amazon, Burger King, Pepsi, Hertz, Ford, Liberty Mutual and others.












Blockchain

Where Have You Been? Blockchain for Tracking Goods in Trade.

Why is it so hard to track the origin of a diamond, or take longer than we’d like to trace the source of a food safety outbreak? It turns out that we’ve been tracking the supply chain in some really antiquated ways, but that’s about to change thanks to blockchain.

Origins and Travels

The “provenance” of a good refers to its origin as well as a chronological record of its ownership, location, and other important information as it moves along a supply and distribution network.

Many companies are exploring the use of blockchain technologies to help track this information much deeper into their supply chains than previously feasible. A retailer, for example, might require detailed information about materials, components, and ingredients as would manufacturers sourcing from a variety of suppliers.

Using blockchain technologies to track the origins of raw materials and follow domestic and international supply chains can also help meet the increasing demand for consumer information about globally produced goods, providing more transparency and accuracy about a product’s long journey to the store.

How Blockchain Can Help

Blockchain works to track the provenance of a good thanks to digital tokens that are issued by each participant in the supply chain to authenticate its movement. Every time the item changes hands, the token moves in lockstep. The real-world chain of custody is mirrored by a chain of transactions recorded in the blockchain.

The token acts as a virtual “certificate of authenticity” that is much harder to steal, forge or hack than a piece of paper, barcode or digital file. The records can be trusted and greatly improve the information available to assure supply-chain quality.

Blockchain technology can also make the audit process more efficient. The ledger distributes responsibility to the owners of pieces of information while ensuring verification along the way. The transactions are transparent to parties on a permission basis.

Consumers Want to Know

Surveys show that consumers in the United States and around the world are becoming more aware and interested in the origins of the merchandise they buy and the food they consume. Many also want to know how production processes of the goods they consume impact the environment and society.

The Pew Research Center found that 75 percent of Americans are “particularly concerned” for the environment, and 83 percent make an effort at least some of the time to live in ways that protect the environment. Nearly three out of four Millennials surveyed by Nielsen say they would pay extra for “sustainable” products and brands with a reputation for environmental stewardship. When it comes to food products, 71 percent of people surveyed by Label Insight said they want access to a comprehensive list of ingredients when deciding what food to buy.

Sustainable Coffee, Genuine Brand Purses and Conflict Diamonds

Retailers are concerned that brand loyalty is on the decline. But with some products, high consumer demand for product information is associated with higher expenditures, meaning people might pay more for a product they believe is ethically or sustainably sourced or manufactured. Blockchain can be used by companies to verify the claims their customers care about.

Take Starbucks, for example. Since 2004, the company has worked to support farmer livelihoods through its Coffee and Farmer Equity (C.A.F.E.) program. In 2015, they announced that 99 percent of their coffee was “ethically sourced,” complying with a set of principles and practices at each step of the supply chain from farm to cup. Last year, they took traceability to the next level by piloting the use of blockchain to create a transparent and direct connections with tens of thousands of coffee farmers. Customers can now see up close a supplier’s sustainability practices.

Worried your designer handbag isn’t the real deal? The luxury goods industry is seeking to use blockchain to verify the authenticity of its product. Brand name shoes, dresses or purses would have specific codes that retailers and consumers could use to track changes in ownership. Given the decentralized blockchain platform and multiple authentication processes to update the ledgers, fraudulent entries will be nearly impossible. The auditable and tamper-proof records produced through blockchain technology could help combat trade in counterfeit goods, which is a $1.77 trillion problem for manufacturers according to the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition.

Blockchain is a promising development for the diamond industry, which struggles to prevent so-called “conflict diamonds” from entering their value chains. A United Nations panel reportedly found that 140,000 carats of diamonds were still being smuggled out of the Central African Republic between 2013 and 2015 and traded illicitly to finance armed conflict despite an export ban. De Beers, which controls 37 percent of the global diamond market, reported earlier this year that it was able to track 100 high-value diamonds from mine to retailer using blockchain technology.

Food Safety and Quick Recalls

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that each year roughly one in six Americans, or 48 million people, becomes ill as the result of a foodborne pathogen (e.g., salmonella, listeria, or E. coli). Blockchain technology will not necessarily prevent outbreaks but could be used to track their source more quickly and prevent outbreaks from becoming epidemics. Retailers and regulators could use the distributed ledger technology for accurate and rapid information about potentially contaminated food.

Walmart is pioneering the use of blockchain to maintain easily accessible records of food provenance. In a simulated recall, The company was able to trace the origin of a bag of sliced mangoes in 2.2 seconds compared with the 6 days, 18 hours, and 26 minutes it would take using a standard approach of working with suppliers.

Australian exporter InterAgri is experimenting with using blockchain to track the production and global delivery of its Black Angus Aussie Beef. Teaming up with JD.com, a major e-commerce site in China, InterAgri aims to detect and eliminate food fraud such as counterfeit Aussie beef illegally marketed in China. By some cost estimates, food fraud affects approximately 10 percent of all commercially sold food products, creating food safety concerns for the consumer and liability issues for producers.

Coming to a Shelf Near You

In principle, blockchain could be applied to tracking provenance information for virtually any good, from agricultural commodities to luxury goods. Although blockchain technology is still not prevalent or the industry standard, more producers and retailers are exploring ways to track their own supply chains to increase quality assurance and their ability to communicate information about their products to consumers.

It will take trial and error and significant work with suppliers to ensure interoperability and efficiencies, but such experimentation will be essential if the U.S. and global economies are to realize the benefits of blockchain in international trade.

This is the first in a three-part series by Christine McDaniel for TradeVistas on how blockchain technologies will play an increasing role in international trade.

ChristineMcDaniel

Christine McDaniel a former senior economist with the White House Council of Economic Advisers and deputy assistant Treasury secretary for economic policy, is a senior research fellow with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.

This article originally appeared on TradeVistas.org. Used with permission.

Truman’s Eliminates Plastic Waste with Direct-to-Consumer Business Model

If there’s one thing on which everybody can agree, it’s that we need to reduce the amount of plastic waste in the world. We launched Truman’s earlier this year not because we’re obsessed with cleaning, though we kind of are, but because we wanted to make a dent in the global plastic problem and found the perfect opportunity.

We saw a giant industry — household cleaning — that still relied on single-use plastic containers for its ever-increasing, unnecessarily cluttered array of products. At the same time, we saw an industry in no hurry to upset its status quo of shipping 5 billion pounds of single-use plastic each year, despite its adverse impact on the world. To us, this was an open invitation to engage in some environmentally friendly disruption.

The result? A simplified line of safe, multi-purpose household cleaners that not only generate far less plastic waste than traditional cleaning products but utilize fewer resources getting them from the point of manufacture into customers’ hands. Thanks to our slim, lighter packaging and a direct-to-consumer business model, we’ve streamlined delivery and eliminated several links in the supply chain.

Refill ’er up

For decades, home cleaners have come in ready-to-spray, use-it-then-lose-it bottles that contain 98% water. That may have seemed fine back when “throwaway living” was celebrated as the carefree wave of the future, but these days, shipping bulky, water-filled bottles is recognized to be incredibly wasteful.

Commercial establishments have been wise to this fact for years. You don’t see your favorite corner coffee shop or drugstore purchasing bottle after bottle of spray cleaner; they rely instead on concentrates and tap water, and refill the same bottle, over and over again. If this routine works for businesses, we thought, why shouldn’t it work for everyone? We set to work creating a fun, family-friendly, no-mess product line that would inspire people to change virtually everything about the way they clean.

Truman’s four simple, non-toxic household cleaners come in small concentrate cartridges. Users fill and refill the same bottles with tap water and additional cartridges; the cartridges’ auto-dispensing mechanism eliminates hand-mixing, so there’s never any mess. By shipping tiny cartridges instead of pre-filled bottles, we’re able to dramatically reduce plastic waste.

To give a sense of the environmental savings, it takes 30 semi-trucks to ship the equivalent number of ready-to-use cleaning bottles as it does one semi-truck of Truman’s refill cartridges.

Taking a Direct Approach

When we started planning Truman’s, we knew we wanted to avoid the overcrowded retail shelf and its rental fees. Instead, we adopted a subscription e-commerce model similar to those successfully used to sell everything from razors to meals. This both keeps costs down and gives us direct and immediate contact with customers, which is essential when you’re trying to change lifelong habits. (“Big Cleaning,” by contrast, has been slow to take advantage of e-commerce, partly as a result of its bulky, waterlogged ways.)

After a customer orders a Truman’s Starter Kit of four cleaners, they then sign up for regular refill kits — never fewer than four cartridges at a time — which are sent to their house at their convenience. By being mindful of packaging and the number of shipments we make, a Truman’s subscription results not just in significantly less plastic waste but less overall environmental impact because we bypass the traditional retail supply-chain. Truman’s cleaners are easier on the environment than traditional home cleaners from the moment of manufacture to the day they arrive at consumers’ doorsteps.

Break the Chain

Products sold at traditional retail outlets follow essentially the same route to get there: After assembly, they’re put in boxes, which are loaded onto pallets or into crates, which are then transferred onto trucks by a forklift. The pallets or crates are then driven to a distribution center/warehouse, where they’re unloaded and moved into their assigned position. There they sit, consuming overhead costs, until they’re put onto another truck to travel to the retail store. At the store, they’re unloaded in the stocking area, where some of them wait, while a few are plucked from their boxes and put on the shelf. Depending on how much their manufacturers have paid, some get front-row seating while others are assigned the nosebleed sections. And there they remain, consuming overhead costs, until they’re plucked from the shelf by a consumer who has probably driven miles to shop, most likely in their pickup or SUV.

Truman’s, by contrast, follows a totally different “demand chain” route that uses less packaging, involves fewer overhead costs, and results in lower overall energy consumption and carbon-dioxide emissions. Thanks to our direct contact with customers, we’re able to keep close tabs on demand. We manufacture and ship only the number of products that have been ordered, and we deliver them straight to the door, carefully packaged to minimize waste. A six-month supply of four refill cartridges easily fits in a standard mailbox.

An added benefit? Customers are spared having to enter the heavily scented cleaning products aisle and spared the ordeal of deciding among the mind-boggling number of wastefully packaged products.

Change Doesn’t Have to Be Hard

The growth of e-commerce has dramatically changed the retail landscape in the last decade. However, the cleaning industry, burdened by fear of change, has been slow to adapt. At Truman’s, we’re proving that people can change their habits and forgo single-use plastics in favor of concentrates. By making the customer experience as easy as possible, we can slowly but surely change the way people clean, and, more importantly, reduce the amount of plastic piling up in our landfills and oceans.

global logistics

Smart Logistics: Catalysts Changing the Logistics Sector

The logistics industry is watching closely as United States and China negotiate to resolve their trade war amidst the threat of higher tariffs starting March 1. At stake is $635 billion in annual trade – China exports $505 billion and imports $130 billion with the US[i]. These negotiations have repercussions for the global economy well beyond the US and China. Many industries engage vast trade networks that span myriad countries leaving few markets or nations exempt from these talks. For the US alone, which imports $2.3 trillion and exports $1.5 trillion annually[ii], its entire trade regime is now in play.

Countries are not alone in broiling trade disputes. This month XPO issued a profit warning citing the expected loss of $600M[iii], or 3.5%, of revenue from an unnamed customer. Amazon, widely believed to be XPO’s unidentified customer, is expanding its own logistics capacity. The expansion of e-commerce has been a boon for the logistics industry and bane for traditional retailers. Now as Amazon develops its own distribution capability, logistics providers and retailers alike are threatened. 

Global Logistics – an Industry in Transition

Ecommerce has been a key growth driver for the global logistics industry, which is expected to grow 7.5% annually from $8.1 trillion in 2015 to $15.5 trillion in 2023[iv]. The logistics of delivering directly to consumers is far more intensive than distributing in bulk to big box retailers. Long haul full truckload remains the largest market segment in logistics with a 70% share, yet less than truckload, parcel and intermodal – which together comprise 15% share of the logistics market – are fastest growing. 

The politics of logistics extends beyond trade disputes. US freight employs over three million truck drivers. As the graph below indicates, trucking is the largest employer in 29 of 50 states across the US. The American Trucking Association estimates a need for an additional 900,000 truckers[v] over the next ten years to keep up with demand. The industry already faces a shortage of over 50,000 drivers[vi]amidst the need to replace an aging workforce: 57% of US truckers are over 45 years old and 37% are over 55[vii]. Given the backlash over Amazon’s recent pullback of a second headquarters in New York City for 25,000 jobs[viii], one might imagine the political stakes involved with four million truck drivers across the US in the coming decade. 

Logistics – a Magnet for Venture Capital Investment

Venture capital has poured into the logistics sector in recent years. In 2018, global venture investment in logistics reached nearly $14 billion, more than the three previous years combined. Funding for supply chain, logistics and shipping businesses continues to grow in 2019. In February alone, investors have committed over $5 billion to the logistics sector. Major financings include a $1 billion investment in Flexport for intermodal logistics, $940 million in Nuro for its self-driving delivery vans, $700 million in Rivian for electric delivery vehicles, $400 million in DoorDash for local food delivery, and $300 million in Hong Kong-based Lalamove for last mile delivery. 

Five catalysts are driving innovation and investment in the logistics sector:

Ecommerce: Online retail continues to cannibalize physical retail. Ecommerce in the US reached 9.8% of total US retail in 2018, nearly triple the share of retail ten years earlier[ix]. Ecommerce is growing even faster in Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Traditional retailers are embracing omnichannel marketing as ecommerce extends to more retailing categories. The physical landscape will change dramatically in the decade as ecommerce players build more warehousing capacity replacing stores due to overcapacity in the traditional retail sector.

Crowdsourcing: Much as Uber, Lyft and Didi among others have disrupted the taxi industry through crowdsourced drivers, the gig economy is infiltrating the logistics sector enabling new services. Consumers are the biggest beneficiary through the rise of the concierge economy. Crowdsourcing has lowered delivery costs making home deliveries available for a broader range of items. Food delivery has received most funding with the rise of Uber Eats globally, Doordash and Postmates in the US, Just Eat and Deliveroo in Europe, Swiggy in India, and Meituan in China.  

Intelligent Automation: The securities brokerage industry has gone digital in the past two decades. The logistics brokerage industry still runs on phone calls and fax machines with limited price transparency and inefficiencies borne by limited supply chain visibility. Digital brokerage is now coming to the logistics sector through the confluence of sensors, cloud and intelligent automation. ELD and camera technology now monitor drivers reducing wait times, reducing accident risk, and helping to adjudicate cases when accidents occur. Venture backed companies that have raised $100 million or more in the US alone include Convoy, Flexport, Nauto, Next Trucking and Transfix, amongst others.

Electric Vehicles: The prospect of replacing diesel trucks is as welcome as replacing gas vehicles in the consumer sector. Tesla is now tackling the challenges of transporting large trucking payloads. Others are as well including the recently funded Rivian Automotive and Thor Trucks.

Autonomous Technology: End-to-end autonomous trucking may still be decades away yet the use of autonomous technology in logistics is already live in the warehouse with pilots underway for first and last mile as well as interstate long-haul deliveries. Autonomous delivery startups announced over $1.5 billion in February alone, including Endeavor Robotics, Ike and Nuro in the US and AutoAI, Mogu Zhixing and TuSimple in China. 

Logistics is a vast sector ripe for innovation across the supply chain.  Entrepreneurs and investors have flocked to logistics seeking to disrupt an industry representing over 5% of the US economy. While investment in logistics has increased substantially, funding has focused on major sectors. We believe many opportunities remain for further innovation across the supply chain as new technologies such as robotics, autonomous vehicles and machine learning develop for the logistics sector.    


[i] Stifel analyst report

[ii] Stifel analyst report

[iii] https://www.thestreet.com/investing/xpo-plummets-on-earnings-miss-and-warning-about-2019-14868169

[iv] https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/global-logistics-market-to-reach-us155-trillion-by-2023-research-report-published-by-transparency-market-research-597595561.html

[v] May 2018 Techcrunch article

[vi] May 2018 Techcrunch article

[vii] Stifel analyst report

[viii] https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/14/opinion/amazon-new-york.html

[ix] https://ycharts.com/indicators/ecommerce_sales_as_percent_retail_sales