The Weekly Review: Episode 38 with Dr. Read Hayes, Tony D’Onofrio, Tom Meehan

This podcast originally appears in the LPRC website.

25-30 million Christmas trees are sold each year in the U.S. Retail sales increased by 9% last month. 35% of consumers shopped more this November versus last November. On this week’s episode, our co-hosts discuss these facts and much more, including the recent Russian state-sponsored hack, Interpol’s “Orange Notice”, COVID-19 vaccines logistics and IT challenges, NRF’s ORC report, BOPIS & curbside-pickup consumer ratings, and The Economist’s top trends for 2021.

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Ever Accidentally Close a Browser Tab?

Nothing stinks more than closing a browser and not being able to find the site you were on previously. You could always got back to history and scroll through 100 pages or you can hit Ctrl+Shift+T on your PC or Command+Shift+T on your Mac to automatically reopen the tab you just closed.  This is a quick and easy tip that may save you some time and frustration.

China has Set the Stage for the Digital Age of Retail

This article originally appeared in ACMA Currency Notes Dec 2020 Newsletter.

By Tom Meehan, CFI

Experts predict that for the first time in over a century, the United States will no longer be the largest retail market in the world. The United States and China were both deeply impacted by the COVID­19 pandemic, but the Chinese retail sector has been able to bounce back much faster, giving them a long-term advantage in growth.

Both consumer and producer growth in China has recovered from the pandemic, showing consistent growth and a 4.3 percent increase in retail sales in October from last year. This is a huge shift from the state of Chinese retailers earlier in March when half of them did not have enough cash to last the next sixth months after sales plummeted due to the pandemic. As China has become the only major economy in the world expected to grow in 2020, we can see that their success comes from their ability to capitalize on the latest retail trends. In recent years, retail has evolved to meet both industry and consumer demands for digitization. Let’s take a closer look at how the Chinese retail market has adapted to the digital age of retail.

Social Commerce

One of the biggest trends we should look out for is social commerce, where ecommerce meets social media to target young and engaged social media users. Social commerce sales are expected to make up 11.6 percent of all retail sales in China by the end of the year. Douyin, the video-­sharing app similar to TikTok and also owned by ByteDance, encourages user participation, so users create content rather than simply scrolling through a feed. This has created an opportunity for brands to monetize Douyin content by enabling users to click a video and follow a link to a third-party retailer to purchase a product.

Retailers are also investing in entertainment­-driven content to connect brands with consumers. Think of this like QVC and the Home Shopping Network, but updated for the digital age: Online retailers integrate with social media and digital payments to produce live video streams where hosts sell products. Amazon has adopted a similar strategy in the American market with Amazon Live, where livestream hosts demonstrate different products, just in time for Black Friday last week.

The livestreaming model also targets a younger audience and relies on key opinion leaders (KOLs), the Chinese equivalent to “influencers,” to demonstrate and review products in an authentic way. Not only do the livestreams have thorough product demonstrations, but they also have successful livestreamers, whose viewers trust their opinions, to promote the product to consumers. Because it is estimated that China’s livestreaming market will reach $16.3 billion by the end of 2020, they have the highest population of social buyers in the world.

Cashless Transactions

Spurred by baseless irrational fears about exchanging cash, cashless payment methods have become even more popular in China, despite many studies showing that cash is not a major transmitter of the virus that causes COVID­19. Regardless of how contactless payment services such as Alipay are already widespread throughout the country, many retailers have started only accepting cashless payments.

Much like the opening of Amazon Go stores in the United States in recent years, the Chinese supermarket chain Hema has also adopted a cashless self­checkout system. However, this posed a problem for consumers such as the elderly, overseas visitors, and people from rural areas, all of whom are either unfamiliar with or unable to access this technology. Eventually, the Chinese authorities had to intervene and require Hema to install cash registers.

Other retailers, such as the automated convenience store chain BingoBox with locations in Beijing and Shanghai, have taken the contactless shopping experience even further by not staffing their stores with people at all. Instead, customers scan QR codes to identify themselves and select their purchases, then pay with their mobile wallets, powered by WeChat, the multipurpose social media and mobile payments app. The shelves are equipped with sensors to detect when products have been removed, and each item is connected to the shopper’s ID in the app to prevent theft.

Mobile payments are especially challenging for short-­term visitors to China: Most payment apps require a bank account in the country and a Chinese phone number. I have traveled to China 12 times in the past three years, and on many occasions, I have been unable to purchase food or essential items because I cannot access Chinese contactless payment methods.

As we have seen in many arguments against a cashless society, refusing to accept cash also excludes unbanked consumers who do not have accounts with traditional financial institutions and make all their transactions in cash. In China, where only 56 percent of its population used the internet in 2017, the rural population is much larger, and these people often do not have the technology required to “tap to pay” at the grocery store, which has become more popular during the pandemic.

In July of this year, the Chinese government started cracking down on retailers who refused to accept cash, due to widespread complaints about retailers discriminating against cash users. Even credit cards are sometimes not accepted by retailers and restaurants, as smartphones become the main method of payment in the country.

As the retail industry continues to adapt to the changing expectations of consumers, we can expect many retailers to embrace up-and-­coming trends such as social commerce, livestreaming sales and contactless payment methods to set themselves ahead of the curve. Even as technology progresses, the authorities in China must continue to protect cash inclusion in the payments ecosystem.

The Weekly Review: Episode 37 with Dr. Read Hayes, Tony D’Onofrio, Tom Meehan and Featured Guest Leslie Hand (IDC Retail Insights)

This podcast originally appears in the LPRC website.

By 2023, 80% of retailers will offer contactless payments and app-based scan-and-go pay systems in store, increasing conversion rates by 40% and customer retention rates by 30%. 75% of grocery ecommerce orders will be picked up at curbside or in-store. On this week’s episode, our special guest Leslie Hand, Group Vice President for IDC Retail Insights, joins our co-hosts to discuss these predictions and much more, including computer vision, biometrics, enhanced video surveillance, COVID-19’s impact, Wall Street Journal’s retail trends, and the recent U.S. government hack.

As Group Vice President for IDC Retail Insights, Leslie Hand manages the retail research team for IDC Retail Insights and conducts research digital and contactless omnichannel retail technologies, given the threats and opportunities now facing the entire retail ecosystem from evolving consumer behaviors. Hand works with retailers and technology providers on developing best practices and strategies leveraging IDC quantitative and qualitative data sets.

Before joining IDC, Ms. Hand spent 28 years in the retail industry. As an analyst, Leslie has been widely acknowledged at the person that coined the term “omni-channel”.

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Now Is the Time Retailers Should Consider Implementing an RFID Solution Regardless of Their Size

This article originally appeared in Loss Prevention Magazine.

Retailers are living in a time of speed, efficiency, and pressure to secure assets while exceeding customers’ expectations. If you add in the evolving challenges presented by COVID-19 and the demand for contactless and e-commerce shopping experiences, it is no wonder why many retailers are turning to RFID solutions to help automate their inventory and business operations while creating a more seamless customer experience.

Retailers with a limited budget may be hesitant to implement RFID because they view it as costly to integrate or having a long return on investment. The rapid advancement of technology, along with a reliable solutions provider, has improved RFID systems making them more affordable, scalable, and simpler to implement, allowing retailers to generate a quick return on investment.

RFID Solutions Help Retailers Gain Insight into Inventory and Enhance Customer Experience

RFID technology has endless potential to help retailers combat their ever-changing environments and gain access to real-time data for better insight and decision making. Here is a breakdown of some of the many benefits of implementing an RFID solution.

Better Logistics & Supply Chain Management
RFID technology enhances omnichannel fulfillment by automatically tracking assets throughout the supply chain journey, from manufacturing through distribution to warehouse to the sales floor. This enhanced visibility and control of the supply chain process reduces the need for human interaction, increasing efficiency while reducing human error.

Automated Inventory and Stock Counting
Managing inventory no longer needs to be a manual process. Compared to the more familiar barcode inventory system, RFID allows retailers to scan hundreds of tags at once without them having to be visible. Not only does this speed up and streamline the process, but it also complements pre-existing inventory procedures with little to no confusion for store associates. Simple and regular counts enable retailers to have accurate stock information more frequently and allows them to take full control of their inventory.

Real-Time Stock Availability and Instant Item Location
The pandemic has accelerated customer behavior and expectations for omnichannel shopping experiences. With BOPIS (Buy Online and Pickup In Store), curbside delivery and same and next day delivery, it is critical to have accurate stock quantities for customers who both shop online and in stores.  RFID technology provides a 99% accurate overview of a retailer’s assets and the exact location of items. Real-time visibility into stock levels and location minimizes out-of-stock situations and simplifies merchandise retrieval, resulting in increased sales and enhanced customer satisfaction.

Advanced Self-Checkout
As customers look for efficient and contactless shopping experiences, retailers can truly provide a contactless method of checkout with RFID. Friction during the checkout process comes from the time it takes for store associates to scan merchandise. With RFID technology, items are instantaneously checked out once placed on the self-checkout counter, eliminating the need to scan items. This reduces the time customers must wait in the checkout queue and provides them with an efficient, seamless, and truly contactless experience.

Point of Sale
RFID can also be integrated with POS systems, allowing inventory to be displayed in real time. Store associates can see in stock items at checkout and use that gathered data to track the sales patterns of specific items, allowing you to make more efficient restocking decisions. RFID can also help streamline the return process and combat growing return problems. Rather than having store associates manually log returns, items can be scanned quickly, saving the time it takes to get them processed and back on store shelves. Also, RFID tags conveniently track the history of an item, giving retailers visibility into whether an item was purchased and at what price, helping retailers combat fraudulent returns.

RFID as EAS
A retail store’s security system is one of the most effective tools in fighting shrink and deterring theft. The addition of RFID technology makes that system a futureproof EAS solution. RFID tags and systems can act in the same role as traditional EAS tags and systems while also having the ability to store and communicate incredibly useful information for retailers. From an anti-theft standpoint, if an asset with an RFID tag leaves the store without being paid for, not only will the tag trigger the alarm, but employees can also see which exact product left the store, making it easier for them to ensure all the missing items are recovered, as well as having the ability to replenish the item to not lose a future sale.

Discover the Best RFID Solution For You With CONTROLTEK

When evaluating an RFID solution, it is essential to choose a solution that is a match for your short- and long-term goals to ensure the best return on investment. For the past 45 years CONTROLTEK has partnered with many organizations including banks, retailers, government institutions, armored couriers, and logistics companies to understand their unique challenges and implement technology to help solve their problem. When it comes to RFID solutions, CONTROLTEK provides retailers regardless of their size or budget, access to the highest quality hardware, software, consumables, and seamless systems deployment.

High Performance Hardware
We understand the demands of a retail environment and the importance of hardware that will stand up to the test. In partnership with Nordic ID, we offer sustainable, long-lasting solutions designed for comfort and ease of use day in and day out.

Introducing the newest and one of the lightest, rugged designed handheld RFID readers on the market, the Nordic ID HH85, is made to perform in the most challenging conditions. It is the only handheld reader on the market that has NFC, RFID, barcode, and an integrated camera. It is built with an easy to hold ergonomic pistol grip, a battery life of up to 18 hours of continuous operation, Android 9 software, and one of the largest displays in the industry.

Offering the Nordic ID EXA21, the world’s smallest RFID reader, a wearable device that is compatible with Android, iOS or PC. Its lightweight and compact design makes it the ideal portable RFID reader for easy and comfortable on-the-go data reading.

Smart Software Solutions
We offer highly intuitive software solutions to enable complete visibility into your operations. We understand no two retailers are the same, so our software solutions have infinite configurability to match your operations, your complex workflow, and your requirements. Our solutions are easy to deploy and integrate seamlessly into your existing infrastructure. The power of RFID technology allows you to automate asset management, business processes and collect and consolidate information so you can quickly transform it into actionable business intelligence.

Versatile Labels and Tags
Regardless of the type of assets you need to protect and track, we have RFID tags and labels to match. From freezers, to electronics to elegant apparel and cosmetic displays, CONTROLTEK’s line of RFID tags and labels help protect a variety of products in flexible and unobtrusive ways. We offer a variety of shapes, sizes, specialty materials, adhesives, and inlays as well as customizable options.

First Time Right Deployment
At CONTROLTEK, we want to make it easier for your LP team to get the technology you need, help you get the ROI you expect, and alleviate the most common pain points in the process. From start to finish, we focus on your business goals and budget so you can protect your profitability. Our team of technology experts work with you to find the right RFID solution for your retail store for maximum results in your environment.

The Weekly Review: Episode 36 with Dr. Read Hayes, Tony D’Onofrio, and Tom Meehan

This podcast originally appears in the LPRC website.

Consumers are expected to spend, on average, $1,387 per household this holiday season – down 7% from 2019. Spending is expected to shift to non-gift purchases – up 12% from last year. On this week’s episode, our co-hosts discuss this and more, including COVID-19 updates, D&D Daily’s retail robbery & ORC data for Q3, the need for a more frictionless brick-and-mortar experience, and rising cases of scams, including puppy, medical, and robocall scams.

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The Weekly Review: Episode 35 with Dr. Read Hayes, Tony D’Onofrio, and Tom Meehan

This podcast originally appears in the LPRC website.

The increase in online shopping for Black Friday and Cyber Monday comes with an influx of COVID-19 related scams. On this week’s episode, our co-hosts discuss this and more, including COVID-19 vaccinations, smart devices and IoT, efforts to protect curbside pickups, retail projections for 2021, fake raffles from live streams, and extended shipping scams.

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