Emily Hower

Emily is a Brander-In-Training assisting with content development to keep retailers informed on the latest trends in e-commerce. Originally from outside Philadelphia, she is currently a senior at the University of Pittsburgh. She loves to knit, explore Pittsburgh, and travel.

Recent Posts by Emily Hower:

Why the iGeneration Shops Retailers Other Than Amazon

Gen Z enjoys sharing their shopping experiences

There's no denying that Amazon is currently the retailer to beat. However, the iGeneration, also known as Generation Z, could be part of the motivation behind Amazon's ventures into brick-and-mortar. NRF reports that 98% of these shoppers say they prefer to purchase in-store, and with an estimated $44 billion in buying power, brands can't afford to ignore them.

Request the webinar recap for “4 Opportunities to Win in the Digital Retail World.”

Born between the mid 1990s and early 2000s, Gen Z members are digital natives—they grew up with technology and are hardwired to know how to use it. Knowing this, it would make sense if this group was Amazon-obsessed. However, reports cite an increase in demand for fresh in-store experiences, and the iGeneration is already leaving behind brands that can't adapt.

A Business of Fashion article states:

"Today's teens live out their lives on social media, where social currency is built on experiences. 'They don't want to buy stuff. They're buying an experience and the product they get through it is kind of a bonus.'" 

Purchasing on Amazon is less about creating a memorable experience and more about immediacy and convenience, which is the opposite of what Gen Z-ers are seeking. Brands unavailable on Amazon should focus on building out customer loyalty programs catered to meeting the demands of digital natives. Traditional retailers can also capitalize on Amazon's strategy by launching mobile apps that streamline the omnichannel experience.  

As a Gen Z-er myself, I'm likely to post an Instagram photo showing off my new headphones, but there's no reason to include that they're from Amazon unless I'm complaining about a problem. On the other hand, if I spent the day out shopping with friends Snapchatting and taking photos, I'm more inclined to Instagram my new purchases, detailing my experiences that day and sharing where I shopped.

In short, digital natives seek shareable experiences that the e-commerce giant can't provide—unless they're trying out Amazon Go or Amazon Books stores. Learn more about how your brand can combat Amazon and win in the ever-changing retail landscape by signing up for our upcoming webinar.


Topics: Omnichannel Trends

Everything You Need to Know About the "Amazon Effect"

Amazon Go store in Seattle
Source: The Verge

In today's evolving retail landscape, many brands are struggling to strike a balance between ever-changing consumer demands and the alluring appeal of new technology.

To make matters worse, traditional retailers face an uphill battle against a company that's redefining the rules of the industry: Amazon. A recent study shows that half of retailers cite Amazon as their biggest threat.

Fast Company recently declared Amazon the world's most innovative company of 2017 due to the brand's unstoppable ability to grow into other markets, remain popular with consumers, and threaten traditional retailers. This has been dubbed the "Amazon effect."

Request the webinar recap for "4 Opportunities to Win in the Digital Retail World."

What is the "Amazon effect?"

Amazon's ability to construct holistic buyer personas in an age of erratic, nonlinear consumer journeys gives them a huge advantage over brands still trying to understand their customers' online and in-store habits. 

In Fast Company's words: "Our mobile-first, on-demand world finds its roots in Amazon’s founding idea: that digital commerce will radically reshape our marketplace."

Amazon's clear understanding of the consumer enables them to create optimal user experiences in store and online as well as penetrate new markets

What makes the "Amazon effect" so powerful?

Amazon Prime is the powerhouse behind the "Amazon effect." The membership provides services shoppers demand, such as free two-day shipping, streaming content, and more, while collecting valuable data and driving sales—Prime members spend 4x more than nonmembers annually. According to Fast Company:

To truly understand how Bezos is meshing size and agility in 2017, though, you need to look beyond sales figures ($100 billion in 2015) and the stock price (up more than 300% in the past five years) and consider three initiatives that drive Amazon today: Prime, the company’s rapidly proliferating $99-per-year membership program; an incursion into the physical world with brick-and-mortar stores, something the company has long resisted; and a restless rethinking of logistics, epitomized by a new fulfillment center an hour outside Seattle that features high-tech robots working alongside human workers like a factory of the future.

Traditionally brick-and-mortar big box stores' inability to refine omnichannel, reach consumers at all touchpoints, and pinpoint a linear buyer's journey make them vulnerable to the "Amazon effect." 

How are retailers combating the "Amazon effect?"

Innovative brands are investing in 4 key areas of their digital strategy. Find out what they are in our next webinar "4 Opportunities to Win in the Digital Retail World."


Topics: Trends

How to Find Balance With Mobile Apps

Shopper using a mobile app in a retail store

In today's always-connected world, many turn to yoga or meditation to find balance, but for those in the retail industry, finding harmony between shoppers' growing demands and what's immediately possible seems more out-of-sync than ever.

This year, brands must become—or continue to be, depending on their digital business maturity—consumer-obsessed and make data-driven decisions to comply with shoppers' preferences, but there's no one size fits all strategy.

Retailers need to learn to juggle engagement, innovation, and loyalty initiatives to power omnichannel experiences that drive conversions, and though it may be too late for some, there is hope for retailers seeking balance in 2017.

The answer? Mobile apps.

Engagement: Be social, not creepy

Brands should personalize user experiences that build trust without being creepy or invasive. For example, no one enjoys being bombarded with targeted ads minutes after completing an online search. However, when using retailer apps, it’s expected that they remember details, such as nearest physical store and payment information.

Salesforce reports that 64% of shoppers enjoy looking at recommended products based on their pageviews, while 79% like to receive product offerings from retailers based on purchase history. There’s clearly a consumer demand for personalization but with limits.

NRF says:

Shoppers expect brands to understand what’s important to them. They want and demand trust; if they have a problem, they expect answers. Connecting with today’s shopper implies understanding the fierce urgency of now that prevails in their lives.

This year, retailers must make connections and establish trust with consumers through social commerce by joining in on the conversation. This past holiday, 1 in 3 shoppers said they used Facebook for gifting inspiration. In 2016, 20% of total time spent online across devices was on social networks.

Instagram’s recent shoppable photo announcement, advertisements that target consumers based on emoji use, and the current chatbot craze all build the case for social commerce in 2017. To succeed at social, brands must find a happy medium between creating organic, helpful interactions without seeming pushy or forced.

Chubbies in-app messaging and live chat
Chubbies uses an in-app messages to send entertaining social content to users from their Facebook and Instagram pages (left) and takes advantage of the live chat feature to build relationships with users (right).

With apps, retailers can engage with their customers through tools, like push notifications, in-app messaging, and live chat. 92% of app shoppers are willing to let retailers use their location, providing the perfect starting point to start personalizing the experience.

Innovation: Create for humans, not for data points

Your customers are individuals, not analytics. Brands that wield new technology without a consumer-focused approach will miss the mark in 2017. 

Parham Aarabi of ModiFace, a beauty-focused augmented reality company, said, "Technology for technology’s sake rarely works. Make sure technology is actually solving a problem. Avoid things that are gimmicky, and aim for things that feel authentic and real.”

Retailers need to find a middleground between using flashy, new technology and meeting consumer demands. In other words, this means designing integrated technological experiences with a human touch.

Here are a few examples of retailers who are embracing this:

Rebecca Minkoff

One of the pioneers of fitting room magic mirrors, tech-savvy designer Rebecca Minkoff, partnered with Samsung to broadcast a 360 virtual reality livestream of her New York Fashion show. She also partnered with Zeekit, an app that uses augmented reality to allow shoppers to virtually try on clothes.


Google and H&M recently debuted a new app that designs users a personalized “Data Dress” based on their daily activities.

Ivyrevel app
Source: TechCrunch

With AR and VR still in its infancy, it's unclear if or how this technology will make its mark in the retail industry. Does an immersive AR app or 360 VR livestream meet a specific consumer need, or does it only prove the brand is cutting edge? Regardless, we’ll see more tech partnerships as retailers seek to provide exclusive user experiences that match their brand.

Loyalty: Refine omnichannel, not only in-store experiences

Although reports continue to cite declining in-store sales, half of holiday shoppers purchased gifts in-store over last year’s Cyber Five. Retailers are responding to this by designing experiences that engage consumers throughout the nonlinear buyer’s journey.

Rose Hamilton, chief digital officer at Vitamin Shoppe, explains the company’s shift to a mobile-first strategy and how the company uses its shopping app to bring value to its customers:

“The new customer journey is not linear. They go all over the place, try different stores, try different products and places. We need to be present at every step, ready to accept them when they come back.”

Retailers must adjust their omnichannel strategy to keep up with cutting edge technology while balancing the erratic buyer’s journey. Consumers want in-store and online options, which is why omnichannel will continue to be important this year. Physical stores won’t disappear altogether, but will become more experimental—think Amazon’s line-less grocery store, which uses an app to streamline the shopping and checkout processes.

Mobile app users expect individualized experiences, which is why they’re more likely to share information with trusted brands.  Half of consumers download shopping apps at least once a month, while 66% turn to their phone to shop weekly, making them the ideal way to connect the online and in-store experiences while maintaining an ongoing relationship with shoppers.

Meet your most loyal customers where they are by providing them an in-app experience that merges the online and in-store.

Next steps

Apps are the complete package: they allow retailers to converse, customize, and experiment with new technology. In fact, 66% of companies that don’t have a mobile app saw customer loyalty decrease significantly over the past year.

Embracing new technology is crucial to remaining relevant, but the experiences must be effortless, straightforward, and tailored to the target audience. There’s unlimited potential for retailers to experiment with targeted immersive technology on mobile.

Check out our webinar recap from "Retailers: Are You on the Road(map) to Success?" to learn more about how mobile-first thinking will help your brand find zen in 2017.


Topics: Omnichannel Solutions Apps

Test Your Optimization IQ: App Credit Card Scanner

Test Your Optimization IQ

We surveyed shoppers to understand which credit card scanner is more intuitive:
  • Test A: credit card scanner button
  • Test B: credit card scanner icon

Can you guess which version people preferred when adding a credit card during checkout?

Select a test to reveal the winner:

Test A: credit card scanner button Test B: credit card scanner icon

Topics: Design Solutions Apps

Top 10 Retail Trends You Need to Know: January 2017

Retail news you need to know for January 2017

Industry Trend #1
Apps are on the ups
App downloads increased by 16% worldwide in 2016, which should come as a wake-up call for retailers that lack a mobile presence in app stores.
Read more

Industry Trend #2
The dust has finally settled from the holidays, revealing that online sales increased 8 times faster than in-store. 
Read more

Industry Trend #3
Generation Z's shopping habits 
A recent survey found that young shoppers prefer a mix of in-store and online, strengthening the need for brands to optimize their omnichannel strategies.  
Read more

Industry Trend #4
Target vs. Amazon
Target announced plans for its own in-app mobile payment service, potentially giving the retailer a competitive edge against industry leader Amazon. 
Read more

Industry Trend #5
Online retailers get physical
Modcloth, traditionally online-only brand, recently opened its first physical location, making the case that in-store isn't dead. 
Read more

Industry Trend #6
Starbucks wants to chat
The coffee giant announced plans to build a "virtual barista" chatbot into its mobile app that helps consumers order and pick up more efficiently. 
Read more

Industry Trend #7
New year, new tech
In 2017, retailers are projected to dabble in new technology, such as smart shelves, robots, and interactive mirrors, to improve the in-store experience.  
Read more

Industry Trend #8
Apps can't be ignored
It's projected that 200 billion apps will be downloaded in 2017. This year, retailers must secure a presence in app stores or risk becoming irrelevant. 
Read more

Industry Trend #9
Trouble ahead for mall brands
The Limited began closing all 250 stores this month, joining a growing list of mall brands being left behind by the industry. 
Read more

Industry Trend #10
Tech takes the stage
Paper-thin televisions and advanced smart home systems debuted at the International Consumer Electronics show. 
Read more

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Topics: Trends