E-commerce’s Bane is Brick & Mortar’s Advantage

It started innocently, like many bad habits. It started at two and then it became four. It was eight before you knew it. It felt at first like a little secret. It’s now out there, a point to be proud of. It’s not vaping or video gaming, but returning e-commerce orders. It started as a selling point for convenience, but it has now become a problem for the person who ships it. Retail returns are the result of e-tailers.

CBRE states that e-commerce retail returns range from 15% to 30% or one in three purchases. This amounts to $32 billion in dollars and cents. Contrast this with brick-and-mortar returns, which are only 8%. This is a fraction of online returns.

There are downsides to buying without buy-in

In-person shopping is the best way to ensure that a purchase fits properly, whether it’s clothes, electronics, or housewares. E-commerce cannot match the tactile sensation of a garment, the ability to try it on, gauge your weight, and view actual color and finish, regardless how high resolution a photo may be.

E-tailers are often the victims of their marketing strategies. E-commerce makes it easy and affordable to return (hello Zappos! Consumer behavior has gotten so ingrained that they are more likely to order with the intention to return.

This is a common problem in our household, as well as the neighbors. My daughter ordered many dresses online for prom, so she could find The One. Online shoppers don’t have to wait for a special occasion to order FedEx trucks – you can get new shoes, sneakers and handbags, as well as a tennis racket or area rug, all of which are good fodder for multiple items orders. Online shoppers can buy, but there is no “buy in”

Customers are more likely to buy in-store than online. They are able to see exactly what they are getting. There’s nothing more thrilling than opening a box and seeing what’s inside. However, it’s not a disappointment if what you were expecting, room dimensions or shifting whims are all wrong.

Derek Hall, CEO of Brightpearl is calling the rising tide of online retail returns a tsunami. Hall points out that consumers will purchase more, but they could return four additional items per month.

This is having a serious impact on ecommerce margins. Every retailer, online and offline, is well aware of the constant threat to their margins. Brightpearl’s recent survey found that 44% of retailers agreed that shipping, handling, and returns are affecting their margins.

E-tailers see the intentional return as a huge buzzsaw that cuts away at their profitability. The result is the explosion in ecommerce brands opening brick-and-mortar shops. You can easily decide which eyeglass frames will look the best on you if you have them in person. Once you zip up your pants, you will know which size and what style is best for you. Once you lay your body on a mattress, you can tell if it’s going to be a restful night.

E-tailers have a flexible way of creating an in-store experience. Some open pop-ups. Pop-up shops for e-commerce brands are appearing more often. The goal is to allow the customer to get up close to the products, and provide a tactile experience that makes the sale.

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Line up for an opportunity

TJX Companies, Saks Off Fifth and others have taken advantage of the checkout line’s popularity as prime impulse-buying territory. Apple’s Genius Bar has a video backdrop that keeps customers engaged and informed. Customers can enjoy engaging visuals that enhance technology use by watching the Genius Bar’s video screen backdrops.

This principle can be applied to the returns section. This is right. Why limit the display to the sale side? Why should all information be restricted to the help desk? Functional and profitable customer service and retail returns can be achieved. Customers who are waiting to be answered or returned by their service representative can be enticed into buying.

It’s a good idea to set up sales displays wherever people are. Signage that directs customers to seasonal specials or new products will maximize your retail sales floor.

The path to discovery is laid out

One area in which retailers have found a profitable middle ground between offline and online shopping is this: Customers can find it online and pick it up in-store. The retail sector can take a leaf from the supermarket’s layouts and be even more strategic. Food shoppers have had to pass on tempting cakes, fruits, and other seasonal goodies for years in order to reach the back of the shop to purchase milk, eggs, and other necessities.

This can also be used for fashion, sporting goods, and health & beauty pick-ups in-store. You can place the pick-up area at the back of your store and arrange for shoppers to pass by attractive/fun/eye-catching signage and displays. They will pick up the items they ordered online and more.

Multi-channel retailers face two problems when it comes to online returns. The first is to reduce the number of returns by making it easy for shoppers to find what they are looking for and giving them valuable information. Having more buy-in means that shoppers are more likely to be satisfied and less likely return. To maximize your incremental sales, you can suggest a visit to a physical store if there are returns.

The 2018 Fancy Food Show features plants, fizz, and the pursuit of healthiness

Three days. Six football fields of walking, 2,600 exhibitors stands, and 200,000 specialty products. It was exhausting, but delicious, to eat our way through the 2018 fancy food show.

This event could not have been more timely. The specialty food market is growing rapidly, with a 12.9% increase in sales and $140.3 billion of revenue in 2017. This compares to 1.4% growth in the total food industry.

We were able to pick out a few products from the sea of options. There are many ideas in the industry.

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Power from plants

You might be wrong if you thought that cauliflower was dying. The huge trend in cauliflower products, including cauliflower pizza crust, steaks and rice, is not slowing down.

Outer Aisle Gourmet, Caulipower and Gaea’s Cauliflower Veggie Snack are just a few of the brands that make delicious meals and snacks out of this versatile vegetable. For our vegan and vegetarian friends, we even saw grill cauliflower steaks!

Natural, plant-based foods are also making huge strides. There were many protein-rich alternatives for snacks and meals. Who would have thought chickpeas could be used in so many ways?

Biena is a specialist in roasted chickpea snacks. They offer fun flavors such as honey roasted, ranch, and thin mint. Pedon offers consumers fiber- and protein-rich noodles made from chickpeas red lentils and green beans.

This plant-based trend is a good one, considering that gluten-free dietters have tripled in the past decade. This diet is now available to food retailers across the United States.

Fizz without fear

It is no secret that soda sales have dropped sharply. Soft drink consumption has declined each year in the past decade. This is partly due to people looking for sugar-free alternatives, but also diet soft drinks.

Despite soda’s decline in popularity, the beverage industry still managed to increase 18% in its sales. Sparkling beverages and waters are sweeping the industry – providing people with the fizz and sugarlessness of soda, and adding texture and excitement to naturally flavored waters.

Companies are becoming more creative in flavoring. Lavender-chai-pear, jalapeno-flavored beverages were some of the examples. DRY Soda introduced winter-themed cranberry & blood orange flavored beverages with 60% less sugar than traditional sodas.

The most unusual (and buzz-worthy!) beverage is O.Vine. O.Vine is a non-alcoholic water which tastes just like wine. It’s the most unique (and buzz-worthy!) beverage. Other drinks can also be imitated or referenced alcohol beverages with high-end flavors and zero proof. Tost is a non-alcoholic, dry white tea with cranberry, ginger and was packaged in a champagne-like glass.

These mixers are non-alcoholic and will likely be the preferred choice for fun, new cocktails.

Whole milk for whole life

You don’t know much about fat. A higher concentration of healthy fats is actually beneficial for weight loss, including whole milk.

Fattier foods feel fuller longer than low- or non-fat dairy products, which can make people feel satiated. Research has shown that whole-fat foods result in fewer calories per day.

Marketing strategies and packaging are changing with this shift in thinking. Promotion of fat content, which was hidden previously, is now an opportunity for promotion. Have you ever seen yogurt or other dairy products advertise a higher fat content? Fage, a dairy company, has designed new labels for regular-fat Greek yogurt. It emphasizes its 5% fat content.

The whole milk movement is in sync with the plant-based trend. Health has led to severed ties with carbohydrates and a focus on healthy sources for protein and fats. Carbohydrates have become the enemy of weight loss and overall wellness.

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The 2018 Fancy Food Show: Living in 2043

The above trends only focus on what’s currently in stores, but one company offered us a glimpse into the future of the food industry 25 years hence.

Future Market is The Alpha Food Labs’ brainchild. It explores how the food system will evolve over the next decades to be more sustainable and dynamic. The 2018 Fancy Food Show featured a fascinating museum-like pop up, led by Mike Lee, an incredibly talented and influential figure.

The idea was to challenge conventional thinking about food and ideas that may appear unappealing at first glance. We looked at proteins grown in petri dishes and blockchain-approved fish and chicken, as well as biodegradable water bottles made of shellfish shells. All this was in a futuristic grocery shop.

These innovative products and ideas can make a huge difference in improving the lives of people and saving the planet. These are the new advances in cruelty-free, sustainable, and eco-friendly technology. Inhumane, wasteful, and socially irresponsible methods are out.

The future is bright and delicious.

We are full and satisfied, with our bags full of samples, and our eyes fixed on the future, as we close the 2018 Fancy Food Show. These trends are what we look forward to tasting in a store near us.