Joanna Rutter

Marketing, Dor
I run marketing point for Dor, a foot traffic counter changing the in-store analytics game for retailers of all sizes. My take on the so-called apocalypse? Retail is going through the painful but necessary process of shedding terrible practices and boring brands to make room for in-store experiences that are actually compelling. I say bring it on.

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  • Posted on: 02/16/2018

    Rule #1 of location analytics in retail – don’t be creepy

    Location analytics deployed well can be valuable, but only when retailers have the basic foot traffic data they need to measure any kind of success with other in-store analytics initiatives. It's notable that RSR identifies that high-performers favor anonymous customer tracking data above their lower-performing counterparts. Too many retailers are already not tracking their foot traffic trends. Investing in more granular customer targeting most often should not be the most urgent item on their innovation checklist! My team at Dor and I chat with fantastic retailers who have the best customer service intentions in mind when exploring location-based personalization systems. When we're asked about the value of beacons, we're curious to hear from them what value this highly granular demographic data will deliver for them when they don't even know how many people are coming into their store in the first place. (Example: It's great that Susan had her Bluetooth turned on and you know she's a repeat customer with an average trip worth of $300, but your company spent $3,000 deploying the tech to find that out while losing $30,000 out the door in uncounted, missed sales opportunities.) Location-based personalization is a massive up-front investment that's hard to deploy well when you lack the essential data you need to make sense of it. So it's only as valuable (or as not-creepy) as the baseline you measure it by.
  • Posted on: 02/13/2018

    Macy’s new Muslim clothing line launches to accolades and anger

    I'll echo most folks here by agreeing that this is just smart business, in that it's an educated risk. There's a market here in the U.S. and mainstream brick-and-mortar retail has been slow to catch on. Adding the Verona Collection may bring in foot traffic that hadn't previously felt served by Macy's product line, and converting those visitors into customers will probably be successful as long as some educational material for staff is made available so they can meet Muslim customers' needs well.
  • Posted on: 01/12/2018

    Surreal to so real – Sam’s closes 63 clubs after Walmart announces pay raise

    This is what some refer to in the marketing biz as the ol' switcheroo. Walmart made a strategic choice to announce both of these decisions on the same day, but I don't think they cancel each other out, as I sense they hoped. Though of course I wish them well, I give Walmart zero gold stars on their Good Retailer chart for raising their hourly wages to a long-overdue "barely livable." Especially when it's framed as a PR move alongside these Sam's Club closures. Workers are not pawns; they are the heart of a business. Treating them as the former is a bad look, even when it gets you a prominent headline.
  • Posted on: 01/05/2018

    Will retail be woven into the fabric of the new, walkable suburb?

    Echoing others here by agreeing -- we're seeing that more square footage doesn't translate to more sales when it comes to retail real estate. Small footprints mean a more curated product selection and lower operational costs. Like Art said, destination malls and then strip malls have become relics of the way people used to shop, and mixed-use development is one of the most notable new trends. The urban planning nerd in me cautions that these developments and the retail tenants in them only succeed when the housing in these communities is a healthy mix of affordable and luxury. The cruel irony of making retail associates rent apartments an hour's bus ride away from the store their customers live above should not be lost on the folks with the blueprints -- or the retailers who want reliable, happy employees and low turnover.
  • Posted on: 01/02/2018

    Retail and weather go together

    I'm a mite biased -- I work for Dor, which syncs conversion rates and weather predictions so retailers can plan staffing and marketing spend around forecasts -- but I've got to say #1. One of my favorite weather and retail stats is from this study, which found that 88 percent of the variations in store revenue are due to weather. That's almost every dollar above or below your average, and therefore can't be ignored! It's not just rain and snow, either. This summer Dor analyzed our foot traffic data around the eclipse in August and retailers in the path of totality. We found that over the eclipse weekend, stores within totality saw a 16 percent increase in visitor traffic, with August 21 outperforming historical Mondays by 19 percent, while retailers within driving distance of totality saw a 15 percent decrease in traffic. Planning ahead for weather-driven events both monumental and quotidian is crucial for retailers.(Our findings, if you'd like to read.) Regarding my general advice? Capture and analyze this data religiously. You can't plan staffing and marketing spend around weather without historical data over time illuminating how best to prepare.
  • Posted on: 12/19/2017

    Are on-the-road shopping apps helpful or hazardous?

    Totally agree! If this were simply a voice assistant feature without the use of a touchscreen maybe it'd be okay, especially if it pulled drivers in-store without taking their eyes off the road on the way. But this is just bad, and a bad look for the brands that opt in to appear on this service. The future headlines I'm imagining for those retailers are too macabre ...
  • Posted on: 12/18/2017

    Do pop-up efforts make sense for subscription box services?

    I love STORY too! Rachel Shechtman is a brand marketing genius. I'm consistently impressed by the concept and how it stays fresh and intriguing.
  • Posted on: 12/18/2017

    Do pop-up efforts make sense for subscription box services?

    Brick-and-mortar retail's new/old/forever chief end is to surprise and delight people in ways most online retailers can't. (Controversial statement! I know.) In that vein, it's never not a worthwhile experiment to play around with retail concepts designed to thrill customers and put sleepy mall space to use. Personally, I'm surprised that we haven't yet hit peak subscription since it's such an oversaturated space, see: Blue Apron's recent numbers. But before the box bubble bursts, the partnership opportunity between malls/retail real estate and box services lies in the data they can share with each other. Which hours of the day are visitors more likely to convert in-store versus online? Which products and boxes are selling the most and what does that say about local demographics? How does weather affect foot traffic vs. online sales? I wouldn't advise an anchor location in a mall hurting for foot traffic to go all-in on subscription services, but keeping them in a retailer rotation to feed shoppers' need for novelty and learning from each experiment helps stores hone how they bring in foot traffic and convert those visitors into customers. That's the data that keeps the lights on in a store long after the box fad dies.
  • Posted on: 12/04/2017

    Does Everlane need to open stores?

    Of course Everlane's next move is permanent retail! I shared some thoughts on this move when it was first teased in July, the main takeaway of which is: "Clicks to bricks" is no longer a mere trend. It's the whole playbook. Whereas legacy big-box retailers have struggled to effectively migrate to e-commerce websites that don’t make you want to throw your laptop off a building, Everlane and their online-first retail peers turn the funnel on its head. When you create that compelling of an online retail brand, of course shoppers will want to engage with you in a physical space, with store associates who are heavily vetted for brand loyalty and well-versed in the products their fans are obsessed with. Of course they're opening two permanent stores. Cheers to them. I'm taking notes.
  • Posted on: 11/17/2017

    Indie retailers can survive – even thrive – during the holidays

    Karen, great list and topic! Independent retailers have much to gain this holiday season. I agree most heartily with your third point on embracing webrooming and showrooming. Shoppers of any flavor, even those who prefer to shop small, want to compare and consider before making a purchase. The more welcoming your store is to those folks, and the more streamlined your website is to offer online purchases, the more business you retain. Speaking of websites -- I have to cordially and passionately disagree with your recommendation of QR codes! Despite their recent comeback, at least in the U.S. I believe we've turned them into somewhat of a meme and not a marketing practice consumers want to engage with. For indie retailers using print advertising to bring in store traffic, the addition of a QR code often introduces more friction in a shopper's decision to visit your store. (And can ruin a perfectly beautiful flyer's layout!) If indie retailers are going to do any marketing housekeeping for the holidays, I'd tell them to update their website and Google My Business profile for an hour or two. That will have much more of an impact on foot traffic. I'm a fan of not making your audience work too hard to understand what you offer, such as reading a flyer and then having to use a QR code, especially during the constant marketing bombardment of the holidays.
  • Posted on: 11/14/2017

    Walmart’s online prices drive customers to its supercenters

    I do love a good in-store foot traffic strategy. We all know Walmart's differentiation from Amazon is that it has a massive physical presence and can use that to its advantage, but beyond that constant conversation, I'm interested in the social science behind this experiment. I agree with Kiri: Showing two prices is transparent and informative, not confusing. It gives the customer agency over what convenience means to them on a given day, and options are powerful. It also gives Walmart the benefit of having customers enter their physical store already understanding (down to the cent!) the value of their visit. At this moment I can't think of another retailer who could tell me that precise amount. I would be delighted to see other retailers experiment with a similar "maniacal focus" on leveraging their brick-and-mortar stores and pricing strategies for a better cross-channel customer experience.
  • Posted on: 10/30/2017

    American Eagle invites college kids to do their laundry

    It's exciting to see retailers take a risk on creative marketing campaigns to bring in foot traffic, especially when it's meeting an actual customer need and isn't just noise for noise's sake. Doing laundry in NYC is inconvenient and expensive! (And I hear that NYU now costs, what, $100k a semester?) I've been watching American Eagle for the past few years and have been impressed with how they're stayed relevant, especially with their Aerie brand. AE Studio tells me that they have an internal leadership team who is willing to evolve, which is encouraging. Back to meeting needs: A free laundromat by NYU is perfect, provided they can keep their machines up and running and keep the studio from feeling chaotic so the experience doesn't turn sour for a visitor. Will this new foot traffic correspond with higher sales? They'll need to look at the data closely. Is it a draw? Absolutely, and one that leaves a pretty lasting impression, too.
  • Posted on: 10/16/2017

    A mall carves out pop-up space for online brands

    Repurposing inactivated mall real estate for fresh, engaging ideas? Yes please! The experience of pop-ups shouldn't just belong to Soho tourists. With a data-driven approach, Roosevelt Field can bring in brands their visitors want, making their mall a destination for new shoppers. I'd be thrilled if rotating pop-ups became the new "anchor" stores for malls.
  • Posted on: 10/13/2017

    Are retailers shortchanging the digital transformation?

    Without constantly innovating to meet customer needs, legacy retailers will not succeed. Full stop. We all know this. Deploying better tech or investing in new channels is not PR icing. It's the ticket you have to shell out for in order to get out of the 1980s. (Walmart's acquisition of Parcel comes to mind.) Jasmine said it beautifully below: Square footage alone doesn't suffice. Developing internal systems to collect, analyze and take action on both online and offline customer data is an obvious, urgent need, but it takes a great internal leadership team to take action. Because retail is fear-driven right now, and that's the real "Amazon effect." It's paralyzing to face the two options of either risking failure or slowly deteriorating. I appreciate that this fear is waking up a whole industry that desperately needed the call. And I'm excited to see legacy retailers pivot and succeed, and prove the naysayers wrong.
  • Posted on: 09/28/2017

    Macy’s counts on new rewards program

    Agree completely. I want Macy's to do well and it is encouraging to see them take a risk and try something new, especially focusing on cool experiences. However -- shopping there should be a great experience in itself. I hope this loyalty program roll-out is paired with in-store events, e-commerce brand pop-ups, a shakeup of floor plans or displays ... anything to make all Stars align in Macy's constellation. (Wow, that was cheesy, and definitely not how stars work, but I'm standing by it.)

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