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: 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.)
  • Posted on: 09/22/2017

    Walmart’s Christmas plans do not include seasonal hires

    It's efficient from an economic standpoint and is good news for employees who have the flexibility and energy to pick up extra hours. When your pour time and money into training your team, retention is key, and having this incentive to look forward to each holiday season is smart. That being said, it'd be nice to see this initiative paired with some sort of program with other merit-based bonuses for workers who balance two or three jobs to pay rent and can't afford to take on more hours. Incentivize everyone!
  • Posted on: 09/20/2017

    Will others follow Neiman Marcus’ return to a full-price focus?

    Out of curiosity, I just did some research on Neiman Marcus Group's code of ethics -- so often we see apparel retailers like Gap Inc. who can afford to play with margins because their clothing is made using low-paid labor. Neiman Marcus refuses to work with manufacturers and brands who employ child labor, forced labor or who pay less than minimum wage. (Nordstrom has a similar statement.) If Neiman Marcus is confident in their due diligence, they should proudly stand by this code of conduct. It'd certainly refresh their ho-hum branding. Luxury apparel made ethically always has a place at the retail table, even though its portions may be a bit smaller.
  • Posted on: 09/18/2017

    Did this startup make a big mistake calling itself Bodega?

    It's incredibly out-of-touch -- and I'm glad to see it's a discussion topic. We've talked about vending machine concepts here before. However, this is not a neutral candy dispenser or a helpful kiosk for buying earplugs in an airport, because of how it's named. This is reappropriating a type of business that is traditionally owned by or operated by people of color and/or immigrants in neighborhoods where large supermarkets or other businesses choose not to plant roots. To lift that name and slap it onto an otherwise-nondescript vending machine concept is to mock the role bodegas play in the communities they serve. The fact that these vending machines will largely be placed in wealthier neighborhoods or apartment complexes who don't frequent actual bodegas adds to my disgust. What's in a name? Everything, in this case. Cultural context matters. Do your homework, "Bodega."
  • Posted on: 09/14/2017

    Millennials, not Boomers, say associates are key to shopping experiences

    Coming from a clicks-to-bricks perspective: When you create a compelling retail brand online and then open pop-ups or flagship stores, of course Millennial 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 -- enjoying the thrill of getting to touch and try on the items they’ve seen on Instagram for months.I believe this very evening Everlane is hosting a happy hour mingle to hire associates for their first permanent store (it was announced on Instagram Stories). For these clicks-to-bricks brands, recruiting happens on social media, not on Indeed listings. They're hiring devotees from their cliques.With that much investment in the company at the get-go, those associates are guaranteed to make the shopping experience engaging and informative. Millennials are beginning to adjust their expectations accordingly and want to have conversations about a brand's products with someone as invested as they are.
  • Posted on: 09/12/2017

    Gap Inc. leans more heavily on Old Navy and Athleta

    Wholeheartedly agree! Gap and Banana Republic don't stand out and I honestly can't remember a time when they did. They make wardrobe essentials, but they don't have an interesting angle that's compelling to consumers (ethical standards and transparency at Everlane, low prices/diverse sizing at Old Navy or Uniqlo, funky Millennial branding and trendy pieces at Athleta or Outdoor Voices, etc). They're yawn-worthy. They're done. RIP The Gap, long live Gap Inc., which is making a smart move in pouring their resources into their more compelling brands.
  • Posted on: 09/08/2017

    Will CVS’ sales take off in airports?

    Considering the exorbitant prices for regular drugstore items sold in college bookstores and airport shops, CVS could do quite well if these vending units offer more affordable options via their private label. (Because it's just silly to pay $6 for two allergy pills.) That's a good look for CVS, driven by meeting real customer needs.
  • Posted on: 09/01/2017

    Does Amazon Books need coffee?

    I'm not sure what delights me about the phrase, "Coffee and books go together like peanut butter and jelly" being used by an Amazon exec. Perhaps because it sounds like a recipe for something kind of obvious? Stumptown's delicious and buzzy. It's a logical move. But the recipe for a great bookstore is much more nuanced. I'd never say stop watching and learning from Amazon, but putting two products in one space does not a bookstore make, nor can the smell of (very, very good) coffee generate the emotional buy-in or place-making power of an indie bookshop.
  • Posted on: 08/31/2017

    Are fashion trends moving too fast for retail?

    Yes! Retail is no longer the influencer in this process. (If anyone in retail is still able to influence, it's the store associates who embody the lifestyle the customer aspires to, and can sell it well.) Shoe retailer M. Gemi has mastered the careful balance of slow, ethical fashion delivered conveniently -- their tagline is "made in Italy the old way and sold online the new way" -- with new limited editions dropped once a week. When they're gone, they're gone. Larger brands ought to take notes on the small batch approach to reduce waste and retain their customers' attention.
  • Posted on: 08/24/2017

    Why don’t more retailers ‘get’ curation?

    This question immediately made me think of Edward Bernays' 1928 book Propaganda. (Great read for anyone selling anything.) The quote that came to mind: "In theory, everybody buys the best and cheapest commodities offered him on the market. In practice, if every one went around pricing, and chemically testing before purchasing, the dozens of soaps or fabrics or brands of bread which are for sale, economic life would become hopelessly jammed. To avoid such confusion, society consents to have its choice narrowed to ideas and objects brought to its attention through propaganda of all kinds."Modern life necessitates curation in the first place. The way we identify authority has changed. If a retailer isn't a curator, are they really selling anything at all?

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