PROFILE
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Nicola Kinsella

VP Global Marketing, Fluent Commerce
Nicola has over 20 years’ experience in technology that spans eCommerce, supply chain and logistics. At Fluent Commerce, an enterprise SaaS distributed order management company, she heads up Product Marketing. Her job? To use her unique blend of hands on tech and marketing expertise to craft compelling product messages. Ones that will resonate with retailers and brands globally, and fuel both sales and partner enablement. Prior to joining Fluent Commerce, Nicola spent 5 years at Bridge Solutions Group, an IT consultancy that specializes in distributed order management. Awards received during her tenure included: Forbes Best Management Consulting Firms: IT-Implementation 2016, 2017, 2018 and IBM Business Partner Award: 2016 IBM Commerce Winner.
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  • Posted on: 12/08/2021

    DSW finds ‘narrower and deeper’ to be the right fit for its business

    Focusing on, and improving in stock positions for your core performers makes sense. It builds more customer trust in your inventory availability and your ability to deliver. Especially when competitors are battling supply chain issues and out of stocks. At the same time it's important to experiment with new styles -- especially as an off-price retailer. Customers get a kick out of oddball deals -- and the treasure hunt and limited availability are often conversion drivers. I wonder if DSW will add new Drop Ship Vendors to their online selection so they can extended range without taking on the inventory risk?
  • Posted on: 12/01/2021

    Did Cyber Monday hit its peak in 2020?

    We definitely saw a flattening of the holiday sales curve across clients and more sustained volume over October and November. Which from a customer experience perspective is great. It meant faster website response times. Moreover there were no big news headlines about performance issues at some big brands like there were last year. The biggest winners? Probably the retail IT teams. They've really upped their game in terms of performance testing over the last 12 months. For those who sat on standby and got to binge on Netflix instead of fighting fires -- good for you. The hard work paid off. Will we break records again in the future? Of course. But if it happens in 2022 it feels like retail is ready.
  • Posted on: 11/17/2021

    Walmart is stocked and ready to roll back prices for Christmas

    Walmart drives a hard bargain with suppliers. As a result, they can offer lower prices. And with both the cost of goods and transportation putting pressure on competitors, and the cost of living rising, now is the time - in a troubled market - to invest in grabbing market share. To that end, I expect Walmart will continue to be aggressive on price over the next six months. I don't see diversification as being the driver behind, nor enabler of, their low price strategy. Walmart has always innovated. Its new offerings are no exception, and the extra services provide Walmart with more opportunities to drive brand engagement and loyalty. While they will also create new revenue streams, I believe Walmart is more likely to expect each to stand alone than have one subsidize the other at this stage.
  • Posted on: 10/28/2021

    When should holiday marketing start?

    This year is different. There are huge supply chain issues and labor shortages that are going to impact both product availability and delivery. What's more, like the NRF study, our recent holiday shopping survey showed a trend towards early shopping. Specifically, 28 percent of U.S. consumers responded that they plan to start their holiday shopping before November, and 52 percent before Black Friday. So marketing early, given the conditions, makes sense. That said, fear based marketing - especially around the holidays - kills the mood. Luckily, I haven't seen too much of it so far. Much more inviting to see some top names delivery messages such as:
    • Cozy, comfy, heartwarming, welcoming;
    • Get a head start/early deals/early access;
    • Gearing up to celebrate;
    • Holiday prep time is here;
    • Festive experiences;
    • Give gifts for new traditions outside.
    They're way more inspiring!
  • Posted on: 10/27/2021

    Are store associates the key to bridging retail’s physical/digital divide?

    A great example is Cartier. They've really focused on digital agility so they can rapidly create new digital experiences that are event or moment specific, and craft the full end to end journey from purchase through delivery that reflects the high standards conveyed by their brand. When it comes to store staff, you're going to maximize engagement, it's important to put as much emphasis on the staff UX as the customer UX. In-store tools should be designed to increase engagement, instill a sense of urgency, and decrease training time and user errors. So, part of the selection criteria for in-store tools should be how they will enable you to provide a high quality staff UX, both now and in the future as your needs change.
  • Posted on: 10/21/2021

    Walmart is ready to deliver ‘Black Friday Deals for Days’

    Walmart is being smart. They know there will be a holiday crunch due to staff shortages, both internally and at carriers. Starting promotions early means they can start delivering holiday orders early, and spread the load across a longer period of time to help stave off capacity issues. It's a good play and one that other retailers should follow.
  • Posted on: 10/20/2021

    Will physical and digital retail operations perform better on their own?

    Does anyone remember Sports Authority? Their e-commerce business was separate and they got crushed when BORIS and BOPIS became popular. Dick's on the other hand pivoted to unify their store and online experiences. If Saks were in a category that was moving more towards "digital first" then maybe it would make sense, but apparel is the wrong category.
  • Posted on: 10/19/2021

    Get ready for the ‘IOU Christmas’

    In addition to paying careful attention to carrier SLAs, retailers will need to watch their SLAs with drop ship vendors (DSVs) as well. From a consumer perspective it's all part of the same retail experience yet retailers often have far less visibility into the status of DSV orders. It will be interesting to see if the retailers who invested in a carrier diversification strategy this year (after delays last holiday season) will see it pay off, or if labor issues at regional carriers impact their SLAs as well.
  • Posted on: 10/06/2021

    Is Home Depot’s deal with Walmart a sign of bigger things to come?

    The fact that The Home Depot is using Walmart for distribution is a testament to the challenges of last-mile delivery. For Walmart it offers an additional revenue stream and more brand awareness (if Walmart drivers use branded trucks like Amazon). For The Home Depot it's a great way to diversify their carrier strategy - particularly given the delays and volume limits retailers experienced last holiday season. I'm not sure it will result in a merger, but I expect we'll see a lot more partnerships like this in the future. One of the big challenges for brands who want to go direct-to-consumer (DTC) is how to scale parcel delivery when they don't have that experience. Walmart's service could give them a way to outsource that (maybe even via a "ship to Walmart store for delivery" model).
  • Posted on: 10/05/2021

    Is consumer-direct less profitable for brands than selling wholesale?

    Can you put a price on owning the customer experience? What about the data? While there are some up front costs in going direct and getting it right, the long term benefits are huge. You get to have more meaningful conversations, get faster product feedback to drive innovation. Not to mention the added margin. The problem is, most brands aren't set up to ship parcels. They ship pallets. But maybe they don't have to. What if brands could consume orders and send them to their distributors or retail partners for fulfillment? That way they could own the relationship and the CX, but outsource the headache of parcel delivery. They could also reduce gray market sales of their merchandise by distributors. It's a longer term play, but definitely worth pursuing.
  • Posted on: 10/01/2021

    Digital-first focus drives faster growth than stores ever did for Sweaty Betty

    I would argue that being digital-first today often includes stores as part of the end-to-end experience and that the pandemic has accelerated this. We've seen a massive uptick in click and collect or BOPIS orders. Sweaty Betty has obviously seen the growing need for more pickup points to support their digital sales as well. In October 2020 they rolled out their click and collect partnership with John Lewis whereby customers can pick up their Sweaty Betty orders at a John Lewis or Waitrose store (via a ship to store model). What will be most interesting is whether Wolverine ends up leveraging their entire portfolio's distribution network to serve each brand's customers.
  • Posted on: 09/29/2021

    Will layaway programs go away for good (or bad)?

    Like all abstractions of money (credit cards, mobile payments, chips at a casino) the further removed the buyer is from hard cash, the more likely they are to spend. Great for retailers who want to capture an impulse buy in the short term, but I agree with other commenters that eventually there could be a backlash depending on how those programs are administered. That said, with all the pressure on stores to stage products for BOPIS and Ship from Store, space is at a premium. Layaway stock just doesn't move fast enough to justify the square footage.
  • Posted on: 09/28/2021

    Will Americans finish this year’s Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving?

    We just conducted a research survey on holiday shopping plans across 500 U.S. consumers (results still to be published) and a full 28% said they planned to start their holiday shopping before November and 22% said they plan to do more shopping online than in-store this year. So, we expect to see a lot of focus on store fulfillment this holiday season.
  • Posted on: 09/27/2021

    Will reducing seasonal hires pose a big risk for Target?

    Pose a risk? Sounds more like a great risk mitigation strategy. There's a massive labour shortage across retail and distribution at the moment. This is a smart move. Many retailers are going to struggle with fulfillment this holiday season due to lack of labor both in stores and DCs. What's more, existing store staff don't have to be trained, so chances are they'll have a lower order error rate. Employee benefits sound like a good investment to ensure customer promises are kept during the holidays in a way that will differentiate Target from competitors.
  • Posted on: 09/23/2021

    Where are the weak points in in-store fulfillment?

    Inventory accuracy is hard. Stores don't typically "receive" inventory into a store or do cycle counts like DCs. And processing inventory updates at scale is complex. A lot of systems (ERP, POS) aren't designed to send just deltas, only big batches -- which increases the cost of inventory updates and affects the performance of systems being updated. There is lots of room for improvement in this space.
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