This holidays season was an intensive one for the retail industry.

Just last week, retailers were rushing to offer Christmas Eve delivery to keep up with Amazon Prime, and today numbers are showing the hard work paid off: U.S. retail sales saw best growth in 6 years, driven by both strong online sales and increased efforts to match growing customer expectations.

From smart shoes, experiential retail and the trends that pushed beauty retailers to new heights in 2018, check out the hottest retail tech news from this week:

Puma set to re-release its old school smart shoe

Puma is re-releasing a new version of its 30 year old “smart” shoe, in attempt to regain the attention of sneaker addicts and collectors, AKA sneakerheads.

The original RS-Computer Shoe (RS stands for Running System) which was released in 1986, was a running shoe that included a built-in computer chip located at back of the heel. The RS-Computer Shoe allowed runners to track their progress, a ground-breaking feature in the pre-fitness days of the ’80s.

The 1986 RS chip recorded time, distance, and calories burned; The 2018 version of the sneaker takes the tech a few steps ahead, featuring Bluetooth technology to send time, distance, calories, and the number of steps from the shoe to a smartphone using an RS-Computer shoe app.

Taking its costumers down the memory lane, Puma preserved the original RS design- using 8-bit graphics, the same feature used on the original computer screens and giving it an old school touch.

Puma isn’t the first company to re-release a smart shoe in the race to stay relevant in today’s sneaker industry. ADIDAS re-released its original smart shoe, the Micropacer (from 1984) with some updates for the futuristic sneaker fans.

The significance for Puma here is twofold: in addition to increasing engagement with costumers, the connection to the mobile app offers personalized value to its users.

But above all, the force behind Puma’s move is the emotional bond it is creating with its customers, by not only providing them with a techy product, but using nostalgia to improve their marketing results. The combination of nostalgia and tech is topped with an exclusive hint: the collection will be very limited, as Puma will be releasing just 86 pairs of the shoe worldwide.

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puma rs computer smart running shoe 1986 designboom 5

Image Source:  BGR

Inside Ulta Beauty’s channel-agnostic growth strategy

Our best customers are omnichannel customers”- Prama Bhatt, SVP of digital and e-commerce.

Ulta Beauty omnichannel strategy has been in the works since 2015, and it is safe to say its efforts payed off: the company showed a 43 percent increase in e-commerce sales to nearly $458 million in the first nine months of 2018.

The brand’s move to an integrated omnichannel approach is happening on multiple fronts, with its intention of opening 100 stores this year. This doesn’t come as a surprise: Ulta found omnichannel shoppers spend up to four times more than its single-channel guest. They also found out these shoppers frequent stores two-to-four times more. One would think their extra spend was digital spend, but ironically, that extra spend is happening in stores.

Here are 3 ways the company has managed to grow with its mnichannel approach:

  1. Ulta’s store-to-door program, which was launched in late 2017, allows customers to order online in physical locations and have products shipped to their homes.
  2. Ulta’s buy-online-pick-up-in-store initiative, which is currently only in a test phase in 47 of its 1,163 locations, helps brands that are in limited channel distribution reach all customers.
  3. Investment in technology: just his November, the company acquired, QM Scientific and GlamST,  technology startups in AI and AR, as part of its attempt to accelerate digital innovation and personalization across channels.

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shopper stalker 170

Image Source:  WWD

Will grocery retailers abandon Instacart?

Instacart announced that it will end its relationship with Whole Foods in early 2019, and according to experts, it looks like in 2019 more grocery retailers will be joining.

Some numbers: Instacart serves over 4,000 cities, delivers from 15,000 stores and partners with more than 300 retailers. According to reatil expert Brittain Ladd, grocery retail executives have made some impulsive decisions to sign an agreement with Instacart in the past out of fear of Amazon, without taking into account the long-term impact of the decision. In other words: they are lacking strategy.

Looking forward, grocery retailers should own the costumer experience.  Whether it be BOPIS, or using their managers to design and implement their own delivery services, grocery retailers should identify and leverage their differentiating capabilities.

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160311 em instacart

Image Source:  Time

3 trends that pushed beauty retailers to new heights in 2018

The beauty space has always been a great example for the power of experiential retail. The “play now, buy later” philosophy of beauty brands like Sephora and Ulta, alongside the entrance of new players like Glossier and Birchbox, have pushed traditional retailers to reconsider their strategy and as a result invest in experiential stores.

Lets take a quick look at 3 trends that defined the beauty sector in 2018:

  1. Makeovers in loyalty: Loyalty programs have been a backbone of traditional retailers for years. In contrast to the traditional rewards-based offering of players like Sephora and Ulta, a new approach has stepped up by competitors like Glossier, that build loyalty programs based on social sharing and brand communication.
  1. Brick and mortar gets a whole new look: The beauty sector is a major contributor in the experiential retail discourse. Retailers have been updating their in-store offerings, including adoption of new AR and VR technologies and try-on experiences. Latest example is Forever 21’s first beauty store.
  1. Partnering with new players: Traditional retailers have begun to realize the potential of beauty as a fantastic traffic driver. Beauty pop ups like the once set by Macy’s this past year, capitalize on some of that foot traffic without having to create a dedicated beauty department or launching a private label.

To put it simply, this year was a big one for renovations and revamps in the beauty sector- a trend that is only expected to grow.

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beauty retail 3

Image Source:  WWD

U.S. retailers had a very merry Christmas, according to early sales data. 

Amid the holiday season, total retail sales in the US jumped by 5.1% up to $850 billion from Nov. 1 to Dec. 24 compared to the prior year – the strongest performance in six years.

It was also a great holiday season for Amazon: the company claimed that it shipped a billion products (!) for free in the U.S. alone, and that voice-placed orders was tripled during 2018 holiday season. That’s one happy Alexa.

How did this happen?

According to retail experts and analysts, the drive in sales could be attributed to efficient inventory management and distribution strategy.

The jump was also driven by robust online spending. Unlike last year, retailers were challenged to keep up sales throughout the holiday shopping season with an uncommonly early Thanksgiving, and stores like Target and Walmart extended their online order deadlines for Christmas.

Retail apocalypse, anyone?

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Christmas Shopping Fever 2

Image Source:  Her Campus

Final thoughts

  • On the fashion front, Puma’s re-release of its 80’s smart shoe perfectly targets the tech savvy costumer alongside the timeless sneakerhead. The limited, fashionable edition, offers a highly personalized experience, turning in to an innovative product with a nostalgic touch. Who wouldn’t want to run in a smart and chic shoe?
  • The beauty sector is showing us once again how engagement is done right. Whether it be the omnichannel approach adopted by brands like Ulta, which provide customers with a seamless shopping experience across offline and online channels, or Sephora’s highly-customized shopping experience in tech-enabled  ‘studio stores’, the “play now, buy later” strategy manages to drive foot traffic into stores by making brick-and-mortar fun again.
  • As customers are getting more selective about where they shop, retailers are inventing new ways to make the shopping journey fun and engaging as possible, by using experiential retail to connect with costumers and maintain their competitive edge.



Yael Kochman