What’s Next for Brick-and-Mortar Retailers

It’s been a rough couple of years for traditional retail. Companies like Amazon have upended the retail structure, and as consumers continue to turn to e-commerce, brick-and-mortar retailers must adapt to survive.

To do so, many companies are turning to hot-button tactics like virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), simple or even nonexistent payment tactics (hello ApplePay and Amazon Go), and more. However, these strategies are more aspirational than practical, as they require heavy infusions of capital, huge upgrades to existing infrastructure and widespread consumer adoption to be successful.

While retailers work to make these long-term dreams a reality, there are several trends brick-and-mortar retailers can pursue to stay relevant and competitive in the more immediate future:

1. A Focus on Stores as Showrooms

As the purchase process continues to migrate online, we’re seeing brick-and-mortar stores used as a way for consumers to feel and see products before they pull out their phones and make a purchase. This approach works best for categories like furniture, where people are traditionally hesitant to purchase without physically interacting with products.

Examples of this strategy include Apple stores, which focus more on showcasing products and what they can do, or Bonobos’ guideshops, which exist purely as a way for consumers to interact with the web retailers’ goods (you can’t even walk away with any merchandise, but you can order clothing).

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Admin Appreciation Week at Walker Sands

There’s no doubt Walker Sands has THE BEST admin under the sun. Trish Kalchbrenner, our executive assistant, has been with Walker Sands for two and a half years, and let’s just say it’s a miracle we survived the times before her.

In honor of admin appreciation week, we asked our employees to share what they love about Trish. This post would go on for days if we included all the responses! So, here are the top five reasons why we are lucky to have Trish in our lives.

1. She gets the job done no matter what

“Not only is she the most organized person I’ve ever met, but she’s scrappy — if you need something done, she’ll find a way.” A

Trish constantly goes above and beyond for every person at Walker Sands. Whether it’s coming up with creative solutions to mundane office problems or working her magic to make the impossible seem like a breeze, there’s no problem too big or small for Trish to handle. And not only that, but she is killing the working mom game.

2. She always has a positive vibe

“I’ve never seen Trish with anything but a positive attitude.”

We all know the stereotype of the grouchy admin who is just there just to punch the clock. Lucky for us, Trish is the complete opposite. It can’t always be easy (or fun) managing an office of 80 employees, half of which are millennials, but Trish comes to work every day and radiates positivity. If you’re having a bad day, she’ll lend an ear and know just how to make it better (probably by showing you an adorable picture of her son or recommending the best spot to grab a donut).

3. She knows how to have fun

“She is literally a ray of sunshine and goes out of her way to cultivate our office culture, whether it’s through the company-wide scavenger hunt or simply grabbing a beer in the kitchen on Friday at 5.”  

On top of keeping Walker Sands running, Trish goes out of her way to make sure we all have a little fun throughout the work week. Trish reminds us enjoy the little things in life by organizing our weekly Game of Cones or helping us celebrate holidays like National Pancake Day. Oh, and she is the queen of GIFS (no email from Trish is complete with the perfect GIF).

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Chain Reaction: How Blockchain Is Infiltrating MarTech

Venture capital firms have invested more than $1.4 billion in blockchain since 2013, and more than 2,500 patents involving the technology have been filed in the same time frame. The implications for the financial world here are more obvious, but what does this trend mean for marketing? More than the average marketer may think, as it turns out.

Blockchain is the distributed ledger technology (DLT) behind bitcoin, the digital currency that’s used with encryption methods so that transactions are made without a middleman (banks). These days, businesses offering everyday consumer goods and services are increasingly accepting bitcoins. While Bitcoin was the first currency to be applied to this DLT strategy, it’s not the only currency that can be.

With Blockchain as the backbone of bitcoin, transactions are extremely fast and secure, all while being transparent. One shutterstock_548916601blockchain analyst has compared it to a Google Doc, with our mainstream system of transactions being a Microsoft Word document. The ledger is shared for all to see and updates automatically every ten minutes, all while being incorruptible.

Considering these strengths, it’s only a matter of time before blockchain technology changes the marketing landscape as we know it. Here are three realms that may see changes due to blockchain technology in the not-so-distant future.

Media buying

The idea of blockchain is already being applied to the world of ad buying, and isn’t so far away from being implemented on a larger scale. Nasdaq announced that in late 2017 it will launch an electronic marketplace using blockchain technology for the New York Interactive Ad Exchange.

The ledger will allow publishers, advertisers and media buyers to buy and sell ad space via an electronic marketplace. According to the NYIAE CEO Lou Severine, if this takes hold the way it’s intended, companies could implement the model across different forms of media including TV, radio and out-of-home markets.

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AI and Chatbots: How Marketers Can Keep Up

The marketing world is abuzz with AI chatter. While people love to talk up AI’s potential for automating marketing, the reality doesn’t yet live up to the hype. A study from Oxford University, Deloitte and the BBC revealed that the risk of associate-level marketers losing their jobs to automation is fairly low, at only 33 percent. At the same time, new AI marketing innovations and applications appear daily, and keeping up with this evolution is essential.

What’s a busy marketer to do? According to the Walker Sands State of Martech 2017 study, marketers are feeling the heat already. When asked about tech strategies in general (AI and beyond), almost three-quarters (72 percent) of marketers say the martech landscape is evolving at light speed or rapidly. Times may be hectic, but AI is a tactic deserving special attention. Let’s go beyond the buzz:

AI’s current role in marketing

It’s easy to get carried away in the science fiction-like element of AI. Many companies gaining attention are carrying out genuinely interesting tasks, but below the surface aren’t so advanced in terms of application of the technology.

For example, IBM Watson collaborated with Marchesa to create a “cognitive dress” worn by model Karolina Kurkova at the 2016 Met Gala. IBM Watson analyzed Marchesa’s social media sentiment and changed the dress to correspond to different emotions. The dress was gorgeous, but all-in-all, natural language processing (NLP) is a fairly straightforward technology.

The changes currently brought to martech are far less glamorous, but useful nonetheless. Open-ended technologies like IBM Watson and Salesforce Einstein allow for the development of new AI applications for marketing all the time. Here are a couple marketers have embraced so far.

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Walker Sands PROI Exchange Recap: A Week in Seattle + A Day in Portland

Like my colleagues, Kelsey Gunderson and Payal Shukla, I also had the opportunity to visit a PROI partner agency. Last month, I ventured over to the West Coast to spend time with C+C, a creative public relations and social media agency for companies that help people and the planet. I spent time in their Seattle headquarters as well as a day in their Portland office. They also have offices in Boston and Washington, D.C.

Here’s a look at my visit:

What I Learned

I spent most of my time in meetings with practice leads where we exchanged case studies and processes. Here are a few of my takeaways:

  • Dull, niche subjects can be fun – We like to pride ourselves at Walker Sands on our ability to make obscure B2B tech interesting to broad audiences. We’re not alone. Many of C+C’s clients include equally niche, complex organizations: utilities, food labeling, diversity organization, etc. But that challenge is exactly what makes our job as creative marketers fun!
  • Definition of “success” varies – Contrary to popular belief, “success” doesn’t always mean placement volume or lead generation. For some of C+C’s clients, changing consumer behavior is the real goal. For some of C+C’s clients, that means registering for health screenings or switching to green energy sources. It’s important to define success for each client or campaign to set expectations.
  • B2B can be B2C – It’s easy for B2B clients to get stuck in the mentality that their customers are businesses. But the reality is that humans work at those businesses (at least until robots take over), and the best results for clients come when we take a more consumer-friendly (read: less intimidating jargon) approach.

What I Did

Of course, I had some fun in the Emerald City with and without the folks at C+C. Besides the obligatory trips to the Space Needle, Pike Place Market and the OG Starbucks, here are a few of my highlights:

C&C 1-PRSA Totem Awards – My visit happened to overlap with Seattle’s PRSA Totem Awards dinner, so I crashed C+C’s table and cheered on their wins for the cool campaigns they shared with me.

-Coach Mary – One of the best perks at C+C’s Portland office is a personal trainer, Coach Mary, who visits them once a week. I was there on Coach Mary day, so I participated in a surprise afternoon workout. C&C 2

-Amazon Go – Amazon dominates downtown Seattle, and the city was abuzz with the opening of the cashier-less store. It was only open to Amazon employees at the time, but like any good Walker Sandsian, I pressed my nose up against the glass to peek inside.

It’s hard to believe I only spent three days with C+C! I learned a ton while I was there, and I can’t wait to go back to Seattle. If you’re ever given a chance to visit, go!

 

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