After starting as a media company, Food52 is transforming into a commerce company -- and learning the ropes for dealing with customer service hurdles.
Customer service workers at direct-to-consumer startups are increasingly speaking out about being overworked and feeling undervalued. Here an employee who does customer service work at a startup candidly describes what her workday is like.
Once heralded as an integral part of the store of the future, RFID tags have never gotten widespread adoption as the cost of deployment and tech hurdles have remain stubbornly high.
Forever 21, which was brought down by opening too many stores that were too big, now sees e-commerce as key to its turnaround. President Alex Ok said in a press release that e-commerce accounts for 25% of Forever 21's sales, and "forms a large chunk of the profitable core of our operations and as part of our new global strategy." When Forever 21 filed for bankruptcy in September, the company said it would close as many as 178 U.S. stores. While analysts and industry observers say that Forever 21's e-commerce operations could use a refresh, they maintain that the company's biggest problems remain the size of its stores, its cluttered layout, and a failure to respond to fashion trends as quickly as competitors.
On Monday, Amazon announced a partnership with brick-and-mortar chain Future Retail, that will allow customers to order products from the company through Amazon India. With six different chains and more than 1,500 stores, Future Retail is one of the largest brick-and-mortar retailers in the country. Amazon has had a 3.58% stake in Future Retail since February, and also has stakes in Indian supermarket operator More, and fashion label Shoppers' Stop. Meanwhile, its biggest competitor Walmart completed a $16 billion acquisition of Flipkart, the biggest e-commerce player in the country, in August. It was Walmart's biggest acquisition to date.
As subscription startups look to boost their retention rates, they are doing away with the term subscription. Instead, they're pitching customers on joining a membership, where they'll get access to more than just product. The hope is that by giving subscribers access to more exclusive perks like events or special sales, they will stick with the service longer, and spend more money with the company
When retailers seek to cut costs, salaried store employees can be the first ones to get the ax. Among those who do remain, many of them say that their job is becoming harder and the hours more unpredictable, according to five current or former salaried managers Modern Retail spoke with.
On January 1, the California Consumer Privacy Act went into effect, the latest new piece of regulation that's meant to give customers more control over what companies can do with their personal data. While some industry groups have expressed concern that the legislation as written could hurt retailers' ability to offer loyalty programs, so far companies aren't planning any drastic changes to their loyalty programs as they wait for final clarification on the rules.
Where Amazon goes, other retailers follow. So as Amazon has rapidly expanded its network of Go stores, startups like Grabango and Zippin have launched to help retailers launch similar types of facilities that allow customers to walk in and out without having to stop at a cash register. These types of stores usually use a mix of computer vision and sensors to track which items shoppers pick up as they move throughout the store. That way, when a shopper exits, the store knows exactly which items to charge each customer for, typically through an app the customer has to download before entering.
Since San Francisco-based Forerunner Ventures launched its first venture fund in 2010, the firm has backed some of the fastest-growing direct-to-consumer startups in recent years, from Bonobos to Away to Glossier. Now, as there are DTC brands in every category from toothpaste to pet food, Forerunner is making a more diverse array of investments in commerce. This year for example, Forerunner started investing in more companies like supply chain company Attabottics and returns startup Narvar that help address the logistical challenges these DTC brands face as they scale.
For years, direct-to-consumer brands have relied on Facebook and Instagram advertising to acquire new customers rapidly. This year, they tried to wean themselves off of it. Rather than putting all of their eggs in one basket, more DTC brands see acquiring customers in places other than Facebook as key to building a profitable, sustainable business.
This year, a number of brick-and-mortar retailers announced that they were piloting clothing rental services. Now, the big question in 2020 is how many of them will survive. Most of these new rental services are structured as a monthly subscription, and the hope is that these services prove to be a profitable, recurring revenue stream for brick-and-mortar retailers. But that recurring revenue stream doesn't come easily.
After years of having its lunch eaten by Amazon, eBay is trying to fend off new competition from a new crop of secondhand marketplaces. Startups from StockX to theRealReal to ThredUp have been able to grow quickly by focusing on specific verticals like luxury handbags or sneakers in which there's historically been a lot of demand for resale, as well as by promising to authenticate goods before shipping them to buyers as a way to win over customers who have been skeptical of buying secondhand goods over the internet. Now, eBay is trying to take a page or two from their playbook.
With the holidays fast approaching, Amazon's massive logistics network is being put to the test.In order to get those packages to customers on time, Amazon doesn't just rely on third-party carriers like the USPS, UPS and FedEx. Since building its first fulfillment centers in 1997, Amazon also now has its own fleet of trucks and cargo planes rushing to get customers their delivery time. It's also constantly adding new types of robotics to its warehouses, looking for ways to speed up the picking and package sortation process.
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