Connected Retail, Facebook pop-ups, and the new Amazon catalogue

By Maia on Friday, November 16th, 2018

Zalando is looking east for retail inspiration

Earlier this year, Zalando made headlines with its venture into brick and mortar retail – the first Zalando Beauty Station in Berlin. Less than six months later, the (r)etail giant has set forth an ambitious plan to open an additional 600 stores by the end of the year.

Zalando plans to use these stores as fulfilment centres for its online orders drawing inspiration from Alibaba’s new ‘Connected Retail’ platform. This platform connects in-store inventory to the e-commerce website, enabling Zalando to fulfil online orders from the stores in urban city centres.

“Platforms such as Alibaba and have largely dissolved the boundaries between online and offline. I see the technological dynamism in the offline market as a preliminary step towards greater integration of online trading with stationary trading” – Carsten Keller, VP of direct-to-consumer at Zalando.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that it’s not a question of digital vs. physical retail but rather creating a framework that connects both. Allowing customers to browse in-store, order online and have purchases delivered from the store rather than a rural warehouse makes for a more efficient delivery process and a more convenient shopping experience. This brand of ‘Connected Retail’ promises to bring growth back to the high street – a promise we’d love to see kept.

Facebook helps brands get facetime with customers

Source: Facebook

This month, Facebook joined a string of tech giants vying to plant roots in the land of physical retail. Across 9 new pop-up shops hosted by Macy’s department stores in cities along the east and west coasts, Facebook features 100 small digital-native brands that are power users of both Facebook and Instagram to help grow their business.

“When an e-commerce brand can physically reach out to a customer and engage them, it really throws gasoline on that interest” – Matt Sargent, Senior Vice President at Magid

Although this is a tepid step into physical retail, it could be the first of many more, bolder moves. As the lines between digital search and physical fulfilment continue to blur, the last-mile increasingly becomes the link between the digital social experience and the retail experience. We won’t be surprised to see Facebook branded delivery vehicles join Google Express and Amazon vans navigating city streets in the near future.

Home delivery for the holidays

Source: Amazon

Amazon is toying with the idea of sending an annual holiday catalogue to millions of its customers across the US. This year, it’s sending out its 70-page pilot filled with favourite picks for every baby, kid, tween, and teen. In the aftermath of Toys-R-Us’ demise this year, Amazon is hoping that this catalogue will help capture the interest of loyal Toys-R-Us customers and migrate them onto the Amazon platform.

Over the last several months, Amazon has adopted traditional sales strategies, embracing the advantages of physical retail by opening more brick-and-mortar stores and cashier-free supermarkets, so it comes as no surprise that it’s now implementing traditional marketing strategies, too.

Traditional or digital strategies aside, one thing remains certain – delivery remains at the heart of the customer experience. The success of holiday sales and catalogues hinges on just how well holiday orders are delivered. As we’ve said before, customer experience is the delivery experience and retailers know that winning this holiday season comes right down to the last-mile.

Green is the new red

Source: Royal Mail

With a fleet of 49,000 vehicles on the road across the UK, Royal Mail isn’t the greenest of companies out there – but it wants to change that.

Last year, the logistics provider purchased 100 electric Peugeot vans and installed a charging infrastructure across its network to support the green initiative. And in their second step towards a greener, more eco-friendly fleet, they more recently began trialling 9 new fully electric vans from Oxfordshire-based automaker Arrival.

The Royal Mail isn’t alone in their carbon-cutting efforts. After striking a deal with Arrival earlier this year, UPS committed to trialling 35 zero-emissions electric vans designed to make deliveries in busy cities like London clean and quiet.

The adoption of these hundred odd vans is still just a tiny step in a larger race towards making our cities greener and more liveable – but every step counts and we’re excited to see more logistics providers follow suit.

Recommended Watching

The genius of the London tube map – Michael Bierut for TED’s Small Thing Big Idea: Designs that Changed the World series

The London tube map was once a complicated geographic rendering that was hard to read and hard to follow. Then Harry Beck came along and transformed it into what it is today. He suggested that people riding the underground in trains don’t care about what happens above ground. They just want to know – ‘where do I get on and where do I get off?’ It’s the system that’s important, not the geography.

For more designs that changed the world, head here.

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