Today in retail, The Home Depot unveils a $150 million venture capital fund, while Uber and Albertsons expand their partnership to include 2,000 stores.
Plus, U.K.-based Retail Jobs Alliance pushes for a transition from shop tax to online sales tax, Estée Lauder says the Chinese COVID-19 headwinds are temporary and Macy’s is accelerating the opening of its smaller department stores.
PYMNTS’ latest Global Digital Shopping Index, SMB Edition, found that smaller companies garner a greater percentage of sales from digital means — at more than 60% for small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs), versus roughly 37% of larger companies.
Our data also shows that SMBs embraced 13 more digital features between 2020 to 2021 — indicating that they know that the use of innovation is key to engaging with consumers and forging loyalty. The ability to utilize third-party platform resources means that smaller firms are no longer at a disadvantage, in terms of the “build it or buy it” approach that is more suited to larger firms.
Retail technology company Clerk, which offers a marketing and merchandising platform, recently announced that it has raised $30 million in its Series B funding round. The investment comes as more grocers are looking to apply the learnings of eCommerce to the in-store experience.
Clerk’s platform includes a “Grocery TV” product, allowing brands to advertise on small in-store screens, and the company currently has more than 14,000 displays in grocery stores. Clerk also has a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) artificial intelligence (AI)-powered merchandising platform featuring a range of shelf-stocking data analytics capabilities.
Several U.K. retail firms have formed the Retail Jobs Alliance, pushing to eliminate the so-called Shops Tax and potentially replace it with an online sales tax.
The alliance includes Tesco, Greggs, Waterstones, J Sainsbury, the Co-op Group, Mirrisons, Kingfisher and several retail trade bodies. The group recently sent a letter to Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak demanding an end to the shops tax, saying it was writing on behalf of organizations that employ more than 1 million people, or about one-third of the entire retail workforce.
The organization said it wanted “an overall cut in business rates for all retail premises,” adding that it is “open to the possibility of funding this through the introduction of a new online sales tax (OST).”
Macy’s is fast-tracking the opening of its smaller department store footprint, anticipating that these retail outposts with fever products and more digital services will attract more shoppers.
The COVID-19 pandemic sped up retailers’ willingness to shift to smaller stores, with the realization that shoppers’ interests when they came to brick-and-mortar locations were changing. Macy’s opened five Market by Macy’s locations in Texas and Atlanta in the past two years, and the stores are roughly one-fifth of the size of Macy’s department stores.
Estée Lauder, the world’s second-largest cosmetics company, has said headwinds in China are causing ripple effects in other markets around the world.
While the company still expects to deliver record full-year results for the 12-months that will end June 30, the beauty giant told investors that the near-term will be rocky, due to the impact of COVID-related lockdowns in China. The news caused Estée Lauder’s shares to fall sharply in mid-afternoon trading Tuesday (May 2), extending a year-to-date slump to 35% and pushing the stock to its lowest point in 15 months.
The Home Depot has unveiled a $150 million venture capital fund called Home Depot Ventures, created to “identify, fund and partner with early-stage companies to accelerate emerging technologies that aim to improve the customer experience and shape the future of home improvement.”
The fund “aims to invest in companies that advance The Home Depot’s ability to provide a seamless interconnected shopping experience, develop new and differentiated capabilities,” and will target startups that deliver operational excellence. Home Depot has invested in several companies in the past, including Afero, Loadsmart, Made Renovation and Roadie.
Albertsons Companies and Uber have expanded their partnership to include 2,000 of the grocer’s stores on Uber Eats. The partnership features several of Albertsons Companies’ brands, including Albertsons, Safeway, Jewel-Osco, ACME, Tom Thumb and Randalls.
Through the expanded partnership, Uber Eats will have access to 800 new locations across Connecticut, Indiana, New Hampshire, Utah, Vermont and Rhode Island. Albertsons’ stores will also be more accessible on Uber Eats, with customers able to order items for delivery in “express” lanes within the convenience section of the app.
The beauty and wellness industry ranked among the top three industries for website performance in 2019, moving to the top spot in 2020, according to a PYMNTS Intelligence study, which looked into how the beauty and wellness industry is deploying payment solutions and eliminating friction to create a smoother customer journey.
The sector owed some success to streamlining the online purchasing process, such as adding digital wallet acceptance. On-page product recommendations and live site help have also played an important role in reducing friction, as have features such as free shipping. As a result, the beauty and wellness industry was already well-positioned when the digital transformation accelerated following the pandemic’s onset in early 2020.
Most consumers cite ease and convenience as having the most significant impact on their satisfaction with a given retailer. According to PYMNTS’ research, two-thirds of online retail shoppers and 57% of online grocery shoppers say shopping ease is important when picking a digital merchant.
Once merchants gain a customer, they still have to lock in loyalty by demonstrating the convenience of their shopping experiences. Trust plays a vital role in this process, and merchants must demonstrate that they will protect customers’ personal and financial information. This is especially important for online merchants and grocers, as 40% of consumers will switch merchants if they feel that a retailer is no longer trustworthy.