HBC believes it can use technology to thrive even as Amazon grows
Amazon need not be a bogeyman for all retailers, given what digital experts are learning about consumer shopping patterns.
Some retailers have seen their store-based traffic increase after selling certain exclusive products on Amazon, while others note consumers are using the online giant as a browsing tool for products before they buy at a store, says Jorge Carrasqueiro, director of digital marketing at Hudson’s Bay Co.
“We have seen that many consumers read Amazon reviews before going to buy locally,” Carrasqueiro told an industry conference in Toronto on Tuesday.
Still, in an environment of declining mall visits, Amazon represents 51 cents out of every $1 of online growth, he noted. At the same time, only one in four shoppers say they have a favourite retailer, making it a critical time for merchants to leverage technology in order to remain relevant to consumers.
“The intelligence and insight provided by search (marketing) is invaluable for marketers today,” he said. “We want a complete view of our customers across all channels to drive actual insights.” Technologies such as machine learning are helping to drive retail research about customer insights, Carrasqueiro said.
“We are really excited at HBC about AI (artificial intelligence systems). As an example, if you search on Google Home or Alexa for a suit to wear to a wedding, it will provide you with not only the product information but contextual information about the occasion.” Those technologies will help retailers time advertising strategically to suit a customer’s needs, he said.
Still, despite assurances from better-performing traditional retailers about their prospects, trepidation is high in the industry. Hundreds of department stores have closed in the U.S. where HBC operates Lord & Taylor, Saks Fifth Ave and its assorted off-price banners. Specialty chains have also been hit hard, sparking the closure of Bebe and Toys ‘R’ Us in the U.S., while others such as Nine West, jewelry chain Claire’s and department store Bon Ton Stores Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this year.