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Here's How Technology is Reshaping the World of Retailers

Sumit Singh
The Macerich Company (MAC) opens Scottsdale Fashion Square's refurbished luxury wing. The face-lift enables the mall to add an impressive tenant lineup to its roster.

Retailers are getting smarter with the game-changing technologies and are ready to adopt any innovations that keep them ahead of the curve. To be more precise retailers are thinking of tomorrow. With the wave of digital transformation sweeping the sector, they are fast embracing the omni-channel mantra to provide a seamless shopping experience, whether in stores or online or through smartphones via apps.

Consumer shopping patterns have certainly evolved over the past. The consumers now seek more convenience, personalization and speed, and retailers are coming up with ground-breaking ideas to build a loyal customer base. Retailers are also looking for third-party solutions to fulfill the demand of customers and using social media platforms to advertise their brands, launch products and campaigns.

Retailers nowadays try to keep track of individual customers and analyze their purchasing behavior, type of products they search and other requirements. Let’s check out how retailers are metamorphosing in the evolving marketplace.

Walmart’s Game Plan

Walmart WMT has been taking greater strides to counter the growing dominance of Amazon AMZN, which has been aggressively making headway into retail space be it grocery, books, clothes and accessories or electronics. With its compelling pricing strategy and the buyout of Whole Foods, the e-commerce giant has caused a tectonic shift in the retail landscape. Moreover, through Prime membership program it is trying to build a loyal customer base and provide them lucrative deals, same-day delivery options and others. Further, its new cashless grocery store, Amazon Go, allows customer to scan, shop and go without stopping at the cash counter.

Coming to Walmart, the company has succeeded in giving itself a complete makeover by moving beyond a mere brick-&-mortar presence. This is well-evident from its constant initiatives — including buyouts, alliances, and improved delivery and payment systems.

Evidently, Walmart’s buyouts of Bonobos, ShoeBuy, Moosejaw, ModCloth and Jet.com underscore its quest to build an impressive digital brand portfolio. Its Walmart Pay mobile payment system, and Mobile Express Returns program further highlight its focus on accelerating online business along with making shopping easier and faster. Further to fortify position in online grocery business, this Zacks Rank #3 (Hold) company acquired a delivery start-up Parcel, Inc., which specializes in same-day delivery.

Target Gets Its Act Together  

Target TGT is leaving no stone unturned to gain a prominent position in the dynamic retail landscape. The company’s recent app-based service, Drive Up, allows customers to place orders using the Target app and have them delivered to their cars. This Zacks Rank #3 company has also made a concerted effort on the same-day delivery front by acquiring Internet-based grocery delivery service Shipt. The company intends to expand the service to majority of stores by 2018 holiday season.

Further, it plans to extend Target Restock program to more than 30 new cities. The program allows customers to restock their shipping box with essential items online and get them delivered at the door step by the next business day for a nominal charge. Further, in order to improve supply chain and expand delivery capabilities, the company has acquired Grand Junction.

Kroger’s Counter Strategy

Kroger (KR) is strengthening its relationship with customers via both digital and mobile channels, introducing digital coupons, and order online, pick up in store initiative. Moreover, it is gradually rolling out a new technology called Kroger Edge that gives information about price and nutritional value of products, identifies a specific brand a customer is looking for and produce relevant digital coupons. The company in collaboration with Chase Pay is offering mobile payments in select markets.

The company is looking to expand its “Scan, Bag, Pay & Go and Self-CheckOut” program — piloted at 20 stores — to nearly 400 locations in 2018. Further, Ralphs — a unit of grocery giant — in partnership with Instacart is offering home delivery at select locations in Southern California. Kroger remains optimistic about the acquisitions of Vitacost.com, an online retailer of vitamins and health-oriented products. This Zacks Rank #3 company has opened 1,000th ClickList store.

Macy's Sharpening Edge

Macy's M has been taking strategic initiatives to adapt to the ongoing changes in the industry. The company has added a new feature to its mobile app called Mobile Checkout, which allows customers to scan bar codes of items and pay via smartphones. After the completion of the transaction, customers will have to head toward Mobile Checkout counters, wherein an associate will check the purchased items and remove the security tags.

Additionally, Macy’s is in the process of launching an advanced reality shopping experience to sell furniture. Through this platform customers will likely be able to virtually place the furniture in their room to see how it fits before the purchase.

In an attempt to increase sales, the company has been taking steps such as integration of operations as well as developing e-commerce business and online order fulfillment centers. The company had introduced various innovative services including Apple Pay, Same Day Delivery, Macy’s Image Search and Macy’s Wallet/Bloomingdale’s Wallet. This Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) company’s “Buy Online Pickup in Store” initiative is also gaining traction. You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

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