Curbside retail: here to stay, and simpler with Retail Pro Prism POS

Thinking out of the box and providing new ways for customers to connect with retail has long been critical for businesses to maintain loyal shoppers as well as to attract new prospects.

Sometimes, circumstances such as COVID-19’s mandated social distancing are the impetus for lasting changes.

Many retailers have had some omnichannel presence, but others have had little or even no experience; both groups have had to innovate and create new ways to connect with customers during COVID-19, many of whom wanted to shop but were reluctant to mingle with the public at large.

As a result, retailers’ new strategies are catering to those unique, and challenging, requests.

At a time when many are feeling overwhelmed, retailers that can offer convenience will be rewarded by shoppers.

Curbside pickup is one convenience strategy that has been refined in recent weeks and is likely to remain long after shoppers’ fears about going into stores have subsided.

Curbside: the final BOPIS frontier

Image: Gustavo Fring

Prior to March, many large retailers offered the ability to buy online, pickup in store (BOPIS).

The strategy lets customers shop round the clock, and then during business hours take delivery of the products at the retailer.

It may save the customer some time, but it’s more likely simply enabling a “time shift”: Instead of shopping for two hours between 10 and 8, BOPIS customers might shop for an hour online at midnight, and then stop on the way home from work to retrieve the items.

However, “stopping off” used to mean find a parking spot, enter the store, find the pickup location and finish the transaction.

All those steps ate up precious time.

Simplifying curbside pickup with Retail Pro POS

Retail Pro Prism mobile point of sale

Integrating curbside pickup into the process has made BOPIS much more efficient for the customer; the pre-ordered product is simply delivered to the customer waiting in the car.

That last step makes BOPIS far more convenient, and Retail Pro Prism mobile POS makes this step more convenient for your team.

With Retail Pro Prism you get the same deep functionality on any device you use – whether mobile or desktop, Apple, Android, or Windows – so your associates can meet your customer at their car with their order, POS in hand. This is useful for orders that were reserved online and still need to be rung up.

Customers who have been shopping with you online during COVID-19 may also bring returns with them when they come to pick up their order.

With Retail Pro Prism mobile POS, your sales associate can complete the return on the spot with the customer’s receipt. If the customer forgot their receipt, you can easily look up the transaction from the system or just look up the item in your inventory and enter it as a return transaction.

You can even sign your customer up for the integrated AppCard loyalty and rewards from the curbside.

Retail to go

Image: Christina Morillo

The number of orders placed online and picked up at brick-and-mortar stores by customers rose 208% between April 1 and April 20 compared with a year ago, according to Adobe Analytics, which measures the web transactions of 80 of the top 100 U.S. internet retailers.

If retailers keep the curbside option once they fully reopen, it will provide yet another delivery channel to their most busy customers.

Texas governor Greg Abbott recently allowed nonessential retail stores to start offering curbside pickup, or, as he called it, “retail to go.”

Even before the economic shutdown, some pharmacies were offering curbside service, such as CVS.

However, the drugstore chain didn’t offer the service at all of its outlets, and it was relatively unique in offering it.

Pre-COVID, curbside pickup was nowhere near as popular as it has become.

Looking into the future, it seems logical customers will want to retain this new convenience.

Convenience is going to drive the economy in the coming months, and possibly years.

While born out of necessity, customers are going to consider a once-novel curbside service part of the “new normal” retail experience.


7 Data Insights to Shape Your Retail Decisions Post COVID-19

Finding Opportunities in Your Business Data With Retail Pro Decisions

COVID-19 forced retailers worldwide to pivot fast to survive this unprecedented and wholly unexpected market downturn.

From shifting to ecommerce-only and fast fulfillment strategies, to staying connected with customers during lockdowns, your ability to adapt and take assertive action is crucial for your business to survive.

Now more than ever retailers must turn to their data to monitor KPIs and get insights that will help you combat the ongoing effects COVID-19 will have on consumer mindsets and economies.

Watch this webinar to see 7 insights you need to search out now from your data to help you shape your retail decisions post COVID-19 and position you to make the most of the shopping season remaining in 2020.

Watch this Retail Pro Decisions webinar to hear:

  • Smart ways retailers adapted to stay connected with customers and maintain retail operations
  • Why every retailer should re-evaluate the extent of data driving their strategy for customer engagement and inventory management
  • How to monitor every KPI with data from your POS, ERP, CRM, e-Commerce, and other critical applications integrated in Retail Pro Decisions visual analytics software
  • What insights you need to glean from your data now to shape your decisions as you reopen and reconnect with shoppers for the remainder of 2020

3 Ways to keep customers from feeling ‘distant’ during COVID-19

The current economic lockdown has exacerbated challenges many retailers have faced during the past several years, as decreasing foot traffic and increasing online competition has chipped away at margins.

Even as local governments consider when retailers’ doors can and should reopen, many customers will remain wary of running non-essential errands.

However, a vast majority of retailers already have employed successful strategies to compete with online merchants, and now they are redoubling their efforts to keep customers happy and satisfied.

For many retailers, that means continuing to invest in the online portion of their businesses to remain viable.

Current circumstances have forced them to offer new services — including some “out of the box” solutions — that may become permanent additions to their business strategies.

Here are 3 ideas that retailers large and small are using to meet, and even exceed, customer expectations during COVID-19.

1: Social media engagement

Topping the list of retailers’ worries is figuring out how maintain and possibly even increase customer relationships with their customer bases digitally.

These are strategies that are not only imperative when in-person engagement is impossible or reduced, but important also when competition from online merchants seems overwhelming.

Social media marketing via Facebook and Instagram are perfect tools for the task, as is direct-to-consumer email marketing.

Customer relationships can be nurtured, and clients can still feel the strength of their loyalty and engagement with brands using social media as well as personalized emails.

These can be targeted to specific sets of customers, and might herald the introduction of a new offering, or provide a unique service.

2: Unique offerings

Customers engage online with retailers that provide unique services online.

Offering an online class or special event can offer a much-needed “social” activity, while encouraging staying in the privacy of one’s own home.

Tying the online presentation to products for sale with handy links boosts sales as well as the retailers’ reputation.

Any retailer can offer a relevant online class, including flower arranging, lawn care, golf instruction, cooking lessons, makeup application, etc.

3: Expanding online and delivery options

Retailers that offer more stock online will reap more sales, and appeal to a broader customer base that may stick around long after social distancing mandates have disappeared.

Expanding the breadth of online offerings, including gift cards, lets customers support businesses 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year.

If shipping is a problem, curbside pickup has become one innovation that is likely to become part of everyday shopping. The convenience of calling ahead and picking up without leaving the car is addicting.

In addition, it may actually require some retailers to hire “runners” specifically to satisfy those customers.

Omnichannel or online retailers are well-positioned to deal with restrictive store hours but should always be alert to maintaining the best experience for customers.

The website experience should be straightforward and welcoming, so customers can shop and engage in a frictionless, easy way.

Engage the whole supply chain

The retailer-vendor relationship is also crucial during these uncertain times.

All of the supply chain is in uncharted territory, so continuous partner engagement is critical.

All links in the chain should be encouraged to provide the best customer experience for their customers, in ways that can be mutually beneficially for all partners, such as passing along special offers through finance partners or working with distributors to provide free shipping.

Those relationships will become particularly important as customers return to in-store shopping, as retailers rebuild their customer loyal bases and engage the newer customers who were attracted by the retailers’ digital presence.

Same-day service appeals to COVID-19-homebound shoppers

 

 

With COVID-19 as the latest driver for store closures, brick-and-mortar stores have had to get innovative to keep transactions flowing and compete against their born-online ecommerce counterparts.

It’s not simply a price game. Unique product selection and convenience and are differentiators that can position a brick and mortar as a go-to for shoppers staying home to curb the virus’ spread.

One convenience that’s a long time coming but potentially a game changer is same-day order fulfillment.

 

The shipping options spectrum

 
Retailers that sell items in store and online often offer traditional shipping, which can take several days to arrive at the customer’s doorstep. Adding insult to injury, in addition to the wait time, there’s also a charge for delivery.

Of course, many offer free in-store pick up, but that is often inconvenient.

Many a local retailer has lost a sale to Amazon for its Prime shopping service.

Same-day service perfectly fills that void for brick and mortars, and if the local pizza parlor can do it, it’s likely a department store can as well.

 

Reach more shoppers with flexible shipping

 
Same-day service not only endears retailers to their loyal customers at this time when few are venturing beyond their living room.

It also appeals to those too busy to go out shopping, as well as the elderly, or those who may be homebound or without transportation.

It’s also a lifesaver for businesspeople who may have to attend a core meeting at a moment’s notice.

A speedy delivery of a dress shirt and tie or black pumps is not only perceived by the recipient as a career saver, but also provides good will that converts into loyal customers and more sales.

And don’t discount the impulse buy as a driving factor for offering same-day delivery. Customers are just as likely to get cravings while shopping online as they are on the checkout line.

Offering a quick turnaround time from cart to doorstep lets retailers offer last-minute, quickly-delivered finds for buyers to add to their cart.
 

Shoppers are willing to cover the cost

 
It’s true, offering same-day delivery will add substantial operating costs. However, offering same-day shipping as an option with an extra cost positions a retailer as one that is serious about keeping up and offering the most convenient shipping methods to improve customer experience.

In 2016, McKinsey released a report that found 20 to 25 percent of consumers would pay significant premiums to receive their items on the same day. Groceries, small electronics, and automotive parts top the list of products consumers are willing to pay for fast delivery, with up to 45% willing to pay extra.

Same-day delivery isn’t new; Macy’s has offered it in several markets since 2015, for example. What is new is the demand for the service, which is growing.

And with COVID-19 keeping most shoppers at home, there can be higher adoption of same-day service, faster.

More customers want the convenience of delivery with the benefits of in-store shopping. The question is, will more retailers be willing to accommodate the customer with new, more efficient shipping methods?

In-store inventory: Curating to compete against ecommerce’s endless aisle

 

 

One of the most difficult things for a retailer is understanding what items to have in-store and which could be successfully handled in online as part of an endless aisle strategy.

For brick and mortar retailers, physical in-store space is finite, and what’s available must be used effectively.

That is particularly challenging as brick and mortar retailers face the vast breadth of inventory that ecommerce competitors offer.

However, sometimes that enormous ocean of product can overwhelm customers.

 

Get insight into inventory

 

Traditional retailers can augment what’s in-store with online offerings, but one of the highlights of being brick and mortar is the ability to offer “look and feel” in a curated environment.

The “inner sanctum” of any retail store is the inventory area.

Making the most of that space will save any retailer money.

Storing inventory and supplies in a warehouse comes at a cost, especially if it eats away at display/retail space. Off-site inventory incurs rental and transportation costs, as well.

However, retailers must have “the right” inventory on hand so shoppers don’t leave stores empty-handed.

Retail inventory management keeps the backend in line with the front-end’s needs.

Good retail management software helps you see:

  • The quantities of each product in stock
  • A sense of when reordering is necessary
  • The number of items that should be ordered regularly
  • Best selling items
  • Items that are unpopular
  • The amount of inventory on-hand is adequate
  • If overstocking is a concern
  • If your inventory space is not big enough

Getting a handle on inventory management affects a business’ bottom-line, allowing it not only to continue operating, but also to grow.

Without a strong inventory management process, it’s easy to lose track of stock.

Mismanaged items are more easily stolen and seem to vanish without a trace – precisely because there is no traceability.

In a worst-case scenario, a retailer spends money on unknowingly replacing stolen goods, while paying to store an item that was ordered to replace a product that was never actually sold.

Additionally, not having a firm grasp on inventory levels can also mean running out of stock more easily, missing sales opportunities.

Today, many retailers offer a buy online, pickup in store option.

Not having inventory in sync with on-hand counts is a customer experience disaster.

In addition to keeping accurate inventory numbers, some stock management can be handled within the product displays.

The cost of storage depends upon the amount of inventory needed to be stored.

Planograms, or the blueprint of a store’s layout, can help retailers improve sales with visual merchandising.

 

Digitize the in-store experience

 

Today’s shoppers are used to a much higher level of convenience, choice and accessibility than in the past, because of the influence ecommerce has had on retail.

Therefore, it’s important for stores to “digitize” by providing personal recommendations, customer reviews and increased assortments, so that when customers enter a physical store, their expectations are met.

Planograms help to arrange merchandise in a way that catches the customer’s eye, organizing in a way that provides more room on your shelves, and helps estimate how much to place on the sales floor.

Brick and mortar retailers should focus on effective use of inventory space.

Too much is as detrimental as too little.

By employing retail management technology to count and manage products, they can offer what customers want, when they want it, while maintaining a healthy profit margin.

 

 

 

Is your omnichannel meeting customers’ expectations?

 


 
Today’s customers often want a fast, efficient shopping experience, and retailers are increasingly providing omnichannel experiences that are refined to meet those needs.

While retailers hope to gain revenue and gain efficiencies in marketing, what do customers view as a successful omnichannel experience?
 

Origin of omnichannel

 
Ten years ago, a retailer might offer an online as well as a brick and mortar experience, hoping to catch shoppers who couldn’t make it to the store.

In essence, e-commerce began as a way retailers could extend their shopping hours.

Today, for many, e-commerce has evolved into a preferred means of shopping for many common items, but it doesn’t replace traditional shopping entirely.

That’s where a strong omni-channel strategy comes into play.

Clothing, electronics, furnishings — those are items that customers typically want to see in-person before buying.

They may not want to purchase them in-person, however.

Additionally, shoppers often want opinions of their friends before committing to those types of purchases.

Best-in-class omnichannel retailing serves shoppers through multiple sales channels—primarily online, in-store and social media — in a way that is presented cohesively, no matter how or where the customer journey began.
 

The reality today

 
From the customer’s point of view, most businesses currently provide a multi-channel experience.

There is a brick and mortar store, a website, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and, perhaps, a blog.

Those platforms engage and connect with customers, but rarely as a cohesive unit.

In most cases, there is no seamless experience or consistent messaging across channels.

Many times, “buy online, pickup in store,” or BOPIS, is unavailable, because inventory systems are disparate.
 

What it takes to do omnichannel well

 
A successful strategy should build a coherent, aligned experience across multiple platforms and involve stakeholders including the product, marketing, sales, customer support and customer journey teams.

Each shopping channel should work concurrently to provide a truly powerful experience through many shopping touch points.

Among the most important areas to align include:

  • Inventory: Online reflects in-store stock
  • Rewards programs: Use and earn points online and in-store
  • Shipping and delivery: Delivery status can be checked in-store or online

While the biggest changes have come primarily from the largest retailers, many smaller companies have actually driven the customer experience crusade, using social media platforms to engage directly with shoppers.

Start-up retailers generally have omni-channel “baked in” as a foundation, leaving larger companies challenged to compete.

Retail consultant McKinsey notes that an omni-channel transformation is the only way for a company to address rising complexity, provide an excellent customer experience, and manage operations costs.

A true omni-channel strategy improves communication within the retailer itself, because different departments are routinely updating statuses that are then reflected throughout the internal supply chain.

As a result, the strategy better meets the needs of today’s customer.

The rise of voice-enabled commerce in ubiquitous retail

 

 

Shopping is an increasingly “invisible” activity, embedding itself seamlessly into new digital and physical channels, using ever-more natural gestures and simple conversations.

 Gesture recognition helps retailers gauge shoppers’ real interest 

For example, a mom goes for an afternoon walk with her child. She notices she could use some silicone straws for their water bottles, and asks Alexa to place the order.

As they walk to the park, Mom sees an ad for a pair of running shoes. She takes a picture on her phone, successfully searches the Web and finds the item for sale, and makes a purchase just before greeting her friends at the playground.

On the way home, she sees a local restaurant is having a farm-to-table event that evening, so she sends invites to her husband and another couple to meet there.

The idea that people can shop virtually all the time from any location with an Internet connection is referred to as ubiquitous shopping, and is seen especially in the rising use of voice-enabled commerce.

According to Accenture, 94% of retail executives believe ubiquitous shopping represents a complete transformation or significant change for the industry.

The survey found that while two-thirds (65%) of industry executives view online commerce as the driving characteristic of ubiquitous shopping, and over half (53%) cite mobile purchases as key. Just one third (33%) say new technology such as voice commerce is top of mind.

However, Accenture forecasts that the next big thing in shopping is voice recognition technology, and suggests that retail executives are under-estimating voice-enabled commerce.

In the U.S., one in every five households with a wireless internet connection is already using a smart speaker, making nearly 19 million homes ready for voice shopping.

 The first step to recognizing customers with AI 

However, last August, TheInformation.com reported that only 2% percent of people with Amazon-Alexa enabled devices made a purchase via voice and of those, “90% didn’t try it again.”

Still, the technology is there, ready and waiting. It may just be slightly ahead of its time.

Considering that today it’s possible to jump into a Ford, have Alexa ask Starbucks to start an order, swing by the drive-thru, pick up and be back on the road, it seems as though that 2% will grow to a far greater number in a very short time.

 

 

Brick & mortar borrowed this from online retail and increased revenue by 5.1%

 

 

Brick and mortar has learned a thing or two from online retail, and last December shoppers took a meaningful notice.

By focusing on and improving their buying online and picking up in-store (BOPIS, also called “click and collect”) offerings, retailers experienced a never-before-seen surge in shoppers using the service.

Retailers saw the strongest holiday sales growth in six years, with revenue increasing 5.1% to more than $850 billion this year, according to Mastercard Spending Pulse.

Online shopping also saw large gains of 19.1% compared to 2017. And established brands were a significant part of that good news: Walmart, Kohl’s and Macy’s reported healthy sales and saw stock gains.

 

Giving shoppers anytime access to goods pays off

By offering true 24/7 access to goods, retailers were able to provide what customers wanted at a time that was convenient for them to shop.

For those who wanted to do some thoughtful shopping but were short on time during regular business hours, being able to browse selections from the comfort of a sofa or bed, pay and pick them up when convenient added some much-appreciated stress relief during what can be a very busy season.

“By combining the right inventory with the right mix of online versus in-store, many retailers were able to give consumers what they wanted via the right shopping channels,” said Steve Sadove, senior advisor for Mastercard and former CEO and Chairman of Saks Inc., in a release.

And Frank Layo, managing director at Kurt Salmon, part of Accenture Strategy, told CNBC in an interview that the top five “click and collect” or BOPIS retailers were Bed Bath & Beyond, Best Buy, Kohl’s, Target and the Home Depot.

BOPIS was up 47% this holiday season compared with last year, according to analyst reports.

For example, Target reported that it expected order pickup volume would triple this holiday season compared with last year’s.

 

Incremental sales increase from wider product offerings

During the past few seasons, brick-and-mortar retailers have worried about being bested by their e-commerce competitors and for good reason.

Online stores are conveniently open around the clock, offer a level of personalization and can provide an inventory with variety that couldn’t be accommodated with the footprint of any department store.

Click and collect changes the game, however.

Many stores now let shoppers view inventory in stock, allowing them to place an order that is ready for pick up within a couple of hours.

But they also feature the ability to shop from a wider variety and have that item shipped to the store for pickup. The shopper saves on delivery charges, can see the product before accepting it and is able to take advantage of a wider selection than is offered on the retail floor.

And the stores benefit from incremental sales at pickup too. For example, Kohl’s reports an average attachment rate of 20% to 25% for additional in-store purchases.

Retailers this past holiday season seem to have taken the adage, “Nothing ever changes if nothing ever changes” to heart.

 

Is it really discovery shopping if Amazon found it for you?

Effects of data-driven curation on discovery experiences

 

 

Remember when a trip to the store could yield a new discovery — an unplanned purchase but one that delighted the customer?

Ecommerce handles specific shopping needs seamlessly and efficiently: Search for “motorized pedal exerciser” and buy it in less than three minutes.

But so-called “discovery” shopping — such as figuring out what to get your hard-to-shop-for great aunt for her 90th birthday — is much easier to do through brick and mortar browsing.

 

Selling discovery experiences

The world of in-store commerce offers shoppers an experience, an interaction with others that can’t be replicated online.

In the best-case scenario, the experience is enjoyable and memorable, one that a shopper wants to repeat with that retailer and emulate at others.

No matter how good a recommendation engine or a chatbot is, the feeling a shopper gets from finding a perfect product can only come from shopping in a physical store.

That is, until an online retailer aggregates its collected data and presents it in a physical store as a curated collection to reach a specific audience.

If an online behemoth parlayed all the knowledge it has gleaned from the data it has gathered about its ecommerce shoppers, that retailer could be very well positioned against its competitors, online as well as brick and mortar.

 

Peer-based discoveries

Amazon has recently opened a handful of Amazon 4-Star physical locations, which are designed with discovery in mind. All the items are top-rated, and the selection will change frequently, depending on their customers’ ratings.

The first, in the SoHo section of New York City, offers at-a-glance products that are “popular in SoHo,” “frequently bought together” and “most wished for,” among other categories.

Amazon can easily put these displays together due to the data it collects on its online shoppers. And that data collection continues to grow offline.

Amazon-exclusive products are also available, and Prime members get the Amazon price, while non-members pay MSRP. Signing up for Prime in the store not only provides customers lower pricing, but also adds to Amazon’s information database.

Shoppers can see how many ratings a product has received and what the average rating is. Others have reviews displayed nearby.

The combination of a physical location and all that aggregated data is a fierce combination.

 

Personal discoveries

However, “discovery shopping” is more than simply sorting through trends and selecting from the most popular items.

If that were the case, small, specialized shops and boutiques would not be frequented, shunned for larger, on-trend department stores.

But the opposite is largely the case.

Discoverers aim to find the one-of-a-kind for a more personal gift or to satisfy their own personal taste. That’s more likely to be found in a shop on Main Street than online, because it is not mass produced, so it therefore can’t have hundreds of reviews.

 

In the end, Amazon’s strategy for its physical stores, and any others like it, will mirror that of large department stores that have built a decent ecommerce channel.

Those stores, such as Macy’s, Target and Kohl’s, can also look at their data, slice it up regionally and offer only those products based on that data.

While not quite as personal as the local shop on the corner, there’s a huge opportunity for larger companies to meet their customer needs more precisely.

 

The rise of subscription e-commerce

 

 

Shoppers want personalized experiences that are convenient and easy. Subscription commerce fulfills that need.

Of course, for retailers, that one, seemingly simple desire can be filled in a multitude of ways, which can sometimes be at odds with each other.

For example, a personal shopping experience may mean going to a neighborhood store, being greeted by name and engaging with an associate who knows your shopping history by heart.

It can also mean logging onto a favorite online store, also being greeted by name, but then interacting with a recommendation engine and having a package shipped directly to you.

When customers want certain items on a regular basis, subscription commerce is bridging the gap, letting customers feel a personal connection without having to expend the effort of a physical visit or performing endless online searches.

With subscription commerce, or “subcom,” retailers can delight customers while simultaneously benefitting from a source of recurring revenue.

Subscriptions have exploded in popularity, growing from $57 million in sales in 2010 to more than $2.6 billion by 2016.

McKinsey & Company reported that 15 percent of online consumers signed up for subscription services in 2017.

Retailers offering such services report having a much closer idea of warehouse staff and stock requirements, delivery destinations, shipping costs and likely future income.

Retailers generally have a greater sense of predictability, but in the most popular programs, what is delivered often includes a surprise—a carefully curated amalgam of products that the retailer has determined the customer will want.

The concept is popular because it’s fun and customers believe they are getting good value.

While shoppers can order specific items for delivery at specific times by subscription, (e.g., Harry’s Razors), samplings and curation are two common types of subscription services.

 

Samplings

Birchbox (cosmetics), Graze (snacks), and BarkBox (dog supplies) are among the most popular sampling services that consumers can sign up for by subscription.

Birchbox, which launched the curated sample subscription box trend in 2010, mails subscribers four to five new beauty samples and lifestyle items to try for a $10 monthly fee.

Curation is based on shopper profiles submitted by users on the Birchbox website.

Retailers earn recurring income on these subscriptions of sample products; they pay little or nothing for the products they ship on a regular schedule.

Customers join the service and understand it’s typically a sampling of trial-size products; those that aren’t desired are simply discarded rather than returned.

For example, Birchboxes can’t be returned. By offering trials of popular products, retailers hope to increase product interest that will carry over to their online stores.

The boxes offer retailers opportunities to delight customers, with curation, personalization, and pricing strategy being crucial factors.

 

Curation

Curated services are personalized with the shopper’s profile in mind.

For example, customers of the higher-end clothing subscription Stitch Fix, benefit from a personal stylist who selects several pieces of clothing based on the shopper’s style profile.

Upon receipt of the shipment, the customer has three days to decide what to buy and what to send back.

By sending the stylist feedback, shoppers can receive more personalized selections the next time.

Subscription services answer customers’ calls for more personalized offerings.

Shoppers are willing to pay for convenience and subscription services provide that as well as an element of surprise.

Successful retailers understand that subscriptions aren’t simply fulfilling a request — that can be accomplished with any sales transaction.

The surprise element of curation and sample subscriptions makes shoppers feel as though they’re getting gifts from close friends who understand the recipients’ taste — despite the recipients having placed the orders themselves.

The experience delights the customer, and therefore, the trend is likely to continue to be popular well into 2019.