How 3 retailers are looking ahead in the wake of Toys ‘R’ Us

Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, is making strides to improve its online presence by investing in technology and ecommerce. At the same time, the opposite side of that coin, Amazon, is increasingly moving offline, even opening an automated grocery store in January. One needs to look no further than Toys ‘R’ Us to see how much (and how fast) the retail landscape is changing.

The Internet keeps asking, “What can we learn from Toys ‘R’ Us?” Its closure may not be shocking, but Toys ‘R’ Us is still a brand with a huge legacy. You can probably still recite its jingle from the ’80s. One thing that keeps coming up is the retailer’s failure to integrate the omnichannel experiences today’s consumers crave.

In 2018, there’s not a tremendous need to visit any physical store-unless you want to. Was Toys ‘R’ Us ever going to become enough of an ecommerce player to compete with Amazon? Probably not. But the brand could have done more to evolve beyond simply being a place to buy toys. Compare that with Disney, which is working to bring the magic of its parks to its retail locations, creating fun, immersive environments for kids to explore and play (and beg their parents not to leave, increasing the likelihood that they’ll spend more).

Embracing technology to improve shopping experiences-on- and offline-will help savvy retailers stick around in the age of Amazon. Toys ‘R’ Us isn’t the only brand to make omnichannel-related headlines over the past few weeks. Plenty of other retailers have been in the news for that, only the stories have been more positive and hopeful. Here are three of our favorite examples of retailers looking toward the future:

1. L’Oréal

Sephora is lauded for its excellent app, features of which include an augmented reality “fitting room.” That’s key for a beauty brand since everyone has their own unique skin type, coloring and features, so it can be difficult to guess how makeup will look on you.

Moving in that direction, L’Oréal recently made its first technology acquisition: AR platform ModiFace. ModiFace has worked with L’Oréal for the past decade, though they’ve also worked with competitors such as Sephora and Ulta.

RIP Toys 'R' Us - L'Oreal and ModiFace

By taking the platform in-house, L’Oréal demonstrates the dedication to digital transformation necessary to survive and thrive in the beauty space. As Sephora’s VP of Marketing told The New York Times, “the lady at the counter has been replaced by hundreds of people on YouTube.

2. Macy’s

With traditional department stores being particularly disruptable, Macy’s could follow Toys ‘R’ Us into the retail graveyard. However, CEO Jeff Gennette is determined not to let that happen. During the Shoptalk retail conference in Las Vegas, Gennette told attendees the current retail landscape gave Macy’s a wake-up call to redefine its purpose.

Later this year, Macy’s plans to launch a mobile checkout feature, allowing consumers to purchase in-app. By summer, the retailer also plans to bring virtual reality to 60 different stores. In-store VR has already helped Macy’s sell furniture, giving shoppers the opportunity to see how different pieces look in their house (and save a ton of space on the salesfloor).

So far, betting on digital transformation has helped Macy’s. After 11 consecutive bad quarters, the brand’s sales were up 1.8% as of February.

3. Home Depot

Search is crucial for Home Depot, a store with the potential to be incredibly overwhelming. Home Depot is banking big on that, dramatically expanding its partnership with Pinterest.

RIP Toys 'R' Us - Home Depot & Pinterest

Home Depot will have more than 100,000 shoppable products on Pinterest’s Shop the Look feature, which combines visual search and people’s recommendations. Tapping a circle under a pin, shoppers can see similar items available in the store, including vanities, faucets, lighting and décor.

The deeper presence on Shop the Look is designed to better help consumers connect the dots between that table they saw on Pinterest and the Home Depot they’re standing in. This is all part of Home Depot’s pledge to dedicate $5.4 billion to omnichannel shopping experiences, as 45% of the brand’s online purchases are picked up in-store.

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