Biography for Laura Heller
Laura Heller is the Executive Editor of Fierce’s portfolio of retail publication. She has been reporting on mass-market retail trends and initiatives since 1995 as a reporter for trade magazines, business outlets and Web sites including Forbes and The Week. She began her career covering the retail and consumer electronics industries for leading B2B publications including Discount Store News/Retailing Today, Drug Store News, Grocery Headquarters, Chain Store Age, Consumer Electronics Daily, Home Channel News, License! Global and Shopper Marketing Magazine. She has appeared on national TV and radio programs discussing retail trends including ABC News Now and National Public Radio. Her blog – “The Point of Purchase” -- appears on Forbes.com.
Articles by Laura Heller
FierceRetailIT Executive Editor Laura Heller recently had the opportunity to moderate a panel discussion at CE Week in New York. The topic was the Future of Retail—a big, broad subject, to be sure—but technology was the single unifying force shaping our industry's future.
With every new business venture and announcement, Amazon reveals more and more about its true self, and it's seeming less and less like a retailer. I've always marveled at the idea that Amazon is fundamentally a retailer. Sure, it sells goods and now services, but at its core, Amazon is a brilliant technology company—one built on code, efficiency and robotics.
Creating the online equivalent of the in-store experience, one that hinges on associate interaction, is a challenge for any retailer. So for home furniture chain Room & Board, the idea that impersonal data could create a more personalized experience was a foreign one.
Retail technology is among the hottest topics in the tech world, but is still in its infancy. This was made exceedingly clear after a recent trip to SXSW Interactive, where sessions and presentations about retail technology in general, and mobile retail in particular, took center stage.
While a company might get lucky, and hit on a unique product, history has shown that just isn't enough to drive sustainable results. In other words, for the short term, customers will put up with almost anything to get the "next big thing." The operative phrase here is: "short-term."
On his late February earnings call with analysts, Target CEO Brian Cornell said the company's first priority was "to drive industry leading digital sales growth" and "become a leading omnichannel retailer." Subsequently, Mr. Cornell and his team began to provide analysts with some answers on how they intend to achieve those goals.
Kohl's broke new ground as a retailer in the 1990s creating a kind of streamlined department store. The chain is now reinventing itself for the digital age following a re-evaluation of its merchandise mix and needed the systems to support the shift.
The role of the store is changing in the new omnichannel order, but the technology needed to fuel it is still underutilized. Case in point, RFID and in-store fulfillment for online orders.
Design house and retailer BCBGMaxazria had several brands, more than 700 stores and supplies goods to department stores including Bloomingdales, Macy's and Nordstrom. But while resources had been allocated toward growing the brand, omnichannel initiatives had lagged behind.
It's not unusual for retailers to blame the weather when sales go south, but one of the great benefits of omnichannel is that the impact of bad weather is minimized. The storms of 2015, thus far, may have buried parts of the United States but they aren't burying retailers.