Kroger: the Grocery, Retail, and CPG Powerhouse

by Rachel Novosad |

Kroger: the Grocery, Retail, and CPG Powerhouse


When you think of mass retail powerhouses, behemoths like Walmart, Amazon, and Target tend to be top of mind, ubiquitously associated with everything from groceries, apparel, beauty and home goods. One name that might not pop up as readily? Kroger. Kroger is arguably America’s most underrated grocery store with an estimated 2,764 stores nationwide. Reporting $121.2 … Read more

Annex Cloud’s Scott Hawkyard Discusses Influencer Marketing at ShopTalk

influencer marketing shoptalk

Our Events team has been crazy busy to start 2019! We left Palm Springs for eTail West and went straight to Las Vegas this week for ShopTalk! Scott Hawkyard, Senior Product Specialist here at Annex Cloud, gave a great presentation on Influencer Marketing to Leverage for Your Brand. He went into the levels of influence … Read more

Watch Chief Strategist Al Lalani Present Key Insights on Mobile & Omni-Channel

etail west 2019

Annex Cloud’s Chief Strategist Al Lalani as he presents on Omni-Channel Moments at eTail West 2019 This last week the Annex Cloud Events team went on the road to eTail West 2019 in Palm Springs! As usual, our chief strategist Al Lalani was heavily involved in speaker discussions and thought leadership. On Day 2, he … Read more

Let’s Talk: Enterprise Loyalty Programs for Retail Brands

enterprise loyalty programs

Welcome back to our favorite segment, Let’s Talk! This is where thought leaders in ecommerce and retail discuss topics surrounding our industry. In this installment, our Chief Strategist Al Lalani speaks about enterprise loyalty programs for retail brands. As retailers grow, their needs become more unique to the brand. This is especially true in the … Read more

Ask an Expert: MacKenzie-Childs’ CMO Speaks Customer Loyalty

mackenzie-childs marketing

Welcome to our new segment, Ask an Expert! With this series, Annex Cloud interviews some prominent figures in ecommerce and retail to gain insight on industry trends. This week, we interviewed Larry Shaw, Chief Marketing Officer of MacKenzie-Childs. Since 1983, MacKenzie-Childs has designed home decor and artisan furnishings in their quaint farmhouse in Aurora, NY. Every teapot is hand-painted and each clay cookie jar is carefully molded. We worked with Larry on building their trulyMC customer loyalty program, and this is what he had to say:

What is the single greatest inspiration behind the trulyMC loyalty program?

Every year we have a live barn sale where over 25,000 of our most devoted customers visit our farm in Aurora. These people have so much passion for what we do so we wanted to take that experience and apply it on a grander scale. By implementing trulyMC, we were able to begin building and shaping that community.

Larry has over 25 years of retail experience and has implemented many creative initiatives since joining the MacKenzie-Childs team as CMO in 2016. Their branding is built on the quality and craftsmanship of the pieces they sell. They built a powerful marketing strategy behind their products with three retail stores, an ecommerce site, and a strong social media presence. However, adding a tiered customer loyalty program has been a total game changer for them.

What effect has loyalty had on your customer retention efforts?

After only eight months of implementing our omni-channel loyalty program with referral marketing, we’re already seeing a 9-10% increase in our customer retention rate. To see those numbers so quickly has been remarkable for us.

In addition to the increase in retention rate, they also saw major increases in average order value, new content subscribers, and purchase frequency. So much so that we decided to co-author the MacKenzie-Childs Loyalty Case Study with them, which dives into how we built the program and why we saw so much success.

mackenzie-childs trulymc loyalty programHow do you think Annex Cloud has helped you reach your goals?

Annex Cloud has been willing to customize their platform and processes to accommodate our specific program needs. It being a tiered customer loyalty program, we knew it would require some customized features. But instead of seeing it as a negative, Annex Cloud saw it as good challenge.

To dive more into how we helped MacKenzie-Childs build more loyalty with their customers, check out our case study! Annex Cloud’s unified platform with customer loyalty, user-generated content, and referral marketing functionality allows brands to customize their programs to their unique specifications. To learn how Annex Cloud can help you with your customer loyalty needs, contact us for a free consultation!


Annex Cloud Shines at’s 2018 Digital Summit

Annex Cloud

Last week, Annex Cloud attended the annual Digital Summit held at the Venetian Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. Thought leaders and retail experts from all over convened to see what’s happening in the industry. Our very own Ariel Bubb gave an intriguing lecture entitled Artificial Intelligence & How it Works with Loyalty, diving into how we can use AI to retain customers. Meanwhile, the Annex Cloud Events Team was holding down the booth answering questions and giving consultations.

“The show was amazing, we were bombarded by retailers asking for advice on their strategy,” said Derek Watkins, Sales Development Consultant for Annex Cloud. “The conversations were fantastic, I love hearing first-hand what customers need help with and what we can do to support their goals.” is looking to change the face of retail by bringing innovative brands and startups together. Retailers like Nike, Wayfair, & Nordstrom’s were all present while celebrity personalities Serena Williams and DJ Pauly D made guest appearances. Many workshops, exhibitions, and lectures took place on retail topics ranging from blockchain technology to mobile innovation.
Leaders in retail discuss future trends at

During Thursday’s rounds of retail workshops, Annex Cloud’s Senior Marketing Consultant Ariel Bubb gave a speech on how Annex Cloud uses artificial intelligence to project future markets in retail. She went specifically into how we accrue customer data to teach AI systems to deliver advanced audience segments. “We have the technology to use AI to target cohorts of customers, automate incentives, and break through the noise to keep customer attention,” said Ariel Bubb. “It’s amazing to see the future unfold in front of us and we’re doing everything we can to ensure Annex Cloud is on the forefront of innovation.”

Annex Cloud is excited to lead the charge and be a thought leader for change in retail. We are honored that asked us to speak on artificial intelligence and how it affects customer loyalty. We are making major strides in market projections and AI and will continue to innovate to help our customers grow. By using AI, our customers see greater ROI, higher average order value, and longer customer longevity overall. If you have any questions about artificial intelligence or just need help with your upcoming marketing strategy, contact us for a consultation and we can help you build a solution that’s right for you.

Annex Cloud’s Ariel Bubb to Speak on Artificial Intelligence in Retail at

artificial intelligence

We are proud to announce that our very own Ariel Bubb will be presenting on September 13th at the retail conference in Las Vegas! During her lecture “Artificial Intelligence & How it Works with Loyalty,” she will take a deep dive into trends in ecommerce, how artificial intelligence is playing a role, and how best to strategize your loyalty program around AI.

“I am so very excited to have the opportunity to speak at,” said Ariel Bubb, Senior Marketing Specialist at Annex Cloud. “We are making major strides in how artificial intelligence affects loyalty, so to be able to educate the industry on the subject is a true honor.”

According to a survey by BrightEdge, the next big marketing trends are consumer personalization (29%) and artificial intelligence (26%). This is where our efforts overlap, as Annex Cloud uses personalization and AI to create a segmented marketing strategy for loyalty. And since 77% of ROI already comes from segmented campaigns, we believe the use of artificial intelligence will raise that number even higher.

In addition to Ariel’s presentation on AI, the Annex Cloud team will be answering questions and consulting retail professionals over at Booth 501. By partnering directly with organizers, publishing informative content, and being an active part of the retail community, we set ourselves apart as thought leaders in the industry. If you have any questions about artificial intelligence or have questions about your marketing strategy, please contact us for a consultation!

Annex Cloud Educates Industry at eTail East in Boston

Etail East

This week, Annex Cloud hit the open road to set up shop at eTail East in Boston! We wanted to see what the industry has to say about the current climate of ecommerce and profitability. Our fearless leader Al Lalani gave a presentation on Retention in the Age of Distraction, which explained how the use of innovative rewards boosts customer engagement and longevity. Meanwhile, the rest of our team gave demos and answered customer questions over at the Annex Cloud Booth.

“Of the many summits and events we attend, eTail East brought us the most meaningful conversations about the industry’s needs,” stated Ariel Bubb, Head of Events at Annex Cloud. “I learned that no matter how big your brand is, there’s always room for growth. It’s also great to know that because we provide such a suite of tools, we truly have something for everybody at eTail East.”

eTailThe annual eTail East Conference is dedicated to innovating and disrupting the current ecommerce model. Executives and thought leaders from major brands like Ethan Allen,, and Wayfair come from around the world to discuss future trends in the industry. Various educational workshops were held, ranging from the scalability of retail to the use of artificial intelligence in ecommerce.

During the Chairperson’s Opening Remarks, our Chief Strategist Al Lalani gave a speech about the challenges the retail industry faces regarding customer retention. He also went into the solutions to combat these issues, such as designing a more engaging loyalty program and using audience segmentation to customize incentives.

“Personalization has significantly evolved when it comes to our customers,” said Lalani. “Consumers today are becoming more and more demanding of us and our only response is to listen and become more knowledgeable of our customers.”

Annex Cloud is making strides in setting itself apart as a thought leader in customer loyalty. We are continuously asked to lecture and get involved in ecommerce and retail conferences in effort to educate the industry on consumer behavior. We are very fortunate because with every summit we attend, we are able to gain more knowledge to better serve our clients. eTail East had another amazing show and we’re so thankful to be included! Our next stop is’s 2018 Digital Summit in Las Vegas so stay tuned for more from the Annex Cloud events team!

The Luxury Industry in the eCommerce World

Luxury Industry

Online shoppers won’t find a price list or an “add to cart” button when they visit the website of iconic watchmaker Patek Philippe.  The homepage is not dominated by limited edition timepieces. Instead, there is a commercial featuring a father congratulating his young son for winning a cricket match. A tradition where customers can look but not purchase, is certainly typical of luxury goods websites. Clearly, failure to make a full-fledged leap to eCommerce is the biggest problem that the luxury industry has been wrestling with for a long time. This problem was born in the digital age and it’s a manifolded one.

Besides the craft and elegance of its products, a big selling point for the luxury goods industry is the deeply satisfying and emotion-evoking in-store experience that brands can provide customers with. Indeed, the feeling of going to a showroom and taking a test drive on a luxury car or trying on a piece of jewelry with the help of a super dedicated salesperson in front of a shiny mirror, is something hard to replicate in online shopping. Luxury manufacturers and marketers believe that if the unparalleled experience of the store is gone, customers’ footfall will be gone too.

There is this conception, even among luxury marketers, that luxury and internet are like an oil and water combination: unrealizable. They believe that luxury is about scarcity and exclusivity, and that the internet is about mass. Thus, to juxtapose their opposite natures is the real pain point. And the problem is worsened by millennials, who expect brands to be available online but become apprehensive with just one sub-par experience with those brands. According to Hearst’s New Language of Luxury study, 54% of millennials feel that when luxury brands become easily accessible, they cease to feel luxury.This really puts forth a dichotomous nature on this particular issue and explains the luxury industry’s impulse to avoid ecommerce and digitalization in general. Despite the rising tide of online shopping, luxury retailers are only dipping a toe in the water, as only 10% of sales in that market happen online.

But in the era where digitalization has invaded each and every life and has become a great class equalizer, the luxury buyer can be anywhere on any digital platform. Hence, luxury marketers have realized that there’s an online world and many understand the need to be part of that world.Thus targeting social media and allowing people to shop from their homes is a must. Of course, this will have to be done by trying to replicate the in-store experience as much as possible by keeping uniqueness and exclusivity intact.

There are definitely certain luxury brands who have been walking on that path and they have understood the value of content in doing so. They have also realized how that online content must complement the in-store experience, and that the product range must complement what is sold through stores. Net-A-Porter, the UK luxury cloth designer, is creating high-fashion, magazine-style spreads that showcase products as part of editorial pieces. It has integrated that content with its ecommerce portion of the site to allow a smooth transition between brand experience and online purchasing.

Mr. Porter, Net-A-Porter’s sister brand, has further fostered this spray of digitalization. This October, Mr Porter came up with its first shoppable application for Apple TV in which users can connect their digital shopping experience with rich video content.



The completion of the total omni-channel and digitalized experience happens as soon as the mobile phones gets in the picture. Tiffany & Co, an American luxury jewelry and specialty retailer, has guessed it and has worked accordingly. It launched its Tiffany’s Ring Finder app in August/September 2015, which was neither a makeshift eCommerce platform nor a miniature of its brand’s website. It had a proper incorporation of the unique features of a mobile device to engage and educate the consumer.



The app enabled customers to narrow down their search efforts by providing various styles and materials. By allowing them to use touchscreen to find their ring size using any ring they already have, Tiffany’s app eased the shopping complexities that many online shoppers face. Thus, with this app, people can know more about new styles and designs, figure out what sort of ring they want, can make a personal in-store appointment and discuss about their new purchases and opinions of others about new arrivals.

Continue reading this article… 

In the above examples, the most important point is how the luxury industry has been able to understand the luxury consumers’ need of having a meaningful relationship with luxury brands. And also that this need goes beyond a cold and plain buying and selling activity. That need is met by making the brand available at all the touchpoints, which resonates with buyers even in luxury categories where eCommerce might seem counterintuitive, like automotive. Maserati, the Italian luxury car manufacturer, sold 100 of its newly launched SUV model in China through Tmall, a Chinese-language website for business-to-customers, in just 18 seconds!

The crux of the matter is, the luxury industry cannot afford to let the vast pool of customers, which is there on various digital media platforms and devices, off the hook. The demographics are changing. It’s not like the good old days where very few had the financial muscles to buy luxury goods. We have more millionaires and billionaires now than any other time in the history. McKinsey & Co is assuming that by 2025, the online share of total luxury sales is expected to triple to 18%, worth a massive €70 billion annually. Naturally, luxury brands will have to cast their net much deeper to catch new buyers, and it would be next to impossible to achieve that without eCommerce and digitalized omni-channel experience.

Note: We have always given a deep and comprehensive thought to the luxury industry. This is the blog where we have discussed how visual commerce can be used for the benefit of the luxury industry. Get your eyes on this blog to know which things a luxury marketer should keep in mind while implementing a loyalty program.   

5 Reasons Why Retail Mobile Apps Fail

retail mobile apps

The time for mobile shopping has come. And retailers were quick enough to prepare for it. For a while now, they have been pushing towards a business ecosystem helmed by mobile devices. And naturally, apps are at the forefront of that ecosystem. They were undoubtedly right in their assessment, as 45% of U.S. internet users reported that they use their favorite fashion retail mobile apps to purchase products, according to a recent Market Force Information survey as reported by eMarketer.

However, there is a different side to this story too. It has been shown that 80% of all apps never get opened twice, and most of these forgotten apps are deleted forever. Clearly, not all retailers and marketers have been able to get this whole app thing right. The retail mobile apps they are making are either inefficient, confusing, or irritating, which drives customers away. What are the actual problems in these apps? Can they be fixed? Let’s dig into it.

Problem #1 With Retail Mobile Apps: Push Notifications

A push notification is a powerful way to communicate with your customers about new offers or the arrival or new products. It builds rapport with your customers. However, trouble arrives when that’s the only thing that your notifications do, especially if it’s with an annoying level of frequency.

Push Notifications


A notification should be more than a nudge to get your customers shopping. You could (and should) use it to inform your customers about interesting industry news. Or to send a notification about recent articles published that they could be interested in. Of course you should talk about your business and deals through your app, but you don’t want to be overwhelmingly salesy. And your customer’s smartphone should not be buzzing all day long. So, choose the topics of your notifications wisely and plan how to do them carefully.

Problem #2 With Retail Mobile Apps: A Beautiful But Difficult Interface

It’s easy to fall prey to the temptation of coming up with novel ways of navigating through an app. Unique menus, fancy buttons, and responsive elements. This is especially true when the entire world of technically enhanced app development platforms is at your disposal. In this case, retailers end up creating apps that are beautiful but not so useful after all, and customers end up confused and lost about something as simple as which tap they should click. Of course aesthetics matter a lot in app building, just not more than functionality.

Retail mobile apps must be useful and must become customers’ trusted shopping assistants, helping them make the easiest and most pleasant shopping experience.

eBay’s app is a good example to ponder over here. Two of the most striking things that greet you as soon as you begin to interact with it are user friendliness and functional brilliance.

A Beautiful But Difficult Interface

The app’s simple layout, clean design, and swipable interface make it really user friendly. eBay’s app also has the ability to upload images and scan bar-codes through a phone’s camera for product information. The app isn’t just user friendly and beautiful, but is a time-saver too, which is the main reason why mobile apps became popular in the first place. In short, the app is the superior version of the eBay experience, which makes eBay’s app the closest to what one may call a perfect retailer’s mobile app.

Problem #3 With Retail Mobile Apps: No Added Value

Customers have become very critical, since they’re surrounded by multiple versions of the same or essentially the same product. Thus, if your app is a replica of most of the apps out there, it’s  impossible for it to carve a niche for itself. It will most likely vanish into the world of apps.

The most important thing for an app is to justify its very existence. Because that will answer the customer’s question: why should I download it?

He should see some tangible benefits of the app and these benefits don’t necessarily have to be monetary. But there should be something in it for the customers. Something that will enhance their overall shopping experience. For example, the app could do something that your mobile site can’t, keeping in mind that a mobile phone is the device people have with them at all times. So, it’s possible to use it to perform instantaneous things like allowing people to redeem loyalty points on the go or use it as a payment device.

Starbucks, the coffee legend, used its mobile app to include things similar to that.

No Added Value


With almost 12 million active users, the Starbucks’ app gives people the option to pay with their mobile phones in order to earn rewards. Besides, the app also allows customers to monitor their loyalty program progress in real time, which is a great way to let customers have a complete view of their earnings.

Another point to note here is Starbucks is constantly trying to save their customers time. The app comes with an option where customers can pay for drinks beforehand and schedule pick-ups in-store. Obviously, customers are getting more than just a plain purchase action through this app. It is significantly improving the overall customer experience and this is exactly what I mean by giving extra value through the app.

Something to think about–71% of iPhone users download retailers’ apps to earn extra loyalty points, while 67% will install an app to receive app-only coupons or discounts.

Read on below…

Problem #4 With Retail Mobile Apps: Complicated In-App Purchasing

When customers decide to buy something from you, there is usually a series of processes they have to go through. They have to fill the cart, then they have to type in their credit or debit card number, and so on. More than often, customers prefer a laptop or desktop when they have to give out card details. And the reasons for that can be many–they may not be carrying their card at the time of purchase, they may be in a hurry, etc. In either case, the chances of shopping cart abandonment are high. But, it’s possible to get rid of such a complex mobile shopping framework! With your customers’ permission, you can save their payment information when they buy from you for the first time.

Another simpler way is to make use of payment systems like PayPal, Apple Pay or Google Wallet. The Groupon app has shown how this should be done by allowing purchases via Apple Pay. It seriously makes it very easy for customers to grab deals.

Complicated In-App Purchasing


Problem #5 With Retail Mobile Apps: Technical Glitches

Not many things are worse in the customer experience than an app that is constantly freezing or crashing. In fact, 92% of iPhone owners said that they have deleted a retailer’s mobile app because it crashed or froze. The slowness of apps was also a bigger turnoff than the simple fact of not using the app. When customers have such a strong resentment towards these technical glitches, they’re very likely to write negative reviews on the retailer’s site or other reviews collection sites. These technical glitches are the reason behind 96% of bad reviews.

As suggested by the aforementioned stats, technical problems can severely hinder the prospect of your app. The only way out  is constant testing of the functionality of the app and the timely remedies for the existing technical bug.

Indeed, the mobile app industry is growing, and only the best will get the chance to compete for the attention of demanding customers. And to be ahead of the competition,you must make sure that the below listed elements are acting as building blocks of your app-

  • Send notifications judicially and make sure that the content of those notifications deserve your customer’s time.
  • Do not make the app interface complicated. Customers should never get confused about the navigation.
  • Give customers strong reasons for downloading your app. Link it with some business functionality apart from just purchasing.
  • Last but not least, make sure that your app stays away from any sort of technical malfunctioning.

Note: We know how vital mobile is for businesses. And thus we try to include it into our topics of churning and blogs. In this blog, we have discussed how mobile wallets can be used not just as payment tools. Don’t forget to go through this blog where we have listed down the woes of mobile payment use.

Online Shopping Shifts into Second Gear

When working at a retail store a couple of years ago, I was amazed when my boss informed me that in the near future my job would be non-existent. Instead, our jobs would be replaced with desks and headsets, working with customers from the comforts of an office instead of in store. He explained that … Read more

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