Digital Advisor - Winter 2020 | Retailer Web Services

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Artificial Intelligence: What is it and how to use it to advance your digital strategy PA G E 1 2


Mrs. G Appliances: 85 Years Young, a ‘Beautiful Legacy’ in the Garden State PA G E 5


Changing Consumer Privacy Laws: What You Need to Know PA G E 9


Black November 2019: How Did WebFronts® Customers Fare? PA G E 1 5

Blurring the Lines Between Digital and In Store

When we ushered in the New Year, we couldn’t help but feel the significance of the 20th year of the 21st century. The first year of the 2020s decade. The 20th year of the third millennium. While listening to “Auld Lang Syne,” we also couldn’t help but feel nostalgic for the great digital strides that independent retailers (we’re honored and privileged to work with every day!) have made. Retailers like you have not only embraced, but also have invested in technology to satisfy consumers’ preference to shop online on their mobile devices from the comfort of their homes, workplaces or on-the-go.

The industry-leading, ultimate sales enablement tool used by thousands of retailers





The fresh, new design makes it easier than ever to use RetailDeck on your smartphone!

Thinking back to the early 2000s, the launch of RetailDeck® was also the launch of a new era in sales-enablement technology for independent retailers. While the first goals of RetailDeck look modest by today’s standards, fast forward to the second decade of the 2000s, and you can see how this technology paved the way for an entire independent channel to embrace cutting edge technologies. More than 2,000 independent retailers work with RWS today to adopt e-commerce, reputation management, machine learning and other types of artificial intelligence (AI), keeping them competitive and avoiding disruption against the odds many would have predicted two decades ago. Just like 2020 can be defined in many ways, so too can artificial intelligence. We devote this issue’s cover story to the topic of AI in hopes of shedding light on it from the retailer’s perspective. Though it’s been around for decades, AI’s recent use in retail is primarily focused on getting to know customers on a deeper level: understanding their purchase patterns, predicting their spending levels and ultimately, influencing what they want to buy. As AI influences your business, the lines between digital and the in-store experience continue to blur. And as the customer-centric world of retail continues to evolve, the true value of AI will come into focus: personalizing the shopping experience and connecting customers with retailers—and your store—like never before. We strive to continuously deliver a digital product suite that improves your business exponentially. Thank you for your trust in RWS. Here’s to your success in 2020,

Jennie Gilbert & James Kane, Jr. JANUARY 2020




Retailer Web Services


Sierra Creative Group


Kim Cecere


Jennie Gilbert Jim Kane Patrick McAvoy Jodie Nesta


All images sourced from Retailer Web Services or unless otherwise identified.



Blurring the Lines Between Digital and In Store NEWS 15615 N. 71st Street Suite 205 Scottsdale, AZ 85254 (800) 417-2799


WebFronts® Powers FlashTags Free Extension Makes Electronic Price Tags Lightning Fast

ON DECK Digital Advisor Magazine is published bi-annually by Retailer Web Services, Inc. All content, copyright © 2019, Retailer Web Services. All


Mrs. G Appliances: 85 Years Young, a ‘Beautiful Legacy’ in the Garden State

rights reserved. This publication may not be reproduced, all or in part, without written consent from the


publisher. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of all content in this publication; however, Retailer Web Services will not be held responsible for omissions or errors.


Changing Consumer Privacy Laws: What You Need to Know

The material herein is intended for educational and informational purposes only. Nothing herein is to be considered the rendering of advice for specific cases or circumstances. Please address all editorial inquiries to Sierra Creative Group, LLC at



Artificial Intelligence: What is it and how to use it to advance your digital strategy

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What Retailers are Saying About RWS RETAILER WEB SERVICES (800) 417-2799



WebFronts® Powers FlashTags Free Extension Makes Electronic Price Tags Lightning Fast n November, Retailer Web Services (RWS) announced FlashTags, the latest free extension of WebFronts® Level 4. The FlashTags app makes it easy and affordable for independent appliance, electronics, furniture


Data FlashTags uses the same product data that powers a retailer’s WebFront. As a result, model numbers, descriptions, dimensions, additional colors, reviews, rebates and more are available to include and update on tags automatically.

and mattress retailers to power electronic shelf labels (ESLs) on the showroom floor. Beta testing began last fall with release to RWS retailercustomers scheduled in Q1 2020. FlashTags provides a seamless experience for retailers to assign a product to a tag, choose from a variety of templates and send all necessary data to their ESLs. “An increasingly volatile market makes it difficult to keep in-store prices accurate and up to date,” said Jennie Gilbert, RWS chief operating officer. “FlashTags solves this challenge by automatically updating retailers’ ESLs when prices on their websites—or any other conditions they define—change. There’s no more wasting hours reprinting tags, no more embarrassment when prices fall behind and no more lost profit opportunities.” For Scott Roth, president of Dun Rite Appliances in Center Moriches, N.Y., the beta implementation of FlashTags on the showroom floor was “simple and easy.” Within three days, working with RWS on how to create the tags, the store had roughly 140 tags on 95 percent of the total products planned for them, according to Roth. “We do see them flashing and changing, helping with pricing on the floor,” said Roth. “We live in a world of instant rebates (IRs); being proactive with pricing on paper is a hardship, requiring a full-time employee. With FlashTags, we’re confident our prices are current—it’s definitely a treasure.”


Prices FlashTags can show the prices displayed on a retailer’s website or retailers can use custom columns and formulas in the WebFronts app to display different prices on tags.

Speed FlashTags will update a retailer’s ESL immediately when any information on the tag changes, e.g., prices, rebates and more. Also, every 30 minutes FlashTags will compare current tags to each model’s up-to-the-minute information. If there are any differences, a new and up-to-date image will be flashed to the tag immediately.

‘On Display’ Any model with an ESL set up in FlashTags will automatically be labeled “On Display” on a retailer’s WebFront, providing consumers with information on the models that are in-store and on the showroom floor.

Smart Search Placement Retailers carefully curate the models they display in their stores. Any model with an ESL set up in FlashTags can automatically receive preferential search placement on a retailer’s WebFront. This elevates retailers’ most important models to the top of their site’s search results, increasing the likelihood of consumer views.

ESL Activity Log The FlashTags app keeps a dynamic log of every update—both manual and automatic updates—throughout the day. Retailers can view at-a-glance how often their tags are updating, or view details, i.e., what image was sent, and when to any specific tag.


Mrs. G Appliances: 85 Years Young, a ‘Beautiful Legacy’ in the Garden State hen Debbie Schaeffer’s grandmother, Beatrice, asked her to “come into the business and see if you like it,” Schaeffer never imagined she’d one day take on—and outlast— the likes of Sears, Circuit City and a hhgregg superstore. The “business,” Mrs. G Appliances, was founded in 1935 in Trenton, N.J., as a plumbing supplier by Schaeffer’s beloved grandparents, Abe and Beatrice Greenberg, the Mrs. G, though the sunny logo bears granddaughter Debbie’s face.

A civil engineer by profession, Schaeffer had enjoyed being part of teams for commercial and residential construction projects in New York City and the Garden State; she had taken time off in the 1990s after the birth of her twin daughters until they entered kindergarten. By 2000, Schaeffer explained, “My parents had retired from the store and my grandfather had passed away for quite some time. My grandmother was in her early 80s. “I was always close with my grandmother,” said Schaeffer fondly. It was the close bond they shared that propelled Schaeffer to not only take her grandmother up on her offer to “dip your toes in the water” at the store, but to dive in. Schaeffer’s first big idea: to invest in high end appliance brands such as Viking, Sub-Zero, Wolf and Thermador. It was important, however, to remain loyal to the store’s first generation of customers. That meant the everyday brands were still front and center, and the premium brands were marketed to a new customer base: kitchen designers, contractors, architects and developers—a world Schaeffer knew well. Next, she launched the store’s first website, ensuring it was search engine optimized—a concept still in its infancy in the early 2000s. And as social media platforms began to emerge in the mid-2000s and blogging gained in popularity, Schaeffer made sure Mrs. G was everpresent, joining the conversation. Today, Mrs. G is a regional icon, situated in historic Lawrence Township, N.J., between New York and Philadelphia. The 12,000-square-foot, state of the art showroom is tour-worthy, featuring a Jenn-Air community kitchen for special events and cooking demos with guest chefs. Here, Schaeffer shares the “secret sauce” of Mrs. G’s success.

Mrs. G Appliances in Lawrence Township, N.J.


Digital Advisor (DA): Give us a sense of the market in 2000 when you took over the store for your grandmother. Debbie Schaeffer (DS): Best Buy, Home Depot and Lowes were opening several stores all over our delivery radius, which squeezed our market share. I needed Mrs. G to stand out among the competition. None of the big box stores were carrying high end appliance brands.

DA: With the introduction of premium appliances, how did you market to two distinct customer segments? DS: On the core side, we used traditional marketing tools to promote our sales: flyers through our buying group (NECO Alliance), radio, newspaper and cable advertising. On the high-end appliance side, I took an active role, knocking on doors of architects, kitchen designers, contractors. We also held sponsored events in-store to draw people in. We had judges before the Cooking Channel! We were doing cooking competitions sponsored by restaurants, a regional grocer (the Wegmans’ Chef Series) and the brands themselves. My grandmother was having fun; she saw a whole new customer base and enjoyed having all the nice brands. People were talking about Mrs. G’s again. This really set us apart from the competition.


DA: What did digital marketing look like at that time? DS: By 2001, I got someone through the newspaper to design a website. I was conscious of the importance of SEO (search engine optimization) and hired a company that specialized in it, so it was a strong website back then. Around 2009, people were saying Twitter seemed to be a good place for business and that I should go on it, so I did—with 140 characters! It didn’t take long before I realized people on it really connected, so then I got on Facebook and started blogging, too. As these social networks have grown and evolved, they’ve gotten more complicated, but it was easy early on. Today, we’re on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and LinkedIn, which is like a billboard. On every social site I advertise differently. We’re still getting more return on investment on Facebook.

DA: When did RWS enter the digital picture for Mrs. G’s? DS: About nine years ago. I had been following RWS and WebFronts® for quite some time, but I was afraid to lose my SEO—that held me back. When I made the move to Level 4 from my trusted SEO person, we worked through the transition. I was a late bloomer to WebFronts. Now, I look forward to seeing Jennie (Jennie Gilbert, RWS COO) at conventions. It’s like I have a key to a box…there’s always something new like the latest software in beta we can try. Recently, after a meeting with Jennie, we added ‘On Display’ buttons and ‘In Stock’ warehouse quantities to all our products on the site. She also recommended adding “How to Measure” videos that I just made for each item on the product pages. I came home on a Tuesday, and the changes were up and running by Thursday morning!

The Mrs. G team loves our new site improvements. What the RWS team is able to do is amazing for an independent community business that only markets 30 miles from the store—brilliant! DA: Any tips on how you’re using RWS software? DS: I think customer reviews are hands down most important to our business. First off, you’re lucky if someone takes the time to post a review. With WebFronts® Review™, we definitely have more people posting reviews on the store. I get the alerts and immediately respond, or within 24 hours. Reviews have to be fresh, and it’s important to respond with kindness and appreciation. Get the facts first before you respond. The key is to remind the customers to post a review, so we always have to ask. Also, make sure the customer includes the name of the person they were working with.


DA: What’s your advice to other independent retailers in the current market? DS: Any retailer needs to look at what’s going on. The fact that Sears, our No. 1 competitor, closed can happen to any brick and mortar. You must have a great in-store experience for the customer, but that experience also has to resonate online—it has to show and feel like your showroom. It’s a lot of work, but you have to be in that digital space, keeping it fluid. Like a river that’s constantly moving, you have to add to it (your digital presence). We all must provide an outstanding customer experience before, during and especially after the sale. More than 75 percent of negative reviews are from the ‘after the sale’ experience.

DA: Mrs. G will be 85 years young in 2020. What comes to mind when you think about the store’s history in your family? DS: It’s a beautiful legacy. There’s not a day that goes by without someone coming in the store and giving me a story about my grandmother. They want to tell me they remember my grandmother. It’s a wonderful legacy within the community; her memory stays alive. My grandmother would be proud.

Debbie Schaeffer, third-generation owner, Mrs. G Appliances



Changing Consumer Privacy Laws: What You Need to Know

fter several years of high-profile data breaches and growing use (and abuse) of personal information by a variety of public and private organizations, 2018 was the year that consumers began to say, “No more.” On May 25, 2018, the European Union (EU) implemented the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to immediately give residents in European countries unprecedented control over the use and ownership of their own personal data. Instituted to thwart the misuse of data by large digital entities like Facebook and Google, the penalties put into place by the EU for organizations found in violation of any of these consumer rights were intentionally severe—up to 4 percent of annual revenue. In 2019, British Airways was forced to pay $230 million for one breach of 500,000 records; Google and Facebook are facing potential fines up to $5 billion.

The impact of GDPR in the U.S.

Consumer rights under the CCPA

Here in the States, the impact of GDPR was relatively uneventful, since it only protected European consumers. To be on the safe side, U.S. companies with the potential to sell to customers in the EU instituted a flurry of new Privacy Policies and End User Licensing Agreements for consumers to acknowledge.

The CCPA extends many of the same protections in the GDPR to residents of California, including:

In the spring and summer of 2018, web users may have also noticed a barrage of new pop ups that appeared in their browsing sessions, expressly allowing websites to place cookies on their computers and devices, to adhere to GDPR guidelines. Although GDPR only protects European consumers, the American public and state legislators were asking for similar rights and protections in the U.S. So on June 28, 2018—barely a month after GDPR went into place—the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) was signed into law, with protections due to be implemented starting January 1, 2020.

The right to request a copy of every piece of data an organization might have about you. Companies have 45 days to comply. In the case of one 10-year Facebook user, this amounted to 277 megabytes (MB) of data! The right to “be forgotten,” forcing an organization to erase any trace of their personal data The right to opt out of companies storing or sharing their personal information with other organizations For organizations that purchase third-party information, consumers have the right to know what information was purchased, who they bought it from and who else it might have been shared with.


What businesses are affected by CCPA?

What independent retailers should do today to prepare

Although the CCPA is a state law, it has national implications due to the criteria of the companies that will be required to comply with it. This includes:

If you are a Retailer Web Services (RWS) customer already, there’s no need to do a thing; RWS has your back! RWS retains the services of legal professionals to continually review the latest privacy and consumer protection laws.


Any organization that receives or shares the personal information of more than 50,000 California residents on an annual basis Any organization that derives at least half of its annual revenue from the sale of the personal information of California’s residents. Although the first criteria listed above means any business that sells over the web might need to comply with CCPA regulations, the revenue thresholds involved means most independent retailers are unaffected—for the time being. Even before the CCPA went into effect, the California legislature passed six amendments in September 2019 that modified the original act in subtle but important ways. These amendments relating to business-to-business (B2B) companies, the definition of personal information and whether job applicant information is included. These changes have no impact on smaller independent retailers that might sell to California residents in person or over the web, but they do underscore three important messages:

01 02 03


The age of consumer privacy and protection has begun. Laws and regulations will continue to evolve rapidly. Independent retailers aren’t affected today—but there is no guarantee that will continue to be the case.

These attorneys work directly with our development teams to ensure your RWS-based digital marketing activities remain compliant with any and all state and federal laws—no action required on your part. If you’re maintaining your own website with an in-house team or a third-party agency or development house, here are 10 questions you’ll want to ask them (or your marketing team or agency) to ensure you’re prepared for whatever twists and turns consumer privacy laws take in the near future: 1

Where do we keep our consumer data?


How do we store it?


Who has access to it, internally and externally?


If it’s in the cloud, who is the cloud partner?


Is it backed up?


Is it encrypted?


Have we purchased any third-party lists for our own marketing efforts?


Where did we buy them?


How do we use them today?


What are we doing to be ready for the new era of consumer data protection?

The CCPA may have just gone into effect on January 1, but it’s just the first round of what will be an ongoing battle between consumers and the businesses who want to extract value and profit from personal information.

While the main combatants are the state governments and the digital giants of the American economy for now, there’s no question the environment for all business owners can—and will—evolve rapidly in the months and years ahead as the situation evolves. And RWS will be there to help our customers comply.”

AdRocket™ Boost is always-on, customized digital advertising for appliance, electronics, mattress and furniture retailers. AdRocket Boost promotes your store and builds your brand with custom-built digital campaigns. A Dedicated Digital Advisor will advise you every step of the way as our creative team builds ads to promote your store’s unique value propositions and events.



$ 1,299/month • (800) 417-2799 •



Artificial Intelligence: What is it and how to use it to advance your digital strategy n 2019’s “Captain Marvel,” artificial intelligence (AI) was referred to as The Supreme Intelligence, ruler of the alien race known as the Kree; in 1984’s “The Terminator,” AI was

What is AI for retailers? During a PrimeTime Learning Academy on artificial intelligence last year, Jennie Gilbert, Retailer Web Services chief operating officer, helped shine a light on defining AI. For retailers’ purposes, Gilbert explained breaking down artificial intelligence into three main areas: robotics, natural language processing and machine learning. A brief exploration of each:

named Skynet, a neural network-based conscious group mind and the primary antagonist to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator. No doubt, Hollywood has wildly expanded the realm of artificial intelligence, bringing it to life in the most imaginative ways and contributing to the elusive term itself, which is not easy to define. If you look up “artificial intelligence” on Wikipedia, the definition is vast. It includes everything from understanding human speech and content delivery networks, to autonomously operating cars, computer science and military simulations. According to Wikipedia, there are three types of artificial intelligence: analytical AI, human inspired AI and humanized AI. Also, the fields that use AI include computer sciences, mathematics, psychology, linguistics and many others. Then, the Wikipedia definition goes on to explain the ethics side of AI—from creating artificial beings and the danger to humanity, to the risk of mass unemployment!



Robots are a vast universe unto themselves, but typically when we think of robots, self-driving cars come to mind as well as the Roomba vacuum, the robot dog and other robotic toys, 3D printers, drones, Disney theme parks robots and of course, the beloved robots of the Star Wars galaxy… R2-D2, C-3PO, BB-8 and droids. No doubt, robots are really cool, but they probably won’t fundamentally change retailers’ businesses in the near future, according to Gilbert. 2

Natural Language Processing

We’re also familiar with—and use on a daily basis—natural language processing. This is commonly known as spell check, autocomplete, email spam filters and voice to text, for example, “Hey Siri, call Scott” or “OK Google, how do I get to Café Bianco?” Natural language processing is not just the ability to understand, but also the ability to create. The Washington Post reported a press association for Britain and Ireland, backed by a grant from Google, plans to produce 30,000 data-driven news stores per month with the help of natural language processing. How can natural language processing affect your business as a retailer? Here are just a few ways: • • • • 3

Better chat-by-AI Telephone customer support by AI Mainstreaming of connected home products Selling and supporting more products with voice recognition built in.

Machine Learning

Machine learning, another type of AI, will impact retailers’ businesses the most over the next few years, according to Gilbert. When it comes to machine learning, it’s important to note the other terms that are often associated with it:

Machine learning then predict things

requires a neural network

to accomplish deep learning


What do “neural networks,” “deep learning” and “prediction engines” mean? Here’s an example you’ve probably experienced: If you’ve purchased or sold a home recently, you probably looked on apps and websites like Zillow and RedFin. These services collect and enter data like home size, number of bedrooms, zip code and average household incomes into a neural network; the neural network uses this data to predict other valuable metrics such as family size, walk-ability scores and school quality. Put all this information together and they are able to accurately predict the price each home is worth. That’s machine learning in action.

So, what’s the key to making machine learning possible? A lot of input! 12

How are retailers using AI today? If a lot of input is essential for machine learning effectiveness, the question then becomes, how do you collect and intelligently use more input? Enter AdRocket Organic, RWS’ smart advertising technology for independent retailers. AdRocket uses AI, specifically machine learning, so that stores show up everywhere customers are looking—on smartphones, apps, computers, social media and Google searches.


Your store is running a Labor Day promotion: Save up to $300 on Whirlpool kitchen packages.

The AdRocket campaign you’re participating in is running ads on Google and Facebook; AdRocket Organic is displaying banners about the promotion on your WebFront, too. This includes banners showing up on search result pages that include participating appliances.

The RWS promotions team has created several versions of those banners, including: A) One leads with “Labor Day Sale” graphics B) Another leads with the brand name of the promotion, e.g., Whirlpool C) One has detailed information on the promotion

The AdRocket and WebFronts software starts by randomly selecting which banner to show. But as more people see the banners on your website, WebFronts and AdRocket collect information about what happens after: Do they click on it? Do they go on to look at the promoted products? Do they put them in their cart? Do they click to call the store?

The software uses this data to “learn” which banners are performing the best and predict which one it should serve next, continually improving the performance of the AdRocket Organic assets and the promotion for your store.

D) Another has high level information, etc.

What’s next in AI for retailers? At the PrimeTime Learning Academcy, Gilbert offered her predictions on how AI will influence retailers’ businesses over the next few years: • Online ads will be served in response to the emotions of the viewer

Machine learning will continue to be a key driver when it comes to retailers’ effective use of artificial intelligence. Further, it can’t be overstated, a lot of input will continue to be the key to making machine learning possible.

• AI will predict which assets (i.e. images, video, illustrations) will convert best prior to online ad campaign launch • AI will power online price setting • AI-powered customer support will improve.

In addition to these predictions, Gilbert also discussed how retailers can best prepare to use AI to their advantage. As retailers replace, upgrade and add new software to their businesses…

To learn more, Gilbert recommends a couple good books on the topic: “Prediction Machines – The Simple Economics of Artificial Intelligence” by Ajay Agrawal, Joshua Gans and Avi Goldfarb, and “Applied

• Don’t just look at current features

Artificial Intelligence – A Handbook for Business

• Evaluate each technology provider as a platform, especially its ability to collect training data

Leaders” by Mariya Yao, Marlene Jia and Adelyn Zhou.

• Keep in mind, the more data platforms can collect from other users similar to your business, the more able they will be to implement AI-powered features.




Black November 2019: How Did WebFronts® Customers Fare? Retail’s biggest shopping month didn’t disappoint, continues to break records

11,500+ Number of automated omnichannel promotions; these included combinations of home page banners, dynamic landing pages, organic Facebook posts and automated remarketing emails. These promotions resulted in:









2,319 Number of unique ads on Facebook and Google on Black Friday via AdRocket Base

800K Number of times AdRocket Base promotions were clicked on in November

65% Percentage of traffic to WebFronts on Thanksgiving Day was from smartphones

What Retailers are Saying About RWS Jose (Salazar) has been a phenomenal account manager. He is always able to figure out a solution to anything I throw his way. I have worked with other website companies and have never received such wonderful service.”

“10 Stars all the way! We are in the process of just trying to get our website designed and Jani (Elliot) has been helping us. She has been so patient and great at explaining things to me. We just opened our account with you all and so far, so good!


Amberlee Maya



5 our of 5 stars!!! No matter what I throw Nina’s (Nina Long) way, she’s a mind reader! Nina ALWAYS finds a way to go (above) and beyond! Recommendations: Clone Nina…We need more Nina’s in the world.”

Kristen (Hungerford), just a little token of my appreciation for all that you do! A $20 Starbucks gift card!”

Mae Maine

Julia Schuh





“Excellent. Billie (Cochell) is always very responsive whenever we need something. She is helping us with our pricing online and we appreciate her efforts to help us navigate this part of the website.





Artificial Intelligence: What is it and how to use it to advance your digital strategy PA G E 1 2


Mrs. G Appliances: 85 Years Young, a ‘Beautiful Legacy’ in the Garden State PA G E 5


Changing Consumer Privacy Laws: What You Need to Know PA G E 9


Black November 2019: How Did WebFronts® Customers Fare? PA G E 1 5

Black November 2019: How Did WebFronts® Customers Fare? FROM THE NETWORK

Changing Consumer Privacy Laws: What You Need to Know FEATURE

Mrs. G Appliances: 85 Years Young, a ‘Beautiful Legacy’ in the Garden State ON DECK

Artificial Intelligence: What is it and how to use it to advance your digital strategy COVER FEATURE

INSIDE THIS ISSUE Scottsdale, AZ 85254 15615 N. 71st Street, Suite 205