Today in Retail: Chatbots Help Car Buyers Get Quick Answers and Service; Consumers Are Spending More but Shopping Less

Today in retail, Victoria’s Secret unveils a brand for tweens while Amazon deploys palm-scan payment at Whole Foods in Austin, Texas. Plus, Capital Automotive Group kicks off its RideShift car-buying platform, Best Buy launches at-home electronics recycling program, Lululemon will focus on menswear and digital and LVMH Beauty is rolling out sustainable packaging.

Capital Automotive Group Launches Car-Buying Platform RideShift

Car dealership company Capital Automotive Group has launched RideShift, which uses artificial intelligence and customer service to improve the vehicle-buying process before, during and after the sale, according to a Wednesday (April 20) press release.

RideShift offers an online, automated site for pre-owned vehicle sales with 20 participating locations. The eCommerce offering includes finding, financing, purchasing and scheduling curbside pickup or delivery of vehicles, adding to the 29 full-service Capital Automotive Group dealerships across the Carolinas.

RideShift will be introduced as part of a regional campaign featuring former Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly.

Chatbots Fill Car Buyers’ Demands for Speedy Answers, Service

For retailers that have operated through the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the takeaways is that they must offer personalization — serving customers in the way they want to be served. That’s meant car dealers must add an option to buy cars online and have them delivered.

Some consumers want to visit the dealership while others want the experience to be contactless, so dealers have ramped up their ability to offer both options.

Consumers start their shopping online, researching cars on the websites of dealers, automakers and third parties. Because fewer cars are available on dealer’s lots, consumers have been encouraged to pick a car online, put down a deposit and wait for it to be delivered. Many consumers also prefer to communicate via live chat. Another effect of digitalization is people expect answers instantly.

Best Buy Sweetens Subscription Plan With at-Home Recycling Pickup Service

Electronics and appliance retailer Best Buy has rolled out its at-home Haul-Away service to allow customers to dispose of their outdated and broken devices and gear.

Best Buy said it is the first national retailer to come to customers’ homes to pick up and recycle unwanted products — even those it didn’t sell — ranging from laptops to washing machines. The one-time cost for the standalone pickup service is $199 but is being offered at a 20% discount of $159 as an added perk for members of Best Buy’s new “TotalTech” subscription plan.

While the Haul-Away program limits removal to two large items—console TVs, refrigerators and outdoor grills—the company will also remove unlimited amounts of smaller items like cellphones, video games, cables, cords, cameras and more.

Consumers Are Shopping Less, Spending More

Consumers are shopping less often, but when they do, they tend to spend more, especially when making retail purchases, with the average amount consumers spent on retail, groceries, and food from restaurants rose last month, even as the share of consumers who reported shopping fell in those categories, according to PYMNTS research.

The percentage of consumers who reported they shopped for groceries fell from 89% in February to 88% in March, while retail shopping dropped from 62% to 60%. The average spending increased in March for each category: an $11 increase to $110 for groceries and a $24 increase to $103 for retail.

Restaurant purchases followed a similar pattern, although to a much lower degree, with the share of consumers who said they’d made a purchase at an eatery falling from 71% to 70%, and the average spend rising by one dollar to reach $40.

LVMH Beauty and Origin Materials Partner on Sustainable Packaging

Luxury retailer LVMH Beauty, a division of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, and carbon-negative materials company Origin Materials have partnered to roll out “sustainable low-carbon footprint packaging for the perfumes and cosmetics industry,” according to a Tuesday (April 19) press release.

LVMH has signed a multiyear capacity reservation agreement with Origin Materials to buy sustainable, carbon-negative PET (polyethylene terephthalate) for its packaging of perfumes and cosmetics. Origin technology reduces PET’s carbon footprint because it is made from sustainable wood residues, which capture carbon, the release stated.

Victoria’s Secret Debuts Tween-Focused Digital Brand, Happy Nation

The transformation of Victoria’s Secret continues as the company unveiled a new Happy Nation digital-only brand aimed at 8- to 13-year-old tweens, a company press release said Tuesday (April 19).

Happy Nation features a size-inclusive and gender-free collection of sweats, swimwear, bras, underwear and family-friendly body care products, which the company says is focused on creating “judgment-free products for tweens that are accepting, inclusive and supportive and will serve a unique need in the market,” per the press release.

The Next 5 Years at Lululemon Will Be All About International, Digital and Menswear

For a company that’s built its 25-year-old yoga pants franchise into a multi-category player in the athletic apparel industry, Vancouver-based Lululemon Athletica said Wednesday (April 20) that the next five years of its journey will be led by the growth of its international, digital and menswear businesses.

In a statement coinciding with its annual analyst day meeting being held in New York today, the premium purveyor of sports and workout gear extended upon the growth trends it outlined a month ago as it reported fourth-quarter earnings and unveiled plans that it was expanding into sneakers, tennis and golf.

Austin Whole Foods Debuts Amazon's Palm-Scan Payment Option

Amazon and its brick-and-mortar grocery store unit Whole Foods just converted a store in Austin, Texas, to the Amazon One palm-scan checkout platform that lets customers activate payments with just palm prints. Customers who have signed up to use the service hover their downward-facing hands over scanners to complete a purchase.

Amazon One states on its web page that among the benefits of the scanning technology, which relies on the uniqueness of each human palm, is that transactions are “truly contactless.”

Amazon One’s website lists 40 settings where the service is deployed. They include restaurants and arenas in Seattle; the Red Rocks amphitheater in Colorado; numerous Amazon Fresh locations; and about a dozen Amazon Go locations, including in New York City.

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