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October 5, 2020: Amazon introduces palm scanners, MAC Cosmetics unveils new store concept, Target and Amazon go head-to-head on holiday sales.

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Hosted by Julia Raymond

Written and produced by Gabriella Bock

Edited by Trenton Waller

 

TRANSCRIPTION

Julia Raymond:
Hi everyone welcome to the show. Today, we’re joined by guests, Courtney Hawkins and Andrea Lisbona. Courtney is the former VP of retail Old Navy with a proven record of growing and regaining revenue through innovative retail operations from merchandising to inventory management strategies.

Julia Raymond:
Andrea Lisbona is the founder and CEO of Touchland, a trailblazing, all-natural hand-sanitizing product that’s taking social media by storm. She’s recently signed deals with Target, Ulta, Louis Vuitton, Canada Goose, and Purple.

Julia Raymond:
Courtney, Andrea it’s great to have you on the show.

Courtney Hawkins:
So awesome to be here. Thank you for having me.

Andrea Lisbona:
Thank you for having me too.

Julia Raymond:
Great. So the hot topics of the news this week, we’re covering three. The first one is again about Amazon. It’s not a surprise. They’re being buzzed about quite frequently and they launched palm reading. And I’m not talking about late-night vendors off Bourbon Street or at your local flea market. Although I hear they make a fortune, I do have a funny, personal story about a vendor at the flea market, but that’s beside the point.

Julia Raymond:
Last week, they unveiled their Amazon One Device and this device is biometric. It utilizes palm recognition technology to identify customers, match them with their credit card and allows them to purchase items with these simple wave of their hand.

Julia Raymond:
The device is currently being piloted at two Amazon Go stores in Seattle with additional store rollouts planned for the months ahead. Courtney, I’ll pass this to you first. Amazon says it shows palm recognition because it is less invasive than other biometric alternatives. But facial recognition, for example, has received a lot of criticism. So do you think that consumers will be open to paying with their palm?

Courtney Hawkins:
It’s a really great question and funny when you phrase it that way, right? One of the things I was thinking about when I was reading about this was, one thing you can’t forget is your palm. You’re not going to leave your palm at home. So I think that’s a pro. For sure that you’re not going to forget it.

Courtney Hawkins:
I think the second thing that’s a pro in this situation is that it’s contactless. And right now with all of the COVID-19 and the things that are happening, you don’t have to get out a device. You don’t have to do anything of the sort. You just have to put your hand above something and then it recognizes you to pay.

Courtney Hawkins:
I think some of the cons though, are that it can be confusing. I can see consumers really putting their hand down and touching it with their palm, not over it. Which could create some type of cleanliness situation.

Courtney Hawkins:
Also, reading about the sign up in store is interesting because you have to physically sign up in-store with your credit card. Although it’s a one-time way of doing it, it still creates a contact environment that they currently don’t have.

Courtney Hawkins:
And I still think that privacy will be a concern. Although consumers are more willing now to give their information for convenience and things of that sort. I still think there might be some consumers that are like, “ah, this is a little too much for me and I’m not willing to sign up this.”

Julia Raymond:
That’s funny that you said you’re not going to leave your palm at home. That’s for sure. You’ve had so much experience in retail and you’re saying you could see how this might be confusing for people.

Courtney Hawkins:
Absolutely.

Julia Raymond:
Andrea, what’s your take? Do you agree with Courtney on the pros and cons?

Andrea Lisbona:
I totally agree. And I think obviously 2020 has changed the mindset of people about hygiene and touching and everything. So I think this comes at a very good time, especially from my point of view. We sell hand sanitizers and part of this is educating that 80% of infectious diseases spread through hands. So something as simple as holding the door or touching the keypad when you’re paying. You’re putting your life at risk. And most of the time, you don’t have water and soap available or there’s no hand sanitizer near you.

Andrea Lisbona:
So I think measures that increase not having to touch things in-store, to offer these clean experiences when shopping in 2020, are going to be extremely well received. And of course, like Courtney said, there’s going to be people that still would like to do it the traditional way. But it’s part of evolution and making smart shopping and clean shopping, especially in the times that we’re living nowadays.

Julia Raymond:
And those are some scary stats you shared there. 70 to 80% of infectious diseases are spread through hands, so you said?

Andrea Lisbona:
Yeah. Exactly, exactly. Anything is through the hands when it’s not about airborne. And one of the moments that I do feel like… That I’m getting in contact with the world, that I can not avoid, is when I go anywhere and I pay. That you still have to put those numbers in the keypad, you still have to put your credit card and touch the button.

Andrea Lisbona:
So I do believe that in the moments that we’re living today, the hand hygiene habit is now extremely well installed in people’s mindsets. And we can now offer technology that allows you to continue doing what you want to do without getting your life at risk.

Julia Raymond:
And I will note that there was a study done last year. So this was pre-COVID, where at least in the US, nearly 60% of people said, “Yes, I will give my most sensitive personal data. So that’s biometric, medical, location, if I’m getting a benefit from it as a service from an app or whatever it may be.” And I thought that’s interesting.

Julia Raymond:
I think people will be open to it. I think there’s definitely going to be some adoption curve that will need to happen and some educating of consumers how to use it. But personally, I like to pay… Since COVID, I like to use my iPhone to do Apple Pay so that I don’t have to touch the keypad. Not all stores have that option. And when we’re wearing masks, you can’t use the face ID. So then you’re clicking the lock button three times, you can enter the passcode and it’s quite frustrating. So this would be something to reduce that friction.

Julia Raymond:
Great. I’ll hop to the next topic. Today we’re going to chat a little bit about Target. So demonstrating healthy competition, Target announced it will be kicking off its holiday season deals next week. That’s super soon. It’s also the same time as Amazon’s Prime Day. Target said it will hold its Deal Days promotional event on October 13th and 14th. And Amazon, which postponed its annual sales event from July to October due to the pandemic will also hold its Prime Day Event on the 13th and 14th of this month.

Julia Raymond:
Target said last week that it plans to offer customers Black Friday pricing for the whole month of November. It also promised to shower shoppers with nearly one million more deals than last year. Andrea, I’ll pass this to you first. Do you have any predictions for next week’s shopping events since it’s almost kicking off the holiday season, do you have any guesses on who the winners might be?

Andrea Lisbona:
I think nowadays everything is changing and with the digital world and how e-commerce needs to see companies are able to do all these events constantly without having to follow any schedule is changing the mindset of traditional retailers and one great example is Target. How it is switching from the traditional holiday season to moving to different timing. To change consumer mindset of not waiting till the end of the year for those deals.

Andrea Lisbona:
I do believe that obviously, Amazon is a monster and they always have a great capacity to catch everyone’s attention, but I think also Target and these retailers are changing their strategy towards not being so static about those specific timings and being able to be more dynamic as digital businesses are doing.

Julia Raymond:
And you mentioned it’s almost up to the retailers. They sort of determine when the holidays are and consumers seem to want it earlier, as we’ve seen, to have more time to shop safely. Courtney, what’s your take?

Courtney Hawkins:
Yeah, I think when you look at the holiday season, in general, Black Friday, has been losing its momentum, it’s kind of maintained… It’s a high volume day, for sure. But it has lost momentum with the specialness of it. Hasn’t fled into Thanksgiving and then over the weekend and all of those things and earlier deals. So I’m actually really excited about Prime Day moving, hearing about Target going with an all… An entire month of deals.

Courtney Hawkins:
Walmart looking at something the same. Amazon Prime is going to come in and do something. So I think what we’re seeing now is an unprecedented shift in the commercial plan, if you will. All of the deals, which I think is going to benefit consumers in a significant way. And everyone’s buying for wallet share because there isn’t… Although consumer spending, it looked like it was going to be about one to one and a half percent increase over last year.

Courtney Hawkins:
There’s a lot of competition. And so everyone’s putting it out there to shop with them first. I think what will be interesting is the in-store experience during a peak time, and this weekend coming up for this Prime Day and this Target big day or great deals, is you’re going to see traffic increase in stores that probably we haven’t seen before.

Courtney Hawkins:
And it’ll be interesting to see how the retailers actually manage all the different things happening with this door when it’s put to the test with increased traffic. And that could be curbside pickup lines, lines to get into the store, the same day delivery and how that goes and to see really put their strategies to the test, if you will. And to see if they work.

Julia Raymond:
And would you say… Because I did read that Target said they’re changing their staffing approach and dedicating more of their workers to same day services and curbside pick up. They’re hiring more distribution centers, like you said. Do you think it will be… Just wait and see if their approach works? Do you think that they have it under control?

Courtney Hawkins:
I assume that they have put a lot of thought into it, right? And you’ve even read the same thing with Walmart, did the same thing with their staffing model, because they’re assuming that more on… There will be more shopping online, just like we’ve seen all years since the pandemic has hit. And so I do think that we’re going to see some really great systems.

Courtney Hawkins:
But this is a place where we can’t let the consumer down because the consumer will go somewhere else. Or the consumer won’t come back to shop in a store if it doesn’t feel safe. And also the other risk here is inventory. Those are big friction points for consumers right now, is that, “Going into your store, you don’t have the inventory that I was looking for. So why did I make the trip?” And so that’s also another thing that the retailers are going to have to be really aware of.

Julia Raymond:
And I will know, a super new study was just released by Accenture, and it’s about their holiday shopping. They did a big survey and they’re reporting that over 75% of consumers said they’re going to want the purchases delivered to their home versus other methods like shopping in store. I think that’s a little bit high, actually. I think there will be people that go into the store more than just 25% of the time.

Courtney Hawkins:
I agree with you, Julia, because I think about the late shoppers in the season…

Julia Raymond:
Right. What are going to do?

Courtney Hawkins:
Oh my Gosh!

Julia Raymond:
I need it tomorrow.

Courtney Hawkins:
“I got to get out and get my goods.”

Julia Raymond:
Exactly.

Courtney Hawkins:
And also we’ve seen some things, even in the summer months when it hasn’t been as busy, and I don’t know about you, but I know myself, friends, family, where deliveries didn’t arrive on time, or were really late. And so that is also going to be another pressure point. It’s not just the actual retailer, but also the delivery mechanisms in which they use.

Julia Raymond:
Absolutely. Andrea, did you have any last points on that before we move to our last segment?

Andrea Lisbona:
No, I agree with what Courtney said. The digital world has changed the way consumers purchase, and it has created impatience about having to wait or having to do something. It’s very easy. And especially I come from Europe, where Amazon has same-day or next-day delivery for almost everything. So retail now has a strong competitor that is making things very easy. You can get it the next day, you can return whatever you want.

Andrea Lisbona:
So this is making retailers having to change that. And even digital companies like Amazon have shaped the way consumers buy. And they expect the same from everyone else even if it’s not feasible. So I do believe that retailers, right now, are focusing a lot on how do they elevate or chase this online mindset change that is happening for the last years.

Julia Raymond:
Absolutely. And I think there’ll be some retailers that come out on top. I mean, I think I saw, in passing, that the Best Buy stock rose 11% or something in August of this year. And they’ve been surprising analysts and investors and they’re changing their model, right? They’re going really fast forward on micro fulfillment to get goods to consumers as quickly as possible. So I think we’ll see a lot of movement there too.

Courtney Hawkins:
Well, constant movement too, in my… In the home divisions. At leisure, outdoor, fitness, electronics. Probably all the categories that we’ve seen this summer, really boom, or are going to continue, I think, through the holiday season as well.

Julia Raymond:
I think so. Because you’ll have that additional discretionary income potentially. If you didn’t take a vacation, as a lot of people do, or a holiday during the summer months. And those… I mean, Apple just released some new products and they’re hyping up their Apple watches. There’s a lot of good stuff that the top companies are releasing. So it’ll be interesting to see how those do.

Julia Raymond:
Well, the last topic to round out today is about a store opening, actually. And we’ve seen quite a few of them recently, despite the pandemic. And this one is interesting because it’s Mac Cosmetics. And last month they unveiled a new design concept at its New York City Innovation Lab in Queen Center.

Julia Raymond:
If you haven’t seen it, look it up. The photos are beautiful. It’s a new concept. It’s a marriage between digital and physical and shoppers can go in and the store has the capability to customize their own palettes. You can get personalized product packaging. You can do virtual try-on for not hundreds, but thousands of products.

Julia Raymond:
And customers can also check into the store using a QR code called the Mac Pass. And that gives them personalized digital experience based on their online profile outside of the store environment. So their profile contains information about the local Mac store that they’re at, like creative profiles for store artists, and it also lets them book stylist appointments. Things like that. And features new product drop information. So pretty cool stuff.

Julia Raymond:
Courtney, I’ll pass this to you first. What do you think about Mac’s new concept? They also have touch less. I’ll just mention that. So you don’t actually have to touch the screen it’s infrared based, which I thought was interesting.

Courtney Hawkins:
I think it sounds honestly amazing. It sounds very modern, but it also… Modern with all the technology that you just talked about. With a touch less, that’s going to be a huge win. Also, with the customization, being able to customize an experience in store is going to be adopted by the consumer, I think, in a really positive way. I can imagine, sometimes the beauty duty can be very overwhelming. There are so many choices, but knowing what you like and knowing that you can filter and have an experience customized yourself will be a success for the company.

Courtney Hawkins:
I think the other thing of caution though, is that shopping in a store, creates a sense of escapism. And there is a sense of wanting to touch and feel product, even though we’re still in COVID. You’re still reading it like customers saying, “I feel interested. I missed that.”

Courtney Hawkins:
And so I think as we get into this technology and all of the things that we’re going to do, we can’t lose, also, the true understanding of what it means to run a retail store and ensuring that you blend these experiences to be modern, but also a sense of normalcy for people will be important.

Julia Raymond:
I think so, that’s a good point that you made about sort of balancing the touchless features and the… Really, just the coolness of it with that desire that humans innately have to kind of escape and explore. I know, I do that every time I go to T.J Maxx. So Andrea, what’s your take?

Andrea Lisbona:
Yeah, I think, especially again, on the year that we’re living, I am a beauty junkie. I love to go to Ulta and Sephora. And obviously now every time that you go, it’s a very different experience. You are doing a line outside, so the bookings side of this feature is great. Then they ask you what do you want from inside.

Courtney Hawkins:
Then again, like you said, you love to go and touch and decide. Most of the time that I go to a beauty store, I don’t need anything. I think part of it is discovery and enjoying the new products that are there. So you already have this moment of, “I have to decide when I’m not even inside the store.” And then the other thing is that you cannot try testers, especially, I don’t know how long it’s going to last this measure, but since March, you go to a beauty store and you’re not allowed to try testers.

Courtney Hawkins:
So beauty and skincare is very personal. Like the formulas, the shades, everything. It’s something that you need to try. I’m pretty sure COVID accelerated also this kind of innovation, because you are on a beauty store, you want to see how this product is on your skin and how this lipstick feels on your lips. And I think it is a great customer experience in store.

Courtney Hawkins:
And on the other side as we were mentioning, customization, especially in the beauty industry, is key. When you go to a Sephora or an Ulta and you have these color palettes and you have… And this always happens. It happens with yogurt. It happens with everything. Whenever there’s a packet, there’s always, maybe 30%, 40% that you will never use.

Courtney Hawkins:
So I think trying to customize and bring this experience to a unique, ownable moment for every individual consumer is going to be an incredible succuss. I believe that especially, as the mindset is changing, and again, this is a temporal and presented situation. But I feel like now everyone is more aware of touching and knowing that this has have been touched before.

Courtney Hawkins:
And so trying to do maintain this great experience of trying on the product without actually having to try it, it’s going to be a great innovation and modern and digital inside the store.

Julia Raymond:
And I agree with you. I think we will adapt to it because there is going to be a bit of a long, standing concern that people have about germs and that might not go away as fast as some of the other things to go away that COVID has accelerated. So I think maybe we’ll get used to it.

Julia Raymond:
I also think… you know when you try on lipstick in the past., you would go into beauty stores and then you can’t find the makeup wipes or the makeup removers, someone else’s is using…

Andrea Lisbona:
Exactly.

Julia Raymond:
Right? And then your lips get dry after trying on three. And so that’s kind of a benefit. Maybe you could try on a lot virtually, and then the ones you really like virtually, try those on with a single use sample.

Andrea Lisbona:
Yeah, exactly.

Julia Raymond:
Great points. It was lovely to have you both on the show today. And Andrea, I know that you are just trailblazing with your company Touchland. If people who are listening, want to get in touch with you, how can they do that?

Andrea Lisbona:
Sure. They can find us on touchland.com on the first place. And then we’re extremely active on social media. They can find us at the Instagram @ Touchland and also Tiktok and Twitter and Facebook also with @ Touchland.

Julia Raymond:
Awesome. Well, Courtney Hawkins and Andrea Lisbona, thank you both for joining today. It was wonderful to hear your insights.

Andrea Lisbona:
Thank you Julia, for having us.

Courtney Hawkins:
Thank you for having me.