Bitcoin Development Similar to
1800s Gold Rush

    

Present day Bitcoin and altcoin development

appear to be recounting a theory that played out in the early mining industry. As was the pattern during the actual gold rush of the 1800s, while some people took the risk and spent their time looking for gold, other folks watched on non-judgmentally and lucratively supplied the "picks and shovels" that enabled the fever-pitched masses to take a shot at "striking it big." Drawing on some similarities and contrasts between the actual "gold rush" and the new "digital gold rush" provides a good framework to describe how industries today are being impacted by Bitcoin. Bitcoin evangelist and technologist Melvin Petties explains how the emergence of Bitcoin has given rise to different kinds of related endeavors, pointing out the attitude of some key players and the impact on the crypto ecosystem.

Picks And Shovels Model: Industries That Make Equipment

According to Petties, in the olden days, the absolute quantity of precious metal was not known so the risk of participation was greater. The big rewards were random yet impactful – whole towns were built from major gold strikes, which made the lure to participate even greater.  People from all walks of life, even the very poor, were compelled to participate and their chances of success were arguably relatively the same.

Irresponsible

Fast forward to the present day, Petties notes that not just anybody can make a "pick and shovel" when it comes to Bitcoin mining.

Petties says:

“In fact, the technology is so coveted that for the years between 2013-2015 (Bitcoin good time days) most mining equipment providers were ultimately found to be fraudulent or irresponsible in how they pre-sold equipment but never delivered it.”

Petties explains that microchip shortages were always the common scapegoat. However, the real issue was that most people who knew how to make a real pick and shovel (ASIC chip-based mining computer) held onto the knowledge, built the product, mined with it for most of its practical lifetime (innovations were happening every month and the difficulty level was rising even more rapidly due to the rush of entrants) and then delivered it to the customer only when it was virtually worthless.  

Wild West Days

Also, most other cloud mining or new mining equipment companies were either not worth the ROI at the time (if you were thinking short-term) or an elaborate pre-order scam/trap for victims. The latter was willing to send Bitcoin to anywhere in the world to receive a miner.  Consumer protection was non-existent which made the "buyer beware" burden too heavy and often times a soul-crushing experience to be scammed. Compared to the gold rush of the 1800s, Petties notes that it was not possible to have a massive stealth mining operation. However, in the crypto age, that's exactly what a lot of companies did to cement their space and build a massive moat around themselves to eventually experiment with other value-added services to be built on top of the network that they breathed life into.

Me Too Shops

Another area of significant comparison in terms of activities surrounding the development of Bitcoin is the “value-added service industry.” Petties points out that in the 1800s during the gold rush, pop-up towns and communities were the norms. When a lucky team would strike a big vein they would ultimately reinvest the wealth back into the community, opening banks, general stores, parlors, salons and housing for the existent and soon to arrive patrons that would have certainly heard the news and set their sights to capture some of that same luck.

In the big booming Bitcoin days, this represents all of the "me too" shops that began to publicly accept Bitcoin and make a splash in the news. All the activity served to drive more and more VC money into the space as the community searched for "killer apps" that would live on top of Bitcoin and usher in Bitcoin 2.0 – streamlined payments, borderless markets, no remittances, etc. Ultimately, the most impacted industries were not retail due to the existing reluctance towards the mainstream adoption of the cryptocurrency.  

Value-Added Services

Petties sees some positivity from the circumstances. He notes that what happened through all of that is the discovery of financial services as the real added value, namely legitimate exchanges that were run by competent folks who knew how to secure digital currency and could partner with banks and insurance companies to properly protect customer accounts. Petties concludes by explaining that because Bitcoin, as money, is Blockchain's first "killer app," the obvious industries that will shine will be those that facilitate the safe transfer of crypto and investment exposure – that is financial services. “I'm encouraged by the strides that the Winklevoss brothers have taken to make that a reality,” says Petties. “True pioneers in understanding the need to make digital currency safe and broadly available in a regulatory compliant way.”

Chuck Reynolds


Marketing Dept
Contributor
Please click either Link to Learn more about -Bitcoin.

Bitcoin, Ethereum Lead the Way as Cryptocurrencies Retreat into the Red

    

Cryptocurrency traders woke up to a sea of red this morning

, as 92 of the top 100 cryptocurrencies by market cap experienced a marked price decline. The bitcoin price led the retreat, falling over 6% toward $2,400. Bitcoin has declined almost $600 since it pierced the $3,000 barrier two weeks ago.

No Flippening Today

Bitcoin price declines always increase discussions about the “Flippening,” the potential future event when another cryptocurrency (presumably Ethereum) will supplant bitcoin as the largest cryptocurrency by market cap. However, Ethereum has been dealing with its own problems. On June 22, it experienced a flash crash on GDAX, although it quickly recovered. More worrisome is the fact that Ethereum is experiencing network congestion and has yet to implement a long-term solution. Consequently, the ethereum price has fared even worse than bitcoin. In the past 24 hours, the ethereum price fell 13% to $285.23. Ethereum too has been experiencing an elongated price decline, having fallen nearly $130 since it hit $410 on June 12. Significantly, ethereum’s ~$26.5 billion market cap is now only 63% of bitcoin’s ~$41.8 billion market cap.

Massacre Extends to Altcoins

The Monday Massacre did not stop with bitcoin and ethereum; altcoins are down across the board. Not even litecoin, which has experienced a price resurgence over the past several months, could swim against the current. The litecoin price fell 9.87% to $41.29. It has fallen nearly 20% since it topped out at $50 leading up to its listing on BitStamp.But the massacre did not stop there Only eight of the top 100 cryptocurrencies managed to avoid the bloodbath. Thirtieth-ranked Byteball was the largest cryptocurrency to experience a price increase, just barely moving the needle 1.84% to $781.20. Tether, MCAP, LEOCoin, OBITS, and Mooncoin each managed to tread water or increase slightly.

Lest one attribute the altcoin price decline to the fact that most altcoins rely on bitcoin as their major trading pair, the price charts look nearly as bad when you switch from USD to BTC. Nearly every altcoin declined against bitcoin. The lone standout in the top 100 was 54th-ranked CloakCoin, whose price rose 41% to $10.09 (.0037 BTC). This is a new all-time high for CloakCoin, who previously rose to a high of .0033 BTC in late July 2014 before crashing in August and September.

A Bump in the Road or Cause for Concern?

Mainstream economists and news outlets rush to pronounce bitcoin’s impending doom every time it experiences a price decline, so don’t be surprised if you see some trigger-happy “Is This the End for Bitcoin?” headlines pop up in your newsfeed if the downward trend continues. Nevertheless, it is far more likely this market downturn is just a bump in the road for cryptocurrency prices. That said, both Bitcoin and Ethereum are facing scaling difficulties and will need to implement long-term solutions. Bitcoin’s test will come with the upcoming Segwit2x activation. All signs indicate Bitcoin will avoid a network fork on August 1, but any unexpected developments could lead to price volatility.

Chuck Reynolds


Marketing Dept
Contributor
Please click either Link to Learn more about -Bitcoin.

Factors Pushing Bitcoin Prices
Higher in 2017

For newcomers to the market looking to make a quick win, the rollercoaster of a year has probably been a time of scratching heads and possibly a few tears shed. For the long-term investor, however, these periods are part of the journey and opportune times to snap up some more coins when the price takes a dip. Despite the precautionary cries of ‘bursting bubbles’, these market corrections are an anticipated occurrence.

    
Legislative Changes for Cryptos

Earlier this year, Japan announced that as of 1 April 2017, the country would recognise bitcoin as legal tender and make the provisions for administrative and accounting systems to be enhanced for cryptocurrency transactions to take place seamlessly. This was undoubtedly the major contributing factor to an initial surge in the price as Japanese individuals and corporations alike scrambled on exchanges to secure bitcoin for future purchases. Hundreds of thousands of retailers in the area are said to be equipping themselves to accept bitcoin payments, with a low cost airline, Peach, becoming the first commercial carrier to directly offer consumers tickets paid in bitcoin.

Australia quickly followed suit, announcing accelerated amendments to legislation that eliminated the incumbent double taxation on digital currency transactions. As it stands, Australians using bitcoin for transactions are liable for the 10% goods and services tax (GST) plus a further 10% tax for using ‘intangible property’ as a payment medium. Come 1 July 2017, these transactions will only attract GST, and be exempt from further taxation, no doubt fuelling a greater adoption of digital currency transactions. The proactive progression by these countries certainly paves the way for others to learn from their integration and regulatory practices, empowering mainstream bitcoin adoption, which naturally pushes the price higher as demand increases.

Scaling Debate Resolution

The scaling debate has been a long-standing hurdle for Bitcoin growth. The decentralised nature of bitcoin, which naturally is one of its most appealing qualities, presents some challenges when it comes to governance of remedial action. In an ecosystem where no single entity can dictate changes to the framework, a majority consensus must be reached. The fact remains that Bitcoin needs to scale from its current transactional capacity in order to meet the demands placed on the network in terms of the growing number of transactions, as the current block size is impeding quick and cost-effective transactions.

Whilst several proposals have been put forward, the Bitcoin community have yet to come to agreement on a viable solution that satisfies the majority, while at the same time doing what is best for the wider user base. In May 2017, at the annual Consensus conference, held in New York, an agreement has been signed by a ‘critical mass of the bitcoin ecosystem’ that set out a plan for the adoption of SegWit with a planned hard fork to a 2MB blocksize within six months. While further clarity is needed, it would appear that we may finally come to a point of breaking the stalemate, which will contributing factor in Bitcoin being able to advance and reach its full potential.

Economic and Political Uncertainty

One of Bitcoin’s undeniable drivers of growth are citizens who have lost confidence in their country’s ability to maintain sound economic and political policies, and desperately seek to establish their own sense of financial freedom outside the manipulation of governments.

Venezuela

Take Venezuela for example. An overly aggressive expansionary monetary policy has resulted in hyperinflation, which the International Monetary Fund (IMF) expects to reach an explosive 1,660% this year. This has led to an unparalleled economic and social crisis. The removal of the 100 Bolivar note (the largest denomination and still worth only a few US cents) from circulation in December 2016 alongside the lack of availability of the planned 500 to 20,000 Bolivar notes, led to widespread chaos and violent protests amongst Venezuelans, who for the most part were heavily reliant on cash but were effectively left without money for weeks on end.

It is reported that the minimum wage is around 200,000 Bolivars, yet a single basket of groceries costs in the region of 770,000 Bolivars, nearly 4 times the minimum monthly wage. Whilst the government provide some subsidised basic goods, the ‘outlets’ have become hotspots for vicious crime and citizens have to weigh up the risks of cheaper food against the dangers that face them in the queues. This is what happens when people reach such levels of despair to survive. The alarming surge in crimes such as kidnapping and murder leave most Venezuelans living in fear for their lives on a daily basis, with little in the way of respite.

India

India is another prime example, where the most recent, and possibly most extreme case of a modern-day war on cash occurred in December 2016. Under the pretence of curbing criminal action and tax evasion, Prime Minister Narendra Modi effectively wiped out 86% of notes in circulation overnight, when he announced the demonetisation of 500 and 1,000 Rupee notes with immediate effect. Exchange was possible, but within a limited time frame and only up to a certain amount, the rest having to be processed via a bank account. This, in a country where almost half its population has no access to formal banking, let alone a bank account. This is just one of the reasons bitcoin holds such appeal in tempestuous economic climates. With Bitcoin, you are assured a level of financial security your money is removed from the coercion of the centralised system, therefore protecting your wealth from political agendas, damaging inflation and capital controls.

Increased Inflow of Institutional Money

Financial institutions, who are historically wary about Bitcoin are increasingly showing signs of interest in the digital asset. When compared to the performance of stock markets and fiat currencies, combined with more and more regulatory structure coming into place, it is unsurprising that institutional money has started flow into the crypto-economy. Regulation is arguably one of the largest barriers to cryptocurrency investment for institutions. Two nations, in particular, have been influential in this regard; Sweden and Japan. Sweden was one of the first movers in terms of a regulated Bitcoin investment. Back in May 2015, the KnC Group launched the world’s first ‘Bitcoin Tracker’ known as an exchange-traded note (ETN), which is publicly traded on a regulated exchange. This represented massive progress for Bitcoin at the time and essentially opened the market for institutions and private individuals to gain a regulated exposure to Bitcoin.

The ETN is designed to mirror the price movements of the underlying asset being USD/BTC. The company offering the ETN, XBT Provider, is required to hold the equivalent number of bitcoins as the number of ETN’s issued. In other words, when a financial institution or private investor purchases, XBT Provider has to purchase the same amount of bitcoins to back up the note. Earlier this month, Hargreaves Lansdown, the UK’s largest brokerage, announced that their clients would be able to access the ETN via their SIPP and brokerage accounts. This has opened the doors for retail and institutional investors to gain a regulated Bitcoin exposure in the UK.

As mentioned earlier, Japan has played a crucial role in moving bitcoin into the mainstream. This move has provided institutional players with the much-needed vote of confidence required before they got on board. Russia and India are looking likely to be the next countries to announce positive legislation after an increase in interest within the regions. This will further stimulate institutional investment into Bitcoin, leading to a stronger and more prosperous market for all.

Mainstream Momentum

Perhaps this can be linked back to the fact that with growing interest, and impressive growth, the media have been covering Bitcoin more and more frequently, exposing it to a wider audience. Personally, I have had more and more dinner table discussions about Bitcoin with friends, family, ex-colleagues and acquaintances, outside of the ‘cryptocurrency world’, all now showing interest in Bitcoin.

It was this month that the Wall Street Journal mentioned Bitcoin on its front page, highlighting that Bitcoin has had a strong 2017. This mainstream recognition for Bitcoin’s performance has been long awaited and will be a stimulus for continual momentum. It was only 2 years ago that most of the mainstream news stations were reporting Bitcoin’s demise. What a turn of events it has been. The factors I have outlined above are merely a few of the positive fundamentals Bitcoin has going for it. Driving demand, expanding its utility and subsequently, increasing its value and price. So yes, I am confident when I say that Bitcoin will continue to break through all time highs and find favour above the $3,000 mark before the bells ring in 2018.

Chuck Reynolds


Marketing Dept
Contributor
Please click either Link to Learn more about -Bitcoin.

The Cannabis Industry, the Blockchain, and Dennis Rodman Gives PotCoin
a New High

Cannabis has been legalized in numerous states

across the United States. However, the cannabis industry is still plagued with limited access to banking services as traditional banks want to avoid dealing with businesses that engage in business activities that are still largely illegal under federal law. That is where cryptocurrencies could offer a solution.

Due to the loosening of anti-cannabis laws across America, the legal weed retail industry has grown quickly over the years and is expected to keep growing rapidly as more states debate and decide on its legality. Both the medicinal and recreational use of cannabis has been legalized in Alaska, California, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Massachusetts, Maine, and the District of Columbia, while the medical use of cannabis has also been legalized in an additional 20 states across the US. In late 2016, leading investment bank Cowen and Company published a report on the Cannabis industry titled, “The Cannabis Compendium: Cross-Sector Views on a Budding Industry” which postulates that the industry would grow to $50 billion by the year 2026.

However, because cannabis is still illegal under federal law, most legal dispensaries are having to conduct purely cash-based business, given most banks and other financial institutions will not allow them access to financial services as a result of regulatory constrictions. This leaves weed retailers vulnerable to theft, which criminals have exploited, as evidenced by statistics on dispensary robberies. The blockchain industry is looking to remedy this. Due to the decentralized nature and inherent security of the blockchain, it offers a unique selling proposition as a payments solution for the cannabis industry.

Dennis Rodman Gives PotCoin a New High

PotCoin was created in 2014 to cater to the needs of the unbanked cannabis industry. The coin works on a proof of stake system with an Annual Percentage Interest (APR) of five percent. The coin also boasts fast processing time with relatively low fees. Though the coin has exhibited steady growth in its three years of existence, there has been a substantial spike in its price this week due to its sponsorship of retired Basketball star and Hall-of-Famer Dennis Rodman’s trip to North Korea.

According to PotCoin spokesperson Shawn Perez, the main reason for the sponsorship of Rodman’s trip was to support “Dennis Rodman's mission to bring peace to the world." Though the visit does not seem to have any visible ties to the cannabis industry, PotCoin has benefitted from the media attention that has surrounded Rodman’s journey to North Korea. According to Coin Market Cap, the coin has shown over 70 percent growth, from just below $0.10 to $0.17 since the sponsorship was announced.

POSaBIT

Washington-based bitcoin startup POSaBIT has created a financial platform that allows customers at weed retailers to make purchases using their regular credit cards. The platform uses bitcoin as an intermediate payment system. Jon Baugher, co-founder of POSaBIT explained: “There’s no industry – whether it’s the production and sale of cannabis or the production and sale of a cup of coffee – that can operate safely, transparently or effectively without access to banks or other financial institutions and traditional services. That’s where we thought we could leverage the use of digital currency.” The technology facilitates customers’ quick and easy access to bitcoin at the point of sale who can then use the digital currency anywhere that it is accepted. The platform is already in use by 30 dispensaries in the state of Washington.

The platform is attractive to cash-only merchants who want to accept another form of payment, retailers that want to be seen as more technologically savvy so as to differentiate themselves from the competition, and for small businesses that want to maximize profits by capitalizing on digital currencies’ low transaction fees. The technology is compliant with Know Your Customer (KYC), Anti-Money Laundering (AML), and Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) regulations while complying with laws regulating the cannabis trade. Since the platform reduces the reliance on cash as a medium of exchange, it is making dispensaries safer working environments for employees as there is less of an incentive for theft.

SinglePoint and First Bitcoin Capital

Holding company SinglePoint and blockchain technology provider First Bitcoin Capital announced a partnership on June 6. The joint venture agreement aims to create an efficient and workable payments solution for cannabis retailers using blockchain technology. Greg Lambrecht, SinglePoint CEO, explained: "In January 2014 SinglePoint announced and started working on a bitcoin payment solution, shortly after we recognized the issue of minimal user adoption of digital currency. The payments industry has rapidly changed since that time. There is now tremendous momentum and demand for bitcoin acceptance as an alternative form of payment.

This Joint Venture with First Bitcoin Capital is perfect timing. Bitcoin payments are catching on, and cannabis dispensaries need a solution fast." SinglePoint has previously worked with leading companies such as AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint and Verizon on technology integration systems that have allowed for a more robust use of communication technology as a payment solution. The company now hopes to use this experience to create a workable solution for weed retailers.

Greg Rubin of First Bitcoin Capital stated: "We are optimistic that our partnership with SinglePoint will produce positive cash flow to our bottom line. Between the two of our companies, we will have the ability to develop a best in class solution, and SinglePoint will be able to help in distribution. We look forward to providing cutting-edge products and services to all states through the establishment of this new venture." “As with the massive and widespread adoption of Bitcoin worldwide, the two companies will pursue opportunities to leverage their payment technology background and develop a proprietary solution specifically for high-risk payment verticals including the cannabis industry.” the press release adds.

The two companies believe they have found a way for a smooth customer experience at the point of sale at weed dispensaries. Using SinglePoints’ technology integration experience and First Bitcoin Capital’s tech background, the company will create an “all-encompassing payment solution” for the retail cannabis industry. The platform will be easy to integrate into the existing point of sale machinery through a simple download. With the retail cannabis industry set to grow quickly in the coming years and the continuing lack of regulatory support at the federal level, it seems like the industry will have to rely on blockchain technology and digital currencies to facilitate easy trade and to securely store its profits.

Chuck Reynolds


Marketing Dept
Contributor

Please click either Link to Learn more about -Bitcoin.

It’s no longer bricks-and-mortar versus e-commerce —“Omnichannel” is the path to success

Consumers have a myriad of ways to shop, and retailers are scrambling to keep up with them. “New technology and tools are transforming the way consumers want to shop,” says Anne Zybowski, vice president of retail insights at Kantar Retail. In response, retailers are re-thinking their operations, from infrastructure and inventory systems to delivery and marketing.

As measured by “STORES annual Top 100 Retailers report”, compiled by Kantar, the evolution of the retail industry displays the fitness and survival skills of some long-time inhabitants. For the most part, chart-topping stalwarts — Wal-Mart, Kroger, Costco, The Home Depot, Target, Walgreen and CVS — have maintained dominance through an ability to meet consumers’ changing desires, including their appetites for online shopping and digital interaction.

Chart-topping stalwarts like Walgreen have maintained dominance through an ability to meet consumers’ changing desires.

Amazon’s dramatic ascent continues, and while e-commerce has not proven to be the tidal wave that knocks bricks-and-mortar off its pedestal, the old “location, location, location” mantra doesn’t carry the same weight it once did.

Instead, the two channels are continuing to converge: Physical store operators are experiencing considerable digital success, while online merchants — including Amazon — are expanding with showrooms, pop-up shops and other ways of meeting shoppers face-to-face.

“The notion of “omnichannel” remains inspirational. Today’s demanding omni-shoppers know what they want,” Zybowski says. “They want retailers to offer whatever, wherever, whenever they want. And when it comes to value, they want to have their cake and eat it too — they don’t expect to pay more for convenience.”

The challenge for retailers is meeting consumers’ reset expectations.

“Retailers must figure out how to fundamentally transform their business models, ones that have been built for maximum efficiency and scale, and transform them into more nimble, effective ones,” Zybowski says.

This transformation primarily focuses on two key retail functions: selling and marketing. Retailers must sell across all channels, what Zybowski calls being “channel-agnostic or channel-agile,” while the marketing transformation involves personalization and shopper engagement.

QVC comes in at No. 70 on this year’s list, up from No. 73 in 2014.

The Evolving Processes

Many successful omnichannel retailers are broadline general merchandise sellers such as Macy’s, Nordstrom and Wal-Mart, though Zybowski says that specialists such as The Home Depot have made great omnichannel strides.

Tom Cole, a partner at Kurt Salmon Associates, observes that mobile is a major driver of omnichannel’s push toward seamless consumer experiences, though the volume of transactions conducted via mobile is still low. He says the challenge for retailers is building toward omnichannel via legacy systems already in place.

“Omnichannel is the new reality for all retailers whether they engage or not. If you’re available where and when consumers look for you, great. If not, you lose to someone who is,” says Marge Laney, president of Alert Technologies. “Online-only retailers lack the high-engagement fidelity that only the in-store experience can deliver. Offline-only retailers don’t deliver the comfortable and information-browsing experience that consumers utilize to make their shopping itineraries.”

The omnichannel successes of Nordstrom and Macy’s come as no surprise to Scott Galloway, professor of brand strategy and digital marketing at New York University and founder and chairman of digital benchmarking and education firm L2. “Frequently dismissed as dinosaurs and outmaneuvered by digital players, department stores can not only survive the dramatic fall-off in foot traffic seen over the past few years, but will ultimately fare better than pure play e-commerce,” he says.

Macy’s is so committed to pushing beyond bricks-and-mortar — where it has been downsizing of late — that it opened an Idea Lab in San Francisco and is building another fulfillment center in Tulsa, Okla. The retailer also recently introduced an image-search extension to its mobile application, and Macy’s 300,000 followers can shop directly via Instagram.

Robert Harrison, Macy’s chief omnichannel officer, says consumers are at different stages of adoption; more than half the time, they will research before buying something, frequently using different channels along the way.

The key, Harrison says, is “the convergence of digital and store, particularly for information acquisition.”

The whole process is “an evolution,” he says. “We hope that with one single view of the inventory, we have one single view of the truth. “Omnichannel” will enable the collective merchant teams and marketers to make better decisions because there will not be artificial demarcations” among channels.

YUM! Brands (21), which owns Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut, is second only to McDonald’s (12) when it comes to restaurantbrands on this year’s list.

Connecting channels

“Digital is the connective tissue between online and in-store,” says Claude de Jocas, intelligence group director for L2. “Stores have been cast as a liability in an Amazon era, but they’ve been making a comeback as something that’s critical to a retail strategy.”

Nordstrom is advanced in all facets of its omnichannel approach. The retailer has nearly 1 million followers who can shop via Instagram and, like Macy’s, its network of fulfillment centers is growing, the latest opening this summer in eastern Pennsylvania. Nordstrom has also launched a “scan-and-shop” feature within its catalog app that links readers of the print catalog to e- and m-commerce sites.

“We work hard to see our business through the eyes of the customer, and we hope scan and shop creates a more seamless shopping experience for our customers who enjoy browsing our catalogs but also enjoy the many benefits technology affords the experience to make it more personal,” says spokesman Dan Evans Jr.

Nordstrom is connecting with teen shoppers through digital mall Wanelo, and this spring unveiled a test of a “click-and-collect” service that includes curbside pick-up. This complements a more traditional buy online, pick up in-store program that Nordstrom has had in place since 2008.

A third service, TextStyle, was launched in late May and involves all 116 full-line stores; it allows customers to make purchases from their personal stylist or sales associate using text messages.

Dallas-based Army and Air Force Exchange Service (52) was featured in NRF’s Retail Across America: Texas video series.

Both Macy’s and Nordstrom have invested significantly to upgrade and digitize point-of-sale systems so that customer orders — whether made online, in-store or via mobile — can be easily tracked.

The Home Depot, whose quarterly online sales were estimated by Internet Retailer as topping $1 billion for the first time during the first three months of the current fiscal year, is growing into omnichannel. “We not only offered more spring season product online, but also leveraged digital media channels to highlight local in-store assortments,” CEO Craig Menear told investors and analysts on a conference call, referring to the mobile app’s in-store product location capabilities.

Neiman Marcus uses its strong print catalog experience to drive omnichannel efforts. “Catalogs such as The Book for Neiman Marcus and BG Magazine for Bergdorf Goodman have a very important role of bringing the brand to life in a very tactile way,” says John Koryl, president of stores and online at Neiman Marcus. “There is a niche in the market that the catalog services can maintain, but it’s not like the customer is aging out. It’s really across the whole demographic spectrum that catalogs play a role.”

Koryl maintains that catalogs have played a significant role in the retailer’s e-commerce, and thus omnichannel. “With catalogs, you have a data or insight mindset. In 1999, when Neiman Marcus started its web business — which is now 24 percent of our total business — the only way we were able to get such a jump start on everyone is that we already had a different relationship with all our vendor partners. We had this entire fulfillment infrastructure,” he says.

Signet Jewelers, which owns Zale and Kay Jewelers, jumped more than 20 places to No. 77 this year.

Easing into digital

Other retailers are spending on technology in different areas. Wal-Mart and Best Buy began testing buy online, pick up in-store about five years ago; today supermarkets and grocery-oriented supercenter operators use the model to ease into digital and avoid the delivery problems inherent in selling perishables. Meijer began testing a curbside pick-up program in its home market of Grand Rapids, Mich., this spring.

Kohl’s began testing buy online, pick up in-store last year; the program was rolled out across the chain this spring. “We see it as an advantage. Convenience is part of our core DNA, so having someone be able to place an order and then just drive in and pick it up — we’ve seen very positive reactions from our customers,” says Krista Berry, executive vice president and chief digital officer for Kohl’s.

Another benefit is a sales boost in stores where that merchandise is picked up. “Although it’s early, we’re extremely pleased with initial volumes and attachment sales,” Kohl’s CEO Kevin Mansell said on a conference call to discuss first-quarter performance.

The buy online, pick up in-store program was initially limited to desktop and laptop computer users; the service is expected to go mobile this fall, reaching the more than 7 million shoppers who have already downloaded the Kohl’s app.

Mansell said that Kohl’s can use the app’s wallet function to deliver personalized messages and offers that can be scanned and redeemed in stores. The Wisconsin-based retailer also launched voice-based search on Android and image-based search on both Android and iOS. “The pace of development will actually accelerate in the second and third quarters across the mobile platform,” he said.

The buy online, pick up in-store method is not without complications.

“Omnichannel retailers run the risk of overburdening their bricks-and-mortar locations in a few key ways,” says Dick Seesel, principal at Retailing in Focus. At the top of the list, he says, is a concern that staffing must be “adequate to take care of customers who have actually driven to the store to buy something, on top of processing e-commerce goods.”

The size of the retail operation is an important factor, says Paul McFarren of PD McFarren Consulting. “While some big-box retailers may be able to make this work, the idea that a majority of retailers could efficiently make use of in-store fulfillment of online orders is pretty far-fetched,” he says. “Training a distributed workforce, paying for additional on-site storage and the ongoing management of the exceptions make this model very difficult to support.”

Buy online, pick up in-store, says Zybowski, “is designed for the retailer’s model, not the shoppers.”

Tractor Supply Co. ranks No. 73 on this year’s list, up four spots from 2014.

Consumer focus

The difference between multichannel and omnichannel retailing is one of focus. In the early days, multichannel meant operating in two worlds, often with discrete management, inventories and pricing. Omnichannel brings it all together.

The consumer focus is so integral to the essence of omnichannel that one industry observer traces the origins back more than a decade, to a time when Best Buy was under heavy pressure from rivals such as Walmart.

“I think a lot of people forget or lose sight of the fact that omnichannel didn’t begin as omnichannel or even cross-channel,” says Nikki Baird, managing partner at RSR Research. “It began as customer centricity, and the retailer who should get credit for putting customer centricity on the map is Best Buy.”

Baird says that by focusing on the customer experience at a time when e-commerce was just beginning to find itself — in 2003, the iPhone was four years in the future and Amazon’s retail sales in North America were about $879 million —Best Buy emphasized the essential components of what has become omnichannel.

“That’s where customer centricity was born — in a cradle of cross-channel commerce,” she says. “At the heart of omnichannel is customer centricity. You can’t have one without the other.”

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