The trend technology used to predict the next big thing…
Those complex algorithms that have helped make Showcase home to the hottest shopping trends in the world and the largest retailer of its kind.
Well, they have humble beginnings and were born decades ago with little more than an open ear, a pad of paper, and a fax machine.
“Twenty years ago when our customers wanted something we didn’t carry our founder had staff write down each of the requests,” Josh Davis, the Web Marketing Manager at Showcase says. “The list would be faxed to headquarters, analyzed, and that’s how we would spot trends before everyone else.”
Today, the company known originally as Canada’s “As Seen On TV” store, now has become the country’s home of health, beauty, home, and toy trends. The secret is proprietary trend technology, which pours through volumes of internal and external big data, from both online and offline sources, to correctly anticipate the items people are likely to purchase next.
“Our buyers are not guessing about what people are going to buy next,” Davis says. “We identify trending items people are already thinking about buying. Then we use our nimble supply chain and our fun and interactive store experience to bring the trend to life.”
Successfully executing means moving faster than everyone else in retail.
And marrying your physical and digital presences.
A Rare Level of Agility
Showcase was created to give consumers who were disappointed in items they blindly purchased based on television commercials an opportunity to try those items before they bought them.
The company established a brick and mortar presence in Canada’s best shopping malls, allowed people an opportunity to test drive products they saw advertised on television, and quickly became the go-to place for consumers interested in an item but too skeptical to purchase without experiencing it firsthand.
Today, the company has evolved into a one-stop-shop for the hottest new products that span a wide range of interests, uses, and tastes. Recent hits correctly predicted by the company’s trend technology include:
- Disney’s Frozen- Showcase was first to market with the largest selection of Frozen branded movie items
- Shopkins- Showcase correctly predicted the potential of this wildly popular collectible children's toy, and now offers Canada’s largest selection.
- The DAFNI Brush- a hair-straightening brush that is 95% faster than a traditional flat-iron.
“Our trend technology first spotted the Dafni brush on Facebook after the woman who designed it posted a video that went viral,” Davis recalls. “We called her, struck a deal to be the exclusive distributor in Canada, and were stocked with demonstration stations across Canada only one month later.”
That speed and agility are what sets Showcase apart. “It’s rare to be as agile as we are,” Davis says. “We’ll turn around a product in days which is something that can take traditional retailers three to six months to accomplish.”
Showcase now has a physical presence in more than one hundred of Canada’s finest malls. Like its trend prediction technology, the company has both the sourcing and marketing of items down to a science:
- Sourcing- the company’s buyers have deep-rooted relationships and partner early with product manufacturers and brand owners.
- Marketing- people who have already demonstrated an interest in emerging trends find Showcase on their own or the company gets creative to draw consumers into its stores
Here’s an example of that creativity:
Many retailers offer popular hoverboards for sale, but few go the extra mile to create a unique customer experience like Showcase did. Davis describes the Showcase difference this way:
“Hoverboards present a unique challenge for a ‘try it before you buy it’ store like us. There’s no real good way of allowing people to try out a hoverboard in a store without the potential risk of them getting hurt. So we designed a special in-store demo that allowed people to experience what it’s like to be on a hoverboard but without the possibility of falling off- think of it like bicycle training wheels but for a hoverboard.”
No one else can match the experience Showcase offers which drives people to the stores and provides the company an edge in a competitive marketplace. It’s a big win for a traditionally brick and mortar retailer with a significant shopping mall footprint.
Showcase may be early to almost all of the big retail trends.
But it was late to ecommerce.
Showcase has been running an ecommerce site for the last eight years, but it wasn’t integrated with the company’s backend business systems. “We might sell an item online and only realize afterward that the inventory we sold didn’t exist in our warehouse,” Davis says.
To shed its identity as just the “As Seen On TV” retailer, grow its brand, and establish Showcase as a formidable ecommerce player Davis needed a platform that could scale quickly and grow as Showcase grows. “I didn’t know if Shopify could scale with us,” Davis admits. “Is Shopify really for the enterprise user?”
Despite the questions, Showcase launched its new ecommerce store in July of 2014 on Shopify Plus, an enterprise ecommerce solution for high volume merchants. Immediately, online traffic and sales spiked. For the first time in the company’s history, Showcase had become a truly omni-channel retailer and was reaping the financial rewards.
I did have some fear when we launched with Shopify, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised. I worried Shopify wouldn’t be able to keep up, but they proved me wrong.”
Davis credits Shopify’s ability to easily integrate with third party applications and systems such as Showcase’s SAP Business One platform. Syncing the two helps Davis pull data and run reports that reveal key customer insights as well as making sure the company can keep the promises it makes online.
“One example is that the integration prevents us from overselling,” Davis says. “Say we have twenty units in our National Distribution Centre. The integration automatically ensures we stop selling products when we run out of inventory.”
Davis also credits Shopify’s robust application store, and the willingness of app developers like Instant Search to modify or customize their apps to meet specific needs and improve the user experience. “They’re just so eager to work with you,” Davis says of the team at Instant Search. “It’s a great app off the shelf, but we needed a small tweak and within a day, they had changed the code and created a custom solution just for us.”
Even more importantly, Showcase now has a loyalty program fast approaching 1 million members that simultaneously drives online traffic to the company’s physical stores and coaxes in-store traffic online for a multidimensional customer experience.
Remember the in-store hoverboard demo that allows people to try it out without falling?
Customers who purchase the hoverboard in-store are directed to the Showcase website where they can upload video and pictures of their epic hoverboard wins and fails for a chance to be reimbursed for their purchase. The contest winners are chosen via the company’s social media channels and provide an incentive for in-store customers to go online.
Prior to the company’s relationship with Shopify, ecommerce accounted for just 1% of sales. Today, ecommerce is 6% of overall sales and Davis expects that to increase to 10% by year’s end.
Our partnership with Shopify is really exciting. The platform is scaling bigger than expected.
Reinventing with Each New Trend
Establishing an ecommerce presence has not only been good for the top and bottom lines but is also helping Showcase grow its brand as the place to turn to for the newest and most popular trends in retail.
“We’re not just that unique store in the mall anymore,” Davis says proudly. “Increasingly, people recognize Showcase as a national brand that bring the hottest trends to life.”
Expanding the loyalty program, which offers incentives for in-store customers to opt-in to the company’s email database and online customers to visit physical stores for unique experiences, will likely drive the company’s growth for years to come.
“Now we can market in segments,” Davis says. “It’s all about segmentation, and it’s the future of our business.”
Expect the company to slice and dice its customer database in ways that allow it to tailor its marketing language based on purchase history and improve conversions by creating highly relevant and personalized email marketing campaigns.
In this unique business, trends can come and go quickly.
But nailing the next big thing never gets old or goes out of style.
“We reinvent ourselves with every new trend,” Davis says.
About The Author
Nick Winkler is a contributor to the Shopify Plus blog. He helps individuals & organizations generate new leads, make more money, and ignite growth with story. Get more from Nick here.