Executive ViewPoints

The retail industry is fortunate to include numerous executives with extensive experience — and they are willing to share their insights in the Retail TouchPoints ViewPoints section. These byline pieces focus on industry trends and do not include solution provider sales pitches. Many of the byline pieces receive the greatest number of clicks on the RTP site each year.

3 Unique Challenges E-Commerce Enterprises Must Overcome

It was the advancement in technology that created the Internet and paved the road for the creation and success of the $2 trillion business we call e-Commerce. This market is projected to continue growing well into the future. While there are 12 to 24 million online stores in the marketplace, only 650,000 of them generate meaningful revenue. Successful online retailers, extraordinary as they may be, are facing three major problems. Surprisingly, these challenges arise from the advancement in technology, much like the rise of the e-Commerce space itself. Not surprisingly, their solution is also born of the same fabric: tech advancements.

Commerce In The Cloud — Is It Really Pay As You Go?

The directive from the Executive Board is clear: pay as you go, or don't go at all.  No more capital investments into projects and systems for products and markets that aren't tried and tested. And why shouldn't such an edict be issued? They've been burned, time and again, by projects delayed or scrubbed for business systems that were supposed to streamline processes, generate revenue and make life easier. Instead, money goes into the pit of never-ending projects to try and fulfill the whispered promise of software. Management doesn't want to hear about a software project until it's a proven success. Wouldn't it be nice to walk into a board meeting with a report on the new e-Commerce site for a new product launch, up for six months generating big revenue for a low cost of entry, so low you didn't need their approval to get it off the ground and take it to the cloud?

How To Win At Category Management

Many of you are likely familiar with the old investment warning, “past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results.” As we round out 2016 and begin talking and thinking about successful category management for next year, it is important to keep this adage at the center of our conversations. Conducting business as usual is frankly not going to work anymore. If you’re looking to win over and keep today’s shoppers, you need to not only be innovative but agile. In other words: take what you thought you knew about category management and blow it out of the water. Outlined below are a few things to keep in mind when thinking about your company’s category management process.

How “Smart Sneakers” Are Creating A New Baseline For Customer Experience

“Smart” products are everywhere, it seems. Tennis shoes are no longer just shoes; today they track fitness levels or alert you when their sole is wearing thin. Your standard refrigerator is anything but standard; now it can now track your groceries and help you prepare a meal based on the ingredients available. The definition of what makes a product valuable has changed. Consumers now gauge value by the experience or outcome a product or brand can deliver. And retailers are competing frantically to see who can provide the most value and win the customer’s loyalty.

Machine Learning And Artificial Intelligence: Creating A Retail Innovation Boom

Artificial intelligence (AI), boosted by machine learning, is feeding off the massive data available across the retail industry to transform everything from manufacturing to marketing. Amazon uses AI to make product recommendations, Netflix’s AI knows what you’ll want to binge and The North Face uses IBM’s Watson AI system to power natural language recommendations. According to recent report from research firm Markets and Markets, the artificial intelligence market is expected to grow to $5.05 Billion by 2020, as a result of the adoption of AI in the media and advertising, retail, finance and health care sectors. And while AI is not new, these gains are being powered by the exponential growth of low cost computer processing power and new approaches to ‘teaching’ computers how to make decisions. AI, and associated machine learning, is feeding off big data to deliver cloud-based capabilities that are transforming the retail industry.

Make A List, And Check It Twice This Holiday Shipping Season

  The 2015 shipping season was the biggest ever, with 524 million packages delivered by the United States Postal Service (USPS) alone, according to USPS. The upcoming 2016 holiday season is expected to again set new records. While the increased volumes are great news for retailers in terms of sales, it can be a challenge to get those massive amounts of orders to customers when and where they want them.

Retailers Look To Innovation To Gain A Competitive Edge

Traditional brick-and-mortar retailers still dominate the retail space, but online sales are increasing as a percentage of retail sales around the world. Consumers’ preference for e-Commerce purchasing has been trending steadily upward for well over a decade and shows no signs of slowing down. In the U.S., e-Commerce sales currently represent approximately 7.8% of retail spend. A study by the Centre for Retail Research found that the online share of retail trade was 15.2% in the UK and 9.4% overall for Europe last year. In China, the National Bureau of Statistics reported that online retail sales made up 12.1% of total retail sales in 2015.

Why Online Retailers Need To Start Thinking Like Financial Organizations

E-Commerce has evolved tremendously in the last decade, becoming a key source for discovery as well as closing the transaction loop for consumers. One of the challenges online retailers have been heavily investing in is simplifying the customer journey and boosting loyalty, which spans across the entire process from discovery to payment. This will shift the focus towards creating a trusted, enjoyable and annoyance-free digital experience. Consequently, retailers encourage shoppers to create online accounts that hold their basic user data, including the billing and shipping addresses, credit card information and transactions history. To ensure a quick login process to these accounts and finalize the purchase process, retailers continue to expand their features, adding easy social networks login processes and other supporting capabilities.

Fostering Profitability During Promotion-Filled Holidays

The impending holidays signal a host of seasonal staples, among them retail promotions and sweet desserts. While these might not initially seem related, they actually share many commonalities. Just like sugary treats, retail promotions are hard to resist, habit forming and indulgent. If used correctly and in moderation, both have the potential to bring happiness this holiday season — for retailers and consumers alike. However, to ensure both parties reap the benefits of retail promotions, brands must employ technology to ensure they avoid common promotion pitfalls. A constant stream of retail price promotions is becoming the new norm — and this proves especially true during the holiday season. Along with planned promotional activity, sales and high-profile competitor deals seem to light the promotional fire. With this newly adopted “hyper-promotional” activity, as Retail Systems Research defines it, retailers need to understand the role technology plays, to avoid the hidden cost of retail promotions and ensure they’re maximizing profitability while providing a satisfying deal for the consumer.

To Empower Your Loyalty Program, Turn Members Into Brand Advocates

When was the last time you actually felt rewarded by a retail loyalty program? When was the last time you received an email full of coupons or sales that didn’t just feel like a desperate cry for attention? For years, retailers have shaped customer loyalty programs around punch cards and discounts. While these lightweight programs are often enough to inspire a return visit, they do very little to make a better customer experience (CX). When a sale is the only meaningful way for a customer to interact with their favorite brand, retailers make it very clear that customer loyalty is a one-way street.

Going Native: How This Advertising Format Is Changing The Game

The retail advertising landscape is perpetually evolving, driven by the proliferation of smartphones and tablets, and the demand for access to rich content, social channels and videos on mobile devices. With 68% of Americans already owning a smartphone, optimizing ads for mobile has become an essential part of any high-achieving advertising campaign, leading more and more big-name publishers and digital-only outlets to offer brands the opportunity to place sponsored content on their platforms. However, poor quality, interruptive and annoying adverts are driving a surge in ad blocker downloads, making it essential for advertisers to produce interesting and relevant content that will appeal to consumers.

Staying Secure During The Holiday Season

While it may seem far off for consumers, retailers know that now is the time to start thinking about the holiday season. Even though Black Friday deals are a few months away, it takes significant planning and testing to ensure web sites are optimized and secured to handle the onslaught of both legitimate and attack traffic, meaning now is the final stretch for retailers. Most retailers will enter into a “Code Freeze” on any changes to their network going into the fourth fiscal quarter. This not only gives them a deadline to get their systems patched and secured, but also address the malicious actors who might be targeting the network. Every year, it seems like there is something new that retailers need to be on the lookout for, and this year is no different. Chip technology and ransomware are at the top of security professionals’ minds, and the retail industry is certainly not immune to their threats. So what exactly are the dangers related to these technologies and how can retailers mitigate them?

Fostering Loyalty In The Digital Age

“Anyone can sell their product by dropping prices, but that does not breed loyalty.” ― Simon Senik Loyalty. Oxford Dictionaries defines it as “a strong feeling of support or allegiance.” Companies increasingly place a premium on fostering it. Forrester Research says improving customer loyalty is likely to be a top marketing priority for 80% of decision-makers at large organizations this year; and a CMO study highlights that 61% of CMOs believe loyalty program participants represent their best and most profitable customers, thrusting customer loyalty programs into the spotlight.1 Unfortunately, the most recent loyalty census by Colloquy underscores the fact that today’s programs are ubiquitous but largely ineffective, with Americans belonging to approximately 29 loyalty programs per household but participating actively in just 12. The drop-off rate has risen steadily every year since 2012 and a whopping 67% of consumers say they don’t feel they are getting adequate value from sharing their personal information with organizations.2

Tackling Conversion Issues Across Digital And Physical Store Experiences

Retail TouchPoints sat down with the founder and CEO of Radius8 for a Q&A focused on helping retailers capitalize on growing digital traffic and converting that to foot traffic and sales in their brick-and-mortar stores. Retail TouchPoints (RTP): One of the top problems we’re hearing from retailers is declining store traffic, especially in malls. Conversely, digital traffic is exploding. How can retailers address this issue?

A User’s Guide to Content Marketing

Given the increasing costs of customer acquisition, achieving brand loyalty amongst consumer bases is more important than ever. Historically, brands would reach out to customers in an aim to attract more traffic and boost sales, but today the buyer is the expert. In this change of tides, buyers independently reach out to particular brands and offer their indulgence — no longer can they simply be bought by generic coupons and ad campaigns. Marketers can’t just look to retain customers, they need to deeply engage with them to build full brand loyalty. Simply advertising a promotion — like in traditional marketing — is likely to result in a one-time purchase. Content marketing, however, allows consumers to be immersed in the experience of the brand’s expertise and consider their opinions as they make their initial evaluations of competing products. Simply put, content marketing uniquely allows brands to communicate with consumers and sell values and ideas without outright selling anything.
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