Retail TouchPoints - Your Source For The Latest Retail News And Trends - Retail TouchPoints - Retail TouchPoints Mon, 20 Oct 2014 23:40:28 -0400 RTP en-gb Epicor Acquires QuantiSense Epicor Acquires QuantiSense

Epicor Software Corporation
has announced that it will acquire QuantiSense, a provider of cloud-based and on-premise analytic solutions for the retail industry. The deal is expected to close on Oct. 31, 2014. 

With the purchase of privately owned QuantiSense, Epicor will be able to expand its range of solutions for midsize and large chains, adding advanced retail analytics and business intelligence to its retail portfolio.

"The acquisition of QuantiSense is a smart choice for Epicor,” according to Nikki Baird, Managing Partner for Retail Systems Research, as reported in the press statement. “I'm looking forward to the addition of powerful analytics on top of Epicor's vast set of transactions and customer data. This combination promises to help mid-market retailers rapidly turn their Big Data into meaningful and actionable insights."

The QuantiSense platform is designed to consolidate large volumes of data from disparate sources into a cohesive view of the business. QuantiSense currently is working with a variety of Epicor clients, including Michael Kors, Carters, FGL Sports, Nexcom, and Reitmans.

QuantiSense solutions will be an “important strategic addition” to Epicor’s offerings, said Noel Goggin, Executive Vice President and General Manager at Epicor Retail. The company shares “our focus on delivering advanced solutions to help retailers transform their organizations, create exceptional customer experiences and develop new opportunities to drive profitability."

Once the acquisition is closed, QuantiSense Founder and CEO Jeff Buck, as well as CTO Juan Pereira, are expected to join Epicor Retail to lead the company's retail analytics and Big Data initiatives. 


]]> (Alicia Fiorletta) Mergers & Acquisitions Mon, 20 Oct 2014 15:00:10 -0400
Think You Need An Independent Consultant To Optimize Your Retail Operation? Consider These Four Questions

As a retailer, your technological needs run the gamut. Many pertain to human capital management — payroll, time and attendance, workforce management, employment law compliance and more. Additionally, there’s employee engagement, turnover and other concerns. 

In the processes of evaluating and deciding on which solution to purchase, the temptation is to seek an independent consultant. Often, that’s the right move. But independent consultants’ effectiveness varies widely. Their expertise and experience can provide a retailer with valuable insight, yes, but just as often consultants’ involvement causes more problems than it solves. Why? Some consultants are more aptly described as third-party sellers. They promote generic processes and cookie-cutter approaches. Communication might be command-and-control, keeping vendors from interacting directly with you. It’s all designed to bring about outcomes that benefit their bottom line — at the expense of clients.

You need a dynamic relationship with a consultant. You need open interaction with solution providers. You need a solution tailored to handle your organization’s top business issues. Before plunging into any commitment, consider the following four questions. These and the discernments they encourage will help you to avoid conflicts of interest, identify value-added consulting, and ensure positive outcomes for you, your career, and the company.

1. Do you really need a third party consultant? Or is it an insurance policy?

Most retailers are savvy and know their business. Through discussions for all to see in the public domain, analysts, industry press and other retailers usually reveal who the main providers are and how they have been successful. Compare and contrast this with the views of third-party consultants: Their knowledge of the marketplace and solution providers’ capabilities may lag by a few years. Furthermore, they tend to focus on process improvements, not necessarily on the technology that puts it into application and practice. More of an insurance policy, a third party might shield retail executives from failure. If the project falls short, the consultant can be blamed — and exited. Understand your organization’s strengths and weaknesses. Typically, the more current solution providers can provide the partnering your team needs.

2. Are there signs of bias toward one or more providers? Could this have an impact on an objective evaluation and selection?

Consultants get business for their expertise in a particular industry, field or discipline. Check their opinions against the marketplace. Some have a good grasp on current offerings, whereas others simply repeat familiar content and knowledge. For instance, depending on the age and experience of a consultancy, it may be steeped in on-premise or legacy-hosted systems and lack knowledge of true software-as-a-service provisioning, which offers superior outcomes for retailers today. Even worse, these ill-informed or self-serving consultants may push retailers in the wrong direction, down a path of no return. Conflicts of interest compound the danger, especially when evaluation and implementation consultants are one and the same. Working together, they might steer you toward the provider with whom they are most familiar and able to influence through previous relationships and projects.

Who are the up-to-date consultants? They frequent user groups of all providers in their discipline. They also regularly blog on current topics and moves in the market. A single report from secondary research does not equal expertise. Primary research defended by experience and first-hand knowledge does. Short of an up-to-date consultant, retailers are better off reading reports themselves, defining their own evaluation and selection process, and investing saved time, resources and money into the project itself.

3. Of the most recent prior evaluations a consultant has performed for other retailers, which solution did each select and why?

It is always good to understand where consultancies have provided similar services to other retailers in the past 24 months, what was shared and how engagements were different. 

Consultants are apt to re-use evaluation documents from one retailer to another. Nothing tailored to your business comes of it. Remember, too, that consultants may be breaking confidentiality agreements by re-using materials from a prior engagement’s contract. You and the consultant may become liable.

How can you spot these conflicts? Read the RFP or criteria before anything is published. Make sure everything matches your needs. Check the documents’ properties: Are they original materials, owned by the consultant? Look for patterns of the same results. The provider selected may be the best on the market, yes. But potential biases toward one provider over another arise from conflicts of interest, too, including formal business relationships, integrated business models, integrated technology offerings, comfort and bench knowledge, and joint product market strategies. Are any contractual referral fees in place? Joint planning or business model arrangements could spell a lack of independence in how the selection is run, what criteria are being used, and the exposure and opportunities provided to each of the providers vying for your business.

4. How many new ideas or recommendations has the consultant added to your original needs?

Remember, consultants bill by the hour and number of deliverables. From experience, good consultants will help retailers save money, time and effort. Others will add scope to your process in order to benefit their own practices and revenue. For instance, beware of this creep in scope, automatically applied to all providers. Additionally, old-school techniques of fear and uncertainty may surface as consultants attempt to justify the additional, unplanned scope they propose. Remember, you know your culture and business: Don’t be too quick to accept. Sell-side providers are interested in driving their revenue regardless of value to the retailer’s business. Generally, buy-side partners are preferable. They remain focused on the value delivered. There’s a huge difference.

Do Your Homework, Be Honest With Yourself And Demand Transparency

Analyze why your organization seeks the advice of outside consultants. You may already have the necessary information to make the changes you suspect your stores need. Should you still determine that an independent expert’s input is essential, choose your consultant wisely. Demand transparency. Seek one that exercises impartiality and demonstrates a depth of experience in and knowledge of the industry. These precautions will help to ensure a successful engagement and positive business outcomes.

John Orr is the Senior Vice President of Retail Strategy & Execution at Ceridian HCM, a leader in human capital management delivering trusted results and transformative technology. Offerings include the award winning, cloud-based Dayforce HCM, LifeWorks and International Payroll. For more information, visitwww.Ceridian.comor contact John by


]]> (By John Orr, Ceridian HCM) Executive ViewPoints Mon, 20 Oct 2014 16:52:36 -0400
Artifi Simplifies Product Customization For Online Retailers

SS site only Artifi imageRetailers are striving to differentiate their brands by allowing customers to personalize product designs, colors and styles.

Artifi is helping retailers provide more relevant online shopping experiences with its cloud-based, mobile-friendly customization engine. The solution is designed to replace personalization configurators and make product customization more cost-efficient and less time consuming for e-Commerce businesses.

“Now more than ever, companies are looking to offer customers the opportunity to customize products,” said Rupesh Agrawal, Founder and CEO of artifi. “Until now, developing personalization configurators to support this effort has been time-consuming, costly and the customization capabilities limited.”

The solution integrates with a variety of existing e-Commerce platforms, including Demandware, hybris and Magento. Businesses using the solution can maintain complete control of their user interface in order to provide a unique brand experience for their consumers. Artifi also provides 3D product design customization, allowing retailers to show customers every side of their products in an effort to make the online shopping experience more detailed and compelling.

]]> (Glenn Taylor) Solution Spotlight Mon, 20 Oct 2014 10:05:10 -0400
The Perils Of Not Knowing Your Assortment Speed To Market The Perils Of Not Knowing Your Assortment Speed To Market

VP Ugam head shotRetailers are currently operating in an era of hyper-competitive commerce in which competing retailers have the same products, match prices, provide similar shipping options to consumers, and enjoy flexible supply chains. There isn’t much differentiating one retailer from another.

As far as today’s consumer goes, the social, mobile and technology revolution has resulted in a shopper who is connected, informed and vocal. These shoppers are always on the lookout for the best deals and are acclimatized to dynamically changing prices. They have access to tools that help them get to the right product, on the right channel and at the best price. The modern consumer is more empowered than ever, bringing an added level of complexity to the competitive landscape.

Given these realities, not having products listed on an e-Commerce site on time and at the right price can certainly be perilous for retailers. In the long run, it may create a gradual shift of loyal and high-lifetime-value customers to competing sites. This naturally impacts market share and in turn, sales. It can also create a perception that competitors are one-upping you in terms of getting new products to market. You appear to be the laggard and may have lost your competitive edge.

High stakes, information transparency and to need to be relevant to their customers are driving retailers to benchmark assortment speed to market metrics with respect to their competitors.

However, this cannot be an ad hoc effort. It requires focused attention in terms of continuously monitoring a number of products and product categories across key competing retailer sites over an extended period of time — something that can be difficult and time-consuming to do alone. Depending on the category, this is a potential Big Data challenge and calls for relevant analytics expertise.

Understanding your time to market for a particular brand and product category combination enables you to go back and focus on one or all of the following:

  1. Strategic relationships — Retailers have long-standing relationships with their vendors, but what worked in the past may not hold well in today’s fast-paced digital environment. Backed with data, you are able to go back to your vendors to renegotiate supply timelines for products and / or categories where you feel you are at a disadvantage.
  2. Operational concerns — In many cases, vendor timelines may not be the problem. Operationally, your products may be taking a while to get online due to the volume of new products, lack of bandwidth or know-how to set these up online. If the data suggests your competition is getting their products to market much faster, you may need a revamp in the way you set up products on your website.

Several retailers are unable to create product descriptions for a large inventory of new products at a quick pace. A smart and cost-effective method of ensuring speed to market is to create templates to generate product descriptions. Templates can be made for all broad categories with placeholders for product-specific information. These templates ensure that product descriptions can be generated en masse, thus resolving speed issues.

Policy or system challenges — Retailers may have policies or systems in place where they wait for an entire batch of products from a particular vendor / designer before the merchandise appears online. Evaluating your competitors’ speed to market and potential opportunity lost in terms of lost sales may warrant a relook at these policies or systems.

One way a retailer can make up for slower speed to market is to plan assortment farther in advance by predicting which products will be hot and when. This will provide extra time, and can give a retailer a huge competitive advantage. Predictive analytics can help retailers identify what assortment to add, keep and drop. Knowing what assortment is likely to be a best seller before competitors or knowing what items to stop carrying before others can be a useful competitive edge to aid speed to market decisions. Predicting trends is regularly listed as a key risk factor on annual reports — being one step ahead of competitors could mean the difference between a profitable or unprofitable quarter.

In today’s retail environment, it has become imperative for forward-looking retailers to benchmark their assortment speed to market, investigate the likely causes of delay and take appropriate action as quickly as possible.

Mihir Kittur is Chief Innovation Officer and Co-Founder at Ugama global leader in managed analytics. 

]]> (Mihir Kittur, Ugam) Executive ViewPoints Mon, 20 Oct 2014 09:59:46 -0400
Obama Makes Payment Security Top Of Mind With New Executive Order Obama Makes Payment Security Top Of Mind With New Executive Order

President Obama has signed a new Executive Order, onboarding the government to lead the charge in better securing transactions and sensitive data.

The BuySecure Initiative was crafted to better assist victims of identity theft, improve the government’s payment security. It also is intended to  accelerate the implementation of more robust security technologies and development of payment security tools.

“Last year, more than 100 million Americans had information that was compromised in data breaches in some of our largest companies,” Obama said. “Identify theft is now America’s fastest growing crime. These crimes don’t just cost companies and consumers billions of dollars every year, they also threaten the economic security of middle class Americans who worked really hard for a lifetime to build some sort of security.”

With the Executive Order, the government is pushing the move towards enhanced security measures. For example, standard mag stripe cards will be replaced with credit, debit and other payment cards with EMV microchips. Notable businesses already are unveiling major plans to accelerate chip and PIN adoption, including:

  • American Express will launch a $10 million program to assist small business customers in upgrading their POS terminals starting January 2015.

  • Home Depot recently completed a payment security project that provides enhanced encryption to payment data at the in-store POS. Up to 85,000 POS terminals also were transitioned to support chip and PIN in stores. 

  • Target has installed chip and PIN readers in all 1,801 stores nationwide. In addition to accepting all chip-enabled cards in stores, the retailer will reissue more than 20 million chip and PIN enabled Target-branded credit and debit cards beginning early 2015.

  • Visa plans to invest more than $20 million to educate consumers and merchants on secure technologies, while sending experts to 20 cities in a national public service campaign.

  • Walgreens has rolled out chip and PIN readers in all 8,200 stores and will begin accepting enabled cards in early 2015.

  • Wal-Mart will activate chip and PIN readers in nearly all 5,000 Walmart and Sam’s Club stores across the U.S. by Nov. 1, 2014.

The President also announced the White House Summit on Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection, which will be held later this year. The Summit is positioned to encourage key players to converge and discuss how all members of the financial system can collaborate and better protect U.S. consumers and their financial data. 


]]> (Alicia Fiorletta) News Briefs Mon, 20 Oct 2014 07:12:54 -0400
TUMI Breaks Down Organizational Barriers To Drive Omnichannel Success TUMI Breaks Down Organizational Barriers To Drive Omnichannel Success

Because luggage brand and retailer TUMI has such a recognizable name and product design, it may be fair to assume that the business operates in a very strict fashion. However, TUMI CIO Jim Walsh describes the company as a “SMB with a big name.” Meaning, the retailer focuses on innovation and operates as nimbly as possible.

Flexibility, collaboration and communication all are playing an important role in TUMI’s omnichannel strategy. In fact, TUMI recently established an omnichannel business council consisting of team members from e-Commerce, IT, distribution, retail operations and retail sales departments.

“Like any council, we were so dysfunctional in the beginning,” said Walsh in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “The main topic in the beginning was: Who gets credit for the sale? Once we bypassed that everything started going well.”

The entire goal of the omnichannel council was to bring different areas of the business together so there was clear visibility into future goals and investments.

From an inventory perspective, it was vital that the supply chain team learned more about omnichannel and how it would move the TUMI brand forward, according to Walsh. “There was definitely an educational process. You say omnichannel and certain business units don’t understand what that means. It was healthy and important for us to take a step back and get everyone up-to-speed on what the e-Commerce side knew, and share that back with the supply chain.”

In addition to breaking down organizational barriers, TUMI had to make several technological advancements that acted as the foundation of its omnichannel strategy. The brand re-platformed its POS system with Epicor in 2013 and currently is re-platforming its e-Commerce site on hybris.

“We have a solid foundation for the omnichannel world,” Walsh noted. “By leveraging inventory feeds between all systems we have a detailed view into e-Commerce and in stores regarding where our inventory is.”

Multiple “What-If” Scenarios

Since implementing more flexible order delivery and fulfillment options, such as buy online, pick up in-store, TUMI has kept a constant pulse on store performance and continuously applies best practices.

“We sent an army of young interns into the field to run different scenarios,” Walsh explained. “They ran a report of how long it took for them to be notified about an online order, what would happen if they showed up to a store to pick it up early, what would happen if they were late and even what would happen if someone else came to pick up the product for them. We ran these different scenarios to determine what TUMI needed to do to provide a great customer experience.”

While advancing toward with a more flexible approach to delivery and fulfillment, TUMI also implemented a different approach to sales attribution. The merchant now identifies sales as “omnichannel” and allows different channels to take credit for the same sale.

“There’s no reason to put a sale in one specific area,” Walsh explained. “We have the visibility into data and can report indirect contribution to a channel, so they can get some form of credit for a sales lift.”

Amazon Or Better

TUMI’s goal moving forward is to provide an “Amazon or better” experience, Walsh reported. “Everyone looks to Amazon as the gold standard for e-Commerce, and by looking at their model we had some great a-ha moments.”

Walsh and the team concluded that although TUMI is so much smaller than the online giant, “we have advantages in that changes can happen on a dime,” he said. “We have access to resources faster, and our knowledge transfer is better.”

However, achieving this “Amazon or better” status requires up-to-date information on sourcing, improved inventory accuracy and faster cycle counts — even in stores. TUMI implemented iPads in store locations to empower associates to sell better, faster, and manage inventory faster and more efficiently.

“Retail associates and warehouse associates live in two different worlds,” Walsh said. “Retail associates want to sell—they are not back-office people. The KPIs they care about are how much they sold, not how accurate they were. The iPads are fun and engaging for the associates, and cycle counts were cut in half.”


]]> (Alicia Fiorletta) Retail Success Stories Mon, 20 Oct 2014 08:01:00 -0400
American Express Brings Membership Rewards Program To McDonald’s American Express Brings Membership Rewards Program To McDonald’s

AmexMcDAmerican Express and McDonald’s announced that Membership Rewards program members will have the ability to use their points to purchase food and beverages at the chain’s restaurants. The new offering is expected to be rolled out in 14,000 participating McDonald’s locations nationwide by December 2014.

The American Express Membership Rewards program enables Card Members to earn one point for virtually every dollar charged on eligible, enrolled American Express Cards. With the McDonald’s partnership, American Express also will donate $1 to the Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) every time an American Express card member uses points for their McDonald’s orders. To use points at participating restaurants, members must:

  • Pay with an eligible American Express card at the counter;
  • Click the option to use points on the payment screen; and
  • Press the green “Yes” button to use points for the order.
{loadposition GIAA}After using their points, customers will receive an on-screen confirmation.

Card Members can use points at a McDonald’s drive-thru using the American Express Mobile app after paying with an eligible American Express Card.

“We’re constantly looking for ways to make life easier for our customers, including multiple payment options,” said Kevin Newell, EVP and Chief Brand and Strategy Officer at McDonald's USA. “American Express has been on the cutting edge of commerce innovation, complementing our mission to add more value to our customers’ overall restaurant experience. In addition, American Express’ commitment to donate to RMHC makes using Membership Rewards points at McDonald’s even more rewarding.”

]]> (Glenn Taylor) News Briefs Fri, 17 Oct 2014 15:42:30 -0400
Starbucks Introduces Mobile Order, New Store Formats, Contest For Holiday Campaign Starbucks Introduces Mobile Order, New Store Formats, Contest For Holiday Campaign
Starbucks-reserveStarbucks will roll out a Mobile Order and Pay feature across all U.S. stores in 2015. Initially, the technology will be implemented in cafés in the Portland, Ore., area before the end of 2014. 
The service is integrated with the Starbucks mobile app and is designed to enable customers to place orders in advance of their visit. Customers who use the service will have their order ready for them once they arrive at their selected Starbucks location. 
Prior to its implementation in the U.S., Starbucks initially tested a variation of the service in Korea earlier this year, called “Siren Order.” The Korean app let customers provide the details of their order to a barista via a QR code, but it is unclear exactly how the American app will report the order.
During its Leadership Experience conference in Seattle, Starbucks executives shared more information regarding new café formats, a new contest and its 2014 holiday campaign to more than 2,000 district managers.
{loadposition GIAA}On December 5, Starbucks will open its first interactive Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room dedicated to roasting and coffee education. With this new initiative, the company will be able to expand its Starbucks Reserve coffee line to 1,500 locations worldwide. Starbucks also plans to open more than 100 stores designed to highlight the coffee line exclusively.
Along with these long-term goals, Starbucks plans to unveil several new offerings for the 2014 holiday season. For example, the company announced the release of the Chestnut Praline Latte, its first handcrafted beverage in five years. During the holiday season, the chain also will offer the Starbucks Christmas Blend coffee and release a full collection of 100 uniquely designed Starbucks Cards.
Starbucks also introduced the “Starbucks for Life” contest, which will enable customers to swipe their Starbucks Card or pay using their mobile devices for a chance to win a free drink or food item every day for 30 years. Starbucks will randomly select 10 winners in the U.S. The contest will run from December 2 to 26.
“Holiday 2013 witnessed a seismic shift in consumer behavior in which many traditional brick-and-mortar retailers experienced a decline in foot traffic compared to significant growth in online shopping,” said Howard Schultz, Chairman, President and CEO of Starbucks Coffee Company. “Customers researched, compared prices and then bought the brands and items they wanted online, frequently utilizing a mobile device to do so. Since that time, we have been focused on radically redefining the Starbucks retail experience for our partners, customers and stores.”
]]> (Glenn Taylor) News Briefs Fri, 17 Oct 2014 15:16:03 -0400
Wal-Mart Boosts Investment In E-Commerce, Reduces Store Openings Wal-Mart Boosts Investment In E-Commerce, Reduces Store Openings

Wal-Mart Stores has announced plans to focus more investments in e-Commerce and digital initiatives in FY2016 up to $1.5 billion, a 50% increase from the $1 billion estimate for FY2015.

In contrast, the retailer will add fewer store space in FY2016: approximately 30 million square feet down from 34 million in FY2015. The company expects to open between 60 and 70 supercenters and 200 to 220 Neighborhood Markets in FY2016, both reduced from the 120 supercenters and 240 Neighborhood Markets projected to be built by the end of FY2015.

“We will change the mix of our capital spend through reductions in areas we have invested in historically to fund investments in new growth opportunities,” said Doug McMillon, CEO of Walmart. “Overall capital range will be slightly lower than last year with a mix difference toward more e-Commerce dollars.”

{loadposition GIAA}The retailer revealed capital expenditure plans for FY2016 at the annual Investment Community meeting. Total capital spending for FY2016 is projected to range between $11.6 and $12.9 billion.

Wal-Mart also projected net sales growth for FY2015 to range between 2% and 3%, down from the 3% to 5% estimate released in October 2013.

As part of the e-Commerce investments, Wal-Mart plans to build two new 1-million-square-foot online fulfillment centers in Atlanta, Ga. and Bethlehem, Pa. The company anticipates e-Commerce growth to average 30% to 40% per year from 2016 through 2018.

]]> (Glenn Taylor) News Briefs Fri, 17 Oct 2014 11:18:45 -0400
Is Amazon Breaking Into Brick-And-Mortar? Is Amazon Breaking Into Brick-And-Mortar?

Amazon has been recognized as an innovator and retail industry game-changer, helping to make online shopping the norm for consumers worldwide. But will the online giant be putting a new spin on brick-and-mortar?

Representatives have confirmed that Amazon will open pop-up kiosks in San Francisco and Sacramento, Calif., next week that will remain open through the end of the holiday season. The locations will sell Amazon-branded hardware, including Kindle e-readers, Fire tablets and Fire Phones.

Most conversations, however, are centered on reports from The Wall Street Journal indicating that the eTailer plans to open a brick-and-mortar location in New York City in time for the holidays.

Up to 40% of consumers said they are open to purchasing any kind of product on Amazon, according to the Future Of Retail study from Walker Sands Communications. Should the eTailer create an in-store experience, Mike Santoro, President of Walker Sands Communications, believes there is an opportunity to “move the needle on the 60% opposed to purchasing products such as beds, couches and other items without seeing and feeling them first.”

Although an Amazon representative told Retail TouchPoints that the company has made “no announcements about a location in Manhattan,” The Wall Street Journal provided in-depth details regarding the store, its purpose, location and even inventory assortment.

The more permanent location reportedly will be located across the street from the Empire State Building, at 7 West 34th St. — placed one block east of the Macy’s flagship store in Herald Square. 

Initially, the store will serve as a mini warehouse to facilitate same-day delivery in New York, product returns and exchanges, and online order pickups. Amazon eventually will add a more diverse assortment of its branded hardware.

“It makes sense to focus on same day delivery items and items that differentiate Amazon from its competitors, said Michael Dart, a partner in the Private Equity practice at A.T. Kearney and co-author of The New Rules Of Retail — Competing In The World’s Toughest Marketplace. Current reports will “undoubtedly not reflect the full plans or how the concept will likely revolve,” Dart added.“In the long run, this platform should give Amazon the ability to maximize all aspects of its business.” The platform potentially could one day include marketplace brands and partners.

Improving Customer Satisfaction

The clear focus of the New York City store is to accelerate order fulfillment and delivery times in order to create a more enjoyable customer experience.

This move could be part of “a major shift, notonly for Amazon, but for retail at large,” Santoro noted. Results from the company’s Future Of Retail study indicated that two thirds of consumers are more willing to shop somewhere with one-day shipping, and another 44% with same-day shipping. “If Amazon's store could facilitate faster shipping speeds for more mainstream shoppers, that would certainly make an impact on the market.”

There are additional benefits. With the new store, Amazon also will have an opportunity to engage with customers in a more intimate, one-to-one fashion, which isn’t as easy to create through the web.

“The store will give Amazon a new vehicle to interact more closely with their customers and collect more valuable feedback than they have historically been able to do,” explained Jason Goldberg, VP of Commerce Strategy at Razorfish, a marketing and experience agency. “A physical store will allow Amazon to observe portions of the pre-shopping process that they don't have access to online.”

Amazon has developed a reputation for having an exemplary customer service team, but if the location is more focused on order fulfillment and logistics, an entirely different skill set may be required.

“It has been easy for Amazon to have a strong brand voice because they’re speaking through one channel or megaphone,” said Jim Dion, President and Owner of Dionco. “But there’s something about having someone stand two feet in front of you explaining the product. It’s a whole different world that Amazon has never experienced.”

Dion added: “I’ve had customer service reps respond minutes if not an hour after I reach out to Amazon and I have always been very happy and pleased with their customer service. But you have to wonder which side will own the retail experience, customer service or the operations side, which is made up of tough taskmasters. They have an entirely different culture.”

Generating Brand And Product Buzz

Many facts regarding Amazon’s brick-and-mortar location are still up in the air, however, the store will undoubtedly generate buzz for the brand.   

“Brick-and-mortar stores are great advertising vehicles for online businesses,” Goldberg said. “Online retailers with regional brick-and-mortar presences always see the majority of their traffic come from the regions where they have stores. While Amazon obviously already enjoys great brand recognition, the physical store will still be a powerful reminder to New York City shoppers that Amazon can fulfill their needs.”

Opening a brick-and-mortar location also allows Amazon to have more points of contact with customers — a concept Dart calls “pre-emptive distribution.”

With pre-emptive distribution, retailers can “always be ahead of competitors,” Dart said. “Opening exciting new stores in New York City and elsewhere is part of this pre-emptive distribution strategy. Amazon also is creating a neurological connection with consumers by creating buzz and excitement around the brand, and making itself increasingly relevant to every shopping occasion for its customers.”

Although consumers can touch and feel Amazon hardware by visiting partner stores, such as Target and Walmart, having the products in a branded environment with knowledgeable associates may help the eTailer generate more sales for its line of products.    

“Clearly some Amazon-branded products, such as the Fire Phone, would have benefited from better first party physical merchandising,” Goldberg said. “Features like Dynamic Perspective require an in-person demonstration to appreciate, and Amazon was totally dependent on third parties to deliver that demonstration experience. A physical store will give Amazon its own laboratory to test and learn how customers want to pre-shop for physical goods.”

Needless to say, the retail industry is anxiously waiting to find out what Amazon has in store for the 2014 holiday season and beyond.   


]]> (Alicia Fiorletta) Trend Watch Fri, 17 Oct 2014 00:00:00 -0400
Blimpie Integrates Digital And Physical Marketing With Anniversary Campaign

Many retailers are improving collaboration between their brick-and-mortar, e-Commerce and marketing departments to create more seamless and consistent experiences across all channels. For some organizations, however, integrating departments can be a challenging process, making successful cross-channel campaigns difficult to achieve. 

Blimpie tackled this integration challenge and saw success with campaigns designed to celebrate the sandwich chain’s 50th anniversary. For the FANmercial and Golden Giveaway initiatives, customers were encouraged to stay engaged with the franchise through social media, email and when visiting the restaurants. To ensure success, different departments within Kahala, the parent company of Blimpie, converged.

“Instead of having to call up an agency and tell them what we wanted to do, we sat around the table together, creating the marketing calendar and executing ideas,” said Courtney Nush, Director of Digital Media at Kahala.

Kahala has an interactive marketing team that discusses different components of campaigns — both online and offline.

“We saw there was a huge opportunity to close the loop and have all digital and in-store efforts complement each other,” added Steve Evans, VP of Marketing at Kahala. “We’re now constantly collaborating.”

As a result of this successful collaboration, Blimpie reported a 34.2% increase in Facebook fans through August 2014, saw a more than 10% boost in memberships to its loyalty eClub and an email conversion rate of 65%.

{loadposition GIAA}For the FANmercial campaign, which began in January 2014, Blimpie fans submitted ideas for commercials focused on the chain’s 50th birthday. FANmercials were published and promoted on the Blimpie Facebook page and customers were encouraged to vote for their favorite to win a variety of prizes. More than 11,000 fans voted for their favorite ideas, and the top three concepts were put into production. During the second phase of the campaign, than 34,000 consumers voted for their favorite of the three television spots.

The Golden Giveaway, however, was designed to reward all Blimpie fans by giving them the opportunity to win prizes ranging from food items to a trip to Hawaii. Customers who purchased a combo meal at any location received a scratch-off card to instantly win free food or beverages from Blimpie. Every card also included a unique code that could be entered online for a chance to win the grand prize. Facebook users also had the opportunity to win Blimpie gift cards via a Facebook app. App users also were encouraged to visit a store, purchase a combo and receive a code to win higher-value prizes such as free subs for a year, a Samsung tablet or the trip to Hawaii.

“We took this two-tier approach to engage digital fans, as well as in-store customers,” Nush said. “We want our in-store customers to become digital fans and we want digital fans to eventually become customers.”

Rather than relying on vanity metrics such as “likes,” Blimpie focuses on building more long-term connections with fans, Nush explained. “We’re trying to reach out to fans and customers on a more ongoing basis and reward people who allow us to market to them every day on networks. We want to reward the customers who purchased a combo, but also the people who haven’t purchased from us recently and give them a reason to visit us again.”

Due to the success of the 50th birthday campaign, Blimpie plans to create more initiatives that tie the digital and in-store worlds together.

“We’re really happy to see for the first time that our traditional, in-store point-of-purchase advertising connect to something on a web,” Evans said. “Everything we learned from this campaign will be applied again throughout our 2015 marketing calendar.”


]]> (Alicia Fiorletta) Retail Success Stories Fri, 17 Oct 2014 07:37:54 -0400
Apple Pay Launches October 20 Apple Pay Launches October 20

Apple Pay on iPad Air 2Users of Apple’s latest mobile devices can start loading credit cards and make payments on Monday, October 20 when iOS 8.1 is pushed for release. Apple Pay allows shoppers to pay for items using their iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 plus devices in participating stores and within apps. The newly announced iPad Air 2 and iPad Mini 3 also will include Apple Pay, however these devices do not include NFC chips, so functionality is limited to payments within apps.

“Our team has worked incredibly hard to make Apple Pay private and secure, with the simplicity of a single touch of your finger,” said Eddy Cue, SVP of Internet Software and Services at Apple. “The reaction to Apple Pay has been amazing. We continue to add more Apple Pay ready banks, credit card companies and merchants, and think our users will love paying with Apple Pay.”

{loadposition GIAA}At launch, Apple Pay will offer support for credit and debit cards from American Express, MasterCard and Visa that are issued from banks including Bank of America, Capital One Bank, Chase, Citi and Wells Fargo. More than 500 banks signed on to the service since its original announcement on September 9, and additional banks are expected to be added to the service, including Barclaycard, Navy Federal Credit Union, PNC Bank, USAA and U.S. Bank.

Apple’s own stores are among the first to accept Apple Pay for in-store payments. Other participating retailers at launch include Aéropostale, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Bloomingdale’s, Foot Locker, Macy’s, McDonald’s, Panera Bread, Petco, Sports Authority, SUBWAY, Toys”R”Us, Walgreens and Whole Foods Market. Additional retailers are expected to be added before the end of the year, and equipment vendors and payment solution providers are working with retailers to allow them to accept payments with Apple Pay.

“We are excited to make it easier and more convenient for our customers to shop at Whole Foods Market,” said Walter Robb, co-CEO of Whole Foods Market. “We are thrilled to be one of the first retailers to accept Apple Pay across all of our locations nationwide as it offers our shoppers a fast, private and secure check out option at our stores.”

Retailers who will offer support for in-app payments at launch include the Apple Store app, Groupon, OpenTable, Panera Bread, Staples, Target and Uber. More companies, including Airbnb, Sephora, Starbucks, StubHub, Ticketmaster and, are expected to add support by the end of 2014.

For more information on Apple Pay, including how it works, click here to view our earlier coverage.

]]> (Rob Fee) News Briefs Thu, 16 Oct 2014 18:02:17 -0400
TiVo And HSN Turn The TV Into A Shopping Touch Point TiVo And HSN Turn The TV Into A Shopping Touch Point

Shop By RemoteTiVo and HSN have partnered to launch Shop By Remote, an interactive shopping tool that allows TiVo users to shop for products featured on HSN through their televisions. This new shopping tool is available to all TiVo users.

“HSN is excited to partner with the creators of TiVo and to bring to our shared customer a fantastic TV shopping experience,” said Peter Ruben, EVP of Affiliate Marketing and Sales for HSN. “The ease and convenience of HSN Shop by Remote is a natural fit with TiVo’s intuitive, highly user-friendly interface.”

{loadposition GIAA}To use Shop By Remote, viewers can launch the HSN app from the Apps & Games menu on TiVo Central and view items featured on HSN’s programming or browse through more than 40,000 products. To begin a purchase, customers must either log in to an existing HSN account or create a new one.

“TiVo understands that consumers have come to expect more from their television viewing experience — they expect valuable content, delivered conveniently and easily on one platform,” said Tara Maitra, SVP and GM of Content and Media Sales at TiVo. “By partnering with HSN, TiVo is doing just that. No longer will television viewers need to leave their TV to search online to find what they just saw on HSN. Instead, they can pause their favorite shopping show and buy it directly through TiVo Central, all from the comfort of their home.”

]]> (Rob Fee) News Briefs Thu, 16 Oct 2014 15:11:06 -0400
Adore Me Puts A Gamified Twist On Charitable Giving Adore Me Puts A Gamified Twist On Charitable Giving

adoreme-press-3Adore Me, an online-only lingerie retailer, has launched a branded online gaming platform designed to reward consumers and their favorite charities.

The Adore Me Play For Good(s) online game is designed to allow shoppers to play games while winning prizes and contributing to a charitable cause. The first game release is based on the well-known game 2048, in which players need to slide numbered tiles on a grid and combine them to create a tile with the number 2048. More games will be released in the near future.

“The Adore Me online game is a way for us to redefine how fashion brands engage with their customers,” said Morgan Hermand-Waiche, Founder and CEO of Adore Me. “We work hard to provide our customers with the most engaging and immersive experience possible, and our online game is a pioneer in this field.”

The gaming experience was developed in partnership with Onor, which provides a marketing platform that touts several skill-based game templates, self-serve features for experimenting with prizes and other elements that marketers can quickly alter throughout the duration of the campaign.

“We really see Onor’s technology as an important data-driven platform that drives new customer acquisition, customer engagement and loyalty,” said Hermand-Waiche in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “The platform is native and opt-in — not forced on the user or distractive — driven by earned media through its customer friendly social features and it builds relationships, so it is not only focused on the next transaction.”

{loadposition GIAA}Players can access Play For Good(s) from any device — desktop, tablet and mobile — and can select a charity they want to sponsor. Adore Me currently has partnerships with the Check Your Boobies cancer awareness fund and Third Wave Fund for gender justice. For every game played, Adore Me will donate 5 cents to the selected cause. Customers also have the opportunity to win a variety of prizes, including up to $20 off their next purchase and free lingerie sets.

“The Adore Me online game is an extension of our approach to including core values as an integral part of our business model,” Hermand-Waiche said. “Our commitment to being affordable, inclusive and empowering women has been key in driving our super-fast growth. It was very natural for us to put our commitment to female-oriented causes in the forefront, and to reward our customers when they do the same.”

Adore Me is promoting the game on its web site and mobile app, so customers can easily access it across all devices. “We also will be featuring the game in our upcoming customer newsletters and leverage our wide social reach — with over 665,000 followers on Facebook — to drive awareness to the game,” Hermand-Waiche said. “We hope that many of our customers will share the love and the experience with their friends, so they too could do well while doing good.”


]]> (Alicia Fiorletta) Retail Success Stories Thu, 16 Oct 2014 00:00:00 -0400
Chico’s Embraces Social Media To Raise $25,000 For Breast Health Awareness Chico’s Embraces Social Media To Raise $25,000 For Breast Health Awareness

Chico’s FAS
and its family of brands — Chico’s, White House Black Market, Soma and Boston Proper — have developed a set of core values and principles supporting a commitment to giving back.

Over the past 10 years, Chico’s FAS has developed a strong relationship with Living Beyond Breast Cancer, an organization dedicated to connecting people with trusted breast cancer information with a community of support. To date, Chico’s FAS has donated more than $2.1 million to the organization.

“In our lives and in our business, we are constantly touched by the individual power of women,” said Jessica Wells, VP of Social Marketing at Chico's FAS. “We are deeply committed to helping organizations that improve their health and wellbeing, like Living Beyond Breast Cancer, a resource where everyone touched by the disease can go for information and support. Our customers and associates have told us that they appreciate this commitment to giving back.”

In conjunction with Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Chico’s FAS has launched a new campaign called Pink My Pic, which encourages customers to upload photos, treat them with pink coloring and include the hash tag #TOGETHER. The multichannel campaign was developed in partnership with HelloWorld, and will run through the end of October.

“This year, we created Pink My Pic, an innovative and engaging digital campaign,” said Wells in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “While White House Black Market is leading the effort this year, Pink My Pic is supported by all four of our brands.”

{loadposition GIAA}At its core, Pink My Pic “is a way for our customers to show their support for breast cancer awareness,” Wells explained. “It also is designed to make people more aware of the work that Living Beyond Breast Cancer is doing to help women and their families who have been affected by this terrible disease. Our goal is virality — the more people who engage, the more attention is brought to the cause.”

The campaign is hosted on a mobile-optimized microsite branched off from each Chico’s FAS brand web site. Upon visiting the site, customers are asked to connect to Facebook, select or upload a photo and add a pink filter as well as the hash tag #TOGETHER to the photo.

For every individual who saves a Pink My Pic image as their Facebook profile photo, White House Black Market will donate $1 to Living Beyond Breast Cancer, with an additional $1 donation for every share via Facebook, Twitter and email. The retailer’s goal is to raise $25,000 through the multichannel campaign. All user-generated content will be syndicated on a photo gallery on the White House Black Market homepage.

Chico’s FAS decided to incorporate user-generated content into the Pink My Pic campaign after seeing success with a fall 2014 initiative in which customers were asked to upload images of themselves wearing White House Black Market clothing.

“Though Pink My Pic is different,” Wells acknowledged, “we took a cue from that experience by leveraging the power of customer photos to help spread the word about breast cancer awareness and Living Beyond Breast Cancer.”

Putting a charitable spin on multichannel marketing initiatives has significantly improved customer engagement and overall loyalty. Wells explained: “Our customers tell us, via Facebook and other social sites, how much they love participating and how pleased they are to see that their favorite brands are supporting a cause.”


]]> (Alicia Fiorletta) Retail Success Stories Thu, 16 Oct 2014 05:01:36 -0400
There And Back Again There And Back Again

Rob FeeA lot can change in 10 years. In 2004, I had just left a position covering retail for one that focused on the pharmaceutical industry. Much of the retail news of the time centered around two things: The promise of RFID and the looming deadlines for compliance with the Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) Act of 2002. The buzzword of the time was multichannel.

Now, having joined Retail TouchPoints in August, I am back in the retail fold and amazed at how different the landscape is. Yes, RFID is still a promising technology, but the SOX deadlines have passed and, hopefully, been met. Multichannel has given way to omnichannel, and the focus now seems to be where it should have been all along — with the customer. Initiatives such as buy online, pickup in store were limited in 2004. These options are now becoming the norm.

{loadposition GIAA}Shoppers have more options of where to make a purchase, how to receive a purchase and what method to use to pay for it. These options didn’t exist 10 years ago and are a direct result of smartphone adoption in the U.S. This also means that the ways retailers can interact with potential customers in 2014 is far beyond anything they could have done in 2004, when smartphone usage was in its infancy and you still saw people using Palm Pilots.

There are now 163.9 million smartphone users in the U.S. 2014, according to a report from eMarketer. These users can search for the best deals and have access to user reviews while shopping in store. They can use their devices to pay, or they can even skip the store altogether and simply order what they want on the fly. The hardware is just one piece, though, and none of this would be possible without app developers.

I recently had a chance to meet with Chris Fagan, Co-Founder and CEO of Key Ring, a smartphone app recently named best mobile app for e-Commerce/retail in Digiday’s Mobi awards. Key Ring stores loyalty cards, creates sharable shopping lists, provides information on weekly specials and offers coupons or reminders on deals. It boasts 11 million users acquired through a process Fagan described as organic, which means minimal marketing is involved. It also is a tool that uses several technologies to provide benefit to both customers and retailers. Beacons using Bluetooth in a phone, for example, alert shoppers about the best deals as soon as they walk through the door.

Key Ring’s success illustrates how important mobility has become to both shoppers and retailers.

Technology moves fast. In 2004 I was excited by my recent iPod purchase and amazed at how much music I could fit onto its 15GB hard drive. Now, I can stream just about anything that comes to mind without taking up hard drive space. I can store more photos than I’ll ever know what to do with, and it has never been easier to catch up with friends through social media or even simply texting them. All this is done on a device that easily fits into my pocket. It’s the stuff of Star Trek, but will most likely seem antiquated when I look back in 2024.

]]> (Rob Fee) Editor's Perspective Wed, 15 Oct 2014 15:09:54 -0400
SAP Partners With IBM To Expand Cloud Services

sap ibm logo
has selected IBM as a premier strategic provider of cloud infrastructure services for its business applications. With the partnership SAP aims to accelerate customers' ability to run their businesses in the cloud. 

The SAP HANA Enterprise Cloud offering is now available through the IBM cloud, allowing the company to expand into new markets, domestically and globally. 

“This is a win/win/win for joint customers, SAP and IBM,” said Holger Mueller, Principal Analyst and VP at Constellation Research, Inc. “Customers get an enterprise friendly cloud infrastructure with a high number of geographical locations, SAP gets a partner in building out Infrastructure-as-a-Service and can focus more on enterprise software investments and IBM get key load for its cloud on a worldwide scale.”

The new partnership is positioned to help customers:

  • Put data to work with SAP HANA and business applications in the IBM Cloud;
  • Have access to an open-standards-basedapproach, enabling easier integration with existing technology investments;
  • Apply and extend their security best practices into a cloud environment.
  • Start locally and scale globally in the cloud; and
  • Comply with data residency and other regulatory mandates.

“We look forward to extending one of the longest and most successful partnerships in the IT industry," said Bill McDermott, CEO of SAP. "This global agreement with IBM heralds a new era of cloud collaboration."

]]> (Alicia Fiorletta) News Briefs Wed, 15 Oct 2014 14:23:49 -0400
Ensighten Acquires Anametrix To Add Marketing Analytics Technology To Platform

, a global omnichannel data and tag management provider, has acquired Anametrix, a cloud-based, multichannel marketing analytics platform. The news comes following Ensighten’s March 2014 purchase of tag management company TagMan.

The acquisition of Anametrix is positioned to help Ensighten build out its data-driven marketing offering, which initially enabled brands to collect, own and act on data generated across the customer journey. Organizations also will be able to unify and analyze data across paid, owned and earned media to make better marketing decisions. The solution will combine data from dozens of digital and offline sources, including web sites, mobile apps, social media, digital campaigns, CRM and internal systems.

"I'm excited by Ensighten's acquisition of Anametrix," said DK Ray, Director of Digital Traffic, Analytics and Optimization at T-Mobile, an Ensighten customer. "The ability to easily run advanced analytics and modeling within Ensighten's open marketing platform, and then use those insights to optimize advertising spend and drive real-time personalization is a huge competitive advantage.” 

]]> (Alicia Fiorletta) Mergers & Acquisitions Wed, 15 Oct 2014 10:39:47 -0400
Office Depot Implements Supplier Collaboration Solution From HighJump Software

Office Depot
Office Depot
has selected the Atlas Products network-based supplier collaboration platform from HighJump Software to better manage its European trading operations. 

A global provider of products, services and solutions for the workplace, Office Depot currently serves consumers through its more than 2,000 retail locations, e-Commerce web sites and a business-to-business sales channel.

The Atlas supplier enablement network will provide Office Depot with an electronic platform to facilitate collaboration and commerce with more than 4,000 suppliers across eight countries and seven languages. The platform is designed to enable product catalog and pricing synchronization, and supports European business-to-business standards, multiple currencies and value-added tax compliance.

In addition to providing the network-based technology platform, HighJump Software is delivering supplier on-boarding and enablement programs.

]]> (Alicia Fiorletta) News Briefs Wed, 15 Oct 2014 08:30:39 -0400
JCPenney Names Home Depot Exec President And CEO-Designee

EllisonThe JCPenney Board of Directors has selected Marvin Ellison, current EVP of U.S. Stores at The Home Depot, as the company’s next President and CEO-Designee effective November 1, 2014. Ellison also will officially succeed current CEO Myron “Mike” Ullman III as CEO and a member of the JCPenney Board of Directors when Ullman steps down on August 1, 2015.

Ellison has nearly 30 years of retail experience, serving in his current position since August 2008. He has worked at Home Depot in numerous executive roles for 12 years, including President of the company’s Northern Division and SVP of Global Logistics. Prior to joining Home Depot, Ellison spent 15 years with Target in a variety of operational roles, including Corporate Director of Asset Protection.

“[Ellison] brings to the role, among other assets, an extensive knowledge of store operations and supply chain management as well as a demonstrated ability to successfully run large retail organizations,” said Thomas J. Engibous, Chairman of the JCPenney Board of Directors. “In light of these attributes, we believe he is well equipped to return the Company to profitable growth.”

After stepping down, Ullman will become the Executive Chairman of the Board of Directors for  one year.

]]> (Glenn Taylor) Retail Movers & Shakers Wed, 15 Oct 2014 08:19:37 -0400
DICK’S Sporting Goods Improves Customer Engagement, Satisfaction With New Mobile App DICK’S Sporting Goods Improves Customer Engagement, Satisfaction With New Mobile App

Over the past few years, DICK’S Sporting Goods has seen a significant uptick in mobile traffic and sales. To keep mobile-savvy shoppers engaged and satisfied, the sporting goods retailer has re-designed and re-launched its mobile app for Android and iOS smartphones.

“We are aware of our customers' affinity for their mobile device and are committed to ensuring they have the best mobile experience to engage with us when and where they would like,” said Rafeh Masood, VP of Customer Innovation Technology at DICK’s Sporting Goods. “We are placing a high emphasis on how our customer’s mobile device can enhance their in-store shopping experience.”

With the updated app, consumers will have anytime, anywhere access to their ScoreCard Rewards Program accounts, points, special offers and store ads, as well as all product inventory.

“Integration with ScoreCard allows us to provide a seamless experience across channels,” explained Masood in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “Our focus is to improve our customer experience by offering the convenience of retrieving ScoreCard information on devices at checkout, check point balance, as well as redeem any available certificates. It also provides a platform to continue to build and offer convenience across all customer channels.”

{loadposition GIAA}While on the go, consumers also will be able to more easily engage with the DICK’s brand on social media, including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Foursquare, and look up nearby locations. However, while in-store, consumers have access to a wealth of resources and information to enrich their brick-and-mortar shopping experience.

For example, the app has built-in barcode scanner functionality, so shoppers can scan product and marketing QR codes to access more detailed descriptions, relevant news, prices and user reviews.

“Customers are looking for the convenience of mobile to complement their shopping experience,” Masood explained. “Connecting our customers with rich content to assist their shopping experience or providing them information on their activity of choice is essential.”

Shopper feedback plays a “very important” role in the DICK’S Sporting Goods roadmap, according to Masood. The retailer continuously monitors and analyzes feedback from app stores, within the mobile app and through usability studies.

Since simplifying the overall experience and adding the new features, DICK’S Sporting Goods has seen mobile engagement levels rise.

“More and more customers are downloading the current version of the app than previous releases,” Masood said. “Features such as Scorecard and in-store mobile are definitely adding value and driving adoption.Customers love the simplified look and feel and the convenience of having the information at their fingertips, which is reflected in the uptick of downloads we’re experiencing in comparison to previous versions of the app.”

Although customer sentiment is high, DICK’S Sporting Goods plans to continue to enhance the app experience based on the feedback retrieved from users. 


]]> (Alicia Fiorletta) Retail Success Stories Wed, 15 Oct 2014 07:20:33 -0400
EarthLink Unveils PCI Compliance Solutions Suite EarthLink Unveils PCI Compliance Solutions Suite

EarthLinkPCIEarthLink Holdings Corp., an online services and cloud solutions provider for multi-location businesses, has launched the PCI Compliance Solutions suite designed to help retailers achieve and maintain PCI DSS 3.0 compliance while ensuring financial breach protection.

“When we speak with retail CIOs, the increasing risk of data breaches and cost-effective PCI compliance remain top of mind,” said Rick Froehlich, EVP of Products and Consumer at Earthlink. “But many do not know where to start or lack the in-house expertise to tackle the issue.”

{loadposition GIAA}EarthLink partnered with ANXeBusiness Corp. (ANX), a compliance solutions provider, to develop the suite, which includes three solutions: PCI Protect, PCI Assist and PCI Certify. PCI Protect is designed to deliver financial data breach protection and a self-service PCI portal with a set of tools to help retailers meet PCI requirements. These tools include: Web-based employee training, a self-assessment questionnaire, security policy templates, record-keeping, quarterly self-service vulnerability scans and breach protection for each location.

PCI Assist includes portal usage guidance, vulnerability remediation assistance, a PCI compliance management roadmap as well as expert assistance to help ensure compliance tasks are met throughout the year. PCI Certify provides professional services designed to validate the self-assessment questionnaire or deliver a full-service PCI audit.

]]> (Glenn Taylor) News Briefs Tue, 14 Oct 2014 12:32:07 -0400
Progressive Retailers Differentiate With Content Marketing Progressive Retailers Differentiate With Content Marketing

shadow RTP RT034 SR ContentandCommerce Oct 2014 1With more competition throughout the industry than ever before, retailers are identifying new opportunities to stand out from the crowd by turning to content marketing.

While content marketing is a practice that has primarily been used in the B2B space, merchants now see the e-Commerce site, social media and branded publications as outlets to provide consumers with compelling information that may lead to a purchase.

Retailers such as BeachMint, Pet360, Duane Reade, Net-a-Porter and Gilt Groupe are implementing creative content marketing initiatives to engage consumers throughout the purchasing process and further build the consumer-retailer relationship.

Fill out the form below to download the complete, complimentary report.



]]> (Glenn Taylor) Special Reports Tue, 14 Oct 2014 10:10:38 -0400
How To Get To Omnichannel…Fast How To Get To Omnichannel…Fast

VP Shopvisible head shotAs consumers, we’ve been experiencing omnichannel retail in our everyday lives.  Retailers know that today’s shopper uses all channels available to them, including multiple channels for a single purchase.  Consumers want to go online and quickly serve themselves, gleaning pricing, availability and delivery times from a retail website. Based on that information, they’ll place orders and choose how they want to receive them, with options such as direct shipping or in-store pickup.  With time and convenience being critical factors to customer satisfaction. 

To provide one personal real-world omnichannel example, I’ll share the experience of walking into Nordstrom’s. An associate there had the ability to look instantly to see whether a shirt I wanted was available in my size in the store, online or in another store. Then, upon finding the desired shirt, that associate placed an order to have the item shipped right to a Nordstrom’s of my choice, or even more conveniently, to my doorstep. We only need to have this experience once to realize, this is the way it is supposed to be. And each day our newest omnichannel experiences raises the bar higher.

Before the adoption of new technology there always seems to be a cycle...first there is customer demand, then there’s awareness as marketers start to talk about it, ultimately leading to execution.  The world now realizes it is time to execute the omnichannel strategy. The reality is that the standard has been set, and it is high. However seamless the Nordstrom’s experience may appear to the consumer, it requires a combination of strategy, business process and technology to provide a true omnichannel experience. 

Todays’ retailers are being delivered their marching orders — know thy customer and know thy inventory — to make this a reality. Being omnichannel means you can answer questions, such as “’Where are my products?”, “What are the best processes available to serve my customers?”, “How can I get my product(s) to the customer at the time and place of their choosing?”, and “How can my customers make returns regardless of how the item was purchased? “ It’s a lot to control. 

So how do you get to “omnichannel” as soon as possible? Some companies are taking the lengthy route, tearing out all their systems and building new ones from scratch, but that is a time consuming, costly and disruptive process.

Others are learning that they can solve the Omnichannel Imperative by integrating a distributed Order Management System (OMS) to their current systems. Doing so can quickly facilitate today’s omnichannel experience via a centralized hub that connects all customer channels with their existing operations and systems.

Integration is key to realize the visibility you need to provide an omnichannel experience.  According to Peter Sheldon at Forrester Research, 52% of eBusiness professionals ranked omnichannel integration as a top technology investment priority in 2014.  Most retailers HAVE the data, they have an inventory record, they have their customer’s records, they have a product catalog, and hopefully they have a website too. The trouble is that too many do not have the systems in place to connect all of this information.

An intelligent OMS provides connectivity between disparate systems and acts as a hub for customer data, product data and inventory in a well-orchestrated choreography. Your OMS can completely integrate with all types of systems, such as your ERP and financial systems, warehouse management system and even drop shippers, retail systems such as a POS, marketplaces such as Amazon,, and eBay, as well as comparison shopping engines, like NexTag and PriceGrabber.  In complex B2B environments, an OMS can access pre-negotiated process lists, contract terms, configurations and more.  Then it matches this information with available inventory and shipping options and executes the order.

A few examples of what an integrated OMS can provide include:

  • Visibility of inventory in your warehouse, in your stores and distribution centers;
  • Flawless logic to synchronize shipment of a complex order from multiple distribution centers;
  • Ability to understand dissimilar drop shipper formats, order processing, account set up and billing practices; and
  • Ability to store multiple suppliers with varying inventories at different levels to optimize fulfillment of orders.

An integrated OMS satisfies the growing demand of retailers, manufacturers, brands and more to provide a single integrated 360 degree view of their customers. The nature of the supply chain requires now that companies have immediate visibility into their inventory across the enterprise, and the orchestration of customer information and orders to and from all possible points of purchase and all possible points of fulfillment. Whether you are a retailer or manufacturer, an OMS can work in concert with whatever existing systems you have in place, leading to the type of omnichannel buying scenario your customers want.


Sean Cook is CEO of ShopVisible. His career spans 30 years of innovation, leadership, and providing extraordinary value to businesses, employees, and his local community. In early 2006, Cook joined with ShopVisible's co-founders to build an award winning SaaS commerce platform. Prior to ShopVisible, Sean held several leadership positions in companies such as Earthlink, BellSouth and iXL. As the author of Evolving Commerce and as a recognized industry thought leader, Sean has been published in publications such as Forbes, 1to1 Magazine, Internet Retailer and He is also a frequent presenter at events such as IRCE, and Online Digital Summit. Sean's entrepreneurial spirit was recently recognized with a top 10 placement as one of Atlanta's Top Entrepreneurs.

]]> (Sean Cook, ShopVisible) Executive ViewPoints Tue, 14 Oct 2014 10:05:09 -0400
Kmart Investigates Payment System Breach Kmart Investigates Payment System Breach

Kmart is investigating a store payment data system breach, according to President and Chief Member Officer Alasdair James.

On Oct. 9, 2014, the Kmart IT team determined that the payment data systems at Kmart Stores had been infected with a new form of malware in early September 2014. The malware has been removed.

Following the discovery of the potential breach, Kmart contracted an IT security firm to conduct a forensic investigation. To date, the investigation has determined that no personal information, credit/debit PIN numbers, email addresses or social security numbers were obtained by the cybercriminals. There also is no evidence that online shoppers were impacted. Kmart is collaborating with federal law enforcement, banking partners and security experts to rectify the situation.

“The privacy and security of our customers’ information is of utmost importance to us, and we are committed to doing everything we can to safeguard our customers’ information in the face of a recent surge of data attacks,” James said. “To further protect our members and customers who shopped with a credit or debit card in our Kmart stores during the month of September through Oct. 9, 2014, Kmart will be offering free credit monitoring protection.”

Customers potentially impacted by the breach can receive more information at or by calling the customer care center at 888-488-5978.

]]> (Alicia Fiorletta) News Briefs Tue, 14 Oct 2014 10:08:22 -0400
CPG And Retail M&A Activity Reaches Highest-Valued First Half Since 2007 CPG And Retail M&A Activity Reaches Highest-Valued First Half Since 2007

RR Mergermarket image 1CPG and retail mergers and acquisitions (M&A) increased 3.3% in the first half of 2014 to $140.7 billion, marking the highest-valued first half of activity since 2008 ($147.7 billion), according to a global consumer trend report from MergerMarket.

Activity in the first half of 2014 improved 44.7% over the second half of 2013. The retail sector had its most active first half since 2007, accumulating $49.1 billion.

Data points from the report are based on announced transactions over $5 million within the consumer packaged goods (CPG) and retail sectors. Deals with undisclosed values are included if the target’s turnover exceeds $10 million.

Despite the strong half-year performance, Q2 2014 activity throughout the sectors decreased 35.3% over Q1, fall from $85.4 billion to $55.3 billion. Additional concerns stem from a 42.3% decrease in cross-border consumer M&A activity between Q1 and Q2 2014. Consumer M&A appears to be a “lagging indicator” for the decrease in worldwide consumer spending in Q1 2014, according to the report. Domestic numbers fell 28.4% during the same time period.

Consumer M&A contributed 8.9% to the global M&A market in the first half of 2014, which is in line with the 8% contribution in the second half of 2013 but below the 13.5% share contributed in the first half of the year.

Activity in the CPG sector in Q2 2014 amounted to $21.7 billion, a 53.3% improvement from Q1 2014, marking a fourth consecutive increase in quarterly values. However, transaction totals from the first half of 2014 were down 43.6% from those made in the first half of 2013.

Goldman Sachs was a top advisor based on its involvement in M&As. The company advised four of the top 10 consumer deals. Goldman advised 19 deals that were worth a combined $36.2 billion. Rothschild advised the most transactions, with 31 deals totaling $18.6 billion.

]]> (Glenn Taylor) Mergers & Acquisitions Tue, 14 Oct 2014 08:57:57 -0400
Retailers And Suppliers Optimize Merchandise Planning With Market6 Vantage Suite Retailers And Suppliers Optimize Merchandise Planning With Market6 Vantage Suite

SS Vantage image3Retailers and suppliers need to consistently collaborate and share information to drive customer satisfaction, loyalty and sales.

Retail analytics provider Market6 has released Market6 Vantage, a suite of applications designed to automate and simplify joint business planning and retail-supplier collaboration. The suite automates the development and maintenance of joint merchandising plans and enables retailers and suppliers to share information more seamlessly and standardize planning processes.

Market6 Vantage includes three modules: Insight, Plan and Evaluate. Vantage Insight allows businesses to automate data collection and integration to establish a fact-based view of inventory and sales. With the module, retailers and suppliers can determine whether or not past results have met expectations and overall goals. With the Plan module, both parties can run simulations to test the potential impact of plans.

Vantage Evaluate is designed to track and report in-flight execution daily at the item and store level. The module alerts retailers and suppliers when results start to deviate from the initial store plan, pinpointing the exact cause of the issue so action can be taken immediately.

“Consumers today expect not only a flawless shopping experience, complete with the perfect assortment of products, helpful friendly store personnel and a convenient comfortable store atmosphere, but also prices that match their expectations of value," said Jim Kelly, CEO of Market6. “The only way retailers and suppliers can meet that increasingly high expectation is to work closely together to deepen their understanding of shoppers and deliver targeted merchandising programs that are more efficient and effective than in the past.”

]]> (Glenn Taylor) Solution Spotlight Tue, 14 Oct 2014 09:53:58 -0400
Luxottica CEO Resigns After Six Weeks In Position

Luxottica Group, a designer, manufacturer and distributor of luxury and sports eyewear, held an emergency Board of Directors meeting after Enrico Cavatorta, CEO of the company, resigned on Oct. 12, 2014.

Cavatorta, who previously served as Chief Financial Officer for the Milan-based organization, reportedly resigned over disagreements with founder Leonardo Del Vecchio, according to The Wall Street Journal. Specifically, “the two had conflicting views over the scope of Cavatorta’s powers...” He initially joined Luxottica in September 2014, taking over as CEO after Andrea Guerra stepped down from the position.

In the interim, Massimo Vian, current Chief Operations Officer, will be named co-CEO for Operations and Product, according to a company press release. Del Vecchio will take on executive responsibilities while Luxottica Group selects a new co-CEO of Markets “based on a high profile list of candidates.”

Reporting revenue totaling more than $9 million (€7.3 million) in 2013, Luxottica operates 16 retail brands in 10 countries including Sunglass Hut International, Lenscrafters, Peale Vision, Sears Optical and Target Optical. In total, Luxottical Retail has more than 7,000 retail locations.

]]> (Alicia Fiorletta) Retail Movers & Shakers Tue, 14 Oct 2014 08:12:27 -0400
BoldChat Extends Live Chat To Mobile Devices BoldChat Extends Live Chat To Mobile Devices

SS site only Boldchat imageNow that mobile consumers can access their favorite retailers with just the tap of a screen, they have higher expectations of their shopping experiences. To adhere to these expectations and provide optimal customer support, retailers need to empower shoppers to reach them at any time.

BoldChat, a live chat and multichannel customer engagement offering from LogMeIn, is designed to allow retailers to extend chat capabilities to their mobile web sites and apps.

The release includes an in-app mobile software development kit and provides sample iOS and Android apps to help speed live chat deployments. Additionally, the solution provides mobile reporting across both app environments, as well as mobile browsers designed to help businesses create targeted plans for optimizing engagement.

“With more customers using mobile devices to shop and research, it's essential that we approach customer engagement with a mobile mindset," said Tim Taggart, Director of Customer Service and Fulfillment at Sundance Catalog Company, a BoldChat user. "Whether it's through our mobile website or our traditional website, our goal is to provide our customers with a consistent experience, and to offer them the best possible means of interacting with our team. The new capabilities in BoldChat open up a wealth of possibilities to better serve this rapidly growing percentage of our customer base, while engaging them when and where it matters most."

]]> (Glenn Taylor) Solution Spotlight Tue, 14 Oct 2014 08:35:20 -0400
Turning Showrooming Into A Retail Advantage Turning Showrooming Into A Retail Advantage

VP site only Pop-Up Artists head shotBrick-and-mortar retailers are howling about “showrooming.”  Someone comes into the store to see, touch and experience the product, only to return home to the Internet to compare prices and buy it elsewhere. But what if retailers could turn “showrooming” into their advantage?

The good news is retailers can! By displaying samples of e-Commerce brands, taking orders through the existing e-Commerce brand web site and getting a cut of the action. Savvy retailers can even charge a base rent, calculated on sales per square-foot, the model that Bloomingdale’s uses for shop-in-shops. 

Test New Categories

Here’s how the retailer wins. First, they can test new categories without financial risk. The biggest risk in retail is removed!  And, instead of laying out cash for inventory, the retailer can take it in with the base rent, adding to profitability.   

{loadposition GIAA}For example, a clothing boutique can test jewelry.  A small sample presentation can remain live for six weeks in brick-and-mortar, with the store staff taking orders through the brand’s website.  If successful the retailer can continue the relationship.  If not, the retailer simply brings in a new brand and it’s a risk-free way to build their business!   

Expand Business, Not Footprint

Now that you understand the basics, take it a step further. Brick-and-mortar retailers now have a vehicle to expand their businesses using their existing footprint. Without adding any square footage, the possibilities of expanding the business across categories are unlimited.

Picture this: Some well-merchandised little nooks displaying a dozen samples from multiple new categories, with a handy tablet, along with a trained and incentivized staff to help customers “round out the brand” using the tablet to close the sale! Every square foot in the store becomes endlessly efficient and without financial risk.

Concerned about keeping customer relationships intact? Just enter new customers into your own database when they purchase. Your customer is also likely buying stuff online anyway. Why not be the resource that makes the introduction? 

Besides, as a brick-and-mortar retailer, you are providing a valuable benefit to growing online brands.  That is an opportunity for consumers to touch and try on the brand. Or in the case of cosmetics, even to smell it! Today’s buzz is about “experience and entertainment” over “acquiring” but I believe that the most exciting stores have the best merchandising and the best experiences.

Looking To The Future

Let’s take it even one step further into the future. If retailers can spend less time on the trade — buying inventory and selling it — and more time getting to know their customers, we really have something. 

Retailers and store associates can start to understand their customers’ lives. What style home do they have?  Do they commute to work? How? What do they do for fun? Are they married?  Do they have children? Where do they vacation? The list goes on. The retailer can get to know these people as friends and solidify loyalty. 

But what’s the benefit for the store? Well, birthday, anniversary and holiday gifts for starters. If you sell a certain type of clothing, what’s the best fit? In terms of home décor, what does your customer like for their homes? And for the fitness inclined, how about activity trackers? The more the focus goes to the customer, and the less the focus goes to the managing inventory, the better off you are.

From a creative standpoint, there’s another major benefit.  The better the retailer understands the customer’s lifestyle, the more exciting the merchandising can become and the more finely focused in-store events can become. Not only is the shopping experience better but your store also becomes the destination for your customer for their lifestyle. 

Independent brick-and-mortar retailers should not fear showrooming because now they can get everything the big guys have. That’s how to make showrooming work for you!

Pop-Up Artists is a strategic marketing agency that creates focused physical shops integrating e-Commerce for retail and luxury brand clients. Janet Valenza, who is President at Pop-Up Artists, is a former c-suite executive from the Young & Rubicam family of companies.  She can be reached at 917.497.5319 or   

]]> (Janet Valenza, Pop-Up Artists) Executive ViewPoints Tue, 14 Oct 2014 08:19:36 -0400
TOMS Uses Salesforce Service Cloud To Fuel One For One Movement TOMS Uses Salesforce Service Cloud To Fuel One For One Movement

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Some retailers are focusing on social good and responsibility by forging relationships with charities and non-profits. But there are other retailers, like TOMS, that could be described as “movement-based organizations,” and have social good and charitable giving at their core, according to Zita Cassizzi, Chief Digital Officer at TOMS. 

Since its inception in 2006, TOMS has extended its “One for One” business model to consumers worldwide. For each item sold, the company will give one to a person in need. While TOMS is known for its slip-on shoes, the product line has expanded to include reading glasses, sunglasses and even coffee.

“We are a movement-based business and even the way TOMS started in 2006 was very focused on word-of-mouth and organic growth,” said Cassizzi in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “Having that relationship with our customers is most important for us. It’s so much more than just selling shoes; we’re having our ‘tribe members’ join a movement with us.”

To activate and nurture meaningful relationships with its “tribe members,” TOMS uses the Salesforce Service Cloud, which helps provide a 360-degree view of customers, their past purchases and interactions, and overall sentiment.

{loadposition GIAA}“We wanted the best tool possible to help us deepen that relationship with our customers,” Cassizzi said. As the company grew, and expanded to include a strong e-Commerce presence, two brick-and-mortar stores and distribution partnerships with multiple retailers, it became more difficult to keep deep connections with customers. “We turned to Salesforce because we want to build even stronger and longer lasting relationships with customers, and connect our employees.”

A Service Revolution

Initially, call center agents in the U.S. and Europe used Service Cloud so they could better manage phone calls and social media inquiries. But TOMS doesn’t focus on traditional performance metrics, such as average handle time—or the total time it takes to resolve customer issues. Instead, the brand and retailer focuses on customer happiness and their overall influence on the entire TOMS movement.

“We have a customer happiness guarantee, so we’re not going to use average handle time as a key metric to make decisions,” Cassizzi said. “We’re a story, we’re a movement and we want to have relationships with customers. We measure success by figuring out if we took care of the issue the customer had, if they’re satisfied and if they joined the movement. It’s more about those metrics than just efficiency.”

Because the primary customer base for TOMS is Millennials, the brand finds it paramount to be present and active across channels, especially social media.

“Most of our customers are using social media as a regular channel versus an outlet to rant or rave about something,” Cassizzi said. “It is a key channel for all types of conversations.” Although TOMS has a dedicated social media team, call agents also have access to social media and consumers’ social accounts and feedback via Service Cloud.

Implementing Service Cloud was the first phase of working with Salesforce, and TOMS is collaborating with the solution provider to develop a plan for 2015, according to Cassizzi. She added that because the Service Cloud platform is so scalable, the company can easily build on the technology as time goes on.


]]> (Alicia Fiorletta) Retail Success Stories Mon, 13 Oct 2014 11:00:00 -0400
La Cage Aux Sports Increases Table Income By 10% With Motorola La Cage Aux Sports Increases Table Income By 10% With Motorola

Consumers said they planned to spend 9.1% less per restaurant meal in 2014, according to a survey from consulting firm AlixPartners. However, if customers have a positive and memorable dining experience, they will more likely spend more time and money at a restaurant.

Helping to address this trend, La Cage Aux Sports, a Canadian restaurant and bar chain, has increased average table income by 10% since implementing a mobile ordering system powered by a wireless local area network (WLAN) solution and ET1 tablets from Motorola. The restaurant chain collaborated with POS Terminal 2000 Inc., a Motorola PartnerEmpower Silver partner, to test and roll out the technology.

“We’re always trying to be up-to-date with the newest technologies to help our servers and management provide a better client experience,” said Mathieu Laliberté, director, Information & Technologies for La Cage Aux Sports. “We were looking to do some up-selling while also reducing labor costs, which is the biggest cost for our business.”

{loadposition GIAA}Combining the WLAN with tablets has empowered service staff to engage in more personable conversations with consumers, while also boosting cross-sells and upsells and improving overall order accuracy. Depending on the size of the restaurant, each location has one or two WLAN access points and between seven and 10 tablets.

“There definitely has been an improvement in customer satisfaction,” reported Laliberté in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “They get their food faster because orders go straight into the kitchen as soon as they’re entered through the tablets. Servers no longer need to go to the fixed POS system to enter everything manually, which also has greatly reduced order errors. Servers can stay next to customers during the order-taking process and ask questions along the way. It’s much easier for them.”

An Immersive Sales Experience

With improved ordering processes, employees also are able to serve more customers, which allows them to get more tips. Laliberté noted this as a key selling point as La Cage Aux Sports got employees on board with using the technology.

“It was difficult to get employees to embrace a new way to work,” Laliberté noted. “Some servers have been with us for 10 to 15 years, and at first they didn’t want to use the tablets because they were used to the same old way of working. But we implemented a plan to show how it could help them better serve clients and get more money, too.”

Each of La Cage Aux Sports’ 50 locations is designed to welcome customers to eat and drink at their leisure — especially as they’re watching sporting events on one of the restaurant’s many big-screen TVs. This is another “huge upselling opportunity,” according to Laliberté. Now, with the mobile ordering system, people can stay three or four hours “and never run out of drinks.”

La Cage Aux Sports initially tested the mobile technology and WLAN in a single location, and is in the process of rolling it out across the entire chain, Laliberté reported. The entire process should be completed by the end of 2015.

“The competition is harsh these days, so we have to do something different to get customers to remember us,” Laliberté said. “By trying new things like this we’re able to improve the experience and get our customers to come back to our restaurant.”

Want to learn more about La Cage Aux Sports’ mobile journey? Watch the below video: 


]]> (Alicia Fiorletta) Retail Success Stories Mon, 13 Oct 2014 07:00:00 -0400
Halloween Express Improves Inventory Efficiency During Peak Selling Times Halloween Express Improves Inventory Efficiency During Peak Selling Times

Seasonal businesses face the challenge of managing inventory in light of ebbs and flows in demand. 

With more than 200 stores and an e-Commerce site, Halloween Express sees majority of its sales fall within an eight-week period. Preparing for this peak time, as a result, takes a full year.

“Our business model doesn’t allow for any error, so we have to have be on point with ordering inventory because of the quick turnaround,” said Holly Bowling, COO of Halloween Express. “We do two to three re-orders during the span of eight weeks, which is lightning fast, so it’s important to know what’s selling and what’s not. The corporate team also needs accurate sales data quickly from the first two days of the selling season to order more of the hottest selling items and stock them before the final week of the season, which accounts for 50% of sales.”

{loadposition GIAA}Real-time inventory visibility and extreme coordination also is required for Halloween Express to facilitate omnichannel order fulfillment. Three years ago, the retailer connected its brick-and-mortar and online sales “to offer our customers information about what’s in stock in each individual store,” Bowling explained in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “Our web presence has been a major help in building our brand. We implemented shop online pick up in-store, so customers can comb through what’s available online and come to the store knowing what they are looking for is in stock.”

Halloween Express onboarded RICS Software to help ensure inventory is updated in real time. Data within the RICS system allows the retailer to show consumers item availability in local stores and the distribution center, according to Bowling. “This allows us to stay ahead of our competitors and offer products sold online to be picked up in stores within minutes of purchase.”

Now, the retailer manages more than 40,000 SKUs on the web site and with the solution, team members can “analyze sales in many different ways, including by vendor to determine what is profitable,” Bowling said. “With RICS Software, we have the ability to perform balancing transfers, which prevents store owners form losing money through reordering items that other stores already have abundances of in stock.”

RICS reports also provide detailed data and projections for in-demand items. Shortly after the Halloween selling season begins, the corporate team relays information to store owners, Bowling noted. “The store owners then use this data to guide decision-making and eliminate the guesswork in inventory, ultimately leading to greater profits.”

]]> (Alicia Fiorletta) Retail Success Stories Fri, 10 Oct 2014 09:00:00 -0400
Gap CEO Steps Down Gap CEO Steps Down

GAPMurphyGlenn Murphy has announced that he will retire from his position as CEO of Gap Inc. effective February 1, 2015. The retailer’s board of directors unanimously agreed to appoint Art Peck, current President of Growth, Innovation and Digital at Gap, to succeed Murphy as CEO.

During Murphy’s seven-year tenure as CEO, GAP reported a 160% total shareholder return and a six-year compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) on earnings per share of 17%. Under Murphy’s leadership, the company acquired new brands and expanded the store locations globally, from 10 to 50 countries.

“Today, Gap Inc. is a formidable global fashion retailer with a strong foundation in place for long-term growth, therefore making this an appropriate inflection point for me to pass the baton to a leader who will take our portfolio of brands to even greater heights,” Murphy said. “With consumer expectations rapidly evolving, Art is the right leader at the right time to build on our success and ensure a compelling experience for our customers across both our physical and digital channels.”

{loadposition GIAA}In his present role, Peck is responsible for leading the company’s omnichannel and digital strategies, and managing the Athleta, Intermix and Piperlime brands.

As part of the transition, Peck will join the board effective February 1, 2015. Bob Fisher, son of Gap Inc. co-founders Donald and Doris Fisher, will become non-executive Chairman of the Board.

Gap Experiences Minimal September Sales Increase

In other news, Gap reported September 2014 net sales growth of 1% over the previous year, increasing to $1.48 billion from $1.46 billion. Comparable store sales were flat throughout the five-week period, representing an improvement from a 3% decrease in 2013. Gap store sales decreased 3%, while Banana Republic and Old Navy boosted sales 2% and 1%, respectively.

Due to the Gap brand’s flat performance, the company expects gross margins for Q3 2014 to be moderately below Q3 2013 totals.

“September proved to be more challenging than we expected,” said Murphy. “While Old Navy and Banana Republic are performing well, we are working aggressively to ensure our entire portfolio of brands delivers to its potential.”

]]> (Glenn Taylor) Retail Movers & Shakers Thu, 09 Oct 2014 14:06:15 -0400
What’s Next In Retail Payment What’s Next In Retail Payment

Mobile PaymentsThe race to replace cash has spawned a crowded landscape of innovative payments technologies, from wearable devices to chip-enabled cards. But while some seem better suited to a sci-fi flick than a retail store, others are fast gaining a foothold in the mainstream market. In fact, from 2012 to 2013, the volume of traditional cash transactions dropped by 10%, a total of $86 billion, and is forecasted to plummet further over the next six years, according to a 2014 report by Javelin Strategy & Research.

Among the most recent cash-replacement contenders is Apple Pay. With an expected launch date in October 2014, Apple Pay is a mobile payments system that works with iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Featuring a built-in Near Field Communication (NFC) antennae, device owners simply tap their iPhone on a store’s contactless credit card terminal to make a payment. Actual card numbers are not stored on the device or on Apple servers; and Apple’s Touch ID sensor technology — which uses a customer’s fingerprint as a passcode — helps to prevent fraud.

{loadposition GIAA}Apple is not the first company to roll out an NFC-powered contactless payments system: Google and Softcard (formally Isis Wallet) already offer their own versions. But Apple’s brand name power could give the emerging technology a much-needed nudge towards mainstream acceptance.

“Apple is one of the few players in the world that can move the market because they have such a strong followership of users,” said Daniela Mielke, Chief Strategy and Product Officer for Vantiv, a provider of payment processing solutions and a member of the Retail Solutions Provider Association (RSPA).

This clout could help to increase adoption among both consumers and retailers. “There’s a real chance now that NFC will become the de facto standard for proximity payments,” said Mielke.

Another upside of Apple Pay is the convenience it offers both merchants and consumers. From a merchant perspective, Apple Pay does not require the implementation of any proprietary technology.

Solutions like Apple Pay also simplify the payment process. “On all other digital wallets, you have to authenticate your phone, then you have to open your app or digital wallet, and then you may have to enter another password,” said Mielke. “Many times there are at least three additional steps the consumer has to take.”

Increasing Consumer Adoption

The most successful mobile payment systems are the ones that have minimized additional steps needed to complete transactions. Convenience, for example, is central to the ongoing success of Starbucks’ mobile payment system. In addition to recently adding a barista tipping module and shake-to-pay features to its mobile app, the beverage behemoth currently is testing a new service that will let customers pre-order coffee and food, anytime, anywhere. More than 11% of Starbucks’ customer payments are generated via its mobile app — a success story that analysts say could give merchant-branded mobile initiatives a significant leg-up over digital wallets from players like Google, Amazon and PayPal.

“When it comes to in-store transactions, no one has figured out how to get consumers to adopt digital wallets,” said Nikhil Joseph, a Mercator Advisory Group analyst. “Starbucks has been the only success story. They’ve built their own app from scratch, and they use a simple QR code implementation, which is why they’ve grown very fast.”

James Wester, Research Director of Global Payments at IDC, agrees: “All these digital wallets are trying to do the same thing that Starbucks did — to capture that lightning in a bottle and see if they can bundle it across merchants. But I’m not exactly certain they can just yet.”

Competing In A Crowded Space

The number of technologies available to implement mobile payments can present obstacles to adoption and implementation. A disadvantage of NFC payments is that the technology requires often requires upgrades for both retailers and shoppers. Some options ease this burden.

LoopWallet is one new entrant in the payments technology space that’s shaking things up by not requiring any modifications to a merchant’s card reader, or a consumer’s phone. The system allows users to make purchases using either a detachable fob with a built-in card reader, or a smartphone case that’s capable of communicating with more than 90%of existing POS devices via a magnetic field, not unlike the magnetic stripe found on a credit card. Both LoopPay Fob and LoopPay ChargeCase work in tandem with a mobile app that stores all of a users’ credit and debit card information.

“Right now, Loop requires some add-ons from consumers, but I expect that they will move quickly to make it a more seamless experience and embed [digital wallet] capabilities into a handset as well,” said Denee Carrington, Senior Analyst, Forrester Research.

Other payment technologies on the horizon include Coin’s replacement for the credit card. The company is currently taking pre-orders on a device that can store up to eight payment options, such as a debit card and a corporate credit card, on a single, credit card shaped device. By pressing a button on the card, shoppers can choose how they’d like to pay. The device swipes exactly like the cards shoppers are already used to, and removes the necessity to carry multiple cards. Coin is currently in beta testing, and the company expects a full release in 2015.

There is, however, a cautionary case study Coin could examine. Similar to Coin, iCache’s Geode also promised the ability to store multiple payment options on a single device — focusing on Apple’s iPhone 4. Geode aimed to combine an iPhone case with a card that served as a payment option. It received more than $350,000 in funding on Kickstarter — well more than the company’s $50,000 goal. Unfortunately, manufacturing problems led to delays and anxiety for the Kickstarter backers. Once the devices shipped, some users reported problems getting the programmable magnetic stripe card to work. Finally, the company did not adapt when Apple changed the form factor of its iPhone with the release of the iPhone 5. Former employees and consultants filed lawsuits, the board of directors shrank to just one member and the company pulled down its web site. The Kickstarter page, however, is still live.

In the meantime, the Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX) is gearing up for the 2015 launch of its own mobile payment system. Dubbed CurrentC, the QR-code smartphone payment platform was built by a consortium of retailers including Walmart, Best Buy and Target. Consumers will be able to use the network to complete purchases at more than 110,000 store locations across the U.S., while at the same time earning merchant loyalty rewards and coupon savings. Currently, CurrentC is in private pilot mode in select locations across the U.S.

“It’s an open field as far as digital wallets go,” said Joseph.  

Another development shaping the future of payments technology is the growing adoption of EMV chip technology. This summer, big-box retailers Walmart and Sam’s Club rolled out a chip-enabled MasterCard, prompting cardholders to embrace a payment process more secure than swiping. Until now, U.S.-based retailers have been slow to accept EMV compared to other countries, but as the October 2015 deadline looms, big-box retailers’ adoption of EMV is “a positive sign that we’re moving in the right direction,” said Carrington, noting that EMV still requires “an enormous investment” from both merchant and credit card issuers.  Arguably, EMV adoption also will succeed in large part based on consumer acceptance.

The retail payment environment is fast-moving and quickly changing. While debating the benefits of NFC and EMV, retailers also have their eye on the next frontier: Wearable technology. BeautifulLab, for example, has developed a wearable payment app that lets consumers pay for items with their Pebble smartwatch. And mobile payments company Wallaby Financial recently unveiled a new smartwatch app for Samsung’s Gear 2, hoping to secure terrain in what’s sure to be another hot payments trend. 

]]> (Cindy Waxer, Contributing Writer) POS / Payments / EMV Thu, 16 Oct 2014 10:57:26 -0400
Sport Chalet Relaunches E-Commerce Site With MarketLive Sport Chalet Relaunches E-Commerce Site With MarketLive

SportChaletImageRetailers looking to build an effective experience across all platforms usually start with the e-Commerce site. The functionality and appearance of this channel can have a large impact on how potential customers perceive the brand as a whole.

Action sporting goods retailer Sport Chalet is no exception and relaunched its e-Commerce site in August 2014 with the help of the MarketLive Total Commerce technology platform in an effort to grow the company brand and foster further in-store engagement. The relaunch included a complete renovation of the site, as well as the incorporation of features such as Find in Store and gift cards.

“Whether it’s through click view capabilities or sophisticated search capabilities through the web site, we’re able to present the products in a much faster way,” said Craig Levra, Chairman and CEO of Sport Chalet. “Conversely, for those athletes who just want to learn about a particular sport or a particular item, there’s a whole set of content and video that didn’t really exist on the site before that truly speaks to the product and the specialty services that we offer.”

{loadposition GIAA}Social engagement is a major priority for the Sport Chalet team, as evidenced by the creation of the site’s community section. The community section integrates customer stories, how-to guides, pictures and experiences from experts to engage more consumers with the store.

“If you really think about our business, very few items we offer are any fun to participate in by yourself,” Levra said in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “When you go snowboarding and skiing, you go with your friends, and it’s a requirement in scuba diving, ice climbing and rock climbing. There’s a social component to all of the sports and activities that we offer, and yet our prior web site couldn’t bring that component to life.”

The process to implement MarketLive took less than a year, with the solution provider collaborating with Sport Chalet on a seven-days-a-week basis. The retailer has since used the solution to leverage the “reverse showrooming” trend many shoppers partake in after browsing the e-Commerce site.

“We’re certainly happy with the relaunch,” said Levra. “One of the great learnings from our relaunch is that we’re able to dig into the reverse showrooming behavior that exists today. We clearly see athletes and customers walk into our store who have done their homework at and are ready to learn more from talking to one of our experts face to face.

The retailer is no stranger to innovative ideas, as it opened a “next-generation” concept store in downtown Los Angeles in the summer of 2013. The store was designed to provide a “physical version of the online experience,” according to Levra, and provided an Expert Center that facilitates customer interaction with in-store experts on all topics related to the purchase and usage of the products. Consumers can order Sport Chalet products on iPads located throughout the store.

“We gauged the experience and how we connect with the athletes and the customers before serving in that environment,” said Levra. “The relaunch of takes that brand engagement experience to a different level.”

]]> (Glenn Taylor) Retail Success Stories Wed, 08 Oct 2014 09:00:00 -0400
Caterpillar Vapes Taps Zing To Integrate In-Store POS And The E-Commerce Site Caterpillar Vapes Taps Zing To Integrate In-Store POS And The E-Commerce Site

Caterpillar VapesAs a brand expands, its IT infrastructure can become more complex. However, in today’s omnichannel world, it is imperative that retailers of all sizes have a comprehensive view of sales and inventory.

To create this more 360-view of the business as it expanded from e-Commerce to brick-and-mortar, e-cigarette products retailer Caterpillar Vapes integrated APIs from POS platform provider Zing into its e-Commerce platform powered by Bigcommerce. With the Zing APIs, the retailer manages its inventory, e-Commerce and POS functions in one central location.

“Right now, we deal with inventory prediction software,” said Eric Johnson, principal owner of Caterpillar Vapes. “We actually have a process that pulls down all the inventory and orders from Zing. Based upon that inventory and those orders, we are able to provide this application with a number of days we want on hand for inventory, and it will automatically create a purchase order of the different items we want. For a company that only has 100 items, tracking all this inventory by hand wouldn’t be so difficult. For a company like ours that has thousands of SKUs, doing that manually is impossible, making the Zing integration an absolute requirement for us.”

Initially, the Caterpillar Vapes team considered building an in-house e-Commerce solution to host the web site. Despite having the manpower to build one, the team determined that the time and effort would be better used elsewhere. By onboarding Bigcommerce to power its e-Commerce site, Caterpillar Vapes learned its in-store POS system could integrate with its online storefront.

“When we opened our shop, we realized that integrating our in-store POS and e-Commerce site wasn’t as easy as we thought,” said Johnson in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “And I went around looking for other e-Commerce providers that had integrations with POS services. It was just something that wasn’t really prevalent, and when it did happen it was incredibly clumsy. The more that I delved into how much Bigcommerce worked with Zing, and how they were not only partners but neighbors, that told me that this was going to be a partnership that was going to last.”

Zing’s main mission is to create a seamless brick-and-mortar commerce environment, starting at the point of sale. However, the integration layer underneath the POS solution is where the heart of the company lies, according to Nate Stewart, Founder and CEO of Zing.

“We want to be defined by how many things a retail business can do in a limited amount of time,” Stewart explained. “Right now, if you’re a small brick-and-mortar retailer, you’re competing against companies 1,000 times your size, and those companies are only getting bigger and more competitive. We’re trying to make it seamless to connect the different data points you have and different products you work with.”

By integrating Zing, Caterpillar Vapes created a “hands-off” IT situation where e-Commerce operations team members were relieved from dealing with servers, hard integrations, upkeep and maintenance. Since the platform allows retailers to manage inventory across multiple locations, the retailer can continue to expand into a second brick-and-mortar location.

“Next year, I’m not going to have to worry about moving my entire platform,” Johnson said. “This ensures that I won’t have any migration issues that invariably bite you and cost you thousands of dollars.”

]]> (Glenn Taylor) Retail Success Stories Thu, 09 Oct 2014 07:12:11 -0400
The State Of Payments The State Of Payments

The past year has seen a rise in credit spending and significant advances in mobile wallet technology. The worldwide leader in mobile payment adoption: Kenya, where more than 80% of the population pays for goods and services with their smartphone.

This infographic, courtesy of Merchant Warehouse, provides an overview of worldwide payments in 2014, with a glimpse into the upcoming winter shopping season.

The past year has seen a rise in credit spending and significant advances in mobile wallet technology. The worldwide leader in mobile payment adoption: Kenya, where more than 80% of the population pays for goods and services with their smartphone.

This infographic, courtesy of Merchant Warehouse, provides an overview of worldwide payments in 2014, with a glimpse into the upcoming winter shopping season.

[click to expand]


]]> (Mike Santos) Infographics Thu, 09 Oct 2014 04:03:01 -0400
National Retail Federation Forecasts Holiday Sales To Increase 4.1% National Retail Federation Forecasts Holiday Sales To Increase 4.1%

NRF Holiday SalesThe National Retail Federation (NRF) expects sales in November and December to increase 4.1% to $616.9 billion. The forecast is a full percentage point higher than the 3.1% increase experienced in 2013 and the first time it has topped 4% since 2011. The NRF attributes this potential growth to a number of factors that include a longer holiday shopping season than 2013 and issues that will not impact shoppers this year, such as the government shutdown. Lower utility costs due to a mild summer and falling gas prices also contributed to the higher forecast.

The NRF holiday sales forecast is based on an economic model that uses indicators that include consumer credit, disposable personal income and previous monthly retail sales releases. This year’s forecast also included non-store categories, such as direct-to-consumer, kiosks and online sales.

{loadposition GIAA}“Retailers could see a welcome boost in holiday shopping, giving some companies the shot in the arm they need after a volatile first half of the year and an uneventful summer,” said Matthew Shay, President and CEO of NRF. “While expectations for sales growth are upbeat, it goes without saying there still remains some uneasiness and anxiety among consumers when it comes to their purchase decisions. The lagging economic recovery, though improving, is still top of mind for many Americans”

Although positive economic indicators, such as jobs and housing data, contributed to the higher forecasts, NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz also pointed to economic recovery and reminded retailers that shoppers will still be looking for bargains.

“Though we have only seen consumer income and spending moderately — and erratically — accelerate this year, we believe there is still room for optimism this holiday season,” said Kleinhenz. “In the grand scheme of things, consumers are in a much better place than they were this time last year, and the extra spending power could very well translate into solid holiday sales growth for retailers; however, shoppers will still be deliberate with their purchases, while hunting for hard-to-pass-up bargains.

Retailers are expected to hire between 725,000 and 800,000 seasonal workers this holiday season, according to the NRF. The number of new hires could exceed the 768,000 hired during the 2013 holiday season, which was an increase of 14% over 2012.

In a related announcement, forecasted online sales to grow between 8% and 11% this holiday season, increasing to as much as $105 billion. 

]]> (Rob Fee) News Briefs Wed, 08 Oct 2014 12:08:05 -0400
Differentiation Will Keep Offline Customers From Going Online

Let’s be honest. It’s far more convenient to shop from your couch than drive to the store, find what you need, load it in the car, and then unload it when you get home. Isn’t it easier to have everything delivered to your doorstep?

With recent large-scale closings by Staples and RadioShack, it seems like retail is on the verge of oblivion. But brick-and-mortar retail isn’t going anywhere any time soon.

Retailers will survive if they resist the urge to drown in digital and embrace what makes them stand out: the shopping experience.

Ordering a sweater from your couch doesn’t offer a dressing room, a helpful salesperson, or the satisfaction of snagging a sale because you outlasted others’ clearance rack commitment.

Brick-and-mortar stores still stand out to customers. Here’s how you can capitalize on the points of differentiation and persist through the digital age.

Engage The Senses

Shopping is a tangible experience. You touch the fabric, feel the weight of products, and sample perfume to ensure it suits you.

Online shopping is convenient, but it offers no sensory experience. It’s impossible to know how a product actually looks, feels, or smells. By playing up your in-store experience, you’ll solidify the reasons customers come back, even when they could order online. Try these ways to amplify guests’ experience:

  • In-store events: People outside your customer base might pass your store and see the event or hear about it from a friend. These potential customers will learn about your brand and be more likely to visit your store if something exciting is happening.

  • Referral programs: Give customers a reason to bring their friends by rewarding them. Offer store credit, free items, or raffle prizes in exchange for referrals.

  • In-store seminars: Teach customers how to use your product. By providing added value, you’ll establish a reciprocal relationship that will increase their likelihood of making a repeat purchase.

Get Personal

Having a real person help you and interacting with technology to personalize the experience is something online retailers can’t match. These kinds of promotions set physical stores apart from their discount-happy online counterparts.

  • Georgetown Cupcake tweets a secret, not-on-the-menu cupcake every day. The first 100 customers to request the secret cupcake at each location get one free cupcake. If a free cupcake doesn’t draw customers to your business, I don’t know what will.
  • Burberry live-streamed London Fashion Week and invited customers to its stores to watch. After it was over, associates distributed iPads to customers so they could browse and purchase the items they just saw.
  • Make Up For Ever put iPads in its stores to let shoppers virtually try makeup combinations by uploading their own photos.

Although it may seem that e-commerce is king, brick-and-mortar retailers are here to stay as long as customers have good reasons to shop with them. While it’s appropriate to incorporate digital into your store’s shopping experience, remember that ultimately, the tangible shopping experience is what keeps customers coming back.

Sam Bahreini, a seasoned operations officer and agile entrepreneur, is co-founder and COO of VoloForce, a company that helps enterprise retail brands understand organization implementation through automation and simplification.


]]> (Sam Bahreini, VoloForce) Executive ViewPoints Wed, 08 Oct 2014 10:11:09 -0400
Target Pilots Curbside Pickup In 10 Locations Target Pilots Curbside Pickup In 10 Locations

CurbsideRetail powerhouse Target is testing curbside pickup at 10 stores throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. The new fulfillment option is available through a partnership with Curbside, which provides a mobile commerce app that allows consumers to find, purchase and redeem products at their local stores faster and easier.

“At Target, we are always looking for new ways to improve the shopping experience,” said Casey Carl, President of Omnichannel at Target. “We’re excited to see how our Bay Area guests respond to the Curbside service, which provides an extremely convenient way for guests to get what they need on those days when every moment counts.”

{loadposition GIAA}Using the Curbside app on iPhone or Android devices, consumers can search for and purchase products, even if they’re from multiple stores. Inventory levels and product information is shared based on local store availability. Once a transaction is made, store employees fulfill the order and are notified via the app when consumers are approaching the location.

Since receiving $9.5 million in funding and support from several notable investors, including Sue Decker, former Yahoo! President and current Costco board member, Curbside is now available throughout the greater San Francisco Bay Area and plans to branch out to other areas in the near future. This expansion comes following a successful beta test in the San Jose, Calif. Area.

Target’s foray with Curbside is the latest in a series of significant investments in omnichannel inventory strategies. The retailer initially rolled out buy online, pickup in-store in 2013. During its Q2 2014 earnings call, Target revealed that digital sales, including flexible fulfillment, increased more than 30% during the quarter. 

]]> (Alicia Fiorletta) News Briefs Wed, 08 Oct 2014 11:09:07 -0400
Capital Teas Launches Mobile App With LevelUp Capital Teas Launches Mobile App With LevelUp

CapitalTeasAppCapital Teas, a specialty tea provider, has selected LevelUp to power its mobile payment and loyalty app. The app is designed to provide one place for customers to access their method of payment and loyalty rewards. The app is scheduled to launch in November and will be available as a free download on the App Store and Google Play.

"Our customers demand high-quality loose teas, herbal infusions and excellent customer service,” said Peter Martino, Co-founder and CEO of Capital Teas.  “They also expect a simple, user-friendly mobile experience, and we intend to give them exactly that. We don't want our customers to have a disjointed payment and loyalty experience by having to open one app to pay, then another app to track their loyalty progress. We want them to simply open up their mobile wallet, see all their payment options in one place and pick the one that's going to provide them with the ability to pay, and get rewarded, with a single tap."

{loadposition GIAA}The Capital Teas app automatically places the Capital Teas branded card in the Passbook iOS application, as well as other payment options, including Visa, Amex and MasterCard. Customers who pay with the card will automatically accrue and redeem rewards each time they reach a specific threshold at Capital Teas

The online retailer plans to incorporate in-app ordering in a second release.

]]> (Glenn Taylor) News Briefs Wed, 08 Oct 2014 09:20:18 -0400
MasterCard Launches Tool To Identify Security Attacks MasterCard Launches Tool To Identify Security Attacks

MastercardMasterCard announced the launch of SafetyNet, a tool designed to reduce the risk of cyber hacking of banks and processors. SafetyNet uses MasterCard’s global network to identify potential attacks before they start — in some cases before the bank or processor is aware of the attack.

SafetyNet is one part of MasterCard’s multilayer defense, which includes tools for banks, consumers and retailers. It is offered complementary to the issuing bank and uses algorithms to monitor different channels and geographies. The tool is already integrated into MasterCard’s payment network

{loadposition GIAA}“With SafetyNet we are really fast tracking the next generation of security solutions, which are designed to stop fraud or attacks before many of our partners have even noticed it is happening,” said Ajay Bhalla, President of Enterprise Security Solutions at MasterCard. “We can do this because MasterCard’s SafetyNet operates as intelligent technology, which can identify fraud in real time and decline a transaction before any exposure takes place.”

]]> (Rob Fee) News Briefs Wed, 08 Oct 2014 10:11:24 -0400
Walmart Cuts Health Benefits for 30,000 Part-Time Workers Walmart Cuts Health Benefits for 30,000 Part-Time Workers

WalmartWalmart will no longer be offering health insurance benefits to its U.S. employees who work less than 30 hours per week, according to a company blog post.

The benefit cuts are expected to impact approximately 2% of the company’s workforce, or close to 30,000 employees. The retailer will work with third party provider HealthCompare Insurance Services to guide associates to alternative plans.

Walmart cites rising health care costs as a major reason for the policy changes: “Like every company, Walmart continues to face rising health care costs,” said Sally Welborn, SVP of Global Benefits at Walmart. “This year, the expenses were significant and led us to make some tough decisions as we begin our annual enrollment.”

The cuts follow in the footsteps of Target, Home Depot, Walgreens and Trader Joe’s: all retailers that have eliminated health benefits for part-time employees.

Walmart also will increase its premiums for all associates in 2015 to combat the costs. The retailer’s most popular and lowest-cost plan will increase by $3.50 to $21.90 per pay period.

The company will continue to provide health care options that include no lifetime maximum, preventative care covered at 100%, and $250 up to $1,000 to help pay for medical expenses.

]]> (Glenn Taylor) News Briefs Wed, 08 Oct 2014 08:23:14 -0400
Sunoco To Roll Out VeriFone-Powered Payment Terminals At All Locations

gilbarco verifone pumpmedia close
Sunoco, Inc.
has selected VeriFone as the exclusive media provider for its fueling islands. With the partnership, VeriFone will provide Sunoco with dispenser card readers that tout integrated video screens and dynamic streaming content to help enhance the fueling experience.

Sunoco initially sought a payment platform that was PCI compliant and EMV-ready. The Secure PumpPAY solution from VeriFone offers this security, as well as a mix of advertiser-funded offers, coupons and other relevant content through a media service called VNET - At the Pump.

LiftRetail, also known as VNET – InStore has been rolled out in locations and integrated with the Sunoco POS system. Customer-facing screens powered by LiftRetail will display real-time targeted offers and upsell opportunities to store visitors. Consumers can touch the screens to accept offers.

Drew Kabakoff, Director of Marketing at Sunoco explained: “The combination of VeriFone’s indoor/outdoor video experience, our consumer loyalty programs, and our forthcoming mobile payments app will provide Sunoco’s consumers with a dynamic two-way communication platform.” 

]]> (Alicia Fiorletta) News Briefs Tue, 07 Oct 2014 13:36:26 -0400
Saddleback Revamps E-Commerce Site With NetSuite Saddleback Revamps E-Commerce Site With NetSuite

SaddlebackSaddleback Leather, an online retailer of leather bags, luggage, wallets and accessories, has re-launched its e-Commerce site with the help of NetSuite SuiteCommerce. The retailer leveraged the SuiteCommerce solution to operate its business on a unified cloud platform that manages e-Commerce, financials, inventory management, order management, marketing and customer service.

Since the re-launch in July, Saddleback has seen an increase in overall sales. The retailer has reported other benefits including:

  • Improved site load times;
  • Increased average time onsite;
  • Increased page views per session;
  • Decreased cart abandonment; and
  • Reduced bounce rate among mobile users.

As part of the SuiteCommerce solution, Saddleback Leather has access to responsive web design to offer a mobile-optimized experience for smartphone and tablet users. The retailer plans to deliver a streamlined checkout and integrate the solution’s existing capabilities, including image zoom and 360-degree rotated viewing, to showcase different attributes within product detail pages.

Additionally, the SuiteCommerce self-service My Account capabilities enable shoppers to track order status, manage account details and view purchase history.

]]> (Glenn Taylor) News Briefs Tue, 07 Oct 2014 12:17:29 -0400
New Retail Roles Focus On Innovation, Transformation New Retail Roles Focus On Innovation, Transformation

Shadow RTP RT033 SURV ChangingRoles FinalNew retail roles are popping up across industry segments, designed to help organization improve the customer relationship through a focus on transformation, innovation and omnichannel.

The most-tapped new retail title is Chief Customer Officer, chosen by 14% of retailers responding to a recent survey conducted by Retail TouchPoints. The Changing Roles In Retail survey also found that an equal number of retail organizations (11%) are implementing titles featuring the terms Strategy, Transformation and Innovation.

As many as 61% of retail organizations have added or changed C-level roles and/or functions in the past two years; and another 8% are planning similar changes.

The survey report includes input from 167 retail and CPG respondents. To download a complimentary copy of the full report, fill out the form below.



]]> (Debbie Hauss) Special Reports Fri, 10 Oct 2014 07:30:00 -0400
Content Marketing Strategies Boost Customer Loyalty Content Marketing Strategies Boost Customer Loyalty

FEAT ContentCommerce imageIn an industry where many companies rely on selling products that are the same or similar to competitors’ offerings, retailers are embracing content marketing as a means to stand out from the crowd and provide value to the customer.

Leading retailers such as Pet360, boohoo, BeachMint, and Duane Reade understand that content marketing strategies can only turn into revenue if the content makes the brand relatable to the consumer.

{loadposition GIAA}To successfully engage customers with content, retailers are banking on numerous delivery vehicles, such as the e-Commerce web site, digital publications and social media. Merchants also are tapping a variety of content types to deliver their brand message, including but not limited to: blog posts, how-to guides, videos, advertisements, images and infographics.

The State Of Content Marketing In Retail

Content marketing has become a priority investment for B2B organizations over the past few years, but has only recently become a focus for retailers looking to foster customer loyalty. In fact, only 39% of B2C content marketers have a documented content strategy, according to a report from the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs.

With the advent of social media, the average consumer can gather product reviews and information from sources more relatable to them than any mass medium. Thus, traditional advertising is taking on a less prominent role in the daily consumption habits of the consumer, according to Michael Brenner, Head of Strategy at Newscred.

“One of the big aspects of confusion is the notion that content marketing is an individual piece of content or a different kind of ad, as opposed to a mentality or culture,” Brenner said. “Whether via print, radio, TV and now the Internet, advertisers as brands have simply shifted their approach to continuously trying to get that promotional message in front of our consumers using whatever mass medium they’ve been shifting towards. The retailers that are getting it right are realizing that they need to create stories and tell them in a larger, more consistent way than just promoting what they do through traditional advertising.”

In particular for retailers with niche products or a long timeline between purchases, linh a zorfish. ar a couple times a year,"ortunities for customers a, blended resultscontent marketing can create frequent touch points with shoppers in between purchase periods.

“If I’m an underwear retailer, a customer is only going to shop for underwear a couple times a year,” said Jason Goldberg, VP of Commerce Strategy at Razorfish. “If the customer is only going to come to us twice a year when they need underwear, I don’t have a great opportunity to build the relationship with that customer and my brand. I need to give the customer more reasons to visit me more often, and it can’t all be to replenish my drawer.”

Video Content Enhances The Visual Experience

Video has become one of the most popular content marketing vehicles, offering a 360-degree online view of products that otherwise could only be experienced in-store. Retail site visitors who view videos stay on the site two minutes longer on average and are 64% more likely to purchase than other site visitors, according to comScore research.

“One of the impediments to buying from certain product categories online is that you’re not sure exactly what you’re going to get,” Goldberg said in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “You’ve lost the ability to see that item on the mannequin in the store, try clothes on for yourself, or see exactly how big that television is and whether it’s going to fit in your living room. Video is a much more immersive way to help customers have confidence that what they’re ordering is what they want.”

Retailers are using a variety of video types, depending on their brand goals and product lines. Videos can provide product information, how-to guides, user-generated feedback, cross-sell ideas and more., for example, created a library of videos designed to illustrate how to choose the right window treatment, and how to measure and install the products. While the content initially added value to the web site, it wasn’t until enlisted the services of video commerce solution provider LiveClicker that the content could be managed and measured for effectiveness.

“Before we were working with LiveClicker, we had minimal information available to us, and I didn’t necessarily know what that information was telling me,” said Robert Reed, Video Producer at “I could see the number of plays and I couldn’t see much detail beyond that. Because we can see these metrics now, we can be more strategic and put videos in a particular order or put them in a certain place on the site that increases conversion rates.”

Comparing Q1 2013 to Q1 2014, the video engagement rate on the web site increased by 99%. Revenue increased by 92%, while orders and conversion rates both increased by approximately 70%.

“There’s so many different ways that you can try to help customers through additional measuring and installation to show them that this is something they can do themselves,” Reed said. “Video is a great way to help customers come to the realization that these processes aren’t that hard to put together.

Other retailers use video solutions to promote their products, but also strive to differentiate their brands from the rest of the pack. Women’s fashion retailer boohoo built up its own video channel, boohoo TV, to accompany the retail site, giving consumers detailed video guides on how to wear clothing from the boohoo brand. The television site includes information regarding fashion trends, a section dedicated to boohooMAN, the retailer’s menswear collection, as well as advertisements promoting the brand clothing and lifestyle.

The value of boohoo TV doesn’t end with the videos, as the retailer implemented the Amplience video merchandising solution to create digital commerce experiences.The online video merchandising solution enables boohoo TV to merchandise products directly alongside the video channel, creating a direct link from brand-building content to product collections. The solution is designed to streamline the buying process and increase average order value, giving consumers relevant purchasing options on a sidebar while they browse new trends.

The Benefits Of Professional Vs. Amateur Video

Professionally produced video optimized for e-Commerce outperforms user-generated (UGC) video by 30%, delivering a 24.7% lift compared to an 18.7% lift for the UGC video, according to comScore.

“A lot of people say that video doesn’t have to be professionally done, and I think there’s a place for [UGC video],” said Robert Rose, Chief Strategist at the Content Marketing Institute. “But I’m actually a big believer that the better the video quality is, the better it is for the brand. A lot of brands have taken the advice that video can be shot using an iPhone, and then when they go through with it the video ends up looking unprofessional and not very good.”

Brenner shared similar sentiments, advising that brands need to understand the economics behind their video strategies in order to make them work. He recommended retailers hire videographers and trained directors that not only know how to use video to tell a story effectively, but also help create a content-centric culture throughout the organization.

“Consumers are choosing what they want to watch and when they want to watch it,” Brenner explained. “Why do we consume more video? We’re becoming a more visual society and I think it’s becoming harder to entertain us. It’s not that people don’t read print, it’s just that if you want to be entertained, we’re more easily and quickly entertained through moving visual content.”

Engaging The Consumer Throughout The Purchasing Process

Video content is certainly not the only successful vehicle retailers are using to build their brands. Other content marketing strategies are helping retailers such as Duane Reade and Pet360 drive their e-Commerce strategies. Additionally, retailers and publishing departments are converging more frequently to create digital and print publications for consumers to read during their shopper journeys.

These content marketing methods are designed to help retailers connect with the consumer throughout numerous touch points and throughout the purchasing process, even when they are not considering purchasing an item. The retailers that are implementing these methods successfully are getting a leg-up against the competition.

The next installment of this special report will explore more examples of content marketing in the retail industry, including social content, digital publications and steps to successful content marketing.

Part 2 of the Convergence of Content and Commerce feature will appear in the October 14 newsletter.

]]> (Glenn Taylor) Shopper Experience Tue, 07 Oct 2014 08:39:36 -0400
Nearly Half Of CMOs And CIOs Think Internal Collaboration Has Improved Nearly Half Of CMOs And CIOs Think Internal Collaboration Has Improved

RR Accenture ImageAs many as 43% of CMOs and 50% of CIOs think their relationship with each other has improved over the past year, according to research conducted by Accenture.

However, 45% of CMOs believe there still needs to be more collaboration with CIOs and only 23% of marketers believe the level of collaboration between CMOs and CIOs is at or approaching the right level.

The report, titled: Cutting Across The CMO-CIO Divide, gleaned insights from more than 1,100 senior marketing and IT executives worldwide.

For the majority of CMOs (52%) and CIOs (53%), marketing IT is considered a high priority. These numbers represent a 16% and an 8% increase, respectively, over 2012. Both parties agree the top five marketing IT priorities are: Customer experience, customer analytics, social media, the corporate web site, and other web development initiatives. 

While both departments are collaborating more extensively, there still are several challenges, especially regarding the ability to adapt in an increasingly digital environment. Up to 40% of CMOs believe their IT team doesn’t understand the urgency to address market conditions quickly. On the other hand, 43% of CIOs believe marketing departments’ requirements and priorities change too often for them to keep up.

Both parties agree, however, that combating organizational silos remain a top challenge. Up to 45% of CIOs say channel-specific experiences are too complex to be managed by one platform; 42% agree that the technology is siloed and too difficult to use for cross-channel experiences.

But marketers and IT professionals are eager to work together to address enterprise challenges and create exceptional customer experiences. As many as 83% of IT execs want to interact with their company’s marketing department, while 69% of marketers want to interact with the IT department.

Accenture provided four best practices to help CMOs build trust and improve alignment with IT executives:

  • Collaborate with IT to establish a joint vision;
  • Unify around the customer experience to create a digital business;
  • Reevaluate the operating model to integrate customer-focused skills throughout the company; and
  • Frame the marketing model and budget to align with a new ecosystem of marketing services.

Click hereto download the complete Accenture report. 

]]> (Glenn Taylor) Store Operations Tue, 07 Oct 2014 07:31:44 -0400
Shoe Carnival Raises Breast Cancer Awareness With Pink Wristbands

Shoe Carnival
Breast Cancer Awareness Month began on October 1, and Shoe Carnival is raising awareness by selling pink wristbands in all domestic locations throughout the month.

In each of its 396 stores nationwide, Shoe Carnival is encouraging consumers to contribute money to breast cancer research by purchasing the wristbands for $1 each. Last year, Shoe Carnival raised more than $100,000 for the cause.

“Families are the core of our business, they are the people we serve and the people that have helped us grow into who we are; Breast Cancer touches so many of those families lives,” said Cliff Sifford, CEO of Shoe Carnival. “We are very excited to participate in the search for a cure, and hope to surpass the amount we were able to donate last year.”

]]> (Alicia Fiorletta) News Briefs Tue, 07 Oct 2014 08:31:16 -0400
Is That A Cash Register In Your Pocket? Is That A Cash Register In Your Pocket?

VP Iterate head shotIt's hard out there for a credit card company nowadays — everybody's getting in your business. In a moment when new technology is disruptively looking to squeeze extra efficiency out of everything, from the empty seats in our cars (Uber) to the unoccupied rooms in our homes (Airbnb), the 2% to 3% interchange fees that banks and credit card companies charge on every transaction make for a fat, juicy target.

Apple’s NFC-enabled iPhone 6 comes equipped with Apple Pay, the company’s highly touted mobile payment technology. Apple Pay stores users’ payment card information, allowing in-store payments with one-touch checkout when a shopper holds their phones up to a reader. This comes with the added security of never exposing the user’s credit card number to the light of day, allowing the expected reduction in fraud expenses to justify the costs of rolling out the new system. Apple boasts participation from 220,000 stores as well as the major credit card companies and banks, showing that they will work within the existing credit card-based ecosystem familiar to users (at least for the time being).

But it’s not just Apple looking to shake up the credit ecosystem. In many ways, the Amazon Fire phone is a portable payments system cleverly disguised as a phone. Of the 24 apps pre-loaded on the Fire phone, nine of them point to Amazon-exclusive properties. Firefly is one of the more prominently advertised apps, which uses the phone’s camera to recognize real world items and help users check them out on

Registering a new Fire phone requires inputting individual Amazon log-on credentials, connecting Firefly to the shopper’s credit card numbers, ship-to addresses and other user preference information. This enables one-click checkout and Amazon Prime Shipping capabilities, which creates an easy and efficient purchase integration. All of this makes Amazon’s Fire phone a powerful mobile cash register, and a dangerous one to competing retailers. Outside retailers can — and will — see shoppers easily scanning and purchasing products through Amazon even while browsing items at brick and mortar stores.

With 200 million credit cards stored on, hundreds of millions of ship-to-addresses, and one-click checkout, the Fire phone is an aggressive retailer’s dream shopping tool. The phone is designed to enable Amazon’s core services, with Firefly and eight other Amazon properties prominently displayed on the home screen. As the iPhone was originally designed with music in mind, grown out of Apple’s success with iTunes and the iPod, the Fire phone is a strategically designed, custom pocket shopping device with music/gaming/web/phone capabilities as a secondary priority.

It’s unclear at this point if the Fire phone will be successful, and the phone’s first version certainly does include some unpolished features. However, as demonstrated by Kindle, Amazon Prime, EC2 and S3 (both part of Amazon Web Services), Amazon is renowned for its patience and willingness to play the long game. Expect Amazon to aggressively support the Fire phone with continual updates and offers, like the recent drop to a 99-cent price point, siphoning attention from the iPhone 6 launch, for the next five years at a minimum.

The Fire phone’s 3D camera and Amazon’s initiative on Same-Day Delivery also serve the core strategy of creating smartphone-driven shoppers.  Amazon’s 3D camera is ideal for visual product recognition, and only figures to improve. If it can reach the point where it reliably matches real-world objects to exact products in Amazon’s catalog, shoppers will have a powerful showrooming tool in their pockets connected to Amazon’s 1-click checkout. Users could make a purchase on their pocket cash register faster than they could walk to the register at the front of the brick and mortar store. The other piece of this is Amazon’s Same-Day Delivery, available in a dozen cities so far. With Same-Day Delivery, a shopper leaning toward a purchase at a brick and mortar store because they want it immediately can still expect their Amazon purchase to be received that day.

In the longer term, we may see Amazon, and even Apple, launch an attack on credit card and bank interchange fees. At the innovation lab of a major bank and credit card issuer I visited two months ago, they surprisingly no longer considered other banks to be their key competitors. Amazon, Google, and Apple have become their most feared competitors as we go deeper into the 21st century. Google Wallet and similar services like Square have been out for a few years now, and have user bases of people utilizing their pay-by-phone feature. In a nod to the competition around digital wallets, Amazon completely stripped Google service properties out of the custom version of Android used on its Fire phone.

Both Amazon and Apple are racing to own the digital payment space, and have billions of dollars to gain by threatening established credit card companies on the interchange fee front. For Amazon, removing a 1.5% interchange fee on its $100 billion in volume would be worth $1.5 billion per year. The same story is true for Apple, considering iTunes and other sales.

If Amazon were to successfully remove interchange fees by allowing shoppers to use an Amazon-owned credit card instrument, the company could offer shoppers a 1-2% credit on any purchase made anywhere (even at competing businesses). Amazon could give this kind of incentive to complete purchases through Firefly. By eliminating interchange fees, discounts like that could be free to Amazon – not a bad deal.

My advice for retailers is not to dismiss the potential for major changes in the pricing transparency and payments landscapes, and to understand and anticipate the moves being made by these tech giants. Know what their phones mean to their strategies. Be ready for Amazon Prime shoppers (20 million+ already) browsing brick and mortar stores with thinly veiled Amazon cash registers in their hands, and keep looking for new ways to compete.

Jon Nordmark is the CEO at Iterate Studio, a digital proof-of-concept lab that discovers and curates emerging technologies, then implements proof-tests for an exclusive members-only group of non-competing retailers.

]]> (Jon Nordmark, Iterate Studio) Executive ViewPoints Tue, 07 Oct 2014 07:19:21 -0400
Rue21 Partners With A Glimmer Of Hope To Promote Breast Cancer Awareness

rue 21
Specialty apparel retailer rue 21 has launched its annual breast cancer awareness campaign, called "Big or Small, Let's Save Them All!"

As part of the campaign, rue21 will sell breast cancer awareness merchandise and host a social media contest to support those affected by the disease. Through the end of October, rue21 will donate a percentage of profits from the merchandise sold to the Glimmer of Hope Foundation, a Pittsburgh-based non-profit organization that is funding a premenopausal breast cancer research study in the U.S. 

Past donations from rue21 have allowed Glimmer of Hope to purchase a SenoClaire machine, GE Healthcare's new breast tomosynthesis solution that provides three-dimensional imaging technology.

"Rue21 has been such a tremendous partner for us over the years, bringing awareness and funds to this important cause," said Diana Napper, executive director of A Glimmer of Hope. "The continued support of rue21 to our organization helps us deliver on our commitment of funding studies for premenopausal women impacted by breast cancer.
Tomosynthesis is the next step in the battle to detect early breast cancer."

]]> (Alicia Fiorletta) News Briefs Tue, 07 Oct 2014 08:26:28 -0400
Affirm Split Pay Allows Online Shoppers To Pay In Monthly Installments Affirm Split Pay Allows Online Shoppers To Pay In Monthly Installments

SS Affirm Image 1Shoppers may be hesitant to purchase an expensive item online due to fear of debt and hidden fees and taxes that may result from the transaction.

A new solution from Affirm, called Split Pay, allows consumers to split their online purchases into smaller monthly payments to mitigate the impact of a large transaction. Retailers can offer Split Pay as a payment option on their e-Commerce site.

Split Pay is designed to provide clear terms and fixed payment installments, preventing consumers from being hit with surprise fees that may be applied after they buy an item with their credit cards.

The solution also is designed to provide no risk for retailers, as Affirm pays its merchants in full at the time of settlement. Affirm charges merchants 2% to 3% of each transaction, with shopper fees starting at 6%, depending on payment history and amount of payment installments.

“Consumers want and need an easy-to-use alternative to credit cards when they’re shopping online, especially underserved populations like Millennials, enthusiasts and the vast population of debit card users,” said Max Levchin, Co-Founder and CEO of Affirm. “Consumer financing has been available to the largest online and many brick and mortar merchants for years. We’re now bringing this powerful financing to all online merchants, large and small.”

To register for the service, consumers provide basic information such as their name, mobile phone number and date of birth. 

]]> (Glenn Taylor) Solution Spotlight Tue, 07 Oct 2014 08:11:46 -0400
The Small Business Retailer’s Guide To Preparing For The Holidays The Small Business Retailer’s Guide To Preparing For The Holidays

VP site only head shot 1The time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s is potentially the most profitable time of the year for retailers, which also makes it one of the most competitive. Small businesses may think they are in for a tough contest with the many deep-pocketed, big-box chain retailers.  Using tailored marketing and smart planning, any small business has the potential to attract shoppers and their holiday season spending.

The Importance Of An Online Presence

Most shoppers start by turning to the web to find the best gifts for family and friends. It may not be possible for your small business to sell products online just yet, but having a web presence of some kind is vital. First, your competitors are online so you need to be too, even if it’s just a basic web site with your store’s information. Many times, the average gift buyer is browsing online for the best deals in town. Having your business’ web site come up on search engines will expand your audience and make your business more discoverable to new customers. If you’re unable to set up an entire e-Commerce platform, posting photos of the products available for purchase in-store is an effective way to get potential customers intrigued by what you have to offer.

Also, more and more web traffic is coming from smartphones and tablets.  If possible, your web site needs to be mobile-friendly to let your potential customers access your site from their favorite device.  Even if you are simply showing an address and phone number, presenting the right information with mobile-ready features is another way to take advantage of holiday shopping traffic.

Social media is a must for retail.  Facebook, Twitter and Instagram may seem confusing and overwhelming at first, but these free platforms can be used as powerful marketing tools to lure in and connect with holiday shoppers. Don’t be afraid to get creative and show your store’s personality! On Facebook, post pictures of employees dressed up in holiday costumes. Engage with your followers on Twitter by posting questions like, “What’s your favorite holiday tradition?” On Instagram, post photos of the most popular items available at your store or pictures of local customers doing their holiday shopping inside. With social media, it’s about creating a community for your customers so they know to keep checking your pages throughout the year for the latest store news and potential discounts.

Promotions, Deals And Events

Corporate retailers can take advantage of offering deep discounts and promotions to drive customers into their stores.  It can be hard to match on price, but it’s still important to have some sort of holiday promotion to attract shoppers, particularly those who are hunting for a good deal.  

Many of these corporate retailers are also offering free shipping deals online, so try offering a cost-effective incentive to have customers physically come into your store. One idea is to offer a free or discounted gift wrapping service. Display the offer on your web site and social media pages.  Just that one small incentive could bring in many shoppers with busy schedules who may have been tempted to order everything online.

The Saturday after Thanksgiving, dubbed Small Business Saturday, is your day to shine and set the stage for the rest of the holiday season. Use it to your business’ full advantage and build promotions around the whole day to gain customers that could keep coming back year-round. Consider hosting an event at your store with entertainment like coloring and puzzles for the little ones so parents can shop in peace while also offering free coffee and snacks. Implement extended hours for the day, display balloons outside, or offer one-day-only discounts to reward customers for supporting the local small business community.

Stocking Up And Thinking Ahead

Every day is as important as the last during the holiday shopping season, so think ahead and have a plan in place for your business to save time and prevent stress. Start your inventory planning now; build a sales forecast by analyzing past holiday season sales and based on those numbers, you can estimate the amount of inventory your business will need to last through the end of the year. Don’t be afraid to overestimate on products that don’t expire, especially if your business has unique marketing plans that differ from last year.

One issue many small businesses run into at this junction is finding the working capital to purchase ahead. It can be difficult to go through the traditional banking loan process because many times the amount needed is rather small; usually less than $100,000 and the process can take a long time. Working with alternative finance providers is one option to consider as these providers specialize in smaller amounts of capital. One advantage of applying for this type of working capital is that funding is typically available within days, compared to the traditional process of three weeks or more. Whichever working capital option your business chooses, be sure to carefully analyze its cost over time to ensure that it’s the best decision for your small business.

As your business starts to put together its holiday plans, don’t think of it as a quarterly project. Think of it as a long-term plan to convert holiday customers into regular customers. Remember, there will always be birthdays, anniversaries and other holidays that bring the need for presents and more shopping.


James Mendelsohn is the Chief Marketing Officer for CAN Capital. He is a 20-year executive with deep experience in financial and consumer marketing. Most recently, he was at the consulting firm McKinsey & Company, where he advised global clients in the financial services sector on marketing analytics, market intelligence, digital strategy, and customer experience. Prior to McKinsey, Mendelsohn spent 12 years at Capital One, where he most recently served as the Vice President of Corporate Strategy and led marketing, digital, and customer experience strategy across the credit card, banking, and financial services lines of business. He helped launch many of Capital One’s signature marketing programs, including the award-winning “What’s In Your Wallet?” advertising campaign and the Capital One Bowl.

]]> (James Mendelsohn, CAN Capital) Executive ViewPoints Mon, 06 Oct 2014 16:49:06 -0400
Zendesk Insights Measures Customer Service Effectiveness Zendesk Insights Measures Customer Service Effectiveness

SS site only Zendesk ImagePreserving a successful and profitable customer-retailer relationship depends significantly on the level and quality of service provided by the retailer. However, some retailers might think they are doing a better job at connecting with their consumers than they actually are.

To alleviate this issue, customer service software provider Zendesk crafted Insights, an analytics tool for organizations that want to measure and visualize the impact of their customer service interactions.

Insights is designed to deliver simple visualizations and reports, so organizations can measure customer support effectiveness and benchmark results against industry peers.

“Organizations today are facing a data deluge, and they want information that they can use to reshape their operations and customer relationships,” said Sam Boonin, VP of Products at Zendesk. “With Insights, Zendesk does the heavy lifting to help support leaders apply their data and make business decisions that improve their relationships with customers.”

Companies that actively use analytics in their support operations record a 12% faster first-response time to customer inquiries, according to the quarterly Benchmark report from Zendesk, and a 16% faster inquiry resolution time.

]]> (Glenn Taylor) Solution Spotlight Mon, 06 Oct 2014 16:42:29 -0400
Pandora Exec Delves Into Mobile Payment Trends Pandora Exec Delves Into Mobile Payment Trends

With the recent release of Apple Pay, mobile payment is coming back to the forefront. And retailers seemingly are more eager to hop on board and create a more seamless and enjoyable customer experience. However, there are a variety of factors retailers need to consider before hopping on the mobile bandwagon. 

In the below Q&A, Leon Sikes, Global Director of Retail Technology at jewelry designer, manufacturer, and retailer Pandora, discusses retail mobilization trends, challenges and best practices.

With 24 years of global business and technology experience, Sikes brings a unique perspective and understanding of the pressures retailers face with regard to driving the customer experience through mobile enablement. Sikes is slated to speak at the 2014 fall Mobile Payments Conference (MPC), which is being held October 6-8, 2014, in Chicago.

 Retail TouchPoints (RTP): What is the biggest mobile payment topic/trend you’re looking forward to talking about at the 2014 Fall Mobile Payments Conference?

Sikes: Mobile payment is a topic that’s been talked about for years, but hasn’t yet become widely adopted by the majority of retailers. Advances in digital wallet technologies and the growing acceptance of digital currencies such as Bitcoin are helping to move mobile payment adoption forward. The fact that major companies such as Dell,, Expedia, Amazon, Tiger Direct and others are now accepting Bitcoin is a big deal, and I’m excited to share the reasons why at the show.

RTP: Despite some big-name companies accepting Bitcoin, why are so many other retailers not yet following suit?

{loadposition GIAA}Sikes: There’s a lot of negative publicity about Bitcoin and other digital currencies. The real issue here is that not enough people really understand digital currency and its potential to make a positive impact in the world. For example, retailers will like the fact that there are no chargebacks with digital currency.

With regards to the misunderstood side of digital currency, it’s no different than any emerging or disruptive technology. We can go back 20 + years to the emergence of the Internet to Smartphones today. Most people did not understand the Internet or email and today they cannot live without it! The financial industry will go through a similar change, either adopt and embrace or get left behind.

RTP: What are the biggest obstacles that prevent retailers from adopting mobile payment solutions?

Sikes: Legacy POS systems presents the biggest obstacle. Many of the current legacy systems don’t support new commerce platforms, mobile payments/digital currencies, and retailers are hesitant to make technology investments before fully understanding what the industry standard will be. Fortunately, we’re seeing adoption from companies such as VeriFone and Ingenico that allow retailers to accept new types of payments.

A second obstacle — especially for international retailers is addressing the inconsistent legislation among various mobile payment governing bodies. Some governing bodies have specific compliance regulations in place that differ significantly from the rules adopted by other countries’ standards and it’s a challenge to choose solutions that comply with every country’s requirements.

RTP: What is it going to take to overcome these obstacles?

Sikes: Perseverance is a trait retailers must possess, especially when it comes to educating themselves and mobile payment governing bodies. Public – Private Partnership with governments and governing bodies to foster education, innovation, and governance will be key to successful adoption.

Flexibility is another must-have trait retailers must possess with regard to mobile payment. Instead of waiting to see which mobile wallet or digital currency emerges as the de facto standard, we need to invest in technologies that support multiple payment options. This approach brings the topic back to the most important point, which is allowing customers to engage with retailers however they want rather than retailers trying to dictate what they think is best.

]]> (Alicia Fiorletta) Trend Watch Mon, 06 Oct 2014 08:25:25 -0400
Tilly’s Launches “SNAP SHOP” Visual Search Feature On Mobile Site Tilly’s Launches “SNAP SHOP” Visual Search Feature On Mobile Site

Tillys ImageWhen consumers see a product they like, they often have an impulse to purchase it right then and there. But if a shopper sees a product in a print item, such as a catalog, they cannot act on this impulse successfully.

Tilly’s, a retailer specializing in action sportswear and accessories, has unveiled the “Tilly’s SNAP SHOP” service, which was developed by visual search platform provider Slyce. The “snap-to-buy” functionality is designed to enable Tilly’s shoppers to open the mobile web site on their smartphone, snap photos of items in Tilly’s seasonal collection catalogs and immediately purchase these items via their personal devices.

{loadposition GIAA}Customers will have access to Tilly’s SNAP SHOP starting in early October 2014, when the retailer’s fall catalog is released.

Image recognition technology, which is integrated into the mobile web site, opens the camera function instantly. Once a shopper snaps an image from the catalog, the service performs a match based on the product and brings the customer to the instant purchase page for the product.

“There’s two kinds of visual search technologies,” said Mark Elfenbein, CEO of Slyce. “The one we use with Tilly’s is what we like to call 1-to-1 matching, in which the product you’re looking at is the exact product you can get driven to purchase. The other technology we find retailers are interested in involves relevancy matching. If you’re inspired by a certain product, and you like the color or the style, you may want to reference your favorite retailer’s catalog instantly to see what the closest match is to that item.”

Elfenbein noted that retailers that use these visual search options are poised to compete against the Firefly feature embedded on the Amazon Fire smartphone, which contains image- and audio recognition technology of its own.

Taking A Progressive Approach

Before partnering with Slyce, Tilly’s started to establish plans to bridge its online and offline retail strategies by encouraging customers who read the company’s seasonal catalogs to purchase on the e-Commerce site. Tilly’s found, after engaging with Slyce at a mobile conference early in 2014, that the visual search platform would help the retailer meet this goal.

“Tilly’s is definitely more progressive compared to other brands that we have seen, and they’re an early adopter for sure,” Elfenbein said. “Typically, the only way shoppers could transact from catalogs is by circling a picture of an item as a reminder before walking into a store. With our technology, we look to eliminate all the friction in acquiring all your favorite products out of the catalog.”

The visual search technology is not only designed to eliminate friction in the purchasing process, but also creates a digital showroom out of every product, helping to boost impulse purchases.

“Retailers and brands are trying to figure out a visual product search and image recognition solution for their customers,” Elfenbein said. “They’re thinking that a lot of customers aren’t necessarily physically in the stores or surfing their direct web sites, but they’re coming into contact with products in the real world that they’re inspired by. They want these products right at the moment of impulse. Tilly’s realized that they have to be able to capitalize on impulse purchasing wherever their customers are in the real world.”

For now, SNAP SHOP will only be integrated within the Tilly’s mobile web site. However, the retailer plans to integrate the service into its mobile app. 

]]> (Glenn Taylor) Retail Success Stories Fri, 03 Oct 2014 07:12:13 -0400
Fjällräven Enlists Junction Solutions To Implement Microsoft Dynamics AX Fjällräven Enlists Junction Solutions To Implement Microsoft Dynamics AX

fjallraven-store-exteriorFjällräven North America, a manufacturer and retailer of outdoor equipment and clothing, selected retail software provider Junction Solutions to implement Release 2 of the Microsoft Dynamics AX 2012 solution. The implementation was deployed in 12 weeks, according to a company statement.

Fjällräven first went live with Dynamics AX 2012 at its Boulder, Colo. office to assist employees with financials, purchasing, inventory and retail front office and back office applications. As part of the next implementation phase, the company will roll out the solution to an additional eight stores in the U.S. and Canada.

“Junction Solutions consultants provided impressive expertise in Microsoft technology and multi-channel retail operations that led to a rapid and smooth implementation at our Colorado location,” said Giordano Biondani, IT Manager at Fjällräven North America. “This was a true out-of-the-box implementation which delivered a fast go-live that came in under budget.”

]]> (Glenn Taylor) News Briefs Thu, 02 Oct 2014 10:17:15 -0400
360pi And IBM Collaborate On Dynamic Pricing Solution 360pi And IBM Collaborate On Dynamic Pricing Solution

360piIBM360pi and IBM are collaborating on a solution designed to facilitate more automated and dynamic pricing for joint customers. The solution combines the real-time price intelligence of 360pi with the cloud-based omnichannel pricing platform from IBM.

With the integration, joint customers are poised to accelerate time-to-market for intelligent dynamic pricing and lower ownership costs.

“One of the key ways retailers can effectively compete and grow margins today is to price in time with strategic inter- and intra-day price changes,” stated Alexander Rink, CEO of 360pi. “By embedding our real-time price intelligence directly into IBM’s omnichannel pricing engine, retailers are able to realize real-time pricing even more efficiently and effectively.” 

The joint solution also will allow retailers to support real-time zone pricing and act on pricing insights for similar products including private brands.

]]> (Glenn Taylor) News Briefs Thu, 02 Oct 2014 10:58:33 -0400
34% Of Consumers Plan To Spend More This Holiday Season

Holiday ShoppingThe holiday season will officially kick off in a few short weeks, however some shoppers already are developing their shopping strategies and plan to start buying earlier than ever.

In fact, 34% of consumers said they plan to start shopping in October, according to new estimates from HookLogic. The same amount (34%) of consumers said they plan to spend more than they did during the 2013 holiday season. However, because there are more days between Thanksgiving and Christmas in 2014 than there were in 2013, HookLogic predicts that buying will span beyond the usual Black Friday and Cyber Monday bulk spending.

{loadposition GIAA}“Last year, the holiday season was particularly short, so it all depends on where the calendar falls,” said Elizabeth Jackson, CMO at HookLogic. “This year there are additional days, but some years there are six additional days. Retailers are really collapsing the amount of shoppers into the amount of days they have.”

Approximately two thirds (36%) of shoppers said they plan to shop more online this year. “As online shopping becomes more of the norm, more spending will be taking place online,” noted Jackson. However, the store will still play a key role, as more consumers admitted that they will be showrooming and webrooming to find the best deal. “Both are very important, and many consumers are participating in both. Manufacturers and brands should encourage it and make sure they provide the information customers need to make the best decision.”

But shoppers also plan to embrace omnichannel capabilities, such as buy online, pickup in-store, which will see an uptick this year, according to Jackson.

“One of the largest variables for e-Commerce is shipping costs,” Jackson said. “But when a customer orders something, they can pick it up in a store, and they often go in and end up buying more. There’s a real opportunity there.”

When shopping online, consumers consider a multitude of factors being hitting the “add to cart” button. The top influencers on purchases include: Price, product descriptions, product ratings/reviews and product images.

“Price is always going to be a factor, but that alone isn’t going to sell an item,” Jackson explained. “It’s the features, elements and product details that also are extremely important.”

Consumers also are influenced by the social objectives of product ratings and reviews, Jackson added. “Even three- or four-star ratings have an impact. Influencers also depend on the category. For example, product ingredients are especially important for beauty brands.”

Click here to learn more about top holiday marketing trends and tactics.

]]> (Alicia Fiorletta) Shopper Experience Thu, 02 Oct 2014 11:11:33 -0400
49% Of Shoppers Plan To Shop Early This Holiday Season 49% Of Shoppers Plan To Shop Early This Holiday Season

Holiday ShippingShoppers plan to finish their online holiday shopping early this year to ensure their gifts arrive on time, according to new research from Pitney Bowes.

Nearly half (49%) of the U.S. consumers who plan to shop online this holiday season said they will do so earlier. The primary reason for this decision (63%) is to ensure packages are delivered before their celebrations with friends and family.

{loadposition GIAA}Up to one third (33%) of shoppers said they plan to pay more attention to shipping this year versus last year. They are doing so by tracking packages once or twice (33%), three to five times (21%) or even six or more times (23%).

The second annual Pitney Bowes Holiday Shipping Survey, which was conducted by ORC International, includes insights from approximately 1,000 U.S. consumers.

“Last year, holiday shipping challenges stemmed from a perfect storm of record-breaking weather combined with over-promises to deliver orders on time and a last-minute shipping surge,” said Christoph Stehmann, President of e-Commerce and Shipping Solutions at Pitney Bowes. “To help capture holiday sales this year and meet customer expectations, retailers should prepare well in advance for the unexpected, and provide real-time visibility on shipping packages and reliable delivery estimates.”

Consumers’ decision to purchase holiday gifts earlier could be inspired by the fact that they prefer free shipping to fast shipping. In fact, 82% of respondents said free five-to-seven-day shipping is more valuable to them than having products delivered in one or two business days for an additional fee.

The consumers who find fast shipping more attractive than free shipping, however, said they would pay an average of $8.50 for two-day delivery. Fewer (19%) respondents said they’d be willing to pay more than $10 for faster shipping.

]]> (Rob Fee) News Briefs Wed, 01 Oct 2014 12:58:13 -0400
Smocked Auctions Tackles Social Selling With Soldsie Smocked Auctions Tackles Social Selling With Soldsie

The e-Commerce landscape is flooded with an endless amount of retailers looking to distinguish their brand from the pack. With social media further bridging the consumer-retailer relationship, more companies are being creative in using it to market and sell their products.

Smocked Auctions, an online retailer of designer baby and children’s clothing, has driven more than $1.5 million in sales and more than 50,000 transactions since selecting social shopping platform Soldsie along the implementation of e-Commerce solution Magento.

{loadposition GIAA}The Soldsie platform has been available on the Magento Connect extensions marketplace since August 2014, making the two solutions a package deal for Smocked Auctions. When the retailer ultimately selected Magento to help expand its online operations, the company also tapped Soldsie to expand its social media sales and create a singular checkout experience across all social media channels.

“It’s a great unified experience for the consumer, because they’re able to check out in the same place across all social networks and the Smocked Auctions e-Commerce site,” said Chris Bennett, CEO of Soldsie. “It also improves the lives of the Smocked Auctions team, because they can manage everything in one place. They manage all inventory on Magento, but they’re able to sell across all of these channels.”

Additionally, Smocked Auctions leveraged Soldsie to streamline its comment selling process, all while maintaining the personal nature that attracted people to it in the first place. The solution enables Smocked Auctions to sell its products across both its Facebook and Instagram pages without having to re-paste the listings, and allows the retailer to manage both pages separately. Since implementing Soldsie, Smocked Auctions has brought in an average of $350 in revenue per social media posting.

The retailer’s business model is designed to engage potential consumers through social media auctions on Facebook and Instagram platforms. In an attempt to “bid” on listed items, consumers can comment under product photos with the word “sold,” their preferred size of the item and their email address.  Bid winners, who are determined by the order of comments, receive an immediate email from Smocked Auctions with a link to an online shopping cart so they can pay for the item.

In implementing Soldsie, Smocked Auctions discovered a new stream of revenue with the Second Chance sales feature, which increased the company sell-through rate 12%. This feature enables customers who just missed out on the winning bid to be put on a waiting list in case faster bidders don’t pay for their item. The retailer increased the number of items sold after an auction ended by offering up additional inventory to shoppers who had put themselves on a waitlist.

“Smocked Auctions isn’t known in most e-Commerce communities, because they’re a social commerce company,” Bennett said in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “Smocked Auctions started their business on social. The reason we work with them is because they started to notice that the market was moving in that direction. Omnichannel doesn’t just mean brick-and-mortar and e-Commerce anymore, it also means social, and that’s where we come into play.”

]]> (Glenn Taylor) Retail Success Stories Wed, 01 Oct 2014 10:00:00 -0400
NetSuite And ChannelAdvisor Build Integrated SuiteApp NetSuite And ChannelAdvisor Build Integrated SuiteApp

netsuitechanneladvisorCloud-based omnichannel commerce software provider NetSuite and e-Commerce solution provider ChannelAdvisor have integrated their platforms to build the ChannelAdvisor SuiteApp. The integrated suite is available at to ChannelAdvisor and NetSuite customers and streamlines product and order data exchange between the two solutions.

The ChannelAdvisor SuiteApp is designed to save time for retailers by helping them handle the challenges of meeting expectations for a broad selection of products, immediate order fulfillment, lower prices and a consistent customer experience across multiple channels. It also enables retailers to overcome the limitations that come from using third-party packaged or custom-built integrations. With the integration, retailers are positioned to take advantage of online marketplaces by expanding their business through a revenue stream in domestic and international markets.

“In today’s omnichannel environment consumers are demanding virtually unlimited assortment and complete transparency into product availability,” said Andy Lloyd, General Manager of Commerce Products for NetSuite. “By utilizing Channel Advisor in conjunction with NetSuite, our customers are able to reach their consumers wherever they shop while utilizing NetSuite’s responsive storefront, global inventory visibility, distributed order management and comprehensive customer profiles to sell more goods and increase customer satisfaction."

]]> (Glenn Taylor) News Briefs Wed, 01 Oct 2014 09:09:28 -0400
Derek Jeter And The Sports Superstar’s Effect On Retail Derek Jeter And The Sports Superstar’s Effect On Retail

Glenn head shotAnyone who has followed the sports world recently (and many who haven’t) know about the retirement of baseball star Derek Jeter. Jeter arguably is the most popular player in the sport, appearing in seemingly endless ads for Nike, Gatorade, Gillette and Ford among other top-shelf brands.

Jeter is the perfect example of how a singular athlete can become just as big, if not bigger, than the brands that sponsor him. In fact, summer sales revenue for Jeter-related items increased 1,114.57% year-over-year for one national sporting goods retailer, according to data from e-Commerce order management provider Shopatron. Orders had a similar increase of 1,077.77%.

The retailer also benefitted significantly from the team association, because shoppers buying Jeter merchandise also are likely to purchase another item related to his team, the New York Yankees. Yankees merchandise increased seasonal sales in 2014 by 37% and customer orders were up by 48%.

Jeter’s commercial success can be compared to basketball superstar Michael Jordan. Jordan earned an estimated $90 million in 2013 as part of his Jordan Brand partnership with Nike, even though he hasn’t been an active basketball player for more than a decade. Jeter has been signed to the Jordan Brand since 1999, surely making a greater impact on Nike’s sales as a whole, having more shoes than any athlete under the brand other than Jordan himself. With his popularity, I can see Jeter taking a similar route to Jordan, in that his merchandise will likely be sold in large quantities long after his retirement.

Obviously, the vast majority of professional athletes do not move the needle with this kind of impact carried out by Jordan and Jeter, so I can only imagine that sporting goods retailers across the board must have been thrilled with the results in 2014. However, there is further room for a popularity increase for present stars. With that said, retailers need to find ways to capitalize on these athletes who transcend their respective sports in the same way brands do.

Modell’s actually posted a section dedicated to Jeter’s merchandise on the front page of its e-Commerce site in celebration of the “Countdown To His Final Game.” When clicked, the site navigates to 163 Derek Jeter-related items, includingshirts,hats and other memorabilia. Every sporting goods site I searched had plenty of promotions for items and collections that caught my eye, but none with promotions tailored for specific individuals. To find merchandise of popular stars, I would have to either search by name or click through specific sports and teams.

The most well-known athletes are celebrities by definition; we already know how much of an effect celebrities have in influencing consumer purchases. People want to buy the clothing and items their favorite television or movie stars wear, and this same hero worship holds true for the people who can perform impressive athletic feats.

This is why it may be good business for sporting goods retailers to take advantage of the celebrity aspect of these athletes more often. The way some of these players are hyped, especially with the proliferation of television contracts, fantasy sports leagues and overall greater visibility, has provided casual fans with even more individuals to root for than in the past. These retailers should now have more incentive than ever to market these individuals when taking into account the potential revenue that can be made.

]]> (Glenn Taylor) Editor's Perspective Wed, 01 Oct 2014 08:33:48 -0400
eBay And PayPal To Split In 2015 eBay And PayPal To Split In 2015

eBay Incpaypal-ebay. announced plans to spin off its PayPal division and form two independent publicly traded companies in 2015. Current President and CEO John Donahoe and company CFO Bob Swan will lead the separation of each business. Following the transaction, neither will have an executive management role in the new companies, though they do expect to serve as board members for one or both companies. eBay expects to complete the transaction as a tax-free spin-off in the second half of 2015, subject to market, regulatory and certain other conditions.

“For more than a decade, eBay and PayPal have mutually benefited from being part of one company, creating substantial shareholder value,” said Donahoe. “However, a thorough strategic review with our board shows that keeping eBay and PayPal together beyond 2015 clearly becomes less advantageous to each business strategically and competitively. The industry landscape is changing, and each business faces different competitive opportunities and challenges.”

{loadposition GIAA}The separation was intended to sharpen strategic focus for both companies, according to a statement released by eBay. The board also stated that it believed the benefits of the existing relationship would decline over time and both units would be better suited to create operating agreements. “This is the best path for delivering sustainable shareholder value,” the board concluded in the statement.

Current president of eBay Marketplaces, Devin Wenig, will become the CEO of the new eBay company. Dan Schulman, who was unveiled as president of PayPal in the same announcement, will become CEO of PayPal upon completion of the transaction. Joining PayPal from American Express, Schulman was president of the company’s Enterprise Growth Group and has held senior executive and CEO roles at AT&T, Priceline and Virgin Mobile, prior to joining American Express.

“As both a leading global technology platform and a financial services business, PayPal requires a diverse blend of leadership skills and operating experience in its president and future CEO,” said Donahoe. “Dan has a proven track record of leading complex technology businesses at scale, driving sustainable growth and understanding how to innovate to drive competitive advantage and deliver compelling experiences for customers.”

]]> (Rob Fee) News Briefs Tue, 30 Sep 2014 15:42:16 -0400
Smarter Remarketer Taps Michael Osborne As New President Smarter Remarketer Taps Michael Osborne As New President

Michael OsborneSmarter Remarketer, a provider of customer intelligence for multi-channel retailers, named Michael Osborne as its new President. Prior to joining Smarter Remarketer, Osborne served as the Chief Revenue Officer at Bazaarvoice and helped lead the company through its initial public offering in 2012. In his new role, Osborne will oversee and assist in company development, strategy and growth. He will report directly to Howard Bated, Chairman and CEO of Smarter Remarketer.

“Our board of directors and I are honored to have Osborne join the Smarter Remarketer leadership team in such an important role,” said Howard Bates, CEO of Smarter Remarketer. “We believe he will have a tremendous positive impact on the success of the company. With his more than 16 years of successful experience in high growth SaaS-based marketing technology companies, all of which serve similar customers to ours, he is an excellent addition.”

{loadposition GIAA}Osborne spent nearly seven years at Bazaarvoice, helping grow its annual sales from $1 million to more than $130 million. He helped oversee the growth of its sales force to 120 members and assisted in establishing multiple international offices. Prior to joining Baazarvoice, Osborne built and managed the client services team at Coremetrics, achieving a near 100% enterprise client renewal rate.

“Joining Smarter Remarketer is truly thrilling,” said Osborne. “Beyond the innovative technology, I love the passion Smarter Remarketer has and they aren’t alone. Smarter Remarketer customers share that passion and excitement. The company is a true industry innovator and their raving customer base knows it.”

Osborne’s hiring follows Smarter Remarketer securing $7 million in venture funding provided by Battery Ventures and another $7 million in venture debt financing from City National Bank earlier this year.

]]> (Rob Fee) Retail Movers & Shakers Tue, 30 Sep 2014 14:48:33 -0400
TXT Hires New SVP To Lead U.S. Expansion TXT Hires New SVP To Lead U.S. Expansion

TXT-GroupTXT e-solutions, a provider of retail planning solutions for luxury, fashion and consumer sectors, has appointed Jean-Philippe Vorsanger as the company’s new SVP and COO of North American operations. In his new role, Vorsanger will help TXT e-solutions expand the business nationwide.

With more than 20 years of experience in the retail, technology and supply chain industries, Vorsanger will be responsible for growing market presence in the U.S., generating opportunities within the existing customer base and continuing to secure successful relationships with clients. He also will manage operations, including management of the consulting, professional services and customer support teams.

“We have been investing strongly in North America, attracting top-talent professionals across all functions and securing significant revenue results,” said Andrea Cencini, EVP Managing Director at TXT. “Jean-Philippe brings a wealth of retail consulting and operations management experience.”

Vorsanger previously served as Principal of IT service provider Capgemini, where he was responsible for managing the supply chain department. Prior to his time at Capgemini, he was a retail consultant at Deloitte and a VP of Demand Chain Management Solution at Teradata.

]]> (Glenn Taylor) Retail Movers & Shakers Tue, 30 Sep 2014 07:51:50 -0400
Leveraging VoC Into Advanced Customer Experience Management

shadow RTP RT032 FEAT Advocacy Sept 2014As many individuals, businesses and organizations have discovered, the Voice of the Customer (VoC) is coming through loud and clear today. Consumers have never had more platforms, or handier tools, for amplifying their delight — or their disgust — with products, services, campaigns and causes.

It’s essential that retailers tune in to these multiple “broadcasts.” Even more important is tying what they learn to specific actions, letting shoppers know that they are indeed being heard and heeded. The rewards from well-executed Social Customer Experience Management (CEM) are larger measures of loyalty from customers than ever before.

How big a payoff is possible? Consider the results from a 2013 study conducted by SocialTwist, which analyzed data from 119 social referral marketing campaigns run by some of the world’s leading brands, covering industries including consumer products, financial services, membership organizations, retail, and e-commerce. The social referral campaigns covered an 18-month period and involved an aggregate of 3.2 million consumers; retail accounted for just over one in four (27%) of all the programs studied, exceeded only by consumer products at 35%.

This two-part report analyzes the benefits and challenge of listening to the Voice of the Customer (VoC) and incorporating social advocacy into the retail marketing mix. Fill out the form below to download a complimentary pdf of the complete report.


]]> (Adam Blair, Contributing Writer) Special Reports Mon, 29 Sep 2014 14:08:34 -0400
Only 16% Of Organizations Say They Have Highly Effective Loyalty Programs Only 16% Of Organizations Say They Have Highly Effective Loyalty Programs

Customer loyaltyOnly 16% of businesses believe they have a highly effective loyalty program, according to a recent survey conducted by the International Institute for Analytics (IIA) and commissioned by SAS.

More than half (56%) of respondents said they use a customer retention rate metric to measure loyalty program success, while 27% calculate customer lifetime value. Only 54% of organizations said they could calculate the revenue impact of their customer loyalty programs.

For the research report, titled: Keeping Customers: Successful Loyalty Through Analytics, IIA surveyed 325 enterprise marketing executives from companies with an annual revenue of at least $50 million that also have customer loyalty initiatives in place.

Retaining valuable customers (53%) and keeping current customers (47%) are respondents’ top priorities in developing a customer loyalty program. Respondents also cited increasing sales to current customers (44%) and creating strong brand affinity (43%) as major priorities.

However, loyalty program goals and priorities are different for organizations that believe they have highly effective initiatives in place. These companies focus on building brand affinity (53%) and improving customer satisfaction (51%). Effectively carrying out these priorities can make or break the success of a loyalty program, as 71% of revenue from these businesses comes from repeat or current customers.

Organizations that are equipped to build highly effective loyalty programs have five key differentiators, according to the study, including:

  • A dedicated customer loyalty function/department helps manage programs and initiatives;
  • There is a greater emphasis on customer experience;
  • Rewards are personalized for individual customers;
  • Social media is used to manage customer relationships; and
  • Data analytics are valued as core program components.

Aside from the five main differentiators, retailers with highly effective programs share a proper loyalty measurement framework, according to Wilson Raj, Global Director for Customer Intelligence at SAS.

“You must be able to tell a financial story when measuring loyalty,” Raj said in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “You don’t get funded at the executive level if you don’t measure appropriately. Loyalty measurements in the past have been more transaction driven, with factors such as number of members, number of points redeemed and number of miles converted. Those kinds of things don’t do a whole lot for the C-suite of a business.”

Instead, retailers should quantify the success of their loyalty programs by referring to operational, customer engagement and corporate metrics, Raj recommended. Operational metrics include the number of customers enrolled in a program and percentages of customers that redeem points per month. Customer engagement metrics include program effectiveness in attracting and engaging consumers, as well as data measuring which members can potentially serves brand advocates. Finally, corporate metrics determine how well loyalty programs serve the overarching goals of the business.

Click hereto download the complete report. 

]]> (Glenn Taylor) CRM / Loyalty Mon, 29 Sep 2014 14:56:58 -0400
Moxie Web Self-Service Delivers Relevant Content Across All Devices Moxie Web Self-Service Delivers Relevant Content Across All Devices

SS Moxie imageWhen consumers access a customer service channel, they crave relevant information that will guide them to the right purchase, regardless of the device they’re using to shop.

Web Self-Service from Moxie is a mobile-optimized knowledge solution designed to allow retailers to engage consumers by providing them with relevant and consistent information across all touch points.

Retailers can build engaging self-service portals for desktop, laptop, smartphone and tablet users by including rich images and graphics that align with the brand message. Content included in the self-service portals can be indexed by search engines such as Google and Bing, benefitting merchants looking to gain a larger online presence.

Web Self Service provides language support so retailers can translate all content, labels and buttons within the self-service portal into other languages. Retailers also can use the solution to tailor search experiences and deliver personalized content to each customer. Finally, the Solution Finder feature allows retailers to provide correct answers to consumers’ questions, as well as deliver complementary content and other relevant information. 

]]> (Glenn Taylor) Solution Spotlight Mon, 29 Sep 2014 14:50:17 -0400
Is Your Online Business Prepared To Meet The Holiday Customer Service Rush? Is Your Online Business Prepared To Meet The Holiday Customer Service Rush?

VP Volusion head shotThe 2014 holiday season will be one of the shortest on record, with only 26 shopping days existing between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. This number is just one more than the 2013 season, and a whopping five days shorter than in 2012. Because of this tight window, holiday shoppers will be more hurried and frantic, which means that your online business will likely encounter an influx of customer service inquiries.

As we approach what’s projected to be the most lucrative holiday season in ecommerce history, it’s imperative that you equip and prepare your small shop to deliver exceptional customer service. The good news is that it takes just a little bit of planning and elbow grease – to help out, take a look at these areas of focus to spread that holiday cheer.

Establish Shipping Deadlines, Now

[Shipping cost and speed continues to be one of the main deciding factors for consumers when shopping online. A compact selling season can be a nightmare for procrastinating shoppers, especially when it comes to ensuring those last-minute gifts arrive in time. In fact, StellaService reported that in 2013, 32% of North America’s top 25 retailers couldn’t fulfill and deliver all of their online orders on time. This means that in order for your business to avoid being a Grinch, you need to start setting your shipping deadlines now.

{loadposition GIAA}To get started, pull out a calendar and mark what the final order dates are for all of your shipping options, including standard, expedited and overnight delivery. Once you have those dates on paper, create assets to incorporate on your website and emails that proactively and clearly communicate those deadlines. Not only is this a great way to create a sense of urgency with last-minute shoppers, it will help ensure your customers know the absolute final day they can place holiday orders.

Also be sure to offer expedited shipping options, namely two-day and overnight delivery, and don’t be afraid to charge a premium for that service. As a bonus tip, consider offering digital gift cards on the final days leading up to major holidays as no shipping will be required.

Staff Appropriately For A Customer Service Influx

In order to meet the customer service demand, you must ensure you have adequate staffing supply, especially during critical selling periods like Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the final days before Christmas. For a quick gauge on what your demand might be, look back to the 2013 holiday season and decide to what level you were prepared.

From a tactical standpoint, extend your real-time customer service hours, including phone and live chat. Upon doing so, make efforts to showcase your extended hours of operation prominently on your website’s header, footer and “Contact Us” page.

At a minimum, offer an email address where customers can reach you 24 hours a day, creating separate mailboxes to handle various inquiries, such as shipping and returns. It’s also recommended that you communicate your average response time to emails, although in an age of instant online gratification, the faster you can respond, the more likely you are to close a sale.

Take A Proactive Approach

As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, which holds true for your online customer service efforts. One of the best ways to prevent an influx of inquiries from hurried shoppers is to proactively offer information throughout your website and email communications.

A quick and easy approach is to take the most common questions from customers and turn them into an easy-to-find, easy-to-read FAQ page on your website. This page should include information regarding shipping deadlines, product care, the best way to contact you and more. Another helpful method to reduce customer contacts is to provide clear tracking information in order confirmation emails.

One tip to help relieve headaches after the holidays is to prominently share your return policy on your site and customer-facing emails. Doing so will help customers feel more confident in making a purchase, in addition to helping reduce confusion and the amount of returns you’ll have to process once the rush is over.

Go Above And Beyond Customer Expectations

With 83% of consumers requiring some level of customer support while making an online purchase and 55% stating that they would pay more to receive better customer service, you can see how meeting and exceeding service expectations can positively impact your bottom line. And as a small business, you’re in a unique position to make a lasting impression and create customer loyalty when assisting holiday shoppers.

Each business and situation is different, but if you work to provide white-glove service that’s uniquely personal, you’re primed to gain a customer for life. Even the little things like having a positive attitude, asking questions and tailoring the experience to each customer can make a big difference.

And finally, don’t forget to rock the follow up. As a small business, follow-up is one of your secret weapons, as there tends to be more of an opportunity to foster a personal shopping experience in comparison to enterprise retailers. Reach back out to customers that you’ve helped by sending them a feedback survey, ask for a recommendation or simply send a personalized note thanking them for their business. This type of touch will set you apart from larger online businesses and keep you top of mind with customers well beyond the holiday season.

There are dozens of items on your to-do list as you prepare for the busy holiday selling season, but to truly make the most of your marketing and merchandising efforts, your customer service must be in tip-top shape to seal the deal. With a little extra effort and some forward planning, you can provide a helping hand to hurried shoppers during this year’s shortened selling season without issue.

Matt Winn is Volusion’s Senior Marketing Communications Manager, where he helps oversee the organization’s branding and communications efforts. Matt has created hundreds of articles, videos and seminars on all things ecommerce, ranging from online marketing to web design and customer experience.

]]> (Matt Winn, Volusion) Executive ViewPoints Mon, 29 Sep 2014 14:39:12 -0400
SiteSpect Mobile:iOS SDK Facilitates Mobile App Testing SiteSpect Mobile:iOS SDK Facilitates Mobile App Testing

SS site only Sitespect imageRetailers looking to boost mobile performance and conversions not only are encouraged to constantly refine and optimize their site designs, but also develop mobile apps that are compelling and easy for customers to use.

To simplify the app development process, SiteSpect released Mobile:iOS SDK, which is designed to enable retailers to perform A/B testing and behavioral targeting for iOS apps. The solution complements the SiteSpect web and mobile optimization platform and can integrate into any iOS app.

Mobile:iOS SDK supports the editing, creation and publishing of user experience changes without App Store updates, so retailers can improve native app engagement, conversions and revenue. For example, retailers have the ability to target individual app users based on their behaviors, usage frequency and device type. Test data collected within the solution can be integrated with other third-party analytics solutions to determine optimal experiences. 

]]> (Glenn Taylor) Solution Spotlight Mon, 29 Sep 2014 14:31:53 -0400
What The Revamp Means For Mid-Market E-Retailers What The Revamp Means For Mid-Market E-Retailers

VP site only head shotBig changes are underway at the world's largest big-box chain. Wal-Mart will be rolling out a more personalized e-Commerce site in 2015, which they promise will "make shopping easier and simpler for customers." Pulling weather, location and purchase history to generate user-specific home pages, the new feature will allow Wal-Mart to face off with that other retail juggernaut, Amazon.

Of course, Amazon is generally undaunted by competitive moves — the e-retailer has first-mover advantage. With its growth strategy of commerce-first + commerce-meets-physical, Amazon is already embracing the inherent nimbleness and rich data-driven model of a digitally native company, implementing "last mile" channel deliveries such as local depots for click-and-collect.

While Jeff Bezos presses its advantage, smaller e-Commerce operations continue to be squeezed. Mid-market e-retailers will now have two personalized heavyweights to compete with. The announcement makes incorporating more personalization even more pressing for Internet retailers.

{loadposition GIAA}The decision to revamp is becoming less and less of a choice — failing to upgrade now means falling behind. Companies that move aggressively to catch up can control their fate, but the gap will become too large to close if they delay much longer. And it's not just a technology gap, which can be solved with the right software platform and partner. Companies must also develop a learning organization that is based on a clear omnichannel vision.

The situation is changing rapidly as the share of wallets increasingly tilts to the giant companies over time. What the mid-market e-retailer needs to consider is which companies are investing not only in today's customer engagement model, but also delivering the buy-anywhere-return-anywhere-support-everywhere model of commerce, whether it's in-store, in the cloud, or both. If proponents of this model include competitors, the e-retailer should re-examine its platform.

Once a company sets out to revamp, it must decide whether to develop the new site in-house or employ a third party.

Companies go the in-house route not only because they believe they are developing proprietary technology with a competitive edge, but also because they feel a commitment to building competency that will allow teams to stay agile in the fast-moving e-Commerce marketplace. In an economy where computers and commerce evolution continues to reflect Moore's Law (doubling capacity every two years), retailers must either invest in the leading platform for e-commerce; invest at an equivalent scale to remain competitive; or some combination of both.

Mid-market retailers have no doubt recognized that to be competitive, they must implement a comprehensive omnichannel business model that incorporates best practices, which is tough to jump start for a midsize company that is trying to transition from traditional models.

Fortunately, mid-market retailers do not have to create their own technology capability. They can acquire a platform on-premise or base it in the cloud, all the while maintaining their flexibility to respond to trends.

Mid-market e-Tailers should not consider the traditional feature/function debate when selecting a platform. Things are moving too fast in this market to worry about the last 10 percent of functionality.  Instead, they need to be thinking about how their commerce platform fits into the overall customer engagement strategy, how they leverage next-generation customer experience scenarios to the benefit of their customers (including offline if they also have stores), and how they establish a rich data environment that assists customers on their shopping journey. With this shift in focus, they will see that the game — and market share — will go to those companies which share their vision for commerce — and experience — enablement.

Rick Chavie is Vice President, OmniCommerce for hybris.  He is responsible for creating the OmniCommerce vision and technology platform that enables seamless customer experiences across digital and physical touch points for global and mid-market companies in all major industry verticals. Chavie brings more than 25 years of industry experience including leadership roles at retailers such as The Home Depot and C&A, where he led transformation and growth programs. He has also held executive roles in technology, which include leading the global retail and wholesale business at SAP and leading global marketing and solution deployment for the retail and hospitality business at NCR. He has also served clients across the major retail and wholesale verticals, including hardlines, softlines, and food, and branded consumer manufacturers in his partner and leadership roles at Deloitte and Accenture.

]]> (Rick Chavie, hybris) Executive ViewPoints Mon, 29 Sep 2014 14:21:29 -0400
Bon-Ton And Goodwill Drive $233 Million In Nonprofit Revenue With Annual Sale Bon-Ton And Goodwill Drive $233 Million In Nonprofit Revenue With Annual Sale

IMG 1859 600x600An increasing number of retailers are developing organization-wide strategies focused on social good and corporate responsibility.

Over the past 20 years, department store retailer Bon-Ton Stores has built a successful relationship with Goodwill Industries. As part of a semi-annual campaign, Bon-Ton Stores encourages customers bring clothing they no longer wear to their local department store to donate to Goodwill.  In return, consumers receive discounts on new items they buy, and proceeds from donations go toward local community programs. To date, the collaboration has generated approximately $233 million in nonprofit revenue.

“Our Bon-Ton partnership has proven to be a great example of how two brands can work together over a long period of time,” said Lauren Lawson-Zilai, Director of Public Relations at Goodwill Industries International. “Corporate social responsibility has become a ‘buzz term,’ but it’s an initiative that we implemented with Bon-Ton 20 years ago. We use our partnership as a shining example of the overwhelming positive potential a partnership can have for both Goodwill and the other business.”

{loadposition GIAA}During each sale, more than 270 Bon-Ton Store locations participate and 60 Goodwill member agencies are able to collect up to 2.5 million pounds of clothing and textiles. For each item donated, shoppers can receive up to 25% off their purchases.  

“Our partnership with Goodwill allows us to positively affect lives in the communities we do business in,” said Christine Hojnacki, VP of Public Relations and Events at The Bon-Ton Stores, Inc. “Our customers donate items during the sale and Goodwill sells the goods to enable them to train individuals and get them back into the workforce.  We have built a strong foundation with our customers and associates by creating meaningful programs and providing opportunities for them to get involved.  Over time, we believe this strengthens communities and builds loyalty with our customers and associates.”

Although the donation component of the campaign has been consistently successful, Bon-Ton stores added a new element in 2013, allowing customers to donate $5 cash to Goodwill at the register in exchange for three additional coupons to use in-store and online. In 2013, a combined $749,000 was donated in cash for the fall and spring Goodwill sales, according toLawson-Zilai. In the spring of 2014, $482,000 in cash was donated. All funds raised go toward providing job training and support services to people with disabilities and disadvantages.

“Based on customer response, we found that new customers visiting our stores during the event without a donation in hand were less likely to engage in the event,” Hojnacki explained. “The $5 donation at point of sale allows them to support Goodwill's mission and enjoy the benefits of the Goodwill Sale offers.  It also has been beneficial to customers who donated, shopped and have depleted their coupon supply.”

Partnering On An Omnichannel Strategy

The Bon-Ton Stores and Goodwill Industries International collaborate closely to ensure the successful execution of each sale, according to Lawson-Zilai. The planning process for each sale begins several months prior to the launch, and each team executes online marketing, PR promotions and other announcements for the sale.

Goodwill Industries International and Bon-Ton Stores also share content related to the sale to ensure the right messages are communicated to the public, Lawson-Zilai added. “Because of the partnership’s long history and consistency, it has become a well-run operation that is anticipated by local teams season after season. When new stores open and the opportunity emerges to engage a new Goodwill, both teams work directly toward onboarding the new Bon-Ton store and the new Goodwill agency.”

While local Goodwill agencies receive PR materials, such as news releases, social media messages and public service announcement scripts to promote the sale, Bon-Ton Stores works with each location using a comprehensive playbook.

“Both teams emphasize the importance of local engagement,” Lawson-Zilai said, “encouraging Goodwills to work with Bon-Ton stores to educate staff on the mission of Goodwill and celebrate local successes in the partnership.”

Shifting consumer preferences and behaviors required both teams to take a more integrated approach to their campaigns and promotional tactics.

“When the sale began, customer preferences were different,” Hojnacki said. “Customers donated in our stores and shopped in our stores, there was no online shopping at the time. Customers can now use Goodwill sale coupons in-store and online.”

Over time, Bon-Ton Stores has established an omnichannel marketing approach to reach consumers not only through print and broadcast, but also via email, social media and even mobile.

“Each season, Bon-Ton and Goodwill complete a full analysis of the Goodwill Sale and collaboratively discuss new ideas for the following event,” Hojnacki said. “As we continue to learn about how Bon-Ton and Goodwill customers engage in this event, we will continue to evolve our marketing.”

]]> (Alicia Fiorletta) Retail Success Stories Mon, 29 Sep 2014 09:19:51 -0400
UNIQLO “Selfless Selfie Project” Inspires Holiday Giving

Apparel retailer UNIQLO is focused on creating cheer this holiday season. To celebrate its ongoing expansion across the U.S., the retailer has launched the UNIQLO Selfless Selfie Project, an interactive global campaign created to inspire good deeds during the holidays. 

Consumers are encouraged to take a selfie that promotes giving back. For example, they can publish images of themselves working with their local community or sharing a pledge about a friend or family member. Participants can upload their images to social media using the #3DSelfie hash tag. A full-body 3D replica of their image in UNIQLO holiday clothing will then be created.

UNIQLO partnered with DOOB, a provider of 3D technology products and services, to install the 3D photo booth and printing technology for the exhibition.

Up to 150 winners will be selected to have their 3D selfies become a part of UNIQLO’s in-store holiday marketing campaign for its New York City and San Francisco flagship stores. UNIQLO also will select five winners from each community to participate in the exhibition based on their community and charitable contributions. The campaign also will take place in Berlin, London and Paris.

Consumers can learn more and submit their Selfless Selfies through the campaign site.  


]]> (Alicia Fiorletta) News Briefs Fri, 26 Sep 2014 10:40:33 -0400
Ulta Beauty Plans To Open 500 Stores Over The Next Five Years

ultaUlta Beauty has established a five-year strategic plan that includes a variety of new business goals and initiatives.

Most notably, Ulta plans to open approximately 100 stores per year through 2019. The company reported in its quarterly earnings call that 19 stores were opened in Q2 2014, bringing Ulta’s brick-and-mortar footprint to 715 locations.

{loadposition GIAA}Due to more promising results for the quarter, Ulta is aiming to expand its e-Commerce division so it accounts for 10% of total sales. Between Q2 2013 and Q2 2014, the retailer’s e-Commerce sales improved by 54.9%.

In Q2 2014, net income for the retailer also jumped 35.4% to $60.8 million, compared to $44.9 million in Q2 2013. Same-store sales increased 9.6% in the time period, driven by a 5.8% growth in transactions.

 “A significant improvement in traffic, successful new product and brand launches and rapid e-Commerce growth drove better than expected top line performance,” said Mary Dillon, CEO of Ulta Beauty. “As a result, the Ulta team delivered healthy operating margin expansion in the second quarter. We are raising our outlook for the year and now expect to achieve sales and earnings per share growth in the 20% range, reflecting our confidence in continued strong market share gains.”

The company’s heightened guidance includes an expected same-store sales growth of approximately 8% and a goal to generate more than $100 million in free cash flow. By the end of the fiscal year, the company plans to expand its store square footage by approximately 15% and remodel 12 locations.

Ulta expects Q3 2014 net sales to range between $724 million and $736 million, compared to Q3 2013 net sales of $618.8 million.

]]> (Glenn Taylor) News Briefs Fri, 26 Sep 2014 09:21:11 -0400
Johnny Rockets Unveils New Restaurant Design Concepts Johnny Rockets Unveils New Restaurant Design Concepts

JohnnyRocketsInternational restaurant chain Johnny Rockets has unveiled four new restaurant prototypes to boost brand awareness and overall sales. The drive-thru, drive-in, food truck and pop-up concepts are expected to debut as early as Q4 2014 as part of the company’s Route 66 concept.

The Route 66 concept was established to allow guests to order from Johnny Rockets while they are in their car or watching a drive-in movie. The drive-thru prototype, which will be the primary focus for Johnny Rockets, will be placed in high-volume, regional plazas located off major freeways and highways.

“The drive-thru option will potentially increase our market share and overall sales, improving the economic model of our restaurant franchise,” said James Walker, Chief Development Officer of Johnny Rockets. “Not only will these in-town and travel center locations offer high-quality food, including a breakfast menu, but they will also provide the Johnny Rockets experience through digital projections and signage. Guests can enjoy Johnny Rockets’ one-of-a-kind atmosphere from the comfort of their vehicles.” 

To open its drive-in locations, Johnny Rockets has entered a strategic partnership with USA Drive-Ins LLC, which plans to open 200 new drive-in locations. With the help of USA Drive-Ins LLC, Johnny Rockets will build a pop-up theatre prototype that also has a mobile restaurant, so restaurant owners can develop dinner-and-a-movie experiences throughout the country.

The Route 66 food trucks are expected to help provide current restaurant owners increase visibility and sales. The food trucks can be used for catering and community events or added to a city’s existing food truck line up.

]]> (Glenn Taylor) News Briefs Fri, 26 Sep 2014 09:02:08 -0400
Chalkfly Gets Customers Prepped For Back-To-School With SLI Chalkfly Gets Customers Prepped For Back-To-School With SLI

During the back-to-school shopping season, parents and children are eager to cross off their shopping lists and prep for the year ahead. However, crowded stores, long lines and other factors quickly turn a shopping trip into a hassle.

Chalkfly, an office and school supply eTailer, has partnered with SLI Systems to make shopping for pens, paper and other materials easier and more enjoyable. By improving site search functionality, Chalkfly has seen average order value increase by 33% and conversions among search users rise by  by 30%.

“We know, as online shoppers ourselves, that it’s all about search,” explained Lissa Cupp, CMO of Chalkfly. “We wanted to meet the needs of all of our customers and create a better experience.”

SLI was officially rolled out in July 2014 when Chalkfly relaunched its e-Commerce site. The retailer will be referring to data from the back-to-school season to assess the success of the tool. However, Cupp noted the team is “very pleased” thus far.

“Now, the site is fun, engaging and delightful,” said Cupp in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “Part of a successful site is about crafting a cool, seamless aesthetic but it’s also important to empower customers to find what they need quickly.”

{loadposition GIAA}With an assortment consisting of 60,000 products, Chalkfly needed to refine the search experience so shoppers could easily find their preferred products.

For example, the e-Commerce site touts more than 100 different types of red pens, Cupp explained. “If there’s a pen that people like, they’re going to be very particular and want to find that exact pen. It has to be down to the actual SKU level.”

Pre-existing data regarding key search words and phrases was integrated into SLI, so the retailer could keep a constant pulse on search behaviors and conversions.

“We were able to see how our data would work in helping customers make a purchase decision,” Cupp said. “Every product is different and has its distinctions and that was key for us. SLI has helped us become more nuanced.”

Curating Back-To-School Kits

To successfully address the needs of children and their parents across all age groups, Chalkfly used historical data and collaborated with Parent Teacher Organizations to craft a list of “must-have products” for each grade.

The “searchandising” team then curated categories and back-to-school kits by grade to further refine the shopping experience.

“Every student gets a school supply kit at back-to-school time,” Cupp said. “And they need to have everything down to a specific kind of notebook, note cards, pens, etc. Parents typically wait for the list and then have to take it to the store and pick out the items, which isn’t always a process they love.”

Now teachers and schools have the ability to visit the Chalkfly web site and upload their school supply lists and give the links to their students. In 2013, approximately six schools participated in the bundle program, according to Cupp. This year, that number has increased more than three fold.

“We see this as a very meaningful feature because it adds value for the school and teacher,” Cupp said, “but also allows us to grow as a business.” 


]]> (Alicia Fiorletta) Retail Success Stories Fri, 26 Sep 2014 06:00:00 -0400
Amazon Introduces #AmazonWishList For Twitter Amazon Introduces #AmazonWishList For Twitter

amazon-wish-listWith the holiday season kicking off soon, Amazon has developed a new way for customers to add items to their Amazon wish lists.  

Consumers can now update their wish lists on Twitter using the hash tag #AmazonWishList. When shoppers find tweets from brands and friends that include a product links, they can reply with the hashtag and immediately have the product added to their wish list.

{loadposition GIAA}To activate the new feature, customers must connect their Twitter and, and their Twitter accounts also must be public. When the item is successfully added to the wish list, users will receive a reply tweet from the @MyAmazon Twitter account and an email from the retailer.

“Twitter offers Amazon customers a great environment for inspiration and discovery,” said John Yurcisin, Director of Social at Amazon. “#AmazonWishList makes it easy for people to quickly add holiday gifts, décor or entertaining items tweeted by interesting people, friends, or brands on Twitter to their Amazon Wish List, allowing customers to simply save items to their Wish List and keep on Tweeting.”

The wish list feature from Amazon includes a variety of other components, such as:

  • Save-A-Photo, which allows customers to snap photos and save them to their wish lists;
  • Universal Wish List Add-on, so customers can add items from a variety of web sites to their Amazon wish lists;
  • Hidden Wish List, which hides purchased items from the wish list creator; and
  • Virtual Notes.
]]> (Glenn Taylor) News Briefs Thu, 25 Sep 2014 12:45:03 -0400
Top Brands Fall Short In Email Personalization Top Brands Fall Short In Email Personalization

EmailMarketingAlthough email marketing is still central to most retailers’ strategies, many are still falling short in personalizing these messages, according to research from SimpleRelevance.

In fact, only 9% of retailer emails offered personalized product recommendations, while 25% didn’t offer any form of product recommendation.

SimpleRelevance gathered results by selecting 20 companies from the 2013 Internet Retailer Top 500. Retailers ranged in category, from apparel to home appliances and electronics. In total, 418 emails were analyzed over a six-week period, and were assessed based on the following elements of email personalization:

  • Product recommendations;
  • Image optimization;
  • Time of send;
  • Send frequency; and
  • Subject line.

The SimpleRelevance team created two fictional customer email addresses to purchase one item from each company that cost between $20 and $40. SimpleRelevance also used the fictional addresses to register for each retailer’s email newsletters and alerts.

Major retailers, including CVS, Sears and Walgreens, didn’t send a single promotional email, even after a purchase was made. In fact, these three companies had to be removed from the initial sample of 20 retailers to keep data reliable.

“Knowing what we were expecting going into the study, we were still very surprised by the data,” said Erik Severinghaus, Founder and CEO of SimpleRelevance. “We went through and rechecked the data several times to make sure we weren’t missing anything. It’s absolutely unbelievable how many organizations out there are not executing the basics of communicating with their customers.”

Results also concluded that brands have a high propensity to mislead their customers into thinking product recommendations are personally curated to their needs. Up to 78 of the 418 emails analyzed falsely suggested that product recommendations were selected specifically for individual customers by using messaging such as “Recommended for you” or “Items just for you.”

“The data goes back to the issue of integrity around the brand claiming that they’ll put in work to always find the right product for the customer,” Severinghaus said in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “It’s just not true, and I think customers pick up on that pretty quickly.”

Overall, retailers also are failing to include relevant and compelling images in emails. Only 10% of emails contained personalized images related to a product. Another 19 emails failed to include any images at all.

After creating two additional inactive email accounts to test email frequency, the SimpleRelevance team determined that none of the 17 retailers altered their deliveries based on user interaction and engagement. Up to 40% of the retailers evaluated sent less than one email per week or didn’t send any marketing emails.

Although retailers still are sending emails touting bulk recommendations and generic messages, they have the potential to see exceptional results if they refine and optimize their personalization efforts.

“It’s important for us take a more holistic view of the customer,” Severinghaus said. “Then we can use that to analyze everything from frequency, messaging, content, timing and subject lines. We wanted to explain our thought process and what we very strongly believe, which is that it’s absolutely critical to let the data drive the decision making process and then use that data to continuously improve the way that you’re talking to customers. We were really trying to ditch this niche perception in the marketplace, which is, if you put somebody’s first name into the subject line, then you are now sending them a personalized email.”

]]> (Glenn Taylor) Digital Marketing Thu, 25 Sep 2014 07:44:49 -0400
Pier 1 Imports Redesigns Business Intelligence With Microsoft Pier 1 Imports Redesigns Business Intelligence With Microsoft

More than half (56%) of retailers are seeking to deliver cross-channel personalization, and 31% are building more one-to-one tactics, according to research from the e-tailing group.

To achieve this level of relevancy, retailers must be equipped to collect, aggregate and analyze Big Data. Home décor and furniture retailer Pier 1 Imports is partnering with Microsoft to become more customer-centric. 

“We want to decorate every room in our consumers’ houses — even outside,” said Andrew Laudato, SVP and CIO of Pier 1 Imports. “Everyone’s home is special to them, so we want to speak to each of those customers about what resonates with her from a style perspective.”

Since completing a six-week pilot of the Azure Machine Learning Service, Pier 1 is embarking on the next stage of its omnichannel journey, which will center on better predicting customer behaviors and anticipating trends. In doing so, the retailer will be able to deliver more relevant, compelling and timely messages to customers across all channels.

{loadposition GIAA}“At Pier 1 Imports, we have an omnichannel initiative that we call 1-Pier-1, which allows consumers to shop when, how and where they want,” said Laudato in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. Although the initiative initially focused on omnichannel order fulfillment — including buy online/pickup in-store, buy online/ship to store from DC — it has become “so much more than logistics.”

Now, Pier 1 Imports is focusing on “communicating to customers in a consistent manner, and having that high level of service no matter how and where she interacts with the brand,” said Laudato in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. Most importantly, the retailer wants to “maintain that strong Pier 1 brand experience we’ve had for so many years.”

For the Azure Maching Learning Service project, Pier 1 Imports partnered with Microsoft partner MAX451. Over a period of six weeks, the companies collaborated to extract and anonymize data, port it into the cloud, cleanse it and apply machine learning. The data was then exported back into operational systems.

Moving from traditional BI to machine learning, Pier 1 Imports will be able to better predict future spending behaviors. These enhanced forecasting capabilities will help the retailer generate more powerful incentives, offers and messages for marketing campaigns.

“We want to gather insights about our customer so we can talk to her in a way that’s relevant,” Laudato explained. “If we send an email, we want to send information on the products and offers that truly resonate with her.”

Over the past few years, Pier 1 Imports has established strong analytical capabilities. Although the retailer has always been a “data-driven organization,” the new venture is “very exciting,” according to Laudato. “Now we can operationalize all the data we have and create offers and experiences that are relevant to our customers.” 


]]> (Alicia Fiorletta) Retail Success Stories Thu, 25 Sep 2014 00:00:00 -0400
Simon Introduces Investment Competition For Retail Startups

Retail real estate company Simon has unveiled Simon Launch — a new competition to discover, invest in and accelerate startups within the retail industry. Simon will invest in competition winners through its new venture capital arm, called Simon Venture Group. The contest was established in partnership with Plug and Play, a global investor firm specializing in tech startups. 

“New technologies and the growth of omnichannel retailing are creating exciting opportunities for innovation,” said J. Skyler Fernandes, Managing Director of Simon Venture Group. “It is important for us to identify and work with companies that will help drive the evolution of the retail industry.”

Simon Launch will pick three winners from 10 finalists that will pitch their business to a panel of judges. Each winner will earn a $25,000 co-investment from Simon Venture Group and Plug and Play, free office space for one year at any U.S. Simon property and acceptance into the Plug and Play Retail Accelerator Program. Winners also will be considered for future investment from Simon Venture Group, increased marketing support and mentorship from industry executives.

“We are pleased to be co-investing with Simon Venture Group and plan to leverage their deep industry knowledge and expertise to advise our investment strategy in the retail space,” said Saeed Amidi, Founder and CEO of Plug and Play. “All of the players in the industry — brands, retailers and retail solution providers — are beginning to feel the pressure from consumers and competitors to innovate. We are excited to collaborate with forward-thinking companies like Simon to help accelerate innovation in the retail industry.”

Companies qualified for the contest can come from a variety of divisions, including: in-store technology, e-Commerce, data analytics, inventory management and logistics, security and more. Applications will be accepted on Simon Venture Group's AngelList pagethrough Jan. 15, 2015. 

]]> (Alicia Fiorletta) News Briefs Thu, 25 Sep 2014 07:40:47 -0400
Only 25% Of Affluent Consumers Prefer To Shop In Stores

shutterstock 166177688During an ideal brick-and-mortar experience, store associates play an important role in engaging with customers and generating sales. Offering advice, feedback and recommendations, these salespeople are meant to be first-hand representations of a brand.

However, 70% of wealthy and affluent customers feel that most sales and service staff do not make positive connections with customers, and as a result, they prefer to bypass sales personnel altogether by shopping online, according to research from Time Inc. and YouGov.

“Only 25% of consumers said they love shopping in stores,” noted Cara David, Consultant for the survey at YouGov. “This is because very few people say they have a strong relationship with front-line sales or service staff. And when customers end up making purchases in stores they’re consistently disappointed by the lack of engagement and interest from associates.”

The Q2 Survey Of Affluence And Wealth was crafted to provide a detailed view of the wants, needs and perspectives of the wealthiest 10% of the U.S. population who have an annual household income of $125,000 and above.

{loadposition GIAA}Many associates — even those working for luxury brands — are unengaged with customers because they are not knowledgeable of the products they’re selling, according to Dr. Jim Taylor, Vice-Chairman of YouGov.

“The people behind the counters don’t know the details that separate luxury products from others,” said Taylor in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “They have to fall in love with the products they’re selling and need to build a relationship with customers motivated by a collective or agreed-upon love for the product.”

After all, if associates don’t understand the value of the product and strive to create a differentiated experience, even the wealthiest of customers will feel uninspired and be unwilling to spend they’re hard-earned money, Taylor explained.

A New Spending Mindset

During the 2008 recession, “60% of affluent America thought they were going to lose their jobs during the recession and it scared them,” Taylor said. As a result, these consumers adopted more savvy spending habits, seeking out discounts and only paying full price for products they believed were worth the money.

“People learned to use technology to review the details of distinction that separate the sublime products from the merely excellent,” Taylor said. “They would purchase items at full margin if they were ‘worth it’ and had the quality, craftsmanship and service.”

The desire for quality products is still present among wealthy and affluent consumers. However, 78% of affluent and wealth consumers said most luxury products being sold today are not compelling to them. Additionally, 71% of respondents said that most new products that are labeled as “luxury” do not align with their personal definition of “luxury.”

Wealthy consumers “want to touch and feel products to make sure they’re satisfied with it before they make a purchase,” Taylor said. “They’re making smarter decisions and have become very good at not only determining what they really want but also what they really need.”  


]]> (Alicia Fiorletta) Trend Watch Wed, 24 Sep 2014 08:00:00 -0400
The Paper Store Doubles Revenue With Epicor Retail Suite The Paper Store Doubles Revenue With Epicor Retail Suite

Agility and scalability are both paramount to success in today’s ever-changing retail climate. As consumer demand and preferences shift, retailers’ tasks, strategies and investments also change.

The Paper Store, a specialty gift chain headquartered in Massachusetts, was tasked with the challenge of managing a legacy system that fragmented sales and financial information. The retailer implemented Epicor to align SKU data and prevent any significant losses from product mismanagement. The retailer has since achieved more accurate receiving, leading to a savings of $275,000 in the first year after implementation. The retailer also doubled revenue to $114 million between 2009 and 2013.

The Epicor Retail Suite is designed to give retailers visibility across the entire supply chain, while also enhancing the customer and employee experience. All solutions within the suite can be found in one single location, allowing users to have full control and real-time access to the tools they need to meet their business requirements. Solutions available in the suite include: A point-of-service (POS) system; CRM; cross-channel order management; merchandising, planning, audit and operations management; and business intelligence.

The transition over to Epicor also has allowed The Paper Store to open more stores, which was an ongoing pain point that stunted the retailer’s growth, according to Tom Anderson, CEO and EVP of The Paper Store.

“Our legacy system, at the time, was too complicated and unreliable to promote growth,” said Anderson in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “At one point, one of our stores was down for two straight weeks during the 2008 holidays because its systems and servers were down. We were making sales via pencil and paper.”

After analyzing more than 30 solution candidates over a period of six months, The Paper Store decided to implement Epicor’s retail management solutions and combine them within a SaaS platform. The company has since grown from 23 stores in 2009 to 40 stores in 2013, and intends to expand to 51 locations by mid-October.

{loadposition GIAA}Improving inventory management also was critical for The Paper Store. Epicor has allowed the retailer to report on damaged inventory from vendors more efficiently. In 2012 alone, The Paper Store was able to return merchandise for credits totaling $200,000.

“Our distribution problems just went away, and our POS capabilities went through the roof,” Anderson said. “We were even able to handle everything from offering gift cards to collecting customer data and offering a loyalty program.”

Over the course of its partnership with Epicor, The Paper Store has saved approximately $100,000 per year by identifying double billing and other errors, and uncovering opportunities for invoice discounts. Sales audit capabilities now only highlights 10 potential fraud cases per week. Previously, the legacy system would flag hundreds of violations each day.


]]> (Brian Anderson) Retail Success Stories Wed, 24 Sep 2014 03:36:39 -0400
Omnichannel Leaders Reaffirm The Value Of RFID

shadow RTP RT037 FEAT InventoryPt.2 Zebra Sept 2014Best-in-class retailers are generating long-term loyalty by providing shoppers with a variety of options to order and pick up products, or have items delivered to them. Whether retailers decide to implement buy online/pick up in-store, buy online/ return to store, buy in-store/ship to home or other strategies, it is imperative that they establish a 360-degree view of inventory availability.

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) enables retailers to achieve
a comprehensive view of inventory levels across all channels. Although
the benefits of the technology are numerous, few success stories have been spotlighted. But recently, retailers such as Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor reported that RFID has helped them improve employee productivity, prevent out-of-stocks, drive customer satisfaction and boost the bottom line.

Want to learn more about how RFID is driving omnichannel success? Complete the form below to download the report now!


]]> (Alicia Fiorletta) Special Reports Tue, 23 Sep 2014 10:13:47 -0400
Retailers Must Tap Social Advocacy To Shape Omnichannel Strategies Retailers Must Tap Social Advocacy To Shape Omnichannel Strategies

RTP RT032 FEAT Advocacy imageMany retailers may believe they’re already doing a fine job of listening to their customers. After all, they see shoppers in their stores; track their online and mobile shopping patterns and eventual purchases; and in some cases, leverage loyalty and customer relationship management programs to paint detailed portraits of who their customers are, as well as the value they represent to the retail organization.

Useful as all these research tools are, they simply aren’t capable of keeping up with the newly energized, highly empowered customer. Today’s consumer is increasingly aware not only of what she wants but when she wants it, how she wants it delivered and even how much she wants to pay for it. Her expectations around product availability, depth of information, and delivery options have risen sharply, fueled by the immediacy of search engines, smart devices and a crowd of competitors ready to meet the most specialized request.

{loadposition GIAA}Virtually all companies and organizations are also contending with the increasing impact of social networks. Research from InMoment reveals that as far back as 2012, nearly three-quarters (72%) of consumers used Facebook to make retail/restaurant decisions, and that half of consumers had tried a new brand due to a social media recommendation. On the negative side, social networks allow any member to provide instantaneous reviews of everything from products to service to store cleanliness, creating a powerful “megaphone” for connected consumers.

These too exert a powerful impact: 70% of consumers trust opinions posted online by their fellow consumers, according to the 2011 Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising Survey. Many retailers have discovered, to their chagrin, that even if they’re not really listening to their customers, many others are.

At a minimum, retailers need to step up their game in terms of actively listening to the Voice of the Customer (VoC), simply to stay aware of what’s being said about them and to identify weaknesses and trouble spots before they create long-term damage.

That’s the basic challenge, but leveraging the VoC also creates opportunities. Retailers can make use of the wealth of information emanating from these rich communication channels to gain an even deeper understanding of who their customers are, and what motivates them to browse and, more importantly, make a purchase. Sophisticated analytical tools can reveal what shoppers really want — even when customers can’t verbalize it themselves.

The rewards can be significant: according to Aberdeen Research from 2013, companies that are leaders in “active social listening” have website conversion rates three times as high as followers, and boast customer renewal rates that are nearly 50% higher.

The most advanced retailers will be able to use these hard-won insights to shape their omni-channel strategies, leveraging VoC into Social Relationship Management (SRM) and Social Customer Experience Management (CEM). These retailers will be able to harness their customers’ native enthusiasms, creating passionate fans and advocates who will happily spread the good word to their own interwoven web of connections.

Seeking Shopper Input

Forward-thinking retailers are realizing the value of collecting and analyzing shopper feedback. UK department store retailer Debenhams was an early adopter of technology designed to seek out deeper levels of customer information. A program that kicked off in June 2009 put invitations on register receipts that encouraged customers to complete an online survey that asked questions about product range, value for money, quality of service provided, displays and other elements of the customer experience.

These “intelligent” surveys, powered by a solution from InMoment, not only ask questions tailored to the customer’s particular experience, they also recognize when a customer is responding negatively to a number of questions. An initiative called “Customer Rescue” provides shoppers the option of being contacted by the store’s manager to help resolve their issue. This helps avoid customer defections to competitors and potential negative word of mouth. If their issues can be successfully resolved, such “rescued” customers are more likely to become highly loyal customers.

The “Customer WOW” element of the program asks shoppers if an associate has gone above and beyond expectations. If so, the survey tool generates an e-mail to store managers, allowing them to congratulate the staff member.

Results have been impressive for the 169-store chain: in the first two years of the program, 380,000 pieces of feedback were collected, translating into 25 million data points. More than 50% (nearly 200,000) customers were WOWed by the Debenhams team, and nearly 6,000 customers were “Rescued.” Debenhams built up a database of more than 200,000 opted-in customers for future communications, and 22,000 advocates made 2.2 million recommendations to friends and followers via the solution’s GoRecommend function.

The Emerging Customer Experience Challenge

Receiving positive feedback and recommendations requires offering a positive customer experience. This has never been a simple task, and it’s only become more complicated in an age of sharp competition and rapidly rising expectations. Ernan Roman, President of Ernan Roman Direct Marketing (ERDM), has identified five elements that comprise a high-value customer experience, based on more than 12,000 hours of one-on-one consumer interviews his company conducted across a wide range of companies and brands.

  1. “An improved customer experience means improving the customer experience across every point of contact with the retailer,” said Roman. “If consumers today are multi-device and multi-channel, they expect retailers to surround them with a high-value customer experience across all of these points.”

  2. Customers want the positive experience to apply to all elements of the retailer’s media mix, as well as all departments throughout a retail enterprise. “Creating a good customer experience is not just multi-channel; it has to be organizational,” explained Roman. “Customers won’t have patience if they run into problems when they call customer service, or have to deal with poor problem resolution or billing issues.”

  3. Customers want the high-value aspect of the experience to last throughout the entire relationship, “not just when [the company] is selling or renewing me,” said Roman. “We hear over and over again customers saying ‘The fastest way to be forgotten is for me to buy from you.’”

  4. Positive experiences must increasingly be driven by customers’ individual preferences, particularly around communications. This applies not just to the message itself but to its timing, frequency, and the media mix/vehicle that each customer considers appropriate. “This can’t be just a generalized algorithm, it needs to be what each customer has opted in to and expressed to the brand,” Roman noted. “And be aware that the way a shopper engages with Amazon might be very different from the way they want to engage with Netflix, or Golfsmith, or Lowe’s, or Kroger. There can also be varying preferences among different people living within the same household.”

  5. In an age of sensitivity around divulging personal data, if a customer is willing to provide deep, rich personal information, the payback they seek is that they see their preferences driving high-quality personalization of communications and experiences. “It needs to be made obvious to the customer that the retailer collecting information is using it to fulfill its promises, so for example they are no longer sending irrelevant e-mails or catalogs — and the ones they are sending are more targeted to the shopper’s individual needs,” said Roman.

Improving Active Listening

Improving social relationship management, a key element of using VoC effectively, can boost the positive impact of VoC strategies. This involves moving beyond basic social media monitoring to engage in active listening, which ties what companies learn to specific actions they take in response to their findings.

In one example, Alex and Ani has incorporated active listening into the business structure. The jewelry retailer has added the role of VP of Digital Strategy at the corporate level as well as a social media liaison at each of its 39 stores. Each liaison is charged with staying in constant contact with the social team at HQ. Having these local representatives helps create more relevant campaigns and events, adding to the sense of loyalty that both store and multi-channel customers have with the brand.

“Active social listening combines social media monitoring with an infrastructure of action,” according to Social Powers Activate: Engineering Social Engagement to Win the Hidden Sales Cycle, a September 2013 report by Trip Kucera, VP of Client Success and CMO-in-Residence at Aberdeen Group. Active capabilities include processes to “identify and categorize social influences and customer advocates (these are sometimes the same person, and sometimes different), as well as processes to identify specific posts for follow-up engagement. Leaders also put processes in place to route or escalate social posts to the correct department for follow-up, such as sending hot leads to sales or customer issues to support.”

Aberdeen stat

How does this translate into measurable results? Companies that Aberdeen identifies as Leaders (in the top 35% of aggregate performers) achieve the following performance metrics compared to Followers (the bottom 65%).

Leaders have:

  • A 7.5% average web site conversion rate, vs. 2.4% for Followers;
  • 20.3% average conversion from marketing response to marketing-qualified lead (MQL), vs. 3.5% for Followers;
  • Average customer renewal rates of 73%, compared with 49% for Followers;
  • 26% year-over-year increase in positive social mentions, vs. 1.6% for Followers;
  • 27% year-over-year growth in unique site traffic, vs. 2.2% growth for Followers; and
  • 13% annual revenue growth, compared with 0.6% for Followers.

Part II of this article will explore how retailers can dig even deeper into the intricacies of social advocacy and VoC, with key tactics for transforming this information into action.

]]> (Adam Blair, Contributing Writer) Omnichannel / Cross-Channel Strategies Tue, 23 Sep 2014 09:42:28 -0400
Amazon And Sears Top List Of Most Price-Dynamic Retailers Amazon And Sears Top List Of Most Price-Dynamic Retailers

RR 360pi imageAmazon and Sears are the most price-dynamic retailers, changing prices on 15% to 20% of their product assortment daily during normal shopping periods, according to research from 360pi. These figures can double during heavy shopping periods, particularly during the back-to-school and holiday shopping seasons.

On the other end of the spectrum, the least price-dynamic retailers included Apple and Staples. These retailers changed prices on nearly 0% of their products. The research indicates that price dynamism varies for the majority of retailers during normal shopping periods, falling between 0% to 5% and 15% to 20%. Walmart falls into this range, as it changes prices on 6% to 8% of its assortment on a daily basis.

{loadposition GIAA}Dynamic pricing doesn’t directly correlate with e-Commerce success, according to analysis of the top five Internet Retailer 500 retailers: Amazon, Apple, Sears, Staples and Walmart. Although Amazon and Sears are considered the most price-dynamic retailers, their total 2013 online sales vary ($67 billion and $5 billion, respectively). The least price-dynamic retailers, Apple and Staples, had 2013 online revenues of $18 million and $10 million.

Depending on the retailer, price changes are usually enforced differently throughout the week. Amazon disperses many of its price changes throughout the entire week, while Sears has the most changes on Tuesday and Thursday, according to 360pi. Costco and h.h. gregg make the majority of their price changes over the weekend, while Target changes prices most frequently on Tuesday and Saturday.

Prices can be changed multiple times throughout the day, as well. For example, the price of a Linksys dual-band wireless-AC router on Amazon actually changed eight times on April 29, 2014, ranging from nearly $200 to under $185. Price changes tend to be applied to keep pace with competitors’ prices of the same product. Lowe’s, for instance, raised and lowered the price of a French Door Refrigerator within two hours of Home Depot’s initial price changes of the same product.

Click here to access the complete report from 360pi. 


]]> (Glenn Taylor) Pricing Tue, 23 Sep 2014 07:34:29 -0400
6 Signs Your Personalized Marketing Efforts Aren’t That Personalized 6 Signs Your Personalized Marketing Efforts Aren’t That Personalized

VP emnos head shot 1It’s no secret that when it comes to marketing, retailers are increasingly shifting more and more of their resources toward delivering a personalized experience for their customers. However, most retailers will tell you that their communications are truly one-to-one, when in reality, many still have a very long way to go.

Here are six signs that your personalization efforts may have room for improvement:

1. Your communications revolve around quotas rather than relevance. Like an email blast gone terribly wrong, campaign quotas inevitably cause retailers to target customers with irrelevant ads. Rather than simply focusing on the numbers, marketing teams should strive to deliver a better shopping experience with product offerings and discounts that are relevant to the consumer’s everyday needs. Although retailers may reach fewer customers in the short term, they’ll attract loyal customers in the long term as shoppers value more relevant and personalized communications.

2. You work around your own clock. Many retailers today have mastered the art of developing campaign calendars with planned communications. Some even plan up to 12 months in advance! Long marketing lead times without the proper data analysis prohibit marketing teams from working in a way that responds to shopper trends and demands in real time. A personalized experience can only come by tracking customer behaviors and preferences, as both should dictate the cadence and timing of when and how you communicate with shoppers.

3. Your offer period is too narrow. No matter how relevant a retailer’s offer is, if the duration window is too narrow and falls outside a customer’s shopping plans, it’s useless. For example, if a customer shops at a store on a monthly basis, sending an offer that expires in a week will likely not be of use to unless a retailer gets lucky with timing. It’s critical that retailers learn the behaviors of their customers and understand exactly how they engage with a store. Adjust expiration dates and communication schedules to deliver meaningful content.

4. You abuse your channels of communication. Customer contact information is often considered a prized possession in the world of retail; without it, marketers have no way of directly communicating with shoppers. However, in today’s highly-connected environment, most customers have a preferred mode of communication for the messages they receive, and retailers who cater to those preferences will be rewarded with better engagement. While these details may seem granular, it’s an important component to delivering a truly personalized experience.

5. Your campaigns lack consistency. One of the biggest mistakes made by retail marketing teams today is that they fail to uphold their branding during the ongoing dialogue between themselves and their customers. Too often, communications across campaigns and channels aren’t uniform when it comes to messaging, language, style, and creative design. This lack of consistency detracts from the retailers image and simply put, looks quite unprofessional. 

6. You miss key opportunities to connect. Personal milestones are a great time to connect with shoppers individually. Nothing feels more personal than a special message on one’s birthday. Other examples of fun and un-intrusive milestones to commemorate include the anniversary of a customer’s loyalty club membership or their first time shopping in a new category or department. Ultimately, the more shoppers are willing to share with you, the more content you will have to work with.

{loadposition GIAA}In order for a retailer to truly personalize their marketing, and in the process deliver a more relevant customer experience, it’s essential to shift the focus away from  campaign-driven offerings. It’s only through customer-centric communications that retailers can fully leverage their data on individual shopping behaviors to build loyalty and drive incremental sales. Although the journey isn’t easy, personalization, when joined with the right partners and tools, can give retailers a powerful competitive advantage.

Genia Chechersky is a Manager for emnos the firm’s Chicago office, empowering retailers to make better merchandising and marketing decisions through expert consumer behavior insights. Contact her at

]]> (Genia Chechersky, emnos) Executive ViewPoints Tue, 23 Sep 2014 07:23:31 -0400
Microsoft Power BI Delivers Detailed Data To Retailers Microsoft Power BI Delivers Detailed Data To Retailers

SS MicrosoftPowerBI imageTo create effective marketing and personalization strategies that align with customer desires, retailers need to leverage the power of data. According to a Microsoft-sponsored IDC study, retailers have the opportunity to gain $94 billion from the “data dividend” through the next four years.

Microsoft’s Power Business Intelligence (Power BI) suite is designed to enable retailers to visualize data and give employees access to insights that can drive deeper customer engagement and loyalty through differentiated customer experiences. Combined with the Microsoft SQL Server platform, Power BI provides real-time access to enterprise data — whether it’s sales trends micro-segmented by demographics and geography, or predictive modeling for accurate forecasting.

The solution includes built-in Q&A features in which the system answers user queries in the form of interactive visualizations. Retailers can either operate Power BI in Excel or subscribe to Office 365, so Microsoft can manage the infrastructure.

Power BI recently added a new feature that offers connectivity to SAP BusinessObjects BI, enabling businesses to discover and combine SAP data with public, corporate and Big Data sources such as Microsoft Azure HDInsight. Additionally, data can be connected to Excel and Power BI to visualize information and uncover new insights.

]]> (Glenn Taylor) Solution Spotlight Tue, 23 Sep 2014 07:18:12 -0400
3 Secrets To Drive Customer Engagement On Your Web Site 3 Secrets To Drive Customer Engagement On Your Web Site

VP site only Adage head shotOnline engagement is quickly becoming the number one performance indicator of an effective web site. Through successful customer engagement, companies are able to fulfill customers’ needs, while building loyalty and increasing each customer’s lifetime value. However, companies can’t achieve customer engagement just by establishing a social media presence or providing useful resources and information on their web site, but rather, it’s about leveraging these tools, as well as the interactive nature of the Internet to create meaningful interactions with customers time and time again.

Sounds easy enough, right? Not so much. Sure, marketers know trends like mobile and social, but there’s still a real disconnect between implementing these tools and using them to drive engagement and build long-term relationships. By following the three tips outlined below, you’ll be able to foster ongoing and valuable conversations with customers online.

1. Listen to your customers

Customers are constantly providing you with valuable feedback on their needs, wants, and uses for your web site and other digital assets. Today’s customers know what they’re looking for, and are not hesitant to tell you whether it’s through an email to your customer service team, a comment left on a blog post or a post on one of your social media profiles. You can also turn to your web analytics. Looking at your site’s analytics provides you with key insight into where customers are spending their time on your web site and where they are avoiding.

Despite customers voluntarily providing such useful information, few companies actually take the time to analyze this information and use it to improve their digital presence. Taking this approach and ignoring what your customers have to say is a surefire way to lose valuable customers.

2. Customize your customers’ experience

{loadposition GIAA}The most successful conversations with customers occur when they’re relevant, intriguing, and most importantly, unique to their own needs. There are countless connections that exist between you and your customers; it’s just about finding them. This can easily be done through web personalization and by presenting unique content to different individuals based on your previous interactions with them. By using personalized content that’s driven by your existing customer data allows you to make a lasting impression and create a value-added experience for both them and your organization.

Because of your CRM system, say you know about 15 percent of your customers reside in Chicago. You have a big sale going on in your Chicago stores this month to help boost those locations’ revenues. Because of your integrated platform, your web site has direct access to your CRM system, which knows exactly which of your web site’s visitors live in or near Chicago. Using your web site, you can take this information and serve Chicago customers a customized web experience that highlights the upcoming sale in your Chicago locations. This is almost guaranteed to drive both online engagement and in-store engagement, as your providing them with content that not only pertains to them, but also interests them.

3. Measure your success

As with any business decision, measuring your success is key. Without taking the time to evaluate the success of the changes you’ve made to your web site and digital presence, you’ll have little insight into whether or not customer engagement has really increased.

Look to your social media, web analytics and CRM system for guidance. These platforms can help you track and see how customer engagement has improved. For instance, social media allows you to see who is responding and commenting on what posts. Google analytics provides insight into which Facebook or Twitter posts are driving quality traffic to your web site, as well as if your web content personalization strategy is leading to longer time spent on your site and more conversions being made. Your CRM system will then help you identify high-value, individual customers and see what activity they’re participating in on your web site, what products or services they’re purchasing and what content they’re engaging with most.

Measuring your success will not only provide you with great insight into how your tactics so far have impacted customer engagement, but will also provide useful information on what steps you should take next to further enhance the customer’s online experience.

Success on your web site comes from making connection points with your customers and demonstrating your value to them. By enhancing your customers experience through personalization and ease of use, you can achieve your goal of increasing customer acquisition and retention.

Roy Chomko co-founded Adage Technologies in 2001, combining a passion for technology and the desire to build a company focused on driving business value through web technology. As President, Roy's energy and customer centric approach have helped to grow Adage to a well-respected web and software development firm. Roy has over 20 years of experience in technology sales, consulting, and development. 

]]> (Roy Chomko, Adage Technologies) Executive ViewPoints Mon, 22 Sep 2014 10:02:32 -0400
The Old Spaghetti Factory Boosts Transactions With Localized Marketing

The Old Spaghetti FactoryLooking to capitalize on localized marketing, The Old Spaghetti Factory conducted a campaign with MomentFeed, a digital marketing platform designed to connect brands and consumers at a local level. The campaign targeted Facebook fans and friends of fans at 19 restaurant locations and used MomentFeed’s newly launched Campaigns solution.

“It's easy to assume that localized marketing would be impactful, but until now it's been hard to execute at scale, let alone prove,” said Ryan Durrett, Director of Marketing at Old Spaghetti Factory. “The campaign provided us with a clear picture of the return on our Facebook ad spend — including a significant increase in real customer transactions in our restaurants. It demonstrated the impact a Facebook ad campaign can have when you provide a relevant, local call to action to the communities you serve.”

{loadposition GIAA}With an initial investment of $2,000 for Facebook advertising, The Old Spaghetti Factory reached more than 650,000 unique users and increased customer transactions by more than 7,100 year-over-year, according to an announcement from MomentFeed.

The MomentFeed platform allows national brands to engage local communities by ensuring their business locations can be found online regardless of where consumers look. It also drives customers into these locations through a mix of targeted messaging and localized posts.

“Everyone is trying to close the loop between social engagement and sales,” said Robert Blatt, CEO of MomentFeed. “MomentFeed does this while providing a scalable way for national brands to have local relevance. Our local analytics tie into the social and advertising portions of our platform providing retailers with the ability to truly match their online customer engagement to real in-store transactions.”

]]> (Rob Fee) News Briefs Mon, 22 Sep 2014 10:50:41 -0400
Tag The Price Enables Customers To Seek Out Best Product Value Tag The Price Enables Customers To Seek Out Best Product Value

SS TagthePrice ImageE-Commerce retailers have to cater to savvy online shoppers and find ways to engage those who frequent deal sites and couponing platforms to discover lower prices.

To prevent comparison shopping and improve conversion rates, e-Commerce solution provider Tag the Price has released a cloud-based application designed to allow shoppers to create their own prices for products. Retailers can embed the Tag the Price widget into their e-Commerce site so consumers who aren’t ready to purchase a specific product can still submit a price request browsing.

Once a price request is submitted, retailers can either accept the new price or reach out to customers with a counter offer. Consumers receive price alerts directly on their mobile phone or through email.

Retailers can use the application to collect large amounts of data regarding customer demands, preferred products and overall sentiment towards pricing strategies. The solution is built on the Microsoft Azure Platform and can be integrated seamlessly into a variety of e-Commerce portals.

]]> (Glenn Taylor) Solution Spotlight Mon, 22 Sep 2014 09:37:37 -0400
SUBWAY Makes Lunching Easy With Mobile Payment Roll Out

Nearly half (48%) of workers today say their lunch break lasts 30 minutes or less, according to research from OfficeTeam.

As consumers’ break time shrinks, they are seeking fast, convenient ways to purchase their meals. That is why the SUBWAY restaurant chain has launched NFC-based mobile payments with Softcard, the mobile commerce venture created by AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless.

“We are convinced that many of our customers will enjoy the convenience of converting to digital payments,” said Carman Wenkoff, CIO of SUBWAY, in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “Our goals are simple — make our customer experience even better. By introducing solutions like Softcard, it makes the checkout experience even easier and more convenient.”

Softcard-branded NFC terminals will be rolled out to more than 26,000 locations on Oct. 1, 2014. With the implementation, Softcard holders will be able to use their mobile phones to purchase SUBWAY meals and receive personalized offers.

Additionally, within the next few months SUBWAY plans to add its rewards program to the Softcard app, allowing customers to collect and redeem loyalty points within a single platform. Using SmartTap, a protocol developed by Softcard, consumers will be able to tap their phones on readers to delivery loyalty card information and offers directly to point of sale systems.

{loadposition GIAA}SUBWAY customers will be able to continue using traditional payment or opt in to the digital solution. “Our rewards program is payment channel agnostic,” Wenkoff said. “Whether our customers choose to pay physically or digitally, they will be able to earn and participate in our existing rewards program.”

To enable contactless payments, SUBWAY implemented new hardware touting NFC contactless technology and end-to-end encryption for secure payments. “Our NFC terminal deployments began in early 2014 and are almost complete,” Wenkoff explained. “We made some updates to our two proprietary POS software solutions to use these new NFC payment devices.”

SUBWAY initially piloted Softcard in Salt Lake City in 2013. After the test was deemed successful, the merchant rolled out the technology to all eligible stores nationwide, according to Wenkoff. SUBWAY plans to promote the benefits and capabilities of Softcard through a variety of in-store, digital and social media channels.

 “We received positive feedback from those who were able to pay in SLC,” Wenkoff said. “With smartphones being at the center of our consumers’ lives, we know that they value simplicity. Just as SUBWAY makes eating healthy simple, mobile payments are a simple way for customers to pay.”

As part of an awareness-building campaign for the new offering, SUBWAY will reward users who tap-and-pay $1 back on any purchase over $1 made with an American Express Serve card. The campaign runs until the end of 2014.

The Softcard app is available on more than 80 devices across AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless and is preloaded on more than 30 of those devices.

]]> (Alicia Fiorletta) Retail Success Stories Mon, 22 Sep 2014 07:15:23 -0400
PAR Technology Corporation Acquires Brink Software PAR Technology Corporation Acquires Brink Software

PARTech BrinkPAR Technology Corporation, a technology solutions provider for the hospitality industry, has acquired POS software provider Brink Software for an undisclosed sum. The acquisition is designed to build a business that has the ability to develop, deploy and service cloud technology solutions for restaurants, according to a company press release. The two companies have been strategic partners since 2011.

This expansion will allow PAR to “leverage [its] existing infrastructure and enhance [its] recurring revenue streams,” according to Ronald J. Casciano, the company’s CEO and President.

PAR complements its PixelPoint POS software in adding the Brink solution to its software portfolio. The addition is designed to enable PAR to expand its market reach and continue to focus on its investment in solutions for the restaurant market.

“This acquisition will certainly enable much faster deployment of our products and services across our targeted markets,” said Paul Rubin, Co-Founder and CEO of Brink Software. “We have experienced significant growth over the past few years and being part of the PAR family will propel our growth faster and more efficiently.”

]]> (Glenn Taylor) Mergers & Acquisitions Fri, 19 Sep 2014 16:04:05 -0400
Alibaba Set To Become Third Most Valuable Internet Company Alibaba Set To Become Third Most Valuable Internet Company

Chinese e-Commerce giant Alibaba began trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker “BABA,” opening at $92.70 per share at 11:53 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 19, 2014. 

Alibaba carried the largest initial public offering (IPO) to date, pricing shares at $68 each on Thursday. The company can potentially raise as much as $24.3 billion if the company’s underwriters exercise an option to sell additional shares.

Alibaba’s entrance into the U.S. market is a potential threat to already established American businesses. “Think of the Alibaba Group as a unique mix of Amazon, eBay, and PayPal with a healthy dose of Google shopping,” stated Michael Tudor, President and CEO of digital agency Ripen eCommerce, in a company blog post. “Alibaba’s platforms are not only formidable competitors for U.S. e-Commerce giants; they offer new opportunities for small and mid-size e-Commerce stores to connect with billions of consumers who are already comfortable buying online.”

The retailer’s target IPO price range had been set between $66 and $68 per share, an increase from earlier predictions of $60 to $66, due to heavy demand for the offering.

As a result of the IPO launch, Alibaba was valued at $167.6 billion before a single share traded hands, placing it only behind Google ($390.5 billion) and Facebook ($193.9 billion) as the third most valuable Internet company in the world. This high valuation has caught the attention of U.S. businesses, since Alibaba is expanding its offerings to American customers. The company already has made its first foray into the U.S. e-Commerce market, launching online marketplace 11 Main in June.

Alibaba currently generates 93% of its earnings from China, according to Max Wolff, Chief Economist at Manhattan Venture Partners.

“The potential of increased competition with Chinese manufacturers is extremely real,” explained Haydn Simpson, Product Director for Brand Protection at global online brand protection firm NetNames. “Chinese manufactures enjoy cheaper labor and less stringent regulations, meaning that they can produce similar products to American companies for less.”

Alibaba often is compared to America’s e-Commerce powerhouse, Amazon, but the China-based enterprise operates very differently. Alibaba serves as a trading partner that links buyers with online stores; the organization does not own any warehouses or the goods they are shipped from, unlike Amazon.

Under the holding company, Alibaba Group, Alibaba operates its own B2B wholesale platform,, in addition to three e-Commerce marketplaces: Tmall, Taobao and Juhuasuan. The wholesale platform connects manufacturers with buyers. Retailers can use the site to find the manufacturer, exporter or wholesaler that suits their unique sourcing needs.

  • Tmall is most similar to Amazon, providing a marketplace for local and international retailers to sell brand name goods directly to consumers. “U.S. e-Retailers will benefit from the [Tmall] marketplace’s brand-friendliness and the fact that it reduces obstacles to reaching a foreign audience,” said Tudor. “It also has a very merchant-friendly commission rate, making it one of the most attractive channels for retailers around the world.”
  • Taobao is a consumer-to-consumer shopping platform comparable to eBay, in that sellers can put items up for sale for either a fixed price or for bidding. The marketplace uses its own developed mobile payment solution, AliPay, which allows consumers to pay in full only after they have received their product and are satisfied with it.
  • Juhuasuan serves as the Group’s daily deal site, offering discounted prices for group buyers.

In a recent filing with the SEC, Jack Ma, Founder and Chairman of Alibaba, included a letter to investors that announced the company’s mission to expand globally and work with SMBs: “We want to help small businesses grow by solving their problems through Internet technology,” Ma said. “We fight for the little guy.”

Alibaba’s Counterfeit Problems

Although Alibaba appears to have a bright future as a public entity in the U.S., the company must contend with significant accusations concerning bad business practices. Alibaba and its online platforms will be hurdling criticism from buyers and analysts who have complained that the company suffers from an abundance of counterfeit products, perhaps as high as 80% of sold items, as outlined on The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative labeled Taobao as a “notorious” marketplace, but removed it from the annual notorious list in late 2012.

As a measure against counterfeiting with the IPO looming, Alibaba launched a “three strikes” policy to be deployed on and marketplace

Simpson has urged U.S. government officials to take the issue seriously, particularly regarding the protection of U.S. Intellectual Property rights.

“If a new, relatively deregulated, platform is successfully launched giving these manufacturers and products a straightforward and cost-effective method of targeting U.S. consumers with cheap sub-standard products, those consumers will buy these products using the Internet as a shop window,” said Simpson. “All businesses, including more vulnerable small businesses, in the U.S. will see increased competition from oversees manufacturers and this will lead to more challenging market conditions.”

Even with the criticism, the company’s most recent financial report revealed that Q2 2014 revenue grew 46%. Additionally, Alibaba’s monthly active mobile users climbed 38% in a six-month span to 188 million.

“At least in the short-term, Alibaba will likely focus on increasing its reach at home by improving delivery logistics and helping to increase domestic access to the web,” said Tudor. “This is great news for global brands and small U.S. merchants planning to use Alibaba as a channel to reach the Chinese e-Commerce market.”

]]> (Glenn Taylor) News Briefs Fri, 19 Sep 2014 11:00:00 -0400
Why There Really Is Value In A Name Why There Really Is Value In A Name

Debbie head shotWhile most industry experts and executives agree that a focus on innovation, transformation and customer-centricity are key to a successful future in retail, there’s an ongoing debate about whether or not they need to assign specific titles bearing those terms.

In an exclusive survey report conducted by Retail TouchPoints, scheduled to be released on October 7, 2014, you’ll learn that many retail organizations are adding new titles to their C-level list, such as: Chief Strategy Officer, Chief Customer Officer, Chief Innovation Officer or Chief Transformation Officer.

The survey, titled: Changing Roles In Retail, will show that retail organizations are adding these roles with key business goals in mind, such as:

ü     Creating more consistent cross-channel experiences;

ü     Gaining better insights into customer behaviors; and

ü     Improving customer loyalty.

But still others wonder whether or not they need to define new roles in order to deliver effective change.

In my discussions with retail leaders, I’ve found that actually defining the roles is valuable because it enables organizations to definitively emphasize the importance of the new direction, from the top down.

To grab that important buy-in from the C-level to the store level, business leaders and their teams must believe that the entire organization is standing behind the initiative. If a Chief Innovation Officer is in place, there’s no question that innovation is a vital imperative moving forward.

Not Enough Just To Give It A Name

Of course, there’s a big “But” when it comes to defining new roles. There has to be some meat behind them. They have to stand for something more than just the name.

For some time, analysts have been pondering questions like “What makes a good Chief Innovation Officer?” In a recent article, identified five different mindsets of business leaders and which ones make a good innovator/leader.

Capgemini’s Jude Umeh also has pontificated on the subject, noting that a good innovation leader knows how to connect people and ideas and introduce a “cool tech factor” into the organization.

The bottom line is: If you’re moving forward with a new direction and perspective, focused on innovation, transformation or the like, do it thoughtfully. Name the right role or roles, define the roles properly and be sure to assign the titles to leaders who will bring the organization to the next level. Good luck!

]]> (Debbie Hauss) Editor's Perspective Wed, 17 Sep 2014 09:47:21 -0400
Butcher And The Burger Implements Mobile POS To Improve Customer Service Butcher And The Burger Implements Mobile POS To Improve Customer Service

Screen Shot 2014-09-18 at 2.12.14 PMButcher and the Burger, a Chicago-based “build your own burger” restaurant, has seen success since rolling out a mobile POS solution that includes Infinite Peripherals, Inc. (IPC) hardware and Digital Dining software.

Upon implementing the IPC Infinea Tab 2 device for iPad 2 and DD Mobile Digital Dining software, Butcher and the Burger has cut line times in half, improved customer service and established more efficient and organized reporting processes.

“We approached Digital Dining and Infinite Peripherals because we wanted an mPOS system based on iPad technology, and they delivered the best system when it comes to customized orders,” said Preston Owen, General Manager of Butcher and the Burger. “Our menu is based upon ‘building your own burger,’ so we needed a flexible POS system with many options for order customization all on one screen.”

With the mobile POS solution, employees can customize orders by tapping into the “instructions” option. This feature has helped improve order accuracy, according to a company press release. Although orders are typically placed at a counter, employees can easily venture to tables and take orders using their iPads as needed.

The joint solution from Digital Dining and Infinite Peripherals also provides Butcher and the Burger with detailed reporting features, allowing restaurant owners and managers to track hourly and daily sales, inventory, employee clock-ins and clock outs, labor reports, pay periods and more. 


]]> (Alicia Fiorletta) News Briefs Wed, 17 Sep 2014 12:37:06 -0400
The Benefit Of Clicks Before Bricks In International Markets

Sean Sands
As retailers explore new international markets, they are increasingly looking for quantifiable proof points of success through online channels. Internet retailing enables companies in their efforts to build their brand beyond domestic borders with a natural testing ground for products, while also allowing them to initially reduce the risks of opening a physical store in uncharted territory.

It is no secret that the retail world is becoming significantly more and more digital. Internet and mobile retailing are forecast to continue their strong growth over the next five years. In 2013 Internet retailing recorded a 15% value growth, which was the strongest rate across all retail channels, and also generated $6.5 billion in revenue. The increased consumer demand for online goods and services along with the convenience of online shopping have been driven by continued growth in computer literacy, accessibility, internet speeds and security. Consumers are able to enjoy the convenience of online shopping while retailers reduce costs associated with owning a physical store.

At a global level, the rise of Internet retailing has allowed certain brands to gain popularity as they look to move beyond their country of origin and expand in new international markets. Retailers can explore new markets while avoiding costs that include rent, labor and insurance. They are then able to pass these savings along to customers. However, ultimately there is a convergence from clicks to bricks, with many retailers still seeing the benefits of opening physical stores in international markets. More and more, we are seeing that online sales results are inspiring retailer confidence as they target specific locations beyond domestic borders establishing a brick-and-mortar presence. 

One prime example of this is Melbourne, Australia, a city where more and more retailers are choosing to open physical locations, in part due to its increasing pedigree as a fashion capital of the Asia Pacific region. Australians travel frequently and are exposed to many international retailers which increases awareness as well as desire for these brands when they return home.

Around 75% of Australians who shop online make purchases from overseas sites. This is a result of a greater variety of goods available on these sites, as well as the ability to obtain lower prices than are often available locally. Based on targeted data identifying high Internet sales in Melbourne, many U.S. retailers see it as an ideal candidate for physical locations as well as flagship stores.

There are many factors contributing to this growing appeal for Melbourne. It is Australia’s fastest growing city, with one of the world’s strongest economies — ranking in Fortune 500 as one of the world’s top 15 best new cities for business. It has also recently been named for the 4th year in a row as the world’s most livable city. Melbourne is widely regarded as a shopping and fashion hub. The city is already home to leading US and international brands including Williams Sonoma West Elm, and Brooks Brothers Zara, Muji, Uniqlo, Top Shop and H&M. H&M decided to open its flagship location in Melbourne — slated to be its largest store worldwide. These store openings often result in a great deal of consumer interest with shoppers lining up to visit the store for weeks after opening.

Australia is particularly attractive for stores due to the strength of its economy when compared with North America and Europe. Its Western counterparts have watched their retail markets stall over the past decade without any clear sight of a turnaround. In comparison, Australia was the only developed country that did not fall into a recession during the global financial crisis. According to Colliers, this quality exhibits comparative stability and gives retailers the confidence necessary to push their business overseas. Also, by establishing a presence in this key Australian city, it allows global retailers to easily transition into growth economies in Asia. Australia’s high Asian ethnic population and high number of Asian tourists provide a litmus test for the Asian market.

Similarly, with limited impact from the global recession, Melbourne residents have not been forced to make aggressive cuts in their disposable income and as a result have more spending power. Australians like to be at the forefront of new technology, fashion, and other trends. According to Colliers, “Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s all ship to Australia and openly consider the country as one of the biggest online customers.” These large retailers are gaining a huge competitive advantage by tapping into this market because they are able to gather data related to successful sales.

Data such as this makes it incredibly easy to justify opening physical shops overseas.  It is no secret that the activity with all e-commerce sites is now tracked and the information needed to generate future sales is readily available. The benefit for retailers looking to open stores is that they are able to create a strategy based on local demographics, eliminating a significant amount of the risk associated with opening up a new store location.

Online and mobile retailing trends are projected to continue their rapid growth on a global level and as a result we will increasingly see more specific and accurate consumer metrics. This data has the ability to complement physical store locations which still hold value for many retailers as we have seen firsthand in Melbourne.  


Sean Sands is a Senior Research Fellow within the Department of Marketing and Research Director at Australian Center Retail Studies (ACRS). As part of his role, Sean engages in commercial research with commercial, Government and not-for-profit organizations. He has extensive commercial research and consulting experience in the fields of retail and consumer behavior. He has presented as numerous industry conferences and seminars including the World Retail Congress in Europe and Asia. 

]]> (Sean Sands, PhD) Executive ViewPoints Thu, 18 Sep 2014 07:00:00 -0400
Brookstone Names Interim President And CEO

James M. SpeltzBrookstone announced the resignation of James M. Speltz, President and CEO and appointed its current Chief Merchandising Officer , Steve Schwartz, as Interim President and CEO. Speltz joined Brookstone in 1998 and recently guided the retailer through bankruptcy proceedings.

“Jim took on the President and CEO role at a challenging time, helping the company navigate through a difficult period,” said Piau Phang Foo, Chairman of the Brookstone Board of Directors. “He successfully helped Brookstone emerge from Chapter 11 in June. We are grateful to him for his leadership and contributions”

{loadposition GIAA}For the last three years, Schwartz led the merchandising, product development and marketing teams at Brookstone.

“Moving forward, we are investing more in design and engineering through our award winning Brookstone Design Lab, as well as expanding our partnerships with inventors, global innovators and crowdfunded partners,” said Schwartz. “These initiatives will help us strengthen our offering of unique and innovative products and gifts.”

]]> (Rob Fee) Retail Movers & Shakers Wed, 17 Sep 2014 12:24:36 -0400
LightSpeed Receives $35 Million To Expand Product Line

LightSpeed Cloud family funding image 1
, a provider of cloud-based commerce solutions, has closed $35 Million in new funding led by iNovia Capital and Accel Partners. This is the second round of funding for LightSpeed, bringing the company’s total capital raised to $65 million. LightSpeed will use the money to help accelerate the development and release of new solutions. 

“LightSpeed is deeply ingrained in the challenges and needs of today’s retailer,” said Chris Arsenault, Managing Partner at iNovia Capital. “They’ve figured out how to make big box retail tools easy and accessible to independent retailers to help them thrive in a highly competitive market. We are thrilled to be their partner in this journey.”

Over the past year, LightSpeed released a series of new solutions designed to help retailers build, manage and grow their businesses, including LightSpeed Web Store for Cloud, LightSpeed Cloud for iPad, and Advanced Reporting.

LightSpeed also has plans to venture into the payments space as a result of a partnership with Element Payment Services. The new platform, called LightSpeed Payments, eliminates the need for a third-party solution to accept payments or access critical financial information.

]]> (Alicia Fiorletta) Financial News Wed, 17 Sep 2014 11:08:27 -0400