Executive ViewPoints - Retail TouchPoints - Retail TouchPoints https://www.retailtouchpoints.com Wed, 21 Nov 2018 06:11:42 -0500 RTP en-gb Thriving In The New World Of Grocery: Five Keys For Brands https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/thriving-in-the-new-world-of-grocery-five-keys-for-brands https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/thriving-in-the-new-world-of-grocery-five-keys-for-brands

0aaaJim Hertel InmarMuch has been made of the challenges facing retailers in today’s grocery marketplace. However, their manufacturing trading partners are contending with equally pervasive disruption and the effects have been significant, with most of the top 100 brands continuing to lose market share to smaller competitors.

The issues impacting large CPGs are many — and they’re growing. For one, shoppers are increasingly brand agnostic. They’re looking to manufacturers to address a need state and, if they have confidence that the product can meet their  need(s), it matters not the brand.

At the same time, there is growing demand across shopper segments for specialty, healthy and functional foods, as shoppers are moving well beyond “low sodium” or “sugar-free” line extensions in their efforts to eat better and improve their nutrition. As a result, they’re turning to new and emerging brands to help them reach their goal of establishing a better diet. And the barriers to entry for these emerging brands have never been lower. Leveraging available technology, even the smallest food producer can achieve speed to market with enviable alacrity.

Further complicating matters is that at the center of everything is the “mantra of me” — shoppers’ deepening expectations of a personal connection with brands. So what must big CPG brands do in order to address these challenges and protect profitability?

Reclaim Competence At Consumer-Driven Innovation

The current “innovation model” of big brands acquiring smaller, emerging brands and then extending their distribution across vast retail networks is quickly losing viability in the face of rising costs and increasing market complexity. Innovation needs to be brought back in-house and re-established as a core asset.

Being perceived as innovative and in tune with consumers provides a key advantage over competitors; shoppers want to engage with brands they view as helping them address need states and live better lives. By creating small, dedicated teams to act as startups within business units — and informing their efforts through social listening — brands can effectively focus on consumer needs and reignite internal innovation.

Re-Establish Trust In The Consumer-Value Proposition

Along with everything else they’re facing, brands today must contend with a growing distrust of large corporations, including “big food.” Regardless of whether or not the distrust is warranted, it exists and it has to be addressed.

To rebuild that trust, brands must be transparent and forthcoming and their leaders must be likable, believable and accessible. Brands need to understand who they are as a brand — and who they aren’t. And the brand must stand for something beyond profits.

Aggressively Explore All Methods Of Selling To Consumers

This, of course, includes selling directly to them. Engaging in direct-to-consumer sales allows brands to effectively define, and directly express, the consumer-value proposition without it being filtered or changed by an outside party.

The result is a better buying experience that is free of the barriers and obstacles that can complicate and hinder the relationship between brands and consumers. In addition, direct-to-consumer is a proven path to valuable consumer data that makes success easier with new demographic segments and niche markets.

Develop A Culture Of Speed

While it’s not an easy ask for large organizations, big brands must find a way to create a definitive structure focused on driving faster growth. Brands can, and should, take advantage of large-scale operations by placing those closest to consumers, those most closely connected to the marketplace, in decision-making roles. This includes empowering them to stop activities that aren’t contributing to profitable growth.

The “need for speed” can also be met by partnering with emerging players (when internal capabilities are insufficient) to respond rapidly to shifting consumer trends or regulatory changes. Investing appropriately in very early-stage companies can enable big brands to optimize, and accelerate, their response to changes in shopper behavior/attitudes.

Succeed At Smaller Scale

The once tremendous competitive advantage that big brands exercised in producing millions of cases of product and driving production cost down on a marginal basis no longer exists. Succeeding through volume in spite of low margins is also quickly disappearing. Now, brands must concentrate on serving niche audiences/market sub-groups demonstrating demand for niche products.

Although many more startups fail than succeed, they are driving explosive growth and taking serious share from the big players. Large CPGs must match up with these challenger brands, operate with the same sense of urgency and adopt a similar mindset of developing brands that have deep connections with consumers.

According to PwC Global’s study of 2017 CPG trends, small CPGs (those with sales of less than $1 billion) outperformed the competition in 18 of the top 25 categories. This is an undeniable wake-up call for big brands to re-examine their product portfolios, their consumer-engagement mindsets and their plans for future growth.

Achieving greater speed to market, speed to admit failure and speed to shed activities that are not measurably driving success must be prioritized. Dismissing emerging brands as merely “ankle biters” is a good way for large CPGs to lose a leg. But, by identifying and fulfilling consumers’ needs — both physical and philosophical — big brands can thrive in the new world of grocery.


 

Jim Hertel is Senior Vice President, Inmar. In this role he is responsible for business development, client service, new-solution creation and strategy development for Inmar Analytics’ retail and manufacturer clients. Prior to Inmar’s acquisition of Willard Bishop, a food retail consulting company, Hertel was Willard Bishop’s Managing Partner. Throughout his career, Hertel has developed insight-based growth strategies for companies including Anheuser-Busch, Campbell Soup Company, Kraft Foods, Unilever, Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola and Purina.

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feed@retailtouchpoints.com (Jim Hertel, Inmar) Executive ViewPoints Tue, 20 Nov 2018 09:09:59 -0500
Crisis Management Lessons Learned From Starbucks https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/crisis-management-lessons-learned-from-starbucks https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/crisis-management-lessons-learned-from-starbucks

0aaaJonas Sickler Reputation ManagementThere are no shortages of public relations disasters among retail brands. Whether a crisis is caused by social media, employee scandal, data loss or racial discrimination, the impact on brand reputation and revenue can be severe. Some companies struggle to repair their search landscape for years, yet Starbucks search results seem to be immune to negative press.

So how did Starbucks develop a seemingly bulletproof online reputation, and what can other retail brands learn from them? The answer is as simple as it is obvious; Starbucks has a textbook crisis management strategy and they execute it perfectly. Let’s dig into their recent racial discrimination incident to understand how they recovered so quickly.

How The Crisis Unfolded

On April 12, 2018, two black men asked to use the restroom in a Philadelphia Starbucks. They were denied access because they hadn’t made a purchase as required by corporate policy, and they were asked to leave. After refusing to comply, a white manager called the police and the men were arrested on suspicion of trespassing. It was later learned that the gentlemen were waiting for a business associate before making a purchase.

Accusations of racial bias in the days following the arrests prompted a wave of protests and boycotts. Media coverage became predominantly negative and Starbucks’ brand sentiment was falling. The coffee giant needed to find a swift resolution and assure customers that this was an isolated incident which would never again happen.

How Starbucks Controlled The Crisis

Company leadership understood that their response must be clear, meaningful, actionable and systemic. The company’s crisis management strategy can be broken down into three parts: communication, resolution and recovery.

Communication

Companies often attempt to mitigate crises by issuing vague, canned responses that downplay the severity of the situation. This approach often backfires because brands appear disingenuous, sparking further backlash from customers and the media.

In contrast, Starbucks’ crisis communication plan was effective because it was clear and simple. They designated a single spokesperson, CEO Kevin Johnson, to deliver one clear and consistent message: this was wrong; we’ll do better. Johnson wasted no time in stepping up and shouldering the blame himself. Not only did he accept responsibility for the policy that led to the incident, he denounced the treatment of the gentlemen in the following statement:

“The circumstances surrounding the incident and the outcome in our store on Thursday were reprehensible, they were wrong, and for that, I personally apologize to the two gentlemen who visited our store.”

Starbucks’ communication strategy was laser-focused on five key points that could all be tied back to their core message: this was wrong, we’ll do better.

  1. Accept responsibility
  2. Denounce the situation
  3. Fix the problem
  4. Make amends
  5. Move forward

Resolution

While individuals should be responsible for their actions, shifting all blame to lower-level employees can be problematic. Doing so could leave bad policies and ineffective managers in place, in addition to risking a similar incident in the future. Starbucks went above and beyond to demonstrate that the company was serious about change by executing the following crisis resolution strategy:

  • Address the employee involved — Starbucks determined that it was in the best interest of both parties to remove the manager from the store.
  • Negotiate a settlement with the gentlemen — The details of the settlement aren’t public, but the agreement included an offer for free college tuition.
  • Revise customer restroom policy — After an internal investigation, the company decided to update its policy to allow anyone to use store restrooms without making a purchase.
  • Close stores for racial bias training — In a controversial move, Starbucks announced that it would close all locations in the U.S. for racial bias training. Initially the decision ruffled investors, but the ultimate cost of closing for a few hours was much less than the impact of continued boycotts and protests.

Recovery

While Starbucks’ crisis response was textbook, their online reputation management strategy has been second-to-none. It’s common for a brand’s search landscape to remain contaminated with negative press long after a public relations disaster has been resolved. Yet it only took three months for the incident to vanish from the first two pages of Starbucks’ search results. The company did two things that htraining. The statement demonstrated how serious the company was about correcting the issue while giving Starbucks more control over their brand’s narrative.

Additionally, resolving the situation within 30 days reduced the amount of negative content that could be published. For example, once the training had been concluded, the story was essentially over and the press moved on. Had the resolution been pushed out several months, the Internet could have been flooded with hundreds more articles.

Positive media blitz: After resolving the crisis, Starbucks executed an aggressive public relations strategy to shift the narrative away from the crisis. It was no small feat to convince the media to drop the racial bias story, either. To do so, the coffee company pushed out six major news stories that leveraged multiple types of press releases.

  • Staff — Howard Schultz, outgoing Starbucks chairman, was rumored to be considering a 2020 presidential run. This story exploded across news outlets, quickly pushing down articles about the crisis.
  • News — On July 9, Starbucks announced that the company would eliminate plastic straws by 2020. This is a perfect example of corporate social responsibility that builds positive brand sentiment, and the story was picked up by many top-tier news outlets.
  • Launch — The coffee brand announced that it would be opening 1,000 stand-alone bakeries under the name Princi back in November 2017, but the first was officially unveiled on July 31 of this year. The exciting press release sparked a round of positive articles with mouthwatering photos, further drowning out the stale crisis story.
  • News — Starbucks and McDonald’s teamed up to save six billion paper cups a year from landfills. While the original announcement came in March, it was overshadowed by the breaking crisis before being revived again in August. This press release is yet another great example of CSR that drives positive brand perception.
  • Product — On August 8, Starbucks-owned juice brand Evolution Fresh launched a new Organic Kombucha line of products.
  • Promotion — Starbucks also began promoting a BOGO happy hour special throughout July and August. This was the most sales-oriented press release, but it certainly generated excitement and garnered positive mentions in articles.

Crisis management is a nuanced process that must be taken seriously. If brands take note of how Starbucks navigated their situation, they’ll be more likely to emerge unscathed. Keep things simple, and follow these guidelines: 

  • Define your strategy before a crisis breaks;
  • Be accountable and empathetic;
  • Control the narrative;
  • Clearly communicate your solution;
  • Resolve the situation quickly; and
  • Promote your brand’s positive initiatives.

 

Jonas Sickler marketing director at ReputationManagement. He is an expert in online reputation management. He writes about marketing and crisis communications to help businesses avoid common public relations disasters. His advice has been featured in more than 60 publications, including Forbes, Washington Post, CNBC, TheStreet, and U.S. News. Follow along on Twitter.

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feed@retailtouchpoints.com (Jonas Sickler, Reputation Management) Executive ViewPoints Mon, 19 Nov 2018 08:00:00 -0500
Three Advanced TV Strategies CPG Brands Can Use to Increase Revenue https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/three-advanced-tv-strategies-cpg-brands-can-use-to-increase-revenue https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/three-advanced-tv-strategies-cpg-brands-can-use-to-increase-revenue

0aaaAdam Paul LiveRampA 2017 report by Credit Suisse projected that the current distinction between “media” spend (TV, digital, print, radio, outdoor and cinema) and “below-the-line” marketing spend (price promotions, PR, sponsorship, direct mail and telephone marketing) would continue to blur in the future of advertising.  

This co-branded television campaign by Tylenol and Stop & Shop targeting caregivers is a perfect example. Further, with advances in data-driven television ad buying and the scale that can now be achieved through household-level addressable TV, consumer packaged goods (CPG) manufacturers should rethink how they allocate their marketing dollars in order to truly capitalize on their targeting and partner strategies. In other words, the ability to use rich datasets beyond age and gender demos for TV planning has created a real opportunity for CPG manufacturers to use TV to reach individual consumers with messaging that drives specific behaviors.

Today, more than half of CPG marketing spend goes to below-the-line tactics, including trade and consumer promotion and shopper marketing. On the other hand, according the Cadent Consulting Group, only 13.3% was spent on traditional advertising in 2017. It’s incredible to think that only a portion of this was used to create some of the most impactful ads of our time: Always’ #LikeAGirl, Ariel’s #SharetheLoad, and Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches, to name a few. Advanced TV offers boundary-pushing brands a prime opportunity to connect their big, beautiful ads to below-the-line tactics in a concerted, measurable manner.

While below-the-line tactics often prove effective at driving volume, they rely heavily on price discounts to drive action and do little to grow brand equity — a gap that TV ads fill nicely. With advances in TV targeting, CPG brands can avoid becoming pigeonholed; they can avoid a scenario where they are only known for being inexpensive relative to their competition.

Here are three advanced TV strategies that CPG manufacturers can consider to drive real value and results in a time where consumers value personalized, meaningful experiences to drive brand loyalty.

1.    Optimize National Linear Investment to more closely align with both the purchase behavior and media consumption habits of high-value consumers. CPG manufacturers that are looking to target a specific audience (e.g., moms with kids in the household that also purchase organic products) can use rich data sets from third-party providers like IRI, Kantar Shopcom and Nielsen Catalina Solutions, or increasingly, second-party data through their retail partners, to identify the specific TV networks and dayparts where this audience indexes the highest. In doing so, advertisers will not only more efficiently reach their actual target consumer, but they can better allocate spend to the times of the day and week that are adjacent to prime shopping periods. Almost all major cable networks have enabled a data-driven capability, and Open AP — the consortium comprised of Fox, Turner, Viacom and NBCU — helps to ensure that the target segment definitions are consistent across their networks. 

Some early adopters have even been surprised to discover that using granular data for their linear TV buys led them to succeed with new dayparts, channels and programs. It’s not too far-fetched to imagine that these insights from TV can be combined with digital to create a more complete omnichannel picture of a CPG brand’s audience.

2.    Target Consumers At The Household Level Through Addressable TV to guarantee reach against the most valuable consumers. Similar to direct marketing strategies, advertisers can now deliver TV ads to the specific households that they want to reach via addressable TV. The question, to date, has been scale. Advertisers can collectively reach 68 million homes, well over half of TV households in the U.S., on addressable inventory, according to a recent eMarketer report.

To provide a CPG-specific example of addressable TV’s scale, let’s say a brand wants to target consumers looking for organic products. By overlaying data on consumers that have a propensity to buy natural or organic products, an advertiser can reach over 15 million homes across addressable TV platforms. Additionally, given the localized targeting capabilities inherent to addressable TV, marketers focusing on shopper marketing and other below-the-line activations can leverage TV to deliver ads with very specific calls-to-action that are designed to increase loyalty, launch new products and ultimately drive consumers into the store.  Just as with digital media across channels, addressable TV offers advertisers the opportunity to version creative, offer and message for a specific segment.

In addition, the way an advertiser approaches addressable TV will depend on their brand and their budget, according to Trace Rutland, Director of Media Innovation at Tyson Foods. “Reach is a very important factor for any, if not all advertisers, and the goals need to be clearly evaluated and defined ahead of time. For brands that haven’t reached household penetration, or for smaller brands with tight budgets, it might be more difficult. Any ad dollars being allocated to addressable TV campaigns will need to be maximized and optimized so that the ends justify the means. That’s not to say that it’s out of the question for a smaller brand; in fact, the opposite is true if a smaller brand has limited distribution and the ability to geo-target.” At the end of the day, it all comes down to understanding and measuring success accurately.

3.    Measure To Optimize. Tremendous strides have been made to better understand the impact of TV advertising on customer acquisition and sales. Cable operators, and more recently TV manufacturers, through Automatic Content Recognition (ACR) technology, make it possible for advertisers and measurement providers to understand viewership at the individual and household level. With the right partners and technology, viewership and exposure data can be integrated with transaction data, whether sales data or foot traffic from location-data providers, so that advertisers can tie specific actions to their TV campaign. In doing so, they will be able to identify the right frequency, marketing mix and message to most efficiently drive conversion, and use these insights to optimize future campaigns.

With TV becoming more data-driven and targeted, sophisticated marketers can finally integrate TV planning with other platforms to deliver consistent, omnichannel experiences.

Identity resolution, the ability to accurately identify individuals across platforms and data sets, is critical to this monumental shift towards truly omnichannel marketing. For CPG manufacturers, these targeted solutions require the expertise to identify, with confidence, a single individual within and across an advertiser CRM file or third-party data set, a cable operator’s subscriber file or a TV viewership data source, digital platforms and within a retailer loyalty program. Most importantly, it is critical to do this in a privacy-conscious and brand-safe manner that protects consumers, brands, and business partners, and provides meaningful value to all. Data onboarders are critical to enabling this ecosystem at scale.  

As the gap between above-the-line and below-the-line marketing strategies continues to narrow, CPG marketers stand to benefit greatly by changing the way they use TV advertising. If done well, they will achieve both scale and conversion by connecting with the audiences that are most important to their business in a manner that is both relevant and efficient.

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feed@retailtouchpoints.com (Adam Paul, LiveRamp) Executive ViewPoints Fri, 16 Nov 2018 09:18:58 -0500
How Alibaba Developed Singles’ Day Into A $30 Billion Phenomenon https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/alibaba-sets-new-global-sales-record-on-singles-day-2018 https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/alibaba-sets-new-global-sales-record-on-singles-day-2018

0aaaChris Perry Edge by AscentialAlibaba has set a new high water mark for a single day of sales. The 11.11 Global Shopping Festival, held on Singles' Day, smashed previous records this year with sales reaching RMB 213.5 billion (USD $30.8 billion) an increase of 27% over 2017 and amounting to more than a billion orders.

Singles' Day began as a celebration of pride in being single, held on the eleventh of November because the date consists of a series of ones: 11/11. It did not take long for retailers to recognize that the tradition, which began in the 1990s, was an opportunity to promote their products to the young, single consumers celebrating the unofficial holiday and it quickly became China's largest online sales day. Alibaba, the country's largest e-Commerce retailer, founded the 11.11 Global Shopping Festival to capture these sales.

In 2018, the 24-hour shopping event celebrated its 10th anniversary and saw Alibaba setting a new global sales record. With sales in more than 200 countries from more than 180,000 brands, Alibaba's numerous sales channels including Tmall, Lazada and Freshippo broke milestones from the previous 10 years one-by-one as the day wore on. The Alibaba Group alone earned USD $30.8 billion in sales on November 11th, 2018  that's 7.3X Amazon's Prime Day estimated global sales, 4X forecasted U.S. Cyber Monday sales and 1.3X forecasted U.S. sales for the five-day Thanksgiving weekend, including Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

0aaaholidaycomps

'New Retail'

The sheer scale of the 11.11 Global Shopping Festival is without comparison. The annual event used to be all about Tmall, Alibaba's major B2C marketplace, but by 2018 the event has expanded across Alibaba's digital ecosystem. Newly acquired e-Commerce platform Lazada held Singles' Day sales for the first time across its six Southeast Asian markets. Local services were expanded with the company's on-demand delivery platform Ele.me providing delivery from Starbucks Coffee stores in 11 cities.

Alibaba also expanded its physical present through its 'New Retail' strategy — the seamless integration of the online and offline worlds to create a retail ecosystem that enables omnichannel consumer engagement. Alibaba's signature New Retail supermarket chain Freshippo, formerly known as Hema, featured numerous promotions during the one-day event.

New Retail is also at the heart of the roughly 200,000 "smart stores" across China, mom-and-pop shops powered by Ling Shou Tong technology (which means "Retail Integrated") which allows them to integrate with Alibaba's distribution network and modern analytics. Many of these shops are also classified as Tmall Corner Stores, acting as pickup points for the third-party e-Commerce platform. Between these smart stores and other recent brick-and-mortar investments including RT-Mart and furniture retailer Easyhome, 11.11 has never had a greater impact on offline sales.

Going Global

Through its majority ownership of Lazada, Alibaba was able to make a strong push with 11.11 in six new Southeast Asian markets, but the group's global reach doesn't stop there. In 2018, promotions were aimed beyond China throughout Asia, the U.S. and Australia. These promotions were heavily targeted toward Chinese consumers living in these countries — for whom Alibaba is a household name — but were available to anyone in these markets.

In addition to the Alibaba Group expanding its reach globally, international brands also expanded their presence within China. 237 brands from Japan, the U.S., Germany and others – including global heavyweights such as L’Oréal, Nestlé and Apple — together earned RMP 100 billion during the one-day event (USD $14.4 billion), nearly half of total sales.

23 hours and 20 minutes into Singles' Day 2018, the Alibaba-owned Cainiao Smart Logistics Network received its 1 billionth delivery order of the day. Cainiao had stated that it had upgraded its technology and systems to handle the anticipated — but unprecedented — volume of orders that would be coming through during the 11.11 Global Shopping Festival, but in the coming days we will learn how this logistical challenge will be handled.

The Future Of 11.11

It's important to note that these record-breaking sales figures only account for the Alibaba Group's sales. When including other major Chinese retailers, total Singles' Day sales in 2018 were significantly higher.  JD.com holds an 11-day rival shopping event between November 1 and 11, this year setting their own sales record of USD $19.1 billion. Rather than competing directly against Alibaba for sales during the critical 24-hour period, JD.com spreads its sales over a week and a half in order to give shoppers more flexibility and time to make purchasing decisions, with the added benefit of reducing delivery bottlenecks and preventing the 'one billion orders in one day' logistical challenge faced by Cainiao. 

Among Alibaba, JD.com, and their competitors, brands cannot afford to miss out on Singles' Day going forward. This year more than 40% of consumers purchasing from international brands and the most successful brands leveraged not only the major platforms but also Alibaba's unmatched data and insights. For instance, Mars Inc., the world's biggest confection producer, collaborated to develop a new chili-infused Snickers bar (which holds a 92% positive rating on the platform) and L'Oréal collaborated with Tmall on a new line of men's grooming products. Brands have the opportunity to work with Alibaba in order to identify the unique wants and needs of Chinese consumers and break into one of the world's most valuable markets.

While the growth rate for Singles' Day has begun to slow – primarily due to its now-enormous scale – the size and influence of this holiday goes largely under-valued by the often U.S.- and Amazon-centric e-Commerce news beat. The dominance of Alibaba's 11.11 Global Shopping Festival — and the group's ability to generate an unprecedented amount of sales within a single 24-hour period — makes Alibaba easily one of the most important global retail ecosystems for brands and suppliers competing in the new retail reality.


Chris Perry is the VP of Global Executive Education at Edge by Ascential™ (formerly Brand View, Clavis Insight, One Click Retail and Planet Retail RNG) on a mission to help empower Leaders of Change — both people and organizations — to become better at what they do so that they may make the positive impact to which they ultimately aspire. Over his career to-date as a CPG e-Commerce practitioner, he has led the e-Commerce strategy, organization, capabilities and activation across Reckitt Benckiser, WellPet and most recently Kellogg's, generating collectively $350MM+ in profitable revenue growth, 1000s of bps in online share leadership and collaborative joint partnerships with over 25+ top e-Commerce retailers.
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feed@retailtouchpoints.com (Chris Perry, VP at Edge by Ascential (formerly Brand View, Clavis Insight, One Click Retail and PlanetRetail RNG)) Executive ViewPoints Thu, 15 Nov 2018 14:02:08 -0500
The Three A’s Of Retail Experimentation Success https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/the-three-a-s-of-retail-experimentation-success https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/the-three-a-s-of-retail-experimentation-success

0aaaChris Taylor SquareRootBetween constantly-evolving competition and higher customer expectations, retailers are looking for innovative ways to delight their customers. From collaborative partnerships to interactive displays and activities, retailers are turning to experimentation and innovation to improve the in-store shopping experience. In fact, a recent national survey we conducted at Square Root highlighted retailers’ focus on the in-store experience, with 95% of retailers saying customer experience is a core priority for their organization. Additionally, 79% believe that physical stores are where brands really come to life, citing the in-store experience as the primary influencer of the overall customer experience.

Retailers are turning to a variety of partnership formats to attract new, untapped customer bases and increase customer loyalty — including sharing real estate and testing technology. For example, Kohl’s teamed up with Aldi to “right-size” their locations. RadioShack has rolled out “RadioShack Express” locations with HobbyTown stores across the country. Macy’s partnered with b8ta, a try-before-you-buy technology that allows customers to try tech products in Macy’s stores that retailers wouldn’t traditionally offer. These strategic partnerships help brands provide customers a broader variety of choice with the convenience of a one-stop-shopping experience.

We are also seeing increased experimentation with in-store activities, with brands like LEGO arguably leading the way. The brand took interactivity to a new level with the opening of LEGO House in Denmark, where visitors can engage in spontaneous creativity and free building. LEGO applies that same approach to interactivity at every level of its retail business, offering one-of-a-kind in-store experiences, from personalized LEGO mosaic portraits to monthly build events, to pick and build walls. In 2017, LEGO’s NPS score shot to the top compared to other brands as a result of its overall customer experience.

Experiments like these are shaping the future of the retail customer experience, and iterations on these approaches will determine the long-term winners in the space. But beyond innovative ideas, retail experimentation success relies on enabling agility through internal alignment and improved access to information.

Ensuring Alignment

Our 2018 State of the Store report uncovered a negative ‘trickle-down effect’ resulting from misalignment in retail organizations. The study of more than 1,300 store and district managers revealed high levels of job dissatisfaction, with misalignment and poor communication as the top contributing factors. Unengaged leaders can impact everything from turnover to the in-store customer experience — which ultimately impacts the bottom line. Internal alignment is not only critical for ensuring teams are marching toward the same end goal, but also for ensuring employee retention at all levels.

With increased experimentation comes increased complexity for retail organizations — particularly in-store teams. It’s imperative for district and store managers to be aligned, engaged and empowered to support their teams as they roll out new initiatives like in-store partnerships. Take the Kohl’s and Aldi partnership example. Imagine the missed opportunities if corporate and store leadership teams aren’t aligned on seasonal activities, in-store promotions and team training. For maximum partnership success, there must be full alignment on target goals for the engagement in order to drive improvements together.

Improving Access

Beyond organizational alignment, corporate retailers need to provide in-store teams access to data in order for them to understand and improve the performance of experimentations. Going back to the LEGO example, store teams need to understand the impact of their monthly build events. Does it improve customer satisfaction and brand perception? Does it drive more immediate in-store conversions? Our recent study uncovered a major void when it comes to even foundational data about the store experience. In fact, 50% of today’s retailers have no way to track, measure or understand the in-store experience beyond sales, and 56% of today’s retailers underinvest in collecting data about the store experience. With little access to baseline information, how can brands effectively measure the impact of new initiatives?

Today, retailers cite using an average of nine different tools to measure the customer experience across different departments. Additionally, 59% report that their organization has no single, shared tool for measuring success across the organization. As a result, teams are left with fractured pictures of performance and miss key opportunities for understanding critical correlations between data points. Instead, retailers should focus on a consolidated toolset that allows for an organization-wide view of performance, ensuring better team alignment and helping to quickly surface key actions needed to drive improvements.

Enabling Agility

Retailers are embracing experimentation as a way to improve and replace traditional business models and compete for consumer mind and wallet share. But implementing new initiatives and approaches is just the beginning. Speed and agility are table stakes for success in the evolving industry; retailers must be able to test, iterate and improve — quickly. The level of agility that today’s retail landscape demands is well within reach with team alignment and improved access to data. Those who get it right will maximize both the investment in and impact of their experiments.


 

Chris Taylor is Founder and CEO of Square Root, where he leads the company’s long-term growth strategy. Passionate about empowering companies to optimize operations and make smarter decisions, Taylor founded the company in 2006 with the goal of making business data accessible, understandable and actionable. Under his leadership, Square Root developed its store relationship management platform, CoEFFICIENT, and has served the world’s leading automotive and retail brands. Taylor has more than 18 years of experience serving in operational and strategic roles for leading technology and automotive companies including Trilogy, CarOrder, TrueCar and Brighthouse. 

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feed@retailtouchpoints.com (Chris Taylor, Square Root ) Executive ViewPoints Thu, 15 Nov 2018 08:57:48 -0500
How To Optimize Mobile, Site Speed And Site Search Ahead Of Holiday 2018 https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/how-to-optimize-mobile-site-speed-and-site-search-ahead-of-holiday-2018 https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/how-to-optimize-mobile-site-speed-and-site-search-ahead-of-holiday-2018

0aaaCheryl Amaya WebLincFor most retailers, the holiday season begins promptly in November, although some retailers start the previous month for Halloween and others as early as September for back-to-school. While retailers can forecast the start of the holiday season, one area that proves to be unpredictable are the strategies and tactics used to boost holiday sales.  

The holiday season can represent as much as 30% of annual sales, according to the National Retail Federation. For online retail brands, understanding changing consumer behavior, technology and timing is critical to having a make or break year.

When comparing 2016 to 2017, the retail industry experienced an increase of 11.5% in online sales, according to eMarketer. Just as noteworthy, on Thanksgiving and Christmas smartphones accounted for more than 60% of web site traffic and approximately 50% of digital sales. By identifying these types of key consumer shopping behaviors and trends, retailers can anticipate how they will prepare and plan for the upcoming holiday season.

Recommendations To Achieve Holiday Growth

Workarea customers experienced a 20% increase in revenue last holiday. That is almost double the industry average for holiday growth. The following data-driven recommendations and emerging best practices are shared in full in the 2018 Workarea Ecommerce Holiday Planning Guide.

To help fuel your best holiday season yet, here are three of our top Holiday Guide recommendations to achieve growth this season.

Mobile Optimizations

As evidenced above, customers are increasingly shopping online from their mobile phones. So much so, one in four of every e-Commerce marketing dollar is allocated towards mobile spend.

To maximize ROI, segment mobile users to create personalized and tailored messaging. Be sure to optimize the mobile shopping path to allow for the quickest pathway from product to checkout.

For example, on the Workarea platform, admins can show or hide certain content blocks, or display different images depending on the user screen size, to allow for a frictionless shopping experience with the least amount of clicks possible to put a product in their cart.

Site Speed Optimization Across All Devices

Don’t let something as simple as site speed slow down sales; especially on mobile devices. Did you know that 53% of web visitors will leave a mobile page if it takes longer than three seconds to load (Google report)?

Now is the time to check your site’s speed, before the weight of holiday traffic and sales start. Use Google’s speed insights and Web Page Speed test to understand how your site is performing. If you need to make some improvements to get it closer to three seconds, evaluate your third-party integrations and remove any you are not using, audit your content images to make sure they are optimized and not too large, and talk with your platform partner about any available optimizations to their application’s load time.  

On-Site Search

On average, customers convert 3X higher when they engage with your search tool. Retailers on the Workarea platform experienced tremendous gains in search conversions with a 9.87% average conversion rate using site search on Black Friday, and 10.8% average conversion rate on Cyber Monday.

Prioritize the search tool in your web site’s header and make it easy to use and easy to find. Be sure to continually audit trending on-site search keywords and promote those products or categories on the site. Last, review top searches from the prior year and map out if/how consumers will be directed to these products or be able to find similar products this holiday season.


 

Cheryl Amaya, Director of Customer Success at WebLinc is the quintessential customer advocate. At the top of her priorities is identifying online merchants’ needs and guiding them to find solutions. She maintains a relationship with all Workarea platform customers, evaluating their e-Commerce solution systems to help them maximize revenue and increase site traffic.

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feed@retailtouchpoints.com (Cheryl Amaya, WebLinc) Executive ViewPoints Wed, 14 Nov 2018 09:06:21 -0500
Mastering Retail’s Next Frontier https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/mastering-retail-s-next-frontier https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/mastering-retail-s-next-frontier

0aaaScott Clarke CognizantA decade ago, “going shopping” meant a modest trip to the store or a flip through a catalogue. While online shopping was on the rise, it was neither a de facto nor even a secondary consumer transaction platform. Who could have predicted that, by 2018, more than one in ten retail transactions would take place online, and of these online transactions, more than one in three would be made on a mobile device? Who could foretell that by the same year, 80% of all transactions would be influenced by a digital interaction or that one in five consumers would have made at least one voice-activated purchase through Amazon Echo or another digital home assistant.

Much has changed in the past decade. But for all the sociological, technological and economic changes that have rocked the retail sector over the past decade, it is fair to say that when it comes to digital disruption we “ain’t seen nothing yet.”

As we look forward to the next decade of retail reinvention and enter what can be aptly described as “Retail’s Next Frontier,” a number of defining characteristics are starting to take shape. First, shoppers will expect a seamless experience across an increasing range of connected devices, with unquestionable immediacy and convenience. Shoppers will seek an environment in which shopping is frictionless, curated, experiential and personal. This will translate into interactive, highly engaging online and real-world retail environments, connected but different based on their medium.  

Secondly, the distinction between the physical and online store will eventually blur and disappear. As shoppers seek real-time satisfaction in their shopping needs, the concept of the online store might even disappear altogether, surviving only as a background resource to manage transactions. At the same time, while physical spaces will continue to shrink in size and dramatically decline in numbers, they will become a significantly more digitalized version of what exists today, with multiple smart devices working together on a single IoT platform to deliver hyper-personalized, adaptive and context specific experiences. While much of the technology will be invisible to the consumer, shoppers will have the opportunity to interact digitally within the physical store environment in a way that provides real-time experiences and addresses their underlying needs and preferences, when they matter most.

Thirdly, the widespread adoption of increasingly powerful, large-screen smartphones will continue to improve the m-Commerce experience. As such, more and more retailers will optimize their sites for mobile shopping, delivering rich, personalized content in a way that inspires a deeper connection with their consumers. These developments will turn the smartphone into a platform that can support the entire shopping journey, from product search and discovery to comparisons, recommendations and payments.

By 2025, contextual location will be an integral part of the retail experience, providing a way for retailers to deliver targeted, timely, contextually relevant messages to consumers. Moreover, as home voice devices, such as Alexa and Google Home, continue to proliferate, richer modes of home shopping will be part of the experiential landscape.  

The next frontier of retail will be predictive, contextual, sensitive, adaptive and responsive. Shopper demands and desires will be foreseen, processed and fulfilled before they are articulated or even consciously realized. This will be made possible through an increasingly connected and intelligent ecosystem of devices that exchange data at unprecedented rates. Through sensors and unobtrusive technology, entire environments around people will be leveraged to predict and individualize their needs with experiences that are hyper-personalized, accurate, fast and frictionless.

Wearables will become particularly rich sources of granular data insights and new types of behavioral and usage data. Augmented reality (AR) will overtake virtual reality (VR) to play an increasingly important role in the retail experience and help turn physical stores into experience centers. Blockchain will become a critical part of the retail ecosystem to reduce counterfeit product, increase counterparty transaction efficiency by eliminating the need for intermediaries and improving the traceability of the food chain.  

Also, small-scale shops, pop-ups and other streamlined establishments will increasingly be integrated with mobile and web channels to facilitate on-demand product fulfillment, including pickups, deliveries and returns. Shoppers will be able to procure rapidly produced and customized products, such as on-demand tailored clothing, individualized makeup and formulated scents, and products created in the moment through AR-aided design and 3-D printing.

How To Stay Ahead

These precognitions are meant to serve as nothing more than a mere peek into what may very well define retail’s next frontier. The exact combination of technologies and experiences that will prevail in the end will depend heavily on how individual retailers choose to invest and prioritize. However, against the backdrop of these projections and based on our experience helping retailers formulate and execute their strategies for the digital era, we have identified a number of key actions that retailers must take to convert challenge into opportunity and thrive in the rapidly changing digital economy.

Put the consumer at the center: Retailers must possess a deep understanding of the entire value proposition it exchanges with consumers, and by placing the consumer at the center of this ecology, pull consumers into the brand by continuously offering compelling reasons to engage.

Think omnipresence, not omnichannel: Retailers must evaluate and respond to the more complex, multiple journeys and life events that lead consumers to engage their brand. They must think beyond the channels themselves to understanding the key moments they have as a retailer to capture consumers’ attention and connect with them.

Make AI and advanced analytics core operational competencies: Retailers will need to systematically harvest structured and unstructured data across multiple, eclectic sources and develop and apply advanced, predictive algorithms that turn these AI-driven insights into foresights and recommended actions.

Capitalize on the combined strength of physical and digital assets: Retailers must invest in a digital workplace strategy and determine which consumer processes and value propositions are best suited to humans, best suited to machines and best handled by a combination of the two.

Invest in integrated and adaptive digital platforms: To transform business models and better connect consumers, retailers must invest in platforms that drive customer experiences rather than transaction.

In Conclusion

Retail’s ongoing transformation is both prolific and unprecedented, and exposure to the brute force of technology disruption brings both challenges and opportunities. The most successful retailers are embracing new human-centric business strategies rather than traditional transformation. Moreover, they are beginning to understand what happens when mind meets machine and the changing psychological dynamics between people and technology in an age when technology is increasingly defining what it means to be human. For, if nothing else, the value of the digital era is the scalable ability to take a human desire, preferably one that has been around for a long time, and to use digital technology to fulfill this desire with greater ease, greater speed and greater reach.

There will undoubtedly be retail winners and losers in the months and years ahead, but those that thrive will do so by building innovative business models on a foundation of technologies that meet consumer-centric demands for a digitally enabled shopping experience. Retailers will be expected to redefine and reinvent their value chains within new ecosystems, to innovate and experiment with new technologies, and to leverage the value of data harvested from the proliferation of IoT. For retailers who are able to embrace the new retail paradigm, bust through age-old habits and conventions and reimagine the very essence of brand value, the future will present a plethora of new, exciting opportunities.


 

Scott Clarke is Chief Digital Officer and Global Consulting Leader for Cognizant’s Retail, Consumer Goods, Travel and Hospitality industries. He brings over 25 years of international, cross-industry consulting experience, helping organizations grow and innovate by understanding the ramifications of sociological and technological change, and how this affects relationships with their customers and creates opportunity for competitive advantage.

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feed@retailtouchpoints.com (Scott Clarke, Cognizant) Executive ViewPoints Tue, 13 Nov 2018 10:59:31 -0500
‘Near Me’ Searches: What’s Pushing the Trend? https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/near-me-searches-what-s-pushing-the-trend https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/near-me-searches-what-s-pushing-the-trend

0aaaJosha Benner UberallAt this year’s Google Marketing Live event, it was revealed that mobile “near me” searches — when someone searches for a product or store nearby — have reached a new peak. Other data suggests that “near me” searches have grown by more than 200% since 2016. In the current landscape, we’re seeing a new “near me” economy develop — one that’s driven by a store or product’s location above all. It seems that customers are less motivated by brand loyalty and more by proximity and convenience.

With this in mind, here’s a look at three factors responsible for its growth.

The Mobile Explosion

When it comes to search, people have ditched their desktops for mobile. In fact, a USA Today survey found that a whopping 78% of Americans currently own a smartphone. This has been a godsend for retail. Consumers use their devices to search and browse retailers, stores, products and more. The convenience of mobile search has changed the retail game. According to Forrester, mobile devices will be used in about one third of all U.S. retail sales this year. The mobile explosion has changed the shopping experience most by emphasizing consumer location. 

People now search for products on the go, and their search habits and shopping preferences revolve around proximity; they look for something near their current location or where they’ll be in the near future. GeoMarketing found that 76% of “near me” searches lead to a consumer visit within a day of the search. For local businesses, this provides a boost that wasn’t possible before. 

Location-Sharing Grows

Mobile phones are equipped with GPS and location service capabilities, and many apps and services deliver a location-specific experience. For years, however, consumers were wary of using them, for two reasons — battery life and privacy. Battery life on smartphones used to drain more quickly with GPS always on. The batteries weren’t robust enough to handle constant usage. Now, however, both phones and batteries are larger and are made to be more efficient. While some battery issues persist — varying from phone to phone — this issue has largely become a thing of the past. 

Most consumers are interested in sharing their location to receive a benefit. Verve research found that 73% of people will grant apps access to their phone’s location. Further, 43% say they’ll share personal data in exchange for promotions based on their preferences or account history. These shifts have made consumers more comfortable with location services, driving “near me” searches. 

More Profile Listings

Today there are more location-specific profile listings and directories — and accurate location-specific profile listings — for stores, products and brands than in the past. From Yelp to TripAdvisor, there’s been an explosion in the number of local business listings for a given company. The benefit of these listings is their reach. Yelp averages some 145 million unique visitors per month. TripAdvisor has 390 million monthly visitors. And it’s easy to see why they’re so popular. People can get all the information they need in a single spot. 

For businesses, profile listings are an effective platform to get a product or service out there for users to see. Anyone using Yelp knows there’s a big difference between three and four-star reviews. A report from the Harvard Business School found that a Yelp rating increase of one star can generate from 5% to 9% more revenue for a restaurant. Since consumers are mainly interested in what’s directly around them, restaurants and other stores should build a strategy that focuses on “near me” searches. These will often yield accurate and useful results. 

As ‘near me’ searches continue to grow, brands and marketers need to keep this new front door top-of-mind. Searches are now based around proximity and location. And what’s been true for general organic search holds true for local search — whoever shows up first and in the top set of results will win the day.


 

Josha Benner is a co-founder of Uberall, where he was leading the enterprise business and responsible for the European expansion. In 2017, Benner launched Uberall Inc. and opened offices in San Francisco to increase the company’s global footprint. Prior to co-founding the company in 2013, Benner worked as Head of Corporate Finance at Rebate Networks — an accelerator company for international Groupon clones. He also worked for close to four years as a Senior Consultant with Europe’s leading management consultancy Roland Berger, where he advised companies from tourism, logistics, and manufacturing industries. Benner holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration and Industrial Engineering from the Technical University of Berlin.

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feed@retailtouchpoints.com (Josha Benner, Uberall) Executive ViewPoints Mon, 12 Nov 2018 09:53:07 -0500
Get Your Business Ready For Holiday Sales: Five Sales Tax Tips https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/get-your-business-ready-for-holiday-sales-five-sales-tax-tips https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/get-your-business-ready-for-holiday-sales-five-sales-tax-tips

0aaaScott Peterson AvalaraSince the Supreme Court decided the South Dakota v. Wayfair case in June, sales tax is more complex and difficult for businesses to handle than ever. New economic nexus law for over 20 states will go into effect before Christmas. This will expose thousands of sellers to new and complicated sales tax challenges. Despite the notoriously complex nature of sales tax, it is easy to be lured into a false sense of compliance. There are many nuances present in taxability legislation from state to state, and the more products you sell the more complexity you encounter — especially given that there are more than 12,000 tax jurisdictions in the U.S. alone, with differing rules about how to tax different products and at what rate.

Many businesses relegate sales tax to the bottom of the to-do list, especially when the busy holiday season begins. However, out-of-mind does not cut it when it comes to sales tax — you do not want your business to lack compliance, as it could lead to loss of customer loyalty, brand value and more. Some common and avoidable sales tax mistakes have potentially devastating consequences. At the height of the holiday season, when there is a higher volume of sales and a need for speedy fulfillment, staying compliant can be challenging.

Here are five sales tax tips to prepare your business for the holiday season:

1. Apply the correct rates or boundaries

Failure to track rate, rule, and boundary changes can lead to trouble down the line. There are more than 12,000 sales and use tax jurisdictions in the United States, and according to Avalara tax research, there were 36,254 tax changes in 2017 alone. On top of that, states routinely amend taxability rules for goods and services. Finding accurate information on these changes can be like finding a needle in a haystack.

2. Manage exemption and resale certificates

Sales tax exemption certificates and resale certificates enable certain consumers to purchase taxable goods and services tax-free. Consumers qualifying for an exemption must provide the seller with a valid resale or exemption certificate to prove they are entitled to it. Without such a certificate, sellers can be held liable for the uncollected tax. Invalid or lapsed certificates put the seller at risk of non-compliance. It is therefore critical for companies to have an efficient certificate-management system in place, such as automation.

3. Get taxability right

Sales tax rates are only part of the equation; states (and some localities) have their own taxability rules for goods and services, and these are subject to change at any time. For example, sweetened beverages are subject to a special tax in Berkeley, Philadelphia, and Vermont; repair, maintenance, and installation services are generally subject to sales tax in North Carolina, but generally exempt in California. Failure to apply the right rules can be costly. As always, the onus to account for these changes is on the business.

4. Don’t overlook changing nexus laws

Ignoring nexus is risky. While most businesspeople have some concept of nexus — the connection between a business and a taxing jurisdiction that triggers a sales tax collection and remittance obligation — many don’t realize that nexus laws are complex and subject to change. Numerous states have broadened their nexus laws in recent years. A few now hold that nexus can be established by economic activity alone (e.g., having 200 separate taxable sales transactions or more than $100,000 in taxable sales in a state). Review where you currently have nexus and identify applicable rule changes. Make sure your business is registered where it needs to be. Determine whether your business might have unwittingly created nexus.

5. Don’t ignore consumer use tax

Consumer use tax is one of the most common causes of miscalculated and unpaid tax. The silent sibling to sales tax, consumer use tax applies to the consumption, use or storage of tangible personal property (TPP) when sales tax was not collected at checkout, as often happens with catalog or Internet sales. It may also be due on items purchased while traveling in another state or country. In addition, businesses owe use tax when they pull items purchased for resale and use them in-house.

Taxpayers are supposed to remit consumer use tax directly to the tax authorities, but less than 2% do. Consequently, states are working to increase consumer use-tax compliance. Some are now asking non-collecting remote vendors to identify their customers, so tax departments can ensure these sellers are remitting the use tax they owe.

Prepare Your Business For The Year Ahead

Sales tax compliance is tricky, especially for growing companies doing business in multiple jurisdictions, and for any company at holiday time. Handling it manually is complicated, time-consuming and risky, which means it can inhibit rather than encourage growth.

Preparing for an influx in sales by getting educated can give companies the agility, flexibility, and efficiency needed to thrive, especially during the busyness of the holiday season and all year round.


 

Scott Peterson is the Director of Government Affairs for Avalara, Inc. In his role he leads Avalara’s effort to be the first name in sales tax automation. Prior to joining Avalara Peterson was the first Executive Director of the Streamlined Sales Tax Governing Board. For seven years he acted as the chief operating officer of an organization devoted to making sales tax simpler and more uniform for the benefit of business. Before joining Streamline Peterson spent 10 years as the Director of the South Dakota Sales Tax Division, where he was responsible for the state sales and use tax, the state’s contractor’s excise tax, the sales and use tax for over 200 cities, and the sales and use tax for four tribal governments.

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feed@retailtouchpoints.com (Scott Peterson, Avalara) Executive ViewPoints Fri, 09 Nov 2018 09:24:05 -0500
Search Beyond the Box: 4 Ways To Use Advanced Search Technology To Improve Conversion Rates https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/search-beyond-the-box-4-ways-to-use-advanced-search-technology-to-improve-conversion-rates https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/search-beyond-the-box-4-ways-to-use-advanced-search-technology-to-improve-conversion-rates

0aaaMat Blandineau AlgoliaSearch is a way businesses can connect with their users — to understand what they are looking for, anticipate needs and deliver a great shopping experience. However, search is not simply about helping the customer find what they are looking for; today’s consumers come to your web site for a relevant, personalized experience. When a shopper can discover something new or feel inspired to browse through recommendations, you’re turning a one-off buyer into a loyal returning customer.

At its core, a powerful search experience harnesses the consumer’s intent and connects it to the product that the user wants to find. Innovative retailers use search technology as a strategic weapon — driving metrics that impact their business like conversation rates, “stickiness,” engagement and increased basket size. We’ll take a look at strategies in which search and discovery can help you understand your users and move your KPIs forward.

Why Search Matters In E-Commerce

To establish a foundation, let’s first discuss why your organization should dedicate valuable time and resources to progress your site’s search experience.

Users have come to expect a great search experience. Consumers won’t just turn to your competitor for that single purchase when they can’t find what they are looking for on your web site — they will remember their bad search experience, and moving forward they will be hesitant or unlikely to return to your web site. While great search provides an impression of an overall smooth customer experience, bad search is far more memorable.

Covering The Basics

With that said, great search also has a direct impact on your business results and KPIs — no matter the industry. This includes increases in click-through rates, average order value and conversion rates from searches to checkout. While advanced capabilities are critical in order to stay ahead of the curve, establishing the basics as a foundation is critical. Here are some tips:

  1. Textual relevance. The name of a product, its brand, keywords in the description — what we call attributes — constitute textual relevance. Textual relevance means reading correctly into the user’s intent even if they misspelled a word or used a stop word, such as “the,” “and,” “at” or “with.” It also means giving them a synonymous result — such as offering a parka when they typed in “jacket” — and making sure that plurals are accounted for. For example, when consumers search for “feet warmers,” results should also display foot warmers.
  2. Business relevance. You can leverage your own business metrics to further impart relevance, ensuring that the user sees content they are most likely to act on. For example, you could (and should) be tracking conversion rates on your products, so displaying the result with the highest conversion rate first will help guide users to products that have been viewed favorably with consumers seeking similar results.
  3. Personalization. This is the proverbial cherry on top for stellar relevance, and it can be considered at a user level or at a group level. Let’s say a user is not logged in but you know they are in a certain age bracket or from a certain country — in that case, we are talking group-level personalization. If they are in fact logged in, and you know their browsing or purchase history, you can take advantage of personalization at the user level.

Advancing Search Capabilities To The Next Level

There was a time when search was not only a box for users to enter queries into, but a box to check off on your list of web site elements. This is no longer the case. Search needs to serve a variety of purposes — from shoppers looking to find a specific item to shoppers browsing to find something new. This means going past the standard usage of the search box. Here, we’ll take a few examples to illustrate how search technology powers search experiences beyond the box.

1. Multi-category results — multiple paths to conversion: In this type of experience, the user is offered multiple content types as a result of their query. This allows the user to choose their favorite content type preference by further diving into it. For example, if a user types “planner” in the search box, they can instantly choose a subscription, a category and a collection related to planners — or, if none of that works, dive into a blog post. This offers the user multiple paths into different types of content, which translates into multiple paths to conversion, based on a user’s personal preferences and ways of processing information.

2. Facets — filters with special intelligence: We are all familiar with filters as a way to narrow down our search result options. A facet is a filter that is intertwined with the result sets: the only facets that appear are the ones that match result sets. This prevents a “no result” type of screen experience, which almost universally causes users to bounce.

Let’s say a user types in “dress” in the search box, which turns up a certain number of results with filters to hone in on the perfect product. If a user refines their search query to a “silk dress,” categories available will decrease, showing only applicable facets. This means that, in a few keystrokes and clicks, the user finds the very item they want and gets a superior experience to that of a long list of items that comes with a standard search bar.

3. Autocomplete overlay — letting the user define the interface: When the user types in a query, a new, large overlay window pops up, offering users to dive into additional facets via the “Show more” and “Show less” buttons, as well as a price range filter. This is called an autocomplete overlay. Another positive consumer experience addition to include is letting the users toggle the view, indicating what is useful for them in terms of the interface itself.

4. Recommendations and related searches: An extension of multi-category result experience is to provide recommended results that not only show matching keywords but also matching brands and categories as recommendations. In short, you are giving users an easy way to drill down into what they really want.

Here, we can also apply an advanced use case of related searches. For example, when a user searches for “iPhone”, they get refined search suggestions in the results page, such as “iPhone case,” “iPhone charger,” or “iPhone XS 128GB,” so they have another path to find the right product for them.

Advanced Search Technology Is A Win-Win

Search matters because it improves the experience, conversion rates and the relationship with the user. Bad search is expensive not only because your users remember it, but also because they inevitably bounce from your site.

Advanced user experiences go beyond the search box: they include powerful discovery through browsing, faceting, innovative user experience buttons and much more, shortening the user’s path to the shopping cart while driving your KPIs and resulting in a win-win for everyone.


 

Matthieu Blandineau is a product marketing manager at Algolia, the leading Search and Discovery API for web site and mobile apps. In this role he focuses on marketing and strategy for Algolia's retail solutions. Blandineau is passionate about packaging advanced technologies to help retailers achieve their goals and offer their customers the best user experience.

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feed@retailtouchpoints.com (Matthieu Blandineau, Algolia) Executive ViewPoints Thu, 08 Nov 2018 08:50:01 -0500