Executive ViewPoints - Retail TouchPoints - Retail TouchPoints https://www.retailtouchpoints.com Sat, 18 Aug 2018 21:50:04 -0400 RTP en-gb Addressing A Minimum Wage Increase Without Losing Your Staff https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/addressing-a-minimum-wage-increase-without-losing-your-staff https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/addressing-a-minimum-wage-increase-without-losing-your-staff

0aaFara Haron ArvatoMoney talks, but a minimum wage increase will interrupt the conversation. A legislative wage increase might throw your retail business into panic, that is if you don’t already have a strategy in place. When you must begin paying your employees more, it is easy to find and implement the quickest solution; to make up the cost difference and fast. This often takes the form of cutting employee benefits, and while this may be the fasted road to cost saving, it is also the highway to turnover. Cutting benefits means unhappy employees, lower retention and fewer job applications.

A minimum wage increase can seem like the perfect storm, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, the legislative change isn’t the problem, you just need to be armed with a sound strategy for when it occurs. Your approach should begin with recognizing the value of your entry-level employees and, in particular, your customer service staff.

Three Considerations For Your Minimum Wage Strategy

1.Consider: Data shows that with a wage increase, consumers expect more from businesses with six in ten Americans citing they are justified in expecting better service with a wage spike.

In the retail business, your floor employees may appear to be the frontlines of the business. While there is value to be had with in-store operations and conversations, an often-forgotten piece of the puzzle is the customer service team. These are the employees who virtually represent your business and are fostering your reputation among customers. If you cut their benefits, ultimately you will not only spend more on their wages, but also on additional efforts to attract and retain new employees.

Instead of setting your retail business back months, focus on how you can retain the customer team you already have. This might mean retaining benefits and potentially even offering a wage higher than the minimum. Yes, it is a costly choice, but turnover can cost between 30% and 150% of an employee’s annual salary — a higher price in the long run. By keeping your talent around, they will enhance their skills in representing your brand and maintaining positive customer relationships. As such, you will save money AND fulfill the customer expectation of higher quality service to accompany the wage spike. The bottom line: your people are worth the investment.

2. Consider: Columbia Business School and Duke University’s Fuqua School found that more than 50% of executives say corporate culture influences “productivity, creativity, profitability, firm value and growth rates.”

Offering a wage higher than the minimum will certainly influence retention, but a larger influence is the overall culture of your retail business. To be sure your staff want to stick around, you should focus your efforts on creating purpose within your organization that extends from executives to entry-level.

Culture goes beyond Casual Dress Fridays and Bring-Your-Dog-to-Work Days. Your entry-level employees, like your customer service representatives, want to see that they have a future with your company. They are more motivated to succeed when you are invested in their future, so think about offering proactive seminars or discussions during which your employees learn how to succeed internally. Also remember that your customer service team knows better than anyone the frustrations and desires of your customers. Place value in their customer understanding and you will see they want to contribute further to your business and its success.

3.Consider: A recent survey from Arvato found that 49% of people do not want to be served by a chatbot, however 31% want more automatic call backs and 28% want more real-time order updates.

While your people are worth a hefty investment in wages and culture, there is no denying that today’s workforce costs more than ever. Particularly on the customer service side of retail, there is opportunity to leverage technology where humans might otherwise be doing tedious work. As a retailer, you should be considering affordable solutions like automation-based technology.

That said, your business needs to be smart about where technology can help and where it will hinder; that’s where you can look to the data for guidance. If consumers want more automatic callbacks and real-time order updates, invest in the proactive technologies that will provide your customers these conveniences. This will make your company more efficient, and your people will grow in skill and confidence. When a minimum wage rise comes around, you won’t be dramatically affected by the change.

It is not unfair for consumers to expect better customer service when the minimum wage increases, but it is also not going to happen overnight. Your retail business will need to work hard to fulfill the expectation and consider carefully what the data is telling you. One key to a successful minimum wage strategy is placing value in your entry-level staff, particularly recognizing that the customer service team has keen insight into your audience. By wisely investing in your workforce today, you can avoid a major impact from legislative decisions later.


Fara Haron is the CEO of global business process services at Arvato and is a member of the Arvato CRM board. She has been with Arvato since 2009, and has led a rapidly growing team of CRM professionals while leveraging her international experience to support Arvato’s global CRM business. 

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feed@retailtouchpoints.com (Fara Haron, Arvato) Executive ViewPoints Thu, 16 Aug 2018 09:17:59 -0400
Creating The Ultimate Digital Customer Experience https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/creating-the-ultimate-digital-customer-experience https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/creating-the-ultimate-digital-customer-experience

0aaJeff Anulewicz MXMConsumers today believe they deserve a unique, invested experience, right now. And if you can’t provide it or align with their core values, they will quickly find it somewhere else. 

Driven by ongoing digital disruption, hyper-adoption of new technologies, the role of social media, instantaneous customer service expectations and the blurring of the physical and digital worlds, “digital marketing” has taken on a completely new context and level of complexity. 

The Digital Experience (DCX) is how customers perceive their interactions with a brand’s digital properties, content and utilities. It focuses on experiences (both rational and emotional) and data as the core catalysts to engage consumers and amplify brand advocacy.

There is content, aimed at building emotional connections through value, relevancy and engagement. And then there is commerce, aimed at driving consumers on a path to purchase, with key rational actions and motivators. 

Every brand touch point must convey the brand’s core value for the customer as well as the brand’s beliefs, building alignment through not only messaging, but moments that will be memorable to them. 

How does a brand connect with consumers in a hyperconnected world where brand loyalty is fleeting?  Through a comprehensive Digital Customer Experience. 

A valuable, actionable DCX must:

  • Be Consistent: Brands that deliver conflicting messages about their products, services or values have no hope for swaying purchase intent or creating loyal customers. This applies to not just digital marketing but every channel that touches the consumer from your employees to their mailbox.
  • Evoke Emotion: When consumers remember a positive brand experience they speak of it in emotional terms, how it made them feel and how it fits within their lives. When they recall negative experiences they speak about in terms of function (price, how the product works etc.). This means that evoking emotion and positive brand experience go hand in hand. 
  • Deliver Actionable Value: A good DCX must provide something that serves me, something I didn’t know, right away in trade for my time, engagement and personal information.  Action in this new world means involvement and interaction, where each interaction provides insight to be leveraged by the next interaction, and so on.
  • Focus on Relevancy: Timely, localized, relevant and personally meaningful based on my interests, interactions and my other relationships (personal or as a brand).  Resonant, memorable, and attuned to my likelihood to act based on time and device — am I in lean back and dream mode, or lean forward and act mode.
  • Be Efficient: Content must be built for my digital appetite. This means knowing the time of day at which I am consuming it, where I typically travel, the devices I switch between and my time to consume content. Unified and interconnected across my digital devices, platforms, and even in-person channels (e.g. messages provided by in-store greeters).

Too often, brands are stuck in “inside-out” thinking: “How can we get the customer to think/feel/do what we want them to think/feel/do?”  This approach will rarely result in the type of long-term engaging (and profitable) relationship that the brand actually seeks.  A valuable, actionable DCX needs to take an “outside-in” approach, or put more simply: customer-centricity.  

In order to bring a DCX to life, there are a few critical deliverables: 

  • Determine “Signature Moments”: These are the moments that matter most: what a person remembers — and shares — about their experience.  It can be the removal of pain points, the reduction of friction across the consumer journey are simply an unexpected moment that surprises and delights the customer.
  • Decision Points Map: Aiding the customer at these key moments of choice can elevate the experience. Facilitate important decisions and guide at points of stress — limiting the number of choices, and provide confidence and confirmation that they are indeed making the right choice.
  • Omnichannel Pathing Through the Journey: Determining how consumers take different paths through their larger consumer journey, across a variety of channels, helps to identify how we link discrete services, content and tools to one another to focus on improving both the micro- and macro-experience.
  • Points of Friction: Focusing on the moments of transition between channels and experiences, using context and data to ensure seamless experiences allowing consumers to continue their journey no matter where (or when) they are.
  • Enrichment Attributes: These are the behaviors that consumers regularly take as they move through any relationship with a brand, offering further opportunities to enhance that relationship beyond the purchase: supporting social interactions, providing entertainment, enhancing productivity, etc.

A cohesive DCX is ultimately a reflection of overall brand health and awareness, from staying top of mind in the frame of consumer intent and consideration, to deeper indicators like “does the brand reflect my values,” “am I consistently brand loyal,” and “am I a vocal advocate,” while maintaining focus on driving those actions toward purchase and advocacy.


 

Jeff Anulewicz is Executive Director for Strategy at MXM. Helping brands make sense of a constantly changing digital marketplace, his in-depth understanding of the convergence of marketing, media, technology and consumer data has earned him a reputation as an innovative digital expert and lead consumer engagement strategist. Over his 20-year career, Anulewicz has worked to ensure innovative ideas exceed expectations, while leading teams to combine emerging technology, creativity and data to drive real business results.

With category expertise that spans loyalty, automotive, CPG, e-Commerce (merchandising, CRO), consumer electronics, financial services, pharma, entertainment and experiential (events, retail), Anulewicz has had the pleasure to work with such prestigious Fortune 500 brands as FCA, General Motors, Ford, Coca-Cola, J&J, P&G, Kraft, Kellogg’s, SeaWorld, AT&T, Taubman and Oracle, among many others.

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feed@retailtouchpoints.com (Jeff Anulewicz, MXM) Executive ViewPoints Wed, 15 Aug 2018 09:26:32 -0400
Ad Fraud, Audience Insights And Refined Targeting: 3 Insights For Today’s Retail Marketer https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/ad-fraud-audience-insights-and-refined-targeting-3-insights-for-today-s-retail-marketer https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/ad-fraud-audience-insights-and-refined-targeting-3-insights-for-today-s-retail-marketer

0aaMarissa Tarleton RetailMeNotWith an ever-changing digital marketing environment, it can be hard for retailers and brands to decide which advertising method is best for their business. Programmatic advertising has surged onto the scene in recent years and comes with a set of positive attributes, such as lower CPMs and automated workflows to help release some of the resource strain on advertising and brand teams. But where does this leave more traditional direct media buying? And how do brands and retailers feel about balancing the two?

A recent study by RetailMeNot asked 200-plus senior retail marketing leaders to weigh in on their programmatic ad buying versus direct media buying plans, the topic of ad fraud as related to audience and traffic, and who they plan to target in 2018. Here are three takeaways for retailers as they continue to tweak their media and advertising strategy well before we head into the back-to-school and holiday seasons.

Retail Marketers Will Be Bullish On Ad Fraud

Retailers and brands are looking to take back the reins of their advertising programs in order to have more control over budget spending and performance data. In fact, more than six in 10 retail marketers will increase their direct media buying in 2018, specifically to better monitor the quality of their traffic from advertising investments.

Additionally, after spending much of 2017 debating the success of programmatic advertising buys, nearly half (48%) plan to reduce the amount of fraudulent advertising traffic by reducing programmatic spend. Programmatic partners can rebuild trust with brands and retailers by offering more transparency and collaboration on data sharing.

One area that major advertising players and brands are focusing on is the growth of multi-touch attribution and how it works in conjunction with last-click measurement. Expect to see big shifts in the ways in which brands and retailers partner as they look to alleviate concerns over misleading ad reach measurement.

Targeting Becomes More Fine-Tuned For New Generations

This year, retailers will be paying close attention to the way shoppers approach their journey and what they are demanding from their shopping experiences. Becoming more knowledgeable in areas like multi-touch attribution will also provide retailers with better insights into the entire journey that an audience takes with their brand. Clearly defining priority audiences and goals with partners will be crucial as retail marketers look to their advertising for insights on where to take their brand creative and media buying next.

Retailers’ focus and targeting continue to shift just as shopping behaviors between generations do. Among retailers surveyed, 68% said they plan to increase their advertising spend on Millennials, and 65% will increase spending among Generation Z. On the flip side, seniors and baby boomers stand out as the leading audiences for which retailers will reduce their spend this year as they begin to prioritize the spending power of younger generations.

Look At Lifetime Value Vs. Acquisition Needs

As the digital marketing landscape expands, marketing automation allows companies to focus on what’s increasingly important: balancing their marketing strategy between acquisition and retention.

The benefit of brands investing in marketing automation tools is that the tools allow teams to scale in personalization and relationship management in a way that retail marketers would not be able to do on their own. As content needs grow, strain on resources can limit what retail marketers are able to achieve, leading to situations where advertising is not fully optimized.

As marketing teams continue to evolve, however, retail marketers will push to have their programmatic ad buys be more personalized to the audience, with better creative and a stronger influence on making sure messages are served to quality traffic. Programmatic advertising doesn’t have to die, but it does have to change as expectations for higher quality content are demanded by consumers.

Additionally, with one eye on the competition, retailers should also orient their goals toward audience retention. With the right data setup from partners and the correct management tools, retail marketers can begin to identify who to retain based on lifetime value.

All of this boils down to the fact that marketing leaders and teams should focus on building advertising and brand relationships with partners that are willing to work with your team on meeting both brand building and performance measurement goals for advertising campaigns. Finding the right partners who will openly share data and insights to help your marketing team appropriately target, reach and retain your core audience is a must-have in today’s retail landscape.


 

Marissa Tarleton is the Chief Marketing Officer of RetailMeNot, Inc. In this role, she directs all consumer brand advertising, customer acquisition and retention, search engine marketing, public relations, internal communications, business-to-business marketing and customer relationship management. Prior to RetailMeNot, Tarleton led marketing for Dell Inc.'s North America Consumer and Small Business organization. Her responsibilities included driving new customer acquisition through marketing communications, media, partner programs, loyalty and CRM for both the Dell direct and retail businesses. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from Colgate University and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Texas at Austin.

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feed@retailtouchpoints.com (Marissa Tarleton, RetailMeNot) Executive ViewPoints Tue, 14 Aug 2018 09:46:19 -0400
What Meerkat Can Teach Retailers About Building A Voice Strategy Solely On Top Of Amazon https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/what-meerkat-can-teach-retailers-about-building-a-voice-strategy-solely-on-top-of-amazon https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/what-meerkat-can-teach-retailers-about-building-a-voice-strategy-solely-on-top-of-amazon

0aaPeter Cahill VoysisIt’s an all too familiar story. A company builds its entire product strategy on top of a wildly popular platform, with hopes to quickly gain distribution and adoption. While early adoption signals that building on top of the platform was a smart move, all of sudden access is cut off, and the company meets its demise. That was the story of Meerkat, the live streaming video app that rivaled another app called Periscope. They achieved massive adoption building on top of Twitter, leveraging their social graph to accelerate their growth.

The companies, and businesses that leverage social graphs and the built-in audiences of these platforms, live in constant fear of having the rug pulled out from underneath them.

The same kinds of conversations are happening in the voice space today. Many retailers and brands are building their voice strategies on top of smart speakers from Amazon and Google, only to learn that the data they’re given access to isn’t complete, and their customer relationships are at risk of being owned or, worse yet, hijacked by their biggest competitors. Many retailers have resisted investing in voice experiences for this reason as well: for fear of being “Meerkat-ed” if Amazon or Google decides to cut them off or change their service in any way.

That’s why brands need to invest in multi-faceted voice strategies that live on mobile, web, smart speakers and anywhere else their customers interact with them.

Voice is bigger than a couple of smart speakers. Companies like Spotify are providing a glimpse into what a voice-powered digital strategy looks like with their launch of a native voice search experience. This is the start of many brands leveraging voice not as a feature, but as part of their larger digital strategy. And while it may seem scary, voice presents an opportunity to embrace atransformational technology. This is an opportunity we haven’t seen since the launch of the iPhone, which presented eerily similar adoption numbers in its first few years in market.

If you think about the senses of the body (sight, taste, smell, hearing, touch), the role of speech is as primitive as it gets. That’s why 1 in 2 members of Gen Z are using voice daily, and why nearly 30% of the U.S. population uses a voice-enabled device daily. It removes the friction of finding what you’re looking for, more so than any other medium. Just recently, The Street predicted that 50% of consumers will use voice to shop by 2022.

Retailers, like other companies, are starting to pay attention.

Retailers and brands are tasked with not only improving the experience they deliver on mobile, which will be responsible for nearly 50% of revenue in the coming years, but also ways to entice and attract the next generation of shoppers. Voice will make up 50% of search by 2020, and the brands that will win will embody a complete voice strategy.

So this begs the question: if I’m a retailer and I want to invest in voice, where do I start? And what can Meerkat teach me about building out my voice strategy?

Platform For Distribution And Reach

Meerkat, which used Twitter for its initial growth, wasn’t wrong in its approach. It was wrong for its dependency on one platform for its existence. That’s like building an entire voice strategy on top of Alexa, and only investing there. Use smart speakers as a jumping-off point, and invest deeper in native voice integrations to solve real business problems, no matter where your customers are.

Meet Your Customer Where They Already Are

In my nearly 20 years of experience with building voice interfaces, I’ve learned that the voice experiences that win are the ones that are designed to address a very specific user need. If you’re a CPG brand, smart speakers give you immediate access to consumers who want to reorder groceries or buy more toilet paper. If you’re an apparel brand and want to make mobile shopping easier, use voice as a means to eliminate the pain that traditional UIs present for product discovery.

Use Voice As Part Of A Bigger Brand Strategy

As retailers and brands invest deeper in solutions and technologies that remove friction from their customer journey, it’s important to understand the benefits of owning an end-to-end experience yourself. Amazon and Google provide distribution and instant access to consumers, but assume complete control of the customer relationship. You can make your products available in either of their online stores, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t offer a better, more tailored, direct experience yourself.

Your customer data, and experiences, can be put in the hands of some of your biggest competitors, or you can invest in voice as the future of how consumers will engage with your brand.


Dr. Peter Cahill, Ph.D. is the founder and CEO of Voysis. He has over 15 years’ experience in speech technology and neural network R&D. Cahill is an active member of the speech research community where he chairs SynSIG, the global speech synthesis special interest group, in addition to being a reviewer of all leading journals and conferences in his field. Prior to Voysis, he was part of a group of scientists that attracted a total of $117M funding for ADAPT, formerly CNGL, a dynamic research center that combines leading academic researchers with key industry partners to produce groundbreaking digital content innovations. He is a graduate and former faculty member in University College Dublin.

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feed@retailtouchpoints.com (Peter Cahill, Voysis) Executive ViewPoints Mon, 13 Aug 2018 09:18:44 -0400
So, You Want To Build A Brand Community? 5 Questions To Ask Before You Commit https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/so-you-want-to-build-a-brand-community-5-questions-to-ask-before-you-commit https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/so-you-want-to-build-a-brand-community-5-questions-to-ask-before-you-commit

0aaEric Heinemann Roundpeg“I want to build a brand community like Peloton.” We’re hearing this more and more from clients.

Tapping into a community makes sense. The conventional belief that consumers make purchase decisions in isolation, assessing the value of products or services in a vacuum, is inaccurate. Consumer culture theory recognizes the importance of consumer connectivity — the influence connections have on our purchases and brand decisions, and the impact consumption communities have upstream as co-creators, not just consumers, of value.

Before engaging in community building, we encourage all marketers to ask themselves the following:

1. Are you truly trying to build a brand community?

Brand communities are just one kind of consumption community. A true brand community is based on the shared use of a given product or service, an experience that connects members. Peloton is a prime example of a true brand community. Member relationships are based on the shared usage experience of Peloton exercise bikes and classes.

Aspiring community-builders must take stock of their brand, assessing whether it has the consumer commitment and passion to be a brand community’s focal point. Given the increasing indifference consumers feel toward brands, most marketers will conclude that a brand community is unrealistic.

Many marketers who aspire to build brand communities are actually looking to tap into another kindof consumption community, a consumer tribe— or passion community. In passion communities, members connect over a shared experience or ambition. Whether they’re built around the shared experience of being a teenage girl (BeingGirl) or the desire to be outdoors (REI and Canadian outdoor retailer MEC), passion communities are not the exclusive domain of a single brand, product or service.

Unlike brand communities, which are built by marketers, passion communities already exist, albeit often in informal ways. There was a maker community long before Make provided a forum for sharing ideas and staged its first Maker Faire. While Make didn’t create the maker movement, it certainly turbo-charged it.

For those with brands that are not worship-worthy, we recommend tapping into and facilitating a passion community.

2. Does the community’s passion align with that of your organization?

If your brand were a person, would it be a member of this passion community? If the answer is “yes,” then it’s a community worth joining. As a community member, your brand doesn’t own, run or serve as the focal point of the community, but offers its time, energy and name.

If you’re not inclined to personify your brand, start by identifying its values and purpose. Your brand’s purpose is the articulation of your passion, and should align with the passion of any community you’d want to join.

Communities we belong to and activities we undertake in their name say a lot about who we are. So, before standing up for potentially controversial issues your organization believes in, make sure they’re consistent with your values and purpose and reflect those of the broader community.

When community members tell you what they care about most — and when that aligns with your brand’s values and purpose — be prepared to act. REI and MEC are no strangers to stepping into the fray and taking action on controversial issues. Recently, both pulled Vista Outdoor products off their shelves when members took issue with guns and ammo being a part of the Vista brand and the company’s support of the NRA. While members were the catalyst for the action, the values of REI and MEC are incongruous with those of Vista Outdoor.

Lesson learned. Know what you and your members hold most dear and take action accordingly.

3. Are you willing to subordinate your organization’s wants and needs to those of community members?

Tapping into a passion community represents a very different value exchange from that of a loyalty program. The latter is a transactional relationship in which the company grants status for frequentusage or purchasing. Status comes with measurable rewards such as discounts or coupons. While loyalty programs can result in mutually beneficial relationships, ironically, they often don’t result in loyalty.

A community is focused on producing member benefits — not the measurable, bring-down-my-price characteristic of loyalty programs, but the kind that comes from a true relationship. No strings attached.

Members receivefrom communities what they put into them. The more one participates, the more beneficial it becomes. Motivations to participate include:

  • A feeling of belonging;
  • A catalyst for inspiration;
  • A source of recognition; and
  • A sense of purpose.

How communities create that sense of belonging, inspiration, recognition and purpose is a bit more nuanced. Passion communities can uplift the individual and strengthen the community, resulting in inward and outward benefits, including personal growth, personal expression, community impact and community access.

Often, community activities work on several levels. For instance, a road race sponsored by MEC may allow runners to improve themselves as individuals (personal growth) while simultaneously allowing race volunteers to experience the fulfillment of impacting their community. MEC provides the platform for members to reap personal and communal benefits and is rewarded with the goodwill that comes from helping members.

If you aren’t willing to put the needs of community members before those of your organization, efforts to participate in the community will be seen as disingenuous, resulting in community backlash.

4. Does your company have the stomach to create ambassadors rather than pursue transactions?

Short-term, community-building efforts should aim to create devoted brand ambassadors, not drive transactions. In the longterm, that devotion and positive word-of-mouth will lead to loyal customers whose long-term value will greatly outweigh short-term sales.

Lululemon has built a thriving community focusing on a network of ambassadors who act as community sirens, attracting legions of followers. Ambassadors host regular classes at lululemon stores and members flock to attend. While members come for the workout, they can’t help buying. Not because it’s the price of participation, but because they want to fly the colors of the community. Through its community-building efforts, lululemon creates customers rather than transactions.

5. Are your employees ready and willing to step up?

Employees can bevaluable community members. If your employees were hired in part due to their belief in and desire to contribute to your corporate purpose, they already are community members. MEC employees have a strong affinity for outdoor recreation and are active members of that community. They would be even if they weren’t employees.

However, when it comes to community building, employees are not extensions of your brand. They should be treated like independent members. MEC employees use the MECStaffer hashtag when posting online. Members view this hashtag as a sign that the poster is knowledgeable and accomplished at the activity being discussed.

Importantly, MEC does not monitor or filter employee posts. Employees post their personal opinions as if they were any other community members. MEC employees are not required to attend or volunteer at MEC community events. They do it because they care about the community and inspiring others to get outside.

Participating in and facilitating a passion community is a powerful way to build devotion. However, organizations must do so with a focus on improving the community and its members. You must be willing to put the community first, overcome any compulsion to take charge and understand that your efforts may not have measurable short-term return. Done right, the long-term benefit will be nothing less than brand devotion.


 

Eric Heinemann is a senior partner at Roundpeg Consulting, a brand strategy consultancy based in Minneapolis that has helped revitalize national brands for clients like Lowe’s, Yoplait, Starbucks, Constellation Brands (Corona, Modelo, Pacifico), Travelers, 3M and Best Buy.

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feed@retailtouchpoints.com (Eric Heinemann, Roundpeg Consulting) Executive ViewPoints Fri, 10 Aug 2018 10:23:46 -0400
How Emerging Technology Can Help Call Center Reps Do More https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/how-emerging-technology-can-help-call-center-reps-do-more https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/how-emerging-technology-can-help-call-center-reps-do-more

0aaGreg Dyer RandstadUSATechnology is disrupting almost every industry, and call centers are no exception. And although the most important part of a call center's function — human interaction — isn't going away, how, when and where center representatives interact with customers and prospects is certainly changing. Emerging technologies are helping call centers and the reps who staff them connect more seamlessly and improve their performance across the board.

Connecting In An Always-Connected World

Today's customers expect information and support to be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That's why many support centers are turning to emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and chatbots to help deliver answers whenever a customer or prospect needs them. In fact, Gartner predicts that more than 85% of all customer interactions will be managed by machines by the year 2020 — and with good reason.

Chatbots deliver substantial value to organizations by answering basic questions and fielding simple requests for information. For example, an existing customer can ask a chatbot what a business's hours are or what their refund policy is. These questions, while elementary, are critical to customer satisfaction and would traditionally have required customers to connect with a human over the phone. Chatbots, however, can provide instant, personalized answers to customers while freeing up human reps to spend more time assisting customers with more complex challenges.

And if it sounds like chatbots are impersonal, consumers clearly don't feel that way. In fact, messaging is the preferred method of contact when it comes to support for people 55 and under. That's a win/win for everyone.

Social media is another tool that savvy customer support organizations are leveraging to provide outcomes for customers and interact with prospects. Social stopped being a novelty for teens and tweens years ago, and call centers are beginning to catch up. When used correctly, social media can be a powerful tool in your customer support arsenal, allowing reps to interact with users quickly and on a platform in which they're familiar. And when it comes to sales, social media can be a boon to your bottom line. Some 45% of buyers say that reading reviews, comments or feedback online helped sway their purchasing decisions.

What Gets Measured Gets Managed

One of the most impactful aspects of today's disruption from tech is the insight and analytics it generates. Today's tech can show businesses everything from real-time foot traffic statistics to what users clicked on and when. For call centers, this represents a massive opportunity: by viewing and analyzing user behaviors at different stages of support and sales processes across various contact channels, call centers can pinpoint bottlenecks and design efficiencies to help reduce customer wait time and improve outcomes. But remarkably, just 36% of call centers are able to track a customer journey spanning multiple channels. And only 17% can identify problem areas that create poor customer experiences.

That means the vast majority of call centers are missing the chance to make customers happier and make reps more productive and less stressed. Furthermore, they're missing the opportunity to analyze call transcripts and identify what customers want, question or complain about — and that's the kind of analysis that can lead to improved training, call scripts and decision trees.

Keeping Up Is Key

Like all industries that are experiencing digital disruption, call centers will either sink by failing to adapt or swim by implementing the latest and best new tech solutions. Call centers will find tremendous upside in adopting emerging applications designed to increase customer connectivity, reduce wait time, allow their reps to focus on bigger challenges and measure and improve their processes. Those that fail to do so will have a hard time staying competitive in the near future. But no matter where technology takes us in the years to come, one thing will always remain true: people are the power behind successful customer outcomes.


 

Greg Dyer is President of Commercial Staffing, Randstad US. He leads Randstad's in-house services concept and enterprise strategic accounts team, where he is responsible for strategic commercial sales, client delivery and account management for many of Randstad's largest, most complex clients. Dyer oversees a team of strategic account directors and in-house leaders and has a proven track record of establishing solid go-to-market strategies, setting and communicating clear vision and goals, and executing and delivering outstanding results in terms of growth and profitability. Under Dyer’s leadership, Randstad has significantly improved its strategic client delivery and fulfillment in many client staffing programs.

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feed@retailtouchpoints.com (Greg Dyer, Randstad US) Executive ViewPoints Thu, 09 Aug 2018 09:25:51 -0400
It’s The Dog Days Of Summer And I’m Already Thinking Of Winter https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/it-s-the-dog-days-of-summer-and-i-m-already-thinking-of-winter https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/it-s-the-dog-days-of-summer-and-i-m-already-thinking-of-winter

0aaBrian Field ShopperTrakLike many retailer planners and operators, the August heat doesn’t make me think about cool drinks on sandy beaches. Instead, it brings to mind thoughts of snow, chestnuts roasting on an open fire and yes, retail centers filled with shoppers (who are carrying filled bags of merchandise)! It is around this time of year that retailers are finalizing their plans for the holiday season. As you prepare, keep in mind the following points for making your season a strong one.

Start With The End

A retail best practice is to keep notes on what happened at the end of a season — what worked, what didn’t and why, so you can apply those insights to the next year. Take your post mortem on issues like promotions, staffing, scheduling and traffic and compare how inputs such as promotions influenced customer traffic. Then, observe how your staffing and scheduling decisions resulted in sales performance. The two primary questions you want to answer are:

  • Did my promotional activity drive customer traffic?
  • Once they arrived at my stores, did my customers receive the intended experience, resulting in a purchase?

Store traffic behavior during the period between Thanksgiving Week and New Year’s is highly predictable. Black Friday is always the biggest shopper traffic day of the year, and each Saturday in December is progressively larger as you approach Christmas Day. ShopperTrak posts the Top 10 shopping days each year, and what has been observed is that these 10 dates account for 38%-40% of all shopper traffic for the holiday season.

What that means is that if you don’t schedule your associates and stock your stores accordingly, you are risking your entire season. If you count traffic, take a look at your own historic Top 10 dates to see how you should instruct your stores. Why the focus on traffic instead of sales? Sales are a result, while traffic is your opportunity to engage a customer and end up with a better result.

Get Shifty With The Calendar

Every year, there are prognostications on how the number of days between Black Friday and Christmas Day, or the intensity of Cyber Monday or the expanded November promotional offerings will impact shopper behavior. It’s actually simpler than that. The question is, how many Saturdays are there before Christmas Day, and that is based upon the shift of Thanksgiving Day and the standard calendar movement for the exact day of the week where Christmas Day falls. The past two years, there have been four Saturdays leading into the holiday. And just as it did last year, there will be a fifth Saturday before the new year arrives. These shifts of the calendar will increase the importance of Saturday and this includes Dec. 29, 2018, which should also be one of the biggest traffic days of the season.

Continue Hiring (You Should Have Already Started)

With an unemployment rate hovering below four percent, it’s getting harder to attract potential employees. That’s one of the reasons that some retailers began their seasonal hiring program in July. This will make it even more important to hire (and keep) employees as soon as possible, so that they can be onboarded, trained and productive long before the first snowflake falls.

For some retailers, hiring began with the back-to-school season. For those organizations, it would yield even better performance to keep those temporary associates on through the end of the year. We looked at the cost of obtaining a seasonal employee compared to the potential cost of keeping them on. What we found was that the difference between keeping a trained associate vs. letting them go and trying to rehire them (or hiring someone else) was favorable to keeping them on. Additionally, since they were still on the team, they had the ability to drive further revenues; a win for everyone.

Forecasting For Service

One last note on preparation. Typically, someone within the retailer’s organization projects anticipated sales for each store and for the brand as a whole. That number becomes the one that any other projection is based upon, such as traffic expectations and labor hours. Too often retailers inaccurately forecast traffic by backing into traffic assumptions based upon transaction counts. The result? Gaps in service when scheduling associates.

A more accurate way of determining staffing needs is to start with a forecast of traffic and to integrate the upcoming calendar shift patterns addressed above into traffic assumptions. Getting your staffing right and scheduling associates for the right days at the right times will go a long way towards providing your customers with your intended experience, and keep them coming back well beyond the holidays.


Brian Field is the Senior Director of Retail Consulting Practice for ShopperTrak, where he oversees the application of ShopperTrak's proprietary solutions to retailer-specific issues across different functional areas in order to drive top and bottom line store performance. Prior to joining ShopperTrak, Field served in roles of increasing responsibility at Chico’s FAS Inc., including as the director of corporate store operations and finance. He has spent nearly four decades in the industry, and his experience includes: store sales and management, training, merchandising, strategic planning and analysis for brands as diverse as David’s Bridal, Circuit City and Macy's.

 

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feed@retailtouchpoints.com (Brian Field, ShopperTrak) Executive ViewPoints Wed, 08 Aug 2018 09:12:06 -0400
5 Ways Brands Are Mixing Up Their Wholesale Sales Strategies https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/5-ways-brands-are-mixing-up-their-wholesale-sales-strategies https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/5-ways-brands-are-mixing-up-their-wholesale-sales-strategies

Heath Wells NuOrder 2018Last year, as big box stores struggled to keep pace with Amazon and other tech savvy e-Tailers, “the retail apocalypse” was constantly driving headlines. Now however, the retail industry is proving to be in far better shape than the media has given it credit for — retail isn’t dead, it’s just changing. In fact, Deloitte predicts the retail market will grow between 3.2% and 2.8% this year.

While the outlook for retailers, particularly those embracing e-Commerce, is positive, there’s been little talk about how this industry shift is impacting brands. With today’s e-Commerce options, one might expect brands to ditch retailers and go direct to consumer; however, a recent independent survey of more than 400 brands conducted by NuORDER found that isn’t the case. Rather, brands today are working more strategically and insightfully with retailers, not ditching them. Based on the survey findings, we see five key ways brands are adjusting their retail partnership strategies.

1. Developing a strategy for specialty stores

Specialty retailers can help brands reach a highly targeted audience by developing a personalized strategy. These retailers range from boutique jewelry stores and beach town surf shops to the merchandise available in fitness and yoga studios. Take SoulCycle for example. The company recently shared that their retail merchandise business is growing 20% to 30% annually. While the foot traffic may be less than a big box store, these specialty retailers have earned tremendous credibility and are getting relevant products in front of the right shoppers.

2. Empowering retail buyers with self-serve data and visual merchandising tools

Brands understand that their relationship with retailers must go beyond just supplying products. To remain competitive, brands are working to find innovative ways to help their partners make more informed purchases and ultimately sell more. This includes leveraging tools like visual merchandising to show how products work together, allowing retailers to plan out cohesive displays and collections. Further, NuORDER’s survey found that 46% of brands are sharing real-time sales data, offering insight into high performing products and sales trends over time, enabling retailers to make smarter purchases.

3. Incentivizing buyers with discounts, performance rewards and other benefits

In addition to data and visual merchandising tools, more than half of brands are further solidifying their retail relationship by offering discounts, rewards and incentives. This may include discounts on recurring orders, or free accessory merchandise for meeting sales goals. Not only does this cut costs for retailers, but customizing incentives also offers the opportunity for brands to work closely with their retail partners, furthering the relationship.

4. Adapting to small format and “pop-up” stores

If brands have learned anything about retail in the past year, it’sthat small format stores aren’t going away any time soon. Brands can leverage this trend by partnering with small format retailers and rolling out “pop-up” stores with limited inventory and a refreshed shopping experience. For example, Nordstrom launched Nordstrom Local boutique stores in select locations to meet this trend, which focuses on the experience, including personal stylists, bars, on-site tailors, manicures and a “buy online, pick up in-store” service. By partnering with Nordstrom Local, for instance, brands become associated with this experiential and personalized experience.

According to a recent study from Forrester, small-format stores (those with approximately 10,000 square feet or less) experienced an average revenue increase of 5% in 2016 over 2015, compared with the 4% increase that big-box stores saw. As brick-and-mortar stores continue to shrink in size, 35% of brands are planning to focus on merchandising to make better use of their remaining space in retailers’ physical stores, versus leaving the store entirely. Further, “pop-up” shops offer a sense of exclusivity for shoppers, who often leave a pop-up feeling like they discovered a cool new brand.

5. Investing in technology to serve as a liaison between the brand and retailer

To engage and transact more efficiently with retailers, brands are investing in B2B e-Commerce technology that serves as a liaison to their retail partners. The survey revealed 58% of all brand sales managers are planning to increase spend on technology for ordering tools, mobile and digital catalogs. These tools are enabling brands to provide insights that retailers wouldn’t otherwise have, including real-time data analytics, visual merchandising and streamlined ordering. More than three-quarters of brands’ sales managers say that using their current B2B e-Commerce platform has increased their new business and existing business by at least 20%, according to the survey. Other benefits of B2B commerce platforms include personalized buying experiences, like digital line sheets and catalogs, enabling brands to offer a customized buying experience for retailers.

Looking Ahead

All brands should recognize the importance of a diversified approach and collaborative relationship with retailers. The shifting retail landscape offers an opportunity for brands to broaden their approach and reach consumers in innovative ways — because retail isn’t dead, or even in an “apocalyptic” state, it’s just changing.


 

Heath Wells is the CEO and Co-Founder of NuORDER, a B2B eCommerce platform that is revolutionizing the wholesale industry. Prior to founding NuORDER in 2011, Wells created and launched a number of successful companies across publishing, creative and digital commerce. He witnessed first-hand a fashion wholesale model that was antiquated, and saw an opening to revolutionize the entire industry. Today, NuORDER helps 800+ brands & 375,000 retailers transact $6B in GMV annually. Wells’ passion, spirit for positive change and unrelenting drive have been key factors in NuORDER’s current success, while his natural tendency for big thinking continues to propel the company’s creative innovation and shape the industry.

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feed@retailtouchpoints.com (Heath Wells, NuORDER) Executive ViewPoints Tue, 07 Aug 2018 09:47:16 -0400
Four Strategic Ways Retailers Can Use Location Data Beyond Advertising https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/four-strategic-ways-retailers-can-use-location-data-beyond-advertising https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/four-strategic-ways-retailers-can-use-location-data-beyond-advertising

0aaJeff White GravyAnalyticsIt’s widely assumed that location data is collected primarily for the purposes of targeting and advertising — like the time American Eagle Outfitters geofenced its outlet stores to deliver nearby customers timely promotions and notifications in the malls’ parking lots — to boost not only foot traffic but sales. While location data does enable a variety of successful advertising initiatives, what’s often overlooked is its broader, strategic business power.

Location intelligence — generated from opt-in data that is thoroughly cleansed and, most importantly, aggregated and anonymized — can provide retailers with invaluable insights about their customers (both current and prospective), telling the stories of where they go and what they do there. Armed with these insights, retailers can better understand the markets in which they operate, the behaviors and motivations of their customers, and even benchmark against their competition.

Here are four ways retailers can — and should — be thinking about leveraging location data:

  1. Research: If your business decisions are solely based on historical transactions, you could be missing out. Insights from location data can reveal blind spots and untapped opportunities — such as new merchandise, services and engagement experiences — that will appeal to your target audience. Take Domino's for example: their recent delivery service to outdoor "hotspot" locations is a prime example of using location data to expand your business model. Though location data reflects real-world movements, it can also be strategic for e-Commerce businesses — use it to learn more about your customers, and find more just like them. These important nuances about people, their lifestyles and purchasing habits can help you understand your customers on a deeper level.
  1. Operations: Tech-savvy retailers can use location data to help understand where they can hone and optimize operations so that their business runs smoothly and the customer experience is flawless. H&M — in addition to many others — is already using big data to better inform how to stock shelves regionally and reduce unsold inventory. But location data can take this approach a step further, revealing when and where there are lines or unused spaces, for example, to help retailers determine where, when and if they need to add or displace stock, staff or amenities, and also identify opportunities for promotions and signage.
  1. Competitive intelligence: Want to know how frequently your customers (and prospects) shop at or visit your competitors’ businesses? How far do they travel to get there — and where else do they go en route? This gold mine of real-world insight about where people go and how they interact with your competition is invaluable intelligence for retailers. Better competitive understanding can help inform decisions about everything from pricing and inventory to in-store promotions and hours of operation.
  1. New Locations: Location data should most definitely be part of your due diligence when considering expanding into new locations. Important things to consider are how far people generally travel to those kinds of locations, and how foot traffic compares at businesses and amenities nearby. For example, if you’re thinking of opening a sporting goods store, it’d be wise to know first if the folks spending the most time in that area are golf enthusiasts or avid campers. Layer on top of that behavioral insights about your target customers and you’ll see whether the location makes business sense, before you make any final decisions.

With a strategic approach, anonymized location data can help retailers continue to compete and evolve, enhance merchandise and services, address challenges, plan for the future and, ultimately, impact their bottom line.


 

Jeff White is the founder and chief executive officer of Gravy Analytics. He is passionate about building disruptive technologies that have large applicability to change industries. Prior to founding Gravy Analytics, he founded several companies and led them to successful exits.

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feed@retailtouchpoints.com (Jeff White, Gravy Analytics) Executive ViewPoints Mon, 06 Aug 2018 09:39:25 -0400
Cross-Border Competition: Top Three Tips For E-Commerce Global Expansion https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/cross-border-competition-top-three-tips-for-e-commerce-global-expansion https://www.retailtouchpoints.com/features/executive-viewpoints/cross-border-competition-top-three-tips-for-e-commerce-global-expansion

0aaSean McCartney RadialMust Compete with Amazon. It’s a mantra for many retailers in today’s day and age. Shifting consumer expectations around e-Commerce have challenged retailers that are still struggling to turn around two-day deliveries or meet online-order customer care needs. Unfortunately, the next big hurdle retailers must overcome is already here...succeeding at cross-border e-Commerce.

Amazon made headlines earlier this year when they reported that more than a quarter of all revenue for sellers globally was from cross-border transactions, an increase of more than 50% from the year prior. Amazon’s current cross-border sales amount to between $50 billion and $75 billion USD. Cross-border e-Commerce is a major, ongoing area of focus for the industry giant, and other powerful players such as Walmart and Alibaba. A recent study from UPS reinforced this growing opportunity for retailers who dare to break borders. The study revealed that cross-border e-Commerce sales are set to grow 25% per year on average, twice as fast as domestic e-Commerce.

The adoption of cross-border e-Commerce among the competition is moving swiftly. The most recent Radial and eTail Canada study, “Navigating the Complexities of International Markets,” found that engaging with the global economy is a renewed focus area for Canadian retailers. Most retailers surveyed reported expansions that are set to occur in the next 12 months, and 73% of retailers are planning on investigating the means to build personalization strategies to increase international sales.

Competing in today’s retail landscape requires embracing international e-Commerce to tap new market opportunities. Retailers that can swiftly address supply chain challenges will have the opportunity to establish themselves truly as a global brand, with a cohesive customer experience across borders. Retailers should look to keep three lessons in mind as they establish a cross-border strategy:

1. Forecast viability of potential markets, prioritize cost control

Keeping costs low is one of the key elements of success for international expansion, especially when retailers are just starting to implement a cross-border strategy. Consider entering markets that have comparatively lower currency rates and lower costs of living. This enables retailers to price products more competitively and secure greater profit margins. Breaking into the international market in this manner can allow retailers to create a base of operations with favorable cost structures that can be expanded to other countries, increasing profit margins even further.

When prioritizing global markets, retailers should keep a close eye on competitive actions, and market trends as well. The 2018 Radial and eTail Canada study, “Navigating the Complexities of International Markets,” found that Canadian retailers are especially looking to expand in areas, like the Eurozone, that have established buying power. While only 56% of Canadian retailers currently service the Eurozone, retailers surveyed expect that number to jump to 95% in the next 12 months.

In other words, look before you leap! Retailers should be diligent in executing in-depth market research ahead of time, including a SWOT analysis, before committing to entering an unfamiliar territory.

2. Consider outsourcing fulfillment to break into new markets

Managing a seamless delivery and return experience must be a priority to ensure retailers maximize their customer experience and can properly compete with local businesses. That said, it’s clear that building an effective logistics framework across international borders is difficult to execute: 80% of the Canadian retailers surveyed by eTail Canada reported that fulfillment is a significant challenge for their brand.

In entering a new market, retailers must lay the groundwork for fulfillment first. The fastest way to execute this, especially when also considering reverse logistics needs, is to tap a fulfillment and delivery partner. Instead of building from scratch, retailers should seek out a partner that already has the right order management systems, transportation networks and inventory optimization tools in place. Partners that can provide multi-node, multi-tenant fulfillment make cross-border e-Commerce more cost-effective and efficient for retailers looking to ship orders to global destinations. This fulfillment partner can help in navigating complex international standards and fees. Leveraging the higher volumes of this third-party provider will help in optimizing costs and create agility, while enabling retailers to more easily scale operations.

3. Identify customer needs and address them

Building a personalized experience for customers across borders is a major hurdle for retailers. Localization of landing pages stands out as a challenge for 99% of the retailers surveyed by eTail Canada — reflecting the need for dynamic systems capable of displaying the correct content to a global customer. Retailers must prioritize the development of a data management infrastructure and content that fits the needs of a global consumer. Establishing the proper infrastructure around data collection can be the difference between a sale and a discouraged customer. Retailers must pre-empt localization challenges like maintaining the proper exchange rate online and displaying the products that are the most likely to appeal to a repeat customer in a certain country.

Appealing to international customers also requires understanding their preferences and pain points — and when it comes to e-Commerce, these vary by country. Radial recently surveyed 3,000 consumers in the U.S., the UK and Canada, and uncovered some key differences in expectations around retail fulfillment and deliveries. For example, customers in the UK and Canada noted they are more likely to order from a retailer if it ships goods in environmentally friendly packaging compared to their U.S. counterparts.

Understanding customer preferences by market not only helps retailers better address concerns ahead of time, it could even prompt retailers to make valuable decisions when it comes to inventory tracking and operations. According to that same study, the majority of UK customers, 54%, reported they choose to pick up some of their goods ordered online in-store, compared to just 37% in the U.S. Retailers should consider customizing their inventory models to better meet customer preferences in specific areas.

Investing in global expansion is the key to remaining competitive for retailers looking to rival today’s e-Commerce powerhouses. Success lies in the retailers’ ability to invest time and resources in fully understanding the challenges and opportunities associated with different locations and markets. Partnering with seasoned service partners can help enable rapid market entry, optimize costs, offer flexibility and mitigate risks. For those companies brave enough to break the border, the ROI speaks for itself, with significant upside for rapid growth.


 

As Executive Vice President of Operations Services, Sean McCartney oversees integrated commerce operations for Radial Inc., a bpost group company, which includes managing the company’s fulfillment centers, transportation services and customer care centers. He is responsible for designing the network strategy, optimizing via operational excellence, expanding and differentiating Radial’s transportation offerings, and growing the company’s customer care solutions. He has over 20 years of experience in global supply chain logistics, distribution and operations.

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feed@retailtouchpoints.com (Sean McCartney, Radial) Executive ViewPoints Thu, 02 Aug 2018 09:26:01 -0400