Executive ViewPoints

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

Focus On Relationships And “Word Of Mouse,” Not Transactions

I was recently in India presenting and meeting customers at IDC’s Smarter Commerce event. While there, I had a chance to catch up on some reading, including the Altimeter Group’s report, “Make an App for That: Mobile Strategies for Retailers.” Chris Silva, the analyst who wrote the report, sent us an advance copy because IBM provided some of the data around mobile shopping trends during the holiday season. If you’re a marketing professional working in the retail business, Silva’s report should be considered required reading. It offers the kind of insights about rapidly changing customer engagement models that some mistakenly ignore to the certain detriment of their careers and businesses. Silva makes very clear that out of all industries, retail has experienced one of the largest disruptions to its traditional business models, thanks in large part to the explosion of mobile devices, which now have become an instrument for the masses. I’d add a qualifier to that sentence: to date. That is to say that the same trends that we are experiencing, witnessing, driving and exploring both as marketers and as consumers — the rise of the empowered customer, ubiquity of mobile devices, increased focus on hyper-local offers — are…

Finally: Strong Financial Results From Social Media

Social media is increasingly important for retailers and brands; soon it will touch and benefit every significant metric of a retail organization. Why is social relevant? Consider a few data points that demonstrate the power of social media: It took five years to reach $500 million in revenues. Using social effectively, Gilt Groupe did so in less than three years. Groupon reported over $700 million in revenues in less than two years. Furthermore, according to research from Forrester, more than 60% of Gilt shoppers say they now spend less at traditional retailers. Bain & Company also conducted a study of 3,000 consumers and found that customers who engage with companies via social media spend 20% to 40% more money with those companies. They also demonstrate a deeper emotional commitment to those companies, granting them an average of 33 points higher, based on a Net Promoter score, a common measure of customer loyalty.

VICS Item Level RFID Initiative Leads Charge To Retailing’s Future

Let’s flip the page back to June 2010, when VICS held a meeting in San Antonio and the decision was made to form the VICS Item Level RFID Initiative. This brought together retailers, suppliers, solution providers, educators and associations in what participants consider the most broad based collaborative initiative the retail industry had seen since the adoption of the bar code. There are several retailers and brands engaged in the use of item level RFID in apparel replenishment that are sharing the benefits they have experienced. A list of the primary challenges facing these companies, with some applicability to suppliers, clearly illustrates the opportunity for item level RFID in today’s marketplace:

In-Store Insights Help Turn Browsers Into Buyers

There’s a lot of chatter in the retail space about the threat of online sales to traditional brick-and-mortar stores.  Perhaps that talk should be about the huge, missed opportunity walking out of stores every day: the browsers who could be buyers, and about whom most retailers have little or no information. Concern about online sales has evolved with good reason. Since 2000, the growth of e-Commerce has far outstripped that of other retail channels, with an average annual increase of 20%, according to Deloitte’s The Next Evolution: Store 3.0 report. Indeed, the seemingly endless analytics available about online shoppers is an advantage to retailers.

Driving Shopper Loyalty Through Digital Platforms

Imagine today’s typical trip to the store ― that big, complex place where we go to get all the things we need to run our homes and take care of ourselves and our families. The store.  Seems so impersonal, doesn’t it? What if instead of THE store, it was MY store? Or, in the following example, Emily’s store?  On the way home from work, Emily decides to stop at the store to pick up a few things. She is welcomed immediately by the loyalty application on her smartphone via the retailer’s WLAN guest access. The application allows the retailer to build a profile for Emily; integrate her online purchasing activity and shopping lists (created at home) into her store visit; and deliver a personalized shopping experience. Assistance is offered immediately. A customized map appears on her device to alert her to special promotions and sales on her frequently purchased items and their locations. All associates in the store are connected virtually and empowered to anticipate Emily’s needs. They are equipped with advanced knowledge of her questions, merchandise searches, past purchases and store loyalty before they ever greet her face-to-face. Video analytics track inventory availability, customer count, line length and traffic…

Personalization In 2012: Intent Leads, Social Matures

While personalization has existed for more than a decade, emerging as a priority for every online retailer, 2012 is shaping up to be a truly innovative year for relevant, in-the-moment personalized experiences for consumers. To understand the context for these innovations, it is important to look back. Prior to this year, only vendors with deep pockets or sophisticated algorithms, such as Google, could hope to create highly relevant experiences. That’s because a completely new way of thinking was required to understand how to process information in real-time to make decisions that impact in-the-moment experiences. The alternative was to use aggregate data and batch processes that delivered less than ideal results. That, however, is about to change.

Consolidating Big Data To Create One View Of The Customer

Over the past 20 years, new technologies have helped shift how retailers market to their customers. Before the Internet, segmenting audiences and marketing campaigns was a fairly unrefined practice, with marketers only able to make general inferences about what shows young adults watched or what magazines women read. However, as the Internet, and more specifically Google, grew, this opened the door to whole new ways to segment and reach specific audiences. Not only could marketers place their adds for socks on a site that sells shoes, but they could group their ads based on what potential customers were looking for at that exact moment. The advent of Google Adwords is what launched Google into the powerhouse they are today and is what turned interactive advertising into a nearly $35 billion dollar and growing industry, according to Forrester.

Pricing Isn’t A Four-Letter Word

When the topic of pricing arises, retailers often anticipate an unpleasant discussion and more pressure on their annual goals. We have all heard quotes like these: “The only way we got people into our store over the holidays was with massive discounts….My customers had to go down market during the recession, and they aren’t moving back up….We keep losing share to private labels in the Big Boxes, all due to price.” While such quotes are based on reality and make pricing a daunting topic, firms that manage pricing strategies proactively with the right tools in place can produce significant top- and bottom-line results. One point gain in realized prices can yield a much larger proportional improvement in profits. In our work with clients on pricing strategy, four lessons have emerged that can help retailers like you get to the point where pricing is a positive contributor to 2012’s success.

Electronic Labels Move At The Speed Of Retail Promotion

The U.S. retail department store sector is highly competitive, relying heavily on a multi-channel go-to -market strategy. While it continues to attract shoppers through targeted mailings, on-line offers and social media, most successful department store retailers depend on frequent in-store promotions across most products and categories to drive sales. But the sheer number of price changes within a store makes price accuracy and the timely update of store signage increasingly difficult. The costs associated with personnel who have to replace paper signage along with ongoing sign production costs can diminish a retailer’s profits. With U.S. retailers faced with the high cost of implementing ever-increasing promotion frequency, and with less time and staff to allocate to price and promotional sign changes on the sales floor, the time has arrived for graphical displays to replace a decades-old paper technology.

Drive Business Growth In 2012 With A Smart Email Marketing Program

Small business owners are revving their motors to win big in 2012. Many are ready to push the pedal to the metal to achieve their goals and objectives for the year. For many small business decision makers, this includes retaining and growing the business. A recent Zoomerang survey, which polled more than 1,000 small business leaders, found that 60% of respondents plan to concentrate on customer growth in 2012, 38% say they will work on customer retention, and 21% will focus their efforts on communications, marketing and public relations. While setting goals is commendable, implementing the right solutions to drive results can be bewildering. Communicating your value can be expensive, time consuming and complicated. The exception is email marketing: Email marketing is an effective way to drive success for all three of the surveyed objectives without the hassle and added cost. Used to its full potential, an email marketing program enables small businesses to strengthen customer relationships and drive sales by connecting with customers quickly, simply and affordably.

Retailers: Are You Social-Business Ready?

Think about the last major purchase you made. How did you make the decision? Consumer Reports or reading reviews online? Trusting a company’s advertising or asking your network for recommendations? The way people shop for products has changed. According to Mike Volpe (@mvolpe) of Hubspot, it’s because the way consumers communicate has changed. People spend more time on social media than email. There are 200 million people on the “Do Not Call” list in the U.S., and 86% of people use a DVR to skip over advertisements. Volpe says the era of paying for advertising to drive sales is out, and the era of using inbound marketing to engage and attract sales is in. While today’s consumers are ushering in a new era of shopping, retailers must take notice of what Scott Welty (@scottweltyjda) of JDA Software calls Generation C: In a recent article, “Making the Sale When the Path to Purchase Leads to Your Door,” Welty explains that retail trends are driven not only by today’s volatile economy, but by the growing influence of tech-savvy consumers known as Gen C, with the “C” standing for “connected, content-centric, communicating, computerized, community-oriented and always clicking.”

Retail 2.0: Invite Shoppers To Participate

Once again this year, the ol’ Javits Center in New York hosted retail folk from across the country. It seemed as if every vendor was hawking technology solutions to help retailers track product life cycle from factory to sale. This is a wonderful efficiency goal. Booth after booth showed space-age integration of serialized data from RFID tags, embedded into product tags, containing business information from back end systems. Track a sweater from factory to showroom to purchase and possibly customer return. Allow retailer micro-visibility into order status and inventory. But some of the vendors are missing the full story. It was as if they ended the story mid-pitch. The industry still is selling First Generation Retail, when the new frontier is Retail 2.0. Using the new Near Field Communication NFC-enabled phones that are entering the market this year, the shopper can be as active as the merchandising clerk. Using the phone as a personal reader, shoppers can navigate products, allowing stores to clientele and close the cross-channel disconnect that is evading most store executives.

Debunking The Black Friday Discount Myth: Retailers Need a 24/7/365 Pricing Strategy

Black Friday and Cyber Monday ― best known for glittering price offers and festively wrapped deals — attract gift-minded customers like a wreath to a front door. But these purchasers aren’t one-and-done shoppers: They’re cost-comparing and buying 24/7/365, clicking into their mobile phone apps and searching out the best deals wherever those deals happen to be. What’s more, these apps let shoppers save this price information for future reference. What are shoppers finding with their new sleuthing technology? Between November 20th and December 24th, 2011, Gazaro analyzed a sample basket of 40 products in multiple categories that were expected to draw well on Black Friday/Cyber Monday and through the holiday season. Comparing the data to other months in 2011, Gazaro found that in68% of the cases, prices were actually lower in the months preceding Black Friday. 

Winning Holiday Email Tactics You Can Use Throughout The New Year

This past year, for the first time ever, I did all of my holiday shopping online. I didn’t set foot inside the mall or buy any gifts at crowded stores. And, while I might have been shopping in solitude, I certainly wasn’t alone. comScore reported a 15.3% increase in online shopping between Nov. 1 and Dec. 26 as customers spent $37 billion on e-Commerce sites, which is a new record for those of you who are keeping track. Cyber Monday alone brought in $1.25 billion ― the heaviest online shopping day in history ― and Green Monday wasn’t far behind, with $1.1 billion. All in all, there were 10 shopping days this past holiday season that surpassed the $1 billion mark in online sales.

Digital Signage Dissected

Digital signage is well-established technology that allows for targeted distribution of rich media assets to digital display endpoints. Its notion of granular “narrowcasting” contrasts with the one-size-fits-all approach of broadcasting. Using the Internet as the data transport platform, digital signage allows for dynamic, dayparted, customized programming and messaging across a network of digital displays. The advantages of digital signage are particularly applicable in a retail environment, where costly static signage beset by compliance challenges has made execution an uneven prospect for many decades.
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