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.

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.

5 Ways to Use Tablets For In-store Commerce

 Mobile technology has revolutionized the in-store shopping experience, and fewer devices have done it better than the tablet. In-store tablet use merges the best of traditional, sensory-oriented in-store shopping with web-savvy consumer demand for instant data and transactions. Though many retailers are adopting this in-store technology, they’re just starting to scratch the surface of its potential. There are many ways retailers can use tablets to transform the in-store experience. Here are five that top the list: 1. Tablet Kiosks  Tablets offer a newer, cheaper and sleeker way for retailers to offer in-store kiosks while providing a fundamentally different experience from traditional kiosks. Tablet kiosks bring interactive, rich experiences that allow shoppers to develop their own experiences, such as choosing how long the engagement will last and selecting only what they need. Kiosks also let brands provide an “endless aisle to shoppers,” giving them an ability to buy products online that are not available in store and thereby avoiding potential customer walkouts.

The Rise Of Datarati

The ability to analyze customer data and turn that insight into highly relevant customer communications provides a powerful platform that helps brands prepare for the digital future. Since everything marketers understand about customer loyalty is changing, nowhere is that change more profoundly felt than in the collection and use of customer data for marketing. Hal Varian, Google Chief Economist and Economics Professor at UC Berkeley, believes the new “coin” of today is consumer data. In today's globalized, fragmented economy, winners increasingly will be separated from losers by their ability to collect, analyze and derive actionable insight from consumer data. Varian has coined a term for those companies who have an edge in customer data insight: the Datarati.

Improving Resiliency Strategies To Decrease Risk

Savvy retailers are developing recovery plans and strategies in light of potential risk from hurricanes, floods and power outages. Though store locations can be greatly affected by disasters, the rise of mobile and online buying presents retailers with a whole new level of risk. During an in-depth interview with Retail TouchPoints, Rich Cocchiara, IBM Distinguished Engineer and Chief Technology Officer of Business Continuity and Resiliency Services, shared how merchants can better mitigate risk online and in stores. Cocchiara also revealed how best-in-class retailers are turning to the cloud to optimize data backup and IT management in light of potential risks.

Getting Ahead Of The Curve With Comprehensive Price Intelligence

Price matching and price adjustment policies are all over the news this holiday season. In addition to the standard programs of this ilk that are habitually available across multiple retailers, Walmart launched a special time-based price adjusting program in advance of the 2011 holiday shopping season. The program not only matches any lower competitor price at the time of purchase, but does so for any purchase made at Walmart at any time before Dec 25. Similarly newsworthy, Amazon recently attempted to generate more interest for its Price Check application by offering shoppers a 5% discount (up to $5) on up to three items purchased on Dec 10. Smelling like a test to see what kind of results it generates, these tactics encourage shoppers to use brick-and-mortar retailers as showrooms then (theoretically) get the lowest price at Amazon.

Socialize The Search Experience To Gain More Fans And Conversions

Social network sites have become the online equivalent of the family living room or local coffee house ― they’re the place where people hang out with friends, share news and trade suggestions for products and services. Since social networks and user-generated sites like YouTube are where your customers spend more and more time, and because search is one of the highest-converting features of an e-Commerce site, it makes perfect sense that you should take steps to blend these two capabilities. Doing so will allow you to meet your customers where they are, and also make it easy for customers to find social content about your products and services on your own site. For instance, fans of your Facebook page may be having conversations about their experiences with your products, or may be posting how-to videos on YouTube. Ideally, this content should be easily accessible to customers via search or navigation on your site ― the faster they find social networking content, the faster they can make buying decisions and complete purchases. In addition, by driving customer traffic to your Twitter, Facebook and other social networking pages, you’ll encourage shoppers to add even more social content for other customers to discover.

Social and Mobile Integration A Valuable Part Of Cross-Channel Commerce Paradigm: Convergent Commerce Series, Part III

With mobile and social quickly emerging as the new consumer focal points, retailers need to fully understand these channels to develop a cross-channel strategy that maximizes the strengths and potential ROI of both. The previous two Convergent Commerce Series articles, Cross-Channel Plan for Mobile Engagement and The Optimized Mobile User Experience, discussed the need for a cross-channel retail strategy that incorporates online, mobile, brick and mortar and social, and how to successfully implement a mobile channel that holds as the backbone for this new commerce paradigm. Integrating social into the cross-channel commerce strategy does raise some interesting questions: Will consumers utilize Share to Facebook and Twitter from mobile devices? Is there a relationship between frequency of engagement with retailers and the likelihood of following them on a social outlet? Finally, are converted fans then more likely to further interact with the brand by, say, downloading the retailer’s smartphone app?

Retailers Face A Battle For Relevancy In A Mobile World

A trip to the store is not what it used to be. The days of making a list, reading the circulars, printing or clipping a few coupons, and visiting the nearest grocer are coming to a close. The shopper, smartphone in hand, is charging ahead with high expectations ― and leaving behind the brick-and-mortar retailers not prepared for a mobile world. To stay relevant, grocers and other retailers must embrace these new mobile shoppers with value, convenience and innovation, both inside the store and out, or risk losing them entirely. The Mobile Age Is Here, Ready Or Not The statistics are staggering; though to some they are familiar, the data around mobile growth tends to be just outside many retailers’ peripheral vision. According to comScore/Mobilens, as of March 2011, nearly 70 million people in the U.S. owned a smartphone, up 13% in just three months. The FCC reports that 28% of all cell phone users now have smartphones, and more than 40 percent of cell phone purchases today in the U.S. are smartphones.

How Social Media Customer Feedback Helps Retailers Enhance the Customer Experience

Much is written about social media and its impact on brands and consumer opinions. Even more commentary has surfaced on listening platforms used to help organizations capture customer feedback online. But there is a key aspect to social feedback that remains unanswered for many business leaders: What to do with all the feedback? Mining customer feedback and analyzing the insights creates a powerful lens into the retail customer experience. The problem, however, is that while many brands are listening to the online chatter, too few are analyzing it in a meaningful way. A recent survey by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, for instance, found that while more than half of the surveyed companies are using social media, less than one quarter (23%) are using any form of social media analytical tools, while only 5% are using some form of customer sentiment analysis. 

Oracle’s Cross-Channel Commerce Platform

Following Oracle OpenWorld 2011 held in San Francisco in October, Retail TouchPoints connected with Mike Webster, General Manager of Oracle Retail, and asked him to elaborate on Oracle’s cross-channel commerce platform. RTP: Are there particular implementations toward which more retailers are leaning this year versus other years? If so, to what do you attribute these trends? Webster: There are two. First, we are seeing a greater shift toward implementing suites of business applications, not point solutions. I attribute this to the multichannel phenomenon: Multi-channel retailing, the interplay between commerce, mobile and stores, requires cohesive processes that reflect a holistic view of the business. Day-to-day, that means we are helping retailers and partners implement more planning, merchandising, supply chain and commerce solutions that are truly engineered to work together. Second, we are seeing an explosion of processing speeds and cloud computing. Retailers are moving to those solutions that make them more agile, and we are seeing an increased adoption of the combined hardware and software platform as a way to improve performance and spend less time on maintenance. This has implications regarding how we architect solutions and the user interface, and what consulting services we provide.

Code of Content

According to comScore’s recent study of mobile quick response (QR) code scanning, 14 million Americans scanned QR codes from their mobile phones this past June. But before you integrate QR codes into your marketing strategy, consider what your content strategy will be. This strategy should be top priority, and this doesn’t just mean offering “other items you might like” or “newly reduced sale items.” Because the customer already has been convinced to scan the QR code, you shouldn’t try to continue to sell them – you should give them something that allows them to fully interact with the brand experience. So how can you do this effectively? Read on for three best practices of how smart companies should use QR codes, as well as examples of who has a great content strategy and who is missing the mark.
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