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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.

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.

Making The Sale When The Path To Purchase Leads To Your Door

As consumers continue to trim spending and shift their shopping to the Internet, two significant retail store trends have emerged. Bigbox retailers are moving to smaller formats to reduce under-utilized space and stay profitable. Also, consumers are treating retail stores as showrooms, testing merchandise before making a purchase. While the testing may lead to an in-store purchase, shoppers increasingly are purchasing items online at lower prices, or turning to their mobile devices to seek a better price elsewhere. These trends are driven not only by today’s volatile economy, but by the growing influence of tech-savvy consumers known as Generation C. (The “C” stands for connected, content-centric, communicating, computerized, community oriented and always clicking). Generation C — born between 1990 and 2000 — represents a community of digitally connected consumers willing to partner with brands, retailers and other customers to review, produce and consume content and experiences in real time.

Is Ticket Or Traffic Driving In-Store Sales?

Whether same-store sales are up or down, analysts and other stakeholders want to know what drove results. If you've listened in on an earnings call for a major retailer lately, undoubtedly you've heard the question: was it ticket or traffic? It seems Wall Street analysts who poke and prod retail executives during the sometimes contentious Q&A sessions have distilled the “what drove same-store sales” question down to these two variables — either more people came into the store and/or more stuff was sold to the buyers.

Six Ways To Transform Software Into Emotional Concepts that Customers Love and Buy

I remember a January afternoon in our start-up company’s Dallas showroom. Mycolleagues and I were perfecting our pitch to sell digital marketing software to indie store owners. We were coming off a new software release and were counting on thisshow’s momentum to help us demonstrate traction. Making the software less frightening was part of our strategy. Small business owners who buy our product access a simplistic way to send marketing campaigns to their loyal customers via email, Facebook or Twitter. At one point in our discussion, an affable 60-year old woman approached me, and thefive-minute conversation she and I had became the basis of ourchanged product positioning strategy.“My grandson is proud of me,” she said,“After I used your product, I told him how Ipost to Facebook, create campaigns with a computer, look at my reports, and he thinks I’m cool.”

3 Steps to Bridging the Gap Between Online Conversions and Buyer Intent

It’s been more than 10 years since e-Commerce became a truly viable way of doing business ― light-years by technology standards. The U.S. Commerce Department now estimates e-Commerce sales at $165.4 billion for last year. That’s a significant number but considering the phenomenal amount of technology and marketing innovation over the past decade, is it what it could be? I’d argue a resounding ‘no.’ Since conversion rates have been tracked by the industry, the average has hovered between 2% and 3%. Yet according to the Fireclick Index, 10% of visitors come to e-Commerce sites intending to make a purchase.

Measuring Beyond Conversion: The Impact Of Video On Customer Experience

By evaluating web site metrics, retailers have learned that video provides ROI through increased conversion rates. According to Internet Retailer, visitors who view product videos are 144% more likely to add products to their cart than other shoppers. In addition, there are several key metrics that help us understand how video impacts customer experience and quality of engagement. This article explores how both quantitative and qualitative metrics can be used to evaluate the customer experience.

Retail Workforce Management Is About Understanding The Customer Experience

I don’t know about you, but I take most of the articles I read about the retail customer today with a pinch of skepticism. If we are to believe everything we read, this species is rarer than the Giant Panda; has the research disciplines of Albert Einstein; has smartphones integrated into its soul; and can simultaneously shop, scan codes, exploit promotions, calculate the nutritional benefits of a cardigan, stream tweets and pay without blinking. Who are the people in these articles and where do they find the time to do all of that ― and still wish their 130 Facebook friends a happy birthday on time? Skepticism aside, I believe that retail customers know what they want, what they like and more importantly what they dislike; they are craving to be heard and know that retailers truly appreciate them and the hard earned cash they spend. To that end, we come back around to the question of what successful retailers are doing to ensure they deliver a consistent customer experience to the masses through a highly aligned Workforce Management strategy.

The Optimized Mobile User Experience

Convergent Commerce Series, Part II Mobile commerce has quickly advanced past a cut-and-paste of a retailer’s ecommerce site—it is a viable, independent channel that needs its own strategy, unique capabilities, and personality if it is going to be a valuable part in a retailer’s cross-channel commerce strategy. In the first Convergent Commerce Series Article, Cross-Channel Plan for Mobile Engagement, the growing reasons to integrate a cross-channel strategy incorporating online, mobile, brick-and-mortar and social were highlighted with a specific focus on mobile. The most effective mobile platform consists of a mobile optimized website, downloadable rich app, and in-store mobile engagement. Incorporating mobile into the overall marketing strategy is an effective means to increase consumer awareness of a retailer’s various channels. In doing so, retailers can attract more visitors, generate more sales, leverage their marketing and merchandising spend, gain insight into customer purchase decisions, and heighten customer relations.
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