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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.

Tips For Increasing Traffic And Conversions Through Video SEO

 It’s not your pricing or sales pitch or product images that make your sales. Sure they help close the deal, but before all that, there’s the simple matter of being found. As an online retailer, if you’re not bringing shoppers to your product pages, you might as well not exist. Luckily there are lots of things you can do to make sure your products are found by the right people. Most marketers put a lot of energy into optimizing text and images for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes, which is certainly one approach. However, there’s a new type of content that has even more SEO power ― video. In fact, search engines often rank video content above other forms of content. According to Forrester Research, videos are 53 times more likely to get a first page ranking on Google. Below are some suggestions for how to optimize video and drive more high-converting traffic to your site.

The Shifting Online Retail Market: Video, Mobility and Personalization

By David Reisfeld, General Manager, Content Delivery Solutions, Limelight Networks The electronic retail experience today is nothing like it was five years ago, and it’s unrecognizable from e-Commerce at the turn of the millennium. Despite the fact that many online shoppers have been doing business on the web for years, the types of transactions, expectations of quality, and on-site behaviors have all changed dramatically. There are three major trends to watch in the growth of online retail: the use of video in online marketing and sales, the growing importance of mobility, and an increasing emphasis on personalized shopping experiences. Video Takes Over The video trend is evident just by looking at some of the largest online retailers today. Amazon, for example, incorporates both manufacturer videos and video reviews from consumers in its product pages, and Overstock has publically stated its goal of including a video with every product it sells. According to the 2010 eMarketer report Video E-Commerce: Innovative Models Drive Sales, retailers report higher conversion rates and fewer abandoned shopping carts when they add video to their sites.

Making the Connection: 5 Ways Retailers And Manufacturers Can Collaborate At The Shelf

By Wayne Usie, Senior Vice President, Retail, JDA Software  Retailers are entering uncharted territory with consumers — the economy is showing signs of growth while at the same time consumers are demonstrating a reluctance to return to their pre-recession buying habits. Compounding this is the fact that consumers are more frequently turning to their mobile devices in stores for quick access to product and pricing information that will help with their buying decisions. That’s why it is imperative for retailers to transform their collaborative relationships with manufacturers, and a great place to start is at the shelf. Even though retail online sales are growing, in-store sales continue to make up the majority of a retailer’s business, making shelf awareness of critical importance. In addition to the product and pricing information available from manufacturers and other sources such as magazines and consumer groups, consumers themselves have emerged as key influencers.

Social Location Marketing Author Talks Gaming, Loyalty and shopkick

Foursquare, Gowalla and shopkick brought the “check-in” concept to life, and the growing interest around location-based applications is prompting retailers to reevaluate marketing strategy, integrating these new technologies. Retail TouchPoints recently had the opportunity to speak with Simon Salt, author of the new book, Social Location Marketing, to uncover how retailers can drive sales with gaming, what retailers are doing to integrate location-based applications into loyalty programs, and the future implications of shopkick for the retail environment.  Retail TouchPoints (RTP): What are some of the misconceptions about how location-based marketing can drive retail revenue? Simon Salt: Like many aspects of social media, some people believe that social location marketing is a “quick fix” to more endemic problems. Social location marketing can’t fix a bad customer experience.

Beyond Jeopardy! “Watson” And The Future Of Retailing

By Rob Garf, Associate Partner and Global RetailIndustry Strategy Leader for IBM Global Business Services Anyone watching Watson’s victorious performance on Jeopardy! couldn’t help but be wowed by the machine’s ability to answer really difficult questions on many different subjects. Retailers are no different. In fact, many of them believe that Watson can help them achieve one of their most elusive goals: How to better understand and serve consumers. It’s no wonder that merchants are grappling with the issue of customer insight. IBM recently completed a study of 30,000 consumers in 13 countries to find out how technology is transforming the way people shop ― and the results were eye opening. Nearly half of the respondents use two or more technologies to shop. These smarter consumers are less responsive to traditional advertising campaigns and are listening directly to their friends, family and peers through social media such as Facebook, FourSquare, blogs and YouTube to learn about where to go and what to buy.

Strategies To Engage The Evolved Consumer

By Rick Chavie, VP, Marketing Retail and Hospitality Solutions, NCR Years ago, the relationship between the shopper and shopkeeper was dramatically different. Retailers knew their customers’ preferences, and customers trusted their shopkeepers’ knowledge of products and prices. Today, consumers are less loyal, time-starved and digitally empowered. Technology gives them access to limitless product information and shopping alternatives, making hunting for the best value simple. The retail landscape also has changed. Retailers have spent billions of dollars to know the consumer better, utilizing highly targeted data, CRM systems and software that claim to predict the future. Ironically, despite advances in technology, we don’t know customers as well as we did 50 years ago. Part of this challenge lies in the way consumers now shop across channels using many different technologies. They research and compare prices online, read peer reviews on social networks, and make purchases when, where and how they choose. This empowerment is forcing a polar shift in the way retailers market to consumers.

Q&A with Verlin P. Youd, SVP Sales & Marketing, SCOPIX

Compiled by Debbie Hauss Video analytics have become a vital component of many retail operations, providing the ability to track in-store activities and help retailers provide better customer service, improved merchandising and more effective loss prevention. Recently Retail TouchPoints had the opportunity to discuss this topic with Verlin Youd, the SVP, Sales and marketing for SCOPIX, a video analytics technology provider. Retail TouchPoints (RTP): How are today’s video analytics products addressing the key challenges in retail? Verlin Youd: First, the most critical business requirement for today's retailers is delivering compelling customer service ― a customer experience that keeps customers loyal and coming back for more, from any and all channels including stores, web and mobile. In e-commerce, and now mobile, retailers have become accustomed to a rich array of information and metrics to understand customer service and take action to drive results.

The Retail Rush To Cloud Computing For Forecasting And Pricing Solutions

By Rafael Gonzalez Caloni, Executive Vice President of Marketing, Predictix The cloud is all the rage these days, from Microsoft's "to the cloud" commercials to the NRF Big Show, where it seemed nearly every vendor was touting its cloud offering. But study those cloud announcements and marketing spin closely, and today’s cloud narrative for the most part mirrors the mid-1990s, the last time people were so abuzz about a new technology that would change the world. Back then, every self-respecting company rushed to be on the web. But what did that really mean? Simply this: lots of "brochures on the web," the same old content in a shiny new browser for the world to consume. Experts raved about how people could now find any information they wanted, “pull it” from the web, and instantly give anyone and everyone global reach. All true, yet far from the promise the web would fulfill.

5 Fundamental Live Chat Mistakes

By Steve Castro-Miller, President and CEO, Bold Software In the past, many businesses thought of live chat technology as a one-dimensional tool best used for sales or service, but not both. Today’s knowledgeable retailers know that you can't have one without the other. Sure, live chat can be valuable for economically and effectively supporting customers, but its ability to help agents drive conversions is as true as using customer service phone agents to help sell products. But only if you do it right. While implementing live chat is incredibly easy, a “set it and forget it” approach can jeopardize customer relationships and hamper sales opportunities. Here are five live chat pitfalls retailers need to avoid:

5 Ways to Create Customer-Centric Service at the Return Counter

By Robert E. Walters, VP of Sales & Marketing, The Retail Equation More and more retailers are seeking innovative ideas to deliver customer service excellence at the return desk in an attempt to set them apart from the competition and make a first-rate impression with consumers. But as retailers evaluate how to accomplish this through a more lenient, customer-centralized focus — including extending merchandise return time frames, reducing or eliminating restocking fees, and offering cash refunds — they also find the need to better manage risk and prevent invalid returns from slipping through the cracks. Often retailers lack the data and processes to identify the key factors that allow them the flexibility to provide the appropriate service, with minimal customer impact, while still ensuring the validity of every return. By implementing specific return optimization tools at the return counter, however, retail companies can maintain profitability, solidify relationships with long-time customers and make a stellar impression among new shoppers.

How Engagement Communications Extend 2010 Holiday Sales Into 2011

By Scott Zimmerman, President of TeleVox Software, Inc. As the credit card bills from Christmas arrive in the mail, you'd think people would tighten their belts in January. But post-holiday sales drew crowds back into department stores for further retail therapy. Forget the returns line, Americans hit the stores in a big way after Christmas to buy more stuff and indulge their retail appetite, which may have made 2010’s holiday shopping season one of the biggest ever. Armed with gift cards and eyeing a new crop of discounts, shoppers spent more on their family and friends, and for the first time since before the Great Recession, treated themselves and even their pets. Reports from the National Retail Federation (NRF) showed that spending was strong since the start of the holiday shopping season in November and the momentum continued through post-Christmas sales. Holiday spending reached more than $451 billion, up 3.3% over last year. That is the biggest increase since 2006, and the largest total since a record $452.8 billion in 2007.

The Chicken-or-Egg Dilemma in Retail: Which Comes First — People or Product?

By Noel Goggin, RedPrairie SVP & General Manager – RetailClick here to listen to an exclusive interview with Noel Goggin. Following the 2011 NRF Big Show, a question a lot of people were asking is still lingering in my mind – When you get down to it, which matters more at the store level: People or product? It’s obviously a tough one to answer. We’ve harped about having the right employees in the right place at the right time, to sell the right product the right way, but the specifics can still get a bit vague. As 2011 gets rolling, and customers start spending their projected increases, it will be important to have a more concrete idea of where your company needs to be, and when. The first concept to keep in mind is that more than any year prior, the customer will control their own experience in 2011. Mobile technology in particular will alter where customers go, and will all but guarantee that those customers will find the lowest price – It’s not a matter of “if” anymore.

How To Successfully Leverage Facebook To Drive Commerce

Socially-driven features like Share-Within-Your-Network (SWYN) and Refer-a-Friend enable retailers to extend brand outreach by empowering enthusiasts to spread the word. Social Marketing-as-a-Service program provider Extole, founded in 2007, offers a fully integrated platform designed to enable high-value customer referrals, social fan base expansion and visible brand recommendations. Retail TouchPoints had the chance to catch up with Extole CEO Brad Klaus to explore Facebook retail best practices, how to quantify Facebook marketing and the effectiveness of building a “social graph” to identify influencers. RTP: In 2011, one of the key trends on the social/retail front is the ability to enable purchases from within Facebook. What are your thoughts on the potential for Facebook Commerce, or “F-Commerce?” Brad Klaus: There is no doubt that Facebook is becoming a major channel for retailers. For starters, its reach is astounding: the site has over 650 million users, most of whom visit the site every day. And according to data from Compete, social media sites send more referral traffic to online retail sites than Google. It's no wonder that retailers are leveraging Facebook as a new sales channel.

Author Offers Key Tactics To “Empower” Store Associates & Extend Social Outreach

As retailers are tasked with delivering an integrated approach to customer service, social media has offered the opportunity to cultivate a community of enthusiasts who are able to extend a brand’s ability to communicate effectively with customers. In 2008, author and Forrester Research analyst Josh Bernoff brought the novel Groundswell to life, and now in 2011 is emphasizing the need to empower store associates to become “HEROs” (“Highly Empowered and Resourceful Operatives”). Retail TouchPoints had the chance to catch up with Bernoff and discuss the need for retailers to identify impressions on social environments and their impact on marketing, as well as the retailers who have created a band of “HEROs” for social success. Retail TouchPoints: In Empowered the “IDEA” strategy helps companies view customer service as a marketing channel rather than a customer service cost center. Can you elaborate on how retailers can utilize “IDEA” to connect with customers more effectively? Josh Bernoff: IDEA stands for the four steps in treating your own customers as a marketing channel: Identify mass influencers, Deliver social customer service, Empower with mobile information, and Amplify fan activity.

6 Essentials For Improving Retail Store Management With Web-Based POS

By Tom Greenhaw, Founder & CEO, Cashier Live Retailing is the cornerstone of a free market economy. It took a lot of hard work to get here, but now you’re part of the centuries-old tradition of hanging a shingle and providing the public with the goods they need for their daily lives. Before you get too nostalgic, you should know that retail store management has come a long way from the days of a simple “Mom & Pop” operation. Over the past decade, advances in technology have created the potential for highly sophisticated front-end solutions, many of which have been specifically designed to streamline the task of retail management. As a retail owner, it’s in your best interest to implement smart solutions that simplify basic management routines and deliver a higher ROI than traditional retail processes. Although the idea of installing cutting edge technologies may sound expensive, some of the most able technologies consolidate multiple management functions at a very affordable price.
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