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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.

Welcome To The Customer Economy

Consumer adoption of social media has been nothing short of breathtaking, increasing a full 356% since 2006, according to Forrester Research. Ninety-one percent of U.S. online adults use social media regularly — three times more than blogs and email. And they’re not just cooing over baby pictures on Facebook — they’re shopping.   Social media is changing consumers — not just how they purchase, but why they purchase. This shift signals an end to the “the product economy,” where brands competed by delivering differentiated products and services, in favor of the “customer economy,” where brands compete on the relationships they cultivate with customers.

Keys To Successful Mobile Marketing Throughout The Year

Although the holidays are the busiest season, retailers must build and cultivate a network of relationships with their customers all year long, learning everything to know about their preferences and consumption habits. That way, retailers can reach out to customers with trusted recommendations and extend offers they’ll appreciate. Let’s look at a few strategies that can elevate retailers above their competitors — especially during the holidays — as well as some retailers that are succeeding in the digital age.

The Future Of Payments: Digital Transactions, Social Currency And Bitcoin

When you look in your wallet, do you relish having good old hard cash at your fingertips or do you prefer the modern convenience of paying for your purchases with plastic at the checkout line? The explosion of online shopping has sparked an evolution in how business is run — cash has quickly been trumped by digital transactions at brick-and-mortar retail stores, restaurants and grocery stores. But this is only the beginning of what’s yet to come.

Retail Survival: 3 Darwinian Success Factors For Adaptive Innovation

The retail postmortem on holiday sales is a recap of 2013 retail trends:  Online traffic and sales are up significantly and store sales are mostly flat, with store profit margins down.  Indeed, retailing dynamics have changed more in the last 3 years than the previous 3 decades.    The dramatic shifts in retail are not so much a function of the growth of online retailing, as much as the changing nature and behaviors of the consumer: Today’s consumers are now empowered by internet mobility, and they are not “going back.”; Consumers are in charge of their experience and shopping journey, not the retailers; and Omnichannel is the “new normal” … consumers shop anytime and everywhere.

Customer Demand For “Commerce Anywhere” Dictates New Retail Model

The classic multi-channel retail business model has recently been eclipsed by a "commerce anywhere" approach. Where retail channels were once highly segmented, consumer expectations now dictate an experience which leverages a wide array of interactions. Many retailers have yet to adapt their operations to accommodate commerce anywhere, and those that are on their way have taken vastly different paths. In order to enable new customer journeys and reshape business processes, retailers are driving four common initiatives.

The New Loyalty Program: Turning Customers Into Fans

Successful retailers build one-to-one relationships with customers by knowing who they are, what they want, and where they are as they move through a transaction. The ability to understand customer data in motion — that is, while the customer is planning or considering a transaction rather than after that opportunity has passed — is the key to building ongoing customer satisfaction, retention and loyalty.  To do this, marketers must adopt new technologies that help turn their customers into fans. They need to be able to leverage data, metrics and analytics to anticipate action, predict needs, and take advantage of every opportunity to strengthen customer relationships. The trick is to convert customers into fans by keeping them happy at every stage of the relationship, and giving them what they haven’t even thought to ask for — so you’ll never have to say goodbye again.

The Evolution Of Retail In 2014

2014 will be a REALLY interesting year in the tumultuous evolution of technology’s impact on retailing. Note I said evolution, not revolution. Megatrends like social and mobile will enable a new set of challenges and opportunities for retailers. While some may be the beginning of revolutions, it’s too early to tell. Key Consumer Trends Converge eMarketer recently shared that a whopping 74% of purchases researched on mobile devices are completed in-store. While we tend to think of mobile consumers similarly to desktop consumers, but on different devices, this is just not true. Most of our mobile time, is, well, mobile. Not at home or at work, but out and about.

Integrated Strategies Create Omnichannel Success

Almost every retailer would like to successfully leap into the omnichannel universe and begin converting customers online, in stores, and on mobile devices.  A core component of determining success or failure in the omnichannel space is how inventories are managed.  When strategically and tactically sound practices to track and fulfill inventory are implemented, huge revenue increases and reduced costs can be realized.  However, improperly managed inventory can result in frustrated customers and red ink.  It starts with planning Most retailers experience recognizable and fairly predictable sales cycles.  Adding sales channels adds complexity to effective forecasting -- but when a single integrated software platform is used for every channel, trends across them are mineable.  Using a combination of data warehousing and data mining tools, it is possible to analyze historical data to determine what inventory moved across which channels.  Then, an effective forecast that considers which channel will fulfill which orders can be created.  This is much more difficult to achieve when disparate software is used for each channel.

Can Visual Search Offer A Key To Consumer Loyalty?

Over the past 20 years or so, shoppers’ relationship with ‘search’ has altered dramatically. Our desire to seek answers, once an innately personal experience, has now become one of the most widely researched and highly profitable businesses in the world. With smartphones, many of us now hold the incredible power of connected search in our fingertips twenty-four hours a day and as a result, can extract an answer to almost any question we can imagine, all-but instantaneously, so long as we can clearly explain in words what we’re looking for. Incredible though that is, the next evolution of search surely lies in providing answers based on what we see and feel in the real world not simply what we can articulate. Humans are inherently visual beings. In fact, 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and this information is processed 60,000 times faster than text.

The 2014 Retail Game Changer: Battle Of The Maps

Of all the widgets and long-forgotten apps on your phone the one with most mobile mindshare is your map app. We have become a mobile society, and in the 2010s, map apps personify our wanderlust. When we open our mobile map, we have intent, direction and purpose. It is vitamin “M”: the ultimate upper and highly addictive. And map real estate is hot: Apple buys Locationary, Embark and HopStop; Google buys Waze;  Bing is rumored to be in talks with FourSquare; Zillow, the map real estate tycoon, buys EasyStreet, and indoor mapping app company, Aisle411 raises a hefty seed round in the valley. As OEMs beef up their services, we are entering a new phase of map building. Location has always been a data grab. Now, the industry is starting to focus on monetizing subway stops, street corners and highways across the world.

Radically Expand Product Assortments With No Inventory Risk

The proverbial free lunch might just be achievable for online retailers. Imagine vastly expanding your product assortment while, at the same time, freeing capital locked up in inventory. Sound impossible? Not for smart retailers embracing drop-ship fulfillment. The biggest capital expense for a retailer is the combination of owning inventory and operating the fulfillment centers required to house and ship products to customers. Drop-ship fulfillment enables retailers to offer the products of its suppliers without ever taking possession of the items. Instead of buying bulk quantities of products and holding them in their own warehouse (and balance sheet), the retailer sends individual purchase orders to a supplier when a customer orders a product. The supplier then ships the product directly to the customer from the supplier’s own inventory.

Conversation And Community: The Pillars Of Social Commerce

How do savvy retailers get their e-Commerce engines to scale? By tapping their social customers. Infusing the e-Commerce experience with greater social interaction (eg: a way to share product knowledge, access to community content, ratings and reviews) drives higher conversion rates, more loyalty and greater profit. The plain truth is that consumers trust each other far more than they trust brands, and that trust makes all the difference when it comes to purchase decisions. Social media has already made an indelible mark on the way brands market to and support their customers. Going forward, more and more retailers will be adding social to the commerce experience as early movers continue to demonstrate the big returns they have received.

Futureproofing The Fashion Business

It’s been said that the mantra of fashion is ‘seduce the consumer and control the supply chain.’ But sadly, the key to consumer seduction has gone from a focus on product to a focus on discount. With consumers motivated not by price, but by the percent of discount shown, we now have to ask: how on earth has this come about? Early in 2008 — before the real impact of the global financial crisis was upon us — the fashion value chain was filling up with merchandise. With high expectations for a strong holiday shopping season, product pipelines were full and ready to be delivered in time for the season’s period of peak demand. In hindsight, we can identify a couple of the more serious mitigating factors that led to the eventual retail disaster as a weakening of brand loyalty and a fashion retail climate that had evolved into a vast sea of sameness.

Retail Customer Experience Trends Update

Customer experiences are the backbone of successful retail. Today’s consumers are hungry for experiences that rise above the noise of the marketplace and improve their relationships with the brands that are important to them. As a result, retailers face constant pressure to stay ahead of the curve and create tomorrow’s customer experiences today. The most urgent challenge currently facing retailers centers on the race to capture customer feedback across all channels and leveraging it as a catalyst for the creation of experiences that connect with consumers on a personal level. On the whole, retailers are doing an excellent job serving their customers and delivering merchandise that meets the high expectations of the marketplace. But more than ever before, customer experience management trends will directly impact retailers’ bottom lines by shaping their ability to translate customer feedback into meaningful and improved retail experiences.

3 Easy Ways To Stay Top Of Mind With Your Customers

After prospects have visited your web site, called, or emailed you, they’ve made the treasured conversion into becoming a lead for your business. But often, they’re not ready to make a purchase decision. This stage of the consumer buyer journey is typically research-based; i.e., your prospects are looking for preliminary information about prices, products, or services. They’re also evaluating your business for its overall customer service and professionalism. And, they’re most likely contacting your competitors during this phase, too. After your leads have expressed initial interest in your business, you need to continue to stay top of mind with them throughout their purchasing process. That way when the time does come for them to make a decision, yours is the business they choose. But staying in front of your leads doesn’t have to be a difficult or mysterious process. With some basic online marketing and lead management practices, you can stay top of mind and ultimately turn more of them into customers. Following are three marketing and lead management tactics you can use throughout your leads’ customer buyer journey.
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