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.

Cross-Channel Plan For Mobile Engagement: Convergent Commerce Series, Part I

By Dan Lowden, Vice President of Marketing at Digby As smartphone growth soars to over one billion users worldwide by 2014, there is little doubt that the intersection of mobile and cross-channel retailing is the way of the future. The adaptation of mobile devices as a new consumer focal point gives retailers the opportunity to engage with their customers anytime and anywhere by offering them the ability to search, browse and buy from home, when mobile or while in-store. And with nearly fifty percent of smartphone owners already using, or planning to use, their phones for mobile shopping, the tipping point is upon us. To leverage this new opportunity, retailers need to adopt a mobile cross-channel strategy that integrates their sales channels to provide a seamless shopping experience to the consumer. Retailers look at their brands and see their brick-and-mortar stores, e-commerce site, print catalog, and mobile website and rich app (iPhone, BlackBerry and Android) as separate commerce outlets. A consumer looks at the same brand and sees the retailer — period. Differentiating between commerce platforms is a retailer’s mindset, not a consumer’s. Instead, a loyal customer expects to be able to research a product on their laptop or smartphone…

E-Commerce Strategy Transcends Channels

Online commerce connects the digital and physical worlds. Understanding and implementing the right technology tools and strategies builds customer loyalty and drives sales across all channels. The future belongs to the retailers that are best able to provide a seamless cross channel experience to their customers. More than 200 retail executives gathered recently at Oracle Retail CrossTalk to compare notes on vital retail topics, from merchandising and planning to global expansion. It quickly became clear that the issue most retailers are focused on right now is enabling better cross-channel experiences.

4 Tips For Optimizing Ecommerce Site Speed

Online shoppers are an impatient lot. Our own customer research shows that 10% of traffic is lost for every extra second a site takes to load ― and some studies say that even a millisecond delay can cost thousands if not millions in lost sales. Yet many of the top online stores have slow page-load times that exceed three seconds. On top of potential lost sales, Google now factors page load times into its algorithm, so the slower your site loads the lower your natural search ranking, hurting site performance even more. Consequently, optimizing every aspect of your ecommerce program is absolutely essential. Here’s a short list of tips that can help, based on the findings of 100+ top eCommerce sites that are currently optimizing 50 million conversions per month.

PCI Compliance In The Retail Market

Compliance with the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Security Standards Council is an immediate and costly focus for many industries, and the retail market is no different. While retailers are trying to increase sales, lower prices and keep customer satisfaction high in the wake of a recession, meeting PCI standards has also been a key business driver. Securing customer data is a main focus for PCI standards. The hardware technology installed, how the customer data from each piece of hardware is processed and how the retailer handles data determines industry compliance. For example, at the point-of-sale (POS), retailers have access to a large amount of customer data through payment terminals. According to the PCI council, a retailer cannot hold the information for an extended period of time, so procedures and processes for handling customer information are constantly changing to keep up with industry standards.

Inventory Intelligence Delivers On The Omnichannel Promise

Omnichannel retailing gives stores omnipresence, an advantage once claimed exclusively by online merchants, and affords stores the opportunity to offer their merchandise to shoppers at the moment of interest, and sell at the moment of decision, without sacrificing their environmental and interpersonal distinctions and the instant gratification of in-store pickup. But omnichannel raises shoppers’ expectations with a promise of availability. Integrated inventory intelligence is essential to deliver on that promise. But even more, it future-prepares retail by eliminating information islands, adapting quickly to new processes and technologies, and keeping cost and waste low. Retailers who succeed at integrating their inventory intelligence for shoppers, associates and managers can cut costs, accelerate turns, and build revenue by driving high-fidelity information back into the supply chain, aligning it with shopper demand. Retailers who fail, will subject omnichannel shoppers to a fragmented retail landscape, marked by jarring, disconnected changes and unreliable information.

Making The Case For The Mobile Wallet

Who would have thought that the day would come when the wallet would be rendered obsolete? But along with the day planner, watch and calculator, it’s happening. For some time the era of mobile payments has been closing in and very soon the mobile wallet could be making its grand debut. Since the advent of mobile, retailers have been keeping up with the latest advancements in mobile technology and the corresponding fluctuations in consumer behaviors. It’s a challenge, but with an innovation like mobile payments, it’s also an opportunity to enhance the customer experience and expedite the checkout process. Something that all retailers strive for and consumers expect. In thelast decade we’ve seen the evolution from SMS/USSD transactions, to direct mobile billing, mobile web payment (WAP), direct operator billing and mobile barcode technology. And this year, there has been serious talk from a number of industry stakeholders announcing their plans to explore near field communication (NFC) technology.

Study Shows Consumer Expectations Eclipse Retailer Readiness

If there is one truth about today’s retail environment everyone can agree to it’s that the traditional way of commerce is obsolete.  Consumers are re-wired with high expectations that blur channel distinctions, merge touch points into a continuous interaction and redefine the shopping process by demanding more options at every step. Consumers are no  longer willing to be “sold to;” instead, they trust social networks, Web sites and other influencers when making buying decisions.  The challenges this creates for retailers is compounded by the astounding pace at which this transition has occurred.  A recent consumer survey by Sterling Commerce, an IBM Company, revisited several questions from a 2007 questionnaire of consumer expectations surrounding the cross-channel shopping experience, and the results showed consumers’ expectations have increased in all areas of the order lifecycle: 87 percent expect to track an order from any channel (up from 56 percent). 74 percent expect to modify an order from any channel (up from 65 percent). 61 percent expect to complete an order from any channel (up from 55 percent).

The Growing Need For Speed: How Site Performance Increasingly Influences Search Rankings

In the never-ending quest to improve search rankings on Google and other search engines, e-Commerce companies have become experts at refining content, implementing keywords and expanding linkage to boost their profiles. But with Google’s April 2010 announcement that site speed would become a factor in search ranking, e-retailers have realized that site performance had become much more than an operational issue. Overnight, speed has become either a true marketing advantage or a serious liability that can limit access to potential customers. For example, by increasing its site speed, an online furniture retailer, recently improved the company’s search engine rankings for its top 10 competitive keywords and best-selling products, Seven of the top 10 keywords increased an average of two positions. One term went from lower than 50th in rankings to third, and one term claimed the number-one position.

Change Management by the Numbers: 5 Steps To A Successful Shopper-Centric Proof Of Concept

First in a Two-Part Series: Launching a Successful Proof of Concept Corporate history is rich with tales that heed the need for proper change management to drive value from new strategies, plans and tactics — so much so that over the past few years we have seen a tremendous rise in the prevalence and credibility of the discipline. Given that in retail all value lies in execution, this should not be surprising. Shopper-centricity has been one of most significant trends driving retail growth globally. And while there has been much success, there are an equal number of challenges that cause many organizations to rethink their shopper-centric strategies. This presents the risk of not realizing the significant strategic and financial benefits available.

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.
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