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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.

Top 5 Ways To Boost Holiday Sales By Leveraging The Web Site

It’s that time of year again when brands and retailers work to find the best way to market a product to drive the greatest amount of sales during the holiday season. But this year is different: limited retail floor space combined with consumers’ demand for more information in real-time has presented an opportunity for brands to create a direct-to-consumer connection, one that can inspire greater brand loyalty and drive more sales. But how can this be done? With their web sites. Believe it or not, a brand’s web site has greater influence on sales and brand loyalty than most people think. When the web site is designed correctly — delivering a seamless integration of content, social interaction and commerce opportunities that customers look for — the potential to inspire greater loyalty, engagement and sales increases significantly.

The Global E-Commerce Roadmap

A few years ago, a lot of U.S. retailers were asking themselves, “Should I go global?” Today, that conversation has changed dramatically. Most U.S. merchants are now focused on what international markets they should go into and how they can best get there. Globally, e-Commerce sales are growing at more than one-and-a-half times the rate of U.S. retail sales (11.8% vs. 18.3% projected for 2014). Asia-Pacific is expected to surpass North America to become the world’s No. 1 market for B2C e-Commerce sales this year[1]. Global opportunities have proven so substantial that early adopters are starting to consider supply-chain realignments to better support their worldwide customer base. So, how do you maximize your international strategy? The key lies in pinpointing profitable opportunities for your product line — and choosing reliable, cost-effective delivery options. 

Top Five Ways Wi-Fi Is Transforming Retail Shopper Experience

“Customer is the king” and has always been. More so in recent times, when retail customers walk into the store, they are in a commanding position empowered with a Wi-Fi enabled smartphone and access to exemplary online shopping tools. The shopping experience is no longer confined to the time during which a customer is in a store as most consumers shop anytime and anywhere with the mobile phone to search for products, lookup for stores, compare prices, and read reviews. Brick-and-mortar retailers should open their stores for in-store Wi-Fi and should confidently pursue new opportunities with the right Wi-Fi solution. Not only can they enhance their customers’ shopping experience with their brand, they can also use Wi-Fi to gather valuable insight into purchase behaviors to drive sales and improve operational effectiveness. A 2012 study conducted by IBM surveyed shoppers in eight mature and seven growth economies (Winning over the Empowered consumer: Why trust matters, IBM 2012) and found that 45% of consumers use two or more device technologies to shop and make buying decisions typically a PC-based laptop and a mobile device. Customers today have multiple online outlets to shop in addition to the stores and expect a seamless experience…

Taking Your E-Commerce Efforts Global

You may be looking at possibilities overseas for growing your business. If you want to offer an online store for consumers abroad, it is essential to know the payment expectations, regulations and requirements of the local markets and prospective customers. For example, a consumer in Germany expects to see a retailer with prices posted in Euros. In the UK, people assume an online shop will have prices in British Pounds. Any divergence from these expectations will make a prospect hesitate, and that increases the chance of the consumer leaving the website and going elsewhere for his or her purchase. This also applies to the payment methods that customers expect to see at the checkout, because with the sensitive issue of payment, consumer trust will help influence the conversion rate. While credit cards and PayPal are accepted and used around much of the world, only offering these methods to international consumers will limit conversions. There are important payment methods specific to different countries which will be key to success. Let’s take a look at some of them.

Reinventing Retail Part 2

As the global economy has expanded and provided a multitude of options for how, where and when shoppers make purchases, the nature of retail has changed. Retailers must adapt to the competitive landscape, and in turn, update the in-store experience. Smart retailers have taken these shifts in the marketplace as an opportunity to enact new strategies for retail. The shifting economy has impacted not only the way stores sell to customers, but also the inherent structure of retail organizations. Today’s leading retailers are keeping customers happy by creating positive shopping experiences and offering the personalized service shoppers demand. In the first part of this two-part series, we focused on myths around large retailers and product design. The second part will address the third and fourth myths related to how retailers are addressing the changing nature of business.

Top 10 Ways Connected Retailers Can See Black During The 2013 Holiday Season And Beyond

Cisco has always been keenly interested in the impact of the Internet on society. We have watched through the years as the Internet has transformed the retail industry, not only with e-Commerce, but in shopper expectations for convenience, product availability and service. We’re entering a new era of technology-shaped retail; one driven by the connection of products, people and processes to the Internet. Actions of all types — product movement through the demand chain, shopper dwell times in the aisle, associate interactions — can now be turned into data, and that data into insights. Today’s leading retailers are data mavens — and are able to know sooner, decide smarter and act faster than their competitors. The result? An advantage that translates into growth on top and bottom lines.

Tackling The Urban Myth Of Big Data

“Big data” has become the hot new reality star. It has broken past the business and marketing magazines into consumer and mainstream news. It makes and rides its own social media trends. It hovers between savior and scandal. Indeed, “big data” seems to have its own talent agent and publicity team — and they have a star on their hands. Yes, big data is everywhere. It is constantly generated and stored in virtually every aspect of our lives. Whether it’s diagnosing an illness, educating our children, or riding in a car, big data is transforming our society by identifying patterns of behavior and making correlations with predictive assessments. While it’s been around since the advent of retail, The Great Recession put big data in main stage spotlight. The downturn’s long-term effects put more pressure on retailers to make sharper business decisions, while battling for thinner customer wallets and more elusive loyalty. It has since reached obsession-level in marketing social media circles where articles and blog posts on the subject are heavily shared and debated.

Use Videos Along The Path To Purchase To Increase Sales

Keeping online shoppers engaged (and buying) takes constant attention from retailers. How do you borrow the tactics that work in-store, like end-cap displays and piles of inviting merchandise, to attract customers in the online world? While images help, video goes much further in getting shoppers to dig deeper into product benefits, and eventually add items to their cart. In fact, our own research has shown that videos can drive immediate and significant increases in sales, so there’s a good argument for using video as much as possible on your online retail storefront. However, videos can find a home in many more places than just product pages — which are certainly important for video, but you can gain more ROI on your video investment, and garner more sales, by placing video throughout all of your customer touch points. This means everywhere from search and online advertising, to customer email newsletters and more.

Why Customer Service Is The Achilles Heel Of Omnichannel

Susan, 29, recently ordered a couple of outfits from the web site of her favorite apparel retail chain. The next day, she decided she’d like to take one of the dresses on a trip that weekend — so she needed it much sooner. So, she did what any normal omnichannel shopper would do: She called the retailer’s customer service number. Since she was a loyal customer and loved their products, she assumed they would offer her different options for solving her problem, whether that involved expediting her order or pick up a local store. Twenty minutes later — exasperated from the number of times she had heard the word ‘sorry’ from the customer service representative (CSR) — she then called around town to find the dress. Out of sheer frustration, she decided to buy a different dress (one that she was frankly ambivalent about) from a competitor’s store nearby, simply because they had a pair of shoes that matched.

Consumers Demand Retail Payments Service And Simplicity

As technology becomes smarter and is more widely adopted by consumers around the world, it is driving a new commercial landscape where businesses must now operate. This transition is disrupting traditional patterns of interaction in the marketplace: the consumer is in greater control than ever before. Increasingly, consumers expect businesses to take advantage of advances in technology to create a better experience. Early this year, First Data conducted global research to collect market intelligence on our customers’ customers: the consumer. This research sought to identify insights into evolving consumer awareness, usage, and behaviors in the areas of shopping, payments, banking and financial management. The latest study expands on two waves of research that First Data conducted across the United States in 2012.

Using Digital Place-Based Media To Target Precise Retail Demographics

Retail audiences come in all shapes and sizes, but savvy retailers know you can’t hone in on the precise target without a strong “bow and arrow” strategy aimed at the clearly defined bull’s eye. In today’s digital world where each and every one of us, including our customers and prospects, is more than familiar with daily sensory overload, retail marketers have come to understand that for their marketing and advertising efforts to resonate, they must be relevant to the specific audience they’re working to influence. In other words, to be successful, retail marketers must take aim at a clear target with a well-honed arrow. Digital place-based media (DPBM) presents an ideal way to do this in a highly efficient manner. DPBM refers to the use of ads and other relevant content on specialized TV networks that target consumers out of the home along their path-to-purchase.

Strengthening Brand Loyalty With Self-Service Technology

Self-service technology continues to grow across a wide variety of retail markets. Many businesses, such as grocery stores and airlines, are using self-service kiosks to increase employee productivity and efficiency, improve sales, and enhance the overall customer experience. With self-service technology, customers do not have to wait for employees to assist them with certain tasks and they can expect the same level of quality service every time at any location, guaranteeing a more consistent in-store experience. This proven self-service value proposition is extending into retail print and office supply stores, as well as hotels, libraries, college campuses, and government offices, just to name a few. It can be expected that self-service print and copy technology will also continue to expand where customers and small businesses are looking for ways to easily access and print files from mobile devices, USB drives or cloud storage accounts. Driving this movement is the exponential growth of digital and mobile technology, as well as the increased use of cloud storage accounts. Consumers are consistently moving more documents and photos to the cloud and desire the capability to print their content when needed, providing a new business opportunity for retailers to offer a self-service printing solution…

Lost And Found: Why Journey Mapping Is Critical To Your Business

Customer journey mapping is not a new idea. In fact, the concept of “journeys” has become so pervasive and so well understood that brand makers often find themselves being a bit complacent about their use. Nearly all evolved brand and product marketers utilize journey mapping as a part of their toolkit. Journey mapping is so pervasive that if you were to do a Google search on “customer journey maps” you’ll find quite a few definitions. That means it’s probably time to shake the cobwebs off the traditional thinking and revisit not only just how much time and effort you’re investing in journey mapping, but also consider whether you need to tweak how you’re creating them so that they do provide a quality input into your marketing schemes.

Augmenting Reality In Retail

The pace of technological innovations makes it nearly impossible for many retailers to plan what is coming next and where to invest their technology and infrastructure budgets. Of all the new technologies emerging today, I think augmented reality has the greatest potential to significantly change the retail world. Augmented reality (AR) is the practice of taking digital assets and inserting them into physical space — creating a composite view for the viewer that is partially the real world and partially the digital world. Like most disruptive technologies, AR as a concept, has been around a while. However, the practical applications of AR have been limited to a relatively small number of early adopters, video games, and laboratory experiments. 

The Value Of Loyalty

Customer loyalty means profit. And it’s really that simple — studies show that a repeat customer can be at least three times more profitable than a single purchase customer. The best return that can be generated on marketing dollars is when they are spent on customers who are already known to be, or likely to become high value, loyal customers. Many businesses are great at identifying who their most profitable customers are once they are on the transaction file, but imagine the value of loading that information into frontline marketing strategy. In other words, what if you could figure out who is most likely to become your best customer and market to them specifically? Identifying Your Best Customers There are really two aspects to implementing this idea successfully. The first and easier of the two is targeting known loyal customers and keeping them engaged. Much more difficult, but quite worthwhile, is to deconstruct exactly what qualities are shared by these customers. Once you do that, you can form a strategy around marketing to people who also fit within the same framework and are thus likely to mimic profitable and loyal buying behaviors. 
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