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.

The Future Of Retail: Harnessing Technology And Big Data For Big Sales

When it comes to the use of technology in retail, we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of what can and will be done in the near and long term. Not only will we see changes in core operating technologies (better inventory control, better time management, and better consumer experience) but we will also see significant, even radical, changes in business processes and business models. Talk as we will about new and cool technologies, the greater challenge is in their adoption and deployment. The technology is available, yet traditional brick-and-mortar retail has waited decades to deploy it.

Standing Out In A Crowd(ed) Inbox

During the holiday season, the average consumer receives about 38 promotional emails from retailers each week, according to Chad White, Research Director at Responsys. That’s an average of 5.4 emails a day, all typically arriving between the hours of 7–11am. Now that the holidays are over, it feels like this number has held steady, if not increased. I, for one, wake up each morning and check my smartphone, typically having received a minimum of five new emails from my favorite retailers. Each subject line attempts to outshine the other to get my attention. The onslaught continues when I open my inbox when I get to work. This isn’t surprising because, for retailers, email remains the best marketing channel to get more revenue from their customers: it’s inexpensive, easy to personalize, highly trackable and offers the broadest reach to store, Web and mobile customers. So how can retailers trying to take advantage of this medium stand out in what has become an increasingly crowded inbox?

Four Simple Reasons Retail Analytics Matter

Traditional retailers worldwide are challenged with going head to head with online shopping. From PCs to smart phones to tablets and everything in between, market share is under competitive duress. On one hand, many retail financial leaders don’t seem overly worried. Nearly 90%t of U.S. retail CFOs said in a recent survey they are not concerned with showrooming, which is when shoppers check out merchandise in a store but purchase them online — in some instances via smart phone while they’re standing in a store.

Reinventing Retail

 The forces of globalization, the Internet, social media and emerging sourcing models have drastically and permanently changed the retail dynamic — giving customers new choices for where to shop, what to buy and how to buy it. Under this change, retailers have access to new information that allows them to truly understand their customer and their shopping preferences.  Winning retailers are capitalizing on this digital shift to reshape their strategies, processes, organizations, and technology infrastructure to stay ahead of customer demands and keep competitors on their toes. This two-part series will address the top four myths related to how retailers are moving beyond the traditional model and reinventing  the ways the support new business realities.

Modern Day Focus Groups

You and your team settle in behind one way glass as eight women file into a room, all about the same age, all about the same income and all with about the same level of education. On paper, they look like they are “the same” and they fit the demographic your data tells you about who purchases your products. As the evening progresses, the responses from these women is definitely not “the same.” Three of them like your marketing message, 3 seem undecided and the other 2 think it misses the mark. You wonder: Is it the moderator? Maybe it’s the questions? or Could it be what you are testing? Thankfully, you have a second group — maybe you will get some direction.

Five Steps To Build A More Personal Path To Purchase

Consider the last time you bought something either online or at a store. Industry studies show that if you felt good about the experience, you are more likely to buy from that retailer again. For retailers to increase sales, they need to leverage available technology to create stronger and more meaningful connections with shoppers to achieve a larger share of their wallets. Why? Because today, everyone has more choices and loyalty is vanishing quickly. As consumers, we decide how, when and where to interact and the retailers who win are ready when we are. The better you know your shoppers, the easier it is to build a relationship with them. Intelligence is one of the many benefits digital channels provide. And with intelligence comes the ability to personalize based on purchase history, preferences and behaviors. Every channel you offer creates a portal to tell your brand story — and if done right, a unique and recurring opportunity to connect with and add value to your customers.

Four Strategies To Combat Retail Showrooming

It’s no secret that brick-and-mortar retailers are under intense pressure from online-only providers, many of which offer lower pricing on the exact same products that populate the shelves of traditional retail stores. In 2012, two of the nation’s leading retailers, Target and Walmart, announced that they would no longer carry Amazon’s Kindle line in their stores. Although the decision to phase out Amazon Kindles may have seemed arbitrary to some, it was actually a backlash against Amazon’s perceived encouragement of a practice known as “showrooming” — the growing practice of consumers using retail stores to “touch and feel” products before purchasing from an e-tailer.

Mobile Commerce Opportunity In Emerging Markets

The Unites States has long been the pioneer of eCommerce. When retailers first became aware of the internet’s potential for shopping anywhere, at anytime, America was the quickest to adapt to a new business model for the 21st Century. Now, as the U.S. stands as the largest online shopping market in the world, a new eCommerce revolution is already underway. According to research house IDC, 472 million smartphones made their way to shop shelves during 2011. Mobile shopping is the next frontier for online merchants – and emerging markets have been quick to adopt it, but the burning question is whether U.S. merchants can successfully tap into this market. WorldPay’s recently launched Global Online Shopper Report, a study of 19,000 consumers across the globe to identify the shopping habits of consumers online, highlighted mobile use in the U.S. as being well below the global average. Only 27% of American respondents intend to use a smartphone or tablet for buying goods over the next 12 months, stating a lack of need as the top reason. These results reflect the characteristics of a mature online shopper market where most consumers are used to accessing the internet by computers and laptops. Moreover, growth…

Comparing Political And Retail Strategies

Editor’s Note: This article is an excerpt from Schwartz’s book titled: Fast Shopper, Slow Store. Many people in the business of connecting to retail customers are busy reworking their game plan. It may reassure the reader that no one is immune to digital disruption, which has left most industry folk, from brands to broadcasters, from publishers to politicians, questioning the way they engage with their audiences. The 2012 U.S. presidential election was a perfect example of brands desperately seeking buyers. As the candidates claw for positioning, it is evident that the election process is (surprisingly or not) similar to selling a product in a hugely competitive retail market. Each electoral cycle demonstrates the challenge of courting an increasingly digital public.

The Four Phases Of E-Commerce Consumer Engagement

Ultimately, every brand wants to reach the pinnacle of consumer engagement. In e-Commerce, that might mean having the latest and greatest technology or the coolest new features. Regardless, the ability for a company to differentiate its site is of utmost importance in an increasingly competitive market. Unfortunately, even some of the most established brands don’t build from the bottom up. Just the slightest slowdown in page load speed, an awkward design, or any inconvenience while checking out can alienate customers. Unless a brand already has highly engaged users, disaffected customers — and their business—can easily move to your competitor’s site in just one click. When charging toward the e-Commerce pinnacle, merchants should execute a four-phase strategy. Each ensuing phase builds on those before it. More to the point, later phases cannot succeed unless the previous phases have been completed. The four phases are simple: Start with the basics; make things easy; make things familiar; and create an ongoing conversation. As each level of engagement is achieved, the overall user experience improves and the lifetime value of the relationship increases.

You Don’t Need A Mobile Strategy!

Mobile might be in the forefront of your mind, but just catering to it could easily steer you into a dead end. What you actually need is a commerce-anywhere strategy, which will allow you to enable commerce on any Internet device without spending a lot of time and money every time a new Internet-enabled device emerges. It’s a common misconception that tablets and mobile phones, not to mention other Internet-enabled devices, e.g., TVs, are a disrupting force. The disruption has already happened: The Internet is virtually available everywhere — we are always on! We call it the cloud today. Bandwidth and infrastructure are decent enough to deliver a good experience everywhere we go. Computers have become mobile and can be virtually built into any device.

Battle On The Showroom Floor

It’s a very real threat. “Showrooming” has been a leading cause of profit decline for brick-and-mortar retailers for years. Today, with the proliferation of smartphone technology, consumers are now able to access pricing information from competitors instantaneously. The practice has led to a decrease in purchases from physical retail locations and allowed online outlets with much lower overhead to continue to siphon business. The trend shows no signs of slowing down, but fortunately, there is a solution to this problem — and it starts with putting the customer first. A recent Forrester report, “The Business Impact of Customer Experience, 2012,”explicitly details how companies with higher customer experience scores drive higher levels of customer loyalty. Premium technology support is the key to improving the customer experience and addressing a specific, growing need in today’s connected world. It helps shift the industry away from the increasingly outdated “one-and-done” transactional approach that fails to capitalize on the growing demand for technology support. As consumers continue to adopt new and advancing technologies and seek support for their devices, the retailer that provides support services and improves the customer’s post-purchase experience will ultimately build greater loyalty and fare better financially than the competition.

A Decade Of Retail

Recently, Retail TouchPoints had the opportunity to speak with Brad Fick from Direct Source, and find out his viewpoints on how technology has changed retail over the past decade. Retail TouchPoints (RTP): What are some of the most significant ways technology has changed the way merchants do business during the past 10 years? Brad Fick: Looking back 10 years, technology just got faster, more competitive, a little cheaper and now offers more capabilities than it did before. That business model didn't change drastically. After many years of experience selling POS technology to tier one retailers, I would say that the advent of ruggedized PDAs for retailers are what’s allowed them to begin thinking about different ways to conduct store operations and interact with customers. Then wireless got faster.

The Only Word Retail CEOs Want To Hear Is ‘ROI’

On a fine September morning, my CEO came to me demanding higher ROI for the holiday season in a time when consumers are using every trick possible to locate the best deal, even from inside one’s own store. Sound familiar? You are not alone. While everyone else is attending football games and enjoying the beautiful fall weather, retailers are laying the groundwork to drive holiday sales among the connected consumer. The significant shift in marketing this year is due to major changes in consumer behavior — especially in how consumers are engaging with their mobile phones. Driven by a huge increase in smartphone adoption and feature phone penetration, consumers are relying on their mobile phones throughout their day to send messages to friends, answer email, update their social profiles and, most importantly, enter the marketing/purchase cycle — from product research to online and in-store buying. No one is feeling the affects of this mobile revolution more than today’s retailers.

Standing Out In A Crowded Social Space

A Q&A with Brad Klaus, Founder & CEO, ExtoleFacebook is a valuable social network for today’s connected consumers to follow their favorite brands, receive real-time updates on sales, and access behind-the-scenes information on new products. In fact, a vast majority (82%) of consumers believe a company Facebook page is an effective place to interact with a brand, according to a research study from Lab42, a market research firm. This holiday season, Facebook will be a key channel for retailers and brands to connect with their audience, and encourage them to spread buzz on new developments, according to Brad Klaus, CEO of Extole. “The holiday season is an ideal time for retailers to tap into the power of customer advocates,” Klaus said. “In doing so, these consumers will share information about a brand and generate more buzz.”
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