Connected Consumer Series Helps Retailers Position For Success

Top retail thought leaders converged online last week for the second annual Connected Consumer Series.

Hosted by Retail TouchPoints, the four-day event featured retail executives, analysts and solution providers as they discussed the most pressing topics on retailers’ minds today. Conversation points included social media, mobile, Big Data/analytics, and inventory trends and best practices.

Connected Consumer Series speakers included: Julie Ask of Forrester Research, Ken Morris of Boston Retail Partners, Pam Goodfellow of Prosper Insights, Gregory Hickman of Cabela’s, and Jim Dion of Dionco.


The Connected Consumers now is available on-demand! We welcome readers to watch and share all presentations at their leisure, as well as read the recaps featured here, which offer key takeaways and high-level summaries from each session.

Finding And Capturing True Value In Mobility

Roughly 98% of the U.S. digital shopping population use smartphones while in stores to research and buy products and services, according to research from Cisco. As mobility in retail continues to grow, how can merchants find and capture true mobile value that transforms store operations and increases profits?

These and other related issues were addressed by two Cisco executives: Jon Stine, Director of Consulting Services, and Bob Friday, VP and CTO-Wireless. Stine and Friday provide perspectives about the influence of smartphone shopping and how retailers can create value from opportunities. They also discuss key Wi-Fi and mobile features to include in wireless network infrastructures.

Key areas in which retailers should place their mobility money, according to Stine, include:

  • Decision influence;
  • Transaction and payments; and
  • Using mobility as a means for in-store behavior analysis.

The goal for retailers of the future, reported Friday, is to give mobile shoppers the information they need “with two clicks of their mobile devices.”

Statistics about mobile shopping journeys, available from Cisco and Deloitte, are shared during the session.

Click here to view the complete on-demand webinar, titled: Mobility In Retail Today: Connect With Customers To Drive More Revenue.

Using Social Media To Translate “Posts” Into Profits

Today there are more than 1 billion Facebook users, 140 million Twitter active users and more than 1 billion unique users who visit YouTube each month.

Social media allows retailers to deliver more personalized offers and information. New technologies, such as QR codes, can help in these efforts.

To increase customer loyalty through social media, Leslie Belcher, Retail Industry Market Development Manager for Microsoft, recommended and explained the following tactics:

  • Crowdsourcing;
  • Online communities or forums;
  • Coordinated events;
  • Platforms that turn loyal shoppers into evangelists;
  • Gamification; and
  • User-generated content.

Starbucks, for example, collects shopper ideas with the My Starbucks Idea platform.

George Casey, CTO and SVP of Junction Solutions added that the new 360-degree view of the customer includes four components: descriptive data, behavioral data, attitudinal data and interaction data.

In one example, added “Pin It” buttons to tens of thousands of pages and as a result Pinterest became a top 10 referring site for the retailer in 2012.

Click here to view the complete on-demand webinar, titled: Social Media For Retail: Translating “Posts” Into Profits.

Embracing Analytics To Boost Profits And Loyalty

Understanding customer data is critical in the decision-making process. In this Connected Consumer Series session, industry experts Pam Goodfellow, Consumer Insights Director at Prosper Insights & Analytics, and Marc Schroeder, VP of Industry Marketing for Teradata Applications, offered tips on how to create priorities and move forward with winning analytics strategies.

During her session, Goodfellow described five character traits of the modern shopper, including a lack of confidence in the economy and the continuing desire to buy what they need, more than buy what they want.

 “As consumers become increasingly connected,” Goodfellow explained, “retailers focused on a seamless omnichannel strategy will be best positioned to speak to and perhaps capture today’s flitting consumers.”

Teradata reported that almost every mobile phone will be a smartphone by 2014 and will influence approximately 50% of store sales. Today’s consumers demand control of their experience, noted Schroeder. “They want flexibility, transparency, relevancy and convenience at every customer touch point. Consumers want value displayed in every interaction.”

Retail marketers are faced with challenges in delivering a customer-centric experience. These challenges include leveraging data across the organization, integrating the digital and physical worlds, optimizing the customer experience and analytics marketing initiative effectiveness across channels. More than half (58%) of retailers surveyed in a recent Forrester/Teradata report claimed the top obstacle in preventing retail marketing organizations from applying data to make more informed decisions is that their existing technology is inadequate/outdated.

Click here to view the complete on-demand webinar, titled: Embracing Analytics To Boost Profits And Loyalty.

Delivering Results With Location-Based Technology

Location-based technology is driving the explosion of data, according to Simon Thompson, Director of Commercial Solutions for Esri. “Our footfall, lingering time, time at checkout are all being analyzed, then loaded back into these systems,” he noted. “If you don’t have location (technology), you have an analytics blind spot.”

In order to address this gap, companies should employ analytics that have the potential to deliver 4% to 8% growth, according to industry experts. Specifically, Thompson noted, “Location analytics geo-enable the enterprise to bring many data sets together. They bring together an understanding of what the dots on maps mean.”

Thompson shared an example of Luvshoe’s (#luvshoes). The company collected tweets and looked at the locations of those tweets, highlighted against density of young women. The results identified areas of higher concentration of young women who were tweeting about shoes. “This would not have been possible without location analytics.”

To get started with location-based solutions, retailers should establish a baseline of target customers, then develop an understanding of the communications occurring by phone and place.

Click here to view the complete on-demand webinar, titled: Leveraging The Power Of Data.

Maximizing The Value Of RFID

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology has long been used to aid in backroom operational issues such as stock counting, inventory allocation and inventory data accuracy. The technology’s potential is amplified when combined with other tasks such as loss prevention and planogram compliance, said Brian Hume, President of Martec International.

Hume said there are a number of retailers, including Macy’s and Marks & Spencer in the UK, who are using RFID tags on high-value items such as shoes and suits. “If you consider RFID tags that also serve as loss prevention tags — and there are a lot of suppliers offering that capability — you get two uses out of the same core technology. That makes it easier to make the cost-benefit case.”

RFID tags can also boost customer service initiatives, Hume noted. He pointed to one retailer that is piloting a project that uses RFID tags on a high-ticket item to store the product’s service history.

The growth of “click-and-collect” — where customers buy online and pick up at the store — will put increasing pressure on inventory accuracy, a key area where RFID can help retailers make headway, Hume said. “Online sales have grown faster than retail sales as whole in the U.S. and the UK. Customers are likely to be disappointed if they order something online and when they arrive at the store the inventory isn’t there. The pressure will continue to increase as click-and-collect grows.”

Click here to access the complete on-demand webinar, titled: The RFID Tipping Point.

Location: The Key To Relevant Brand-To-Shopper Communication

The most efficient way to track and understand consumers’ complete path to purchase is including geo-location and geo-targeting technology with a mobile experience, according to Julie Ask, VP and Principal Analyst for the eBusiness and Channel Strategy Professionals division of Forrester Research. She reported that most mobile investments “are really underfunded.”

In her comments, Ask focused on the increased importance of mobile and how it is “the primary means of engaging with consumers around the world, more so than any other device today.”

A variety of best-in-class retailers such as Cabela’s are thriving as a result of their mobile marketing efforts. By integrating location technology into the mobile experience, Cabela’s has been able to provide utility and value to its strategy, according to Greg Hickman, Mobile Marketing Manager at Cabela’s.

“We look at our strategies as customer first, rather than just implementing the newest technology being released,” Hickman said during a Q&A session with Debbie Hauss, Editor-in-Chief of Retail TouchPoints. “Consumers are driving how they want to interact with us and with what devices. We use location within our app, but for us it’s a layer of the whole puzzle. We strive to take everything we know about our customers and provide them with the best possible experience.”

Hickman described location as the foundation that allows a business to provide utility to a customer, and mobile as the primary medium of that communication.

Click here to access the complete on-demand webinar, titled: Cabela’s: Adding Context To Next Generation Marketing.

Using Mobile To Redefine The Shopping Experience

Retailers are challenged to communicate and engage with hyper-connected consumers in relevant and compelling ways.

By investing in a variety of tools and technologies, such as mobile POS and geo-targeting tools, retail companies can keep pace with today’s consumers, noted Michelle Marian, Retail Vertical Lead, North America Customer Solutions, Motorola Solutions. In turn, merchants can create more memorable brick-and-mortar shopping experiences.

Marian shared the following tips to help retailers better connect with in-store shoppers:

  • Know who is in the store and communicate with them; 
  • Align shoppers’ online experiences with in-store experiences; 
  • Use in-store locationing to tailor engagement; 
  • Provide secure access to anyone in your brick and mortar store environment; 
  • Optimize your store network to deliver value-added rich-media tools; and
  • Use analytics to refine the shopper experience. 

“There are many opportunities for retailers to better serve consumers,” Marian said. However, Wi-Fi is the key ingredient to executing successful in-store marketing and engagement strategies, and is becoming “increasingly important as time goes on.” She added that currently, 25% of Big Box and anchor tenant retailers are offering Wi-Fi in store locations.

Click here to view the complete on-demand webinar, titled: Redefining The Shopping Experience With Mobile Engagement.

Essential Elements Of Omnichannel Success

Customers now have the freedom shop whichever channels and touch points they prefer, and the customer’s experience at each of those touch points must be consistent and interchangeable.

“The customer is the center of the universe, but most retailers sell to my mother, not my daughter,” said Ken Morris, Principal, Boston Retail Partners. “My daughter is wired, she’s online, she’s mobile, she orders from her laptop and phone and loves to do in-store shopping. We have to gear the in-store sales environment to my daughter versus my mother.”

As for the technology to achieve that goal, retailers are shifting away from traditional hardware platforms, Morris said, citing figures from the company’s 2014 hardware survey. He said that 55% planned to use customer’s hardware, including smartphone and tablets. “That is a pretty amazing statistic.”

Consumers expect cross-channel shopping to be flawless, explained Branden Jenkins, General Manager, Retail/eTail for NetSuite. “Things like buying online and picking up at the store must be seamless.”

Retailers must take into account the consumer’s total relationship across all channels to build loyalty, Jenkins said. “Nothing is worse than a consumer making a purchase in-store at full retail and then getting a promotion emailed to them days later for the same product at a discount.”

Jenkins referred to the “hairball” of systems — POS, financial, warehouse management, CRM and business intelligence, among others — that make it hard to react and adapt to omnichannel selling.”

Click here to view the complete on-demand webinar, titled: Meeting The Needs Of The Cross-Channel Shopper.

Embracing “Showrooming” Through Interactive Retail

It is no secret that consumers are utilizing their mobile devices while shopping in brick-and-mortar stores, and they continue to finalize purchases there. The store will remain the channel with the largest proportion of sales revenue, according to James Dion, Founder and President of Dionco, Inc.

Dion discussed the inception of showrooming and its impact on physical stores. “Retailers shouldn’t always assume consumers are utilizing their mobile phones to shop online, said Dion. “Most consumers are actually searching for more information on the product.”

Most consumers (57%) already research products on a PC before buying in-store, according to a recent eMarketer study.

Allan Pulga, Manager of Communications for iQmetrix, highlighted four ways retailers can minimize showrooming:

  • Embracing omnichannel;
  • Bringing the best of the online shopping experience to the store;
  • Implementing innovative in-store technologies; and
  • Empowering sales associates.

“Similar to showrooming, omnichannel has become a buzzword in the retail industry,” Pulga said. “When you think of it as an omnichannel shopping experience, it’s bringing the best of all channels, such as online and mobile, into one experience. Retailers need to bring in elements such as innovative in-store technologies to help empower both the staff and the consumer.”

Click here to view the complete on-demand webinar, titled: Embracing “Showrooming” Through Interactive Retail.

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