Smartphones have changed forever the information consumption habits of consumers. While those changes are most obvious in areas such as social networks, the news media and search engines, they have been perhaps most impactful in the retail industry.
Consumers have been exposed to games when they shop for decades. As far back as 1896, grocers distributed Green Stamps that were collected to earn shopping rewards.Read more...
Black Friday is a week away, and the news is full of stories anticipating retailing’s version of New Year’s Eve. But this year will be different – a lot different, I think – so much so that I wonder if Black Friday as we know it is dying.Read more...
Mikael Karlsson, mobile marketing manager for Volvo, shocked the audience at the 2012 Apps World conference when he described augmented reality as an overhyped marketing gimmick. Read more...
Retail was founded on a very simple principle: to acquire and make available for people that which they could not easily or affordably obtain on their own. Thus, buying wholesale and selling retail was – and is today – a service to the community. Read more...
As a retailer, in those last few weeks of the year, it’s hard to think about anything except the rush of customers, getting all your stock out on the floor and making sure that all of the planning comes together with great execution. I would explain to friends that for me, this was the World Series of Retail. As a futurist, I’m always interested in thinking about what is to come. There’s no better time than the end of the year to look ahead and consider where the industry is going.
2012 was a year during which pessimists complained that the physical store was becoming no more than a showroom for competitors that were based online. I could agree with that were it not for the one thing that distinguishes the store in a way that the online retailer would be hard pressed to equal: the customer experience. There’s nothing more powerful than friendly, knowledgeable staff and an environment that entertains the senses.
At Retail Systems Research we have been scratching our heads of late about the difference between Business Intelligence (BI) and Analytics. As a group we seem to have come down primarily on the side of the definition that describes analytics as the tool and BI as the output. In that context, BI is something bigger than analytics – BI is the enterprise strategy and analytics is the tactic that enables the strategy.
I’ve been struggling with this concept ever since Steve Rowen and I wrote our latest edition of RSR’s annual benchmark on BI (or analytics, if you prefer). There are a couple of issues at play here. First off, respondents told us pretty clearly that mobile and web access to analytics, as well as new forms of data visualization and dashboards are high priorities for the future, and that integration to Excel is not.
Perhaps lost amid all the reports of Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales records was the fact that not all retailers cashed in, and not because consumers didn’t want what they sell. To the contrary, customer demand deluged those retailers, who responded by floating the big holiday fail whale because their sites couldn’t handle the traffic. Service virtualization could have prevented many of these outages.
Panopta, which monitors website performance as part of its business, reports in its 2012 Availability Index Holiday Edition that 77 retail sites have reported website outages. Several, including kmart.com and sears.com have been down for nearly 11 hours. It’s hard to imagine the sales lost during that downtime.
Kohl’s gave customers a jump on Black Friday sales by offering 500 early-bird specials starting the day before Thanksgiving. Then came Thanksgiving evening, when eager shoppers were met with an outage message every time they tried to click on their shopping carts. You have to think a lot of these problems go back to inadequate functional and performance testing. How do you test apps under loads hundreds of times heavier than normal?
In 2012, the coverage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday became as much a part of the story as the actual shopping that was being reported. This is thefifth year that IBM has prepared its Holiday Shopping Report, and it was able to report in near real time the kind of activity that was under way and the impact it was having on the retail industry during this critical period. The information was very insightful in that it included not just the volume of business that was happening, but how consumers were making their Black Friday purchases.
Cross-channel shopping was certainly a big hit, as 58% of mobile customers were using their devices while shopping in the traditional stores. There are those who would say, “that’s showrooming in action.” And while that may be true, it would also be fair to say that any retailer that had a multichannel presence was going to benefit from the condition. With all the traffic congestion on the roads I just can’t see anyone driving to another mall to get a better price. Mobile devices represented 16.3% of all online sales, so people are using them to enhance and enable their shopping expeditions. The smartphone is still the form factor of choice over the tablet with almost 59% of mobile shoppers using their phones as the way to shop and buy.
During the past week — unless you were blissfully disconnected from all sources of media — you were likely inundated with news articles, tweets, posts and endless TV stories about Americans as weapons of massive consumption.
Reporters and pundits alike pontificated about the significance of earlier and earlier store openings, the relentless quest for the best “door busters,” the incredible growth of online shopping and the startling (to some at least) emergence of mobile apps.
Casting aside the glaring irony that after spending a few hours (allegedly) being grateful for all that we have, we quickly pivot and decide that, after further review, we don’t have nearly enough, much of what the media shares about the significance of our shopping habits during the past week is highly misleading.
IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark, which tracks e-commerce transactions from more than 500 retailers, said online sales on Monday were up 30 percent from Cyber Monday a year ago. Jay Henderson, strategy director at IBM Smarter Commerce, was quoted as saying, “The reports of the death of Cyber Monday are greatly exaggerated,” Certainly, we saw shopping start earlier this year, but it hasn’t diminished the growth in sales for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.”
Once again, the reports seem to agree that mobile devices are a big reason why. Bloomberg BusinessWeek said, “Results show Americans are getting more comfortable shopping across all screens — computers, smartphones and tablets — and retailers are capitalizing on this by improving e-commerce offerings and beefing up Cyber Monday-specific deals.”
Plenty of us who follow retailing have been talking for some time about the convergence of in-store and online shopping experiences and how consumers are being empowered by the new choices being afforded them by technology. The Black Friday weekend offers us some of the most compelling evidence yet of what I’ll call the Power Shift.
While sales for weekend overall were up 13 percent to $59.1 billion, the most revealing number of the weekend was Black Friday sales in stores; and they were down 1.8 percent from last year to $11.2 billion, according to ShopperTrak. It was the first decline since recession-plagued 2008. Early openings and promotions, as predicted, kept some shoppers home on Friday. The National Retail Federation chief executive, Matthew Shay, said that while Black Friday “is certainly not dead,” he conceded that “it’s starting to spread out.”
As shoppers decide whether to do their Black Friday shopping in a store or online, they’ll no doubt weigh the less-than-pleasant aspects of each experience. Some of the frustrations of paying for products online were parodied in Google Analytics in Real Life – Online Checkout, which has more than 650,000 views on YouTube. That video got me thinking about the Amazon customer experience, and what it might be like in Real Life. Just imagine:
A customer enters a big-box retail store and is confronted by a pushy clerk.
Clerk (speaking rapidly): “Good morning, and welcome to Amazon. Please shop by department. We have books, movies, music, games, electronics, computers, home, garden, tools, grocery, health and beauty, toys, kids, baby, clothing, shoes, jewelry …”
Customer: “I want to take a look at the new phone.”
More and more holiday shoppers are looking for inspiration online, according to the National Retail Foundation, which recently published a survey saying that 47.3 percent of consumers will look online for holiday gift ideas this year. Interestingly, that’s a higher percentage than the 45.2 percent who said they’d look for ideas in stores. Online shopping tools continue to proliferate, and familiar players are making improvements. As Black Friday approaches, here are five that are grabbing attention:
ShopSavvy, the world’s largest shopping community is out with ShopSavvy 6, which adapts the app to Apple’s iPad. Comparison shopping and search capabilities are both improved and shoppers will be able to find more local deals through a Deals tab. Another feature details retailers’ price-matching policies. ShopSavvy Co-Founder Alexander Muse has said that if 2011 was the year of shopping with your smartphone then 2012 will be the year of shopping with your iPad. The recent introduction of the iPad mini seems likely to fuel that trend during the holidays and beyond as a popular gift becomes an ever-more-popular shopping tool.