Will Apple and Google Rule Customer Loyalty in Mobile?
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.
Retailers Need More Than Fun When It Comes to Gamification
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...
Is This the Death of Black Friday?
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...
Augmented Reality: Beyond the Gimmick
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...
What Are Smart Retailers Really Selling?
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...

How Neiman Marcus Puts a Face to a Brand

Today’s tech-savvy, information-hungry and experience-driven consumer has added a new term to the retailing lexicon: showrooming. The practice of visiting a store to evaluate a product then searching online for the lowest price angered some retail partners, and understandably so. But in order to cater to the mobile mindset of the evolving consumer we need move beyond competitive pricing and discounting and develop strategies that enrich the customer experience to turn browsers into purchasers.

Neiman Marcus is a fine example of how one luxury retailer is embracing the use of smartphones in-store to provide a premium service, tailored to the individual shopper. NM Service is a branded iPhone application that aims to provide a completely personalized shopping experience.

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When Investing in Technology, Keep the Customer in Mind

With smartphones in the hands of so many consumers, retailing is on the cusp more change in the next three years than it’s seen in the last 30. And while mobile shopping certainly has caught the interest of retailers, some are not sure yet how to use it to actually make shopping a better experience. Others invest resources without any thought to the value proposition to the consumer.

Wallet is a great example of this. To large retail and financial players, wallet is one of the next new frontiers with large portions of their organization and resources pouring into this strategic space.  However, the basis for any of this should be the value proposition to the consumer. How will your solution actually improve the shopping experience for the consumer? How do you restore a sense of wonder when you walk into the store?

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Satisfy Customers with Saturated Shelves

Even in this rapidly changing world of retail, one of the keys to customer satisfaction is one of the most basic: on-shelf availability (OSA). As a consumer myself, I know the disappointment of arriving at a store only to find that the product I am looking for isn’t in stock. This problem is further magnified for brick-and-mortar retailers now that almost any out-of-stock product can be easily obtained through e-commerce sites.

But even though consumers can easily obtain unavailable products by navigating to a website with just a few clicks of a mouse or swipes of a touch screen, retailers continue to run an average of 7% out-of-stock (OOS). How does this problem manifest itself? And more importantly, how can we address it? Continue reading…

Haul Videos Focus Us on the Power of Social Shopping

When has shopping not been social for young women? Gabbing about great finds is a core value of female relationships. Now, young Millennials are taking to the web to share their passion for fashion with both friends and strangers via shopping-haul videos — and retailers are eager to get their products on camera.

“Haulers” make show-and-tell clips featuring the hauls from their latest shopping excursions. Most are homemade, shot on laptop webcams or smartphones, featuring the hostess and her loot, which she describes and displays piece by piece in loving detail. The commentary is peppered with words like “cute” and “obsessed” and shorthand like OOTD (Outfit of the Day).

It could all be viewed as breathless chatter until you consider that the most popular haulers have drawn more than 100 million views on YouTube. Or that youth-centric shops such as Forever 21 and American Eagle Outfitters have courted fans to shoot haul videos exclusively about their products. Or that more than half of all clothing purchases are either made online or are influenced by what shoppers see on the web, according to a study by Google and Compete released last month.

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For Wal-Mart, Polaris Is the Bigger Deal

A lot is being written today about Wal-Mart’s testing of a mobile app that would help shoppers avoid its long checkout lines. And while I have a few questions about how that might work, there’s a bigger Wal-Mart story out there. The world’s largest retailer is getting into the search business, unwilling to cede that valuable territory to Amazon. And given Amazon’s track record, that’s a wise move.

Scan & Go is the name of the iPhone app Wal-Mart reportedly is testing at a store near its Arkansas headquarters. Reuters broke the story, and says the app lets shoppers use their phones to scan their purchases as they place them in their carts. But that story says the app doesn’t allow users to pay for their purchases using their phones.

That’s an issue that may be addressed later, but here’s another one: How will the retailer be certain that all the items in a shopping basket have been scanned? Many self-checkout lanes require shoppers to place scanned items on a scale for verification while an employee stands nearby. It’s not clear yet how Scan & Go would address this, but it’s a safe bet it will eventually. Wal-Mart is said to spend $12 million a second on cashiers in its U.S. stores, so its motivation is obvious.

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Survey Overstates the ‘Price’ of Showrooming

This morning I read a story that quoted a study from GroupM Next regarding the likelihood a consumer would use a brick-and-mortar retail store as a showroom for an online retailer.

The study was titled, “Showrooming & The Price of Keeping Buyers In-Store” and surveyed 1,000 shoppers in the U.S. and posed 10 hypothetical showrooming scenarios. The data was fascinating:

  • 45% of consumers will convert to online for a discount of 2.5%
  • 60% of consumers will convert to online for a discount of 5%
  • If the price is $5 less online, most customers will leave the store
  • 44% of consumers are using ShopSavvy and similar apps to guide them in their buying decisions.

First, let me tell you I personally don’t believe the statistics presented in the study one bit. Simply asking someone whether or not they would leave a store and purchase from on online retailer doesn’t actually tell you what they would do in a real-world shopping situation.

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Three Ways to Keep Online Reviews Reliable

If you’ve ever tried to check out an unfamiliar hotel by reading online reviews, you know the drill: Some people love it; some people hate it. It’s hard to tell who’s right and who’s being truthful; it’s even hard to tell who’s writing. But there are ways to improve the integrity of online reviews, and by the looks of things lately, we need to use them.

A recent Time magazine article explained, “Why You Shouldn’t Trust Positive Reviews Online—Or Negative Ones, For That Matter.” Reporter Brad Tuttle wrote “it’s arguable that online user ratings and reviews are less trustworthy than ever.”

As proof he offered up a Sunday New York Times story about book authors who pay for positive reviews and the writers who churn them out by the hundreds for a fee.

That story quoted a data-mining expert as saying he estimates that a third of online reviews are fake. “The wheels of online commerce run on positive reviews,” said that expert, Bing Liu of the University of Illinois-Chicago. And that’s exactly why we have to get them right.

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Increase in Omni-Channel Shopping Brings Opportunities, Challenges

First cable, then the Internet, Internet TV and now the ever-increasing smartphone market: The number of options vying for the consumer’s attention has skyrocketed. And while this rise in omni-channel shopping represents a significant opportunity for retailers, it’s also one of the six biggest challenges facing retailers today.

Clearly, a retailer that offers multiple channels for consumers will increase their availability beyond common working hours. The ability to increase customer interaction and familiarity with brands can also help brick-and-mortar retailers feeling threatened by online giants and assist them in their efforts to address showrooming.

Many retail marketers also feel that this increasing media fragmentation offers benefits such as the ability to target specific consumer segments in a much more focused manner, to capture consumer attention for longer periods of time, and track their behavior in ways that were never before possible. Certainly an omni-channel approach makes available for promotions a much broader scope of channels than even just five years ago, adding to the complexity of store operations.

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Better for Retailers: Phone or Tablet? — Yes

Various retailing research continues to discuss the relative value of smartphones and tablets; and while it’s clear both devices have strengths, it’s not like we have to decide between them. Both tablets and smartphones have a place in the seamless shopping experience smart retailers know is our future. The real question is how to refine their roles.

The back-to-school season was the occasion for a recent survey by the National Retail Foundation, which found that more than half of smartphone owners would use their phones to shop for school and college merchandise. The same study found that nearly seven in 10 tablet owners would use their tablets to shop for those same items.

NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay was quoted as saying, “Mobile continues to drive the conversation in the retail industry, and when it comes to back-to-school, retailers have spent months preparing their mobile promotions in anticipation of one of the biggest mobile shopping seasons we’ve seen yet.”

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