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...

What Retailers Are Learning About Offering Wi-Fi

An element of the ongoing debate over showrooming is whether retailers should offer Wi-Fi in their stores. While some retailers have drawn a virtual line in the sand, others have rushed to meet the growing consumer demand for the service. And they’ve made some interesting discoveries.

First and foremost, free Wi-Fi has come to be seen as a perk by consumers. It shows that a business is working to create a premium shopping experience for its customers. That can be anything from giving a shopper the ability to quickly send a photo of a dress she’s interested in to someone whose opinion she trusts, to sending the message that business clients are welcome to stay as long as they like at a café or restaurant.

There are certain bragging rights that now come with demonstrating that one’s business is able to meet its patrons’ technology needs. One never knows if and when Wi-Fi service could be the deciding factor in choosing one spot over a competitor. Continue reading…

Numbers Explain Walmart’s Interest in Online Sales Tax Bill

Brick-and-mortar retailers looking for Online Marketplace Fairness will likely have to wait a while for it despite the efforts of the world’s largest retailer.

Sure, the House Judiciary Committee heard testimony on Tuesday on a bill that would allow states to impose sales taxes on online sales. Some small brick-and-mortar retailers say they need the tax levy to help level the playing field with But the timing is less than ideal politically.

“In this election season, any reference to tax increase, especially for a conservative Republican, is toxic,” Rep. Steve Womack, one of the sponsors of the Online Marketplace Fairness Act, told Politico. The Arkansas Republican told Bloomberg News, “This is Wal-Mart’s top issue, if not one of their top issues.” The company that once shunned lobbying is said to be boosting political contributions and staffing up its Washington office. The Bloomberg story reveals the likely reason for the shift in political strategy:

“Last year, Seattle-based Amazon’s sales grew 41 percent to $48.1 billion. Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart increased U.S. sales at its namesake stores 1.5 percent to $264.2 billion.”

The story goes on to quote a London research firm as saying that while only about a quarter of Walmart customers shopped at Amazon five years ago, about half say they do so now. The firm estimated Walmart generates less than 2 percent of its revenue online. To improve its online sales, Walmart is said to be acquiring social-media companies and technology firms in Silicon Valley.

Recognizing your vulnerabilities, investing in innovative technologies, and making your case to legislators: Those all seem like reasonable strategies in uncertain times, no matter your business, no matter your politics.

Alexander Muse is CEO of ShopSavvy.

At Penney, Technology Fuels Transformation

“It’s really complicated to see the future, but people will discover it as time goes on.” That’s the view of JC Penney CEO Ron Johnson, who sees the future of retailing more clearly than most and has some great ideas about how to get there.

“We’re trying to simplify internally and transform externally,” the former Apple senior vice president says. “And you’ll see massive change in the next six months and year in-store with technology.”

Among the plans he discussed at last week’s Fortune Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen: Installing advanced Wi-Fi networks in all stores, using RFID technology in ticketing, and rolling out mobile checkout. Johnson’s goal is that by the end of 2013, JC Penney will eliminate the checkout counter. Some 10 percent of the chain’s expenses are related to transactions, he said, and cutting that expense means more resources can be devoted to service.

You go to the Apple Store you feel the people, the connection. You go to most retail stores all you see people doing work to execute the retail strategy. It’s stocking shelves and transacting business. That’s going to all change because of how we use Wi-Fi, RFID, mobile checkout. You’ll be able to check out anywhere, anytime, from anyone including yourself. Continue reading…

The Rest of the Best Buy Story and Why It Matters

There’s been no shortage of news about Best Buy, and much of it looks bad. Predictably, most of the media coverage is focused on layoffs and store closings; and much of the blame is on showrooming. But Best Buy is taking steps that show it’s prepared to compete in a rapidly changing retail environment — steps that retailers of any size should consider.

“We are committed to changing in fundamental ways,” Interim CEO Mike Mikan said at the company’s annual meeting of shareholders, adding that he was working on a plan to make Best Buy “more relevant, more intelligent, more nimble.” Of customers, Mikan said, “Their needs have changed,” and, “we, unfortunately, have not.”

Among the many changes in customer needs, perhaps the most discussed is their desire for information, which is reflected in their increased use of mobile phones while in stores. The Pew Internet & American Life Project quantified that trend in its familiar study that found more than half of adult mobile phone users used their phones while in a store to get help with buying decisions. Though Pew said that just 25 percent of those users sought information about pricing, the study helped further demonize showrooming, when a consumer visits a brick-and-mortar retailer to investigate a product and then purchases it online.

“Improving the customer experience, delivering the best price, and strengthening our technical expertise are key to our strategy for reversing the practice of showrooming,” Mikan told his shareholders. Let’s take those three strategies one at a time and look at what Best Buy reportedly is doing in each area. Continue reading…

The 4 P’s of Mobile Marketing

As already mentioned before, you can offer many functionalities to your customers on their smartphones. The real question you need to ask yourself is: “what are the key messages they want from you?” From this starting point, you can decide the way you’ll present them.

This question seems a bit complicated, but its answer is nothing more than simple marketing theory: apply the 4 P’s!

According to a study from Google, smartphone users search four main elements on their smartphone when shopping:
1. Place: 56% search for a store where they can buy
2. Price: 49% compare prices
3. Promotions: 48% are looking for promotions and coupons
4. Product: 44% search for products

The question is then easier: “How may you communicate about your 4 P’s on your customers’ mobiles?”

1 – Attract customers to your shops:

In the majority of the cases, customers are looking for a shop where they can buy your products. They’ll use their smartphone when they don’t have access to their computer. By offering a smooth and smartphone-designed way to find the shops, you’ll secure their visit inside your stores. There are several ways to present the stores. Continue reading…

What’s Wrong With Mobile Payments?

The last few years have seen plenty of big players in banking and technology working hard to push near field communication (NFC) technologies to control the wallet. The theory has been if you can control the wallet, you gain strategic advantages and marketing insights into the customer that are very valuable and can be leveraged across a larger business.

While the resulting battles have been interesting, what problem are we solving? How are we making the shopping experience better? Is the credit card really broken? What’s the value proposition for consumers? What about for retailers?

People have charged ahead without answering these questions and as a result we have penetration rates on mobile phones in the single digits. That doesn’t mean NFC is dead; it just means the answers around payments probably will come from players not yet in the game.

Make it about more than payments

One candidate is retailers, who need to challenge their business models and improve the shopping experience using technology. Restoring a sense of fun and wonder for customers in stores could help them turn the tide. But they’ll need to find a value proposition for themselves as well as improve on the tried and true credit card. Continue reading…

Why Consumers Can’t Find You Online

Research shows that local search listings are now more important than any other type of listing because they provide the information searchers want quickly (URL, address, phone, coupons, operating hours, reviews, etc.). Local search listings were also found to be trustworthy because they immediately provide the relevant information consumers need to make a purchase decision.

Gone are the days of “surfing the web.” Today’s consumers want to find information quickly, and they search with a purpose. They want to find information in the shortest time possible since many of them search on the go. By 2014, more users will access the web from mobile devices than from desktops and laptops — a shift that continues to accelerate.

Relevant local search results

With national advertisers dominating paid search, consumers searching the web for a local business near home will often get the closest national chain, which may or may not be the closest option. This leaves consumers dubious about web search because merchants close by are not found at the top.

This is why consumers go to local search, which has business listings and provides the best way for consumers to connect with businesses close to where they live and work. The popularity of location-based apps and social networks make it even more important for search results to produce business listings based on a searcher’s location. Needless to say, these listings must be accurate in providing phone numbers, directions, and so forth. Continue reading…

Target and Neiman Marcus Give a Lesson in Partnerships

The announcement that Target and Neiman Marcus will partner on a collection for the holidays was a headline writer’s dream. “Retail’s New Odd Couple,” proclaimed The Wall Street Journal, while The Tulsa World said, “Target and Neiman Marcus will be spending Christmas together.” But when you dig down, you see something we all should be doing: Being honest about our strengths and our needs and finding partners to help us meet those needs and play to those strengths.

The collection to debut Dec. 1 will run for three weeks at both stores and on their respective websites. The 50 pieces will come from 24 American designers, and be priced between $7.99 and $499.99. Each chain will offer the same items at the same price, and the tags on each will include a combined logo.

What does each side get?

Obviously, with this deal Target gets to bask in the considerable aura of Neiman Marcus. But it also gets exclusive lines, which have helped it in the past. And it gets access to designers that previously might have shied away from Target. Continue reading…

Customer Loyalty in a Mobile World

With smartphones in the hands of so many consumers, customer loyalty has been forever changed. And while mobile has caught the interest of retailers, some are not sure yet how to exploit it to manage long-term relationships.

It’s abundantly clear that mobile provides an unprecedented opportunity for brands, retailers and shoppers to connect with one another. With it marketers can create more targeted, real-time conversations with consumers as they explore products and brands in the retail environment.

The challenge will be tool selection. There are a lot of ways to get from A to B; some can come from retailers, some from technology companies, and some from brands. The right mix of tools and timing will be the critical thing to get right.

Replace old approaches with new experiences

But the biggest challenge is not to let your brand fall into the same old buckets of ideas that we’ve had for the last 10 years. You can use old, cookie-cutter molds or you can try and create new experiences. The technology and context we have now in mobile is immensely powerful. If you are running a campaign or a strategy, you have to think creatively about how you can push the technology to really advance your brand. Continue reading…

Report Confirms Consumers Expect Seamless Shopping

A new report based on an international survey confirms how much shoppers want — and expect — a seamless integration of retail experiences across online, social media, mobile and physical stores.

The report from the consulting firm Capgemini, titled “Digital Shopper Relevancy,” surveyed 16,000 digital shoppers in 16 countries. Some 60 percent of respondents said they expect the convergence of retail channels to be the norm by 2014, when a unified shopping experience is expected to become commonplace. However, more than half of shoppers said that most retailers currently are not consistent in the way they present themselves across channels.

The report confirms that the Internet remains the dominant channel, with 80 percent of respondents in developing markets saying the Internet was important or very important and 63 percent in mature markets. While, this is closely followed by e-mail interaction, channels such as social media, mobile apps and in-store kiosks are growing in popularity.

It also provided insights into digital-savvy shoppers. The study highlighted that 56 percent of respondents are likely to spend more money at a physical store if they had used digital channels to research the product prior to purchase. However, 73 percent of respondents also expect online prices to be lower than those in physical stores. Continue reading…