Friday, February 27, 2015

Key trends for retail technology in 2015: the rise of hyper-personalisation

Trends in customer experience management

By World of tech 
This year, customer experience management will be mostly focused on customer personas, rather than portfolios. It is increasingly critical for retailers to innovate in terms of customer experience to keep shoppers engaged.
Only by serving the changing needs, preferences and behavior of the customer, will retailers and brands be able to meet today's hyper-connected consumers on their terms, across all channels of interaction.

The rise of hyper-personalization

Over the course of last year, we saw a spike in customer expectations for bespoke personalisation across all brand interactions. Sephora's Beauty Insider loyalty programme allows shoppers to save "loves" and purchases (both online and in-store) in a Beauty Bag, and also leverages a shopper's profile to link specific customer attributes (such as skin tone) with products for sale within the store. Information is accessible across devices – even on iPads at store counters. By providing relevant, accurate services in exchange for customer data, Sephora is paving the way in persona-driven customer innovations.
Real-time interaction with customers across omni-channel platforms signified another key milestone last year. Retailers can use information from online buying behaviour to serve customers at the point of sale based on the relevant input he or she needs. This closes the gap between online and physical shopping experiences that previously created headaches for a lot of retail brands.
Customers want this, too, because they can get better offers and more tailored recommendations to what they want, when they want it. We currently partner with retailers to deliver what we call "Relevance in Store." By combining customer data gathered online and in-store, retailers can deliver a customer experience centred on value and convenience in exchange for customer information, and enabled by new apps and mobile technologies such as iBeacon.

How personalisation is influencing brands and retailers

The concept of data science as a skillset within a retail environment has become more significant. Data scientists understand customer data and can leverage open source technologies to rapidly develop scalable ways to synchronise in-store data with online intelligence for better services and recommendations. This can be very disruptive at first, but if it's executed well, it is a very rewarding experience that can generate a lot more value for the business, and for the customer too.

Gartner has predicted that by 2017, 89% of marketing leaders expect customer experience to be their primary basis for competitive differentiation. To align the organisation's investment in people, processes and technologies for this initiative, Gartner further recommends that businesses should hire a chief customer officer if they haven't done so already.

In spite of intentions to create consistent cross-channel experiences, today's shopper experience is a highly disjointed one, driven largely by the fact that retailers rely on legacy systems, disparate databases and applications that cannot speak to one another. As a cross-functional leader, the chief customer officer can help unify these disparate experiences and drive a truly seamless experience that bridges all customer touch points.

Data science will add the extra layer of customer intelligence to help retailers deliver more personalised, more relevant, and more meaningful campaigns that suit individual shoppers' needs.

Mobile and iBeacon technologies will be another key trend that will shake up the customer experience management in 2015. Some retailers have already started experimenting with some degree of success.

As consumers upgrade their smartphones with new apps and location-based functionalities, retailers will have more accurate, geo-based data to pinpoint specific promotional offers and concierge services for shoppers as they walk across the shop floor.

To view the original article please visit:

The new shopping behavior that is creating big challenges for the retail industry

Shoppers browse merchandise at an Old Navy store in San Francisco.(David Paul Morris/Bloomberg)

February 11

Think back to December, when you were in the thick of your Christmas shopping.  How did you pick out that perfect scarf you put under the Christmas tree for your sister?  How did you know you got a good price on those Beats by Dre headphones for your nephew?

If you’re like most shoppers, the answer is likely that you did plenty of research before opening your wallet.

The Web has made it easier than ever for consumers to make price comparisons and to access product reviews, and that has meant that today’s shoppers are frequently armed with reams of research by the time they pull the trigger on a purchase.  And they’re not making impulse buys like they were in the days before the recession.

This dynamic is creating major challenges for retailers, who must now figure out how to thrive in an era when the consumer is ultra-knowledgeable–in many cases, more knowledgeable than the store’s own sales staff.

A new study of U.S. consumers, conducted by professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, shows just how prolific this shopping behavior is becoming.

In its annual shopping survey, PwC asked shoppers how likely they are to conduct research before making specific types of purchases, including everything from jewelry to toys to clothes.   As you can see in the chart below, the share of shoppers who did not conduct research was already fairly small in every category back in 2013.  But more striking is how much the figure decreased in every category in 2014.  In each case, significantly fewer shoppers are not researching before they buy.

This may not seem especially surprising if you remember the “showrooming” panic that became a fixation for brick-and-mortar retailers several years ago.  Back then, they were worried that shoppers were coming into their stores to try on or test out merchandise, only to go home and purchase them online from or another e-commerce competitor.

But that perceived threat hasn’t quite materialized the way many retailers expected.  In fact, the PwC survey, along with many other recent research studies,  suggests that “showrooming” is far less common than its opposite, a practice the industry has dubbed “Webrooming,” in which people browse online before ultimately going to a store to make a purchase.

So here is the gauntlet that consumers have thrown down for retailers:  They continue to want to shop in physical stores in large numbers–for now, only about 7 percent of purchases in the U.S. are made online.

But by the time they get to the store, shoppers already know exactly what they want, and they want to get in and out of the store quickly.  And this attitude makes it extremely hard for retailers to upsell them on a fancier kitchen mixer or persuade them of the merits of buying a protective case for their smartphone.  And it makes it hard for them to provide outstanding customer service, since store clerks now have to assist shoppers who might are already be experts on what they’re buying.

The silver lining in this data for traditional retailers is that it makes clear that stores are hardly becoming an obsolete part of the shopping process.  In many of the categories above, including grocery, sports equipment and even consumer electronics, more than half of consumers want to visit a store at some point in their path to purchase.  And so even in the digital era, those expensive store leases are still playing a critical role in driving sales.

To view the original article please visit: The Washington Post

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Six Components Needed to Develop a Beautiful Website

Why Your Website Matters

Casual, dress, men’s, women’s or kid’s – no matter what type of product line you carry, there’s likely a customer out there who wants to buy it. Today, nearly 81% of customers search for products online – before they make purchases in a physical retail store or online. Customers conduct their searches across multiple online channels. Their journey includes online social platforms such as Fancy, Pinterest, Instagram, and ShopStyle, as well as department store e-commerce sites and promotional fashion aggregator sites. On average, consumers visited five unique places (at least three online merchants and two brick-and-mortar stores) before finally making their purchase.

Brands face the challenge of not only attracting people to their products, but also compelling them to make purchases. Thus, it’s important that brands develop their own websites with the necessary information and content in order to help their brand be discovered and accessible to buyers and consumers alike. Below we’ve created a list of six successful components of online websites:

Make Your Brand Accessible to Consumers and Buyers

In order to drive customer awareness and demand for your footwear line, whether it be from your buyers or consumers, your product and brand information must be readily accessible online. Footwear brand websites should provide customers with information on where to find, how to connect with, and how to purchase a brand’s products. Your website acts as a window to your brand’s world. It tells your story, showcases your uniqueness and product capability, and gives you credibility.

A great example is Jessica Simpson’s website. The brand, licensed by The Camuto Group, lists the retailers currently selling Jessica Simpson products and connects the brand’s base to relevant social media platforms. The most important part of this site is that it provides specific contact and acquisition information for all types of customers.

Develop A Mobile-First Mentality

Did you know that as of May 2014, 83% of global shoppers who use mobile devices plan to make a mobile purchase in the coming year and that 34% those users are not using some other device (such as a desktop or laptop computer) to access the internet? That’s right, their only way to access information is through their mobile devices (smartphones and tablets). Mobile devices are becoming the single most important way that customers shop.

While it may seem advanced, your footwear website should take into account mobile access. You must understand how and where your customers access retail information. Plain and simple, mobile matters and it’s crucial your website adapts to mobile searching and purchasing habits. Creating a website that only looks good when surfing the web from your laptop or desktop computer is no longer sufficient. Your web pages and e-commerce sites should be designed with responsive elements in order to make them mobile- and tablet-friendly. As you build your websites and overall digital strategies, make sure you adopt a mobile-first mentality.

Invest In Quality Photography

Since customers may not be able to visit your brick-and-mortar store to try on your shoes and closely examine every detail, quality product photos are crucial. Not only should the photos be clear, but the more photos, (from a variety of angles) the better. Allowing customers to zoom in on specific parts of a shoe, see the shoe in all of its available color variations, or view an outfit example all help customers get a better idea of how a shoe would look, feel, and fit in-person.

Beyond demonstrating how the product looks, quality photos also reflect on your brand itself. Higher quality photos in terms of lighting, resolution, and design layout reflect a higher quality brand. Providing lifestyle shots also helps customers understand how to wear a product, as well as put that season’s collection into context with trends that they may be looking to buy.

A great example of a footwear designer that highlights their products well is Dolce Vita. In the image above, Dolce Vita uses lifestyle photography to highlight a key shoe for its A/W 2014 collection and further builds out the shoe’s details with crisp product shots (see below). The pictures illustrate the shoe from a range of angles, set against a clean, white background, to help customers picture how the shoe might wear in-person. The photography on the site is clean, fresh, and aesthetically-pleasing, with minimal text that complements the photography style.

Social Media Is A Connective Tool

Social media is the ultimate tool for providing customer experience. As a footwear brand, it’s important to establish a presence on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest for the sake of owning your brand identity and driving traffic to your website. Since 2006, we’ve seen brands flock to social media in droves. Now, in 2014, the use of social media has become more important than ever, as social platforms allow you to connect and engage with customers directly. This direct form of connection, especially through Facebook or Twitter, creates an open line of communication from the brand to the customer and the customer to the brand. If a customer is searching for something, has a question or other need/issue, most often they’ll seek a brand’s social channels in order to expedite a resolution.

People follow brands on different online platforms, depending on the information they want to know or communicate. They’ll follow an Instagram feed to be inspired or follow a Pinterest board to find trends. This ease of access has raised the bar for brands. Don’t just create a Facebook or Twitter page and leave it blank. Instead, use these pages to create a consistent and continuous dialogue with your customers and elevate their brand experience. If they’re tweeting about how much they love your product, acknowledge them. Tweet back and thank them for their support, and maybe follow up with a question to continue the conversation. If they’re posting on your Facebook page about a terrible in-store retail experience, respond in real-time. Acknowledge the mistake, take responsibility, and create new incentives for them to try your product again.

Through creating a great dialogue, you can also utilize your platforms to communicate with customers about promotional deals, discounts, and new product offerings. Do so frequently and consistently across social platforms to help translate social followings into actual customers - and sales!

Merchandise Your Line To Drive Interest and Excitement

Merchandising your site is one of the best ways to highlight your products and enable product discovery. Often, customers do not know what they want until they’re presented with options. Remember that old adage that we tell consumers what they want? Whether you are selling your products through your site directly or simply using your site to showcase your product offerings, merchandising or organizing your products in a fresh and exciting way will create incentives for customers to search, click through, and buy your products.

Gilt Groupe, for example, highlights products in categories such as “Shoe Guide: Shop by Category” and “The Summer Essentials Shop.” Re-organizing products on your site and grouping them into new categories helps showcase your products in a new light, adding freshness to your site.

Create Relevant and Meaningful Product Descriptions

Product descriptions should be both relevant and meaningful to customers. In a retail store, consumers can try on a shoe and get a feel for the fit, color, texture, materials, and other key design elements. The same information applies to buyers. Both the buyer and end consumer care about how and where a product is made. Assume customers want answers to these questions immediately when perusing your site and make these answers easy-to-find and concise on product pages.

Hunter, for example, provides a detailed description of the size, fit, materials, and care of its boots on all of its product pages.  In bullet point format, product information is easy to read and helpful for the customer to know. Hunter also provides additional resources including a size chart and a video on how to clean your Hunter boots.

Getting Started For Online Success

By incorporating the above six components, you’re off to a great start in developing your online marketing strategy. The next step - building your site. When choosing what services to use for a custom website, medium to larger brands with e-commerce initiatives often look to Ebay’s Magento or Amazon to expand their online businesses. Other solutions exist that can become quite pricey, but Amazon and Magento offer solutions for all sorts of brand sizes. If you’re a smaller brand, however, and are just getting started with taking your business online, below are three hosted website services that are worth exploring.


Wix is a free, customizable cloud-based web development platform that allows you to create mobile- and Google-optimized web pages. With hundreds of HTML5 template designs from which to choose, Wix allows users to create aesthetically-pleasing and user-friendly web pages. Beyond its free offerings, Wix also allows users to upgrade to subscription-based plans on a monthly or yearly basis (between $4 - $30 per month). Subscriptions offer features such as e-commerce, allowing users to sell goods to customers through their website, as well as web domain purchasing and web e-mail boxes. Two standard footwear web page templates can be found here and here.


Squarespace is a slightly more robust platform for brands to use that offers more specialty features. The platform is mobile-friendly (responsive design), offers hundreds of template designs, photography layout options (by product categories and collections), SEO, social integration, and online metrics. It also allows you to integrate e-commerce into your site. Beyond its customizable, hosted website service, Squarespace offers guides on topics such as how to integrate with third-party providers (PayPal, MailChimp, Etsy, etc.) and connect your social media accounts to your website, as well as offers free video workshops on how to best build your site. Squarespace costs $8 to $24 per month.


Unlike Squarespace, Shopify is primarily an e-commerce platform. Using Shopify’s easy-to-understand content and product management system, footwear designers can easily create an amazing site online without a lot of technical knowledge. For retailers, Shopify offers in-store options for smaller retailers and boutiques, acting like a POP system, while also powering a retailer’s small site. For designers and brands, Shopify can power just about any type of e-commerce site.

If you want to use Squarespace as your primary website and Shopify for your e-commerce site, add custom domain mapping to do so. Shopify also gives you more robust marketing tools such as analytics to reduce shopping cart abandonment and other tools to help you manage payments in up to 70 countries, set shipping rates, and even integrate with Amazon’s fulfillment center to help streamline your e-commerce operation. A great Shopify example is Greats, a company that seeks to be the Warby Parker of shoes! Shopify pricing starts at $14 per month and goes up to $179 per month with transaction fees.


In today’s ever-evolving digital age, it’s important to meet the needs of your footwear brand’s target audiences. A great web presence is the first step in establishing long-term business success. These six tips and the resources found in this article are a great starting point. Have you had success with establishing your online presence? Tell us in the comments below.

Images: Jessica Simpson, Gilt Groupe, Dolce Vita, Bergdorf Goodman, Hunter, Wix, Squarespace, Shopify

To view the original article please visit:

Monday, February 23, 2015

3 Ecommerce Trends You Need to Know for a Profitable 2015

3 Ecommerce Trends You Need to Know for a Profitable 2015

Yesterday we published our annual Year in Review. It’s a look back at the state of the commerce industry and the growth of the Shopify ecosystem and platform.
Because Shopify now powers 140,000+ businesses, this data provides good insight into where ecommerce trends as a whole appear to be headed, and can help you prepare for 2015 and beyond.

1. One third of ecommerce sales are now happening on mobile devices

One of the major revelations was that in 2014, ⅓ of ecommerce orders were coming from a mobile device rather than a computer. (Click to tweet)
This is up from 23% the year prior, and just 12% when we started tracking this back in 2012.
That means that in only 2 years, mobile’s contribution to total sales has skyrocketed by 175%.
This by itself is impressive, but coupled with findings from earlier this year that found mobile ecommerce traffic overtaking computers for the first time in history (and increasing since then), and you can see that focusing on the mobile experience is becoming difficult to ignore.
Further reading and additional resources: 

2. Social “discovery commerce” is on the rise

The increase in mobile phone traffic to online stores is partly being fuelled by another trend: the rise of social-fuelled product discovery and effective social ad targeting.
For example, we recently found that while Facebook accounted for less than 5% of traffic to ecommerce sites on desktop, that number jumps to 7% when looking at mobile phones. In comparison, search based traffic from Google represented 18% of traffic from computers, but just 12% on mobile phones.
This data seems to show that computers are being used to search for more commodity-type goods, while social media and mobile are used for more spontaneous, discovery-based purchases. And those purchases are on the rise.
In 2014 ecommerce orders coming from social media grew a staggering 202%. (Click to tweet)
While much of the Facebook traffic may also be coming from paid ads, it also demonstrates how Facebook is maturing as an advertising platform and how our ad savvy store owners have been able to capitalize on the new advertising products Facebook has developed.
But Facebook is not the only platform driving results for merchants. In fact, earlier this year we reported that certain industries were actually generating a significant amount of orders from secondary platforms.
We expect social commerce to continue to be an important trend in 2015 for both online and offline retail.
Further reading and additional resources:

3. “Always-on shopping” is now a reality

People are now shopping wherever and whenever is convenient for them. This could be on a desktop at work, on a phone while commuting, or in bed while on Facebook. This highlights how it important it is for merchants to provide a flexible buying experience that adapts to their customers buying habits.
Here's an hourly breakdown of sales in a typical day to show how and when people shop. The most popular time to buy online is weekdays between 12-2pm and on Sunday evenings. (Click to tweet)
If you’re a PPC advertiser, this data can act as a starting model for day-parting and segmenting your ad campaigns based on device and channel.
While you should always use your own data as the basis for decision making, you might find it useful to see how your analytics stack up against these peak times.
Further reading and additional resources:

To see the original article please visit:

Highlights from the 2015 Oscars

Favorite Speeches
Patricia Arquette’s speech was both heartfelt and stirring with her call to action for women’s rights in America.
To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s time to have wage equality once and for all. And equal rights for women in the United States of America.”
Plus it garnered this reaction from Meryl Streep which says it all.
Graham Moore’s win for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Imitation Game started off funny and lighthearted, but ended up being such a beautiful inspiration for everyone who feels out of place in life.
I tried to commit suicide at 16 and now I'm standing here. I would like for this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she doesn’t fit in anywhere. You do. Stay weird. Stay different, and then when it's your turn and you are standing on this stage please pass the same message along."

It’s always so refreshing and wonderful to watch an actor win the Oscar and be completely ecstatic about it. When Eddie Redmayne won his speech  began with pure excitement and gratitude:
"Thank you, thank you," he began. "Thank you to the Academy. I don't think I'm capable of articulating quite how I feel right now. I am fully aware that I am a lucky, lucky man. This Oscar—wow!"
He then took the time to bring awareness to ALS and the Hawking Family whose story made it all possible- “Um, this Oscar... This belongs to all of those people around the world battling ALS. It belongs to one exceptional family, Stephen, Jane, Jonathan, and the Hawking children.”

Favorite Bits
Common and John Legend performed “Glory” their Best Song Nominee from the film Selma that garnered not only a standing ovation, but brought the audience to tears. They then went on to win and give a very profound speech on inequality in America.
Neil Patrick Harris may be hearing mixed reviews on his hosting duties last night, but this Birdman bit made us laugh out loud. We especially love how Myles Teller jumped in on the action.

The Lego Movie wasn’t nominated for Best Animated Feature, but their musical number during the show definitely woke everyone up! It was a combination of music, famous faces, Lego Oscar statues, and pure awesomeness!

 Favorite Fashion Choices

Cate Blanchett in Martin Margiela Couture

David Oyelowo in Dolce & Gabbana

Emma Stone in Elie Saab Houte Couture
Sophie Hunter in Lanvin with Benedict Cumberbatch 

Margot Robbie in Saint Laurent

Rosamund Pike in Givenchy

Jennifer Aniston in Versace and Justin Theroux
 Joanna Newsom in Honor 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Five Ways Fashion Brands Can Succeed at Instagram

By: Macala Wright
Monday, December 29 2014
It’s the old adage that we’ve all heard before: a picture is worth a thousand words.

What if that picture was on Instagram featuring a fabulous model flaunting a Michael Kors handbag? For fashion brands, that picture could be worth thousands of dollars in revenue. Over the last three and a half years, a dramatic shift has taken place in the e-commerce landscape. The rise of visual social networks has allowed consumers to naturally interact with products, thus creating a new wave of influence and revenue opportunities for brands and retailers on Instagram.

Do you think you can afford to discard Instagram from your overall marketing strategy? Think again. Here are the picture-perfect facts:
  • According to Piqora, Instagram now has  200M members and an engagement rate that is 25% higher than any other social platform.
  • Instagram users spend an average of 3.7 hours on the app every month. When it comes to fashion, an L2 research study revealed that Instagram users spend an average of 257 minutes on the platform each month. That is over two days per year!
  • That same study also showed that Instagram ads helped retailers increase ad recall by 32% and brand message lifts by 10%.
  • Millennials trust user-generated content 50% more than other media, according to Mashable.
  • eMarketer’s latest forecast predicts that by the end of 2014, almost 25% of US smart phone users will upload a photo to Instagram on a monthly basis.

Inspire Your Customers
Piqora wrote, “Instagram is a platform to build emotional bonds – an opportunity for brands to show their values, personalities, passions and ethos.”  For footwear brands, Instagram is the perfect platform for your brand to show (and not tell), which is why several companies inspire their customers every day on the rapidly growing photo-sharing platform.

Nike is the perfect example of a brand that sets the bar for Instagram inspiration. Nike will feature several beautiful photos of an athlete overcoming a huge hurdle or accomplishing a great feat with the hashtag #justdoit. When brands inspire, customers engage – and they are showing it with dollars! Social collaborations may also be a great way to inspire fans while humanizing your brand by leveraging the power of influencers.

Humanize Your Brand
Customers want to know more about your brand – beyond the latest product launch. It is about the connection. Customers are curious about the people behind the designs, your company values and role in the community. If your company is Made in America, upload a behind-the-scenes photo of where your products are crafted. If your designer has an incredible story, upload a picture of your designer creating sketches. Giving your customers visual context through Instagram allows them to connect to your brand on a much deeper level.

Humanizing your brand relates to engaging your audience. This summer, Marc by Marc Jacobs turned model casting calls into a social media contest on Instagram. The #CastMeMarc campaign asked users to take pictures and tag them #CastMeMarc. The week-long contest received nearly 70,000 submissions. Nine lucky winners appeared in the Marc by Marc Jacobs fall campaign, which launched in August of 2014.  70,000 submissions resulted in millions of social impressions, PR coverage, and most of all, visual fan engagement through “hearts” and comments.

Enable Widgets + Virtual Styling

Engaging your customers with unique website widgets has the potential to drive consumer sales and increase your site’s conversion rate. Brands like Steve Madden, Puma, Cole Haan, Brooks and Sperry Top Sider found incredible success with Olapic, a tool that helps increase sales by pulling consumer photos from Instagram (usually via hashtag) into the e-commerce experience where it is featured with the product for sale. When consumers engage with these types of widgets, the conversion rate is much higher compared to consumers who do not engage with these widgets. According to Olapic’s research, 9.6% of visitors who interact with customer photos convert. This technology allows brands to become content curators of the most authentic asset available to their brand: user-generated content.

Often women have a hard time styling an outfit, how many times have you asked a friend if something looked good? Using social recommendation behavior, footwear retailer Zappos created Glance, and developed a creative way to shop Instagram with #nextOOTD. With it, Instagram users shoot an outfit and tag it with #nextOOTD. Anyone who does this will recieve personalized shopping recommendations based on their Instagram history and style.

Create a Virtual Storefront

If you’re a smaller brand or retailer without an established e-commerce site, start with Instagram. Snap and upload pictures of your products and include product descriptions in the photo caption. Then, you can finalize sales with tools like PayPal. Opening your storefront on Instagram is a fun, easy and cost effective way to provide visually rich content that increases consumer purchase intent. While Instagram does not yet allow clickable external links, that does not stop retailers from leveraging the power of this application. A creative tip from smaller retailers is to create a check-in location for your store or company with the purchase URL in the description.

Establish Platform Goals and Metrics

Due to its visual nature, Instagram audiences for brands hold the highest engagement rates (4.21%) of all social media platforms, including Twitter (.03%) and Facebook (.07%). So in essence, Instagram is your brand’s story in pictures and video. It is as diverse and dynamic as you want it to be. As you tell your story, you need to set concrete goals to measure and benchmark your marketing efforts against.
●If you want to build brand awareness, look at the type of content your users are interacting with the most.
●If you want to drive sales traffic, look at how you are optimizing pictures for that.  For instance, are Soldsie, Keep or Like2Buy part of your strategy?
By following the above steps, you will be able to put Instagram to work for you in order to drive brand success.

More Tools For Success

There are numerous free, cost effective solutions to help any marketer develop their Instragram marketing strategies. Piqoura offers an online webinar and a marketing guide for all fashion brands. If you want to find brands to follow and receive inspiration from, check out Totems. Simply Measured also offer free Instagram assessment tools and blog posts on how to be competitive with your visual content.
Do you have resources for Instagram marketing success? Share them with us @FNPlatform on Twitter or Instagram!

To view the original article please visit:

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

How Independent Retailers Can Thrive Among the Big-Box Stores

This one’s for the boutique brands, the Main Street mom-and-pops, the local chains built from the ground up. Independent retailers. They may not have the national visibility and sheer resources of mega-chains like Target and Wal-Mart, but that is often the key to their success. The best independent retailers offer truly unique products and experiences that can’t be found anywhere else.

Last week, flexReceipts announced that we would be providing our technology to five independent retailers, including three clothing brands, a china manufacturer and a surf shop in Del Mar, California. By combining custom digital receipts with a comprehensive system of analytics, flexReceipts is ideal for independent retailers trying to carve out their niche. However, there are also many other steps a small retailer can take to compete with the big names.

Get to know your customers: One of the main appeals of the classic mom and pop store is a sense of friendliness. National corporations and chains, in contrast, are often seen as faceless and uncaring, treating customers as merely numbers toward the bottom line. With local reach and a much smaller pool of customers, it’s easy for independent retailers to offer a personalized customer experience, which often even means getting to know the regulars by name. This doesn’t mean you should forgo statistics and analytics. On the contrary, keeping track of things like shopping habits and demographics allow you to delve into exactly who your customers are and what they want. Email receipt programs are also a good way to capture an email address so you can create a consumer profile and start monitoring how your customers shop over time.

Social media is your friend: It’s the great equalizer. Any business, regardless of size, revenue or resources, can create a Facebook page or Twitter account for no cost. The key to success, of course, is in the execution.  Independent retailers should strive to frequently post content they know will engage their current and potential customers, and make an effort to respond to every single person who posts to their page or mentions their product. Social media should be an extension of the experience customers would find in-store or on the e-commerce website.

Tell your story: Everyone has one, but you don’t often hear about the ones from big-box retailers. The guy standing in line at Wal-Mart with a hundred other people probably doesn’t care about how the Waltons made their first billion. Independent retailers, on the other hand, have a chance to connect with their customers by letting them know how they got there and where they are going. In-store, in marketing and advertising, and on social media, the focus should not just be on the products or services, but on what makes your business unique and interesting. Doing so can make your customers feel that, buy patronizing your business, they are becoming part of something special.

Adapt to survive: Technology and consumer tastes are constantly changing. Lacking fallbacks like large-scale corporate backing and national brand recognition, independent retailers must adapt to these changes as quickly and efficiently as possible. Stay on top of the latest trends in your industry or field. Pay close attention to your customers buying habits. Adopt up-and-coming technology and social media early. Not only will this allow your business to survive, it could give you a crucial edge on competitors.

To see the original article please visit:

Monday, February 16, 2015

A Look At The Retail Model Of The Future

By: Barbara Thau

Changing consumer shopping tastes and expectations are quietly transforming the retail industry.

Shoppers  increasingly crave instant gratification, one-of-a-kind merchandise and are cozying up to the idea of borrowing goods versus buying them.

As a result, the shopping model of the near future is poised to look radically different from just a decade ago, and retailers that don’t keep pace with changing tastes are setting themselves up for a rude awakening, at best, or extinction, according to Bashar Nejdawi, president of Ingram Micro Mobility, North America, a provider of technology and supply chain services.
For one, “In five years, consumer electronics stores as we know them today won’t even exist, and the same rings true for our favorite apparel brands,” he told Forbes.

“Technological innovations and a hyper-connected world have significantly influenced consumer behaviors and expectations. As a result, retailers are faced with a scary reality: change or become obsolete.”

Nejdawi detailed what he pinpoints as the three seminal consumer expectations fueling this shift in the retail landscape: instant gratification, borrowing and customization.

Instant Gratification
“Companies like Uber, Grub Hub, and Amazon have forever changed the way consumers think about service and how they go about their daily lives. They are no longer willing to wait for a taxi on the corner without knowing when it will arrive or trust the restaurant that promises delivery within 45 minutes. Instead, consumers want as much information at their fingertips as possible and as soon as possible.

“It’s becoming increasingly more common for retailers to rely on their supply chain partners to become the system of record for their inventory. Retailers will send their data to the third party logistics provider or link their POS [point-of-sale] system with them in order to provide an up-to-date, holistic view of what’s immediately available on store shelves, thus satisfying the consumer’s need for immediate access to information. As such, retailers must be able to deliver an intuitive experience in stores and online or they will lose customers’ loyalty.”

“What happened to the Boomers’ American dream of owning their first car or home? Today, we ‘Rent the Runway,’ ‘Zip car’ ourselves to and from the grocery store, and ‘Netflix NFLX +2.12%’ our shows. We want to own very little in order to consume more. Take the car for example: according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, cars purchased by 18 to 34 year olds fell almost 30% between 2007 and 2011.

“In the electronics space, we are seeing mobile device rental programs skyrocketing. Consumers ask themselves why they should pay $600 for the latest device when it’s going to become outdated within 12 to 18 months. Instead, they are opting to lease it for a minimal cost in order to get the next hottest gadget faster.

The borrowing culture begs the question: ‘How can retailers possibly handle the constant influx of product and get it in and out of consumers’ hands quickly enough?’”

 “In addition to wanting to know as much about products and services as possible and having the ability to quickly exchange an older model, consumers also want to ensure products are tailored to their individual lifestyles and preferences. For example, miAdidas allows consumers the ability to create their own shoes online with personal designs, pictures or logos. Retailers of the future will need to ensure that their supply chains are also evolved enough to handle the demand for custom orders.”

What Will The New Retail Model Look Like? Selling ‘Experiences’ Over Products
“Apparel retailers are light years ahead of the curve when it comes to who is more successfully building a new retail model that addresses these new consumer demands. But there is massive potential for consumer electronics retailers and other verticals to step up and meet the challenge. Imagine walking into your local Best Buy BBY -0.2% and seeing winter jackets on the show floor. In today’s retail climate this might look out of place, but the electronics retail store of the future will also sell smart apparel — picture a winter coat with a built-in smart watch.

“Additionally, stores of the future will emphasize selling experiences and lifestyles over products. Think about how revolutionary it was when Fleet Feet Sports allowed consumers to run down the street in a pair of shoes to experience the fit and feel. Now apply that idea and kick it up a notch: picture visiting a consumer electronics store to solve your health and fitness needs. Sales representatives can outfit you with a fitness tracker that reads your oxygen levels and heart rate to test your performance and wellness on an in-store obstacle course. Although consumers are testing out the product, they are also getting a glimpse into what their experience would be with that product in their day-to-day lives.

“Another great example of the retail model of the future is to provide value-added services attached to a product. For example, if a consumer is buying a new phone then the retailer should automatically offer in-store classes to train the consumer on the device.”

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