Monday, April 27, 2015

What is the Return on Omnichannel?

Retail Pro Integrations

Digital efforts helped Macy’s fourth-quarter sales increase to $9.364 billion, up 1.8 percent from the prior year.

Many retailers are initially very excited to embark on an omnichannel journey. However, once they begin plotting their strategy, many start to wonder if the substantial effort required is worth the investment.

It’s no small task: Inventory processes must be upgraded, websites updated and employees trained. But 50 percent of all U.S. retail sales are predicted to be omnichannel by 2017, according to Forrester, and for many retailers, the concept of omnichannel helps better paint a picture of a repeat customer’s total value. With the probability of repeat customers buying a product between 60 and 70 percent and the prospect of new customers doing so below 20 percent, it’s clear why so many are looking to omnichannel for answers.

Successful omnichannel strategies incorporate several components, often including shipping from a retail store. A CIO might suggest integrating the store’s retail software with a distributed order management system in order to roll out a ship-from-store program, the goal of which would be to double inventory turnover. The CFO might reject the project entirely, citing an increase in shipping costs, resulting in an overall loss. Organizational priorities need an alignment to move forward; it is imperative to leverage the benefits of any part on an omnichannel strategy to solve a current business need.

One popular omnichannel strategy for retailers is buy online, pick up in store. Macy’s expertly integrates the online and in-store experience, which is reflected in its most recent financial results. Digital efforts helped fourth-quarter sales increase to $9.4 billion, up 1.8 percent from the prior year. Among its strongest performers were dresses and men’s and women’s shoes. In those particular departments, Macy’s tested a single view of inventory between stores and direct-to-customer warehouses.

Can smarter fulfillment routing based on the most profitable location result in more balanced inventory and fewer markdowns leading to savings that can offset any new shipping costs? Even though sales didn’t come from the highest-profit departments, they added up to an overall success as new inventory efficiencies were found and radiated sales were made when customers picked up the orders.

Sephora is also a leader in omnichannel strategy. In addition to a successful network of physical retail stores, the brand has a strong online presence and even hosts its own online “BeautyTalk” community.

The retailer integrates online with in-store activity through the constantly evolving Sephora to Go app, allowing customers access to their “loves” list on any mobile device. As customers are encouraged to cross channels with their omnipresent shopping lists, rethinking how sales and costs are attributed across channels becomes a priority. Sephora is looking to evolve the experience, deploying beacons in stores throughout the United States to deliver personalized alerts to shoppers who opt in.

The trend is clear — no matter the evolving processes or technology, the target is on continuing the retail relationship with the consumer across all platforms, channels and mediums. Correct sale attribution, together with tailored retail experiences and customer nurturing, is critical to the strategy. It is no longer just a mobile sale or web sales volume driving development of that channel: It is the retail experience and the brand story. And the rising spend per customer and elevated loyalty metrics are the return on investment measurements for the omnichannel investment.

In the end, this holistic approach to retail enhances the shopping experience, which leads to satisfied, loyal customers. And that’s an investment well worth making.

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Friday, April 24, 2015

6 Reasons Social Media Is Your Secret Weapon in Customer Service

By: Dan Newman, President of Broadsuite
May 05, 2014    

We all know the statistic in one way, shape or form: It costs five, six or even seven times more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain one.

While the actual cost difference between acquisition and retention may alter slightly depending on which study you read, there is no mistaking that the cost is exponentially higher to acquire a new customer vs. retaining an existing one. So it is important you are accommodating (considerate) to your current customer base. Indeed, 82 percent of consumers in the U.S. said they stopped doing business with a company due to poor customer experience, according to Customers That Stick, a company focused on the customer-service arena.

To avoid this outcome (one that can have damaging and prolonged effects on a given company) businesses need to ramp up their customer-service game -- and not just by providing mediocre service. Companies should provide the ability to interact, engage and provide superb customer service in real time on social media.

In a survey conducted by research group Loyalty 360, more than 25 percent of businesses indicated they ranked social media as the most effective channel for customer retention. The main reasons being is social-media marketing allows for brands to speak directly to customers (and attract new ones), along with easy access to companies. Unfortunately, not every company has caught the social-media bug. Approximately 70 percent of customer-service complaints made on Twitter go unanswered, according to a study conducted by Maritz and evolve24.
While some people may just think this whole social-media craze is just a fad (and not worth the time or effort), many feel it is here to stay.

So for those 75 percent that of businesses that did NOT rank social media as the most effective channel for customer retention, here are six reasons to get on board.

1. Real time feedback and engagement. Face it, other than a phone call, what other medium allows your company to engage in real time with its customers? And since no one uses their phones -- at least not their mobile phones -- to make actual phone calls, more and more consumers are going to social media for customer-service related issues. (This may also have to do with our short-attention span and need for immediate results.)

“A year ago, when [consumers] got a social media response from a brand on a customer care issue, they were pleasantly surprised. We’re getting to the point now that if companies don’t respond, they will have a black mark against them,” said Dennis Stoutenburgh, the co-founder of Stratus Contact Solutions, a customer-care company, at a panel last year.

2. Keep your customers up to date. Yes, you can send out promotional emails, run display ads and nab television and radio spots to let customers know about timely announcement. But what do you do when you want to remind your customers of these promotions and sales? What do you do if you have a special sale or event that you want to promote very quickly? You turn to social media, the platform that was born for last-minute marketing. A company's followers on social media are the same people who have raised their proverbial hand to indicate a willingness to be kept informed of all goings on within your company.

Related: 4 Common Customer-Service Obstacles (And How to Fix Them)

3. Build trust. Social media allows you the opportunity to build trust with your existing customers, which often results in a stronger relationship between the two parties. When this occurs, there is a greater likelihood of turning a customer into a brand ambassador. When you have these "power customers," they can be used as a great marketing tool to promote your brand through positive reviews and word-of-mouth tactics.

Related: The 7 Musts of Customer Service on Social Media

4. Be there. There was an old infomercial for the Showtime Rotisserie Grill and the company used the tagline “set it and forget it.” While that may have worked then, it doesn’t work now -- especially when it comes to social media. Remember the operative words here are “real time,” as in you need to engage, respond and interact with your customers who reach out to you via social media.

5. Stay relevant. Marketers need to remember to engage with customers about the things that are relevant to them, especially in the context of customer service. If someone has an issue and expresses it through social media, don’t use that as a chance to try and sell them something. Instead address his or her concerns.

6. Be mindful of your tone. Andrew McCauley (also known as the social-media bloke) is the co-founder of the digital-media agency AutoPilot Your Business. In a recent blog post he wrote “automatic, scripted or canned responses are unacceptable in terms of customer care. Today’s socially savvy customer wants -- and expects -- a personal response. Just like any form of customer-service training, any of your team members who respond to social media inquiries or complaints should be trained to use a tone that is appropriate for not only the type of message they receive, but for the type of customer they receive it from.”

And he couldn't be more right. Customers are very sensitive to tone, so it is always best to error on the side of caution.

To view the original article please visit:

Biggest Event of the Year for Specialty Retailers 6.4.15 in Seal Beach, CA

Monday, April 20, 2015

Getting Back To Customer Service Basics In A Digitally Connected Era

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FEAT Omni Service image
For as long as retail has existed, so has customer service. One would argue that the two go hand-in-hand, and that a retailer cannot continue to exist — let alone excel — without exemplary customer service.

But throughout the past decade, the world has become far more complex, with consumers referring to myriad devices and resources throughout their unique shopping experiences. In turn, these savvy shoppers, who retailers now profile as "omnichannel consumers," are expecting more out of service experiences — from initial engagement with a brand or retailer to post-purchase interactions.
"Customers are interested in engaging with businesses at their own level and speed," said Roy Atkinson, a Principal with Clifton Butterfield, LLC, a consulting the training firm. "Customers are, as a rule, better informed than they have ever been, and are tending not to settle for the 'warm body on the phone' methods used by many businesses that haven’t put time, effort and investment into good customer service." 
Finding the right level and speed of engagement is not easy, according to Atkinson, and there are no one-size-fits-all rules. Despite this, best-in-class retailers are aiming to create quick, seamless and highly personalized service. Now, many are creating tactics similar to the days of traditional retail when store associates and managers knew the names and product preferences of their customers.

After all, e-Commerce tools and solutions are providing consumers with multiple resources that make shopping experiences more convenient. In turn, consumers have come to prefer the online shopping and service experience versus brick-and-mortar, according to research from the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI).

"Internet-based customer service mechanisms, such as email and online chat features, consistently trump call centers in retail and a host of other service industries for ease-of-use and overall satisfaction," said David VanAmburg, Managing Director of ACSI. Consumers give online retailers an average score of 82, while brick-and-mortar experiences among department and discount stores received an average score of 77, according to new data from the organization. Call centers received an average score of 76 across all retail industries.

As Internet penetration in the U.S. approaches 90% of households, VanAmburg argued that "it is all the more incumbent on retailers to steer traffic to online channels that are more efficient for customers to shop, and communicate and far less costly for retailers to build and maintain."

Before making any drastic shifts or investments in their customer service strategies, retailers need to take a thorough look at their target customers.

"Retailers need to have a good idea of customers' preferences for shopping, for making contact, and for getting services that accompany their products," Atkinson said in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. "Customers need to develop a sense of trust, and being able to reach out as needed, where needed helps that. Another helpful tactic is providing shoppers with easy access to information that fits their understanding and needs.
After all, "omnichannel" has evolved from a buzzword to characterize browsing and buying trends, to an innate way of life. Consumers no longer see channels, but rather experiences, and retailers need to provide the tools, channels and tactics that will serve shoppers most effectively.

"Omnichannel is just a term that means 'lots of channels,'" noted Shep Hyken, a customer service expert and Chief Amazement Officer at Shepard Presentations. "When someone asks: What's your omnichannel strategy? I say, let's just make it easy and ask where your customer is. It's really that simple."


Understanding The Value Of Self-Service Capabilities

Providing a quality mixture of service tools and resources can help nurture consumers throughout the browsing and buying journey, and make their lives significantly easier.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) pages and educational YouTube videos, for example, add a level of self-service that empowers consumers answer to questions on their own.

"Customers have made it clear that they want effortless experiences," said Lark Will, Senior Director of Customer Service Operations at eBay Enterprise. "Make information easy to find on the site and allow purchases to be taken back to a store if he/she doesn’t like what was purchased. Time is their currency."

Warby Parker is one retailer that uses YouTube to convey the perks of shopping with the brand. After a series of engagements on social media, Warby Parker executives learned that consumers did not fully understand the brand's at-home try-on program or how they could participate.

Rather than taking the conversation to email or phone, Warby Parker created a short video that walked consumers through the process. Now, if a consumer has the same question, representatives simply share the link.

Jewelry eTailer BaubleBar also encourages its 15 service agents to surprise consumers who are having issues with their orders by providing helpful YouTube videos. These videos include a digital "fashion show" of recommended items based on a specific consumer's past orders.

This approach to digital engagement is like "having someone stand right behind you and help you through the process," Hyken explained. "Retailers need to train their customers on how to use these service tools and features to get the most value out of their experience."


Creating A Personal Guided Experience With Chat Solutions

When consumers seek guidance from customer service representatives, those team members need to have a thorough understanding of shoppers' unique histories, questions and concerns to drive the conversation.

Live and video chat have gained popularity as efficient ways for service representatives to engage with consumers in a more personal, one-to-one fashion.

"Customers will use the web or another electronic means to address simpler issues or questions, but when things get difficult, they want to talk to a live person," Atkinson explained.

Supporting this point, 40% of consumers say that being able to connect with a brand representative via chat or video chat to have questions answered would help them have a better online shopping experience, according to research from Moxie.

In a separate survey of more than 2,100 U.S. consumers, Moxie found that shoppers even want to connect with live representatives as they are browsing on their mobile devices. Nearly two-thirds (62%) of consumers expect live chat to be available on mobile devices, and 82% said they would use it.

Once consumers make the initial engagement with a chat representative, they expect a quick response: In less than three minutes to be exact, according to Tyler Walton, Marketing Manager of Clutch.

"The live chat channel made the most traction in 2014," Walton said. "In this texting/emailing culture, many consumers prefer to solve problems through the written word rather than spoken word. Depending on the complexity of the problem, it’s easier for a consumer to engage through chat and multitask online without having to be on hold on the phone."

Live chat also gives brands the opportunity to put their digital agents front-and-center, allowing them to build relationships rather than just solve problems., for instance, has seen substantial growth since refining and optimizing its live chat strategies — especially during the holiday season. Over time, the outdoor apparel and gear eTailer has discovered that consumers who engage one-on-one with agents generate up to six times more revenue than those who have a standard online shopping experience.

Service agents, called Gearheads, leverage the LivePerson chat tool to engage with customers through their prefer channels, while also providing valuable advice and assistance.
Most recently, implemented more customized agent branding tools, so consumers can see headshots of Gearheads as they are chatting with them. Shoppers also can access Gearhead profiles, which share detailed information about their areas of expertise and their personal interests.

“That way, you know you’re talking to a real person and an actual expert,” Chris Purkey, VP of Customer Support at Initially, and LivePerson conducted an A/B test to determine the effectiveness of this more customized experience. “We wanted to find out if customers really cared,” he noted. “You can do all of this work to create customization but ultimately, if it doesn’t make a difference to the customer, there’s no point in doing it.”

After completing the test, found that consumers who engage one-to-one with Gearheads and interact with specific agents on a regular basis generate more revenue for the business.

BaubleBar also has raised the typical chat experience to the next level by using video conferencing technology from Vee24. The video chat offering is part of BaubleBar's Service With Accessorizing Talent (SWAT) division, which is focused on testing new technologies and "finding innovative ways to connect with our customers," according to Nina Alexander-Hurst, VP of Customer Experience and SWAT.

By focusing on new service and engagement tactics, BaubleBar is positioned to help customers "build a strong relationship with the brand and boost their overall engagement," Alexander-Hurst said in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. "We aim to take the friction out of the online shopping experience and provide the level of service you’d expect from a brick-and-mortar retailer."

When consumers enter the BaubleBar site, they have the opportunity to engage with the Live Help pop-up, which immediately connects them with a SWAT stylist who is ready to chat. Features such as screen sharing, co-browsing and live zoom, all help bring highly tactile components of the in-store experience to the e-Commerce site.

After testing video chat for five months, BaubleBar saw average order value increase by 300% and shopping frequency improve by 250%.


Bringing Data Into The Service Mix

Digital tools and technologies can help consumers connect with brands and retailers faster than ever before. However, when consumers interact with a variety of different touch points throughout their unique journeys, they expect service representatives to have access to relevant information about their personal tastes, preferences and even past conversations with agents.

Consumers site that their top complaint with customer service interactions is that retailers make them repeat information as they hop from channel to channel. Zendesk and Dimensional Research sought to uncover the core elements of a poor experience through a survey of 1,046 consumers. The top complaint (72%) was that shoppers had to explain their problems to multiple people.
To address these ever-present shortcomings, retailers need to ensure team members have anytime, anywhere access to customer profiles. These detailed summaries should past purchases, browsing history, as well as past customer service inquiries and interactions — across the call center, the store, email and even live chat and social media.

Taking a more personalized and humanized approach to customer service has remained a daunting challenge for retailers, largely because the sheer number of communication channels has increased exponentially. As the number of mediums increases, so does the amount of data, and for the most part, retailers are still struggling to collect, analyze and leverage data effectively across all key systems.
"Getting the information into systems is still a weak spot, because many CRM or service management systems simply haven’t kept pace with the increasing number of ways in which customers contact brands," Atkinson said. "Or, perhaps more accurately, businesses haven’t updated to the most current tools or gone to the market to find out which tools can work best for their needs."

Then there are retailers like TOMS that use data from multiple sources to build meaningful relationships, and have meaningful interactions with their consumers.

To activate and nurture meaningful relationships with current and potential customers, TOMS uses the Salesforce Service Cloud, which helps provide a 360-degree view of customers, their past purchases and interactions, and overall sentiment.
“We wanted the best tool possible to help us deepen that relationship with our customers,” said Zita Cassizzi, Chief Digital Officer at TOMS. Since its inception in 2006, the retail brand has grown exponentially, making it more difficult to have intimate, one-to-one conversations with consumers and brand advocates. “We turned to Salesforce because we want to build even stronger and longer lasting relationships with customers, and connect our employees.”
Initially, call center agents in the U.S. and Europe used Service Cloud so they could better manage phone calls and social media inquiries. Because the primary customersfor TOMS are Millennials, the brand finds it paramount to be present and active across Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. 

“Most of our customers are using social media as a regular channel versus an outlet to rant or rave about something,” Cassizzi said. “It is a key channel for all types of conversations.” Although TOMS has a dedicated social media team, call agents also have access to social media and consumers’ social accounts and feedback via Service Cloud.

But how can all retailers capture this comprehensive view of customers and service interactions across channels? Must the overall service infrastructure change or evolve in order to be profitable?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The 10 essential strengths of front-line retail employees

March 30, 2010            
How sales personnel engage customers can make or break a retail store. Most customers assume that small, local stores generally have a bigger focus on customer-care excellence. However, this isn’t always the case. Big box retailers also can harness the power of engagement. It all boils down to how employees relate to customers.

Engagement starts from the moment a customer steps into a store. Think of the greeter in Walmart who informs you of the current promotions and invites you to stroll a bit and take advantage of the good deals. What about the sales associate at the Gap who looks up from stacking t-shirts and points out what great colors they are and then asks if you need any help finding something? Of course, there are the local shop owners who always say hello and ask if they can be of service. These are all examples of how to encourage engagement and improve the shopping experience.

Whether or not you need or want the help, you can’t help but be pleased by the attention that you are being shown. Feeling important and welcome are two of our most basic needs.

Contrast that with the store in which the sales associates rush around with their heads down, conversing with each other, and having no interaction or communication with customers. Their peripheral vision allows them to see you when you’re approaching, and then they quickly make a beeline for the stock room in a clear act of avoidance.

Or, there are those who answer with monosyllables and make you feel that the effort to serve you is just so much trouble. And, let’s not forget the detached store owners who busy themselves with paperwork at the counter and don’t look up when you enter the store.

Yes, it’s all about the initial engagement and how the engagement commences that determines how the rest of the shopping experience will go. What skills and qualities are required by retail sales associates to facilitate positive initial engagements with customers?

Confidence: The confidence to make eye contact and strike up a conversation with strangers is absolutely essential.

Innate friendliness: Customers don’t want to deal with sales associates who have to force themselves to be pleasant and nice.

Flexibility: When dealing with the public, things can go wrong. You have to be flexible enough to roll with the punches and think outside the box sometimes.

Ability to multitask: Sales associates have to juggle customers and their questions and needs, and at the same time attend to their other store duties.

Patience: Dealing with people means that you will have to take the good with the bad. The patience to deal with all types of customers is vital.

Articulate: Sales reps must be conversational and have the ability to formulate answers and provide information when asked.

Respectful: The customer might not always be right, but she is always the customer. Customers must be treated with respect, even in the most challenging situations.

Proactive: It’s never a good idea to wait until a customer is stressed or agitated before offering assistance. Being one step ahead to gauge when someone needs help is the best way to minimize a brewing situation.

Positivity: The ability to smile in the face of a long and possibly chaotic day can make a world of difference to customers.

Empathy: Being able to look at a situation through the eyes of a customer is an extremely valuable skill that can enable you to provide the highest degree of service.

Undeniably, retail sales associates should go through a soft-skills training program. However, much of what is needed is attitudinal and should be hard-wired in those who are hired to deal with customers. Screening and qualifying new employees is of critical importance to a retailer. Yet, doesn’t it often seem that little or no thought goes into attitude during the hiring process? After all, sales associates are the front-line representatives of a store.

At the end of the day, it’s all about how a sales associate interacts with a customer. How that interaction goes will ultimately determine if that customer will buy and recommend the store to her friends and family, or turn around and walk out, never to return again.

To view the original article please visit:

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

3 Quick Merchandising Tips That Are (Almost) Cost Free

Let’s face it… retailers don’t always have time on their side… or extra money to spare. Between long work days and managing (or at least trying to) your personal lives in the midst of working retail hours, it isn’t always easy to keep up with everything on your retail to-do-list. But don’t let this shy you away from keeping up with the always important merchandising in your store.

There are easy changes and updates you can make to help create a store environment that is designed to move products from your store to customers’ homes. To top it off, there is little to no cost involved in implementing these changes… other than your time, of course!

From obvious tips to not so obvious ideas, consider the below points to help you give your store a merchandising face lift… while only taking a little bit of time.
  1. Use signage. Signage is a classic – and obvious – way to help capture customer attention. But the catch is how you create and use your signs. When preparing signage for your store, use consistency so that all your signage blends together. A great way to do this is to pick a signature color, such as Tiffany stores have with their baby blue boxes, and repeat that color through all your signs. Imagine the difference a lime green sign with bold, black lettering makes versus a white sign with Times New Roman letters. Using sign holders is a must, as well. Fun frames from a local home store are a great way to add character to your shop signage and overall environment. Simple plastic frames do the trick, as well. Tape holding your sign to a shelf? No. Please, no… no… no. This screams cheap and lazy to a customer, and unless your store can be defined as cheap and appealing to lazy folks, pass on the taped signage to your shelves, doors or walls. To sum it up, think clean, crisp and professional in appearance. The signs will individually stand out in their designated spots while cohesively blending in from an overall perspective.
  2. Use light. Overhead lighting can be so “blah”. Rarely does it do much for merchandise, not to mention your own appearance. Instead, consider other lighting options that can enhance your product and add a whole new ambiance to your store. Accent lighting can highlight high-ticket items or be used to showcase products on sale. Case and shelve lighting helps customers see often challenging spots in the store more clearly – therefore not missing any merchandise during their store visit. Adding a dimmer to bright lights is sometimes all you need. There is no single formula for lighting that you should follow, but instead incorporate what details you believe can help your unique store stand out. Just keep in mind that like products, even lights can clutter a store. Too bright is no good and too dim never works. Find a happy medium that will let your merchandise shine.
  3. Use space. No one wants to feel jammed between one display and another. Give your customers some breathing room by creating an easy-to-walk, easy-to-shop environment. Optimal spaces that customers will naturally be drawn to include the space immediately to the right of your front door, anything within 4 1/2 and 6 feet high from the floor and island style fixtures. Research tells us that these retail points are among the most shopped, making them the most favorable opportunities for merchandising inventory. Evaluate your existing floor plan and rearrange necessary fixtures to accommodate this strategy. Remember to allow breathing room for your customers to comfortably enjoy your store. Comfort translates to sales, so there’s no time to spare here – get started in your store re-vamp in an effort to increase your register dollars.
Merchandising is a never ending cycle that should be viewed as just that – never ending. Accept this reality and embrace the constant change merchandising can offer your store. A few simple changes to a strong merchandising plan can make a big impact… and while you still may be short on time, these quick tips can at least help you save some merchandising dollars while helping to bring more consumer dollars to your store.

To view the original article please visit:

Monday, April 13, 2015

Coachella and MTV Movie Awards Fashion Recap

This weekend we saw fashion range from sun flowers, flowy skirts, and cut off shorts at Coachella to pant suits, capes, and outlandish costumes at the MTV Movie Awards! What were some of your fashion favorites?

MTV Movie Awards


Friday, April 10, 2015

Downright Personal

Feb Cover Image

The results of personalization are undisputed — but what’s necessary to make it work?

First impressions can provide valuable information. But anyone who’s ever been in a relationship understands that really knowing someone takes time, experience — and often, a few steps forward and a few steps back to get it right.

This year, virtually every list of leading trends touts the importance of personalization. Truly knowing your customers, anticipating their needs, strengthening your brand: It would be easy to fall head-over-heels with vendor promises. Some are in-store efforts boosted by recent technology; others are aimed at e-commerce and mobile, providing just the right experience to just the right customer at just the right moment.

After beginning personalization efforts, New York-based Sabon saw a 35 percent increase in sales on Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2014. The luxury bath and beauty products retailer credits the results to a new relationship with Dynamic Yield, a provider of real-time, automated personalization and content optimization solutions.

Inna Uretsky, Sabon’s e-commerce and marketing coordinator, believes personalization is “crucial” in today’s retail marketplace. But it’s also essential, she says, that it works in real time.

Dynamic Yield created a layer on top of Sabon’s website content management system; pages can now be broken into distinct units that Sabon can directly update with various offers, including video and promotional content.

Because numerous variations can be used simultaneously, Sabon is able to try different messages based on automated algorithms. During the Black Friday weekend, optimizations were continuously generated, leading to increased conversions and sales.

“We were a little surprised,” admits Uretsky. “We were very happy with the results. With Dynamic Yield, we could make decisions in real time, and switch up copy and images right away.” Promotions remained relatively constant during that time period, but were presented in a half dozen different ways to individual customers.
Quick changes — especially those based on algorithms and not just “hunches” — can bring quick results.
Mobile Shopper

Opting in
Liad Agmon, Dynamic Yield CEO, says the company’s personalization solution works not only because it puts control in the hands of the retailer rather than the retailer’s developers, but also because customers as a whole are becoming increasingly impatient. Quick changes — especially those based on algorithms and not just “hunches” — can bring quick results.

The expectations are not just related to online. Ideally, what happens in the world of e-commerce impacts the store experience in a positive way. But some personalization solutions specifically target bricks-and-mortar.

Consider beacon technology, where an in-store device emits a radio frequency that can be recognized by an app on a customer’s mobile device. When that customer is close enough to the beacon, she can receive targeted messages and promotions.

Not long ago, there was concern that some shoppers would consider beacons an infringement of their privacy.

But “Since this technology does require an app, and the users have to download that app, and they have to opt in and have their Bluetooth turned on … the only shoppers who are getting these messages are the ones who raised their hands and said, ‘Yes, I’m open to this,’” says Rebecca Schuette, director of marketing for indoor mobile marketing company Swirl.

“Because of that, shoppers have been very happy to receive the content. We counsel our retailers to only share information that would be relevant and valuable to customers on their shopping journey.”

Many retailers are aware that beacons are hot technology and want to quickly get on board, Schuette says. But in some cases, they haven’t fully considered best-use case scenarios.

“The real magic happens when someone has thought it through, and asked, ‘What problem am I trying to solve?’” she says. “Am I trying to enhance the indoor shopping experience? Then maybe I place it in a certain department and offer up relevant content.

“If my intent is to increase conversion in the store, maybe I offer up messaging about a discount or deal that’s happening, which could then be redeemed at the cash register.”

In late 2014, Swirl released the results of a study of in-store campaign performance data and surveys of shoppers that had received recent beacon-triggered messages. The study showed that 60 percent of shoppers had opened and engaged with beacon-triggered content and 30 percent had redeemed beacon-triggered offers at the point of purchase.

In addition, 60 percent said they would buy more as a result of receiving beacon-triggered marketing messages; 61 percent said they’d visit a store with beacon marketing campaigns more often; and 73 percent said the content and offers increased their likelihood to purchase during the store visit.

Even so, Schuette says, beacon marketing is “still in its infancy.” The future beacon-enabled shopping experience will be able to couple a shopper’s location with the interaction he has had with the brand leading up to that point, including in-store experiences, mobile and e-commerce.

“When you can gather all of that together, then you can really drive personalized communication,” Schuette says.
Retailers should focus on gaining a clear and transparent view of inventory that’s as near real time as possible.

Visibility and technology
Future applications aside, some retailers are still challenged by what’s already available. Schuette’s advice? “Don’t wait. Consumers are ready for it. They’ve shown us that. But start small. And then be ready to scale quickly.”

Others take a more cautious view.

Kevin Sterneckert, chief marketing officer for OrderDynamics, is a former Gartner research vice president and lead retail analyst, past senior director of global product strategy at Oracle Retail and vice president of retail for DemandTec, and has held numerous retail management positions.

His perspective is that personalization can be “an incredibly expensive investment.” Retailers who jump on the bandwagon without having the correct infrastructure in place will only end up “advertising to their customers how messed up they are.”

If a customer is targeted with a specific product, loves it, wants to buy it and then discovers that there is no inventory or that it’s the wrong size or color, trust in the retailer quickly fades.

“Just like retail has always been, it’s all about the details,” he says. Rather than highlight the rising trend of personalization, he’s keeping a different list. First and foremost, Sterneckert says, retailers should focus on gaining a clear and transparent view of inventory that’s as near real-time as possible, have a true understanding of the return process and how it is impacting the business, reconcile their pricing strategies, and better grasp what their true costs are.

OrderDynamics works with retailers to create “seamless commerce.”

“We help retailers understand what to do given the conditions that exist,” Sterneckert says. “Instead of saying, ‘Here’s what’s happened,’ which most analytics companies can tell you, or ‘Here’s what might happen,’ something more predictive, we offer prescriptive analytics … . ‘Given what has happened, here’s what you need to do.’”

What retailers need to do, he believes, is get their houses in order.

Meanwhile, Oliver Jaeger, vice president of global marketing and communications for e-Spirit, isn’t advising retailers to wait when it comes to personalization. But he is suggesting they choose carefully.

“In order for retailers to delivery personalized content you have to have the right technology,” says Jaeger, whose company offers FirstSpirit, a web content management system that integrates with leading e-commerce systems as well as customer relationship management, search engine optimization tools and the like.

The biggest challenge in the area of personalization, he believes, is the ability to turn customer touchpoints into customer trust points.

“Make sure you are not stalking your customers,” he says. “Personalization is great if your customers accept it, and they will only accept it if they see value in it. If they feel you are invading their privacy with unwanted offers, you will turn them off to your products or services. Make sure you are providing them with valuable information at each touchpoint they have with you along their customer journey.”
Wood Hangers

Achieving authenticity
As we all know, trust is a necessary component of any relationship — be it customer and retailer or retailer and solution provider. So is planning for the future.

Robin Copland, vice president of retail for the Americas for software development pioneer ThoughtWorks, believes personalization efforts will only take a retailer so far; his company already is looking beyond it toward authenticity.

Efforts at personalization can still feel too broad; even beacons, he says, “are still mass market, to a certain extent.” With one client, the approach was to take what it already was known for — legendary customer service — and extend that experience online to create consistency and authenticity. Luxury apparel company Mitchells worked with ThoughtWorks to create a website that offers the ability to work directly with its style advisors just as if you were in a store.

Within the first two months, there were more than 1,000 back-and-forth communications with customers, creating a different kind of personalized service. Those communications move beyond product recommendations to help establish loyalty and brand ambassadors.

For anyone who’s been paying attention, however, the signs of current and future definitions of personalization have been there all along.

In 2007, PricewaterhouseCoopers and TNS Retail Forward envisioned the retail landscape of 2015. They forecast changing demographics, strategic outsourcing, targeted collaboration, retail outlets, a rising importance of technology and the critical need to keep customer purchase data safe and secure.

But “Retailing 2015: New Frontiers” also imagined a “new consumer,” one who would “not be easy for retailers to understand or master.”

“The value proposition guiding their product purchases is changing; consumers will put heightened emphasis on personalization, look for opportunities where their input matters, and value product and service solutions,” the report states. “Consumers are increasingly proactive in their purchase decisions and selective about with whom they want to do business.”

And, apparently, how they want to do it.

To view the original article please visit:

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

It’s Not Just Luck: 4 Things A Brand Promise Needs to Drive Customer Loyalty

March 17, 2015 by Bruce Jones, Programming Director, Disney Institute

Brand loyalty is defined by some organizations as simply having repeat customers. While repeat purchase behavior is certainly a good thing, it doesn’t necessarily mean customers have a long-term, deep attachment to the brand—a personal, deeply felt emotional connection that inspires true loyalty.

At Disney Institute, we have found that true brand loyalty is based on creating something truly special so that when customers interact with your brand, an emotional connection is built, and the foundation for a long-term relationship is formed. So, how can an organization move beyond simple repeat-purchase behavior to building true brand attachment? Start by making a meaningful and credible brand promise to your customers, and then deliver on that promise over and over again. 

In our Disney’s Approach to Business Excellence professional development course, we share with participants that a "brand promise" is a succinct statement of the tangible and intangible benefits provided by the ideal brand experience. In other words, a brand promise is a statement of how you want the customer to feel when they interact with your product or service.
So, what constitutes an effective brand promise—one that connects emotionally with customers and is the basis on which relationships can be formed? Here are four things customers are looking for a brand promise to be:
  1. Important – Customers have expectations regarding the fair exchange of value. In exchange for their money and time, they rightfully expect something meaningful in return. The brand promise must convey what matters most to your customers.
  2. Credible – Customers must believe that what you are promising is possible and deliverable. It has never been good policy to “over-promise” and “under-deliver.”
  3. Exclusive – No organization can be successful at trying to be everything for everybody. Find your niche, and carve out a unique space to “own” in the mind of your customer.
  4. Differentiating – The brand promise must truly set you apart from your competitors and be based on legitimate differentiators.

The ultimate reward for making and keeping an effective brand promise is deep attachment between your brand and your customer. The key will be delivering consistently on your promise…over, and over, and over again. This will require everyone in the organization to become brand ambassadors and brand managers who understand and apply the brand promise to their daily decisions and actions.

For more learning on this topic, check out:
How does your brand promise help foster deep attachment with your customers?

To view the original article please visit:

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Secret to Productivity: Focus

The Secret to Productivity: Focus 
By: Leslie Truex

Technology has helped us do so much more, so much faster. But many experts argue that work-related systems and tools haven’t necessarily made us more productive. How many times does your phone, tablet or computer chime to indicate email or a Facebook notification?

The reality is that while technology has the ability to improve productivity, too many people allow it to distract. Ultimately, the key to getting more done in less time requires focus. A cluttered, overly busy mind is like a cluttered, messy home; it takes too long to find stuff and get things done. Here are tips to improving focus.
Related: 7 Simple Tips to Avoid Gaining Weight While Sitting at a Desk All Day Long

Stop switch-tasking.

You find a lot of articles on how to multitask, but in fact, it’s nearly impossible to multitask work tasks. Multitasking implies doing more than one thing simultaneously. Multitasking itself isn’t impossible. You can walk and chew gum at the same time, but neither of those requires focus. When you’re involved in tasks that require focus, multitasking is impossible. So when you think you’re multitasking, you’re actually switch-tasking, alternating between multiple tasks. While that can result in getting things done, the time it takes to leave one task, refocus, do another task, leave that task to refocus on the first task again, wastes time over giving 100% to one task until completion and then moving to give total focus to the next task.

Schedule tasks in blocks of time.

If you have several things you need to get done, instead of going back and forth, schedule each a chunk of time where you can focus on one and when time is up change to the other. If you’re concerned about getting so involved that you lose time and don’t get to the next tasks, set a timer.

Focus on the one-thing.

Not all tasks carry the same weight in importance. Instead prioritize your tasks so that you’re achieving the things create the most results.

Turn off notifications including the ringer on your phone.

Each chime or ring, even if you don’t respond to it, is an interruption.

Wear headphones.

You can even listen to music if it doesn’t distract you. Headphones can eliminate all ambient noise, such as trucks, copiers and other distractions that occur in your office. Let your colleagues know that they shouldn’t interrupt when the headphones are on unless it’s an emergency.

Keep your work area organized based on how you work.

That doesn’t mean you can’t have stacks or Post-Its everywhere. What it means is that you need to design your work area in a way supports your work.

To view the original article please visit:

Friday, April 3, 2015

5 Content Marketing Ideas for April 2015

March 26, 2015 •
April’s list of widely recognized holidays is a good source of content marketing. Add to this the power of publishing a lookbook, and you have five compelling ideas for ecommerce content marketing.

Content marketing is the art and science, if you will, of creating, publishing, and distributing content like blog posts, photographs, videos, or similar, with the aim of attracting, engaging, converting, and retaining customers.

What follows are five ideas for your ecommerce content marketing.

1. April Fool’s Day: April 1

In much of the Western world, the first day of April is set aside for practical jokes, pranks, and harmless hoaxes. It is a day when even the most conservative of brands can have some fun with marketing.

In fact, April Fool’s Day marketing can be some of the most inventive and creative content a company produces all year.

Thinkgeek releases several fake products each April Fool's Day.
Thinkgeek releases several fake products each April Fool’s Day.

One of the best examples of ecommerce-related April Fool’s content marketing comes from specialty retailer Thinkgeek, which has published a list of “fake” products each April Fool’s day since 2001.

In 2014, Thinkgeek’s April specials include the following.

For April Fool’s Day 2015, try to come up with one product related to your industry that will leave folks laughing. Publish the product like any other on your site — although you may want to put it in a special category; Thinkgeek uses “looflirpa,” which is “april fool” backwards. Finally, feature that product on your home page, in an email campaign, and on social media.

2. Easter: April 5

In the United States and much of the Western world, Easter will be celebrated on Sunday, April 5, 2015. The holiday has something of a split personality.

On the one hand, it is a secular holiday featuring egg hunting, the Easter Bunny, and Easter parades intended to celebrate the changing seasons. While on the other hand, it is a high Christian holiday commemorating the resurrection of Jesus.

From a content marketer’s perspective, the holiday merits attention in either situation. Here are some ideas for industry segments.
  • Craft retailer. How-to articles for making anything from Easter baskets to plastic Easter egg bunnies — Michael’s did the latter.
  • Kitchen supply retailers. Include recipes and articles demonstrating how to make your own Easter candy.
  • Lawn and garden retailer. Publish an article like “10 Secrets for a Better Easter Egg Hunt” or “5 Steps to Prepare Your Yard for Easter.”
  • Clothing retailer. What about a video that takes an historical look at Easter fashion for the last 100 years?
  • Book retailer. An article reviewing the ten best Easter books for children.

Michael's includes how-to projects for Easter on its site. Consumers can also shop the project.
Michael’s includes how-to projects for Easter on its site. Consumers can also shop the project.


3. U.S. Tax Day: April 15

For Americans, Wednesday, April 15, 2015 is this year’s deadline for filing tax returns. The day might seem like an odd topic for ecommerce content marketing, but, in fact, there may be an opportunity to be useful to some customers.

Perhaps the most direct approach is to produce articles, videos, or tools that help customers prepare for tax day this year or next.

Tax day is Wednesday, April 15, 2015 in the U.S.
Tax day is Wednesday, April 15, 2015 in the U.S.

For example, in December 2014 the U.S. Congress renewed the state sales tax deduction for 2014 returns. This means that folks itemizing their taxes may choose to deduct either the state income taxes or state sales taxes they paid, whichever amount is larger. This deduction could include online purchases, if the seller collected sales tax for the their customers’ home states.

Here are some tax-day-related article ideas.
  • “How to Deduct Online Sales Tax from Your 2014 Return”
  • “18 Resources for Tracking Out-of-pocket Charitable Donations”
  • “The Philanthropist’s Guide to Online Shopping and Donations”
  • “Your Business Casual Wardrobe Might be a Business Deduction”
  • “8 Unexpected Uses for Your Tax Return”
Another idea would be to include a new tool on site that allowed shoppers to look at all of their orders for the year. The tool might allow business customers to select products they intend to deduct and print a receipt of sorts that only included those products.

4. Earth Day: April 22

First celebrated in 1970, Earth Day is meant to demonstrate support for the environment and environmental protection. It is also a good opportunity for content marketing. For 2015, Earth Day occurs on Wednesday, April 22.

Even a coffee tumbler could be an important product to promote on Earth Day.
Even a coffee tumbler could be an important product to promote on Earth Day.

As an example, imagine a company that sells coffee tumblers online. The seller could create an article or video about how a reusable coffee tumbler saves paper cups and, thereby, benefits the environment.

Once the article or video is complete, promote it on social media using the hashtag #earthday. Be certain to mention facts and statistics from your content.

Creative agency David&Goliath did exactly this campaign with its Defiance Club Movement, telling folks on Twitter that 6.5 million trees could be saved annually if they would use a coffee mug instead of a paper cup.
The hypothetical coffee tumbler example, is not really that hypothetical, in fact, creative agency David&Goliath actually did it with coffee mugs.
The hypothetical coffee tumbler example is not really that hypothetical. In fact, creative agency David&Goliath actually did it with coffee mugs.


5. Publish a Lookbook

The only suggestion on this month’s list not tied to a specific date is to publish a lookbook for your ecommerce business.

In its 2015 Eshopper Index published March 18, 2015, iVentures Consulting reported that 65 percent of the 111 sites it had reviewed used photography, like lookbooks, to encourage sales. Lookbooks are essential mini-catalogs that use lifestyle or product in-action photography to get an emotional response from the shopper.

Lookbooks can be used to promote almost any product, but are probably the most common on sites selling apparel, cosmetic, and luxury products.

As an example, Suitsupply has a not-entirely-safe-for-work lookbook that features models wearing its spring line in a pool.

Suitsupply's lookbook introduces shoppers to its spring line in an entertaining way.
Suitsupply’s lookbook introduces shoppers to its spring line in an entertaining way.