Archive for August, 2011
The PSFK’s 120 page report presents key trends and macro themes that retailers, service providers and product manufacturers can leverage to enhance the shopper experience in order to drive sales. This 2011 version of the Future of Retail report is designed to inspire anyone involved in creating touchpoints that lead a customer through the purchase path.
Our consulting team‘s research yielded 10 key retail trends that sit within 3 broad themes: Online Expectations Offline Experience, Shopper Know-How and Redefined Retail Cartography.
Online Expectations Offline Experience
The popularity of online shopping is changing shopper attitudes and expectations towards brick and mortar stores. Customers now want the same level of convenience, access and detail that they can get through e-commerce sites, along with the personalized recognition and service that comes from learned behaviors. New technologies are helping retailers better respond to these demands by arming the sales staff with instant information and digital tools or streaming store-based services straight to the shopper’s phone.
Shoppers are using online tools and mobile technologies to get the most out of their shopping experience from planning to purchase. Instant access to information is enabling customers to take advantage of nearby deals, find the specific product they’re looking for and leverage their social influence to receive exclusive recognition. Retailers are responding to these new behaviors with new promotions and services to engage their savvier customer base.
Redefined Retail Cartography
The wider integration of technology within the retail environment, whether through digitally enabled displays or staff, is causing retailers to reconsider the layout of the store. When essential aspects of the shopping trip like checkout can take place at any location in the store, retail designers are focusing on creating compelling customer experiences at every touch point. Whether overhauling the dressing room or providing more interactive displays, these updates are intended to engage shoppers and drive them towards purchase.
Given the current retail fascination with QR codes—with recent trials at Tesco on subway walls, Macy’s on products, American Express on beer cans and eBay on practically everything—it stands to reason those little boxed lines are doing rather well.
A recent credible survey, however, found that not only are most younger consumers oblivious to what QR codes are, but the many who do know what they are can’t get them to function. In short, 83 percent of the 1,300 14-to-24-year-olds surveyed couldn’t access a QR code regardless of how good the offer was. Looks like some people skipped an important step in product rollout.
That news is pretty bad, given the strong mobile interest—or general high-tech and experimentation comfort level—of that demographic. If they’re confused or apathetic, the numbers won’t likely get better as surveys examine consumers in their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and beyond. This particular survey was conducted between May 20 and May 30 by Youth Pulse (a.k.a., YPulse), which tracks marketing trends among the 14-to-24-year-old segment.
“I think the confusion for those who can’t figure out how to use them is that they don’t realize they need an app to read the code and, even if they do, they may not know the images are called QR codes in order to search for a QR code reader app,” said Melanie Shreffler, the Editor-in-Chief for Ypulse.
“When I first learned of QR codes a few years ago, a friend was trying to tell me what they are, and she said you just need to snap a picture of the image with your phone and voila. I asked how my phone’s camera would know what to do with that weird image. She thought for a minute and said ‘I have no idea, but somehow it must.’ I tried it and obviously it didn’t work. Eventually I went online and did a little research about how to use QR codes. I think that same scenario is probably happening for other users who are just learning about QR codes.”
Shreffler’s speculation is frighteningly likely. The problem here is best illustrated by the Macy’s experiment, where almost no signage and even less training of store associates pretty much left customers to figure it out on their own.
This study highlights one significant, yet often overlooked, detail about QR Codes: marketing. Though college students are undoubtedly extremely tech-savvy, they too need instruction sometimes.
Many retailers have jumped on the QR Code bandwagon without stopping to consider their strategy. As we outlined in our previous article, How to Create and Implement QR Codes, planning is key to any new promotion.
Don’t get us wrong; QR Codes are increasingly popular and hold endless possibilities for offering promotions and additional information in your store. Just don’t forget that you also need to include directions, such as easy-to-read instructions, along with your 2D barcode describing how students should use it.
As this excerpt points out, the same goes for your sales associates, who should all be trained on relevant talking points to explain what a QR code is and how it works to any potential customer. As with any new technology, education is crucial.
Taking these points into consideration will directly affect the success of your campaign and help you realize the true value of QR Codes for your store.
A social media presence is a must. But simply creating accounts for your store on these sites doesn’t cut it anymore. Each week, we’ll explore a new way your store can enhance their online presence in our Social Media Series to make sure you’re taking full advantage of these interactive outlets.
Understanding the significance of this concept, the Forty-Niner Shops, Inc., at California State University – Long Beach (CSULB) recently added a new promotion on their Facebook Page: Fan of the Week!
“We’re always looking for new ways to engage our fans and get them to directly interact with us,” explained Joshua Dominguez, viral marketing student assistant at the Forty-Niner Shops. “This is just another way for us to reward our fans for their participation.”
Using updates on the store’s social media pages including Facebook, Twitter and foursquare, Dominguez actively recruits fans to post pictures of themselves wearing CSULB gear or ‘tag’ the store in their photo, so that it posts to the Forty-Niner Shops’ Facebook Wall.
“Each week, I randomly select a winner to be featured as the ‘fan of the week’ on our page. We created a specific profile picture for the promotion and the winner’s name and picture are included,” he said. “Everyone’s looking for their 15 minutes of fame and this is one way we offer our fans recognition for their continued loyalty to our store.”
This strategy also allows the store to spread the brand name, as all the ‘friends’ of that student then also see the image in their newsfeed.
“It’s very viral,” he added. “In the short time we’ve been running the promotion, we’ve increased our page ‘likes’ by 90%! We’ve found that, in return, our fan of the week encourages their friends to see their picture on our page, so it’s a great way to increase our fan base.”
But, that’s not the only new feature they’ve added to draw student attention. Recently, the store also incorporated an interactive promotion to increase traffic during key seasons such as buyback and rush.
Spin to Win, which runs off of prize marketing software created by Mystic Net, invites students to interact with a game, spinning a virtual wheel for the chance to win prizes. Although the Forty-Niner Shops chooses to run the promotion through a kiosk, the software can run in a variety of ways including on a retailer’s website, e-commerce site or on a point of purchase counter.
“We decided to try the promotion during buyback as a fun way to drive traffic into the store and further reward students for selling their books back to us; it was very successful,” explained Brian Fetterman, book division manager at the Forty-Niner Shops. “At times, the line to play was longer than the buyback line, itself! Students have to input their emails to play, so that was also very valuable for future campaigns. We were able to gain 3,000 student email addresses during one buyback alone!”
After inputting their email address, students spin the wheel for the chance to win prizes. The store is able to load in their choice of products and quantities to both personalize and brand the experience for students.
“Most recently, we spent about $3000 on 200 Coca-Cola related prizes,” Fetterman said. “In the past, we’ve tried offering bigger prizes for promotions such as iPads or laptops and didn’t have much participation. But, we learned that, when we provide smaller items, students perceive their chances of winning to be higher and are actually much more receptive!”
The store has found that the logistics to run the program are also quite easy. When a student wins, they are notified on the screen, triggering a receipt to print with the name of their designated prize. They then bring the ticket to the register where they can redeem their prize. At the Forty-Niner Shops, however, everyone is a winner!
“Students who don’t win, on the game, receive a receipt that entitles them to a store coupon,” explained Fetterman. “We really want to encourage that return visit and enhance loyalty, so we reward all students for their business.”
To advertise their newest addition, the store has cross-promoted the game on both social media and their website.
“It’s all about getting the word out and letting students know what we have available,” he said.
Although the software is not one of the most inexpensive promotions the store has run, Fetterman insists its results outweigh the cost.
“Altogether the software and kiosk technology cost us about $1,000,” he explained. “The results have been substantial. It’s helped increase traffic and promoted the image of our store as a fun place for students to visit. We plan to keep using it for different promotions throughout the year, so I would definitely say it’s been well worth the money!”
Your website is one of the most powerful marketing tools you have. By itself it may not produce the results you’re looking for, but when combined with your other marketing initiatives it can be a vital source for your lead generation campaign while helping you increase sales, reduce advertising costs, and produce a higher return on investment. The key is including your website in all your marketing pieces. Whether you engage in online, print, TV, radio, or affiliate marketing, all roads must lead back to your website in order to maximize your return on investment. To do so, the following steps must be implemented.
1. Make sure your website is a reflection of who you are as a company. Your design is worth a million words, so make it count by ensuring it is specifically geared and tailored to your target market. A good design should capture visitors’ attention the moment they arrive on your site.
2. Engage visitors with a compelling marketing message that has instant impact. Once you have captured visitors’ attention with your design, your marketing message is the key to getting them to stay on and learn more about your company and what you have to offer. Keep it short and include a problem statement and your solution. Solidify your credibility with testimonials, case studies, press mentions, or sample work.
3. Ensure your website has a call to action. Whatever action you want visitors to take once they arrive on your website should be clearly stated and highlighted. Say it once and say it again, not just on your home page but throughout your website and at every opportunity you get to increase your chances of converting your website visitors into leads.
4. Use ethical bribes to boost lead generation. You will maximize your return on investment and reduce advertising cost if you are able to convert more of your Web visitors into leads, which will in turn allow you to establish credibility and build a relationship. The best way to accomplish this goal is to use ethical bribes that are irresistible in exchange for their contact information.
For more tips on improving your website, talk with your inSite Client Representative.
Textbook reservation is a great way to gain customer loyalty and to enhance the convenience factor at your college store. Many retailers are hesitant to begin a program, however, because of both the increased time and effort involved and a perceived lack of space in their store.
For Shirley Landis, director of Philadelphia University Bookstore, these issues were also a concern. Although, for her, one key factor outweighed all of the negatives: customer service.
“Our program was really born out of demand,” she explained. “We knew it would be added work, but we wanted to demonstrate to students that we’re listening to their needs and willing to do whatever it takes to meet them. Our hope was to enhance their perception and, ultimately, make their life easier.
Like many other stores in the industry, Philadelphia University Bookstore’s program involved packing each order in a designated box to be picked up by the students. This process, however, was creating a not-so-eco-friendly impact on campus.
“The boxes we used were not only bulky but also wasteful,” she said. “I just hated sending so many out the door with only one or two books in them and seeing them eventually end up in the trash.”
Never one to rest on her laurels, Landis took action; exploring options that could help her store overcome this obstacle. While at this year’s CAMEX, she found a vendor that offered a solution: reusable tote bags.
“They were perfect for our program,” she added. “Each bag has a hard plastic slot to store customer name and information. Plus, we were able to brand the bags with our university colors and logo, making them versatile enough for students to use over and over again.”
Best yet, the bags didn’t break the store’s bottom line.
“They were actually relatively inexpensive! We found them to be just about equivalent to what we had previously spent on boxes,” she explained.
But, the reusable bags didn’t only resolve Landis’ environmental concerns. In fact, they have enhanced the stores programs in many regards.
“We’ve found the bags are much easier to pack than boxes and have also dramatically cut down on the amount of space we need to store orders,” she said. “The biggest benefit that I foresee, though, is being able to offer students an added free item when they reserve their books. That’s one thing we can offer that the competition doesn’t, and hopefully it will give us an advantage.”
Beyond fall rush, Landis also plans to incorporate the new bags into the store’s overall marketing initiatives. Although the specific details are still being worked out, the store will offer discounts for students who bring their bag back to shop in-store.
“I hope to really play up the bags throughout the year to drive traffic to the store and provide an incentive to students who continue to use them,” she explained.
As for the future, Landis is already thinking ahead to ways she can further improve the store’s newest promotion down the line.
“Later, we will probably incorporate the store’s URL and other relevant information onto the bag as additional marketing,” she said. “But, for now, I think they will be a big hit!”
A social media presence is a must. But simply creating accounts for your store on these sites doesn’t cut it anymore. Each week, we’ll explore a new way your store can enhance their online presence in our Social Media Series to make sure you’re taking full advantage of these interactive outlets.
This week, take a look at how some of the experts in the field of social media suggest improving your Facebook presence in the following excerpt from the article 13 Hot Facebook Marketing Tips from Top Pros by Cindy King. View the full article on SocialMediaExaminer.com.
Ask the right kind of questions
“One of the best ways to get your fans talking on Facebook is to ask interesting and entertaining questions. But did you know there’s a right way and wrong way to ask questions on Facebook? When done right, you can significantly increase your fan engagement and build some great relationships,” says Amy Porterfield, co-author of Facebook Marketing All-In-One for Dummies.
“The trick is to ask questions that are easy to answer. Questions that require just one-word responses tend to get the most engagement. Remember, people LOVE to talk about themselves, so when you make it about them, they are more likely to jump into the conversation,” added Porterfield.
Include pictures in your Facebook updates
“Twitter is a link economy, whereas Facebook is a picture economy. So, just about every status update should include a picture. Ideas for pictures include customers, your product or service in action, employees and events. There’s no such thing as a bad picture,” says Guy Kawasaki, author of Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions.
“And one more tip: crop your pictures. For example, no-one needs to see people’s feet. Remember that Facebook is going to present a tiny version of the picture, so you need to get up close, personal and cropped,” said Kawasaki.
Get creative when your Facebook readers are most happy
“Facebook has a Happiness Index that shows a spike of 10% on Fridays. As a marketer, you can take advantage of this increase in sentiment by doing something creative,” says Mari Smith, co-author of Facebook Marketing: An Hour a Day.
“About once a month, I host ‘Facebook Friday’ (similar to #followfriday on Twitter), where I invite all my fans to promote their own pages, links to their blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, etc. In addition, I know from other studies—and from my own fan page reports from PageLever —that my fans respond best to photos.
“By giving your fans specific times to cross-promote, network and create more visibility for their own pages, they’ll be less inclined to do so outside of these windows, plus you’ll elevate your leadership and increase your news feed optimization,” said Smith.
Activate Facebook fans (don’t just collect them like baseball cards)
“Your Facebook audience is a club, not just a list, and you cannot satisfy the intellectual and sociological cravings of a club through one pithy status update each day. Get creative. Get interesting. Get successful,” says Jay Baer, author of The Now Revolution.
“Recognize that the vast majority of your Facebook fans are indeed fans. Why would you Like a brand that you don’t actually like? These are your best, most enthusiastic customers who have taken the initiative to raise their hands in the Facebook environment. Don’t bore them to the point where they lose interest.
“Create a robust, ongoing calendar of engagement programs whereby your company gives Facebook fans the opportunity to receive special insider info, tell you what they think about future product and marketing plans, access unusual fan-only deals or learn more about the people behind your brand,” Baer added.
Now that American consumers are beginning to shake off the recession, small business owners need to be on top of their customer service game. That’s because Americans are placing an even greater premium on quality customer service this year, according to an American Express survey.
The survey found that 70 percent of consumers are willing to spend an average of 13 percent more with companies they believe provide excellent customer service. This figure is up substantially from 2010, when 58 percent of consumers said they would spend an average of 9 percent more with companies that deliver great service.
Despite the greater value Americans are placing on customer service, many businesses don’t seem to be making the grade with consumers, the survey found.
Sixty percent of Americans believe businesses haven’t increased their focus on providing good customer service and, of that group, 26 percent think companies are actually paying less attention to service. The good news is that 81 percent think small businesses do a better job of providing good customer service than large businesses do.
“Getting service right is more than just a nice to do; it’s a must-do,” said Jim Bush, executive vice president, American Express World Service. “American consumers are willing to spend more with companies that provide outstanding service, and they will also tell, on average, twice as many people about bad service than they are about good service. Ultimately, great service can drive sales and customer loyalty.”
The cost of bad service
Americans vote with their wallets when they encounter poor service. The survey found that 78 percent of consumers have abandoned a transaction or not made an intended purchase because of a poor service experience. On the other hand, the promise of better customer service is a draw for shoppers: 59 percent said they would try a new brand or company for a better service experience.
Service can also be the catalyst for both positive and negative word of mouth about your business. Americans say they tell an average of nine people about good experiences, and nearly twice as many (16 people) about poor service experiences.
“There are many who subscribe to the convention that service is a business cost, but our data demonstrates that superior service is an investment that can help drive business growth,” Bush said. “Investing in quality talent, and ensuring they have the skills, training and tools that enable them to empathize and actively listen to customers are central to providing consistently excellent service experiences.”
The survey was conducted in the U.S. and nine other countries exploring attitudes and preferences toward customer service.
With technology at their fingertips and their nose to their phone, it can be challenging to get students to look up every once and awhile. That’s why Sheila LaFerney, coordinator of textbooks and general merchandise at Oklahoma City Community College Bookstore, decided to get creative.
In an effort to call attention to the array of product offerings at her store, LaFerney frequently updates her window displays with themes that are anything but ordinary.
“I’ve found that the more unusual I make my displays, the more attention the store attracts,” she explained. “I try to highlight products that students may not know we carry and call them out in a fun way.”
Infusing her personality into each eye-catching design, LaFerney often pairs the old with the new.
“Besides the bookstore, my other passion is re-salvaging furniture from auctions or estate sales,” she said. “So, I usually incorporate some of these items as a focal point. We’ve used everything from a refinished French door to an old dresser to accent our own products.”
When seeking new ideas, LaFerney often looks to magazines or other retail stores in the area for inspiration. She also tries to reference popular events students can relate to, as a way to generate buzz about the bookstore.
“I try to take note of what’s around me and think of ways I could apply it to our store,” she said. “Most recently, my favorite display has been our recreation of the Royal Wedding. We sat two of our mannequins, dressed in OCCC gear, on an old church pew and gave the bride a veil and the groom a boutonniere. It was a huge hit with the students!”
Changing themes every 4-6 weeks, however, she says several displays have made an impression on the store’s customers.
“Students love checking back to see what’s new in our window,” she explained. “They’re always asking me how I come up with the ideas. I think the key is to get away from the convention that your displays have to meet a certain standard and just have fun with it!”
Although her themes are sometimes are attention-grabbing, LaFerney cautions that there is a balance. To others in the industry looking to jazz up their displays, LaFerney shared one final piece of advice.
“There’s no need to overload the window with product; less is really more in this case,” she advised.
The first thing most people do after returning home from a shopping spree is to show off their bargain buys to friends. Now, however, tech-savvy consumers are taking this bragging right to a new level, flaunting their fashion finds to the whole world.
Enter the haul video; it’s the newest viral phenomenon. In these homemade videos, often posted to YouTube, video bloggers document their recent shopping spree, offering short product reviews of each of their purchases.
While this trend may seem silly, with 159,000 hauls posted on YouTube, its popularity is nothing to laugh at. In fact, according to Shishir Mehrotra, director of product management at YouTube, there are “some haul videos that compare to major cable channels in views.” For instance, two video blogging sisters from Tennessee, age 21 and 16, have over 75 million combined views!
But what does all this mean for retailers? Last summer, major retailers such as J.C. Penney, Forever 21, and American Eagle all capitalized on the concept by including brand-related hauls as a core component of their back-to-school marketing. For instance, J.C. Penney turned a few select videos into commercials for their products, while American Eagle encouraged their Facebook Fans to check out existing haul videos related to their brand or to create their own.
Because they combine two of Generation Y’s favorite things, technology and shopping, hauls provide just as good as an opportunity for college stores to gain instant word-of-mouth marketing.
For your target audience, one important aspect of shopping is gaining their friends’ seals of approval. In essence, that’s exactly what these videos do. They provide an easy, free, and credible way to share other students’ opinions of your store’s products through a viral marketing campaign.
So, take advantage of this trend! Consider soliciting the help of your student employees during rush to create haul videos about some of your most popular products and post them to your Facebook page. Or, take it a step further by holding a contest on YouTube, searching for the best student-made haul video on products from your store.
No matter how you choose to use them, haul videos can offer innovative college stores the chance to spread their message to potential new student customers.
From working summers with his father at the college bookstore at the age of 13 to newly appointed Vice Chancellor of Auxiliary Services and Enterprise Operations at the San Mateo County Community College District, Tom Bauer has truly seen the collegiate retail industry evolve throughout his career.
“There was a time when the bookstore was the only place you could go to get everything you needed for college,” Bauer said, “but we’ve seen that dramatically change. Now, there seems to be nothing bookstores can sell that other stores don’t carry, except for customer service, and that’s hard for many colleges to accept. There’s been a huge paradigm shift, especially over the last decade.”
Despite the obvious obstacles, Bauer has continually rose to the challenge, determined to turn what some have perceived as negative attributes of the industry into positives.
“As retail has evolved, it’s become a struggle to stay even with your competition, let alone a step ahead,” he explained. “I knew that in order to keep my store relevant, I had to match or exceed the level of service students are used to receiving elsewhere.”
That’s why he recognized early on that this was no task he could achieve solely on his own.
“My store’s partnership with MBS has definitely helped us meet that goal. They’re constantly developing the technology that we need to stay current with other retail markets,” he added. “As an independent store, we rely on our partners to give us that edge.”
As one such example, MBS was able to advance both the technology and the service that the three San Mateo County Community College District Bookstores offered students through their POS systems.
“We saw a huge impact overnight! Almost immediately there were no more lines in the store because we decreased transaction time from more than 2 minutes to 2.5 seconds. That speed allowed us to actually reduce the number of registers we were running which saved on payroll, too,” he said.
“Over the years, a lot of the change that has occurred in this district goes back to the innovation we’ve been able to bring to the store with the help of MBS,” added Bauer.
Bauer’s partnership with MBS didn’t just change things at the store, however, but also helped him build upon existing services such as their rental program. As one of the leaders of the rental trend, Bauer’s stores took the initiative in developing an aggressive program based on donations in his district in 2001.
Soliciting help from the local community in purchasing titles for the store, Bauer and his staff were able to build an inventory of thousands of volumes with no financial risk to the bookstore, ultimately saving students over 2 million dollars. The District Bookstores were awarded the first Innovation Achievement Award from the National Association of College Stores (NACS) in 2006 in recognition of their efforts and the tangible effect on the lives of students in the district.
Then, with the addition of MBS Rental, Bauer again expanded his program.
“MBS was definitely one of the first companies in our industry to jump on the rental trend and they really helped us augment our existing program to further our success,” he said. “Overall, having the largest textbook wholesaler on our team has been a great boon to our store.”
MBS, however, is by no means the only partner involved in Bauer’s success. In fact, he attributes much of both his personal achievement and district’s growth to his staff.
“I’m very lucky to have such an inspirational team,” he explained. “The San Mateo group’s work has truly been a labor of love. They’re all so committed to what they’re doing that this isn’t just a job for them; they have a real tie to what they’re doing. I absolutely believe that the reason I’m where I am today is because of their motivation. My success is definitely a dotted line that will always lead back to the staff who run the auxiliary operations in the district.”
To others in the industry who are looking to enhance their competitive edge, Bauer has one piece of advice: stay current.
“Complacency will kill any college store. Any moment you think you’re doing as good as you possibly can be, your store will start dying,” he cautions. “Instead, you should constantly be looking for ways to improve. Stay connected with the student body, visit other retail stores, take advantage of the resources associations such as NACS offer, and attend educational events like the MBS Systems Users Symposium. Do whatever it takes to be successful, and you will be!”