Posts tagged eCommerce
As online shopping has surged, traditional retailers have lost millions in sales to so-called showrooming — when shoppers check out products in stores that they then buy from Web sites like Amazon. It has gotten so bad that Best Buy even replaces standard bar codes with special Best Buy-only codes on big ticket items so they cannot be scanned and compared online.
Now some big retailers are taking a new approach to the dreaded showrooming by transforming their stores into extensions of their own online operations. Walmart, Macy’s, Best Buy, Sears, the Container Store and other retailers are stepping up efforts to add Web return centers, pickup locations, free shipping outlets, payment booths and even drive-through customer service centers for online sales to their brick-and-mortar buildings.
“We are living in the age of the customer, and you can either fight these trends that are happening — showrooming is one — or you can embrace them,” said Joel Anderson, the chief executive of Walmart.com for the United States. “We have a lot of assets, but they’re only assets if you embrace the trends of the customers.”
In making the changes, the big retailers are betting the future on shoppers like Sue Sheffer.
Ms. Sheffer, an information technology specialist in Bunker Hill, W.Va., shops for items like clothes, electronics and even coffee online. But she also likes to receive her purchases as soon as possible. When buying shelving from the Container Store, she ordered it on the Web in the morning and picked it up during her 30-minute lunch break that day. And there were no expensive shipping fees.
Fiona Dias, the chief strategy officer at ShopRunner, which coordinates shipping for retailers, called the trend “really an offensive strategy against Amazon and pure-play online retailers.”
“Unfortunately, stores have been portrayed as the ugly stepsister here,” she said. “They do have disadvantages, but the advantages of having a physical footprint are many.”
One advantage is the ability to reach customers who pay with cash.
In April, Walmart began allowing shoppers to order merchandise online and pay for it with cash at a store when they picked it up.
Even without the cash option, in the six years since Walmart has allowed online items to be picked up in stores, customer demand has been high. More than half of the sales from Walmart.com are now picked up at Walmart stores, Mr. Anderson said.
With the cash option, Walmart was trying to appeal to customers who did not have bank accounts or credit cards. Walmart says the majority of in-store purchases are made with cash or debit cards, and that about 15 percent are made with credit cards.
In the first weeks of the cash option, Walmart noticed that a different set of customers also found the service appealing. About 40 percent of the customers who paid with cash when ordering online ended up using noncash options, like a credit card or check, when they arrived at the store. They simply had not wanted to provide that financial information online. “There’s still a large segment of people out there afraid of identity theft or just plain putting their credit card online,” Mr. Anderson said. The service already accounts for 2 percent of Walmart.com’s sales.
Another advantage traditional retailers hold over their online-only counterparts is same-day delivery and returns. Sears, which has long offered store pickup for items bought on the Web, added a drive-through service a few months ago that allows customers to return or exchange purchases without leaving their cars.
Customers meet a clerk waiting outside the Sears, provide a mobile phone receipt or printout, and the merchandise is swapped. “People have a certain need for immediacy — they want something that same day,” said Tom Aiello, a company spokesman. “They want to have their hands on it; they don’t want to wait.”
The Container Store has also been pushing a drive-through service, a reflection of its altered approach to online shopping. Initially, executives viewed the pick-up-in-store feature as a way to draw consumers into stores and encourage customers to buy more. Now, they would rather close the deal on an online order as soon as possible so shoppers do not go elsewhere or forgo the merchandise altogether.
“Especially for that mom that’s got kids in the car and is trying to run five errands today, this allows her to put us on her list with no additional pressure,” said John Thrailkill, a vice president of stores for the Container Store.
He said that the online orders for in-store pickup also tended to be much larger than typical in-store purchases, and that customers who picked up orders in the store visited about 50 percent more often than customers who shopped only in the stores.
Many major stores, including Apple, Nordstrom and Best Buy, let people place orders online and pick up items within a day at a selected location, forgoing shipping charges. The retailers say this option is especially popular with bulky items that do not qualify for free shipping, and for people in a rush. Other places, like Cabela’s and J. C. Penney, offer in-store pickup for online orders, though with a delay of several days.
Macy’s and Nordstrom are going even further by integrating the physical and online merchandise selections.
Nordstrom last year added a feature allowing customers to search an individual store’s inventory via the Web. That follows the company’s decision three years ago to combine its online and offline inventories, so that if nordstrom.com was sold out of a size 8 Nicole Miller shift but a store in Los Angeles had the item in stock, the store would ship the item to the e-commerce customer. Macy’s recently integrated inventory, too. It has 202 branches that can send items to online customers, and will expand that to 292 by the end of the year.
Of course, online-only retailers are also shifting strategies. E-commerce companies that are part of the ShopRunner service, like Blue Nile and eBags, are now shipping to physical locations that are also part of the ShopRunner network, like Toys “R” Us, so that their customers can pick up items in stores, too.
Amazon continues to promote its Prime two-day shipping program so that its shoppers can get speedy deliveries. Alison Jatlow Levy, a retail consultant at Kurt Salmon, said she expected physical stores to go further toward the “showroom” model — carrying lots of products for shoppers to see and test, but asking customers to buy the merchandise via the stores’ Web sites or apps.
She also said there was a straightforward way for e-commerce retailers to respond to the latest moves. “You will definitely start to see online-only players open stores,” she said.
The following article, Consumers looking to cut corners with their 2012 back-to-school budgets, was written by Kathy Grannis, NRF spokesperson, for Retail’s Big Blog.
Every year it’s the same thing. Come mid-June, when discussions of back-to-school pop up in the news, in stores and even here at NRF, the conversation always goes something like this: ”Back-to-school? Kids JUST got out of school!” – to which I reply, “August will be here before you know it!” Sadly, yes, August will be here before we know it (does that mean the holiday season will too! Yes.) Much to their children’s chagrin, that means that there are already millions of parents planning their back-to-school shopping lists and destinations, plan-of-attack and, of course, their budgets.
Last year, the average person spent about $603 on everything from school supplies and apparel to electronics and footwear. When it comes to consumers’ intentions to spend this summer, the economy has emerged as the big old fat elephant in the room. Though we’ve seen 23 months of consecutive year-over-year retail sales growth, consumer spending has noticeably slowed and unemployment remains stubbornly high. Reacting to this, businesses have also tempered their hiring as well.
To further examine how the state of the U.S. economy will impact Americans’ back-to-school and back-to-college spending plans, we reached out to our friends at BIGinsight for their, well…insights.
According to BIGinsight’s June monthly consumer survey, 80.4 percent of people with school-aged children say the economy will impact their spending plans. Compared to July 2011, when NRF released its last back-to-school/college spending surveys, that’s down from 86.1 percent. College students and their families aren’t far off – 79.8 percent said the economy will impact their college-related spending plans.
Overall, it looks like the Internet is where the back-to-school shopper will be. Offering convenience and cost-saving opportunities, 31.0 percent of shoppers with children in K-12 say they will do more comparative shopping online, up from 29.8 percent last year. Nearly 17 percent said they would shop online more, up from 15.3 percent last year and 12.3 percent the year prior.
It also looks like college-bound students will have to get used to used books (bright side: they already have notes in the margins!). Two out of five (22.2%) with college-aged children said they would share or borrow textbooks instead of buying them. The survey also found college students and their families will shop online more often (19.6% vs. 18.8% last year) and will use coupons more often as well (34.0% vs. 32.7% last year.)
What can college stores take away from these findings? For starters, having an e-commerce option is more important than ever. Both students and families are looking to purchase online and comparing prices with other retailers before making a decision. MBS Systems inSite offers both a robust web store platform as well as a price comparison feature that can help your store stay competitive; talk to your MBS Systems Sales Consultant for more information.
Today, in the age of online shopping, flash sales and Groupon, some retailers believe that digital strategy is their “silver bullet.” In reality, it’s a relentless drive to master their customer relationships in a way that integrates and maximizes the power of each channel that is the key: from specialty retail to mobile and beyond – as well as all touch points – from marketing to social media to ecommerce. Retailers must be firing on all cylinders. Yet with all this newness and buzz, what sets truly innovative marketers apart is a single, counterintuitive insight: The in-store shopping experience matters now, more than ever.
Broadly, three factors are driving the importance of the modern in-store brand experience. The first is the inherent limit of the e-commerce experience: People still want to see, touch and feel products, and do so with others—ideally in a community of the brand loyal. Only a store can deliver that full experience. Just ask Piperlime – who recently announced their first real-world retail store, a shift from their online-only strategy. Second, with our current economic stagnation, we are shopping less, but we want our experiences to provide more – not merely a trip to the mall, but rather an escape. Third, with the use of mobile continuing to grow, evolve and become increasingly important, brands that successfully merge online and real-world experiences—often using mobile as the bridge – are seeing the benefit in their bottom lines.
The challenge, then, for top companies is clear: How do you leverage the in-store experience to ensure brands grow and thrive? In my view, there are five key factors needed to deliver successful in-store experiences in today’s market:
1. Community, Both Online and Off
Whole Foods Market creates a hub for the community with educational activities, free samples, and an engaged social-media component – constantly finding new ways to reach and interact with their customers. Another great example is Lance Armstrong’s Austin bike shop Mellow Johnny’s, which pulls bike enthusiasts in with free classes and post-ride showers. These consumer-centric activities create lasting memories that contribute to brand loyalty and keep shoppers happy and coming back for more.
2. Marriage with Mobile
While some claim that mobile is the end of retail, it’s far more likely mobile shopping apps will make brick-and-mortar retail destinations even more valuable. Smart companies will find ways to use the mobile app as a “teaser” experience that drives the interested to the store, whether for a deeper experience or to buy. Stores like Target are creating apps to make in-store shopping experiences smoother – with list-making tools, product finders, daily deals and online purchasing. You don’t have to set foot in the store to make purchases from the app, but if you do, it makes the experience both more streamlined and enjoyable. Other campaigns like the Instagram photo booth contest at Ted Baker also meld the in-store, online, and mobile worlds.
3. Store as the Ultimate Ad
Easier said than done, I know, but it’s important for a store to have a “place to be” vibe. Puma stores add to their ambiance with live DJs. Our Juicy Couture store on Fifth Avenue uses provocative and innovative window displays, capitalizing on its great location to leave a powerful impression—even on consumers that just pass by. It’s a combination of the right setting, striking look and feel, and, if possible, innovative store design that turns your store into the ultimate, three-dimensional ad.
4. Knowledge Sharing
Of course, it’s very important for customers to feel at ease and welcome as they shop, but what truly sets the best apart is the ability to add insight and knowledge to the experience. Take Apple’s Genius Bar – a streamlined, headache-free, and, above all, enriching shopping experience for customers. Spending time to hire the right people, giving them ample training, and empowering them to share what they know is the new paradigm. Just ask J.C. Penney, which is bringing a version of the “Genius Bar” concept to the department-store model.
5. Design + Visual Power
Every detail in Niketown, for example, was chosen with painstaking care. The store is filled with bright colors, fashionable product, and energetic, upbeat music. You can even design your own shoes. The combination of unique, memorable features with simple design elements creates the type of experience that draws the customer back again and again.
So what’s next? As the line between the virtual and real world continues to blur, new possibilities to enhance both will present themselves. Social games and online content will create new interactive links, with real e-commerce and point-of-sale potential. And, whether or not consumer spending remains relatively restrained, folks have come to expect more memorable, enjoyable experiences than before.
Whether that’s from the integration of mobile to unlock the potential for unique in-store shopping, an unexpected and fresh store design, a highly knowledgeable, welcoming staff, or, better yet, all of the above, brands that deliver a powerful in-store experience will continue to prosper.
The following article, Plugged in: Five Ways College Student Internet Use is Unique, was written by Mykel Nahorniak, CEO of Localist, for SocialMediaToday.com.
Seems like everyone these days is constantly plugged in: it’s no surprise that today’s college students are some of the biggest internet users. Look around any campus and you’ll see college students connecting all over the place.
There are students thumbing smart phones while waiting in line for coffee, lining library tables with laptops, and up late in the common room with tablets on their knees. No matter the device of choice, on a college campus, everyone’s connected.
So what exactly are students doing online? And is college student internet use all that different from that of those who left the quad years ago?
To supplement what we’ve learned from experience, we took a look at some studies from the 2011 Pew Internet and American Life Project and the First Monday article, Everyday Life, Online: U.S. College Students’ Use of the Internet.
Let’s break it down with five characteristics of college student internet use you should know:
1. It’s not all fun and games, but most of the time, it is
You might be thinking, shouldn’t this list include studying? College students are, after all, students. The answer is yes; the internet has certainly made it easier than ever for students to conduct research, access online course content, and share academic materials. However, students are spending a significant portion of their time online doing non-academic activities.
Take a snapshot of a student’s internet activity for one day and you’ll see that a lot of time is spent emailing, IMing or chatting, playing games, connecting on social networking sites, and watching videos.
So while college student internet use isn’t all fun and games, the majority of the time, it is.
2. It’s as basic as breakfast
Millenials are the first generation to truly embrace internet devices and activities like social networking as an essential part of daily life. The Pew Internet and American Life Project found that unlike older generations who marvel at internet-related technologies as new innovations, millenials seamlessly weave them into their daily lives, as if they were old friends. Consuming and sharing information across multiple devices and websites feels familiar and natural to college students.
3. It’s all about usability
Pop quiz: True or false? Today’s college student internet users are tech-savvy.
Answer: False. It’s a commonly held misconception that college student internet users are all tech wizards. There’s a big difference between frequently using technology and being tech savvy.
In our experience, college students don’t always care how an app or new technology works. They just want it to be easy to access and use. Give them a product that takes too long to figure out, and they’re on to the next one.
4. It’s dynamic and participatory
College students are both consumers and creators in the internet community. They spend time devouring information from news sites, blogs, and social networking sites and posting content of their own.
As a group, they appreciate interactive opportunities to access information and contribute ideas. The internet has given college students a voice, and they like to use it. To them, no website is complete without that little blank box asking them to share their opinions in the form of a comment.
5. Connecting to connect: it’s all about social
Social networking sites are the new common rooms. Millenials, more than any other age group, use the internet primarily for connecting with others. They’re also the only generation that thinks technology makes people closer together rather than isolated.
It isn’t surprising then that 86% of millenials who attend or have attended college identify themselves as social network users. They build and maintain social relationships through Facebook, Twitter, email, chat programs, and blogging. They’re visiting social networking sites multiple times a day. Some even describe their online social activity as an addiction.
Talk to a college student and they’d ask, what’s the point of accessing the wealth of information on the internet if you can’t share it? When it comes down to it, it’s all about social.
If students are online, then your store needs to be, too! We have lots of ways to help you connect with your target audience. For instance, our new mobile app, On The Go, places relevant information directly in the hands of your customer base.
Seamlessly integrated with inSite, the app pulls data from your e-commerce page so that students can look up buyback prices, compare textbook prices, and search for general books and merchandise. Because it’s fully customizable, you can even brand the app by customizing it with your name, colors and logo!
Learn how you can bring this solution to your store by contacting your MBS Systems Sales Representative!
A report this week from Forrester Research confirmed what just about everybody in business already knew: Americans are buying online and they are buying a lot.
The study reported that Americans spent more than $200 billion online in 2011 and projected that total would rise to $327 billion in 2016. The 2016 figure represents 9 percent of all retail sales (up from 7 percent in 2011).
Among the report’s interesting findings:
- 53 percent of Americans made an online purchase in 2011.
- 58 percent are expected to make an online purchase in 2016.
- People believe they get the best deals when shopping online.
- Tablet devices like the iPad have spurred online impulse buying.
If these stats don’t make you want to reevaluate your e-commerce efforts—and perhaps plan a redesign!—they should.
An attractive, well-organized website, with a back-end that functions seamlessly and a shopping cart that makes the purchasing process as easy and intuitive as possible will do wonders for your bottom line.
Ten years ago, building a quality e-commerce website was a highly expensive proposition. You had to hire an outside firm to do it. Today, businesses can use any number of open-source platforms to build a complex, yet relatively inexpensive e-commerce site.
But just because you can do it yourself, should you?
I say no. It’s too critical to your business not to get right. Granted, I work at a Web design firm, but hear me out.
These cookie-cutter websites that people are peddling for $1000 or less may be fine for some kid with a blog or a pizza parlor looking to put their menu and phone number online, but for most businesses, they just look cheesy.
Here’s the thing about cheap, template-driven websites: They look like every other cheap website out there. And that cheapens your brand. It makes you look like you don’t take your marketing and messaging seriously.
Custom designs are always going to cost more but the result is something you’ll never get from a generic template: a site that’s been designed to drive real business for you. That requires a team of people including an information architect, a designer, a front-end coder, a back-end developer, a quality assurance expert, and a project manager to coordinate all of the work.
But first, you must find the right design team. Look for one that understands your business and how to best promote your business online. When you are interviewing potential designers, make sure they can point to specific case studies of successful projects they have completed for other clients.
The design process should always start with a planning phase: That’s when your designer should demonstrate an understanding of your business, the competitive landscape, and the goals for the project.
This is followed by the design stage, where your team will map out the look and feel of the site and lay out the navigation and functionality requirements.
Finally, after all of the site specs are agreed upon, the front and back-end coding will begin. At this stage, the quality assurance process tests the site’s functionality across a variety of browsers.
It’s not a fast or cheap process. (And, by the way, it doesn’t end there: The next step involves driving traffic to it with sound marketing strategies.)
If you want to be in business, then you need to be online. But if you’re doing a bad job of it online, you have no business being in business in the first place.
Want to enhance your online presence? MBS Systems inSite could be the perfect option for your store. Our e-commerce solution provides everything you need to take your store to the Web, capture Internet sales, and defend against online competition.
Best of all, your store is assigned a dedicated representative who will work with you to build a website that meets your needs and fits with your brand image.
For more information, talk to your MBS Representative or email Systems@MBSbooks.com!
The following article, 5 Simple SEO Mistakes You Are Making and How To Avoid Them, was written by Amy Moczynski for SocialFresh.com.
Build it and they will come just does not fly on the web. You have to work to get people there and then make them very comfortable so they will stay.
Using SEO tactics to drive visitors (getting them there) to a well-designed website (make them comfortable) presents a great one/two punch for a digital marketing strategy. The following represent some common misconceptions people have about SEO best practices and the biggest mistakes businesses make regarding their digital marketing strategy.
1. Using your Keywords Improperly
There’s a fine balance you need to achieve when integrating keywords into your content. Use them too infrequently, and search engines won’t pick up on them.
Use them too frequently, and you could be penalized for keyword stuffing. Generally, the right balance is between 3 and 8 percent keyword density, so don’t go too crazy when putting your keywords on your website.
Also (and this is a huge pet peeve of mine), drawing attention to your keywords in your body content doesn’t do anything from a search engine standpoint.
Capitalizing your Keyword Phrases or making them bold in the text doesn’t make them any more obvious to search engines. Also, nothing screams, “novice” like capitalizing or bolding your keywords on your website. Just don’t do it.
2. Not Using Internal Linking
Your website shouldn’t just have links pointing toward it from other sites. Instead, make sure all of your internal pages link to each other.
A strong internal linking structure makes search engines happy, and it provides you with an opportunity to use anchor text when linking to various pages on your website.
3. Overusing Industry Jargon
Yes, it’s important to use your keywords in your body text, but don’t forget that there are real people, not search engines, who are using your website.
Make sure your content is simple enough for anyone to understand and you aren’t using only buzzwords or keywords in your text for the sake of using them.
Also, having text that is difficult for visitors to understand will lead to high bounce and exit rates, and most likely a lower rate of people completing whatever your online conversion might be.
4. Not Varying The Types Of Links To Your Site
Directories might be one of the easier ways to get links to your site (easier in that they are mostly time consuming but pretty simple to obtain), but using only one kind of link in your SEO strategy is selling your site short.
Blog posts, press releases, forum comments, using anchor texts in backlinks, directories, and links from various social media platforms should all be a part of a well-rounded SEO strategy.
Test different options and see what works best for your site, both in terms of your rankings and traffic to your website.
5. Letting Your Website Go Stale
This probably happens more than anyone cares to admit: You spend time researching keywords; integrating them into your content; placing them in the title tags, meta descriptions, and meta keywords; and then there is no other link building that takes place.
None. Zero. Zilch. Nada.
Yes, you followed all the rules, integrated the keywords everywhere you’re supposed to, and picked the right terms to get your website the right traffic.
But, if you don’t do any link building for your site, no matter how great the foundation you laid for your website, you’re not going to reach your potential as far as SEO is concerned.
Anyone who works in SEO will tell you it’s a long-term process. Implementing a great keyword strategy is a good start to an SEO campaign, but it’s the long-term link building that is going to get great rankings.
The following article is an excerpt of information compiled from The Beginner’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) by SEOMOZ. The in-depth tutorial covers everything you need to know about how search engines work and the fundamental strategies that make websites search engine friendly. View the entire guide for even more information about this important web practice!
What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
SEO is the active practice of optimizing a website by improving internal and external aspects in order to increase the traffic the site receives from search engines. Firms that practice SEO can vary; some have a highly specialized focus, while others take a more broad and general approach.
Why Does My Website Need SEO?
The majority of web traffic is driven by the major commercial search engines – Google, Bing and Yahoo!. If your site cannot be found by search engines or your content cannot be put into their databases, you miss out on the incredible opportunities available to websites provided via search – people who want what you have visiting your site. Whether your site provides content, services, products, or information, search engines are a primary method of navigation for almost all Internet users.
Search queries, the words that users type into the search box which contain terms and phrases best suited to your site, carry extraordinary value. Experience has shown that search engine traffic can make (or break) an organization’s success. Targeted visitors to a website can provide publicity, revenue, and exposure like no other. Investing in SEO, whether through time or finances, can have an exceptional rate of return.
How to Optimize Your Site:
Take a look at some specific technical aspects of building (or modifying) web pages so they’re optimally structured for search engines and human visitors. View the full guide for even more tips!
- Indexable Content: In order to be listed in the search engines, your content – the material available to visitors of your site – must be in HTML text format. Images, Flash files, Java applets, and other non-text content is virtually invisible to search engine spiders, despite advances in crawling technology. The easiest way to ensure that the words and phrases you display to your visitors are visible to search engines is to place it in the HTML text on the page. However, more advanced methods are available for those who demand greater formatting or visual display styles:
- Images in gif, jpg, or png format can be assigned “alt attributes” in HTML, providing search engines a text description of the visual content.
- Images can also be shown to visitors as replacement for text by using CSS styles.
- Flash or Java plug-in contained content can be repeated in text on the page.
- Video & audio content should have an accompanying transcript if the words and phrases used are meant to be indexed by the engines.
- Crawlable Link Structures: Search engines need to see content in order to list pages in their massive keyword-based indices. They also need to have access to a crawlable link structure – one that lets their spiders browse the pathways of a website – in order to find all of the pages on a website. Hundreds of thousands of sites make the critical mistake of hiding or obfuscating their navigation in ways that search engines cannot access, thus impacting their ability to get pages listed in the search engines’ indices. Below, we’ve illustrated how this problem can happen:
In the example above, Google’s spider has reached page “A” and sees links to pages “B” and “E”. However, even though C and D might be important pages on the site, the spider has no way to reach them (or even know they exist) because no direct, crawlable links point to those pages. As far as Google is concerned, they might as well not exist – great content, good keyword targeting, and smart marketing won’t make any difference at all if the spiders can’t reach those pages in the first place.
- Keyword Usage and Targeting: Keywords are fundamental to the search process – they are the building blocks of language and of search. In fact, the entire science of information retrieval (including web-based search engines like Google) is based on keywords. As the engines crawl and index the contents of pages around the web, they keep track of those pages in keyword-based indices.
Thus, rather than storing 25 billion web pages all in one database (which would get pretty big), the engines have millions and millions of smaller databases, each centered on a particular keyword term or phrase. This makes it much faster for the engines to retrieve the data they need in a mere fraction of a second. Obviously, if you want your page to have a chance of being listed in the search results for “dog,” it’s extremely wise to make sure the word “dog” is part of the indexable content of your document.
- Keyword Domination:
For obvious reasons, search engines measure the ways keywords are used on pages to help determine the “relevance” of a particular document to a query. One of the best ways to “optimize” a page’s rankings is, therefore, to ensure that keywords are prominently used in titles, text, and meta data.
The map graphic to the right shows the relevance of the broad term books to the specific title, Tale of Two Cities. Notice that while there are a lot of results (size of country) for the broad term, there is a lot less results and thus competition for the specific result.
That’s only the beginning, though! To learn even more ways to optimize your site, click here for information on meta tags, URL structures and much more!
With most stores closed on Christmas Day, consumers went online in greater numbers than the same day a year ago to shop, according to new data from IBM.
Online sales on Christmas Day increased 16.4% from Christmas Day 2010, according to IBM’s Benchmark survey of 500 major online retailers. Early IBM data for Dec. 26 suggests that online sales yesterday were up 10% from a year ago. IBM did not provide dollar figures for its spending estimates.
Online traffic and sales originating from web-enabled mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet computers increased on Christmas Day compared with the same day a year ago, according to the IBM survey.
The company says 18.3% of all traffic to online retail sites came from a mobile device on Christmas Day, up from 8.4% a year ago. Of that traffic percentage, 7.0% of the traffic to retailers came from consumers using iPad tablet computers, 6.4% from iPhone users and 5.0% from smartphones operating on the Android platform. Overall, consumers using mobile devices accounted for 14.4% of the day’s sales, up from 5.3% on Christmas Day a year ago. IBM did not report the sales breakdown by device.
As of 2 p.m. Central time Dec. 26, mobile devices accounted for 18.7% of all of that day’s traffic to the retail sites included in the IBM Benchmark survey. Consumers using mobile devices accounted for 13.8% of sales. About 89 million mobile users in the U.S. own smartphones, according to a recent GfK/SapientNitro study, which says 30% of smartphone owners say they’ve used a mobile app to search for or purchase a product this holiday season.
Every semester, students receive a letter grade measuring their progress and success in various classes. Stacy Elofir, director of University Store at Towson University, believes college stores should be no exception.
After a transformative year, Elofir wanted to find a new way to showcase her store’s hard work. That’s why she decided to compile a summary of their accomplishments in one easy-to-read document.
“It’s our report card; our time to shine,” she said. “We’ve done so many things this year that had never been done before. My staff and I work really hard to reach that goal and I think it’s important to review the immense amount of we achieved with limited resources.”
Although she had presented similar annual reports for previous positions within the industry, this was a first for University Store.
“We’re operating in an increasingly challenging and dynamic industry,” explained Elofir. “As the director of an independent store, I feel constantly challenged to show my store’s value and prove that we are competitive. This is just one more way to demonstrate that effort.”
As a first step in the process, she designed a structure for the report.
“I knew that NACS offered templates, so I started by looking through their resources,” she said. “I really wanted to include the store’s graphics, however, so that the final result looked as though it could stand alongside our marketing materials. I ultimately used their suggestions but created my own hybrid version.”
Based on a series of strategic initiatives, Elofir then had to decide which content to include, which proved to be no easy task.
“Honestly that was the hardest part!” she admitted. “There was so much to include but I knew it was important to keep it as simple as possible. I integrated a combination of text and graphics to visually balance the page and provided as many statistics as possible to back up each point.”
Elofir began the report with a broad summary of the various ways the store provided value to their students as well as to the University throughout the year. She then elaborated on those areas she felt were integral aspects of the store’s success including expanded course materials and savings, clothing and gifts, new products, online sales, and marketing, with more detail.
Although each of these components work together to enhance the student experience, the store’s rental program is one service that sticks out as most significant this year, according to Elofir.
Starting with just 4 titles in July of 2010, University Store has seen tremendous growth in their program with over 500 titles available in the spring of 2011!
“We took a significant risk by restructuring our textbook department over the past year,” she explained. “Because we rent books at 45% of the selling price, fiscally it looks like we’re losing money. But, our program has been so successful that, at this point, 75% of our titles have been rented for 3 semesters or more. So, I was excited to be able to show that all of this hard work has paid off in dollars.”
Saving students more than $600,000 over the cost of purchasing textbooks new, their rental program has also made great strides at enhancing student perception.
“It’s been a resounding success,” said Elofir. “I’m very proud of our numbers and the impact they have made on our students. Our store has integrated basically everything MBS has available, from price comparison to a campus marketplace, to help us stay competitive, and the rental program is just one example of how that has paid off!”
Their program isn’t stopping there, though.
“I left for vacation and asked my textbook manager to submit a list of about 500 rental titles,” she added. “I came back and she told me we were going to have 640!”
It’s that strong dedication that Elofir believes has made the store what it is today.
“I’ve been blessed with an extraordinary staff that’s been so receptive to my energy,” she elaborated. “I think it’s really important to trust your employees and allow them to do their jobs. It’s amazing what can happen when you’re passionate about your job and you surround yourself with people who are just as passionate, too!”
After presenting her report to the campus’ vice president of Auxiliary Services, Elofir received such positive feedback that she has since shared it with others.
“We have a unique entity on our campus called the Incubator, where small businesses can pool their resources in order to perform at a higher level,” she explained. “So, I sent my report to the director to help identify areas of growth for our store. I’m determined to make our foothold so strong on campus that no one would even think of replacing us. “
Based on this input, Elofir and her team identified several ways the store can further develop their success in the future.
“We’re planning to update our website with customer friendly graphics, partner with the Athletics department to link from their site, create web-only sales and promotions, integrate Google Analytics to our webpage, and expand our mobile options, including the use of QR codes,” she said. “You just have to be fearless and take the leap. If you wait, it will be too late.”
Along with those plans, Elofir has one major area in mind that she also hopes to expand.
“My main goal is to make this the students’ store,” she revealed. “We already have 65 students working in the store, which is huge; but that’s a number I want to keep increasing. I’m hoping to eventually have students involved in every process of the store from picking out new products in focus groups to volunteering to run events. The more that we allow them to be a part of our store, the more likely they are to be loyal to us.”
For others in the industry looking to better their business, Elofir suggests first finding a focus.
“Identify one or two things that you know you can do,” she said. “That alone will have a significant impact. You don’t have to do it all at once.”
But, above all, she advises stores to refer back to one simple rule they likely learned long ago.
“The best way to get an ‘A’ in school is to do what your teacher wants you to do,” she explained. “Working at an independent store is the same. If you can find out what both your school and your students want, then your success rate will be that much higher. It’s all about providing the value that your customers are looking for!”
Want to know more about how Stacy is overcoming obstacles to position her store for success? She’ll share her exclusive defensive strategies to combat the competition in our upcoming webinar, Battle for Books. Join the rally; register today!
In the evolving collegiate retail industry one thing is certain: students seek options. From price points to formats, offering options is now integral to your store’s success, leaving many wondering; “How do I redefine my retail strategy?”
With MBS Systems inSite, our powerful eCommerce product, the answer is simple. The platform’s enhanced Price Comparison feature now makes it easier than ever to ensure transparency with additional affiliate options, now including Verba and BookRenter.
Simplify the price comparison process through the MBS-Verba Software integration, allowing you to offer a variety of affiliates with only one contract. Seamlessly integrate real-time item listings from both your store and these online retailers so your students have no need to shop anywhere else. For more information regarding Verba Software, visit www.verbasoftware.com/mbs.
Providing yet another avenue for your store to stay competitive, our enhanced Price Comparison feature now also offers BookRenter as an additional affiliate option. Enable your students with low-cost educational content while earning up to 15% affiliate revenues with this program. For more information regarding BookRenter, visit store.bookrenter.com/mbs.
Aimed to increase your store’s competitive edge, these specific tools offer your store the ability to effectively provide greater value to students by making it easier than ever to ensure total transparency.
Power your store to stay at the forefront of the industry by taking advantage of the MBS Systems inSite Price Comparison feature. Contact your Systems Sales Consultant or send questions to Systems@MBSbooks.com for more information.