Posts tagged online sales
The following excerpt, from the article The Store of the Future Has Arrived (and No, It’s not Apple), was written by Christopher Heine for Adweek. The store offers an interesting look at the evolving digital experience necessary to succeed in retail and how major brands are integrating it both into brick-and-mortar and online shopping. To see more innovative examples, read Heine’s full article.
Eighty-five-year-old Chicagoan Martin Shafron, a self-described “computer illiterate,” steps into the rotunda-like entrance of AT&T’s flagship store in the city’s high-end retail district known as the Magnificent Mile. Though Shafron doesn’t realize it, he is also smack in the middle of a retail revolution showing off its gadgetry and pageantry from here to Beijing.
As he waits for one of the iPad-wielding sales associates to assist him with his first iPhone, which he’d bought there the day before, Shafron is sprinkled with what AT&T calls “innovation sounds”—perhaps best described as raindrops going pitter-patter on a digital rooftop interspersed with wind chimes producing cyber inharmonic spectra.
The highly stylized space, which opened last fall, looks more like an art museum than a store, but it’s hardly a bore—there’s plenty of digital eye candy competing for Shafron’s attention as he waits, including an 18-foot video wall equipped with motion-sensory software on which a couple of kids are playing a game.
He, like most who walk through these doors, is seriously wowed by the space, but, he says, “More than anything, I appreciate the hands-on help.”
Call it the Appleization of brick and mortar, where retailers from Michael Kors to Staples to Pep Boys are dazzling consumers with the futuristic in-store shopping experience the House That Jobs Built gave rise to. In fact, a decade ago and just a few blocks from the AT&T flagship, Apple opened its own gleaming, digitized space on the Magnificent Mile—but Apple is no longer the coolest kid on the block. Today, that distinction belongs to AT&T—though there’s plenty of competition from the likes of Nike and Burberry, which have unveiled souped-up stores here in recent months, as well as Apple, which, buzz has it, is prepping its own overhaul.
Employing the latest technology at point of sale is nothing new—for years businesses from car rental companies to Nordstrom department stores have unhooked from the wires. But the trend has gone from merely ringing up sales via mobile devices to a deeply immersive in-store experience—fully digitized but crucially featuring that face-to-face element customers like Shafron demand.
“We want to transform the traditional website experience into the physical experience,” explains Paul Roth, president, retail at AT&T. “It’s all about creating interactions rather than just transactions.”
And interacting they are. The AT&T flagship attracts an estimated 30,000 customers per month, many drawn in by bells and whistles like that giant interactive screen, which lights up the cityscape as it also manages to circumvent a zoning restriction banning exterior signage on the Magnificent Mile. The store has only one traditional retail counter, and the cash registers are tucked away in stylish wood cabinets. Sales associates access the registers not with a key but via biometric fingerprinting software and not while standing behind the tills but, rather, while sitting on a couch face to face with the customer.
The space also features a section devoted to using music apps not only for listening to but also writing tunes. To show how Square, an AT&T partner, can be used by small businesses, there’s a display with real cupcakes and a handmade sign reading “Bake Sale.”
As if that weren’t enough to command one’s notice, a Nissan Leaf is parked in front of a huge picture window, set up to interactively demonstrate how assorted auto-based apps can be used to monitor how fast their teenagers are driving. A few feet away, another area features apps that let users track who comes and goes from their homes.
The store hosts cool events with partners as well. Chicago Blackhawks legends Bobby Hull and Eddie Olczyk showed up to take a whack—with a hockey stick, duh—at Otter’s new smartphone cases to demonstrate their durability.
“Humans remember stories,” says Christina Cheng, area manager of the AT&T store. “So explaining things with stories instead of specs is a much easier way for people to understand how technology can help them.”
The space and its collection of shiny things serve as a lab for what might be deployed elsewhere at AT&T’s 2,300 locations. “You will see six or seven elements of the Michigan Avenue design incorporated to scale with the rest of our portfolio,” says Roth.
More than merely influencing what’s to come at AT&T, the store has become an incubator for what consumers will come to expect from retailers across the board—and it’s not just tech companies that are dotting their blueprints with digital tools.
Claire Huang, CMO of JPMorgan Chase, says many more tech features are in the offing. “We’ve developed a new branch concept with an open format that gives customers options. From the traditional teller window to the advice zone and tablets to self-serve kiosks and the instant-issue credit card machines, our approach is centered around choice and making the experience better for the customer,” she says.
Some may be surprised to learn that another emerging player in this space could be e-tailing monster Amazon. Even as the company has strained the bottom line for brick-and-mortar stores, reports have Amazon now eyeing a presence on the street. Amazon already has experimented with pick-up sites in markets including New York, and one can only imagine what a full-fledged Amazon store might look like.
“Retail is under siege,” D’Arcangelo points out. “The online retailers want some kind of physical presence, and all the brick and mortars are trying to catch up with the online space. What’s going to happen is a hybrid.” That could mean a deluge of business for agencies like six-year-old Web design company Gin Lane Media, which has done innovative in-store work for the likes of J. Crew and Michael Kors. The latter erected an LED display at Macy’s Herald Square in New York that has the customer walking through a constantly changing video arch. An accompanying 32-inch touchscreen display gets some 1,000 engagements per day, says Emmett Shine, Gin Lane’s founder.
There’s more innovation on the way. In-store marketing firm Synqera is piloting a program for a major Russian retailer starting this month involving facial-recognition software that can determine a customer’s age, gender and mood. Heat-map and dwell-time analytics—longtime darling stats for Web marketers—are also coming to stores.
D’Arcangelo advises that as retailers collect still more data on consumers, “everyone is going to have to think smart, transparent, opt-in, shared ownership of the data. Retailers must be clear communicating what value customers get from sharing that data. Case in point, people love when they get a great recommendation from Amazon.”
Digitization. Appleization. What about Amazonization?
“One of my favorite comments from a recent patron to our flagship store was that it was like walking into a website,” says AT&T’s Roth.
But at what cost to the retailers? While agreeing that brick and mortar is entering a new era,Sucharita Mulpuru, retail analyst at Forrester Research, wonders about the return on investment for all these digital playthings. “It’s still too early to tell,” she says.
Roth’s big digital experiment on the Magnificent Mile will ultimately succeed not on the technology alone but also on the human touch that brings in the likes of octogenarian Martin Shafron. AT&T is well aware of that fact, having enlisted some of its best and brightest from around the country to be the face of the Chicago outpost.
“There are 17 different states represented in that store,” says Roth. “Retail always depends on how good your people are.”
And increasingly, on how good they are at ringing up sales on the iPad.
The ninth-seeded Shockers kept the country on the edge of their seats this season as they advanced to the Final Four with four wins, one over top-seeded Gonzaga and one over second-seeded Ohio State. And in their first Final Four since 1965, they had the Cardinals fighting hard for a win.
Although their unbelievable run unfortunately came to an end before the championship, the team remains victorious in the eyes of their fans – several of whom have been cheering them on from the Wichita State University Bookstore.
“It has been a tremendous experience for all of us as a staff, and we couldn’t be more proud of the team,” explained Andrea Stipp, assistant director. “We were busier than we’ve ever been, and a week later, I think we’re all still recovering.”
To keep fans supplied with merchandise for each stage of the tournament, the store has been working around the clock for weeks. And, their customers have certainly taken notice. Sales have spiked both online and in-store with orders for merchandise still pouring in, despite the fact that the team is no longer competing.
The initiative kicked into high gear when the Shockers reached the Sweet Sixteen, according to Stipp.
“We utilized local vendors for the majority of our t-shirts so we could take advantage of a quick turnaround time,” she said. “Many early mornings were spent making the three hour drive to Kansas City or Lawrence to pick up t-shirt orders. It worked out great though because we could have our merchandise available in-store within two hours of opening on the day after a win.”
Social media played an essential role in promoting each new t-shirt design as the team advanced through the tournament. By updating the estimated time of arrival for new merchandise on the bookstore Facebook and Twitter accounts, they created hype and had a line of fans waiting to make a purchase each time the new shirts arrived.
“We also teamed up with the Rhatigan Student Center Marketing Department who helped us cross-promote our new products and generate a buzz,” she added.
Their real secret weapon, however, was the ability to sell merchandise online. With the help of MBS Systems inSite, their web store was easily updated and able to handle a large amount of traffic.
“A lot of the sports memorabilia stores in Wichita don’t have an online presence, so it really gave us an advantage,” Stipp explained. “We saw a 1000% increase in online orders compared to our average monthly web sales and we’re still receiving quite a bit, even now.”
inSite’s easy management allowed the store to add merchandise to their website ahead of time and simply ‘unhide’ it once their team had progressed through another round. In fact, during the Final Four, there was a point in time when shirts were selling out just as fast as the merchandise was revealed.
“We shipped packages to Asia, the Middle East, South Africa; literally all over the world. It was phenomenal,” she described. “inSite was critical in helping us gain sales. If we didn’t have an online presence, we really would have been behind the eight ball.”
Beyond sales, the store was also able to extend superior customer service to their students throughout the process, establishing loyalty that will last long after the tournament. For instance, several fans who had headed down to Atlanta for the Final Four game called the store with last minute requests for flags that had been forgotten at home or sweatshirts that they just had to have.
“inSite was instrumental in allowing us to fulfill last minute orders to our fans who were across the country,” she said. “We were able to overnight merchandise to them in time for the game and they were just ecstatic.”
Online orders also cut down on in-store traffic, offering an improved shopping experience.
“No one likes waiting in a line, so we utilized inSite to offer store pickup to our students,” she explained. “They simply ordered and paid for their merchandise online and picked it up in store. Everyone enjoyed the convenience and the fact that they avoided the hassle of dealing with a crowd.”
The store also delivered shirts to their satellite campus locations, to ensure all students had a chance to show their Shocker pride.
“We know the majority of those students are working adults, and that they may not have time to drive to our store for an order, so we wanted to make sure they didn’t miss out,” Stipp added. “We saw a huge increase in sales at these locations and they were very appreciative.”
In fact, the store even welcomed their rivals with open arms through a t-shirt trade in promotion. Because many Wichita residents sport Kansas University and Kansas State University apparel on a daily basis, the campus’ Student Center partnered with the store to increase Shocker pride on campus. So, anyone who brought in KU or K-State apparel was offered $3 off their WSU Final Four shirt.
“It became a one of a kind experience for many,” Stipp said. “We had several students tell us how excited they were to shop for their first ever Shocker shirt; it was great!”
Throughout the tournament, the store spread the word about their in-store offerings and their website to thousands and thousands of people. Although the excitement brought with it long hours and extra labor, Wichita State University Bookstore thrived under pressure and scored big points with fans from around the world.
“I think it will impact our business for a long time to come,” Stipp said. “It’s sad to see it come to an end, but it was an incredible ride!”
And there’s always next season…
The following excerpt, from the article Best Buy Swears Shoppers Don’t Have to Bother Showrooming Anymore, was written by Brad Tuttle, who covers business and personal finance for TIME. The article proves that even the biggest brands are turning to price matching guarantees as a way to combat online retail giants such as Amazon.
With the launch of a new price-matching guarantee, electronics giant Best Buy promises “the end of showrooming”—the increasingly popular practice in which shoppers scope out merchandise in a store and then buy it for less money online.
Brick-and-mortar-based retailers like Best Buy have been losing out on sales for years thanks to the rise of showrooming. Consumers simply got into the habit of inspecting merchandise in person in stores, before whipping out their smartphones to shop around for a better price. After using the physical store as a mere showroom, shoppers would ultimately purchase the item online, often via Amazon, the world’s largest e-retailer.
At first, physical retailers ignored showrooming, for the most part. They said that it didn’t matter much—that in-store customer service combined with shoppers’ need for immediate gratification would win out. But then, without really admitting the power of showrooming, retailers started battling back. Target stopped selling Amazon’s Kindle, sending the message that Target would no longer play ball with a company that’s actively trying to steal away its customers. Many retailers introduced or increased the number of exclusive products it sold: If you’re the only retailer selling an item, after all, you don’t have to worry about a competitor undercutting you on price.
Leading into the 2012 holiday shopping season, the showrooming squabbles reached a new intensity. Best Buy and Target both introduced the holiday season with unprecedented new price-matching guarantees that extended to online sellers such as Amazon for the first time ever.
What’s most noteworthy about the new price guarantees is that they seem to imply that consumers no longer have much need to shop around. It’s OK to put your guard down, we’re looking out for you: That’s the message retailers want consumers to come away with thanks to the new guarantees. Hey, we’re guaranteeing the lowest price!
In reality, these price guarantees only work when consumers shop around as aggressively as ever. Shoppers must still do all of the usual legwork involved in showrooming. The onus is on them to find the lowest price. It’s just that now, they have more options as to where to get that price.
We’d suspected it all along, but the New York Times confirmed it: retail stores are not just fighting back, they’re coming back.
“A Manhattan retail real estate broker reports an increase in inquiries from online-only retailers about opening shops, particularly in smaller spaces.” The piece went on to say that “Customers want to feel the merchandise.” “They see shopping as a social event,” said a retailer. “Think of the store as a showroom,” said another. Yet another said “They’ll show them a few products, lure them in and hopefully have them hooked. They feel that, yes, people are online, people have apps, but there’s nothing like the spontaneous face-to-face.”
One online retailer, inspired by his customers’ desire to feel the merchandise, opened a physical store and was thrilled to report that “‘the average in-store transaction was $360, double what it is online, and first-time store visitors buy again in 58 days, versus waiting 85 days between Web site purchases. And, he said, he has cut Web marketing expenses in half as in-store purchases have increased.’”
The product these people were talking about was apparel. But it could just as well have been books. Not just print books but books in all formats and domains. For some time we have been predicting that after an intoxicating decade of growth, readers would revisit print books and the brick and mortar stores that sell them.
Bookstore sales over the recent holidays suggest the trend in hard copies may be paralleling the trend in other hard goods like clothing. And for the same reasons: people like to browse, feel the merchandize, sample the goods, discover surprises, speak to an informed and friendly human salesperson. “The owner of The Book Cellar in Chicago, which saw 2011 sales rise 38% in the wake of Borders’s closing, was pleased to have last year’s increase stick,” Publishers Weekly reports. “‘Holiday sales for 2012 were “terrific,”’ the owner said, “’up a whisker.’” And Michael Boggs, co-owner of Carmichael’s Bookstore, with two stores in Louisville, Ky., was satisfied with being down 6% at one store and 4% at the other. “Both were up 38% from the year before. The new level is 30% more than pre-Borders. It’s an enormously big figure for a store that’s 35 years old to have.’”
Buried in the Times‘s report was this even more intriguing item: “An eBay pop-up store in London that opened this holiday season has no actual merchandise, just scannable screens displaying gift suggestions.” The idea of a physical kiosk selling virtual books is an idea whose time may at last be realized in the year to come, and if there is any breakthrough event we can predict for 2013, it’s that one. We’ll have more to say about kiosks before long.
The following article was written by Chris Horton and published on SocialMediaToday.com.
Over the past few years, Amazon has quickly become an online retail giant and a source of competition for nearly every retailer in the country, including college stores. Although many focus on continually finding new ways to compete with the site, it’s also important to take a look at their success and find ways your store can re-purpose their strategies to your own advantage. Take a look at the suggestions in the following article as a starting point:
As this past holiday season demonstrated, US consumers are heading online to do their shopping in droves. According to comScore, an estimated 39% of U.S. holiday shopping was done via the Internet this year. Numbers from the National Retail Federation confirm this trend, showing that between November 1 and December 7, shoppers had already spent nearly $30 billion online, up 13% from the same time period in 2011. In this new “e-tail” environment, customer satisfaction is king, and Amazon.com is the perennial ruler. For the 8th straight year, ForeSee’s E-Retail Satisfaction Index gave the e-tail giant higher marks than any of its peers. This is no mean feat, given that Foresee’s comprehensive Index takes into account more than 24,000 survey responses from shoppers who had visited the top 100 retail websites over the holiday season.
CUSTOMER SATISFACTION IS KING
The Index’s primary finding is that, though online retail sales in the U.S. are experiencing a record-breaking year, customer satisfaction is stagnant. To improve the customer experience, business leaders need to measure and understand their customers’ wants, needs, and expectations.
In other words, to win over an increasingly demanding consumer base, businesses must provide a superior, customer-focused digital marketing experience.
While other companies are struggling to find their digital marketing mojo, Amazon has emerged as the model to emulate. Why should you care? According to Foresee, companies that provide an excellent customer experience tend to see increased revenues, loyalty, and recommendations.
In the Foresee Index, a larger score equates to higher levels of customer satisfaction. For example, customers who are dissatisfied with an online experience will rate a website at 69 or lower, whereas customers who are highly satisfied will rate a website at 80 or higher.
This is a critical distinction, as the 2012 Index found that shoppers who are highly satisfied with a brand’s e-tail website are 71% more likely to purchase from that retailer online and 56% more likely to purchase offline. Here are some other customer satisfaction-related findings from the Index:
- Brand Loyalty – Highly satisfied holiday shoppers are 67% more likely to buy from that retailer the next time they buy similar merchandise, 65% more committed to the brand, and 61% more likely to return to the website than those who are dissatisfied.
- Brand Affinity – Compared to dissatisfied shoppers, highly satisfied shoppers say they are 61% more satisfied with the retailer overall, transcending the experience with the website alone. This information shows
- Brand Promotion – Highly satisfied shoppers say they are 69% more likely to recommend the company to a friend, family member or colleague than are dissatisfied shoppers.
As anyone who has tried to purchase or even research a product online quickly realizes, Amazon is almost as ubiquitous as Google. Given Amazon’s massive size and reach, it is fascinating to note that, after eight years of tracking, the company received its highest customer satisfaction score this past year (88). It is no mean feat for a company to quickly scale and improve customer satisfaction.
LEARN FROM THE MASTER
Given that it is always a sensible practice to learn from the best, here are three digital marketing takeaways from Amazon’s business model:
- Understand Your Target Audience - Though it seems obvious, knowing as much as you can about every segment of your target audience is fundamental to understanding how specific elements of your website can better impact customer satisfaction. Collecting website user data provides offers insight into your audience’s wants, needs, and expectations. This data can also help you allocate finite digital marketing resources.
- Use Data to Define and Refine the User Experience – Amazon is expert at tracking shopper behavioral tendencies at a granular level to better understand each segment of its ubiquitous target audience. With the help of marketing automation software, you can take a similar approach. What products are shoppers purchasing (or not purchasing)?; what web or content pages are they clicking on?; how much are they spending on certain products?, etc. As the Foresee Index points out, getting inside the minds of your audience and really understanding their experiences and impressions can help you optimize website conversion relative to sales, customer satisfaction, and loyalty.
- Produce Content that is ART: A major element of Amazon’s success has to do with its prolific content. From detailed product descriptions to user-generated reviews, the website provides users loads of content that is Accurate, Relevant, and Transparent- pure ART.
THE BOTTOM LINE
As I’ve noted many times before, the mass adoption of Internet, social, and mobile technologies have shifted the balance of power from the producer to the consumer. In such an environment, customer satisfaction is more important than ever.
To compete, brands must win over an increasingly-demanding consumer base by providing a superior user experience. Amazon recognized this earlier than many, and implemented a customer-centric, highly-integrated digital marketing strategy better than most.
The battle is on between bricks-and-mortar retailers and their increasingly potent Internet adversaries.
Frustrated by once-loyal customers who have been wooed away by online merchants, retailers are gearing up with new weapons to stop the continuous flow of shoppers from stores to computers and smartphones.
With the holiday season approaching, some chains are vowing to match prices with their biggest online rivals. Others are offering free layaway and expanding their assortment of unique products or adding Wi-Fi and other digital upgrades inside stores to entice tech-savvy shoppers. There’s even increasing talk about same-day deliveries.
In California, traditional retailers are happily anticipating picking up more shoppers after online retailers started collecting sales taxes in September, losing a crucial advantage when consumers comparison shop. Virginia, New Jersey and several other states will begin collecting sales tax in the coming years.
“We think we have a huge advantage over Internet-only companies,” Toys R Us Inc. Chief Executive Jerry Storch said in an interview. “Every possible way the customer wants to use the Internet — or their neighborhood store — to interact with Toys R Us is available. The customer can choose how to do business with us.”
Online merchants say they are ready to fight. Nearly a quarter of shoppers say they’ll go online to do most of their holiday shopping this year, according to a survey from consulting firm Deloitte, and 75% said they expect to buy at least one item online this season. But Web retailers said they sense the competition with traditional retailers and are busy as well, kicking off their holiday ads before Halloween and expanding free shipping and other promotions.
Amazon.com, the nation’s largest online retailer and responsible for about half of all Internet retail purchases in California, has geared up.
“Every year we want to offer great deals,” spokeswoman Pia Arthur said. “We will have fun types of things going on for the holidays.”
It’s always a high-stakes competition for the retail dollar, and experts say this year it’s more intense than ever. And no wonder: Merchants rake in an estimated 25% to 40% of their annual sales in the last two months of the year. Shoppers this year will drop an estimated $586.1 billion during the holidays, according to the National Retail Federation.
“If the stores don’t do more, then they are going to become antiquated,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD Group. “But that is why they are doing so many things right now to test what works, and to tell shoppers that they are in the game to play.”
Traditional retailers will have to work hard to win back long-lost customers such as Paul Johnson, once a regular at malls but who now buys “almost everything” online.
“It’s such a hassle running around to stores trying to find anything you want,” said Johnson, a 30-year-old fashion model from Los Angeles, who prowls the Internet for items on his wish list — including kitchen supplies, DVDs and cotton T-shirts.
Best Buy Co. and Target Corp. are taking direct aim at Web merchants with online price matching, partly to grab customers who now use their stores as showrooms — to check out items and then go buy them more cheaply on the Internet.
“We are taking on showrooming,” said Amy von Walter, a spokeswoman at Best Buy, which has granted salesclerks the ability to match online prices for appliances and hardware including tablet computers and cameras during this holiday season. “It’s really about empowering employees to be able to match the price when it makes sense and make the sale.”
Target vows to match prices with Amazon and the Web stores of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Best Buy and Toys R Us.
“It’s instant gratification for guests,” said Dustin Hamilton, Los Angeles district manager for Target. “Instead of waiting one day or four or five days for something to come in the mail, you get it right away for the same price.”
The discounter has also added free Wi-Fi to its stores and placed QR bar codes — which can be scanned by smartphones to bring up product information — on ads so shoppers can buy the items directly from their phones.
Toys R Us has extended free layaway until Dec. 16 and rolled out a reservation service so parents can nab popular playthings early and avoid frantic last-minute searching during the holidays.
“You can go order online and pick it up immediately at your neighborhood store,” said Storch, the CEO. “You don’t have to wait around home for FedEx to arrive or come home to the little sticky note on the door.”
We’ve all been there. You’re all set to buy something, credit card in hand, but for one reason or another you never close the deal.
Maybe the third time you were asked to enter your credit card number you gave in. Perhaps it was the exorbitant shipping costs. Maybe the site crashed.
The truth is, there are several things that send potential customers fleeing in horror from your website. If you actually want people to stick around and buy stuff from your site, you may want to take note of and avoid these common pitfalls.
1. Your Site is Too Slow
Every 2 seconds of load time on your site equals an 8% abandonment rate, according to Gomez, the application monitor from Compuware. If you drop your load time from 8 seconds to 2 seconds, your conversion rate actually jumps up 74%.
It’s easy to see why: Do you want to waste your time waiting for a site to load?
Unfortunately, there are a lot of reasons why your site is loading so slowly. Steve Tack, Chief Technical Officer for Compuware, says many e-commerce sites are overloaded with third-party plug-ins for Facebook, Twitter and ad networks — all of which can slow a site down. Another cause is cloud issues: If you’re using a content-delivery network (CDN), your site can slow to a crawl if your service provider is having issues.
2. Your Site is Too Complicated
If you’re asking consumers to take more than five steps to buy something off your site, then you’re asking too much. Compuware recommends the following:
- Welcome/cart contents page
- Bill-to section
- Ship-to section
- Payment module
- Confirmation/thank you page
3. Your Credit Card Entry System is Punishing
Is there anything more frustrating than entering your name, address, 16-digit credit card number and three-digit security code, and then restarting from scratch because you forgot your ZIP code? And yes, if most of your business is in the U.S., why not put the country first on the scroll instead of way down at the end, as it would appear alphabetically?
Sucharita Mulpuru, an analyst with Forrester Research, says that there’s a standard sequence of information for credit card information. If you mess with that order (by putting the credit card number before the name and address, for instance), then users are apt to enter the wrong info because they’ve been trained to log such data in a certain sequence. Says Mulpuru: “Follow the industry standard.”
4. You’re Charging Too Much for Shipping
Mulpuru says that if you’re charging more than 10% of the total cost of the item for shipping, then you’re charging too much. “You’re probably depressing your sales significantly,” she says. “People are more likely to abandon your cart.”
5. Your Site Performs Horribly on Certain Browsers
You may be a Google Chrome fan, but there’s a world full of people who are using old versions of Internet Explorer. Have you tested your site on those other browsers? “Many sites don’t perform well across various browsers,” says Mulpuru, “so people abandon them.”
6. You’re Hitting Your Customers With Irrelevant Offers
OK, you’ve completed the sale. This person has indicated that they’re interested in what you’re selling, so it’s natural to conclude that they might want to buy something from you in the future. So why not hit them with offers for things that they’re actually likely to buy?
Mulpuru recalls, for instance, that after she bought a bed from Costco, the retailer besieged her with offers for … more beds. While deals on pillows or sheets might have made sense, a bed is something you generally purchase every five or 10 years. Says Mulpuru: “At this point, I’m not in the market for more beds.”
Need help fixing any of these issues? Talk with your MBS Systems inSite Client Representative for advice on how to provide your online customers with an excellent shopping experience!
While mobile stole the 2011 holiday spotlight, one thing that slid in under the radar is the fact that social media sites can help drive sales. Retailers must begin forming their social commerce strategy now, by looking at how their customers are behaving on social media channels both on their sites and across the Web.
Cross-Channel Marketing Guide
OK, it’s time to officially close the book on the 2011 holiday retail season and to shift our attention forward to 2012. For me personally, what makes it difficult to stop looking back are the new trends that emerged that will forever change holiday shopping. By now you know the story:
- Mobile made its mark, with 11 percent of online sales in December coming through a mobile device — an increase of 100 percent over December 2010.
- The empowered customer turned to multiple mobile devices including smartphones and tablets to conduct mobile shopping.
- While overshadowed by their mobile counterparts, social media sites such as Facebook proved they have an influence on consumer buying.
Now it’s time to begin looking at some of the smarter commerce approaches retailers can embrace to ensure they hit the bull’s-eye this 2012 holiday season. Following are some key issues to consider.
Mobile Commerce Is Here to Stay
We now know that mobile commerce is here to stay. In fact, we believe that mobile shopping rates will exceed 20 percent in 2012. A huge part of this growth will come via the iPad, which offers consumers an unparalleled experience, one which this past December drove more retail purchases than any other device.
In 2012, retailers will need to go the extra mile by creating a design and experience that fully takes advantage of the richness and the exploration capabilities of the device.
Next, take a leap of faith and embrace Quick Response Codes (QR Codes). QR Codes are unique bar codes that store a significantly larger amount of data. By scanning the code with a mobile device, consumers are instantly presented with a vast array of data about the company, including nearby locations, special offers and more.
While many feel that QR codes have missed the mark, with mobile shoppers in full swing, this technology represents one of the next big evolutionary rungs on the mobile commerce ladder. Push to make your business’s mobile commerce efforts even smarter by using QR Codes to connect consumers with rich, detailed information about the products that interest them the most, all through their mobile device.
Let’s Get Social
One thing that slid in under the radar is the fact that social media sites can help drive sales. Retailers must begin forming their social commerce strategy now, by looking at how their customers are behaving on social media channels both on their sites and across the Web.
Specifically, look at how consumers are sharing specials and promotions within their networks. Next determine if there are patterns that you can identify and replicate in 2012.
Additionally, take the time to decipher social sentiment. By embracing advances in analytics, businesses can regularly gain new insights into consumer perceptions of their brand that will ultimately help to predict their buying behavior.
It Can’t All be About Mobile and Social
While mobile and social are center stage, email remains one of the most effective ways to engage customers, as long as it’s not overdone. To be truly effective, marketing should be perceived as a service, not an intrusion.
For the 2012 season, begin examining the data gathered over the 2011 holiday effort. Specifically, look at the behaviors of customers to identify clear preferences for time, promotion, and how they consume your messages.
What days were they shopping most, and at what time of day? What devices were they using, and when? Now take this insight and target these shoppers with promotions and special deals at these precise times and on their preferred device.
Be Prepared to Start Early
One trend that was more pronounced this past season was the Thanksgiving shopper. In 2011, U.S. shoppers took advantage of early sales, which drove a 39.3 percent increase in online spending on turkey day, making Thanksgiving the official kickoff to the weekend of holiday shopping.
In 2012, retailers must begin promoting deals a day early and then be prepared to keep them fresh for Black Friday to ensure you keep shoppers interested.
When do you start planning your holiday sales strategy? Share your tips in the comments section!
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!