Tag Archives: Retail

Touch Me, Feel Me

I was cleaning out some old stuff on my computer this morning when I came across a receipt for something I had purchased online in 2005. I knew I had been an online shopper for a long time. I can’t recall the last holiday season during which I stepped foot into a retail store. I mean, I don’t like to so shop for anything on the weekend due to crowds and lines so I’m rarely in a physical store between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Given the explosive growth of online commerce, apparently many other folks prefer not to hit the stores either. I mean, the share online represents of global retail sales has almost doubled from 2015 to 2018, and is projected nearly to triple by 2021. It’s booming! That said, online is still less than 15% of retail and will be less than 20% even 5 years from now. There’s a reason for that and it’s not just shipping costs or the difficulty in finding a product.

Most people – almost 75% according to a recent study – visit stores to touch and feel products. If you’re browsing and come across an unfamiliar brand of shoe or clothing, how comfortable are you buying it without examining it for quality and fit? I’m certainly not, and I share that feeling with the vast majority, apparently. Sure, the return process isn’t as difficult as it used to be with many online stores, but who wants to deal with it? I want to see the product, which I can do on or offline, but I also want to feel it, touch it, and check it for quality.

That’s a significant advantage that brick and mortar stores have, one that they should exploit to keep market share. They can merchandise product in a way that online stores can’t. They can use in-store displays. More importantly, as we’ve said many times here on the screed, they can offer a level of personalized customer service that no online store can offer.

Try it yourself. Before you go on a shopping trip, hit the store’s online presence first. See if the two experiences are equal. If the retailer’s physical presence is doing things right, there won’t be a comparison. Shopping for a golf club or a bat or a racquet online at Dick’s Sporting Goods is nothing like going to my local Dick’s store and swinging it. I can browse through a lot more books in a shorter time at my local Barnes and Noble vs. their online store. I’m on my own online. There are pros in golf and tennis to help me in-store.

I don’t think brick and mortar is dead, not by a long shot. I do think stores will fail if they don’t take advantage of the built-in advantages they have. Cutting staff, not investing in merchandising, and simply becoming warehouses where people pick up their online purchases won’t cut it. Does that align with your thinking?.

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Is Creepy Dead?

I’ve had beacons on my brain lately.

Start Point Lighthouse, in the south of Devon,...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ll explain what they are and why in a second but they raise a larger question in my mind, which is our topic today:  has the “creepy” factor left us?  Not long ago, the notion of someone, much less some business, tracking our every move and approximating what we’re thinking would be…creepy.  Have we become so immune to the fact that said tracking occurs almost constantly caused us not to even care any more?  Let’s see what you think.

First, why beacons and what are they?  Here is a good explanation:

Beacons are devices that communicate with a shopper’s smartphone in the hopes of improving the in-store shopping experience. When placed in a store, beacons use Bluetooth technology to detect nearby smartphones and send them media such as ads, coupons or supplementary product information. They can also be used as point-of-sale systems and to collect information on those consumers — particularly how consumers maneuver through stores.

Who you are, what you’re looking at, where you go and how frequently you shop there are all part of the equation.  Maybe not so awful.  A store with an attentive staff can generally say the same about any regular customer and the information delivered about a product should be more complete than any clerk can remember across hundreds of products.  Many stores use cameras to do just that.  Apple, of course, is in the forefront of this with their iBeacon.  It’s built into every device – iPhone or iPad – sold in the last few years.  They recently deployed the technology in all of their Apple stores:  what they set up uses the Bluetooth technology of the iBeacon to detect where a shopper is within a store so Apple can send location-specific product information to his or her Apple device.  Helpful or creepy?

That’s one example.  Combine the beacon with an app and it becomes simple to send targeted messages to devices.  For example, at a sporting event, you might get messages providing discounts on concessions and merchandise or maybe even seat upgrades if you’re a VIP.  Of course, in the process a lot of information about you is gathered.

So back to the question:  is it creepy or don’t we care?  If we use credit cards, our purchasing habits are known.  If we use an in-store scanner at the supermarket, how we wander the store is recorded along with what we buy even as we’re offered coupons and discounts.  Is the prospect of a better shopping experience worth giving up yet another remnant of our privacy?  Amazon and other retailers know how we wander their virtual stores via click-tracking.  Why should physical outlets be disadvantaged?  More importantly, when the online experience can be mirrored and continued by a retailer’s brick and mortar store, doesn’t the shopper benefit?

I don’t know how many iPhone users know they have this technology in their pockets already.  I don’t know how many people realize what they’re giving up when they opt-in to this technology.  Google has deployed something in newer versions of Android that will allow retailers to bid on serving ads to people conducting product searches and Google can then track the person via their phone to see if they visited the store.  I do feel that many wouldn’t be quite some comfortable if they knew all this.

Are you, or is creepy dead?

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Filed under Huh?, Reality checks, Thinking Aloud

Love The One You’re With

One of the trends I hear discussed all the time is that of chasing the next shiny object.  As it turns out, that’s not something that occurs solely in the tech space.  A recent study from Adobe – The Adobe Digital Index – shows that online retailers are ignoring the 80/20 rule by ignoring current customers in favor of attracting new ones.  Maybe today’s screed should have been titled “You Always Hurt The One You Love.”  Their summary:

Online retailers spend nearly 80% of their digital marketing budgets acquiring shoppers (new visitors), but does this focus make sense? To find out, Adobe Digital Index analyzed 33 billion visits to 180 online retail website in Europe and the United States from April 2011 to June 2012. Our data indicates retailers should shift spend to returning and repeat purchasers, two existing customer segments that drive a disproportionately high share of revenue, exhibit higher conversion rates, and really step up in the Christmas holiday season and tough economic times. Migrating just 1% of shoppers to returning purchasers could generate as much as $39 million in additional revenue per retailer.

In other words, we’re spending way too much time and money chasing new customers while we ignore a lucrative user base that’s just waiting to be asked to the dance.  40% of revenue for online retailers comes from returning or repeat purchasers, who represent only 8% of all visitors, according to the study.  In other words, you have to attract five to seven shoppers to equal the revenue of one repeat purchaser.

Having run an online retail business I can tell you that the vast majority of our thinking was about attracting and converting new customers.  It wasn’t as if customer service was an afterthought and we did allocate a good deal of our marketing to up-selling our existing customer base.  However, this study opened my eyes to the fact that we probably could have done more with those who’ve already demonstrated a desire for our products and I’ll keep that in mind as I work with clients going forward.  How about you?

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