Tag Archives: Retail

Ringing In The Retail: Does Size Matter?

Currently, there are 28 million American small businesses, which account for 54% of all U.S. sales (Patriot Software 2016).

In the Internet Retailer 2016 Second 500 Guide, the most successful e-commerce companies in the middle tier have outperformed their larger rivals by identifying and leveraging their sweet spots (Internet Retailer 2016). Second 500 web merchants, whose 2015 web sales fell between $1.7 million-$28.3 million, are solid proof that small can indeed be mighty. As a group, they grew their online sales last year by 14.9% to $6.99 billion, ahead of their larger Top 500 competitors, who grew at 13.5%.

Many smaller retailers rely on Small Business Saturday, an initiative launched by American Express (CNBC 2016). In its seventh year since the recession, Small Business Saturday events and entertainment encourage consumers to shop at small businesses versus big-box stores and malls that draw in Black Friday shoppers.  

However, as a smaller retailer, competing for e-commerce dollars during the busiest shopping season of the year is no easy feat. With higher than ever stakes, how do you tackle the big retailer squeeze?

Avoid Getting ‘Amazoned’ This Holiday Season

Smaller retailers face the constant struggle of having to match the convenience that Amazon offers, while personalized and trusted product content, including digital assets and insights, to keep streams of loyal consumers returning.

The only way is to create a better end-to-end user experience that is driven by customer insights. Failure to deliver on this experience will mean leaving revenue at the door – revenue that Amazon will be happy to gobble gobble (pun intended!).

86% of companies want to excel at customer experience. But only 27% even qualify as “good” in the eyes of their customers (Forrester Customer Experience Index 2015). One thing is for certain regardless of your size as an organization:

Consumers expect a seamless path to purchase from discovery to delight across all channels and devices.

Agile Is The New Black

One of the greatest benefits a small business has is that they can react much more quickly than most larger corporations or big box stores. In other words, if you see an opportunity to introduce a new vendor, you can make this happen more quickly than the many steps necessary it would take at a big box store.

For example, if you see inventory sales have gone cold turkey (pun intended!), you can help move it through displays, employee engagement and even marking it down to help it sell faster.

Big retailers have the advantage of large scale systems that optimize processes. However giant companies suffer when they lose touch with the granularity of their businesses. As a smaller retailer, you can better understand how swiftly consumer needs change prior to larger competitors because of direct contact. You are better equipped to deal with changes in the environment and test new ideas quicker among customers without obstacles.

Retail Is Big On Small Business

Gaining a national footprint no longer relies solely on big brand partnerships – with the right attitude, resources and strategy, small business have the power to go it alone.

And if a little support is needed to survive holiday pressures, there may even be opportunities to partner collaboratively with industry giants. Smaller retailers may offer flexibility and a more intimate customer experience but when coupled with their larger, wealthier counterparts, the global market offers an array of quality goods and services. If you can’t beat them, join them!

References

1 “The State of Small Businesses in the U.S” Patriot Software. 2 May 2016.  https://smallbusiness.patriotsoftware.com/small-businesses-in-the-us-infographic/?utm_source=FRB45&utm_medium=article&utm_term=smallbiz_sat&utm_content=GBL

2 “Keeping up with innovation keeps smaller retailers in the game” Internet Retailer. 13 June 2016. https://www.internetretailer.com/2016/06/13/keeping-innovation-keeps-smaller-retailers-game

3  “A secret weapon to help small retailers on Black Friday and Small Business Saturday”. CNBC. 23 November 2016. http://www.cnbc.com/2016/11/23/ai-software-aids-retailers-on-black-friday-small-business-saturday.html

 “The US Customer Experience Index, Q1 2015.” Forrester. 6 October 2016 https://www.forrester.com/report/The+US+Customer+Experience+Index+Q1+2015/-/E-RES117482

Blurred Lines & Blended Commerce – Are You Organized To Win?

Sync-Up! With Nihat
Nihat Arkan, CEO, 1WorldSync

The retail industry is in a transition.  Some of those changes have been unfolding over a long period of time, but more rapid changes have propelled the industry into a near revolution.  Retail as a whole was always complex and diverse, but with today’s technological advancements and globalization, the industry landscape has dramatically changed.   Consumer behaviors, shopping tastes and expectations are evolving and have become key drivers in retail’s transformation to a more consumer-centric industry.  International retailers (and consumer product manufacturers) have relied on developing markets and technology to fuel growth and I believe that a change in retail strategy is needed.

According to a recent study released by PwC, “The 2020 retail landscape may represent one of the more complex environments retailers and their trading partners have ever faced. Retail organizations that do not change where and how they sell and operate will fail to adapt and succeed in this challenging landscape.”  

Retailers are at a critical fork in the road.  A strategic mindset is needed.  Change, expand or become obsolete.  Globalization, cross-channel commerce, and transparency of product information must find an intersection point for retail businesses to thrive current day.

The Global Landscape

Amid ongoing economic turbulence, developing markets continue to offer retailers prime opportunities for growth. China, for example, has become the world’s undisputed leader in e-commerce, with 2015 online sales of $672 billion after 42 percent year-over-year growth. The rapid rise of e-commerce has turned China into a leading innovator in mobile payments (Global Retail Development Index, 2016).

I had the pleasure of attending a customer event in Berlin recently and had an opportunity to speak with customers about their challenges and their agendas.  During one particular conversation, a major global retailer in the U.K. shared that mobile commerce is now surpassing desktop (Criterio Research, September 2016).  The result is that they can no longer ignore mobile (whether apps or the mobile web) nor mobile targeting strategies if they wish to engage shoppers.

Retailers worldwide are challenged to rethink everything from store formats and payment methods, to digital impact on their operations. In order to survive and thrive in this evolving environment, retailers and suppliers alike need to acknowledge that changing landscape, identify those most critical to their business and chart a course for adaptation and change.

Here’s a great example of just that.  More and more customers and industry insiders are talking about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and how they can leverage this in relation to product content. Specifically, people are talking about how to reduce friction associated with mass data management by implementing AI assisted content entry, validation and data quality.  We’ve taken steps in this arena by engaging a leading machine learning professor Dr. Sascha Lange (PSIORI GmbH) to prove out predictive standards allocation.  We were pleased to discover that we had over a 95% accuracy rate for application of standardized product classification structures to product information at the point of entry to our catalogs.   

With the rise of SO/LO/MO (social/local/mobile) commerce our retail customers are demanding that tens of millions of products be available to present to consumers, with thousands of attributes per item.  AI will be instrumental in helping to source, classify, structure and analyze content for commerce.

The Changing Global Omni-Shopper:

Today’s “omni-shopper” shops when they want, how they want and where they want.  Consumers proactively search for savings, are generally brand loyal and shop across channels (McKinsey, March 2016).  They have more places and ways to shop and are exposed to an infinite number of shopping choices online.

As such, retailers are able to engage with shoppers via a variety of touch points, from a traditional shop around the corner to the 24/7 accessibility and convenience of their laptops, tablets and smartphones.  According to a report from Zebra (Zebra, 2015), “Today’s consumer seeks out stores updated to reflect the new shopping paradigm, equipped with digital tools like mobile checkout, to flexible delivery options that reflect their omni-channel purchasing patterns, such as buy online, pick up in-store.”

The notion of a global omni shopper is extremely powerful since this essentially means that the consumer, not the channel, is defining retail.  These global shoppers, no matter if they are in Los Angeles, Hong Kong or Dubai (and wish to shop within and between those countries), have infinitely more choices in today’s environment.  For the brand and retailer, that means a challenge or an opportunity.

Transparency and Knowledge-Centric Shopping

As consumers shop when/how/where they want, they are also more demanding of ‘what’ they want.  Today’s omni-shopper has high expectations for a rich and consistent experience with a retailer’s products and brand, across multiple commerce channels and borders.  Therefore, the way a retailer informs, educates and engages customers and consumers using product information must be comprehensive, trustworthy and current. One cannot ignore the value of that product information.  Of course, perhaps I’m biased in this regard.  Yet, I should mention that one of the largest retailers in the world told me that “digital product information is as important as the product itself.”

In that light, it’s clear that the quality and completeness of product presentation in online retail has a quantifiable and direct impact on product sales.   My belief is that the on-line retailers that offer compelling, engaging, and complete content to shoppers will be rewarded by repeat purchases, lower levels of returns, and long-term loyalty.

The key to success is identifying and maximizing the opportunities where they exist.  Just as consumers are more connected, retailers will need to follow suit, engaging with consumers wherever they are and at each stage of the promotion of a product or service: the before, during and after have never been more important.

Final Thoughts

As an organization that operates between businesses, 1WorldSync has privileged access to over 23,000 brands and hundreds of analog, digital and blended commerce players.  That gives us an ideal insider advantage – we can observe and advise our customers’ journey towards a blended commerce.  

Finally, let me conclude with a question.  Is your business already organized in a way that you can operate seamlessly between analog and digital channels to market?  If the answer is no, that’s OK.  Only a handful of companies can answer ‘yes’ to this question.  However, I can tell you that hundreds of companies are already on that path.

The Evolution of Online Shopping Through a Millennial’s Eyes

It’s no secret that over the last decade, online shopping has evolved in ways we (millennials) could not have imagined. Growing up in what may now be classified as the “Digital Age”, technology has allowed e-commerce to virtually customize the way we shop.

We millennials have not only conformed the way all generations have learned to shop online but we’ve also forced industries to adapt this new transformation. For example, if I wanted to go to the mall and buy makeup I would have to physically try it on, see if I like it, and then buy it at the store. Now that millennials have eclipsed all generations from the way we communicate, access information, and live our lives on a daily basis, cosmetic etailers and app providers have even gone as far as offering facial scanning programs; allowing consumers to fill out a form based on their skin type and face shape. They even offer certain brands and products based on the user’s characteristics. If this is the new face of online shopping, it makes me wonder…what did online shopping look like before the connected consumer era? So, I decided to investigate.

E-commerce sites continue to improve in user experience and lifestyle. Current e-commerce statistics state that 40 percent of worldwide internet users have bought products or goods online via desktop, mobile, tablet or other online devices (Statista, 2016). This amounts to more than 1 billion online buyers and is projected to continuously grow. Let’s be honest… “ain’t nobody got time to go to the mall and shop!” It becomes time consuming and you are never guaranteed to find exactly what you are looking for. Been there, done that. What did people do before online shopping existed?!

Through a Millennial’s eyes, here are “5 ways millennials have helped change the way we shop”.

1. “We Know Everything” – Shoppers know as much as Salespeople
I can’t tell you how many times I hear… “Millennials think they know everything”. Well, maybe we do!

Then: When going to the mall to shop was the only option people had, they relied heavily on the salesperson’s expertise to advise them on what they needed to buy and all the features of items offered in that store.

Now: With the magical power of Google, Bing, Yahoo, and other wonderful search engines, we have the option of doing our own research and have become “smart shoppers”.  We have the potential and capability to know when we are getting a good deal. After all, every moment in a consumer’s purchasing decision journey matters.

2. Retailers now know everything too!

Then: Apparently, the introduction of retail began with retailers and shopkeepers getting to know their customer’s preferences and needs based on face-to-face interactions. Sounds a bit horse and buggy to me.

Now: In the world of connected commerce, a phone, tablet, or computer can do just that.  E-commerce sites, such as Amazon, integrate customization features that recommend products based on your interests and your online behavior paths. Ultimately, these features allow companies to appropriately offer suggestions and get to know their customers more personally based on their interests.

3. Mobile devices drive foot traffic to stores

Then: Finding the right stores with the right products you needed was either based on familiarity or luck.

Now: It’s much easier nowadays to find a product in a specific store you’re near, right at the touch of your fingertips. Most retail websites such as Target, have features that allow customers to find a store near them that carries the product they’re looking for, pay for it online, and pick it up in-store. Mobile makes it much quicker and more efficient to find exactly what you need while also providing store location information and a product finder all in one.

4. Nothing wrong with a little bit of gossip!

Then: Word of mouth influenced purchase decisions and most retailers relied upon these in order to boost sales. Personal references help, but the retailer could not directly influence.

Now: Word of mouth is a very influential factor. We share our thoughts, opinions and reviews on products within our YouTube, Instagram and Twitter community. This has affected the beauty industry tremendously with the boom of famous beauty gurus uploading “Hit or Miss” tutorials, giving their honest opinions on products and whether they are worth the price or quality. This could affect the reputations of cosmetic brands, if they have bad reviews. It can also provide them with major opportunities to position their brand towards specific targets. I’ve seen products literally fly off the shelves because of these YouTuber’s influence and the “must-have” opinions they give.

5. Products jump off the screen at you!

Then: Paper advertisements and the internet gave an image of what the product looked like but nothing can replace the actual physical feeling of a product and seeing it right in front of you.

Now: Personally, I believe there is still truth to this. Even today, a lot of sites have really stepped up their game when it comes to displaying what a product looks like before you purchase it. Products now have live 360° videos and imagery and zoom capabilities giving the shopper a better sense of what the item really looks like (Think with Google, 2014).

As you can see, we’ve come a long way since the introduction of the internet. As a result, retailers have undergone a digital transformation to meet the needs of today’s online shopping. Living through the differences in what it “used to be” compared to “now” makes us think about how much we rely on technology when it comes to shopping. E-commerce has revolutionized the way we buy and provides shoppers with a more convenient and personalized way to access what they need. At the end of the day, great shopping sites exist because of advances in technology and companies who have conformed to provide accessible, reliable product information to consumers as and when they need it.

“Silos – A Roadblock to Omni-Channel Victory”

Silos: an insular management system incapable of reciprocal operation with other, related information systems.

No matter your company size, it’s quite likely you’ve seen “silos” in action.  Or maybe you’re struggling with this right now.  The power struggles, the lack of collaboration and the loss of productivity. Ultimately, your business, your ability to sell and market better will suffer.

Chances are that you know what it looks like – various isolated groups, with little incentive to the team and little information sharing.  You might see leaders focused on their own agendas and the inevitable result is poor productivity and missed opportunities.  For example, many retail organizations have IT systems that are a decade or more old. In many cases, the technology infrastructure that supports the channels of online, mobile, catalog and in-store operate in silos which result in a huge problem.  Data silos, by virtue of their inherent characteristics, breed data distrust.  One group owns branding, the other product specs or nutritional info, so if they aren’t talking, the data (product information) will not be optimized.

We know that consumers don’t view these as different channels, they expect (and assume) that their experience will be the same, no matter how they are choosing to shop.  Unfortunately, with silo’d technologies, the inconsistencies may proliferate across channels. It’s a key reason why products may not look the same to consumers; from the store, to the circular, the website, or the mobile app. Consider the consumer journey.  The nature of marketing, selling and customer onboarding today will likely mean a journey through a dozen different touchpoints and business systems. In order to overcome these challenges, retailers must remove the silos, and implement integrated technology and information strategies.

It starts with infrastructure – systems, process and content.  All of these have to be in place, and must work seamlessly across your organization for different channels to be supported. Omni-channel leadership requires a mastery of detailed, relevant and trusted product information. This is exactly where the 1WorldSync Omni-Channel Product Information Cloud can help.

1WorldSync helps to remove roadblocks to Omni-channel victory by enabling suppliers and retailers to deliver rich and trusted product content, including digital assets and insights – to engage customers and consumers – regardless of location or medium.

This Summer, we announced several value-added apps including merchandising and sales tools including a sales kit, merchant kit, and a universal content feed solution for all customers.  This release includes significant benefits for our customers that are organizing for Omni-Channel sales growth and making their products digital, discoverable and highly shoppable. New apps in this release include information and syndication capabilities to sell products through Walmart and other global retailers, and eCommerce providers.

The 1WorldSync Product Information Cloud enables businesses to move beyond foundational product content management, to drive sales and merchandising efforts while aiding in distribution, customer integration, consumer product transparency and regulatory compliance.

Interested in finding out more about Common Roadblocks to Omni Channel?  Check out our newest Infographic.

 

The Omni Channel Challenge – 3 Tips on How your Organization can transition to a full customer shopping experience

“Here is a simple but powerful rule: always give people more than what they expect to get.” ~ Nelson Boswell

“The customer experience is the next competitive battleground.” ~ Jerry Gregoire

“Make your product easier to buy than your competition, or you will find your customers buying from them, not you.” ~ Mark Cuban

We love a good quote.  But three stellar quotes about the customer experience?  Absolutely irresistible.  Because as it relates the world of retail, we know that businesses are knee-deep in adopting new standards and technologies to improve and enhance the customer’s shopping experience.  After all, it’s the customer that now defines retailing, transcending channels to shop exactly the way they want to shop, whether online or in-store.  And their expectations are significant.  With a shopping basket in one hand and a smartphone in the other, shoppers also turning to mobile to do research, compare prices and even make their final purchase.

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5 Tips for Moving Business Online After the Era of “Black Friday”

It’s December 2015 and Black Friday is behind us.  I mean that in a literal sense (2 weeks have now passed) but also in the sense of The End of an Era.

Per retail analysis firm Shopper Track, Black Friday 2015 showed a 10.4% drop year-over-year in physical store sales since 2014.  This drop is unprecedented, and is attributed to consumers shopping over a longer span of time and taking advantage of the convenience (and safety!) of the online marketplace.

Meanwhile, Cyber Monday was reported by Adobe Digital Index to be the largest online sales day ever in the US, up 16% from 2014 to top $3 Billion.

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Technology, Transparency & Trust

The Three Pillars Defining Our Age

In our last blog, we discussed current pressures impacting the consumer markets, including the FDA’s Public Law 111-353 through its “Food Safety Modernization Act”, as well as from other governmental and ‘watchdog’ groups’ reviewing the food industry.

But we are now living in an age that is going beyond government mandates, because whether you are in the automobile or the peanut butter business, Transparency & Trust have become ‘headline’ concerns not just for regulators but ever more, and no less importantly, for consumers. And, in light of the latest news from the automotive industry, we must now acknowledge the irrefutable reality that there are, beyond government penalties, other consequences for brand equity and the managers who manage it.

In the recent past, most business have lived in the “IT” or Information Technology era, with an emphasis on the ‘T’- the technology aspect of the collection and storage of data. Advances in technology are now pushing us toward the Information (‘I’) age or Zettabyte epoch where the capture, storage and retrieval of information, and its access to all, is virtually unlimited. In this evolving new age, the mantra is … ‘If information can be known … it will be known!’

For today’s ‘Connected Consumer’, the entire universe of information is only a click away. Social media platforms, blogs and apps are keeping everyone constantly connected. Individuals increasingly feel the need to know—and share —everything. Whether its product reviews, political opinions, a family vacation, a dinner pic, or even their innermost thoughts, people are living their lives completely out in the open, laying bare all manner of minutiae online. And, while brands are noticing and looking for new ways to create corresponding connections they, too, are being laid bare.

As a result, consumers today are personally experiencing and demanding Transparency, before giving Trust. For a brand or a business, Trust from their customers and employees is critical. Transparency, is now an information technology mechanism that allows Connected Consumers access to information that defines a certain innate dissonance which always exists between disbelief and belief. Technology and Transparency therefore combine to determine the level –and increasingly a measurable level– of ‘Trust’ that is so critical to the success of a business and a brand.

Russell Ackoff, a noted academic and business consultant, often chided his students and clients to “stop doing the wrong things righter and do the right things.” Technology, Transparency & Trust are forcing marketplace change— a change that no longer allows a business to do the wrong things righter to enhance the P&L—it is a change that requires business to do the right things.

Hail the Consumer!

To learn more:
Brand
Etailer

As Global Vice President for the Consumer Markets, Michael Forhez, who recently joined 1WorldSync, brings 20 plus years of diversified experience in sales, marketing and management consulting. Frequently called upon to write and speak on subjects germane to the consumer markets, Michael is currently responsible for evangelizing 1WorldSync offerings within the Consumer Products and Retail sectors while engaging various stakeholders to better understand their collective requirements.

Transparency – The New Consumer and Corporate Social Mandate

For some time now we have been living in an era of Transparency. Transparency in our policies and procedures, transparency in the business practices we operate, and transparency in the products and services we buy in business and in our daily lives. The transparent manner in which consumers expect to discover, buy and express opinions about products or services is the new norm for any business that expects to flourish in the mobile social economy.

Product information is in demand throughout the entire discover-to-review lifecycle, and at virtually every touch point of the consumer experience. Understanding the importance and value of product information transparency and its accessibility is simple, however, delivering it efficiently and seamlessly is anything but simple. Businesses must revisit the manner in which product information is created, exploded, standardized, quality assured and syndicated to all parties that enable the consumer experience.

Consumer demand for transparency and accountability is forcing businesses and entire industries to revisit the way product information is sourced, aggregated, distributed and labeled. Years ago, the seller was in control as purchase decisions were based on the availability, convenience and brand. The paradigm has shifted, and with an abundance of choice in front of them, consumers are making selections not simply on brand or availability, but on the attributes about the product. 

Compounding this even further, a plethora of global legal and regulatory mandates have been put into place, requiring Brand Owners and Sellers to comply with product information centric regulations. For example, EU Food Regulation 1169 or FDA’s Unique Device Identification. Such regulations are another compelling force for companies all around the globe to take a closer look at the digital information chain that accompanies their products as they pass along transitional and new Omni-channels to market.

For 1WorldSync, product information transparency gets to the heart of everything we do. Our mission is to empower global businesses and consumers with trusted product information that enables improved decision making, efficiency, health and well-being.

Our Product Information Cloud platform purpose was built to deliver syndicated product information solutions and services to customers around the globe that rely on product information to power their businesses. For many of our 16,000 customers, the ability to mobilize a product information transparency program is a logical next step on top of the solid product information management foundations they have built with us over the last decade or more.

Every industry we operate in is actively investing in software and processes transformation that enables transparency. From the product development, to aggregation and management of product data at the manufacturer to setting up an item for sale at a retail or online store, to presenting that information to the consumer.

It is such a hot topic this year that we have made it the focus of our annual customer user conferences in both the USA at GS1 Connect, and in our EMEA customer event alongside ECR Europe this year. 

A Better Way to Find Stuff Online

Finding and comparing products online is far more frustrating than it needs to be.  Especially if you’re trying to find the online version of a product you found in the store. There is almost no correlation between the offline product world and the online product world. I can say this confidently, because I found out from personal experience recently. Continue reading

The Future of Social Commerce

I think it is fair to say that commerce has always been a very social activity. Marketplaces have been a gathering place for people for thousands of years and word of mouth has always been a huge influence on what people buy. But as more and more people engage in social networking activities and platforms (1.3 billion people use Facebook every month), there is a new opportunity to provide commerce as part of people’s interactions in social networking activity.

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