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Retail Beacons: Location is Everything

Guest blog by Oren Levy

In today’s highly connected world, privacy is becoming a more precious and rare commodity. Between social media and mobile connectivity, the lines between the personal and public spheres are blurring, and now people are reachable and information is accessible virtually anywhere at any time. As a result, there is mounting concern about data exposure and accessibility, particularly in the realm of retail. Consumers are worried about merchants’ efforts to extract and store data about their customers, and the increase in retail data breaches has not positively impacted their sense of security.

Matters of data security and transparency have been further pushed to the fore with the advent and implementation of beacon technology. Venture Beat explains beacons as battery-powered sensors that use BLE technology to detect the location of a Bluetooth enabled mobile device and then transmit messages or prompts to the devices, often through the use of an associated mobile application.

Even though most Americans already use mobile devices in store for research and showrooming purposes, as reported by Business Insider, consumers are wary of this technology that can tap into their phones – and ultimately their pockets. The question then is whether beacons are as invasive as consumers believe? This paper will explore the actual capabilities of beacons to show the value beacons add to the shopping experience for consumers and retailers alike, as well as the way this technology protects consumers and their privacy.

Big Brother, Big Data, and Beacon Misperceptions

Before explaining why consumers should or should not be concerned about beacons, it is crucial to first explain how beacons work, what kind of data they provide, and the ways they do protect consumer privacy. One of the reasons consumers dislike the idea of beacons is that they attribute to beacons the ability to spy on them, allowing retailers to exploit them. In reality, beacons’ functionality is completely dependent on the consumer.

As Executive Director of the Future of Privacy Forum, Jules Polonetsky, explains, beacons do not track consumers or collect data. Moreover, before a beacon can operate on a consumer’s mobile device, the consumer must authorize a number of permissions. Firstly, Bluetooth must be activated for the beacon to detect the phone at all. Next, since most beacons function in conjunction with an associated application, consumers must also have the correct app downloaded on their mobile device with location services and push notifications enabled. The technology can only impact the consumers who have opted to activate it on their mobile devices, and consumers can change these settings at will to prevent receiving targeted messages from beacons.

There is much mystery surrounding beacons in regards to the type of information they collect about consumers and the manner of data collection. In fact, beacons draw data about location exclusively – they detect where a consumer is in a store or whether he or she is passing by outside the store. Based on location metrics, retailers that deploy beacons can learn about where customers spend the most time browsing in-store, the average customer journey throughout the store, and general browsing patterns. They cannot draw any personal information about consumers – any personalization capabilities enabled by beacons are tied to the associated loyalty program or app when it is authorized to do so.

Based on the metrics collected, retailers can then analyze information and draw conclusions about in-store navigation and popular products in general. For example, if consumers consistently lingered by a display but very few actually purchased the item on display, the retailer could conclude that he or she might have to reconsider the pricing of the item to boost sales and customer satisfaction.

Disturbing or Disruptive?

Although beacons do not violate privacy to the extent presumed, consumer concern about them is not completely unfounded. In October, Buzzfeed exposed a scandal where New York City phone booths were fitted with the devices, causing a sense of voyeurism amongst the city’s residents. As Buzzfeed and the New York Times have described – given that the user has authorized all permissions associated with beacons – this technology could easily be used to proliferate spam and exploit consumers anytime and anywhere. Beacons make it possible for advertisers to invade the personal domain, infringing on shopper privacy. Lori Andrews, an IIT Chicago-Kent college of law professor, points out that the conclusions to be drawn from the location technology can be invasive: “Knowing a person’s location can reveal whether she is at a mosque or church or synagogue, whether she is at an abortion clinic, an AIDS clinic, or meeting with a competitor of her employer” she said in an interview with Red Eye Chicago.

While concerns about data privacy and beacons are legitimate, it does not mean that beacon technology should be dismissed as an intrusive technology. Beacons are already showing great promise in the retail sector as well as in other industries: in addition to being used to optimize in-store experiences, a number of companies, including Barclay’s bank, are using beacons to improve their service and accessibility to handicapped customers. They are even being used by airlines and airports to improve customer travel efficiency and in stadiums and at sporting events to share helpful information.

For consumers open to authorizing beacons, beacons can translate the personalization features enjoyed by online shoppers to the brick-and-mortar shopping experience. Online customers receive recommendations for items they might need or enjoy at various points in their digital shopping experience – a phenomenon that beacons are enabling in-store. The Guardian has reported that House of Fraser even plans on putting the beacons in mannequins and pushing notifications of where items in the display are located in the store. Consumers benefit from the useful location and navigation services enabled by beacons, which assist in in-store navigation and product discovery, as well as providing location-specific offers when appropriate.

From Detecting Location to Building Loyalty

In enabling a more seamless in-store experience, through beacons retailers improve shopper satisfaction and conversions in addition to gaining valuable location-based data that can help them further maximize their retail potential. Retailers can even use beacons to detect consumers passing by their store and incentivize entering the shop. They can determine inefficiencies in their in-store design and make improvements that better serve the needs of their customers – they can even use this information to optimize website content and organization. Finally, utilizing the apps associated with beacons, retailers can share custom content and offers with consumers to personalize their brand experience and build loyalty.

However, beacons’ impact will be limited unless retailers regulate the collection and use of consumer data and become more transparent about data collection processes and objectives.  As TechTarget suggests, companies using beacons “walk a fine line between offering useful information and being invasive.” If they can strike the proper balance regarding data collection and use, then their benefit to both retailers and consumers will be clearer and better executed.

One way to regulate beacons could be to restrict beacon interference to the checkout stage, so as not to bombard consumers while they shop. Other suggestions include focusing on beacons’ location data and resulting analytics instead of using the devices to push notifications to consumers. By limiting the frequency of messages sent to a consumer’s phone in a given period of time, consumers will feel less badgered by the brand and more likely to repeat their experience.

Furthermore, if retailers inform customers about them, why they use them, and what data they collect, they can impact consumer confidence and, ultimately, brand loyalty. As beacon technology develops the question of what retailers do or can collect may even become regulated by governing bodies to further protect consumer interests and privacy and to create a standard of what protecting consumer privacy entails. The applications associated with beacons will also have to be standardized, as to achieve optimal success with beacons, retailers will have to condense the amount of applications a consumer has to download. By concentrating all beacons into one centralized application, customers are more likely to download one beacon associated application than numerous branded options.

The bottom line is that providing a beneficial experience is crucial to the success of beacons – if the consumers can appreciate the added-value of beacons to their shopping experience, they will realize they do not need to worry about retailers’ invading their privacy. Instead, they will appreciate that the limited data retailers collect can have major impacts on their retail experience without being overly intrusive. Once consumers feel confident using beacons, they can be used to optimize other elements of the retail experience as well: One major possibility for beacons is their evolution to pushing checkout capabilities to shoppers’ phones instead of requiring them to wait in line to pay for their purchases.

Oren Levy is CEO of Zooz

Tips for Holiday Success

Here are some tips for success this holiday season from Shmuli Goldberg, director of marketing for Feedvisor.

1.     Feedback makes all the difference

Seller rating on Amazon is calculated by points. If an order is fulfilled without any problems, it receives points, and if a problem arises, points are taken off. The amount of points either granted or deducted depends on the size of the problem.

Receiving negative feedback is a factor that deducts a huge amount of points, thereby negatively affecting the overall seller rating. Since orders placed in the last 30 days have a greater effect on a seller’s total score, receiving POSITIVE feedback NOW will vastly increase your chances of winning the Buy Box over the coming months.

Practical Tip: Why don’t you get in touch this week with all your current customers and ask them to leave positive feedback on their experience with you? Even better, get in touch with customers who have given negative feedback and ask them to remove it.

2.     Stay in stock

What you certainly do not want, is to be out of stock of any items during the Christmas period, especially the popular items. Not only are you unable to win the Buy Box this way but sourcing products during the holiday season can also be a lot more difficult and expensive.

Practical Tip: Order all of the inventory and supplies you think you’ll need, now. To get a rough estimate of how much you need, you can expect to sell between 2.5 and 4 times as much as usual (unless you’re selling Santa memorabilia, in which case you’ll probably need a lot more!).

3.     You’ll disappoint the children if the gifts arrive late!

Shipping time is crucially important for the Buy Box. The various times are arranged into brackets, including: 0-2 days, 3-7 days, 8-13 days and 14 or more days. While moving within brackets certainly affects your share of the Buy Box, jumping between brackets has an even greater impact and may result in you securing the Buy Box.

During the holiday season, buyers pay particular attention to shipping rates, since they want their purchases to arrive before December 25th.  With the notoriously slow mail during such a peak time, it is extremely important to get your shipping times spot on.

Practical Tip: It may be worth spending slightly more in order to ship your items quicker. While your profit margin per item may decrease slightly, you won’t be complaining if you win the Buy Box and increase your sales!

4.     Respond Quickly to Your Customers

While not as vital as price or overall seller rating, customer response time does still impact the Buy Box. For example, sellers who want to score best need to respond in less than 12 hours. Amazon only care about response times for the 90 days, which is why, if you want to win the Buy Box over the coming weeks and months, it matters how you respond to customers right now and in the next 90 days.

Practical Tip: While it obviously takes more time and energy to respond quickly to customers, it may be worth putting in that extra effort in the lead up to Christmas, so you’ll be in the hot spot to grab the Buy Box at this most lucrative time.

5.     And, of course, Price

Although perhaps the most obvious factor, it nevertheless must still be mentioned! Price your products competitively and you are half way to winning the Buy Box. This is something that can be done in seconds and there are multiple repricing software out there that will save you the time repricing manually. While certainly vital all year round, getting the price exactly right during the holiday season is an optimum way to see your revenue soar.

Practical Tip: If you’re not currently using any repricing software, how about trying one now? Here at Feedvisor, we understand that different repricers suit different people and that’s why we offer free demos to anyone who wants to test us out. Most other repricers also offer the same, so why don’t you sign up to one now and see if it makes a difference to your sales. If it does, you can subscribe straight away and continue using it through the holiday season and beyond.

The Details are in the Data: How Online Retailers Can Shine this Holiday Season

Guest blog by Jeff Deisner

It’s no secret that the holiday season is the busiest and most profitable time of year for the retail industry. As the holidays approach, the press is awash in stories about the strategies retailers are practicing to drive traffic into their brick-and-mortar stores. But what does the season hold for online retailers?

Online holiday sales have steadily increased in recent years and are expected to continue to do so. In fact, the National Retail Federation’s digital division, Shop.org, has predicted an 8 to 11 percent increase in e-commerce sales this November and December over last year. Just as brick-and-mortar retailers are preparing for the holidays with door-buster promotions and hiring temps to cover extra floor shifts, online retailers can also shine this holiday season by following a three-step strategy for providing offers that are sure to resonate with consumers.

1) Determine the data points to track – The best way for online retailers to put a holiday data tracking strategy into effect is to start with determining what information to track. While this may vary slightly for each retailer, most will want to track where customers are located, what they are searching for, which devices they are using and what sites and channels are driving conversions. These key datapoints will give retailers valuable customer information that can be used to refine holiday offers.

By knowing where consumers are located, retailers can localize their offers. For example, you don’t want to offer discounts on heavy down jackets to customers in Southern California beach towns or offer board shorts to customers in the grip of a snowy New York winter. Understanding what customers are searching for helps to identify the category of items to present to the user for future shopping.  Knowing which devices consumers use will also help online retailers ensure their creatives are viewable. Not having a landing page load properly on a mobile device can really hurt sales on key shopping days. Most importantly, by tracking which sites and channels are driving conversions, retailers can adjust their digital spend accordingly.

2) Organize and analyze through tagging – Once they have determined what to track, retailers will need to find a way to organize all of their campaign data. One of the simplest ways to accomplish this is through tagging. Much how keywords make blogs searchable, retailers can use this powerful tool to help them sort through vast amounts of campaign and offer data.

Through tagging, retailers can separate and analyze data in a manner that best fits their holiday campaigns. Additionally, they can also use tagging to greatly reduce the time it takes to manage data and campaigns by applying updates to any campaign data en mass, and activating and deactivating a large number of offers all at once. Tagging is useful for grouping and separating offers and payouts by type such as pay-per-click, display, profit share, revenue percentages, etc. Tagging can also be used to group some of the aforementioned datapoints to more effectively align offers with customer data.

3) Identify what’s working…or not - While tagging will help retailers organize their data, offers and creatives, split testing will help them determine what is resonating with customers. Split testing is a random experiment designed to test which of two or more marketing creatives is more effective in driving traffic and conversions. The effectiveness of nearly identical versions of the same item with just a slight variant is compared to see which is more successful in accomplishing a desired outcome.

For example, retailers can split test:

  • A square blue button vs. a round red button
  • A call to action that reads “Ask for a quote” vs. “Request a demo”
  • A square ad vs. a rectangular ad
  • A link to another web page vs. a link to a PDF

Just about any marketing creative can be split tested. Retailers can get started by choosing just a few key items that will provide actual insight into better ways to convert customers. By taking the time to create and split test multiple versions of creatives, retailers can get a much clearer picture of customer behavior throughout the holiday season.

Once retailers have determined what data to track, how to organize their data and how they will use multiple creatives to split test, they’ll be armed with the tools to optimize campaigns in real-time. And with 23.8 percent of all annual retail sales being made in just the month of December, retailers cannot miss out on a single sales opportunity. By following these simple and effective steps, it’s not too late for retailers to shine this holiday season.

Jeff Deisner is Vice President of Operations and heads up Client Services for the marketing technology company, CAKE.

Bah Humbug! The “Amazon Effect” is Haunting Retailers This Holiday Season

Guest Blog by Leela Rao-Kataria 

When you’re not Amazon, the holidays are terrifying.

For consumers, the act of gift-buying flings you into a state of panicked, obsessive-compulsion where the 24-hour, several-day madness of searching for the lowest prices pits you against the furious elbows of other adrenaline-filled, piranha-like shoppers.

And if you’re a retailer, prepare to get eaten alive.  From “pre-pre-pre-holiday” sales, to door-buster deals, to matching prices so low they make no sense—you’ll throw all hands on deck to get trampled by the holiday stampede, solely in the effort to attract more foot traffic.  And after the dust settles, there’s still no guarantee you’ll come out ahead.

Unless you’re Amazon.

A Prime Ribbing 

Amazon sits pretty as America’s poster child for online retail.  It won shoppers’ hearts by making shopping (and gift shopping) simple, not scary. Not only does Amazon sell items from every product category under the sun—at severely discounted prices—it also delivers them with unprecedented speed and reliability.

Delivery matters.  Of 500 respondents polled in a GT Nexus global survey, 70% said they’d received a package late at some point, and a majority emphasized that on-time delivery was crucial to them.

Amazon has allayed shipping concerns with cheap expedited shipping, detailed tracking information, and robust delivery options, including pick up at its Amazon Lockers.

The results speaks for themselves.  Overall e-commerce revenue grows at a rate of about 14 percent year-over-year, while Amazon is growing almost three times faster.  By 2012, it was the U.S.’s 12th largest retailer, and by 2017 it’s projected to be the second. And Amazon Prime members currently total 25 million in the U.S. alone.

But the most impressive thing about Amazon is its ability to taunt other retailers on their own turf.

It’s common to see consumers strolling down store aisles, opening their phones to look for reviews of a product via Amazon and to find the product to be cheaper there rather than on the store shelves, with low-cost or free shipping.  Many times, customers even flat-out ask brick and mortar associates whether their products can be found cheaper on Amazon.

That’s the “Amazon Effect”—the spectral presence of the e-commerce giant even in tangible, physical stores.

The Holiday (Fighting) Spirit 

This holiday season, spending is expected to increase 4.1 percent over last year.  A National Retail Federation (NRF) study even showed that sales should reach roughly $617 billion, a whopping 19.2 percent of the industry’s $3.2 trillion in yearly sales.

Those statistics put retailers under a lot of pressure. On the one hand, there’s a brilliant opportunity to make up for what might have been a lackluster year. But on the other, a bad holiday quarter can ruin the whole year.

And then there’s Amazon, which will be sure to double down on both deals and fulfillment.

But retailers don’t plan on going quietly into the silent night. Here are 4 strategies retailers are using to combat the Amazon Effect:

  1. Increasing technology innovation:  Big box retailers, according to Forrester Analyst, Sucharita Mulpuru, are working to catch up to Amazon’s technology. For example, Wal-Mart has gained online market share and recently announced plans to invest almost half a billion dollars more this year into its technology spend to improve its online profile and user experience.
  2. Improving in-store pickup: This is the biggest point of opportunity for brick and mortar stores to best Amazon. Short of waiting on delivery, Amazon Lockers in select regions is currently the only option the e-commerce giant offers, but consumers want more in an in-store pick up, especially around the holiday season when speed and convenience matter.
  3. Selling exclusive products: Amazon is great at selling mass-produced goods, but retailers can offer something different– unique, personalized, or hand-made products that  seem to be more in demand with the rise of online shops like Etsy.
  4. Providing value-added service:  Retailers can also distinguish themselves from e-commerce sites by bundling products with in-store services. For example, Claire’s offers free ear piercing when you buy a pair of earrings.

Jumping Down Chimneys 

Retailers can thrive during the holidays by playing to their strengths and offering value-added, in-person experiences. But they need good infrastructure behind them.

The battle of e-commerce versus brick and mortar will soon give way to a more fluid, ambiguous model of online/physical omni-channel stores, fueled by agile infrastructure.

Retailers need to operate as smart networks, tying dynamically to consumers as well as their suppliers to keep up with retail innovations. When you’re not Amazon, things might seem rough, but there’s a whole world of innovative opportunity out there. You just need to seize it.

Leela Rao-Kataria is Marketing Manager, Retail Industry Solutions with GT Nexus

Lost at the Mall: Trends in Holiday Shopping Behavior

Guest Blog By Michael Bevan

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The holiday shopping season is upon us. Black Friday is creeping into Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday seems to last through New Years Day. And during this time, consumer behavior becomes less predictable. How does their gift buying change during this frantic time of year? Retailers need to pay attention to these shifts in behavior to ensure they are engaging with customers in a meaningful way.

At Placeable, we decided to dig into this by asking 1,000 holiday shoppers what they think. We discovered that consumers will stray from their usual shopping routines this holiday season. Specifically, nearly 60 percent of consumers will shop at a national retailer that they don’t normally visit. For example, it might be a husband buying yoga pants for his wife, a grandparent looking for toys for their grandkids, or someone else trying to find a gift that the outdoorsman in the family will love. It might be a shopper who will visit an unfamiliar big box store to find the best prices and selection on gifts for a large family.

Regardless of the reason, retailers will see new faces in their stores this holiday season. And the potential impact on their sales is huge: the National Retail Federation expects 140 million shoppers to shop in-store and online this Black Friday weekend alone. Just consider how many of those shoppers are visiting a store for the first time.

Our research also found that affluent shoppers are even more likely to shop at a chain store that they don’t normally buy from. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of shoppers who earn more than $100,000 will venture away from their usual stores.

So now that we know consumers are checking out unfamiliar national retailers this holiday season, a big question remains—how are they finding these new stores? Turns out that online isn’t just about Cyber Monday deals anymore. In fact, six out of 10 shoppers will consult a brand’s website before going to a physical store to make a purchase–and it’s not just to check pricing and product availability. Nearly 90 percent of the shoppers are looking for location-specific content. This content starts with address and phone number, but frequently consumers are also looking for holiday store hours, special promotions, coupons, parking directions and more. These consumers trust that this content is reliable, so retailers with multiple locations need to have the tools in place to ensure that the information is accurate, relevant and updated.

Another trend for retailers to pay attention to is how holiday shoppers use mobile phones to find stores. We found that more than 40 percent of holiday shoppers will use a smartphone to navigate to a store. This is an important reminder that retailers need to consider aspects of mobile and online channels that go beyond shopping and ordering–and carefully examine how they integrate with the in-store channel to create the best experience. For example, retailers simply must have local web pages with optimized locators for mobile devices. By anticipating how on-the-go shoppers will find unfamiliar stores, brands will establish a positive first impression before a customer even steps foot in the door.

Failing to enhance your online presence to attract more than just online shoppers is likely to cost retailers big sales this year. One in ten shoppers will give up completely on a gift search due to erroneous location information–and no retailer can afford to forgo that much revenue due to something so simple and avoidable.

To be successful, retailers need to adopt digital marketing tactics that ensure new and once-a-year shoppers can not only find the perfect gift, but that they leave with a positive impression and remain happy customers beyond the holiday season.

Michael Bevan is Director of Marketing at Placeable

Four Undeniable Facts about SEO for SMBs

For local business success you need word-of-mouth marketing and of course a great product, but you cannot ignore the importance of an online presence. You have to establish a strong web identity, which means well-constructed SEO to be sure your business appears among relevant search results on Google and other search engines.

The need for SEO for a local business is so great, that most will not survive without a plan to capture local online searches. Here’s four facts about SEO that are undeniably important and should drive SMBs to devote resources to SEO strategies:

1. 4 out of 5 consumers are turning to search engines for information about local businesses, products, and services.

This means that having a local online presence is essential for attracting customers. Let’s say people search for “Mexican restaurant San Francisco” and your business name doesn’t pop up in the results. How will they find you? Chances are, these Mexican food-craving patrons are going to choose a restaurant from the list of options that immediately appear in their search results. So, if you even want a chance at capturing 4 out of 5 customers, it’s crucial to be one of the options in their local search results.

2. 50% of people who make local searches on a phone visit a store within a day, and 34% of tablet and desktop searchers do the same.

Local searchers are ready to act. They are conducting the search for a specific reason, and many visit a nearby location within a day in order to fulfill a need. Businesses that appear prominently in local search results are not only getting seen by consumers, but are also being visited by online searchers who are very likely to convert into real paying customers. Making your business easy to find online through quality SEO best practices can substantially affect opportunities for sales and business growth.

3. 53% of searchers click on the first organic result, with 25% going to the 2nd and 3rd results.

The closer to the top of the page your business information is, the more exposure your business gets. It’s that simple. If your business is on the second page of results, then it will likely be ignored. These statistics highlight how relevant it is to have your online presence search engine-optimized so that you have a better chance of reaching your target market when they’re looking for your service or product. You also need to recognize your results placement will change, due to adjustments in the search engine’s algorithms or actions by your competitors’ own SEO actions.

4. 88% of consumers conduct local searches on smartphones and 84% do so on a tablet or computer.

Local is in demand. Let’s face it: convenience matters and people will make purchasing decisions based on their location and which businesses are in close proximity. Smartphones are about immediacy. The user might be on the road and need a soccer ball for their kid’s game. They search for “sporting goods” in their specific location, and will pick the result that is closest.

Consumers want technology to guide them to make efficient choices, and if you want to capture customers, you need to make sure search engines can easily point potential buyers in your direction.

The statistics don’t lie. Consumers that want to find local products and services are using their mobile devices to conduct searches, they want to find information quickly, and they’re likely to make purchases. SMBs should recognize how people are increasingly using technology to find local merchants and the implications of this trend. They need to understand the role that smart SEO and content creation should play in their marketing strategies in order to appear prominently in search results.

Russell Wallace is Founder and CEO of 29 Prime

3 Mobile Apps Small Business Owners Can Use to Increase Foot Traffic

Smartphone apps have radically changed the way people shop, and retail businesses that don’t adapt risk losing money. A study by UsableNet found that more than 10 percent of smartphone users have used their phone in-store to look up product information and compare prices. Consumers still want the experience of talking with a salesperson and seeing the product in person, so the brick-and-mortar store isn’t a thing of the past yet. Here are some of the best smartphone apps out there to help drive foot traffic into your stores.

Shopkick

Shopkick is an app that makes consumers aware of all the best products available in stores near them and incentivizes in-store traffic. By offering “kicks”—points that can be redeemed for giftcards—Shopkick rewards consumers simply for walking into your store. Then if they scan an in-store item with their smartphone or make an in-store purchase, they are awarded with extra “kicks.”

Shopkick is partnered with many popular stores offering gift cards, including Target, Best Buy, American Eagle and more. Shopkick also has a running feed that alerts users to new deals and products being featured in local stores, which not only increases foot traffic but also increases brand engagement with thousands of potential customers. Shopkick offers many of the features of popular apps like eBay and Amazon’s shopping apps, and it must be doing something right; according to Nielsen, Shopkick was the fourth most frequently used shopping app, behind Amazon, eBay and Groupon.

SpinDing

SpinDing is an app that can help you draw in foot traffic by giving potential customers a daily prize. The way it works: You allocate some portion of your product inventory to the SpinDing app as prizes. Once uploaded into the merchant-side portion of the app, SpinDing locates consumers near your store and sends them the prize offer directly to their smartphone. Consumers must arrive in store and present their e-voucher to receive the prize, which not only gets them in the physical building, but it gives you the opportunity to sell them an accessory or service that goes with that free prize. Merchants can control how many prizes are offered, so SpinDing won’t give away your entire store’s stock when you aren’t looking.

LoyalBlocks

LoyalBlocks is the first-ever automatic check-in loyalty app that offers customers a unique and personalized experience specifically tailored to your business and their preferences. LoyalBlocks enables you to create an in-app loyalty program that can include status privileges, punch-card style reward systems, referral coupons, and even a happy hour reward that can pull in customers during your slowest hours.

Not only does LoyalBlocks encourage people to come to your store, it also builds brand loyalty and seeks to create a long-term relationship between you and your customers. LoyalBlocks even offers a device you install in-store that detects LoyalBlocks customers as they walk in. It then sends personalized messages and rewards to their smartphone. If customers allow it, LoyalBlocks can even automatically check them in on Facebook, letting all their friends know about your business.

Go Omni-Channel This Black Friday

Guest blog by Oren Levy

As we prepare to kick off the holiday shopping season with two of the biggest shopping days of the year, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it’s a good time to look back and take stock of how much the retail industry has changed in just one year.

Last year, the Black Friday and Cyber Monday craze was all about m-commerce – especially optimizing the mobile experience for the holiday season. And indeed, TechCrunch reported that overall online sales saw a 19% increase on Black Friday 2013, but mobile sales surged 43%. Cyber Monday also saw record-breaking results: e-commerce sales increased by 20% from 2012-2013 while m-commerce sales increased by 55% year-over year, according to Mashable. The question is, how will the Black Friday Weekend, including Black Friday and Cyber Monday, be different in 2014?

For much of 2014 retailers have taken note of the general rise in popularity of online retail channels, and have wondered whether brick-and-mortar retail would survive to see another holiday season. But on the brink of Black Friday Weekend 2014, brick-and-mortar retail has never been more relevant – and online retail channels are just as critical.

Upping the ante: an Omni-Channel Black Friday Weekend

Creating an Omni-Channel strategy is critical for retailers regardless of time of year, but for many retailers the upcoming holiday season will be about offering a seamless Omni-Channel experience. As opposed to last year’s focus on the mobile channel, this holiday season will be characterized by retailers’ attempts to break down the barriers between retail channels and engage consumers across channels.

Here are some strategies leading retailers are using to provide holiday shoppers with a seamless cross-channel experience:

Synchronizing cross-channel logistics

In the Omni-Channel age, inventory transparency is of critical concern for the retailer as well as the consumer. Retailers are implementing enhanced supply chain management infrastructure and protocols to minimize friction from the shopping experience at every channel.

Retailers are boasting flexible fulfillment and delivery options, including buy online pick up in-store, buy in-store with home delivery, order online in-store with home delivery, and same day delivery. They are also making product availability and supply information more transparent for consumers and sales associates, to prevent situations where retailers’ cannot fulfill orders because of lack of supply. Finally, retailers are preparing for the influx of holiday orders by hiring extra temporary employees to ensure the order fulfillment processes are seamless as the shopping experience.

Incentivizing cross-channel shopping

Retailing over a number of channels significantly increases the potential for conversions by encouraging purchasing at multiple channels. By incentivizing shopping at individual channels, retailers are boosting sales at all of their channels using tactics such as reminding consumers about in-store sales at the checkout or incentivizing shopping at other channels with channel-specific coupons, deals, or sales.

This strategy allows retailers to leverage all commercial touch points to their advantage, while engaging customers equally across channels. Cross-channel incentives not only encourage shopping at every channel, but they make consumers feel appreciated by offering discounts at alternative channels in return for purchases at one channel.

Optimizing Omni-Channel technology

In addition to inventory management solutions, much technology has been developed to make the cross-channel shopping experience more seamless. There are beacons, which incorporate elements of the online shopping experience in the in-store experience through mobile devices. Using Bluetooth technology, beacon hardware, which is installed on store walls, communicates with the shopper’s mobile device to offer in-store assistance, personalized recommendations and offers, and sales and discount notifications.

Another up and coming technology that incorporates the mobile phone in the in-store shopping experience, mobile payment technology, like Apple Pay and Google Wallet, will enable consumers to easily pay for purchases electronically – much like online payment.

Retailers are also continuing efforts to integrate technologies that upgrade the e-commerce experience, and engage consumers online as in-store. Responsive webpages, personalization resources, and post-sale customer engagement services are examples of technologies that enable retailers to humanize their brand’s e-commerce experience for the holiday season and year round.

Internationalizing the offering: cross channels and borders

Retail innovation today is breaking down the borders between online and offline shopping, but it’s also enabling retailers to cross-physical and national borders, as well. While enhancing their cross-channel offerings and technological resources, retailers are focusing on optimizing the shopping experience for cross-border customers, as well.

The Internet is enabling shoppers worldwide to take advantage of Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, and retailers, eager to take advantage of significant conversion opportunities, are integrating solutions that make cross-border purchases possible and easy. Technologies, like BorderFree, that are minimizing the hurdles of cross-border retail convert prices into local currencies, factor taxes and duties into prices, manage international shipments and customs clearance, and localize websites and payment options for international shoppers.

While these obstacles seem minor, they significantly impact international conversion rates and consumer comfortability with cross-border shopping.

Capitalize on Black Friday Weekend hype

According to MarketWatch, consumer enthusiasm for Black Friday Weekend has never been higher and retailers are eager to maximize their Black Friday success by meeting the consumer demand for a seamless cross-channel and cross-border shopping experience.

Oren Levy is CEO of Zooz

Convert Showrooming into In-Store Sales This Holiday Season

Guest blog by Ralph Crabtree

“Stores are wonderful. You can examine all the stuff for sale, and then buy it cheaper from another company online!” Sound familiar? This modern consumer tactic, commonly known as showrooming, is expected to continue during the upcoming holiday season. While some retailers perceive the practice as a threat, smart merchants are beginning to use it as an opportunity. With the help of in-store analytics technologies, stores can take action to convert showroomers into brick-and-mortar buyers.

A 2014 retail survey by Accenture reveals that in-store shopping is rebounding in popularity, but still needs improvement. The good news is that data capture and analytics technologies for brick-and-mortar environments can help retail organizations provide their customers with the best possible in-store experience. These solutions provide information to help decision-makers better understand today’s multichannel shoppers, delivering the equivalent of clickstream analytics for walk-in stores.

  • Drive In-Store Sales with Personal Service

Retail stores can offer shoppers something no website can: individual service from a real person, face-to-face. Holiday shoppers commonly need advice about the perfect gift and require help with details like sizes, feature comparisons, and gift wrapping. Savvy retailers carefully gauge staff levels so they can provide the right level of personal service to their customers. To do this effectively, they need accurate, real-time data about customer traffic throughout the store and at registers so staff can be deployed at the right places and times. Historical data helps decision-makers identify trends and make forecasts so they can match staff levels to the ebb and flow of holiday customer traffic.

  • Make In-Store Purchasing Convenient for Online Shoppers

Reverse showrooming is the consumer practice of using online resources to research potential purchases and then visiting a store to buy the product. Customers like the instant gratification of walking out of a store with a holiday gift safely in hand and one more person checked off Santa’s nice list. Retailers can support this multichannel shopping habit by making it easy for consumers to browse for products online and pickup items in the store. While customers are at the store to collect online orders, they frequently purchase additional merchandise—boosting overall revenue. To make the most of the reverse showrooming trend, retailers need a holistic multichannel data analytics strategy that’s able to combine both online and in-store insights.

  • Use Analytics Technologies to Improve Speed of Service

Retailers can also keep their customers happy during the busy holiday shopping season by using in-store analytics technologies to streamline checkout. These systems can combine real-time and historical data about traffic and queues to help managers predict when checkout demand will be high so they can deploy staff appropriately. Stores can also leverage wait time estimates to communicate to their customers about what to expect. Depending on staffing and logistics, a long line may not mean a lengthy wait—but if customers don’t know this, they may dump their carts and leave. Showrooming is less attractive to customers when they see that they can get served quickly and walk out with product in hand, rather than wait for an online order to be shipped.

  • Enhance Shopping for Connected Customers with Proximity Marketing

Finally, location-based technologies combined with other types of in-store data can help retailers engage more effectively with customers as they browse in the store. For example, they can send personalized notifications and promotions to shoppers’ mobile devices based on their proximity to specific merchandise. These real-time interactions enrich the in-store experience for consumers and can help retailers transform browsers into purchasers.

Showrooming and reverse showrooming both offer opportunities for retailers to boost sales during the holidays—and year round. Modern in-store analytics and multichannel marketing technologies can deliver a comprehensive view of customer activities that help retailers delight customers, and most importantly, close sales.

Ralph Crabtree is CTO and co-founder of Brickstream, the in-store analytics market leader. He is an expert in the development and application of technologies for brick-and-mortar analytics. 

Commercial Windows in Retail Store Design

Guest Blog by Ryan Gavin

Your retail store’s design is one of the most crucial elements of your success. The impact you make on your customer when they first walk in the door is what stays with them forever, so when they hear or see your name anywhere they think of the design. A lot of store owners, however, decide to focus on the interior more than the exterior. The walls, lighting, layout, and colors are all important elements of your design, but the real eye-catcher happens before the customer even walks in the door. The moment the potential customer sees your store, they immediately record this image in their mind because this design is how they’ll find you from now on. That image is their first impression.

Commercial Window Designs

The role commercial windows play in the designing of your retail store comes down to three factors, each highly dependent on your target demographic:

  • Materials
  • Color
  • Features

First, you must choose your target demographic if you haven’t already. If it’s a new store design and you’re a startup store, then this is the perfect time for you to decide. Afterwards, choose materials, colors, and features to match this demographic. As it would be impossible to go through all of the possible combinations of materials, colors, and features for all of the possible target demographics, we’ll focus on just one: teen clothing.

Materials

Targeting something like the teenage demographic means that you have to stand out and be unique among the rest. If they can walk by your store without even noticing you, then you may need a new window design. Some of the materials you have to choose from include wood, vinyl, aluminum, and glass. The teenage generation is likely not interested in wood windows, although there are some complicated designs you could create with them. Full glass windows are likely the best route in this case.

Colors and Features

The glass option could provide you with some interesting design ideas, and is the most popular for retail stores. You could have a framing option with colors, such as blue for a surf shop. However, the real eye-poppers come from the features. Some of the features you could use are tints, films, and engravings. I would recommend asking a designer what they recommend you place in, on, and around your windows. If you are a store like Hot Topic, you’ll definitely use tints to make the windows darker, but still see-through. Engravings are more common for luxury stores, such as a jewelry store, but anything can be effective if used properly. Films provide protection as well as aesthetics, and are highly customizable in terms of giving your window a design. Last but not least there’s what goes in the windows. Posters, products, manikins, sales, and other items can be placed in the window to grab the attention of passersby. The combination of these features and materials with clean new commercial windows can and likely will attract new customers.

Conclusion

Ignoring your commercial windows and your storefront can be deadly to your image. Find your demographic, and target their interests and what design they would look at and remember. Using plain glass windows with posters may cut it, but you should get a little more creative with the materials, framing options, and the numerous features available.

Ryan Gavin is an associate of Aeroseal Windows & Storefront. He believes windows can improve a business dramatically when installed professionally.