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Christmas in July for Amazon Prime Customers


By Stephanie Crets
 

Christmas in July is for real this year. If you have an Amazon Prime membership, that is. For its 20th birthday, Amazon is celebrating with a global, site-wide sale that boasts to be even bigger than Black Friday.

On “Prime Day” on July 15, deals will be available exclusively to Prime members starting at midnight with new deals popping up every ten minutes; a tactic to get people to keep coming back for more.  I don’t think I’ve ever made more than one Amazon purchase in one day, but I might if the sale is as good as they say.

July is generally a low spending month for consumers, with last year’s overall monthly spending taking a dip. Economists reason that people are waiting for back-to-school sales, so this celebration is a clever way to boost sales.

If you don’t have a Prime membership, Amazon offers a 30-day free trial, so you can gain access to all the deals with no repercussions and without paying the $99 annual fee. But once they get you for free, you’re hooked. Trust me.

It seems like a hefty fee, but you can’t beat free two-day shipping – or free shipping in general on extremely heavy items – along with even more TV and movie streaming if you can’t get enough from Netflix. They reeled me in with the free, fast shipping and kept me there with streaming services.

According to a survey by the Consumer Intelligence Research Partners conducted last fall, Prime members spend an average of $1,500 annually, while non-members spend $625. This isn’t too surprising since non-members are likely seeking out other online retail stores to shop. Without the free shipping convenience that Prime offers to its customers, they have little reason to be as loyal to the company. Prime members, however, end up saving money on shipping in the long run, especially if they were avid Amazon shoppers before joining.

It seems like Amazon is trying to reward its dedicated, high-spending Prime members with some crazy sales. Hey, I’ll take it!

CGS Brings Solutions for Omnichannel Fashion Retailers


By Stephanie Crets
 

Omnichannel sales have grown in the retail industry and retailers find it challenging to adapt quickly to the ever-changing platform. Not to mention, fashion retailers must keep up with the rapidly changing trends, seasons, styles and designs. So meeting customer expectations while also maintaining sales can be a complicated endeavor. That’s where CGS comes in.

CGS provides business applications, enterprise learning and outsourcing services to professionals in the retail industry. Its most important application is the BlueCherry ERP (enterprise resource planning) app that offers end-to-end solutions for fashion retailers and lifestyle brands including, but not limited to, omnichannel planning, distribution and real-time product visibility. After listening to its customers and industry experts from Gartner and WhichPLM, CGS expanded upon its BlueCherry offering and launched BlueCherry PLM (product lifecycle management) at the Product Innovation Apparel 2015 event this past June in New York City.

“The last five years have been spent getting ready for this release,” says Paul Magel, president of the Applications and Technology Outsourcing Division at CGS. “When we originally released PLM, it was marketed to our current ERP customers or to new customers with a main focus on ERP. We acquired more than 50 PLM customers over this timeframe and their input to the product, along with the input from the industry analysts, is what has led to the industry-leading, best-of-breed solution we are announcing now.”

According to Magel, other unique application features include:

  • Adobe Illustrator plug-in where users can receive designs directly from the designers themselves, which lets users seamlessly move sketches, colors and comments back and forth to the PLM platform. Users can also assign seasons, classifications and fabrications to designs, increasing their adoption and efficiency.
  • Digital asset management for image organization and storage of key metadata for easily searchable content.
  • Workflow and project management capabilities where users can create seasonal calendar templates and manage all tasks, dependencies and durations in a user-friendly PLM dashboard.
  • The PLM landing dashboard allows users to have quick access and launching capabilities of all style data and attributes within the system.

BlueCherry ERP already has more than 250,000 users worldwide, including 50 world-class brands and retailers, so enhancing its platform will bring greater success not only to CGS, but also to its users. The solution offers better visibility and control over retail collections, improves global supply chain operations and boosts time-to-market, according to CGS.

Retailers tap technology and mobilize operations for streamlined execution, communication

Guest blog by Vladik Rikhter

The lives of field sales representatives and district managers require a certain level of dedication. Driving from store to store to check on the progress of a new promotion or a recently proposed sales strategy for an underperforming product is stressful and time-consuming enough. Then, there’s all that information to track from dozens of locations those corporate offices have to manage and assess. Even worse, the same data is coming from scores of stores and associates in different regions. Compiling that information and analyzing it takes time. Those are hours not spent traveling to stores to verify that a store manager installed a promotion appropriately or that products are on shelves properly. These are the real responsibilities of district managers and field sales representatives for retailers and consumer packaged goods companies (CPGs). Beyond that, organizations need to manage the information coming in from every store and process it in a way that can reveal insights into sales dips and other issues, which are tasks that take even more time to complete.

However, none of those standards or concepts for improving sales can be formalized without the data from managers and field associates. The metrics we use haven’t changed, but the way we collect the data and monitor its application has to adapt. Technology is the answer, and mobile technology, specifically, has the capability to simplify the process of reporting sales figures, unifying communications between different levels of management and improving operational execution for retailers and CPGs.

Bringing context to sales data, improving communication

The sales reports retail that field reps compile have always told us how much of a product sold, what the status of inventory is and the promotions that succeeded or failed. They’ve never offered additional context, though. There are reasons products move and why they go ignored by shoppers. Sometimes it’s a matter of placement; other times it’s just a simple mistake in the way the promotion was installed. Processing that feedback into something actionable prevent mistakes in retail execution demands a faster solution that helps get to the true root of the problem. Integrating mobile technology enables district managers and CPG reps to address this on two fronts. They can communicate instantly with store employees or corporate to verify the progress of a product or a promotion, whether through real-time data or shared images.

The planograms carefully developed to maximize sales and customer exposure to store promotions aren’t too difficult to understand or assemble. They are, however, heavily dependent on careful, accurate execution from store employees. Solutions that quickly enable store managers to share information related to planogram execution and hear about adjustments to make can save dollars. Even if it’s only a few hundred dollars a week, that amount of money adds up over time.

Communication solves problems in operational execution

Frequent communication, whether through conversation or the sharing of data and images, is the only way for management and sales teams to ensure success. Every store has some problems to solve. Looking only at their failures and simply saying, “it needs to improve” won’t lead to solutions. Data leads to a sounder understanding of the problems stores have and helps create a channel for store managers and sales reps to solve problems together. The more stores and management communicate, the more information can be created to piece together the actual cause of a problem. Technology gives teams what they need to do that. With mobile solutions and other tools that enable instant feedback and communication related to execution, stores can receive messages from their corporate offices to prevent problems from lingering. Additionally, we no longer have to wait a week to learn a problem exists. Visual evidence that a worker misaligned an element defined in a planogram or listed promotion prices incorrectly allows for instant problem solving.

Technology is about making our jobs easier. The seamless, speedy sharing of information is just one way technology has achieved that, and retailers and CPGs need to find solutions that wipe out persistent problems in the industry.

Even as retailers continue to thrive in the face of challenges from e-commerce and other trends, finding ways to improve operations is vital to continued success. Technology won’t solve every problem, but, in so many cases, it will clear a path to the solution.

Vladik Rikhter is CEO and co-founder of Zenput

The Essential Guide to Finding Right Logo for Your Business

 

Creating the right logo can be one of the most challenging aspects of branding for a company. It’s generally the first thing that customers see, and it represents the brand on business cards, product packaging, advertisements and marketing materials.

A good logo should be memorable, recognizable, relevant to the company’s industry and target market, adaptable across many different types of media and packaging and most important of all, it should stand the test of time. With all of these critical qualifiers, it’s no wonder that the perfect logo can be hard to come by. The good news, however, is that it can be done! Lots of brainstorming and planning, combined with taking your target market and company goals into consideration, can result in the right logo to represent your brand.

Whether you’re a new company or are an established organization about to embark on the exciting journey of rebranding, the right logo can have tremendous impact on your business.

What the Right Logo Means

The right logo can be a critical factor in the failure or success of a company. Even your logo’s color scheme can lead to different behavior from your customers. Do you want to have a confident and aggressive brand image? If so, go with orange. Or would you rather have a more relaxing color, like green?

It’s a good idea to take a look at logos in your niche and see what your competitors are doing. Do you notice any similarities between them? If so, are they obvious? Do you want to have something similar or go in a completely opposite direction to stand out?

Revamping a Logo

Companies have been known to revamp their logos from time to time, and some of the most well-known brands that have done this include Pepsi and Apple.

When you revamp and refresh your company’s logo, you are sending consumers a message that your brand may be heading in a new direction or taking the steps to adapt to more modern times.

Trends come and go, so choose your logo carefully. Just a decade ago, 3D graphics, drop shadows and directional lighting were popular in logos. Today, many companies have gone minimalistic and reverted back to a flat logo with simple colors and a vintage, yet, modern feel.

Creating a Logo: How to Get Started

Ready to start creating your logo? Great! If you’re starting from scratch, there are plenty of resources available to help along the way.

Explore an affordable stock photo service such as Shutterstock, with a variety of scalable vector images to serve as your starting point. Vector imagery will allow you to change the size of the logo without ever having to compromise on quality. If a vector image catches your eye, it could save your designer lots of time to work with a pre-made version, allowing the focus to be on designing some of the trickier parts of your custom logo.

Also, consider whether your company name will be included in the logo and what colors will be featured.

Once all is said and done, don’t forget to test out your logo and encourage feedback from your employees and customers.

Guest post by Nik Donovic: I like writing about things like: Technology, internet topics (SEO, etc), music, photography, travel, the world around us, etc.

You’ve Translated Your Website. What’s Next?

Guest blog by Judd Marcello

So, you’ve made your store’s website accessible internationally, at least in the regions in which you’re aiming to grow your presence – congrats! But if you think it’s now just a matter of watching customers from all over the globe immediately stream in, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news:

Translation’s only the first step.

It’s an incredibly important step, of course, but to really take advantage of translation and truly engage retail customers in varying countries and cultures, you must do more. Here are some of the next steps you should take.

Localize!

All the content on your site – marketing materials, product descriptions, even tabs and buttons – must be tailored specifically to the region and culture you’re targeting. Successfully localizing your site requires research and an understanding of the behaviors, values, and needs of local consumers. Then, you must adapt your already established brand voice to meet those requirements. Personalizing content not only makes your site and business more inviting to new international customers, but it also helps to avoid translation mistakes that can hurt your reputation—occasionally, beyond repair.

This is relevant to images and styles on your website as well – visual items are the first thing most visitors will notice on your site, and if they push the customer away (or offend them), there won’t be anyone around to read the carefully-translated text, or buy anything. It’s also important to keep in mind that communication styles vary around the world—so keep your brand consistent, but tweak the message as needed to make sure it aligns with the intended cultural context.

Bring people there.

You’ve made the site relevant and hospitable to your target customers, but you still need to get them there. Use marketing, social media, and make sure all outreach adheres to the same principles of localization and translation that your website has been privy to in order to drive people to your site. Partner with local or international influencers to gain access to an already-established audience, and build further credibility by association.

Mix up your (product) mix.

The same theory described in localization above holds true here, as well. Curate the product offerings on your store’s site to reflect the needs and wants of the region and culture you’re targeting. For repeat customers and increased engagement, it’s important to offer products in accordance with local customs, tastes, and norms. These cultural traits can be nuanced and hard to define between groups of people, but are extremely important to individuals, in this case potential shoppers. As a result, you need to compete with local offerings that already understand this nuance, and missing the mark (or worse, offending the consumer) can let the air out of an otherwise well-executed campaign.

Build your brand specific to the new culture

Identifying which words are prevalent in a given language and how they can be used to drive keyword-specific searches in your target market is crucial if you want your multilingual website to succeed, so invest in market-specific SEO; if users can’t find your site via local search engines with their usual keywords, how are they going to buy from you?

Just like with your home language site, link checks, browser compatibility fixes, and other quality assurance checks must be routinely performed for all multilingual sites prior to launch, during the initial rollout, and on a rolling schedule on an as-needed basis. It’s important to keep your adherence to best practices consistent among all your language sites—if the site for a customer’s native tongue feels like an afterthought, the customer will likely feel like one, too.

Feedback loop

Getting it 100% right on the first time is rare in any field. Get feedback from consumers in regions you’re aiming to expand to as you begin your efforts, or better yet, in advance; identify what flaws there are in your strategy or campaign for that specific culture, and take steps to correct them. If necessary, step up the quality of translation—while translation management software can greatly help efficiency by streamlining the processes around translation and localization, the actual linguistic work should be done by humans to ensure quality.

Judd Marcello is VP of marketing, Smartling

Mixing Digital and Direct Marketing to Reach the Right Customers

Guest Blog By Art Hall

How do you take an exclusively online marketing strategy and reap extraordinary results with the introduction of direct mail? The answer lies in a company’s data. When one of the nation’s fastest growing online retailers of healthy living products established success with its digital marketing efforts, the company looked to direct mail as a new channel in its marketing mix to reach more customers and drive growth.

Designing the Right Media Mix

When a company’s commitment is to stay at the forefront of its industry to benefit customers with high performance, affordable and safe products, its marketing strategy should replicate that excellence in its approach to customer engagement.

When the online retailer engaged directly with consumers, it was exclusively through its website, email campaigns, paid search and other digital platforms. Its digital marketing efforts had been also solely focused on communications to two key groups – look-a-like prospects and new movers. Their data contained some geographic and promotional history about their core customer, but that wasn’t enough. They came to validate that using other channels would allow them to spend effectively and ultimately grow and extend the business.

The marketing team also quickly realized that true strategic insights were lacking, so the company turned to Quad/Graphics for support in developing an insights-driven marketing approach necessary to build a successful direct mail campaign.

The program launched with the application of Quad/Graphics’ proprietary consumer research, along with data and market analysis in combination with tailored messaging and creative. Immediately, they discovered that adding direct mail to their media mix would optimize customer response and maximize ROI.

Applying an Insights-Driven Approach

The partners’ foray into an insights-driven approach to direct mail began with the overlay of demographic, lifestyle, and proprietary survey data to model customers who had bought a product for the home at one time and recently moved. This data combined with the tracing of new residential addresses enabled them to deliver highly personalized direct mail pieces that resonated with those target customers.

Historically, their customers had come from online advertising, so early on they had to model from people purchasing online as opposed to those who purchase from direct mail. It was a challenge they overcame when they concentrated on areas that had the highest penetration of customers.

This customer profiling strategy enabled the retailer to reach the correct customers with creative that resonated. The result was eye opening and the marketing team was quick to determine that they wanted to move their direct mail efforts beyond only mover customers.

The team continued to use data to glean insight on how prospective customers might consume media, as well as their attitudinal preferences, in order to identify new prospective customer groups, recommend data driven creative, and develop a contact strategy. Specific segmentation strategies combining a tailored format and messaging approach were rolled out in phases targeting look-a-like households, relocated customers, and new mover prospects.

Achieving Measurable Success

Since early 2014 when the retailer began to blend its digital and direct marketing, the company has drastically reduced test and learn times compared to traditional testing methods and recognized direct mail results in half the time.

They also avoided incurring operational costs to support limited test responders, and combined conjoint analysis including quantitative with qualitative insights to commission the ‘best of the best’ in optimization.

In calculating their return on advertising spend, the company was able to measure gross revenue realized for every dollar spent, which was $1.50 for modeled prospects, $4.00 for new movers, $13.00 for relocated customers, and $5.00 for customer upgrades.

The measurable success of adding direct mail to its marketing mix demonstrates that the application of new multichannel approaches can drive continuous growth for an online organization.

Art Hall is Multichannel Sales Consultant of Integrated Data Solutions at Quad/Graphics

The Surprising Downfall of Crowdfunding


By Stephanie Crets
 

Have you ever donated to a Kickstarter campaign that had a really awesome product idea? And once it got funded, did you find yourself waiting around for months and months wondering if you’d ever get your backer reward delivered? You’re not alone. In fact, only 20 percent of crowdfunded projects are delivered on time.

Many people who utilize Kickstarter or other crowdfunding resources may have a great idea and plan in theory, but have little idea how to go into full production to execute their innovative new product.

Riverwood Solutions, an innovator in managed supply chain services and operations consulting, revealed a new solution that will help crowdfunded projects through the full product realization lifecycle.

“Without the experience that comes from having done this before, there is the specter of unknown unknowns being faced, which sometimes lead to the wrong priorities being picked,” says Pat Meagher, executive vice president of product realization at Riverwood Solutions. “There is a tendency to address the ‘low-hanging fruit’ first, but oftentimes it is important to commercialize the components that have the highest failure potential for failure and/or difficulty first, allowing time to do it over again and get it right. “

This service will fill a critical aspect that is lacking in the current market. It will offer a simplified process for small and emerging companies and will cover detailed product engineering from concept and development to pilot manufacturing.

Thanks to his work at his past company, Flextronics, Meagher has seen hundreds of products commercialized and has refined a new product introduction process to assist these companies into the full realization of their products. “I have deep relationships with offshore, low-cost, quick-turn engineering companies allowing us to scale quickly within a disciplined system and manage cost effectively,” he says.

Another issue with crowdfunded projects is the true cost of bringing these products to fruition. “Many of the crowdfunded projects I have been involved in greatly underestimate these costs when planning and are going to suffer the consequences,” Meagher explains. “One of our lessons is pay now or pay later, but realize that paying later is exponentially more expensive. Also, realize that this does not mean we don’t continue to innovate, improve and even breakthrough and challenge traditional notions.”

Riverwood Solutions services’ prices are consistent with what is required to execute these projects. But companies that need Kickstarter to fund their products should take into account the cost of these services and beyond. Many aim for a lower number to reach their funding goal, but then lose out on more money in the long run.

Meagher encourages small and emerging companies to use services such as Riverwood Solutions’. “A lot of companies that work with us have been radically transformed,” he claims. “Reach out to us and we will see if we can help.”

 

New York City Wine & Food Festival is Fast Approaching


By Stephanie Crets
 

Tickets for this year’s Food Network New York City Wine & Food Festival (NYCWFF) are on sale now! This Oct. 15-18, chefs, culinary icons, consumers and more will come together for this delicious, fun-filled, educational festival.

But first, let’s throwback to last year’s NYCWFF. More than 55,000 people of all ages, backgrounds and culinary interests attended the 130, 000-square-foot festival. Although 57 percent of attendees were based in New York, people came from all over the world to attend, including foodies of Australia, England, Switzerland, Guatemala and Brazil.

The festival featured:
• 30 exhibitors
• 75 wine and spirit suppliers
• 80 chefs and restaurants
• Hundreds of events

NYCWFF stretched out at more than 50 venues across the city throughout the three-day festival with late night parties, educational seminars and private dinners with world-renowned chefs.

Not just a celebration to rub elbows with the culinary world’s greatest, NYCWFF also raised more than $1 million for the Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry Campaign and Food Bank for New York City. After seven NYCWFF events, it has raised $8.5 million for these causes.

RM’s favorite event was the Blue Moon Burger Bash, hosted by Rachael Ray, where 30 contestants faced off to create a delicious, unique burger experience. The winning burger was the “Lamb-Marc” by Chef Marc Murphy, which featured spiced ground lamb meat and mint chimichurri. Delicious, but strange!

This year’s festival plans to surprise and delight, as it does every year. Attendees can look forward to celebrity events with Bobby Flay, Martha Stewart and Whoopi Goldberg, along with wine tastings, sushi presentations and intimate dinners with chefs.

We can’t wait to see what the festival has in store for us this fall! See you there!

Get your tickets to NYCWFF here: http://www.nycwff.org/tickets.php

How to Leverage Beauty Influencers to Launch your Latest Product


By Shana Starr, Managing Partner at LFPR, LLC
 

Tapping into influencers as brand advocates when launching a new product in the beauty industry is rapidly growing as one of the most popular strategies to launch a brand to millions of active consumers. The problem with relying solely on this launch strategy is that many brands think this approach is simple, quick and easy. The truth is that while using influencers as a path for exposure is a great way to expand a brand’s audience, reach should be factored into marketing and PR plans when a product is ready for retail; the problem is that it isn’t all that easy when done correctly. As a way to get the most out of a relationship with influencers at launch, employ these four following tactics:

1. Target the influencers you want to partner with by making sure they identify with the qualities of the product you are launching. Don’t just go after those with lots of followers. Sometimes the biggest influencers aren’t the right ones for what you are launching. Be specific about the results your beauty product will produce and make sure those align with the person you are partnering with. Do they talk a lot about subjects that relate to what your product solves? Are they current in language and approach? Do fans trust their opinions or does everything come across as a “paid” endorsement? These are all great questions to ask when identifying the right influencer to launch your product.

2. Don’t rely solely on the influencer endorsement as your only social strategy. Make sure to add into the blogger contracts that they should videotape themselves using your product. Compile the videos and create a YouTube channel with them all. This might cost you – but is definitely worth it! Make sure that your brand is reaching out with additional tweets and pictures of the influencers and that you are cross promoting the endorsements on your website and on all social platforms. Again, take the time to make sure these messages connect with the influencers’ story and their audience. It’s a waste of time and money to create marketing messages that won’t connect with what they are interested in and if it doesn’t come across organically.

3. Approach your new product launch like it is its own brand so that the launch is well rounded to include PR, events, subscription box targets, media tours and product photos and videos. Kick off a product review program prior to engaging with your influencers so that if Googled, additional reviews either appear or will appear on the day of the endorsements. It is also extremely important to make sure that, when you’re introducing new products, you go beyond just the consumer. It is more than likely that your audience includes trade media, retailers, makeup artists, salons, skin care associations or maybe even clinicians. Make sure you are reaching out to every audience that will support wide-spread awareness of your latest product!

4. Consider a coordinated flash sale or giveaway on the day of the influencer campaign. It is a great way to build buzz, connect with new consumers who love a good deal (who doesn’t?) and bring urgency to the campaign. As a way to extend your relationship with your targeted influencers, send them your product for a giveaway contest for their followers. This is another tactic that will add an additional layer of promo power to your product launch.

Influencers are powerful and can have a big impact at launch, but it is important to consider all the angles and not solely rely on the influencer’s reach. By combining this suggested approach in working with them, your product will be better positioned for the attention it deserves.

Best Tech for Managers to Keep Tabs on Their Store

Poor collaboration can kill your company and increase failures in the workplace, according to Salesforce. In fact, 97 percent of those surveyed think a lack of alignment with their team impacts the outcome of a project. To stay on top of your business, you need to do more than just stay in touch with your employees when you are out of the office. Instead, carefully pick and choose technology and collaboration tools to monitor what’s going on in your store even when you are out.

Set Accountability Measures

Do you really know what your employees and customers are up to? Establish a protocol for when you step out of the office to keep accountability among your employees. Set up a Google spreadsheet with a list of tasks ranging from running sales reports to organizing inventory and break schedules. Ask employees to log on and check off pre-designated tasks. Then, you can log on from a smartphone or tablet to look through the tasks to ensure the business is running smoothly. For longer errands and outings, ask for a brief status report on a Google doc or text message to stay on top of the latest developments in your store.

Stay in Touch Virtually

Using a smartphone is an obvious choice for keeping tabs on the office, but not all devices are created equally. Pick up a Samsung Galaxy S 6 with a free 128GB memory card to store more data, photos and videos. Ask employees to occasionally send over an image or video of what’s going on in the store. For example, you may need to see how promotional signage looks to pick up more supplies and inventory before heading back to the office.

Use an Electronic Gateway System

Rethink your electronic payment gateway, and switch to a system that makes it easy for you to log on remotely while doing errands or at a meeting. Choose a system that allows you to virtually access a transaction report. You can usually narrow down the search option by a credit and refund search to see how many customers are coming in for returns and how many are looking for your sale or newly stocked items.

Leverage Team Communication Tools

Incorporate a team communication tool like HipChat or Slack so owners, managers and employees can all stay on the same page. The idea is to use one central platform for both communication and tasks to keep tabs on the big picture of your business.

HipChat allows users to share comments and videos, and it integrates with services like Dropbox and Twitter. Store managers can ask employees to send out tweets alerting followers to new sales. Or, use Slack to monitor the tweets before sending employees a video file to look at for future social media posts.

Use a Webcam

Set up a basic webcam to see what customers and employees are up to for simple monitoring over your smartphone or tablet. Send back texts or notes to employees to ask questions or assign new tasks. For something more robust, try a security camera with remote access or get innovative with your options. Some stores use department store mannequins outfitted with audio and video recording capabilities. Ideal for large stores, managers can keep tabs on what customers are doing on multiple floors and ask employees to address issues as needed.