A blog for all things retail and licensing.

Petco’s “Bootique” is Ready for Halloween

By Stephanie Crets

It’s finally October, which means it’s Halloween month! I’d rather celebrate the whole month than just one day, wouldn’t you? And if your pets could talk, they would probably agree. Well…maybe not, depending on how compliant they are. When I put my cat’s fairy wings costume on, she tends to just fall over onto her back until I remove them. Or she does the classic cat move of backing up until she can wiggle free.

Regardless of how your pet feels about getting dressed up, according to a survey conducted by Petco, pet participation in Halloween festivities has climbed with 50 percent of respondents planning to dress up their pet this year. This number is up 11 percent from past years. Of these respondents, 84 percent noted that their dog will be the pet joining in on the trick-or-treat fun. Cats are much less cooperative, as is their way.

To help your pets celebrate, Petco has launched a new collection of Halloween costumes, available now at Petco stores nationwide. And with the rise of Star Wars merchandise, you can count on dressing your pup or cat up as an Ewok, an X-wing pilot or Princess Leia with a hair bun headpiece. Some other new costumes include pumpkin hats, devil capes, superhero costumes and more.

But it’s not all about costumes, as your not-so-furry children know. You must have treats, too. That’s why 68 percent of respondents confirmed they plan to purchase a special Halloween treat or toy for their pet. Some of the Halloween-themed toys and treats include a rope dog toy covered in candy corn, a spider chew toy and a dog treat bar made with a blend of pumpkin, cinnamon and clovers. Even the dogs get in on the fall pumpkin spice action!

Petco will also be offering a number of Halloween-themed events throughout the month of October, both in store and online. Events in store include:

  • Paw Impressions: On Saturday, Oct. 10, pet owners can bring their dog in to create an imprint of their paw as a fun family keepsake.
  • Reptile Rally: On Saturday, Oct. 17, head to your nearest Petco for the Reptile Rally – a celebration of reptiles, arachnids and amphibians. A “Reptile Meet and Greet” will take place for families to get to know these fascinating companions and learn useful care tips from knowledgeable Petco partners. Enjoy cool giveaways and a “Most BOOtiful Reptile Costume Contest.”
  • Petco’s Halloween Pet Costume Contest: On Saturday, Oct. 24, bring your pet into Petco for the Halloween costume contest. Prizes and treats will be awarded, with a grand prize including a free mini make-rover.

Beginning Oct. 1, Petco is also offering an Instagram contest. If you plan to dress your pet up in a creative costume this year, you can participate in the “Make a Scene” photo content. All you need to do is take a photo of your costumed creature in a scene that matches the costume and post it on Instagram using the hashtag #MakeASceneContest. You could win a $5,000 grand prize! You can see the adorable past participants here.

By treating your pet to Halloween festivities, you’re also treating yourself to some guaranteed laughs and fun. I know I will have fun trying to put a costume on my cat this year. What are your pet(s) costume plans this year?

A Credit Waterfall

By Kevin Lawrence

It’s no secret most big ticket retailers – those offering home furnishings, flooring, jewelry and automotive accessories – count on credit to drive sales and profits. Credit sales have become the norm as consumers require assistance to afford these large purchases.

The most successful retailers are taking steps to ensure additional credit is both readily and easily available to their shoppers. Ideally, credit opportunities should be available at both a retailer’s physical locations and online store — as is often the case. But so-called brick-and-mortar stores can gain a competitive edge by offering an in-store credit experience that can’t be matched online.

Here’s a look at the potential shortcomings of applying for credit through a retailer’s online site:

Many retailers use online services to pre-qualify a potential customer for credit. If the credit application is denied, the customer not only won’t be able to make a purchase, but also may not return to the site or visit the physical store. That’s a lost customer.

A lack of a secure network or the inability to verify the applicant’s identity may also lead to lower amounts of approved credit. Less credit equates to smaller purchases and lower profits. Then, too, there is no way the retailer can assist the consumer to make the best credit choices or be available to answer questions during the application process.

Fortunately, there is an in-store solution offering many of the benefits of online credit, yet with consistently improved outcomes for both consumers and retailers.

A self-service credit solution allows consumers to enter their application data into a kiosk-based touchscreen located in the store. Shoppers can choose to keep the process entirely private – saving embarrassment should the application be denied. Yet store personnel is available to answer questions and help point applicants to the lending solution that best fits their needs.

Instead of offering only a single lender, the kiosks offer a solution that instantly sends applications denied by a primary lender cascading to secondary lending sources. This helps retailers reduce credit denials by up to 40 percent. The solution can even be configured with a no-credit check rent/lease-to-own option.

The highly secure direct link between lenders and the kiosks generally return decisions in seconds while delivering an average of $4,000 in credit. Those are results likely to win customer loyalty.

There are still more benefits. Once store associates see an approved line of credit, they can direct customers to merchandise within that range. Often that provides an opportunity to sell more than the customer may have originally planned to spend. Since most consumers choose to use the kiosks alone, sales associates are largely removed from the credit process – allowing them to assist other shoppers. And the kiosks leave nothing for the retailer to protect. Retailers never see their customers’ sensitive financial information and no data is stored on the kiosks.

The solution generates more applications, returns more approvals and generates larger transactions. Both retailers and consumers win. And it’s one more customer-friendly option physical stores can offer that online sites can’t match.

Kevin Lawrence is vice president, sales and marketing for Versatile Credit, the leading provider of in-store, self-service credit application solutions.

NYCWFF: Fall Favorite

By Janice Hoppe

The crisp air has blown in and the smell of pumpkin is everywhere – from your morning latte to the incense in the office – and that can only mean fall has arrived. The new season begins, bringing with it the highly anticipated annual New York City Wine & Food Festival, one of the largest wine and food festivals in the United States.

“We are excited to unveil our 2015 event lineup, which includes the return of festival fan favorite events and a variety of new experiences for our passionate attendees,” says Lee Brian Schrager, festival founder and vice president of corporate communications and national events for Southern Wine & Spirits of America Inc. “Festivalgoers will have the opportunity to see their favorite chefs and culinary personalities, including both veteran and new faces from the Food Network & Cooking Channel, plus interact with leading winemakers and spirits producers from the Southern Wine & Spirits of New York portfolio.”

The eighth-annual Food Network and Cooking Channel New York City Wine and Food Festival will take place Oct.15-18, 2015. The festival attracts more than 50,000 attendees, world-renowned chefs, winemakers, spirits producers and culinary personalities for a weekend filled with unique experiences.

Favorites and Firsts

Last year’s festival offered more than 100 events throughout New York City, including intimate dinners with world-renowned chefs such as Beldium’s Kobe Desramaults, Italy’s Dario Cecchini, England’s Yotam Ottolenghi, Mexico’s Enrigque Olvera and France’s Philippe Baranes, Christophe Boucher and Gregory Marchand. It also offered late night parties, educational seminars and panel discussions.

Pier 94 hosted New York City Wine and Food Festival’s Grand Tasting where guests sampled dishes from the city’s best restaurants, enjoyed tastings from suppliers of the Southern Wine and Spirits of New York portfolio and interacted with top culinary and lifestyle brands. More than 20 Food Network, Cooking Channel and other celebrity culinary personalities hosted demonstrations on the KitchenAid Culinary Demonstration stages.

This year, the festival will feature favorite events like the Italian-themed feast hosted by Giada De Laurentiis, Chicken Coupe hosted by Whoopi Goldberg, Rock ’n Roll Sushi hosted by Masaharu Morimoto, Meatopia hosted by Michael Symon and Blue Moon Burger Bash hosted by Rachael Ray – plus the return of her Feedback™: Chefs & Cocktails party.

There are also plenty of new fêtes to keep everyone’s taste buds tantalized at the 2015 festival, including brunches hosted by Bobby Flay, Martha Stewart and Geoffrey Zakarian, a Harlem-inspired midnight Jazz breakfast and a celebration of ramen with Chrissy Teigen and Serious Eats’ J. Kenji López-Alt. A new signature Art of Tiki: Cocktail Showdown, intimate dinners and seminars with celebrated chefs and beverage personalities will also tempt attendees.

A Worthy Cause

The 2014 New York Wine & Food Festival drew a crowd of about 55,000 and raised $1 million for the nation’s leading hunger-relief organizations. “Eradicating hunger, both here in New York and across the country, is something we know we can always count on our talent and fans to support,” President of the Food Network & Cooking Channel Brooke Johnson said last year.

The festival has raised $8.5 million for the Food Bank for New York City and the Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign. Chef Alex Guarnaschelli attends both the New York and South Beach Wine & Food festivals regularly and says she teamed up with the No Kid Hungry campaign because she is a chef and a mother raising a child in America.

“My daughter goes to public school and I can see the impact breakfast – or lack thereof – has on children in starting their day right,” she told us last year. “It affects, ultimately, their chances for starting their life right and working towards a bright future – a future where everyone eats breakfast and starts off the day with great energy for learning.”

Guarnaschelli believes people in the food and beverage industry still have a great deal to learn about the fight to end hunger and the New York City Wine and Food Festival helps take a step in that direction. “We are a community infused in food that works better when we pool our efforts and effectively, ‘share our strength,’” she adds. “Tag lines like ‘eat, drink, end hunger’ sends the message loud and clear. They delineate the problem clearly and I believe it inspires people to join the cause.”


Photo credit: Getty Images

Engaging Front-Line Associates to Drive Down Shrink

By Ric Agostini

Shrink losses inflicted on retailers are widespread and staggering. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF) and University of Florida survey, “inventory shrink amounted to $44 billion in losses to retailers in 2014.” How much could be attributed to internal or customer theft? The survey determined that 35 percent of shrink stemmed from employee or internal theft while customer shoplifting was responsible for 38 percent of the loss. In some years, internal theft loss has been estimated as high as 43 percent exceeding customer shoplifting losses.

Establishing a culture of engagement

Retailers of all sizes and categories are acutely aware of shrink’s impact on their profit margins and are constantly working on loss prevention approaches to combat it. The first step is to create a store culture that engages employees and commits them to reducing inventory shrink. Employee engagement and alertness is fundamental to a successful loss prevention program.

But training and keeping employees engaged around loss prevention topics is not always easy. According to the Employee Engagement Study released by Gallup in January 2015, only 31 percent of U.S. employees described themselves as “engaged” with their work. The other 69 percent responded that they are either “not engaged” or “actively disengaged.” The disengagement situation is actually worse for retailers who mostly hire 18-34 year old (Millennial) workers. Nearly 70 percent of Millennials surveyed said they were unengaged – an eye-opener for retailers who need their support to combat shrink. Retailers who rely on traditional forms of training to educate about loss prevention such as classroom learning and print messages are losing the battle, especially with this age group.

New technology approaches

Millennials are “digital natives” who grew up on smartphones and tablets. While they do not always engage with traditional training approaches like classroom instruction or printed manuals and signs, they do engage with digital, interactive communications. Smartphones and tablets have the capabilities to provide new ways to tap and engage Millennials as well as older employees who are also tech-savvy.

The use of technologies such as tablets and smart phones is imperative since these devices command the attention of Millennials who tune out print messaging. Above all, this demographic group insists upon two-way interactions rather than a top-down approach common to traditional classroom or print-based learning. Two-way communications allow for immediate feedback, which is a key component in employee engagement. Most Millennials have no issue with offering their opinions, particularly through their smart device apps.

Another communication outreach popular with Millennials and their older colleagues is social media. Leading retailers are using social media (internal, secure and curated) to encourage employees to ask questions through their devices with responses curated and securely published to appropriate employees. One retailer reported that questions on its social learning forum skyrocketed from 3,500 in May of 2014 to more than 16,500 in April 2015—a barometer that illustrates employees are engaging with the company using secured digital forums.

Another promising technological innovation on the horizon is Augmented Reality. Augmented Reality uses tablets and training simulation software to enable employees to interact with the training much like an airplane pilot uses a flight simulator. But instead of multi-million dollar simulators, AR uses cheap tablets and low-cost software to create engaging and realistic on-the-floor trainings and simulations. While still in the early stages, the early indicators are that employees of all age groups respond positively to the experiential learning that AR provides.

Another digital technology used by leading retailers is digital signage in break rooms to engage employees with short burst trainings and tips on effective loss prevention tactics and reminders.

Retailer experiences with digital communications

A major retail department store chain recently focused on loss prevention in its 100 highest -risk stores. By leveraging digital communications, the company cut shrink and reported an “18:1 return on investment” during a 10-month period. A regional grocery chain reported a 139 percent increase in associate theft resolution.

Mike Limauro, vice president of asset protection for Weis Markets, can attest to the benefits of engagement through technology. Weis operates 163 stores in five Eastern states and employs more than 18,000. “When we went digital, we found that we could make training fun and engage our associates,” Limauro said. Weis relied on “multiple touch points” combining digital and print to get messages across to its associates. “People respond to different things and that is why multiple touch points are important,” Limauro said, noting the results speak for themselves. “Our shrink has declined by 17 percent this year, while internal and external case resolution continues to improve year over year, and (use of) our associate hotline was up more than 200 percent in the first month of the program,” he said.

Limauro reported another positive aspect of this approach is that employees are not hesitant to notify managers about thefts by fellow associates. “We’ve given them the tools to do the right thing and our associates appreciate it,” he said. “It’s how you embed asset protection (into store culture).”

As the experiences at Weis and other retailers demonstrate, emerging technologies require a comprehensive strategy for their use in the war against shrink. When strategically implemented, they have proven successful. The successes indicate the use of smart and interactive technology to communicate with and ultimately engage front-line employees will continue to grow. So will the number of retailers who take advantage of it.


Ric Agostini is vice-president-communications of Catalyst Awareness, a division of Alchemy Systems.. Catalyst Awareness designs integrated loss prevention and workplace safety programs for leading general, home improvement, food and specialty retailers. Ric can be reached at (866) 749-3697.


Skip the Wait: Starbucks Launches Mobile Order & Pay Nationwide

By Stephanie Crets

Smartphones do so many amazing things for us. They give us directions, show us funny cat videos, connect us with our friends around the world and now they’re allowing us to skip the line at some of our favorite food and beverage stores. Starbucks is the latest to take on this challenge, adding mobile ordering and pickup in store to its mobile app nationwide.

This feature was initially launched and tested in Portland, Ore., in December 2014, later expanding to the rest of the Pacific Northwest in March 2015 and then to 3,400 more stores across 17 states this past summer. Now it is available nationwide for iOS and Android users with plans to expand internationally in the coming months.

As a voracious chai latte drinker and Starbucks app user, I was curious to see how it worked, so I tried it this morning. I already use the app to pay, as it’s much easier to have an app scanned on my phone than to dig my wallet out of my bag with a line of sleepy, impatient people behind me. Plus, using the app gives me loyalty stars that add up to a free drink or food item every 12 purchases.

Within the app, your network determines your location and finds the nearest Starbucks location, along with an estimated pickup time for the order. Then, you can select your preferred drink – or food item – and customize it just as you would at the register. Finally, you pre-pay for your beverage and/or breakfast and know it will be waiting for you within the timeframe. Sure enough, when I entered my usual Starbucks store before work, my order was waiting for me at the pickup bar; no line, no waiting.

“Bringing Mobile Order and Pay to our customers is about meeting their needs of convenience and customization at any time of the day,” says Adam Brotman, Starbucks chief digital officer. “The fact that it also represents the fastest technology application rollout we have ever done is indicative of the strength of our digital ecosystem, how well it has been received by both our customers and store partners and the impact we think it can have on the future of retail.”

Conveniences such as these are very welcome to those of us who always feel rushed, whether due to the vibe of a bustling city like Chicago or because we’re late for work, but desperately need our caffeine fix because we got up at 6 a.m. to exercise. Either way, we’re always in a hurry. And waiting for our Starbucks order for a whole five minutes is just absurd! But now waiting is a thing of the past.

Maybe my millennial generation wants too many things laid out for us on a silver platter. But I will gladly accept mobile ordering and pickup from Starbucks – and any other stores that implement it – if it makes my life just a little bit calmer, especially before I’ve had my tea.

Selling Innovation: How Retailers Successfully Sell New Technology


Innovation is a great thing, but it poses a challenge for the retail seller: How do you sell something that people aren’t buying yet? Apple, for example, has faced this problem frequently throughout its history of introducing disruptive technologies, from the MacIntosh and the iPod to the iPhone and now the Apple Watch. Through this experience, Apple has mastered the art of selling innovative technologies, as the successful launch of the Apple Watch illustrates. The first day Apple began accepting orders for its new product, almost 1 million U.S. preorders came in, according to Slice Intelligence. Within the quarter, the Apple Watch had become the bestselling wearable device on the market. For retailers tasked with selling innovative technologies, case studies such as Apple provide valuable insights into how to introduce customers to new products.

Match Products to Problems

As Wired reports, when Apple first decided to develop its watch, the company thought it had a good idea, but its developers didn’t know what it was good for, other than telling time. So one of the development team’s first tasks was to discover what problems a smartwatch could solve. Eventually they realized that a watch could deliver the same connectivity as a smartphone in a way that was better designed for the human body and less invasive on the user’s time.

Brainstorming about what problems your product or service can solve can open up new marketing opportunities by identifying market segments who need what you’re selling, pinpointing how you can help them, and highlighting what benefits your solution brings them. When a customer with a problem walks through the door, you’ll know just what they need.

Appeal to Curiosity

On SellingPower.com, Fortune 500 sales consultant Dr. Donald Moine recounts the tale of how Ed McMahon got his long sales career started as a pitchman on Atlantic City’s Boardwalk by selling empty boxes. McMahon would pique the curiosity of passersby by announcing that he was about to sell ten empty boxes for $1 each. Naturally, his listeners were wondering why anyone would pay $1 for an empty box, McMahon went on, voicing everyone’s thoughts aloud. Perhaps there was more to these empty boxes than met the eye, he suggested. He asserted that the boxes were indeed empty, but recognized that some in the audience might doubt he would presume to sell an empty box for $1. He challenged his doubters to put the box they wanted to buy on top of their dollar. Then, after ten boxes had been paid for, each of his buyers could step forward and open their box to verify that it was indeed empty. By piquing his audience’s curiosity, McMahon inevitably sold ten boxes. He then took the opportunity to pitch the product he was actually selling: a vegetable slicer.

When a new technology gets introduced to the market, consumers naturally wonder what it’s good for and whether it really works. What can you do with a smartwatch? Can a hybrid car get as good gas mileage as a traditional car? Is the picture on a 4K TV really that much better? Appealing to consumer curiosity about these types of questions can help you sell unfamiliar new products.

Answer Consumer Questions

Piquing curiosity is one way to sell something new; satisfying it is another. Consumers often have questions about a new technology’s features or how one solution compares with another. For instance, many TV owners looking for a sound system wonder whether a surround-sound system or a sound bar is a better choice. The Dish Insider’s Guide helps visitors answer this question, comparing how solutions such as Vizio stack up to other options. By helping consumers who have questions about this technology, Dish attracts TV owners who may also be interested in their satellite TV service.

Meet a Need

As the Affordable Care Act went into effect, Zenefits founder Parker Conrad saw that many small companies would soon face an urgent need for new human resource solutions, Conrad told Inc.com. By offering a cloud-based software solution that automated HR for employers, Conrad attracted enough business to turn Zenefits into the hottest startup of 2014. Offering your solution as a way to meet your market’s urgent needs is an effective way to make a technological innovation sell.

Offer Free Trial Demonstrations

Consumers considering a new piece of technology may be wary because they haven’t seen it in action, and they’re not sure if or how it will work. To address this, software-as-a-service providers have found that a freemium sales model (where users start with a free package) can help consumers make a purchase decision. For instance, in an article on Forbes.com, marketer Sujan Patel gives the example of Dropbox, which has grabbed a huge share of the cloud storage market by offering limited free storage space as a way of introducing its premium upsell packages. Giving customers a chance to test-drive new technology can make it an easier sell.

5 Point Checklist for Retailers Making the Move to EMV before the October Deadline

By Sushil da Silva, co-founder of Highline Software

Credit card fraud is in the United States is at epidemic levels. Last year, the U.S. accounted for more fraud than the rest of the world combined. And the fraud rates are accelerating. Europay, MasterCard and Visa (EMV) technology, which has shown to greatly reduce in-store fraud in the Europe, is finally being rolled out in the U.S. with an impending deadline of October 2015 when retailers will be liable for in-store fraud for cards that have chips on them.

By the October deadline, over 70 percent of cards will be EMV enabled. However, most retailers are well behind schedule in supporting EMV. Where Highline has worked with its partners to implement EMV, those retailers are seeing very high usage of the technology with EMV transactions accounting  for more than 40 percent of all transactions. In some stores, EMV amount to almost 60 percent of all credit card transactions. Apple Pay currently accounts for about 6 percent of transactions but this is a figure that growing.

These are much higher numbers than we expected to see since we installed the first system in New York in April, but it demonstrates that consumers are armed with the new secure chip cards and are out in stores using them.

With less than a month left until the legal liability shift, retailers need to catch up as the public is out there ready and spending.

Here are five tips retailers who are making the change to EMV should consider as they look for the right solution for them.

1) If credit card payments are integrated with their POS software, call the POS vendor and ask for specific recommendations for upgrading. Do they require new hardware for processing EMV cards? Will their software be ready in time for the Oct. 15 deadline? If not, when? Regardless, ask what steps to take in order to become compliant.

Beware of companies selling “EMV-ready” terminals. Ask specifically if the vendor is certified to process EMV transactions today.  An EMV-ready terminal is merely capable in principle of accepting EMV cards; it does not mean that the vendor is certified to process EMV transactions now. EMV certification is a complex process that involves the terminal vendors (e.g., Verifone), software running on the terminals, the processing network (e.g., First Data) and the credit card companies. So ask your vendor if they are EMV certified.

2) If credit card payments are separate, you can shop around for options. Call your payment processor and ask the same questions as above. If your payment processor isn’t ready or won’t be ready for many months after the deadline you should shop around. Some processors have been ready for a while. You might be able to get the early termination fees waived from your existing processor since they haven’t yet complied with the new requirements for EMV.

3) Ask your processor if they support Apple Pay, which lets customers securely pay with their phones. If you’re going to upgrade hardware now, you may as well get Apple Pay too. Most processors advanced enough to do EMV now also support Apple Pay.

4) Treat the EMV requirement as an opportunity. If your existing software vendor or processor isn’t ready, chances are you’re on an obsolete platform. Shop around for a modern, ideally cloud-based mobile system. A cloud-based system dramatically reduces your administration and startup costs and your data is available from anywhere at anytime.

5) Look for deals. Some new systems, such as Highline’s, offer the latest in cloud/mobile technology but don’t require any investment in hardware. During the EMV shift, they’re giving away their mobile EMV reader. The software is free and credit card transactions are a flat 2.95 percent.

We are sitting at the convergence of three major changes that are having a huge impact on in-store retail today. First, the introduction of the EMV standard in the US and the liability switch that will happen this October; secondly, the move to the cloud to help retailers innovate rapidly while simplifying their businesses and reducing operating costs; and finally, the introduction of mobile technology into the retail space dramatically changing the consumer experience, how they move through a store and what they do when they are there.


Sushil da Silva is the co-founder of Highline technology, the first commercial software solution fully integrating these retail trends into a simple, cost effective solution for specialty stores. The solution can be implemented in a single store, to thousands simply, cheaply and with minimal staff training.

The Top Six Reasons Why Retailers Should Replace Exception Based Reporting

By Guy Yehiav, CEO of Profitect

With the holidays just around the corner, retailers are on the hunt for new ways to drive results leading up to and following Black Friday for long-term results. For many, one of the key ways to find new opportunities is by culling through internal and external data to identify key insights on everything from anticipating customer needs to pinpoint new buying patterns, often with an exception based reporting (EBR) system. However, some retailers are finding that these EBR tools just aren’t drawing the meaningful insights needed to stay competitive. It’s time for a change. Here are the top six reasons why:

1.  Most EBR tools are too static.

Many EBR solutions only produce reports and dashboard visualizations. This means that retailers are often not able to identify or correct the root cause of the performance – good or bad. Dashboards and data visualizations start by aggregating the data and summarizing information, so users lose the granular details and qualitative information that point to the answers retailers need. Visualizations, reports and dashboards must be dynamic and clickable.

2. ERP data is often out of date

Retailers frequently inherit reports and systems and are charged with merely “making do” with what was already created. The issue with this practice is the systems, procedures and data are often old and less relevant. Retailers need to renew the way they look at data within the EBR and see what’s really important and used before they try to fix the old.

3. Exceptions are not answers.

In the past, exception-based reporting delivered output only for those people, products and transactions that exceeded some set of rules or thresholds. For example: cashiers with refunds greater than a certain price, transactions with three or more coupons, or perhaps stores with shrink greater than a particular percentage. However, these rules and thresholds are not telling the real story; this is simply the starting point, and additional information must be taken into consideration to determine if an exception is real. With EBR systems, the information must be researched and validated, and the time from identification to action is often too long to make an impact or resolution. This, combined with the false-positives EBR users often run into, leaves retailers with low-credible reporting to work from. In other words, it’s just an educated guess.

4.  The system is too complex for the everyday user.

EBR and other types of data analytics systems identify many areas for improvement: training, process and system failures, vendor and product issues and even customer issues. This can end up being an overwhelming amount of information to cull through for users. Many of these products also require highly competent and trained analysts to sift through the data using programming languages. In order not to lose the ability to take action and correct these types of insights, retailers must be able to either give access to a wider audience within retail operations, or have the ability to seamlessly share information within the current communications. This allows recipients to more easily understand and react to information.

5. The ROI is unclear or is diminishing.

Many reporting and EBR solutions are not flexible enough to allow the retailer to integrate new data, add new measures and/or develop more sophisticated patterns without a significant IT or vendor investment. Unless the data and methodology can continually adjust and learn from itself, there is a diminishing value for users. Most retailers just don’t have the resources to continuously watch over data.

6. Support is questionable and often non-existent.

Many EBR companies purchased analytics products to offer extended value to their customers. As a result, many retailers are experiencing a drop in service, vendor knowledge and support for the analytics investment after these mergers. The problem is many retailers are not getting the support they need from their EBR providers because vendors are just as strapped on resources as their retail customers.

It is time for retailers to be the “exception” to the rule and look for a new solution before the holiday shopping season hits. The stakes are high for the remainder of the year to outperform competitors. This is why retailers should consider replacing their EBR solution or risk falling behind during the holiday season and beyond.

Point Inside Helps Retailers Implement New In-Store Technology

By Stephanie Crets

Customers are finding new ways to utilize their own technology to make for a better, easier shopping experience, and now retailers are realizing they must do the same. Most retailers, however, are stubborn, finding the implementation of new technology cumbersome. According to Forrester’s new report “The Future of the Digital Store,” more than 20 percent of shoppers pricecheck on their phones while in store aisles, therefore,  retailers need to jump on the new technology as soon as possible or they could lose out on valuable sales.

Forrester’s report suggests that there are four key stages that can help retailers reach digital maturity and be able to implement new technologies into their systems. These four stages include:

  1. Investing in technology that connects enterprise systems across all touch points;
  2. Finding and adding capabilities that create operational efficiencies;
  3. Implementing a system that allows retailers to access in-store customer insights in real-time; and
  4. Refreshing the store layout to give customers a better, more efficient experience that allows them to find what they need quickly, while also offering products they may not have been previously interested in.

RM asked Mike McMurry, SVP of marketing and business operations at Point Inside to share some insights about acquiring new technology for retailers. Point Inside offers support to retailers, including big-box retailers like Target and Lowe’s, at every stage of the implementation process. Some of its services include: indoor mapping, which provides shoppers with a store layout, available services, product locations and navigation with interactive 3D maps; product location, which shows shoppers exactly where to find in-store products on a specific shelf; insights and analytics, which pulls deep customer insights from path to purchase; and shopping lists, which gives customers a way to make a list, while offering purchase intent to retailers.

What can retailers do to prepare for the implementation of new technology?

To prepare for the implementation of new technology, retailers should first determine how they could improve the experience for their shoppers. It’s important not to implement technology just to do it, but leverage new technology to up the shopping experience for customers. The next step is research. It’s important to do your homework given the vast amount of new technologies out there. Once a retailer has identified specific technologies to meet the needs of its shoppers, they should start small with a pilot in a few stores to test the new technology and refine the experience based on the pilot before going chain-wide. The data from the test will help retailers troubleshoot potential issues and apply real-world learnings to their full implementation.

Retailers should also invest in their underlying technology infrastructure to build a strong foundation for new technologies. For many emerging technologies including beacons, omnichannel fulfillment and in-store mapping, it is helpful for retailers to digitally index their physical stores.  Knowing where everything in each store is located, including products, entrances and services provides the critical context needed for accurate product location, indoor navigation and in-store messaging.

It’s important to note that investing in a digital in-store strategy takes time. According to Gartner and Accenture research, it can take two to five years to bring new in-store technologies, such as mobile coupons, into mainstream adoption. As retailers implement new technology, they can both provide value-added services to shoppers and also learn about how to improve and optimize each technology as they move towards more widespread usage. However, once a strong technology infrastructure is created, other technologies can be more easily and quickly implemented utilizing this strong foundation.

Once these digital technologies have been put in place, how can retailers let their customers know that their shopping experience can be more digitally connected?

Retailers should inform their customers of new in-store digital features in every touch point they have with their customer: on their website, in e-mail, in circulars, in their mobile apps, on in-store signage, via social media and other places as part of an integrated marketing campaign. For example, retailers can include a brief update about new features on the home screen of their branded mobile app.  We’ve seen great examples of in-store displays and signage prompting shoppers to download the app in-aisle. Also, store associates can discuss new features and technologies in more depth and suggest their favorite features that allow them to stay more connected, such as access to new deals, discounts and perks.

What kind of support does Point Inside offer its clients in the transition process?

Point Inside sets itself apart by bringing best-in-class execution, a full-service enterprise-grade platform and keen understanding of the in-store channel to its retail partners. During a retailer’s digital transformation, Point Inside takes the first step to digitally index each and every store for its retail partners, integrating multiple data streams to create a single view of the store. Point Inside provides its retail partners with technical support throughout every stage of implementation, ensuring a smooth process. Point Inside’s support certainly doesn’t end when the implementation is complete as the company continues to help its partners maximize their investment in the company’s technology.

Will having Point Inside’s technology also benefit the consumer?

Absolutely. Point Inside’s technology provides shoppers with a more meaningful, contextualized and personalized shopping experience. The innovative search platform is optimized for mobile, giving shoppers the ability to search for generic terms such as detergent or brand names such as Tide. Shoppers also have the option to view what’s in stock at a specific store, including current inventory and pricing. Store information is refreshed daily so that shoppers are given the most up-to-date results.

Shoppers can also add the items they would like to purchase from their search results to a shopping list, which can then be used to create an interactive map that routes the most efficient path through the store to pick up all the items on their list. These interactive store maps provide the shopper with the store layout, department locations, in-store services and product locations at the aisle and bay level. Point Inside’s features make the shopping experience faster, easier and overall more enjoyable for shoppers.

How does engaging digitally help drive sales and loyalty?

Engaging customers digitally is essential for retailers to customize offerings, add value and ultimately increase the bottom line. When retailers offer services that are truly helpful to the customer, such as improved customer service through a variety of channels, mobile apps with time-efficient routing maps and product discovery, the retailer is more likely to cultivate stronger customer loyalty. It’s important to reach customers on their terms and digital offers shoppers this flexibility.

The digital customer experience is increasingly mobile thanks to the prevalence of smartphone use in everyday activities. By utilizing technology to integrate the physical and digital worlds, retailers are transforming the shopping experience and meeting the growing demands of shoppers.

Has the implementation of Point Inside’s technology proven successful?

The retailers that have integrated Point Inside’s StoreMode platform into their branded apps have seen a substantial ROI since implementation. For example, last holiday season Target integrated Point Inside’s platform into its mobile app, providing guests interactive in-store maps, shopping list creation, store-specific product search and Black Friday doorbuster deal maps. These interactive maps revealed exact store layouts and locations of doorbuster deals – down to the aisle and shelf – to make it easy for shoppers to quickly find items. Target rolled out the new features via its mobile app at all 1,801 Target stores nationwide to create a more digital, personalized experience for its guests and make it easier and more enjoyable than ever to shop in its stores. Target’s in-store mobile maps were accessed more than 400,000 times over the holidays with shoppers engaging with Target via mobile phones, making four times as many visits to Target stores per year.

Overall, shoppers who use a mobile app with Point Inside’s StoreMode platform have an increased basket size of two to four times that of shoppers who do not use a retail app with Point Inside’s technology. Additionally, Point Inside has been proven to increase digital engagement: Shoppers who use features such as shopping list creation, digital coupons and product discovery show a four to five times increase in interactions compared to users of apps without such features.

Visit Point Inside for more information: www.pointinside.com

Infographic: The Benefits of EMV Credit Card Processing for Retailers

The days of swipe-and-sign credit card processing are dwindling. In the wake of identity theft and large-scale data breaches, both retailers and shoppers worldwide have begun demanding greater security. Traditional credit cards are being replaced by chip-enabled payment technologies developed by Europay, MasterCard and Visa (EMV).

Cards now come equipped with a security chip/smart chip that must be scanned and authorized with each transaction.

The chip interacts with the merchant’s POS device to make sure the payment card, combined with a signature or PIN, is valid and belongs to the person using the card. This kind of chip technology adds layers of security against fraud and is virtually impossible to duplicate.

The end result is safer retail shopping and far less credit card fraud.

EMV Credit Card Processing

For additional information regarding EMV Credit Card Processing, check out BluePay.