Insights On Social Shopping, Mobile Engagement Shared By OfficeMax, Wet Seal On Retail 3.0 Agenda

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ve_small_capRetailers looking for real world examples of how social shopping and mobile messaging can drive revenue and consumer satisfaction have a new platform for education. The Retail 3.0 Virtual Conference & Expo, which will be presented online on April 21st, will bring together comprehensive, insights from some of the innovators in retail, including Office Max, Steve Madden, Wet Seal and LoveSac.

With an agenda modeled after each phase of the customer lifecycle, the Retail 3.0 event will kick kick off with the Next Generation Marketing Keynote presentation from Mark Andeer, VP of Brand Strategy at OfficeMax titled:  “The New Rules of Messaging to Consumers.”

Addressing the emerging media channels, the online event will feature Jon Kosoff, Wet Seal’s Director of E-Commerce & Direct Marketing, sharing a case study of how Wet Seal is successfully leveraging Social Shopping.

In addition to social media, the Retail 3.0 event will present a session on “Engaging the Mobile Consumer,” during which Impact Mobile President Gary Schwartz will share his perspective on the next generation of mobile commerce. This mobile session will also have a case study from Steve Madden, where President of E-Commerce & Customer Experience Andrew Koven, who will share experiences from the recent launch of the retailer’s mobile Web site.

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Putting Surveillance Video To Work To Monitor Customer Satisfaction

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By Eric White, Director of Retail Strategy, Wren Solutions

eric_whiteCustomer delight and customer misery have very different influences on company stock performance, as pointed out by Jon Picoult, Founder of Watermark Consulting.  In his recently published blog post called Yes, Virginia, There Is A Return On Customer Experience Investments, Picoult looked at the stock performance of companies based on how well they did in Forrester’s Customer Experience Index (CxPi) and found that customer experience leaders outperform customer experience laggards in the stock market.

While many retailers rely on workforce, store optimization and brand-relevant shopping experiences to deliver their best customer service, it’s worth considering how video surveillance can play a role in impacting customer satisfaction. Given retail’s broad adoption of surveillance video, most are well-positioned to double the impact of their investments.

For example, video can be used not only to monitor what is happening in and around the store from an operational standpoint, but also how customers shop, car and foot traffic patterns, merchandising opportunities and product replenishment needs.

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Cornell-Mayo Taps 3rd Party Mobile POS App For iPod Touch

Cornell-Mayo Associates (CMA) recently introduced Omniexpress, a new POS solution designed to provide mobile POS in a pocket-sized handheld device. Omniexpress combines CMA’s Omnistore POS application, used by numerous Tier 1 retailers nationwide, with Apple’s iPod touch.

The lightweight mobile computing solution includes a scanner and magnetic stripe reader (MSR) – designed to provide a more user-friendly, familiar and engaging interface. The device can accept credit and gift cards and wirelessly print or email receipts, offering POS capabilities similar to registers.

As a result of CMA’s software design, the company offers the first POS software that is natively portable to all major platforms today: Windows, Linux and Apple. “Omniexpress is a game changer in mobile POS, and we’re already seeing strong demand from our customers,” said Gene Cornell, President, Cornell-Mayo Associates. “Retailers can now offer their customers the most innovative and convenient in-store shopping experience.” Cornell said the technology could be used for inventory management in addition to the customer-facing capabilities.

The Omniexpress offering is currently being piloted in two major specialty retail chains.

GameStop Revamps Loyalty Efforts

Video game retailer GameStop said it will begin testing a revamped loyalty program in May. It will also expand its downloadable offerings, according to a March 18 earnings call for Q4 2009.

As part of the revamp, the video game retailer will integrate elements of the MegaCard loyalty program by MicroMania, a French video game retailer purchased by Game Stop in 2008. GameStop now runs a loyalty program called Edge. GameStop recently surveyed its customers to see how a loyalty program could improve its business, Raines said on the earnings call. The company will test the initiative at first in four markets, which Olivera would not reveal. The program’s budget will come from $125 million set aside by the company for “improvements, information system support, refurbishment upgrades, distribution expansion and loyalty program enhancements” in fiscal 2010, according to a statement.

During the call, GameStop execs said that point cards, digital game downloads and other digital products and services generated $170 million in sales for the company last year, representing a 55% growth rate over 2008.

GameStop will promote downloadable content through test kiosks in 30 stores this year. GameStop’s total sales for Q4 2009 increased 0.9% to $3.52 billion from $3.49 billion the prior year. For fiscal year 2009, total sales increased 3.1% to $9.08 billion from $8.81 billion for FY 2008. Comparable store sales, however, decreased 7.9% for both the quarter and the year, which executives attributed partially to reduced product prices, especially for the Nintendo Wii and Sony Playstation 3.

New Research Says Social “Fans” Spend More

Social media marketers looking for an indication that their efforts are helping the bottom line will be encouraged by findings that social friends and followers feel more inclined to purchase from the brands they are fans of.

More than one-half of Facebook fans said they are more likely to make a purchase for at least a few brands, and 67% of Twitter followers reported the same, according to new research from Chadwick Martin Bailey and iModerate.

The power of social media is clearly impacting brand identity and word-of-mouth. 60% of respondents claimed their Facebook fandom increased the chance they would recommend a brand to a friend. Among Twitter followers, that proportion rose to nearly eight in 10.

The researchers also explored why social media users become brand fans. The top reason to friend a brand on Facebook was to receive discounts, followed by simply being a customer of the company and a desire to show others that they support the brand. On Twitter, discounts, up-to-the-minute information and exclusive content were the main draws; only 2% of respondents followed brands on Twitter to show their support.

Researchers asked respondents about why they had first decided to follow brands. Among Facebook fans, the top reasons were being a customer (49%) and to show support (42%), with discounts and promotions coming in third (40%). Another 34% simply said it was fun and entertaining to become a fan. On Twitter, being a customer won out (51%), with discounts (44%) and fun (42%) rounding out the top three.

Power Reviews Launches Review Champion to Optimize E-Commerce Search & Traffic

Customer Reviews and Social Commerce solutions provider Power Reviews has launched a new addition to its product porfolio, Review Champion. The new solution was designed in partnership with site search leader SLI Systems to create searchable product review landing pages that enable customers to streamline search results, while driving more traffic to the retailer’s site. Review Champion complements and expands on PowerReviews’ In-Line SEO solution.

Wine Enthusiast an online source for wine accessories, storage, information, wine education, events and travel, is an early adopter of Review Champion that  has seen a 5% increase in organic search traffic on its site.

PowerReviews and SLI added new search and filtering capabilities to nearly 10,000 reviews on Wine Enthusiast’s site. Now, consumers can easily search and sort reviews for details specific to what they are looking to purchase. Wine Enthusiast shoppers can also now buy products directly from the user review landing pages, as well as from the main product page. Review Champion delivers in-depth data to Wine Enthusiast, enabling it to track sales made from Review Champion-enabled pages and make adjustments to further augment sales and marketing efforts, such as utilizing particular keywords and descriptions on their product pages that can be easily found by visitors and search engines.

“Since implementing Review Champion, we are seeing user reviews become an even more integral part of the buying process,” said Glenn Edelman, VP of Marketing, Wine Enthusiast. “Our customers can now more easily research our products based on feedback from their peers, which can be instrumental in turning a skeptical prospect into a buyer.”

AutoTruckToys Boosts Average Order Value 40% By Adding Offer Engine

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my_buys_cap_introTapping the power of customer reviews and recommendations, online car accessories retailer AutoTruckToys sought to deliver an enhanced customer experience by giving Web site visitors targeted, relevant offers.

Serving the automotive, truck and SUV aftermarket since the late 1990s, AutoTruckToys started out as a small company based in Paris, TN. The company has grown into an industry-leading distributor of accessories through a dedication to customer service, on-hand inventory and same-day shipping. Keeping these same business principles over the years, AutoTruckToys now has over 30 employees and stocks over 40,000 products from more than 250 of the industry’s top manufacturers.

Like other mid-level e-tailers, Josh Hart, CEO of AutoTruckToys, gets ideas for innovative site features from e-tailing leaders like Amazon.com. He viewed Web site recommendations on those leading sites, saw the increase in Web 2.0 interactivity, and wanted to add those capabilities to his site. But he was also realistic about what his company’s relatively small Web site team could accomplish in a short time. So Hart tapped personalized recommendations provider MyBuys to customize site offerings.

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Office Max Readies for Recovery With Optimistic Marketing Concepts

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thacker_capAs the retail environment begins to show signs of life, retailers are taking an optimistic approach with marketing messaging. Known for its cause and optimistic marketing efforts, Office Max is taking a light-hearted approach to innovate and give customers something to shop about.

The company recently unveiled its first high-tech private label product line, ENGAGE, which was designed to offer customers affordable technology products and accessories that reflect the company’s tagline: Connect to the Future of Computer Technology.

Office Max launched its first campaign since 2004, citing a new moniker, “Good News for Business.”

“Marketing is focused on the future,” said Bob Thacker, VP Marketing, Office Max. “It’s really about what can be. The very nature of marketing is to be positive, and I think the last year or more, most marketing for many companies has been paralyzed — and to hold up a mirror and show people the ugly side of mankind and the economy is a mistake.”

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5 Myths About RFID in Retail

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By Rob Simmons, CEO, Freedom Shopping

rob_simmons_capRFID is coming off the whiteboard and into the warehouse, store and consumer environment. As a technology, it provides precisely the type of payout decision makers expect in this tight economy; more output for the same dollar.

The obstacles to improved profits using RFID are primarily psychological, due to a stigma and false assumptions that have surrounded the technology for years. It’s time to let go of these myths and misperceptions and improve your company’s operations and profits NOW.

Myth # 1  – The extra costs don’t justify the benefits over barcode
Possibly, maybe if only one department or function is looking to use the technology. But when the tags and tracking are used ACROSS functions, the payoffs become dramatic. More importantly, RFID can provide breakthroughs and income possibilities that not exist before. Rather than looking for specific line item benefits, expect to see convergent solutions, where one tag application yields a number benefits throughout the product cycle, some financial, some experiential. Another thing that’s commonly misunderstood is that the ROI has less to do with the unit cost of the item than it does with the management cost you are expending per item.

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