February 25, 2014

The Techno-War in the Store The stealth cyberwar between the US, Israel and Iran is child’s play compared to the techno-war brewing in virtually every major retail store. Since the physical act of shopping will never disappear, the savvy players are investing in technology to better engage audiences and steadily increase market share. Big chains are marrying up with technology providers to attract store traffic, serve up personalized offers or recommendations and reward repeat customers. Consumers’ embrace of mobile technology is driving a complete re-engineering of the retail experience. In re-thinking the store experience, retailers are zeroing-in on loyal customers and those with a high probability to become repeat buyers and vocal brand advocates. Initiatives have begun to reduce buying friction, enable personal cadences, make shopping a richer, more fun experience and reward repeat behavior. Driving Traffic Getting consumers into the store frequently has always been job number one. Technology investments seek to increase the frequency of planned visits and to motivate spur of the moment activity. Email, text and social media, segmented based on individual consumer behavior, have been principal drivers of regular visits and vital coupon delivery vehicles. Localized search, keyed by geo-fencing, is beginning to be widely deployed to prompt in-the-moment traffic. And Instagram is becoming a potent platform for Target, Nordstrom, Victoria’s Secret and Michael Kors to show their wares and stimulate customer desire. NAPA and retailers in many categories, including grocery, are testing reserve online/pick-up in store programs. This guarantees a store visit, sets a positive customer expectation and holds out the hope that the experience will spark impulse purchases. Experiments are being conducted which time outbound, personalized text messages and offers by day-part or by previous purchases. These can be extended to out-of-home media and digital LED displays, in-car screens and other devices like in the movie, Artificial Intelligence. In-Store Engagement Once customers arrive in the store, an array of technologies is being tested to meet and greet them, direct them to merchandise, keep them there longer and sell them stuff. Since 83 percent of smartphone users use their phones in stores, accessing these devices as a shopping companion is mandatory, not only to blunt showrooming but also to mirror consumer behavior. Foursquare and Facedeals distribute offers in real time as do QR codes on products, on signage or on LED displays. Video kiosks and triggered shelf-talkers engage the senses while RFID tags, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth signals can be used to zero-in on and trigger messaging aimed at active shoppers. Apple installed iBeacon in its iOS7 software to track movement through the aisles of all its US stores. The software will also enable triggered messages in scan-able or video formats to iPad and iPhone users. Two start-ups, Nomi and Swirl, tack Wi-Fi signals offering the ability to map in-store traffic patterns and push messages to a customer’s phone while they’re seeing and touching merchandise or deciding what to buy. Comparative pricing tools and reviews from experts or users can be served up in real-time. Using branded apps, offers and incentives can be linked to products under consideration. Best Buy, Macy’s, American Eagle, JC Penney, Crate & Barrel and Sports Authority have deployed Shopkick, an app, with 6 million users, to track and communicate with shoppers in the moment. It’s being used both to drive store visits and to engage active shoppers when they’re in stores. Kohl’s, in a five store experiment, was able to serve up offers on mobile phones based on products viewed, but not bought, on Kohls.com. Online kiosks or salespeople with tablets, who can access customer records and personalize recommendations or make highly targeted offers in real-time, has shown promise in increasing sales and customer satisfaction. The technology can find and deliver messages to customers, but it won’t eliminate the burden of creating short, relevant, compelling and useful content. People on mobile devices are short on time and patience. If the message doesn’t hit the target, you risk alienating a strong prospective customer. Payment & Loyalty Sophisticated retailers are already pro-actively loading offers, coupon values and special rewards directly onto loyalty cards or apps. Starbucks, Duncan Donuts and Chipotle are leaders in this effort using a brand app supported by multiple marketing channels to stimulate visits and purchases or to bake-in instant rewards and freebies. Whole Foods is deploying Square at deli counters to expedite smaller payments and get customers in and out faster. As mobile payments become the norm, the sophistication of these tools will improve significantly. Purchase history data linked to scanner data using...
6 Killer Email Tactics E-mail is the strike force medium for online and offline retailers because 95% of online users get it and receive an average of 416 commercial messages per month. 91% check their e-mail at least once a day and 70% say they always open e-mails from their favorite companies and 84% say its their preferred channel for engaging with retailers. Don’t let the social/mobile crowd fool you. Social media gets the buzz, but email delivers the traffic. Nearly one in every three e-mails gets opened. More than half open on mobile devices and as much as a third of openers act on the offers. In general, for every dollar spent on e-mail marketing, retailers get $44.25 in return. The big tactical decisions are about frequency or cadence and offers. Some form of free shipping and a minimum of a 10 percent discount are table stakes. And at least weekly for most of the year, except for holidays seems to be the norm. Six e-mail marketing best practices separate the winners from the losers: Write Telegraphic Subject Lines. For one-third of recipients, the subject line is the only criteria for opening. Put the offer and the CTA in the SUBJ line but understand that less is better. Subject lines with fewer than 10 characters have a 58 percent open rate and better than a 2.5% CTR. Shorter is always better. If you can work in the customer’s name and/or location, you can spike open rates. Everybody immediately responds to his or her own name. Short & Sweet Content. Focus on the offer. Aim for 4 paragraphs maximum. Limit the possible CTAs. Click rate degrades with the number of links, so focus your customers on seeing a single powerful offer and direct them to click on a big colorful link or button or two. Avoid the urge to load up on logos and taglines. Present the product or service clearly. Find a stand-alone illustration or image to make your point and ask for the order. Like a letter, adding a personal signature, evidence of human interaction, can increase opens by 5 times and clicks by 3.5 times. Since everyone already knows the potent proven retail words your offer has to pay it off in a differentiating and motivating way to deliver a decent CTA or CTOA. Time Your Send. Most e-mail is opened during business hours (10a-4p) and the majority of response happens in the first hour after delivery. More than half of mobile e-mail is opened from 5p till 8a. Consider these cycles and what peole normally do during these time periods as you craft content and offers. Open rates peak mid week, on Tuesdays and Wednesday, though the highest click through rates are on Sunday. The most e-mail is sent on Wednesday so the burden to stand out midweek is greatest. Saturdays draw the lowest volume, maybe an opportunity to flank the competition. There is a lot of click through action early in the AM. That’s why so many retailers transmit overnight to catch consumers when they check their e-mail first thing in the morning. Open rates generally peak at 10am and then gently slope downward throughout the business day. Be Transparent on the FROM line. Twenty-four percent of recipients only open e-mail from names they recognize. Transparency works best. Use your brand name. The higher your brand awareness; the better your open rate. Optimize for Mobile. More than half of all e-mail is opened on mobile devices. Too many render badly and drive customers away. Design for smartphones with clear calls-to-action and big buttons for fat fingers. Aim for more elegant rendering on tablets, but expect buying actions to take place from home in the evenings. Keep Sending. Consumers want options and choices. They are not bothered by hundreds of e-mails in their inboxes because, for the most part, they’ve asked for them. The more e-mail they get, the more control they have. High e-mail volume generalkly doesn’t annoy opted-in customers and prospects. They won’t open or read everything you send. But they don’t want to miss out on a great deal. Consumers are expecting lots of offers and will eagerly sort them out and cull the ones that are most attractive. This is one instance where more is more.

Danny Flamberg

I am a veteran marketing consultant working with leading and emerging brands

The Typepad Team

Recent Comments