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To say that location intelligence is changing
the face of retail is not hyperbolic.
In the same way that the Internet allowed for
the rise of e-Commerce giants like Amazon and eBay, a major paradigm shift in
the industry, location intelligence is now returning power to brick-and-mortar
retailers by allowing them access to the sort of detailed data that online
retailers take for granted.
Exactly how physical retailers are using
location intelligence varies quite a bit, but a couple of distinct trends have
Location Intelligence Informs
New Location Planning
Choosing a location for a new storefront used
to be a mixture of consulting very broad, generalized census data, making
assumptions based off of competitor activities and trusting blindly in gut
feelings and hunches.
It’s a technique that can often work — the
fact that any store ever remained open is testament to that — but it puts serious
restraints on a business’ growth rate. On top of that, when a poor location is chosen, its eventual failure is very
Smart utilization of location intelligence
both streamlines and optimizes scouting for new store locations. It starts with
gaining a better understanding of the demographics in and around the proposed
area. Location intelligence can give you a more in-depth breakdown of the
demographics than a general census, including differentiating between local
residents and commuters, other places they shop or visit and so on.
Location intelligence also can give retailers
unprecedented insight into the habits of their competitor’s customers,
providing data on market penetration and customer loyalty. If a major
competitor is showing very short visit times in a particular area, their
customers might be ready to be presented with another option; if they’re
struggling to draw foot traffic at all, chances are good that you will
Russian grocery and convenience retailer X2
has been using location intelligence to fuel a massive location expansion: They
opened more than 5,000 new stores in two years, and increased profits by more
than 130%. Specifically, they used location data to select prime locations,
make more informed stocking decisions and negotiate lease rates.
Using location intelligence, you can harness
customer behavior data to not only plan new stores but to maximize the
performance of existing stores.
This is being done by integrating location
intelligence with online and out-of-home advertising — in other words, by bridging
the gap between your customers’ offline and online behaviors. This technique
can be used to target existing customers with special offers based on both
their online behaviors and their real-life ones.
For example, if location intelligence tells you
that you have a loyal customer that visits a particular location every Friday
after work, you can serve them a special offer as they approach your location.
The same data that tells you when customers visit your own stores also tells
you about their other activities, such as visiting competitors, their affinity
for other stores and more, which allows you to build more robust customer
However, the most innovative trend we are
seeing in retail is using location intelligence for in-store planning. Through
audience indexing, businesses can understand the makeup of their audience on a
granular, per-store level and customize strategies based on very specific
audiences. For example, if you want to test a new product at select locations,
understanding which locations the product’s ideal audiences frequent will
ensure optimized placement and create the desired impact. Different promotions
can run at different stores based on the audience index of each one. This
brings a level of personalization, once available only in the digital world, to
the physical world.
Exciting, Innovative Times —
Don’t Get Left Behind
We live in very exciting times for the retail
industry. Not only has e-Commerce’s stranglehold on retail began to loosen, but
the emergence of location intelligence is giving physical-based retail brands
valuable tools, tools that help to level the playing field.
I suspect that we’re seeing just the beginning
of the applications that location intelligence can be put to. I also suspect
that brands that don’t want to be left behind will be adopting and executing
data-driven and audience-based marketing strategies.
Ran Ben-Yair is CEO and Co-Founder at Ubimo. Ben-Yair oversees Ubimo’s product direction, strategic development and
execution. Prior to Ubimo, he co-founded LabPixies Ltd. (acquired by Google in
2010), a leading web and mobile app development company, bootstrapping the
company and growing the business to reach tens of millions of users in four
years. At Google, Ben-Yair continued as a Product Manager in Search where he
led and launched large-scale products. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Computer
Science from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel.
Noble has a potential deal in place to sell
itself to hedge fund Elliott Advisors for $683 million, marking
major changes for a company that has long struggled to stay afloat in the wake
of Amazon’s continued rise. Representing the last of the major
traditional bookstore chains, Barnes & Noble could be in the hands of a
firm that already has turned around one bookseller that had teetered on the
brink of failure: UK-based Waterstones. James
Daunt, CEO of Waterstones, will assume the role of CEO of Barnes & Noble
following the expected completion of the transaction in Q3 2019.
However, Elliott isn’t the only entity seeking to reverse
Barnes & Noble’s fortunes — book reseller Readerlink LLC is
reportedly working on a higher bid for the retailer.
The RTP editors discuss whether a Barnes & Noble
acquisition (whether by Elliott Advisors or another party) can help turn the
Adam Blair, Editor: I’m at least somewhat optimistic about
the prospective new owners of Barnes & Noble, particularly since incoming
CEO James Daunt has had book retailing experience. I hope he imports the kind
of locally-led assortments that have proven successful at Waterstones and also
in the U.S. at chains like Half
Price Books. Carefully listening to what local readers are interested
in, and stocking stores accordingly, is what has kept the country’s remaining independent
booksellers afloat in tough times. One recommendation for the new owners:
revamp the Barnes & Noble loyalty program. I’m an ex-member who got tired
of being charged $25 per year for no appreciable benefit. Amazon can get away
with charging for Prime membership because they bundle exclusives, content and
free, fast shipping, but Barnes & Noble isn’t Amazon — nor should it try to
be. Keep making the store a place that’s a pleasure to visit and you’ll get my
Glenn Taylor, Senior Editor: Upon first glance, the
Barnes & Noble bid made me question the price: $683 million?? (Or, a
less pricey $475 million when not accounting debt.) Frankly, I thought
that number was outrageous given the company’s failed
attempts at reinvention in the past, its inability to generate consistently
positive traffic numbers and its rotating carousel of CEOs (now on number
six since 2010). It’s even crazier when you think that the figure
represents a 43% premium over its share price. Looking deeper into this
though, I’d like to be optimistic about the buyer, Elliott Advisors. It’s easy
to give hedge funds and VC-types flak for retail purchases like these (and they
certainly have deserved it in recent years), but Elliott’s turnaround of
Waterstones instills confidence that the company has a firm grasp of
bookselling in the digital age, and that’s what matters most here. This feels
more like a genuine attempt at a resurgence than a typical investment, largely
due to Daunt’s involvement. Regardless of the ownership change, Barnes &
Noble will have to close more stores (or at least align with the small-format
trend), retool its inventory entirely (catering to its market), emphasize BOPIS/click-and-collect
and endure short-term hits to its revenues and profitability.
Bryan Wassel, Associate Editor: I’ll admit I’m of two
minds about Elliott Advisors’ ultimate plans for Barnes & Noble. While the
firm has been supportive of Waterstones, its involvement didn’t come until that
chain had already stanched the bleeding and started expanding again. That’s a
great point for VC money to come on board — the extra cash can ease the
growing pains of expansion plans, and the recent increase in profitability
limits the incentive to tear the chain apart in search of a return. On one
hand, giving the reins at Barnes & Noble to Daunt, as opposed to a
sacrificial lamb whose only purpose is to quietly prepare the company for
liquidation, speaks to the idea that Elliott is serious about financing a
turnaround. On the other hand, the U.S. market is incredibly different from the
UK, and America simply may no longer be capable of supporting a bookstore chain
the size of Barnes & Noble. After all, there hasn’t been a truly national
supermarket since the mid-20th century heyday of A&P, and we saw
how that story ended. If Barnes & Noble’s suitors are looking to say, “We
tried, but the company was doomed before we arrived,” they will certainly have
Today’s retail world is beset with massive
change, and standard sales principles are constantly under challenge. At the
same time, the notion of customer loyalty has never been more important.
According to the Wharton School’s Marketing
Metrics, the probability of selling to an existing customer is 14X more
than attracting a new one. Additionally, according to the SDL Global CX Wake Up Call report, 73% of
consumers satisfied by the customer experience will recommend a brand to
others. Knowing where a retailer stands with its customers has never been more
For years, the chief metric of customer
sentiment, other than revenue and sales data, has been Net Promoter Score
(NPS). It stands to reason — what better test of customer satisfaction is there
than whether they recommend the retailer to another?
While there is tremendous value in this
metric, it suffers from two major problems.
The first is that it tends to be a trailing indicator. Changes in NPS happen after an experience occurs, and have likely set in for some time. This is also true for revenue and sales data. At this point, the damage is already done and may even be irreparable.
A second issue with NPS is that it is rather one-dimensional. Nothing about the metric shows what or why a customer feels a certain way or how something has changed. Uncovering what is really going on may be difficult and might take time, and trying to fix it may be impossible after a certain amount
of time has elapsed.
Better Solution? Real-Time Interaction!
Businesses today continue to be characterized
by real-time interaction. Chatbots try to instantly engage online customers and
potential customers the moment they hit a retailer’s web site. Apps provide the
means to extend a retailer’s presence and services, while social media activity
aims to build conversations and spread influence. Understanding customers in
real time enables retailers to shape the customer experience as and when it
happens. Retailers can make adjustments in the way they do business to improve
experiences for other customers.
Real-time customer data must be multi-sourced
and should be the total of all interactions and conversations with employees
that are captured as notes. It should include email and other forms of input
and communications, such as surveys and mini-surveys, research, follow-up
reports, web site activity and more.
The next task is bringing this data together,
analyzing it and turning it into actionable insights. The idea is to gain a
360° picture of customers with deeper levels of insight. What follows is the
ability to interpret it and develop a roadmap. Oftentimes, this means finding
meaningful patterns and trends. Of course, information without action is
futile! Let real-time information direct decisions and prompt actions to
address specific customers, as well as the way the retailer conducts business.
NPS is still meaningful, but it is far from
real-time, and it lacks context and dimension. Retailers can improve customer
loyalty and retention and expand revenue by gaining a realistic understanding
of customers. Based on this, they can better cater to customers and provide improved
experiences, while it is still possible to make a difference.
Shreesha Ramdas is the CEO and Co-Founder of Strikedeck.
Previously, Ramdas was the GM of the Marketing Cloud at CallidusCloud, Co-Founder
at LeadFormix (acquired by CallidusCloud) and OuterJoin, and General Manager at
Yodlee. Prior to that, he led teams in sales and marketing at
Catalytic Software, MW2 Consulting, and Tata. Ramdas advises several
startups on marketing & growth hacking. You can find him on
Picture this: a customer orders a product from your business and
expects it be delivered within a few days. When the delivery doesn’t arrive,
she panics. She reached for her phone to place the order, to track the order,
and now she’s reaching for it again to inquire to your brand about the delay.
She has a few choices. She can call your company. But what’s the number? She’d
have to look it up. She can email your company, but to what address? She’d have
to look that up, too. Or, she can simply open her favorite social media app,
search for your company name, and send her question directly to you within
This is the exact type of customer that retail brands encounter
each day. Their customers prefer to receive service on social media, and fast.
In order to handle the volume and demand, the retailer must use a systematic
balance of artificial intelligence (AI) and authentic, human-delivered customer
On the timeline of marketing and marketing automation, social
media is one of the newest business tools for retailers to utilize. And while
brands were developing their web sites for marketing purposes, social media
became a vehicle for digital customer service overnight. In addition, recent feature updates such as messenger and the deployment of bots present both opportunities and threats,
not only to a customer’s experience but also to a brand’s reputation.
But back to our customer. As the company, you have a
short window to make her concern a positive experience. While your response
time is essential (since the average social media user expects to be assisted
within an hour), your empathy and ability to troubleshoot the delay is equally
important. This is where social media AI, or the use of bots, can either help
or hurt your customer’s experience and your brand’s reputation. By using a bot
to immediately acknowledge her message, you are maintaining lightning fast
response time and ensuring your customers that they’ve been heard. But can your
bot research the cause of the delay? No. That’s why a strategy that
implements both bots and human interactions is the best practice for social care.
When developing your bot + agent social care strategies,
consider these three points:
1. Bots are beneficial, but they’ll never
replace human empathy.
It’s clear in the definition of a bot: a computer program that generates responses based on some input,
usually keywords. While this is a solution that can address general
inquires 24/7 with immediate responses, every computer-generated system has
risks, such as being prone to hackers and being limited to human programming.
Most notable, an excessive use of bots runs the risk of dehumanizing your
2. Humans relate best to other humans, but we
can’t work ‘round the clock’.
Effective customer support with
empathy and emotional intelligence can never be replaced by bots. But depending
on your brand and industry, it is probable that your social customer service
volume outnumbers your care agent resources. In addition, the operation costs
of a large, agent-only care team can quickly add up. The tools, training, and
HR costs can become overwhelming.
3. A balance of both is best.
Carefully balancing the use of both bots and customer care agents
is often the best strategy for managing social media customer care. This system
would allow your company to immediately respond to your customer’s inquiry
about her product delay, triage it to an agent who can troubleshoot the delay,
and respond again with solutions and empathy — making for the best care
experience and a positive brand reputation.
According to the Forrester Research report, The Three
Customer Service Megatrends In 2019, “Great customer service is not just
about cutting costs or making operations more efficient. Instead, it’s a
systematic reinvention of established technology, data, and operations —
leveraging automation, data and agents together to exploit each of their unique
strengths and deliver experiences in line with customer expectations.”
Develop a social media customer care center by deploying the
proper software, employing adequate staffing and creating workflows to deliver
both AI and authentic human interactions with your customers.
is an award-winning marketing and communications professional, blogger, social
media lecturer and speaker. With more than a decade in communications and
social media, her work is focused on helping businesses cultivate meaningful
connections with their communities through strategic social media efforts that
make people a priority. Jones is a business consultant for Allant
provides marketing technology services that help businesses effectively acquire
new customers, retain and grow existing customers and win back lapsed
customers. She can be reached at email@example.com.
The RTP editorial
team discusses the potential impact of these tariffs, whether they are placed on
China, Mexico or Canada, and shares what retailers can do to mitigate potential
problems the tariffs could cause.
Adam Blair, Editor:
President Trump is bothered by illegal immigration on the Southern border. Set
aside for now whether this is a real problem for the U.S. or not, and let’s
consider the weapon he is using to deal with it: imposing escalating tariffs on
Mexican goods until their government does something (it’s never clearly defined
exactly what) to stop the flow of migrants through its country.
You’ve heard the expression “cutting off your nose to spite your face”? This is
putting a bullet in your brain to cure a headache. This is using a sledgehammer
to swat a fly — an operation that puts holes in the wall of your house while
letting the fly fly free. The NRF’s SVP for Government Relations David French
couldn’t be blunter, or more accurate: “The growing tariff bill paid by U.S.
businesses and consumers is adding up and will raise the cost of living for
American families. Forcing Americans to pay more for produce, electronics, auto
parts and clothes isn’t the answer to the nation’s immigration challenges.”
Glenn Taylor, Senior
Editor: Besides the actual price increases that will come as a result of
the tariffs, the next major impact appears to be in supply chain costs, which
will affect both the retailer and the manufacturer, according to Jason Furman,
who was President Obama’s chief economic adviser. Furman
told Vox that If a product is finished in Mexico and shipped to the U.S.
from there, but had mostly been produced elsewhere, then the tariff becomes a larger
burden on the manufacturer; if a product is 5% produced in Mexico and
now faces a 5% tariff, that’s equivalent to a 100% tax on the
Mexican production. This will hamper suppliers’ ability to move semi-finished
products back and forth across the border, potentially altering how supply
chains function between the two countries. I can’t imagine most retailers are
prepared for that kind of change given how fluid (and frankly, sudden) any
proposed USMCA (a.k.a. the “new NAFTA”) scenarios have been playing out.
Associate Editor: A big problem
with tariffs is that, since they can be placed by the president unilaterally,
there is little recourse to fight them until the 2020 election. This means
that, barring some disastrous polling or dramatic
Congressional action, retailers won’t be able to expect relief for at least
another year. They also will be dealing with the fact that the levies will be
hitting shoppers in areas they may not expect — everyone expects avocados to rise in cost,
but customers may not be prepared for a price increase for jeans. The best path for retailers may be to
follow the strategy that many large companies have announced during quarterly
result calls: work with suppliers the best they can to mitigate the increases,
but fully acknowledge that some of the cost increase is going to fall on
customers’ shoulders. Hiding from the truth isn’t going to help anyone, but
coming forward and openly stating why this is happening might help generate the
pressure needed to have the tariffs lifted.
The world of payments is one of the most
innovative and fastest growing industries across the globe. Thanks to the
expansion of e-Commerce, consumers are no longer stuck with only being able to
shop at stores in close proximity to them. The world is starting to feel
smaller and thanks to the innovations in payments, we are entering an era of
untapped potential for consumers and merchants alike.
On the other hand, one thing holding us back
from reaching this potential is a lack of understanding around global consumer preferences.
This void of knowledge around the various types of payments preferred
worldwide, and how to properly offer these payments to global consumers, is
holding back many merchants. These local payment methods, or LPMs, are the
payment methods outside of traditional card and cash payments that help to meet
the needs of various geographies, cultures and economies around the globe.
Visa and Mastercard only account for 25% of
global e-Commerce payments, and this figure drops even further when we look
regionally. Visa and Mastercard combine to only make up 3% of China’s e-payment
split.LPMs are preferred
globally and U.S. merchants cannot rely on using traditional credit card
In Germany, for example, the main methods of
online payments are bank transfers. They make up 49% of online transactions, while
cash is only 5% and cards make up 11%.This is a stark difference compared to payment
behaviors in the U.S., where 57% of online transactions are facilitated by
These payment preferences significantly vary
from region to region, making the need to cater payment methods to consumer
preference so crucial. LPMs offer ease and comfort to consumers, while giving
merchants the capability to expand their business and reach new markets. U.S.
online merchants need to be strategic about how they scale globally, and LPMs
are an essential tool to help ease this transition.
Steve Villegas, VP of Partner Management at PPRO, is a Sales, Marketing and Business Development
Executive with over 20 years of experience building and managing sales, partner
development and marketing teams that have delivered profitable results, built
market share, and exceeded revenue goals while outperforming competition. Villegas
is a natural communicator and team leader with strong motivational skills, with
the ability to build, produce and succeed.
The payments industry is transforming. Open technology and
regulations mean consumers have more options for payments and banking. Upstarts
are taking advantage and established players are spending to catch up. Here are
four trends that are revamping how the payments industry affects retailers and
1. Payments Drive Digital Experiences For Brands (And Consumers)
Payments are no longer just infrastructure:
they are becoming a crucial digital experience factor. Brands big and small are
jumping on board. Order-ahead apps from brands like Starbucks (4% growth in sales and 14% growth in membership in Q1 2019), Kohl’s, Shake Shack and more are continuing to gain
traction. Installment payments are growing in adoption, with Square providing a
new Installments product to its partners in 2018. Rewards programs are being
given major focus from Amazon (Prime Reload gives Prime members 2% cash back
when loading money into an Amazon account) and a Visa and Uber partnership lets
riders earn rewards at local merchants when they ride with Uber — all delivered
seamlessly through their Visa card. P2P is taking off, driven by Gen Z and
Millennial adoption of Venmo (now owned by PayPal). Digital is shifting the
distribution model: payments now need to go where consumers expect them.
2. Banking, Not Banks: Payments Become More Open
Issuing and acquiring banks have
been the sole providers of payments infrastructure and products for years.
Digital transformation has reshaped the industry, with banks being forced to
build APIs and connectors to the myriad of fintech companies and payment
options that consumers now expect. Partnerships and network effects are
important competitive advantages for banks in 2019. Last year, a group of banks
launched Zelle, a single API-enabled network of more than 30 partners to
deliver real-time payments (including P2P functionality) across thousands of banks and millions of consumers.
In Europe, the PSD2 (Revised Payment
Service Directive) was implemented in 2018, which mandated that banks provide
open access through APIs to their customer’s account information. This means
that bank customers will be able to use third-party providers to manage their
finances while still storing their money safely in their current bank account.
Banks will be forced to compete with the new crop of players taking advantage
of this open ecosystem.
3. More Contactless And Cardless Payments (Really,
The ubiquity of smartphones,
combined with the rise in other connected devices and a more democratized
payments infrastructure, means consumers have more and more options to pay
without swiping a card.
The trend we’re watching in 2019 is
for the Chinese juggernauts (Alipay with 600 million users and WeChat Pay with 980
million) to expand substantially in the
U.S. and Canada. This could have major impacts on existing EMV and POS infrastructure
— because these apps use QR codes for their mobile payments.
4. B2B Payments Players Look To Expand
2018 saw a substantial increase in
M&A in the payments space as existing players look to build the platforms
required to compete. PayPal made four acquisitions (two fintech companies, one
predictive marketing company and one fraud prevention company) in 2018. CEO Dan
Schulman said PayPal plans to continue to spend more than $3 billion a year on acquisitions in pursuit of its goal of becoming a “one-stop solution for
global commerce.” Adobe acquired Magento for $1.68 billion, and a host of
activity is occurring in Europe as well.
Square and Stripe are expanding
beyond payments to provide the financial infrastructure to help their e-Commerce
and retail clients succeed. Stripe is testing a cash advance service that leverages the financial data on their platform, and Square
Capital delivers next-day loans of up to $100,000. Both platforms give the
ability to make paybacks using a fixed percentage of their daily sales. Stripe
already has a product suite to help businesses incorporate, fight fraud and
build analytics — and we can expect to see more of these holistic offerings
from other players.
Ro Bhatia, VP of Marketing at LimeLight is a results-driven business leader
with a diverse set of experiences working in the SMB, e-Commerce and SaaS spaces
where he has led successful strategic turnarounds, acquisitions, and is known
for his transformational and operational leadership. He has held leadership
roles at The Home Depot and Yahoo before LimeLight as well as eBay, VMware and
Google in varying capacities.
Now that Memorial Day weekend has come and gone, retailers are
in full “summer mode,” although they likely have been preparing for the season for
at least a month if not more. But with the rise of Prime
Day as an annual shopper extravaganza that, for many retailers, transitions right into back-to-school season,
it’s clear that traditional definitions of when “selling seasons” start and end
are in flux. The required changes in preparation, planning and promotion could
cause a domino effect all the way down to the Q4 holiday season, particularly
now that Alibaba’sSingles
Day starts off November with a bang.
To align with these changes, starting in July the Retail TouchPoints editorial team will
be adapting our holiday coverage by providing readers with new and creative assets
every month that give a glimpse of how retailers can prepare for the season.
In this Q&A, the RTP
editors kick off the summer by sharing what retailers should be doing to
prepare for this season and beyond.
Adam Blair, Editor: There’s
an old (1940) movie comedy by the remarkable writer/director Preston Sturges,
titled Christmas in July. Before they even entered the
theater, the title would have clued in audiences of the day about the
topsy-turvy, anything-can-happen tone of the movie. Christmas in July?
That’s crazy! These days, however, we have a real-world Christmas in
July, at least as far as Amazon is concerned, called Prime
Day. And that’s just the most prominent example of the hyperextended stretching
of a holiday season that had traditionally been limited to the weeks between
Thanksgiving and Christmas. (Nor should we forget Singles Day, Nov. 11, the
modest little holiday that Alibaba pumped up into a worldwide selling blitz.)
My point is not to lament the passing of the old days, but that retailers need
to adjust their planning — in fact, their entire mindset — to the multi-month
nature of the “holiday season.” Certainly it involves more work and more
preparation, but it also opens up new opportunities.
Glenn Taylor, Senior
Editor: Back-to-school has arguably become the biggest
event impacted by the changes in summer shopping preferences, incentivizing
more people to shop for school supplies earlier in the year. Last year, Amazon
specifically launched “Back to School” and “Off To College” online stores ahead
of its own Prime Day, showing how much the retailer has dedicated itself to both
manufacturing and meeting demand — and so far, it’s worked. Competing retailers
shouldn’t try to move the immovable object, but they should still do more to go
where Amazon isn’t, just like any other time of the year. There’s always going
to be overflow from shopper traffic on Amazon, especially on high-traffic
occasions like Prime Day. This is where services like BOPIS or ship-from-store
come in. Amazon can’t do that, but now many Target stores sure can. Are there specific school supplies, dorm
supplies or apparel that Amazon might not have the best grip on? No one has
ever confused the e-Commerce giant with having the most uniquely curated
products, and its dominance of the now summer-into-back-to-school season
doesn’t change that.
Bryan Wassel, Associate Editor: There’s
no avoiding the fact that Prime Day dominates the summer, so the best thing
competing retailers can do is lean into the sentiment and try to take advantage
of that fact. Much of the hubbub around Prime Day is about expensive
electronics and similarly priced goods, so merchants in other areas might try
to soothe stinging wallets with sales on smaller items. Think something like,
“Got a great deal on that Echo, but killed your entertainment budget for the
month? Our hiking gear is on sale, so grab a new water bottle and hit the
(free!) parks during the peak of summer.” That’s a very specific, niche
example, but I think the idea can apply to retailing at large: accept that this
is a holiday and that Amazon is going to suck all the air out of the room, but
look for other areas where smaller retailers can thrive in this new environment
the e-Commerce giant has created.
Every day seems to bring another headline about a web site being down or an app being unavailable — from Instagram to J.Crew to Walmart, it’s clear brands are failing their customers.
Rather than waiting for an outage — and the accompanying social media backlash from infuriated customers and potential loss of revenue — retailers must understand the warning signs that their app is a problem and make the necessary adjustments before it ends up in the ER.
Key to this is proactively tracking and monitoring a handful of key indicators. Retailers can easily become overwhelmed trying to monitor everything, but by focusing on three key areas they can better understand their app performance and take action before issues snowball into business-critical problems.
1. Ratings slip
Don’t ignore the noise and try to explain away why your rankings are slipping. If your reviews are starting to go south, that’s usually a clear indicator that you need to look into what the source of the issue is and fix the problem before it escalates. Defect, slow performance and poor usability can all be fixed, but you have to do it quickly. Don’t just assume that it is a few disgruntled customers — it’s essential that you listen and react to the feedback before the potential problem spreads.
Look to see if there is a correlation with the ratings slipping and an increase in support tickets from users, or an increase in defect/request turnaround time from your team. The upshot of it is to value feedback as a way to keep your app and your brand healthy.
2. Your app is losing its appeal as a destination
Pay close attention to the length of time users spend on your web site or app. If users do a brief fly-by rather than exploring your app, then that’s another sign that something could be wrong. If people open your app, make a very linear journey and leave, that’s a concern. Why didn’t they hang around? If they did that in your brick-and-mortar store, you’d worry. Whether the customer is in your physical store or its digital counterpart, you want them to browse and see what else is available so you can upsell and foster deeper engagement. You want to see people exploring your app looking for products and promotions.
Keep an eye on back-and-forth user journeys. People browsing is what you want but people just hitting the back button and then clicking a different button probably means they didn’t understand your app and you have a usability problem. Also, absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder, so keep an eye on the time between visits, and if it starts to significantly extend from days to weeks, this is also an indicator of a problem.
3. Conversion/revenue starts to slide
If conversion rates start to nosedive, then that’s another sign that your app is potentially failing your business. You need to look into the source of the issue and see if the number of abandoned baskets is increasing. Also, if conversion is down but usage is growing, then there is a problem that warrants immediate investigation.
If retailers keep these three red flags front of mind, they can stay ahead of potential app outages, thereby reducing any negative impact on customers and their brand. In retail the customer experience and basket conversion are key, and the performance of your app is critical to both, so it’s time to rethink your approach to delivering an app experience that continually delights.
Antony Edwards, is COO of Eggplant. He is a proven product and technology leader with extensive experience in enterprise software and mobile computing. Before Eggplant, he served as CTO of The Global Draw Group. Prior to that, he was the EVP of Ecosystem and Technical Services at mobile operating system specialist Symbian. While at Symbian, Edwards was a founder of the Symbian open-source foundation.
As these retail industry titans spend millions of dollars
figuring out how to gain additional share of wallet through their own
technology advantages, how should the rest of retail go about delivering on
this transformation — especially given the high costs often involved?
This week, the RTP
editors share their thoughts on the continued merging of retail and tech as a
way to spur innovation, and explain how retailers can effectively absorb
technology into their enterprises.
Adam Blair, Editor:
It’s been one of the most interesting developments of the past five to 10
years: the number of retailers that have moved from being consumers/users of
technology to being acquirers-developers-and-even-resellers of
technology. I doubt there’s any one “right” way for retailers to make such a
transition, not least because the retail industry is so varied and technology
changes so quickly. But here are three basic guidelines: 1. Make sure the data
you already routinely collect in-house (sales, customer demographics, product
preferences, buying patterns, etc.) empowers whatever technologies you
build or acquire — and that the new tech doesn’t duplicate things you
already do. 2. Particularly with an acquisition, make sure you’re getting not
just the solutions but also the people whose expertise and energy make
the tech valuable. Even if you don’t hire them outright, keep them on as
consultants so they benefit you, not your competitors. 3. If the technology
proves valuable, follow Kroger’s lead and monetize it —
as long as doing so doesn’t conflict with your core business.
Glenn Taylor, Senior
Editor: Maybe retailers don’t have to specifically acquire a tech business,
or even invest in one, but they had better start hiring like one if they want
the brains required to understand what shoppers think. It starts by looking at
computer science and software engineering graduates, or recruiting those who
are already employed at agencies. Many retailers already get this: “Software
developer” was the third-most-common job in retail in 2017, rising from the
eighth most common in 2013, according
to LinkedIn data. These developers often have a handle on cloud services
and customer data platforms, and they can be vital to improving both the front
end (think mobile experience) and back end (think supply chain optimization) in
a way less tech-driven employees cannot. The Lowe’s acquisition seems like an obvious move to go tit-for-tat
with its biggest competitor and rival The
Home Depot, especially given the latter’s technology investments. Overall
this is good for every party involved. Last year, Home
Depot hired 1,000 technology professionals at its Atlanta, Dallas and Austin
tech facilities, all of whom are specifically versed in software
engineering, system engineering, UX design and product management.
Bryan Wassel, Associate
Editor: One possible change to retailers’ relationship with
technology is that shoppers may own their own personalization tools, rather
than let retailers take care of it. This possibility was raised in a Harvard Business Review article pointing out
that travel booking services, which take a wide variety of criteria into
account to deliver the cheapest and most efficient trips, could eventually be
applied to shopping trips: rather than pick out ingredients for a meal or
outfit themselves, shoppers could use outside programs that find the cheapest
and easiest collection of purchases that get them what they want. Performing curation
without retailers’ input could turn modern personalization trends upside-down —
rather than looking at an individual shopper’s past purchases, retailers would
need to look at what’s trending
nationwide and what their competitors are doing to try and stock the right products at the right prices.
This would require a whole new set of solutions and associated algorithms. As a
result, retailers would do well to remain agile with their technology choices,
and keep an eye on related industries to see how their strategies develop.