From Home Furnishing Business
New Ways to Sift, Think About The Information that Matters to Your Store.
“There are lies, there are damned lies—and then there are statistics.”
It’s an old saw, and while outfitting customers with products that match the lifestyle of their dreams takes a human touch, today’s furniture retailers—especially if they’re running operations employing more than a few people—can’t ignore the numbers that tell them what they’re doing right and also where they could make some improvements.
Analyzing your stores numbers is more than bean counting. It’s about pulling what’s really useful out of the huge amount of information generated even by basic store operating systems. As important—communicating what you find to your sales team and management personnel in an effort to help them do their jobs more effectively.
Numbers alone aren’t enough, said Bob George , CEO of Impact Consulting/FurnitureCore—it’s more about understanding what they mean, and using them to execute a business plan.
At the recent High Point Furniture Market George gave a presentation, “Big Data,” on how retailers can better utilize the huge amount of information their Web sites and store systems generate.
“The key to utilizing data is understanding the sorts of information; using it to identify customer segments and the opportunities they represent; using data for better promotional execution; and monitoring the results,” he said.
That can be a daunting task considering how much information a store automation system can generate. The first step is to create a place where that data can be organized and accessed, and George used the smart phone as an analogy.
“Every one of you probably has a smart phone,” he said. “Think about how much information you have on that phone—pictures, addresses, contacts—you’ve probably become dependent on that phone.
“Take one piece of data and expand it from there—it’s the what you did with your phone—your kids pictures, your calendar. Do it with you business in the same way.
Take that concept of all that information you have and layer it in. … If you don’t integrate that data and pull it together, you can’t use it.”
Create a place to store that data.
“The cost to store that data has fallen dramatically, and you also need the speed to get at it,” George said. “Where it should end up is where the rubber meets the road—in the salesperson’s hands. How can you use that data to influence the sales process?
“With ‘Big Data,’ the goal is to be able to say, ‘Bill bought something, but I knew he was going to buy it.’ He went to the Web site and asked about this SKU. Help your salespeople facilitate that movement from ‘I think I need some furniture’ to ‘I’m going to buy some furniture.’”
Traffic measurement, along with inventory, closing rate (both team and individual) and average sale, are absolutely critical sources of information, said Profitability Consulting Group CEO John Egger.
You might have those numbers, but understanding what they really mean takes deeper digging. Analyzing traffic numbers, for instance, is more than counting bodies.
“If you want to, drill down and use cameras at your door you can measure things like groups of people, family, ethnicity,” Egger said. “If the raw numbers say 80 people came in, that drill down will tell you that you had, say, 12 families, six groups of women, etc.”
Again, looking beyond the numbers, analyze where shoppers go in the store. Where do they stop?
“What if 70 percent of people stopped at a particular vignette?” Egger said. “That’s going to tell you something you can use in your merchandising.”
Say you’ve been gone for a week, and sales were half of what you’d counted on for that period.
“Your immediate reaction is to get all over the salespeople, but maybe there was a storm, maybe you were understaffed,” Egger said. “There are a lot of things that could have happened to let you know if there was a real problem with your people.”
DIGGING DEEPER: INVENTORY
Knowing how much furniture you have in your warehouse and on your floor, and how often you turn your inventory hopefully got covered in Retail 101.
Knowing you have X dollars in hand and that you turn it X number of times a year is fine, but if that’s where you’re stopping, those figures don’t really help you figure out how to make that investment in goods make money.
Do you know what part of that inventory has been sitting around for a while? Staying current on aging inventory is critical, Egger said.
“Someone has to be in charge of an aging report, and keep track of ‘not in location’ or ‘not available for sale’ items,” he noted. “That stuff can stack up to thousands and thousands of dollars. Suddenly you end up with $500,000 in dead items that could be cash. Someone has to be accountable for that.”
Egger shared an analysis Profitability Consulting Group performs for clients—slot cost.
“We go into a warehouse and see how many slots can be filled there,” he said. “We take total occupancy cost and divide that by slot—that’s the slot cost.
“If you have X amount of slots, we know that piece of furniture costs you X amount of money to sit there. If you have 1,200 slots that are (not in location) or (not available for sale), that could be replaced with merchandise that’s making you money.”
DIGGING DEEPER: TRAFFIC
While more than 50 percent of American retailers have installed traffic monitoring systems, they don’t always apply the information gathered to improving sales, according to Michael Bunyar, president of Montreal-based SMS Store Traffic.
SMS’ furniture retail clients include names such as Ashley Furniture Homestores, City Furniture, Dufresne and The Brick.
Today’s traffic counting technologies now provide queue management data, age and sex recognition, hot spot identification, group counts, employee elimination, dual view cameras and more. But retailers can do more to apply what they learn from those numbers to convert shoppers into buyers.
In applying store traffic to your operation, Bunyar said customer-to-staff hour ratio is one of the most useful ratios you can generate.
“That’s total traffic divided by the number of staff hours you use in a given day, or period of the day,” he said. “If your customer/staff hour ratio is 15, that means everyone on your floor dealt with 15 people. When you get to 30 or more, there is simply no available service. The floor staff is getting pulled every which way.
“When you look at that ratio on a daily basis, people agree that Saturday and Sunday are the big hours. The ratios for those times are typically the worst of the week, meaning your highest traffic is getting the worst service of the week.”
That ratio could well be an acceptable 15 on Tuesday or Wednesday, but if it’s 25 or 30 on Friday, Saturday or Sunday, you might be burning turf customer-wise.
“Just re-establishing staffing levels, bringing a little more available service to your key selling days has a huge impact,” Bunyar said. “The bottom line is that most retailers are desperate to increase sales. It’s all about your conversion rate. Are you selling 1 to 2 percent of your traffic? That’s a problem. Just adjust staffing so when people come into your store you can give them the service you need.”
Are you already selling 20 to 25 percent of your traffic? Taking it to 26 or 27 percent represents a huge impact in sales.
“It’s an easy fix, it’s a quick fix, and it’s an inexpensive fix,” Bunyar said. “If you talk with store managers, you find they’ve been petitioning their head office for years to get more people, but are told they’re staffed properly for their sales level. Improve the service, and you’ll improve the sales.”
DIGGING DEEPER: SALES
Jeff Winter is an owner at Discovery Furniture in Topeka, Kan., along with brother Jamie Winter. The operation includes Discovery Furniture, RoomMakers stores carrying Ashley goods Mattress Headquarters locations in Topeka, Kan., and Lawrence, Kan.; and an Ashley Furniture Homestore in Salina, Kan.
Discovery/RoomMakers has deepened its sales analytics in the past couple of years. More important, management puts the information it gets to work on managing and counseling its sales team and managers to help them perform more effectively.
“All the information is in our computer systems—what was purchased, who bought it, who sold it,” Winter said. “We have several components in the analysis we do. That includes normal sales specialist measurements like sales per hour, sales per guest, average sale, sales productivity.”
Discovery analyzes by week, month and year for each person; and it graphs that information by performance, and by furniture category.
“The manager sits down with each person so they know where they stand,” Winter said. “It’s making it so you can change and improve. … You can’t improve what you can’t measure, and it all leads to communication.
In the past year Discovery has added protection sales and delivery into the measurements the business tracks.
“We put those in because people who purchase product protection and delivery are our happiest customers,” Winter noted.
Sometimes, for example, customers decide to pick up the furniture themselves, and end up damaging it.
“That’s not our fault, but you still have an unhappy customer,” Winter said. “Say a customer opts out of delivery. We’re able to identify that, and help (the salesperson), coach them.
“With a lack of information, people tend to think they’re above average. Everyone wants to do a good job, it’s a matter of helping them with specific things, specific sales tools.”
Discovery looks at those same measurements by store and by each category. On a graph, a gold bar indicates expectations are met or exceeded; green means performance exceeds the prior period of measurement, be that year, month or week; and red indicates performance trails the prior year.
“We’ve formatted how we get that information into people’s hands, and it’s compiled every hour,” Winter said.
Daily text compare performance by day, week, month and year; and store managers see not only their store but also every other store.
“We also have merchandising tools, managing that in a real-time war room,” Winter added. “We determine what’s generating our gross margin dollars.”
It’s all part of re-thinking the way retailers can apply the numbers available to them in their business. HFB
Lessons from Outside
How Retailers in Other Sectors Use Numbers to Increase Sales Conversions.
SMS Store Traffic has been providing traffic counting systems to retailers for more than 40 years, and while the technology involved generates more information than ever before, retailers don’t always tap its full potential.
That’s according to Michael Bunyar, president of Montreal-based SMS Store Traffic.
While accurate counting is important, how the retailer applies the data is the key to using traffic information to impact sales in a major way. SMS has examples of client retailers outside furnitureland who are doing just that.
Eric Champagne, was vice president of information technology and logistics at Liz Claiborne/Mexx Canada from 1997 to 2011, where he in doubled the chain’s conversion rate over a three-year period using a traffic counting system from SMS.
He said at first there were some reluctant store managers who felt the system had a “big brother” feel to it.
“I told them I’m giving you a tool that will double your sales,” Champagne said.
The process began with a discussion with store managers about what they could affect, and what was out of their hands as it related to increasing store sales. Ultimately, they came to understand that they could directly affect their closing ratio and average dollar per transaction using information provided by the system, which provides combined traffic and sales information they can use to guide their sales efforts.
“In retail, driving sales with numbers is probably the most difficult thing to do,” says Champagne. “The sales force wants to be on the floor and selling is very emotional. But once they understand these numbers, they can take them and focus those emotions and energies toward the customer.”
One of the fundamental was to identify key traffic patterns at each store on a daily basis.
“Traffic behaves in such a predictable way that it’s scary,” Champagne said. “Within a few weeks of collecting data you can forecast how many people will come into your store on a Wednesday afternoon at 2 o’clock.”
In the vast majority of stores, the answer to increasing sales lies in providing more effective customer service during the key traffic periods identified by the software. This can occur in a number of ways, from altering staffing to provide more consistent customer service, to training, to setting more specific performance targets and standards.
Another way is to ensure the top-selling personnel are on duty during the peak traffic periods.
At Liz Claiborne, the changes increased closing ratio from 8 percent to 16 percent, all with the same amount of traffic.
Larry Lombardi, vice president of stores for 8 years at the 1,100-store Fashion Bug chain, reported a similar experience.
He led the retailer on project to improve conversion rates at approximately 75 Fashion Bug locations.
In instituting the SMS system, a training program was designed to be more customer focused at certain times of the day and less task-oriented. Fashion Bug also altered the way it scheduled sales staff to capitalize on identified sales windows when there were more people in the store.
Prior to the project, conversion rates at Fashion Bug were a little more than 20 percent. After several years, the conversion ratio had risen to 29 percent. The chain ultimately adopted a similar program at the rest of its stores and some related brands.
Lombardi said viewing data at “face value” is the biggest obstacle to maximizing the value of traffic counting—i.e., “traffic is up, traffic is down.” He adds that there must be a commitment of time and resources as well.
“Some people look at the information from traffic counting and say, ‘it is what it is,’ but it’s not,” says Lombardi. “It’s what you do with it.”
Traditional Furniture Stores Continue to See Competing Channels Emerge.
It doesn’t look as if there’s any end in sight for new consumer alternatives to traditional home furnishings stores.
For instance, high-end furniture retailers that haven’t lost sleep over different ways consumers might find the sort of product they carry might want to check out Chairish.com.
The online consignment shopping site for upscale home furnishings launched in late February specializing in good condition, upper-end furniture, accessories and accents.
A browse through the site indicates the concept can move product—a fair amount of what you’ll see already is labeled “sold.”
Chairish aims to meet two needs in the marketplace. First, well-to-do and wealthy consumers who are moving or giving their home a makeover have a vehicle to get some cash out of their old furnishings versus giving them away or storing them.
Second, it makes gently used, but high-style furniture available at a savings to aspirational consumers, or those who while well-off, still want a value.
Think about how the value of that new car drops the moment you drive it off the dealership’s property. (I know I’ll probably never buy a brand-new automobile again.)
The site serves customers anywhere in the United States who have a major credit card, and offers white glove-shipping as well as a standard 48-hour return policy on all items.
For sellers, Chairish offers to levels of service: first, a standard service anywhere in continental United States. Sellers complete an online form, share the story behind their piece and upload photos. Once Chairish curators approve the listing, it is posted and ready for purchase. Listing is free, and Chairish receives a 20 percent commission upon sale. There is a $250 minimum listing price per item.
The second seller-service level, Concierge, is currently offered in the San Francisco Bay Area, where Chairish is based, and will roll out in additional major markets. With this service, a Chairish representative comes to the seller’s home, inspects the furnishings, writes the listings, take the pieces from the home via white glove movers, puts them into secure storage, and professionally photographs the items. When the piece sells, Chairish manages payment, shipping logistics and only takes a 40 percent commission. Listing is free.
The site brings plenty of e-commerce experience to bear, with its founding team includes entrepreneurs from places such as Hotwire, TripIt, Yahoo, Expedia, eBay, and Levi Strauss & Co.
A DEVELOPING STORY
Chairish is one of the latest examples of how people are finding furniture in new places.
Greensboro, N.C.-based furniture marketing consultant Joe Carroll has long maintained a list of distribution channels for furniture.
His updated list, which he shared with Home Furnishings Business, stands at 86 now, same as last year, but it has changed slightly, losing “computer specialty” stores and gaining a new category, “sleep specialty” stores.
“Sleep specialty used to be under ‘product-specific specialty stores,’ but bedding specialists are one of the fastest growing channels within that group, so they rated their own listing,” Carroll said.
With retailers such as CompUSA no longer in the picture and consumers now purchasing office furniture at other electronics outlets such as Best Buy, Carroll felt the computer specialty channel had pretty much gone away.
“I’ve talked to a lot of people, and they say computer stores just aren’t carrying furniture anymore,” he said.
Along with “sleep specialty” stores, Carroll said he’s seen most growth in the “multi-regional chain,” “regional chain” and “national chain” segments among furniture stores; “online furniture retailers”; and “flash sales sites.”
“Online furniture retailers also have divided into three kinds: furniture retailers selling on line, wholesalers like Amazon selling online and the Internet-only dealers like Wayfair,” he noted.
Flash sales sites are a permanent part of the home furnishings distribution picture, he added.
“Flash sites are reminiscent of the ‘80s when catalogs came on, or when Internet sales began,” Carroll said. “Everyone said those would always be a small part of furniture sales, and now the Internet has $5 billion. Flash sales sites are growing, and they’re here to stay.
“That turned out not to be a ‘flash in the pan.’” HFB
As of press time, the country was just going into the Final Four weekend of March Madness of the NCAA championship. The four teams—Louisville, Wichita State, Michigan and Syracuse—have made their way to Atlanta, soon to be followed by ardent fans of the sport.
I absolutely love college basketball.
Some of that love comes from growing up in North Carolina where passions run deep and rivalries are hot. Back in the day, who could argue with the strength of Tobacco Road, and its majestic cluster of basketball powerhouses? Much of my love for the sport comes from spending my college years in Chapel Hill, N.C., at THE University of North Carolina. (The REAL Carolina, for all my friends in Columbia, S.C.)
While my beloved Tar Heels fell to the Jayhawks of the University of Kansas in the third round of play, I’m still watching. My bracket, chosen through loyalties to the ‘Heels and the Atlantic Coast Conference, started to fall apart weeks ago. It’s pretty much disintegrated now with none of my chosen four anywhere near Atlanta. Every year, I say I’ll fill in the bracket without following my heart. THAT isn’t likely to happen—EVER—and even if it did, given this year’s topsy-turvy, unpredictable month of games, my picks still would have gone down. I might could have improved my chances of winning the pool had I collected a few quarters and opted for a heads-or-tails strategy.
That’s the beauty of March Madness. Short of my team winning it all, the craziness and excitement of the unknown keeps me tuned in for “just one more game.”
I’m sure you’re wondering what the heck college basketball, March Madness and the Final Four has to do with the furniture retailing business.
The way I see it, retailing, like college basketball, is an extremely competitive sport.
To succeed and play well, it takes practice, the right tools and of course, some information on who your competition is. I have no doubt that each of the teams playing in the Final Four in Atlanta have been studying and reviewing the other teams to decipher their strengths and weaknesses in an effort to develop the most effective game plan. Coaches and assistant coaches are all poring over strategies that have been successful in previous games, but to do that, they must know their competitor.
Preparation is the key to success. Knowledge is power.
Who is your primary competition in your market? Is it Amazon? Your neighborhood pharmacy? Walmart? Target? The local bookstore? The Best Buy in the local shopping hot spot? Look around, you’re likely in the fight of your life with someone other than what we think of as a “traditional” furniture retailer.
Duking it out for those elusive consumer dollars, and the consumer’s time and attention.
So jump in with both feet, figure out who your competition is and be ready for the big win. Find the tools that make the most sense and put them to work in your operation. You’ll be thankful when you come out on top.
Now, back to basketball.
Thank goodness for Cinderella teams, underdogs, enthusiastic players and coaches with the desire and will to win. Going into the weekend of play, my heart lies with the Wichita State Shockers—a fabulous mascot given the circumstances.
So, who are your competitors? Seriously, think about this a minute before reading further, list them in your head. You probably named the traditional retailers in your area, but did you think of your local grocer or drug store? They didn’t make my list either, but after doing a bit of research and reading a rough draft or two of articles appearing in this issue, my list would be a lot longer.
I could list a few more for you here, but will let you uncover that information for yourself in later pages.
We all know the importance of real estate on your showroom floor, and I would imagine it’s the same in the grocery industry, so why is the widest aisle in my local Kroger the one with furniture and accessories?
I don’t believe it’s for the convenience, heck I’ve never said let’s run by Kroger real quick and check out those recliners. I’d like to know who has. I mean really, how would you get it in you basket and through the 20 items or less lane? I joke, but the only reason they would give up this floor space is because they are making profit on these items.
The same thing is happening at my local CVS. Now they haven’t ventured into furniture, but they have a few accessory products that could appear on your retail floor. Granted the quality is probably much different than what you offer, but my point is consumers have options besides the traditional furniture retailers today. In my opinion, these places seem very strange for a furniture purchase. I don’t believe
I would ever take a serious look at either location when shopping for something new for my home. That said, others must be purchasing items from them if the merchants are willing to give up the floor space to feature the products.
Traditional brick-and-mortar furniture stores are facing more competition than ever before. The days of being the only game in town have long past. It’s up to you to find a way to reach your customers and get them in your door. It can be done, you just need to point out your strengths and tell them why you are the better selection for making any furniture purchases.
Your core business is furniture and it always will be. You have a vast selection of products and designs to fit any home. You have the fabric and color selection that will allow them to have a custom piece in the home. Your staff is knowledgeable and can answer any questions or help with overall room design. Your delivery and customer service people will help them if needed after leaving your showroom. None of these items can be said for a grocer, drug store or most any other non-traditional competitor you might name.
This issue of Home Furnishings Business magazine takes a look at all the channels retailers face daily while trying to conduct business. After reading this issue, you will have learned a few things from other retailers and how they are positioning the traditional furniture stores to remain the first choice for customers.
Are you the first choice for home furnishings in your marketplace?
Thinking of Incorporating Mobile Technology into Your Operation? Read on for Issues to Consider.
Got a smartphone? Next time you have a few minutes, run a search on the App Store for “shopping apps.”
You’ll find a lot of companies already on the mobile technology bandwagon. Best Buy, Walmart, Toys r Us, Overstock, Amazon, Zappos, Office Depot, Staples—the list could fill a lot of this page.
In home furnishings you’ll see names such as One Kings Lane, Ballard Designs and Ikea—no big surprise there—on the App Store, but for the most part furniture retailers are playing catch up with other consumer products sectors when it comes to granting their customers access to their products and services via mobile phones and tablets.
Sales of those units are growing every year, and there’s a generation of consumers entering their buying years that has never known a world without digital mobile technology.
Just when we were getting used to shoppers heading first to the Internet, it appears that not too far into the future, they’ll be heading for their smart phone or tablet instead—a lot of them already are. When that time comes, will they find you?
OPPORTUNITY & CHALLENGE
Mobile technology presents both opportunities and challenges to retailers, said Myriad Software Principal Carolyn Crowley. The San Diego-based home furnishings retail automation specialist made mobile the centerpiece of a couple of sessions at its user conference last month in San Antonio.
With so many consumers using their smartphones during the shopping, and sometimes purchasing, process, Web sites optimized for mobile users and in-store mobile-friendly features for product information and such can be a competitive advantage.
Crowley pointed out that Lowe’s is deploying iPhone-based mobile POS to compete with Home Depot. Furniture retailing, she pointed out, has some catching up to do.
“When you go to places like Best Buy, the capability of what you can see and do online is better in other industries,” she said in a phone interview after the conference.
One reason is that furniture retailers looking to put information onto customers’ phones face challenges unlike, say, an airline selling tickets or taking reservations via mobile.
“That airline controls what it’s selling, its own tickets,” Crowley said. “The challenge a furniture retailer has is that you’re working with products that aren’t yours, you’re getting them from a lot of different vendors.”
Take QR codes that could be on product in your store.
“Does that QR code lead the consumer to the retailer’s Web site or the manufacturer’s Web site?” Crowley said. “Manufacturers need to make the information available on the retailer’s Web site. That’s an initiative that needs to happen.
“From a technology provider’s standpoint, the more connections we can give the retailer to the manufacturer’s information, the more the consumer will come into the store.”
She added that from her clients’ feedback, she believes manufacturers are more comfortable driving traffic to their Web sites versus the retailers’ sites.
“The customer’s often already doing the shopping on line and knows what they want, but not all retailers carry the all the product they see on the manufacturer’s Web site,” Crowley said. “Wouldn’t it be great if the retailer could tell the customers (who visited the manufacturer’s site) we don’t have that particular product in the store, but we can tell you everything you need to know.
“It’s a challenge that some of the retailers can’t show (a manufacturer’s) product on their own Web sites because the customers are driven to the manufacturer’s Web site.”
At a Best Buy, a shopper can know for sure via her smartphone if the product is at the local store, and maybe go ahead and pull the trigger on a purchase.
While with furniture, especially something like upholstery or bedding, the customer is more likely to want to come into the store for a “touch-and-feel” test, having a shopping list on the customer’s phone when she walks in the door is just one example of how mobile can make the furniture buying process easier.
“Wouldn’t it be great if you could walk them around your store with their mobile device—you don’t even have to ask them what brought them into the store,” Crowley said. “Technology service providers like us should work with our clients’ manufacturers to get as much of that information available at their fingertips as possible. Ultimately, we’re trying to sell that manufacturer’s product line, and the more a Myriad or other service provider can provide to the retailer, to arm them for the consumer walking into that store, the better off we’re all going to be.”
Myriad brought an expert in mobile applications to its conference to give retailers advice on how to make the most of mobile. Scott Gamble, vice president of digital solutions at Alliance Data Retail Services, is accountable for all the Columbus, Ohio-based company’s consumer-facing digital initiatives in the areas of the Internet, mobile, e-commerce, social media and e-mail. He and his team are responsible for the development and execution of the Alliance Data mobile strategy, which has led to multiple industry-first products in the areas of mobile marketing, payments and service.
In addition to his 15 years with Alliance Data, Gamble has more than 20 years of experience in the retail payments industry, including management roles at GE Capital and SPS Payment Systems.
Things like virtual loyalty cards, optimizing credit programs for mobile users and “geo-fences” that alert customers to deals when they’re in a store’s vicinity are ways mobile can help retailers get consumers’ attention and build sales.
A NEW CONTEXT
Location-based marketing using geo-fences, for example, targets customers in a defined area around a store. It’s important to note that those customers have to opt in to receiving information from your store.
“That location awareness ties the context of knowing that it’s a brand I’m aware of that I’ve opted to receive information from and that the brand’s nearby—it ties all that together,” Gamble said. “The cellular networks will sell you that (locational) data for customer’s who’ve opted into receiving information from you.
“You can build a ‘fence; and be notified that one of your customer’s is in that fence—you can then send them a text.”
Consortia of non-competing retailers in the same area, for example around a mall, have made locational marketing using geo-fences much less expensive.
A key is getting those customers to opt-in, and mobile-optimized loyalty programs are one way to inspiring that commitment. It’s also convenient for customers to have that loyalty program on their phone.
“I don’t know anyone who has space in their wallet for another (loyalty) card or room on their key chain for another one of those tags,” Gamble noted.
Alliance Data research indicates that 18 percent of consumers agree that a mobile loyalty program gets more valuable as they have begun to expect offers to arrive; and that 31 percent of consumers agree that the program gets more valuable as it gets more relevant to their interests.
“Allow consumers to express preferences and filter those messages to correspond to that data,” Gamble said. “This context drives them to action,” adding that ADS found 52 percent of those on the program will visit the store’s Web site, and 50 percent will visit the store soon.
“Someone isn’t going to sign up for text promotions from 50 different brands. We’ve found they’re open to six or seven,” Gamble said.
MAKE THE RIGHT MOBILE
ADS research found that 61 percent of people have a better opinion of brands when they offer a good mobile experience.
Be careful here—if that experience is unsatisfactory, the reverse is true. Say you have a QR code shoppers can scan. Gamble related an anecdote of a retailer whose code generated a message telling shoppers they needed to view the target site on a computer.
“If you don’t connect the dots all the way to the end, it creates bad vibes from the consumer,” he said. “There are plenty of options for you to make your Web solutions mobile-friendly without spending a lot of money. Don’t do anything just to go mobile without tracking everything all the way through.”
Retailers can go out and buy an e-mail list, but they can’t buy a list of phone numbers for a texting campaign. Engage customers in the store and on your Web site to create that buy-in to what you have to offer.
“Create a database of mobile short-message service (that’s text in common parlance) users, and engage them responsibly with relevant content,” Gamble said. “Seventy-nine percent of active shoppers would opt in to store alerts for special offers and discounts; and 75 percent are interested in receiving location-based offers when near the store,” according to ADS research.
Above all, make sure the experience is mobile-friendly from end-to-end. Provide product information and add links for consumers to share via social networking sites. HFB
Scott Gamble, vice president of digital solutions at Alliance Data Retail Services, offered these suggestions for retailers considering the use of mobile technology.
• Respect the mobile consumer.
More and more shoppers are taking their mobile phones into stores, and they’re expecting to be able to use them in yours.
• Understand that mobile is a shopping tool.
Consumers are using their smart phones to access product information, coupons and offers, comparison shop, purchase goods online and locate stores.
• Control your customer’s mobile experience.
Make sure your Web site is optimized for smartphone and tablet users.
• Build mobile-friendly in-store experiences.
Create a database of mobile users, and engage them responsibly with relevant content.
• Use barcodes to your advantage.
Deploy barcodes on your in-store merchandise that take consumers to your mobile Web site for more product information.
• Make sure your digital properties are in sync.
Audit your digital properties from end to end to ensure smooth transitions between channels.
• Mobile-optimize your credit program.
Introduce the account acquisition process to earlier in the shopping cycle to increase initial-purchase size; and educate customers on promotional offers and spending power while you can still influence shopping behavior.