How to Use the Mobile World to Your Advantage as a Retailer

Smartphones and other mobile devices are taking over the world, so to speak, and have been for some time. It is no surprise, then, that retailers are looking to the platform as a new channel to drive business. It is likely that the mobile platform represents the future of retail, so it is important to utilize the growing number of opportunities the mobile world presents. Here are some tips for retailers on using mobile tools and opportunities.


Product Research

One of the main things driving shoppers to get their smartphones out while shopping in-store is product research. Most prevalently, they are comparing the price of your items to the price of those same items in your competitor’s stores. With this knowledge, you can implement a strategy that involves competitor price-matching and price adjustments on the fly. Embracing the fact that your consumers are checking the competitors prices on the spot, and adapting appropriately, will help you capture sales that would otherwise be lost, and possibly up-sell or cross-sell accordingly.

In addition to researching prices, your customers are also researching general product information. This information can range anywhere from product specs to reviews from other shoppers who have purchased the item in question. You may think that your store employees can provide the same information as Google can, but it turns out that customers would rather search online than consult with any specialists you have on staff. This may be due to the perception that they’ll find an unbiased opinion from an online search, but it holds true nevertheless.

The way to take advantage of this fact is to make it easy for customers to find information on your products online. Make sure your website is optimized for viewing on a mobile device, and think about implementing a social media campaign to drive everyday consumers to become champions of your retail establishment. In addition, utilizing Search Engine Optimization (SEO), a method of online marketing that pushes your results to the top of popular search engines through the use of frequently searched keywords and terms, will ensure that your shoppers are finding the right information.

Promotional Opportunities

Another reason smartphones are often used in the retail environment is that your shoppers are looking for sales or promotions. Many retailers are utilizing the mobile channel for these sorts of offers, making sure that they are accessible online and even through social media. A lot of interaction via social media—a very quick and reliable form of communication—takes place on mobile devices, so it makes sense that a mobile campaign would be intertwined with a social media campaign.

Various tried-and-true promotional methods can and have been adapted for use in the mobile channel. For example, text message coupons can be sent to a subscriber list, offering various deals for presenting the text message at checkout. This is just one example; many more opportunities present themselves in the form of dedicated apps, partnerships, and special mobile-only deals.

Mobile Payments

Shoppers are already researching your products and taking advantage of your promotions with their mobile phones. Why not bring the mobile experience end-to-end? Technology is now available that makes payments via smartphones possible, and it’s easy to get started with.

From using a smartphone as a credit card processor to the potential of a mobile wallet, the possibilities are ever expanding. Ensuring that your retail establishment is prepared to accept these and other forms of mobile payment is essential in keeping with the evolution of retail shopping. All you need to do is set up an account with a company that will process mobile payments, and you can integrate your mobile strategy into nearly every aspect of the in-store experience for your customers.

An integrated mobile strategy is a great way to take advantage of the opportunities mobile-savvy shoppers present, while effectively battling “showrooming” (the act of visiting a store to check out products, then purchasing them online) and price checking. Mobile influence in retail is not going away, and with these tips, you can ensure that your environment evolves with the retail market and your customers are always happy.

Author Bio:
Kristen Gramigna is Chief Marketing Officer for BluePay, providing retail payment processing solutions for merchants of all sizes. She brings more than 15 years of experience in the bankcard industry in direct sales, sales management, and marketing to the company and also serves on its Board of Directors.

Staples Second Quarter Profit Drops 16 Percent

Using Asymmetrical Merchandising Online and Offline

For years advertisers have been using pictures to create stories in the minds of customers. Through magazines, TV, online, and now mobile, products and services are placed in picturesque settings – igniting customers to imagine how the product or service can fulfill their desires and needs.

Social sites like Pinterest and Polyvore have expanded on this concept; where users pin or post pictures of products, services or things that interest them. The result is a curated grid of products. When products are presented with this type of strategy, shoppers have shown to buy more. According to Gartner research, 59% of consumers made a purchase after seeing a Pinterest pin board. Polyvore drives 20% of all social media merchandising online.

These results caught the eye of 2nd largest online retailer, Staples. Staples used Pinterest and Polyvore as part of the inspiration for redesigning its online and bricks-and-mortar stores. By using asymmetrical merchandising strategies and utilizing consumer insights from social, scientific and lab insight perspectives, Staples decided to simplify the selection of items on their web-site and in their stores.

Arun Arora, ‎SVP/GM Global e-commerce at Staples, told delegates at this year’s NRF Big Show about how they leveraged the idea of “curation,” to help shoppers overloaded with information make purchasing decisions quicker and simpler to make.

In the redesigned of Staples’ physical stores, Staples’ decided to scale back on the overwhelming assortment of products offerings. This has meant selecting the “top three products that have most relevance for the features and price-points that our customers look at,” said Arun. If shoppers wanted to then browse a wider selection, Staples’ installed a variety of digital kiosks that give access to the huge assortment of items sold on

More specifically, Staples’ employed the strategy of asymmetrical merchandising, showcasing products together that have no obvious connection. Similar to how advertisers use pictures to tell a story, Staples grouped together unrelated products on a display to tell a story about how that grouping of products can fulfill a shopper’s needs and goals. For example, Staples created break room and facilities room mock-ups that put products into a context that may spur additional, related purchases from office managers. The strategy improved on the traditional aisle with simplified, more compelling product placement

Since October 2013—the day the new site went live—the company has seen a 100% increase in conversion. Their in-store shops reduced their store footprint from 28K to 12K sq ft and kept of product selection. By using an asymmetrical approach, Staples has achieved their goals of increasing revenue while simplifying the website or stores, reducing the number of SKUs.

Rebecca Shirazi is the marketing manager at RBM Technologies. She is a frequent contributor to, where she writes in the areas of marketing, merchandising and supply chain.


How Big Data Helps Retailers Understand their Customers Better

One big topic at this year’s NRF Big Show was that retailers need to truly understand their customers’ tendencies in order to effectively target them across all channels – in-store, online, mobile, and beyond.


According to a conversation with IBM’s Ginni Rometty on Forbes, one way retailers can do this is by leveraging the increasingly vast amount of data retailers can collect and analyze on their customer-base.

From the article:

In the simplest terms, big data offers a means to understand shoppers via myriad digital touch points – from their online purchases to their presence on social networks.

“Mobile is everywhere – more people have a cell phone than running water and 25% of the world will be on a social network – that’s what created all of this big data: 2.5 billion gigabytes [of data] is created per day,” she said.

To put it in perspective the newness of it all, 80% of the world’s data has been created in the past two years, she said, a statistic also quoted by others in several show sessions.

It’s composed of structured data, “things that come in rows and columns,” and “unstructured data,” such as pictures, videos, tweets and location-based data.

And why should big data be top of mind for merchants? Because “it will be retailers’ basis of competitive advantage … and will be how you engage with your customers,” she said.


How does Amazon’s anticipatory shipping change multichannel retailing?

First it was delivery drones, now Amazon is planning to start sending you items you didn’t even order, but think you might like. Based on it’s new “anticipatory shipping” algorithm, the online retail giant is hoping to move the needle on multichannel retailing by literally parking items in cities waiting to deliver them, according to a recent Gartner article.


From the article:

Citing “predictive analytics” Amazon feels it can be reasonably certain that you will buy product X, even if they have to give you a special incentive to complete the transaction. But are they really using predictive analytics or an advanced version of analytics driven by past purchases combined with wish list items? For example, it’s relatively easy to determine that a consumer of conservative views from a given commentator will be interested in his next book. Even if the Amazon customer buys these items as a gift for a loved one chances are good they will be interested purchasing again. Contrast this with a much more complex form of prediction able to determine through a variety of indicators that this person’s views are changing and therefore predicting an alternative purchase. The latter of course is much more complicated but offers both a higher risk and reward.

Let’s get back to the question of the impact on multichannel retailing. Look beyond the hype to the realities. In this case Amazon seeks to improve its availability in order to solve the instant gratification that consumers crave and multichannel retailers rely on. No question that this represents risk for the traditional model, just as almost everything that Amazon has done from day one. This is however I think a little different as it shows just how important it is for Amazon to get product into the local market and takes them a step toward being a multichannel retailer. As I noted in a previous post, Just how far can ecommerce push the home delivery model before it breaks?, there are fundamental issues with the home delivery model. Most notably in this example increasing costs will be a factor. Not just the cost of shipments that will perhaps never end up on a customer’s door step, but the costs of additional discounting that avoid the complete waste of profits caused by returning un-purchased products. One day Amazon’s retail operations will have to make a profit, and with every additional pool of inventory and node in the supply chain it is growing costs which will make this challenge even more difficult.


IBM CEO Believes Big Data Will Change Retail

Speaking at the NRF conference in New York during Monday’s keynote session, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty noted that a new era of value is shifting in business, thanks to the explosion of data.

80% of the data produced has been created in the past two years. What’s more, researchers predict an 800% grow in data in the next 5 years. This means, in all industries, particularly retail, technology and data will have influence in unprecedented ways.

Here are 3 emerging technology trends will have impact in the retail world, according to Rometty:

Big Data
An obvious buzzword for the last couple of years, Rometty believes it’s actually under hyped and will become the world’s vast new natural resource. Where almost everyone will have access to some part of the 2.5 quintillion bytes of data that is generated each day. However, the value only goes to those who refine it. This translates in the world of retail where information will be the basis of competitive advantage. And stores will be the greater source of data to come.

On average, a retail chain has over 450 specialized applications. These applications are usually not integrated or are unable to ingrate with other systems. By investing in cloud computing you are just not only investing in technology but you are investing in a new business model. A model where retailers will know the placement of data and knowing where it is and what it’s doing is critical. Ginni believes those who adopt the cloud will benefit from agility, speed, privacy and security.

Cognitive Computing
A new topic we do not hear much about in the retail industry is cognitive computing. Rometty believes this is the 3rd major era when it comes to computers. The first was an era where systems counted, in the second systems were programmable.

“This era is the cognitive era,” said Rometty, “We’re going to see services and systems that learn, you don’t program them. These systems are taught, learn by experience and interaction, and get smarter and better at time. It’s not a search engine, it will know the implication of a question and ask one back.”

A major theme at NRF’s Big Show this year was how retail will change in the next five years and retailers must be prepared to adapt to unforeseen shifts in the landscape. According to Rometty, cognitive computing might be a major player in interpreting the mound of data available to retailers and help them find new solutions to react to these changes.


The Mannequins of NRF 2014

While we have been spending most of our time covering various keynotes and breakout sessions, one thing we noticed at Retail’s Big Show this year is that many exhibitors have stepped up their mannequin game.

We have clocked countless miles wandering around the Expo Hall floors, snapping photos for our twitter feed, and we thought we would compile a few of them into a post here on Merchandising Matters for our readers who might not have been able to attend NRF this year.

So here they are, the mannequins of NRF 2014.








Life Is Good CEO on how Joy, Compassion, and Optimism help grow your Brand

Good retailers obsess over what their customers think and feel about. Core values begin to emerge as a result that humanize their brand, streamline their messaging, and grow their brand through community engagement and customer experience.


This was the topic of Tuesday morning’s NRF Big Show 2014 keynote session featuring BJ Bueno, Founder of The Cult Branding Company and Bert Jacobs, Co-Founder and CEO of Life Is Good.

BJ took the stage to outline the three core values that every good brand should strive to embody. In doing so, retailers create a level of communication with their customers that goes beyond transactions and reinforces their emotional connection with the brand.

Those core value are:

  • Joy – Coca Cola launched a happiness campaign that allowed their brand advocates to experience the emotional power of the stories featured in their campaign. As a result, consumers continue to love a brand who is already powerful.
  • Compassion – Google has a program to help executives become more compassionate and have genuine empathy for their customers.
  • Optimism- The power of optimism can transcend the cynicism that comes with age. Bert Jacobs at Life Is Good realized this when the bottom feel out of a box of t-shirts he as carrying through the rain and landed in the mud.

It was then time for Bert himself to take the stage. Clad in a t-shirt and armed with frisbees, he addressed the crowd saying “you are not retailers, you are people, you are people that love to laugh and have fun.”

“You were not made for retail,” he continued, “retail was made for you.”

He talked to the issue of the cynicism and how it grows inside us as we get older. He believes “Life Is Good” as a slogan is about maintaining that openness of when we were kids. For large-scale retailers, this is achieved by finding causes that align with their brand’ score values and nurturing them through them. As he put it “takers eat well, givers sleep well,”

As brands think about how to best convey their core values and messaging Jacobs has one piece of advice; “keep brand ideals simple and people will get it in an instant.” Simplicity and authenticity help your message grow your audience base which, in turn, leads to increased sales and brand engagement.

We have entered a world where customers are the co authors of your brand. “If they see something that is not authentic they will tear your business down,” said Jacobs. “If they see something that is authentic they will build it up.”

He then hurled another frisbee into the crowd.


The Proliferation of Technology is Expanding Omnichannel Further

Consumers do not walk into a store and say “I want a seamless omnichannel experience.” While they know that is what they want, they surely do not use the word “omnichannel” to describe it. Today’s consumers inherently know they want an experience across all different vehicles related to price, color, availability, and most importantly, the brand.

During day two of NRF’s Big Show, Bob Carpenter, President and CEO of GS1 US, started the breakout session he was moderating entitled Achieving Omnichannel Success with Standards-based Supply Chain Practices by stating that the single biggest capability retailers want to provide is a consistent view of the customer – sadly more than half cannot. Turning his attention to his panelists – Mike Molitar, SVP eCommerce at Kohl’s, Peter Longo, President, Macy’s Logistics and Standards, and Dan Smith, CIO, Hudson Bay Trading Company – they began to backtrack through the evolution of omnichannel in order to help define its future.


Peter Longo spointed out that in the very beginning, retail existed primarily as a single channel – the brick and mortar store. Helped along by newspapers advertisements, the consumer had no other choice but to enter the retail store to see new collections and make their transactions. Along came the Internet and all of the sudden retailers were faced with a second major, yet separate, channel to market their products – multichannel.

According to Longo, “[retailers] developed a shadow or parallel organization within the enterprise that managed this new channel but it was not unified with the physical store.”

It was the consumer that forced the transition from a multichannel world to an omnichannel one. They began to reject these two separate disjointed retail experiences and demanded a consistent brand across all platforms. The advent of mobile was really the development that forced retailers’ hands as all of the sudden there were new forms of engagement they had to account for.

“We have to look at rethinking all of the parts to make them as alike as possible,” said Dan Smith. “They are not going to be happy if they are getting a bad experience in the store and a good one online.”

Successful retailers, according to Smith, are the ones that anticipate the consumer’s needs and react to them accurately. You need to think of the path to purchase system as one entire process that exists in-store, online, and mobile, but also the varying technologies such as point-of-sale that exist within them.

Coming more from a demand management perspective, Mike Molitar said it best: “I think about it more from a demand perspective and the term customer-centric retailing … the proliferation of devices makes it complicated.” According to Molitar, mobile devices are just the beginning, we now see wearables on the horizon and countless others to follow that we haven’t even thought of yet.

“Omnichannel is just the beginning,” said Molitar, “it might be device-specific elements that lead to the overall experience.”

Indeed it does appear that not only do retailers have to begin thinking across store, online, and mobile, but take into consideration the unique attributes of each device they are using the engage with your brand.

“There is a relentless focus on accuracy,” said Longo, “there is not a lot of room for error and loyalty can be cracked at any moment.”

Stores alone were never held to this type of rigor. The tech-savvy consumer expects to be able to purchase a product wherever and whenever they want it and the have an expectation that it will be available. Not only is availability a make or break factor, but speed will soon be as well. It might be that in the very near future next day delivery is too slow.

Retailers that take the time to listen to their customers and understand their needs will be well-positioned to create a consistent brand experience for them across every channel. Technology is forcing an evolution in the way retailers foster the brand experience leaving very little room for error in the process.


A look at SAP and Motorola Solutions at NRF 2014

There are a record number of exhibitors and attendees at the 103rd annual Big show by NRF. Two companies front and center at this year’s show are SAP and Motorola Solutions. We thought we would put together a quick post to show off both, and if you saw the lines outside each booth you would appreciate he lengths we had to go to to get these.

In the interest of transparency, we will admit that Merchandising Matters operates under RBM Technologies, a company represented at both booths.

Want to learn more? Stop by booth 1501 (Motorola Solutions) and 3205 (SAP) and see for yourself. They are both very active on social media and you can follow them at @MotoRetail and @SAP_Retail








President George W. Bush gives NRF Big Show 2014 Keynote Address

A crowd of over 5,000 packed into the Javits Center’s North Hall to hear President George W. Bush give the keynote address at the 103rd annual Big Show. Topics ranged from his initial reactions following September 11th and how that event shaped the type of President he would become, the first time he ever met Vladimir Putin’s “piercing blue eyes,” his decision to create TARP in light of the housing bubble, and how great it felt to be back on Air Force One as he joined President Obama on a trip to South Africa to attend Nelson Mandela’s funeral.


Touching occasionally on the world of retail, touting his memoirs in the process (available on Amazon), the former President did have a great overarching message that reinforces what we have been hearing of far at NRF 2014 – executives need to be leading their organizations into the future.

President Bush reinforced this concept when he talked about his first few months in office. He realized that it would be to his benefit, and the benefit of the country, if he got the smartest and most experienced people to surround himself with to help shape how he was going to lead.


“When you are the leader of the country, or a leader of a company, you have to have a strategy and vision,” he said. “By reaching out I learned that you can learn a lot by listening to someone else. It mattered when it came time to find common ground.”

The insight gained from those he chose to surround himself with allowed him to make more informed and confident decisions during his presidency. What’s more, he realized you do not have to sell your soul in order to achieve this.

In our coverage of Foot Locker CEO Ken Hicks’ keynote session we noted that retail is going to change more in the next five years than it has in the past 50. CEOs are going to be critical in leading retail companies through this change, testing new solutions, finding new ways to create a positive consumer experience, and most importantly, not rely on what worked in the past to help shape the future.

Just as President Bush is enjoying creating the next chapter in his life post-presidency – a period which his wife Laura playfully refers to as the “after life” – retail CEOs need to look to new ways of conducting business to remain viable in the changing retail landscape.