Author Archives: Douw G Steyn

Douw G Steyn

About Douw G Steyn

Always a student with a passion for digital business and -marketing…

The Value Proposition for Bricks and Clicks Retailers

I’m not aware of one retailer that does his/her business without customers. Indeed, retailers that have plenty of loyal customers enjoy a competitive advantage and are doing well. So, how do they do it?  Retailers with a clear and effective value proposition at least know who their customers are, what they want and need and why are they coming back. Above all, retail customers can also be found online…

With the advent of the internet and subsequent social media networks, the way that retail customers interact with retailers, products, and patrons has changed. In fact, in today’s tech savvy society, shoppers have access to brands 24/7, from websites to mobile apps to storefronts. Therefore Bricks and Clicks retailers (retailers that use both the physical and online retail channels) need to develop a value proposition for their store and online customers.

What is a value proposition?

A value proposition is an entire set of experiences, including value for money that an organization brings to customers 1. Importantly, customers may perceive this set or combination of experiences to be “superior, equal or inferior to alternatives”.

The customer value proposition can also be explained by this equation: value = benefits less (-) costs. The equation suggests that customer value comprises positive consequences (benefits) and negative consequences (costs). When customers perceive greater benefits than sacrifices, customer value is created 2. Perceived benefits and costs for retail customers are shown in the Table below.

Customer perceived benefits Customer perceived costs
Transactional – lower prices, lower interest rates; Monetary – maintenance costs, running costs, disposal costs;
Relational – product quality, service support, delivery, personal interaction Learning costs – time and money needed to learn how to use a product;
Functional – finding the right products, convenient shopping hours. Logistics costs – delivery costs, time to deliver.

How do customers perceive value?

Customers perceive value on the benefits of the product or service they receive. Consequently, as the environment changes, and the customer experience and their needs change, the value they seek also changes. Before the advent of the internet, retailers that had the most knowledgeable sales persons were valued by customers, especially when they shopped for specialty products. However, nowadays, in the digital era, customers can not only get comprehensive product information online, but they also can read product reviews and compare prices.

Retailers need therefore to communicate their value proposition also in the online channel, through their websites and in social media networks.

The value proposition for online customers

Retail customers are rapidly engaging in the online channel. Indeed, there are, according to Dr Dave Chaffey, Smart Insights, 27 Apr, 2017, 2.8 billion active social media users. With these billions of social media users, retailers are no longer in control of customer relationships. Instead, customers and their highly influential virtual networks are now driving the conversation, which can trump a retailer’s marketing, sales and service efforts with their unprecedented immediacy and reach 3.

Kumar and Reinartz 4, 2016 said the following about how customers perceive value online:

For many online services (e.g., Google Maps, Facebook), customers are not expected to pay in monetary terms. The core benefit is free of monetary charge from the end user’s perspective. The monetization comes mainly from advertising revenues, with ads targeted at narrow segments or personal individual profiles. However, in the context of digitization, a new cost related aspect has been emerging.

“Customers now have to understand the value of the personal information that they will give up in this exchange. Thus, customers pay in terms of less privacy instead of monetary outlays. In fact, some customers value privacy of personal information privacy so much that they would be willing to pay to preserve privacy – this then creates a market for privacy” concluded Kumar and Reinartz 4.

What if you don’t have a value proposition yet?

The purpose of retailers is to create value for their customers. Therefore a value proposition equates to a positioning statement because it defines “who is the target customer?” as well as “why should the customer buy it?” and “what are we selling?” 2. According to Rintamäki, Kuusela and Mitronen, 2007, a value proposition should:

  • Increase the benefits and/or decrease the sacrifices that the customer perceives as relevant;
  • Build on competencies and resources that the company is able to utilize more effectively than its competitors;
  • Be recognizably different (unique) from competition; and
  • Result in competitive advantage.

GetToGrow mentioned the following advantages of a value proposition

  1. Gives direction. A value proposition gives you direction by defining your ideal target audience right up-front, and then identifying and understanding a core need that you look to satisfy with your planned solution.
  2. Creates focus. A robust value proposition gives you and your team focus by identifying the fundamental initiatives, activities and aspects of your business that will have the greatest impact on meeting your defined target audience’s needs.
  3. Breeds confidence. Confidence comes from knowing that you’re making a difference to the people that you’re serving, that you’re doing so in a way that’s meaningful to them, and that your actions are aligned to delivering an overall remarkable experience.
  4. Improves customer understanding and engagement. By grounding your solution in an understanding of your audience and their specific need, you can engage with them in a much more compelling and effective manner.
  5. Provides clarity of messaging. The value proposition frames not only how you’re creating value for your audience by addressing a core need, but critically why your solution is better than what they are currently doing or using, or versus whatever else is potentially out there that could do so.
  6. Increases effectiveness of marketing. By truly understanding your desired customers and their core need that you’re solving for, you’re able to focus on the channels and vehicles that are most relevant, and will effectively communicate the benefits and advantages of your solution.

Concluding

Retailers that know and understand their customer’s needs, want and wishes the best can communicate a superior value proposition to them. By using ‘big data’ or your internal sources of customer data, your firm’s value proposition can be customized and personalized. However, care should be taken not to infringe on the individual’s privacy.

Further reading:

Implementing Social Customer Relationship Management in Retail

Video: Value Propositions and Positioning

 

Notes:

1 Hassan, A. 2012. The value proposition concept in marketing: How customers perceive the value delivered by firms–A study of customer perspectives on supermarkets in Southampton in the United Kingdom, International journal of marketing studies, 4(3):68.

2 Rintamäki, T., Kuusela, H. and Mitronen, L. 2007. Identifying competitive customer value propositions in retailing, Managing Service Quality: An International Journal, 17(6):621-634.

3 Heller Baird, C. and Parasnis, G. 2011. From social media to social customer relationship management, Strategy & Leadership, 39(5):30-37.

4 Kumar, V. and Reinartz, W. 2016. Creating enduring customer value, Journal of Marketing, 80(6):36-68.

Image:

Flickr.com

Implementing Social Customer Relationship Management in Retail

One of the most important goals for retailers is to maintain long-term and profitable relationships with their customers. The construct Customer Relationship Management (CRM) started when retailers moved the orientation of their business from their companies to their customers. However, the advent of the internet, Web 2.0, and online social networks have disrupted the traditional way that retailers communicated with their customers.  Hence, Social Customer Relationship Management (SCRM) came to the fore because of the emergence of a “social customer”.

Social customers comprise the 2.8 billion* active social media users (Dr Dave Chaffey *, Smart Insights, 27 Apr, 2017). With these billions of social media users, retailers are no longer in control of customer relationships. Instead, customers and their highly influential virtual networks are now driving the conversation, which can trump a retailer’s marketing, sales and service efforts with their unprecedented immediacy and reach 1. However, social media needn’t to be a threat for retailers. Indeed, retailers that learn how to use social media technology to their advantage can gain valuable insights about the demographics and buying behaviour of their customers.

The use of technology for successful Social Customer Relationship Management

Social networks offer retailers practicing Social Customer Relationship Management masses of customers who group themselves around a brand 2. It is here, in these networks, that retailers can study the community’s behavior toward a brand or firm beyond purchase. The data originate from motivational drivers such as word-of-mouth activity, recommendations, customer-to-customer interactions, blogging, and the writing of reviews 3.

But retailers haven’t yet realized the opportunities of using their own data resources for Social Customer Relationship Management. Sandra Gittlen, mentioned  the following recently in CIO: “In an age where most companies have a social media presence on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat and Instagram, it’s somewhat surprising that many still haven’t figured out how to turn the data gathered from company-owned properties and broader social media listening tools into automated and actionable intelligence”.

Trainor, Andzulis, Rapp and Agnihotri, (2014) 4 identified four functional blocks enabled by social media technology that are particularly relevant in a CRM context:

  1. Sharing – refers to technologies that support how users exchange, distribute, and receive digital content (e.g., coupons, texts, videos, images, “pins” on Pinterest, etc.). This is similar to the concept of information reciprocity – the activities and processes that encourage customers to interact and share information – which has been shown to positively influence a firm’s ability to manage relationships.
  2. Conversations – represents technologies that facilitate a firm’s interactive dialog with and between customers (e.g., blogs, status updates on Facebook and Twitter, discussion forums, etc.) and capture the information from these dialog.
  3. Relationships – represents the set of technologies that enables customers (and businesses) to build networks of associations with other users (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, Ning, Yammer, etc.) and allows organizations to utilize this network information.
  4. Groups – represents the set of technologies that support the development of online user communities centered on specific topics, brands, or products. Examples include SalesForce.com’s Ideaforce and Igloo’s Customer Community application software.

Integrating your Social Customer Relationship Management program with your marketing automation

SCRM deals with the strategies, processes and technologies that retailers can use to link the social web with their CRM strategy. According to Reinhold and Alt, (2012) 5, SCRM poses a challenge for large firms with numerous employees, market offerings and offices. Consequently, they need to discover the relevant conversation threads, synchronize information flows, initiate the appropriate actions and communicate at an individual level within millions of social web conversations.

However integrating SCRM with marketing automation is not impossible – you only need to start right. Malinda Wilkinson (DestinationCRM.com) advises that it’s important that your technology should always follow your process, not precede it. “Without this integration, it is difficult to create a consistent experience for your prospects and customers. And on top of that, too much time and too many resources will be drained trying to coordinate activities to ensure leads don’t fall through the cracks”, concludes Malinda.

Fitting your Social Customer Relationship Management program with your business philosophy

The success of an effective CRM system depends on the background marketing methods and business philosophy 2 of retailers. Therefore customer centricity should become the new strategic goal, where retailers build their brand and image together with their customers.

Linda Shea in AdAge.com proposes the following to become and remain a customer centric company:

  • Executives need direct interaction with customers. The key to executive buy-in, commitment and active support is first-hand knowledge and understanding of what is delivered to the customer, relative to their needs and desires.
  • All employees need to embody the intended customer experience. A narrative must be cascaded down to every single individual in the organization. Your employees must clearly understand their role in delivering the promise the narrative makes to the end customer.
  • Just say “no” to off-strategy ideas. Excitement abounds in most organizations with ideas and fresh thinking that may lead to new revenue streams. However, it is imperative to recognize that customer-centricity is not a destination but rather a multi-faceted, multi-year journey that will require laser-sharp focus, commitment and investment.

Concluding

Retailers that are not with their customers on the social networks will soon run out of customers. The Social Customer Relationship Management construct is customer centric by definition, giving retailers the opportunity, with the aid of marketing automation, to be part of the social media cloud.

Further reading:

  1. Finding Customers in the Vastness of the Internet
  2. Predictive Analytics helps Retailers to make sense of Big Data
  3. Demise of Loyal Retail Customers in the Digital Age

Notes:

1 Heller Baird, C. and Parasnis, G. 2011. From social media to social customer relationship management, Strategy & Leadership, 39(5):30-37.

2 Bagó, P. and Voros, P. 2011. Social customer relationship management, Global Journal of Enterprise Information System, 3(3):35-46.

3 Yoon, K. and Sims, J.D. 2014. Integrating Social Media and Traditional CRM: Toward a Conceptual Framework for Social CRM Practices, Harnessing the Power of Social Media and Web Analytics, IGI Global, Chapter 5:103-131.

4 Trainor, K.J., Andzulis, J.M., Rapp, A. and Agnihotri, R. 2014. Social media technology usage and customer relationship performance: A capabilities-based examination of social CRM, Journal of Business Research, 67(6):1201-1208.

5 Reinhold, O. and Alt, R. 2012. Social Customer Relationship Management: State of the Art and Learnings from Current Projects. In Bled eConference, 155-169.

Image:

Flickr.com

 

Webrooming and Showrooming – Buying Behaviors of Retail Customers in Virtual and Physical Environments

Webrooming and showrooming are popular jargons that describe how retail customers use different combinations of online and physical channels to search for information about products, corroborate this information and make the purchase 4. These customers are tech savvy and they use their mobile phones to great effect to help them to decide what to buy where and at what price.

Both Bricks and Mortar retailers and Clicks Only retailers were slow to react to the changes in the buying behavior of their customers. However, Bricks and Mortar retailers are now adding the online channel to their business and Clicks Only retailers are opening physical stores. The adoption of the omnichannel by retailers couldn’t happened sooner. Hence Bricks and Clicks retailers…

Brain Eisenberg, quoted by ClickZ said that “Retail does not exist without an online component and online retail isn’t as cost-effective if you don’t have a brick-and-mortar component.” “We’re connected all the time through the phones in our pockets, but we live in a physical world”, said Eisenberg.

Webrooming and showrooming

Showrooming

Most of us has done showrooming at least once before. Showrooming is when you visit a store, saw a product you like, but then purchase it online instead of from the store 1. According to Douw G Steyn, author at Bricks2Clicks, the advent the internet has led to the adoption of innovative digital technology and the rolling out of broadband mobile connectivity.

At the same time, consumers quickly learned how to use mobile devices to compare products and prices when shopping 2.  These tech-savvy consumers are changing the fundamental consumer-retailer relationship and showrooming is fast becoming a problem plaguing the retail industry.  In the past few years, as online shopping exploded and smartphones became the norm, the showrooming phenomenon — consumers using their phones to comparison shop in stores — seemed poised to gut the revenue of offline retailers.

The real hurdle, though, is pricing writes Ann Zimmerman in the Wall Street Journal 5. “Lower prices are one of the main reasons people pick Amazon and other internet-only emporiums over traditional retailers” said Ann.

Machavolu and Raju, 2014 6 advice retailers to do the following to counter showrooming:
  1. Adopt a Collaborate-and-Coordinate business model. In today’s business set-up, manufacturers and retailers, both are working in different silos and eventually end up contending against each other. But it will be fine if both operates together to offer customized solutions that exactly suits their shoppers’ needs.
  2. Treat customization as the mantra for success. Customization programs can only be successful when retailers believe they are a key areas of focus for all their staff. Treating the programs as only a ‘side task’ may result in mediocrity and leave the retailers worst off than before.
  3. Lay emphasis on customer experience. The new age customers want themselves to be part of the process while the product is being planned, developed or delivered, hence companies must focus on getting their customers involved in doing so.

Luo, et al (2014) 2 have identified two measures that retailers can take to influence shoppers’ intention to showroom, namely 1) to reduce the online-offline price difference and 2) to improve the level of employee knowledge competency. Webrooming is nowadays recognized as an opportunity that retailers can use to counter the showrooming phenomenon.

Webrooming, which is similar (but opposite) to showrooming is a manner which customers use to help them in making their buying decisions.

Webrooming

Webrooming is the opposite of showrooming.  Showrooming is when you’re standing in a store, and you pull out your smartphone to see if you can get a better price online. However, webrooming is when you’re searching online, check what item you like and go to the store to pick it up 3.

“Webrooming is actually nothing new. Since the early days of online shopping, more people have researched their shopping online than have actually bought there”, says Emily Adler in Business Insider. Emily highlighted results from a recent report from BI Intelligence:

  • Webrooming is more common than showrooming. In the U.S., 69% of people practice webrooming, while 46% do showrooming.
  • The data shows that millennials prefer webrooming. For electronics, shoes, sports equipment, and cosmetics, more millennials say they prefer to webroom, rather than research in store and then buy online.
  • Amazon remains the No. 1 place where showroomers end up making their purchases. But it’s an even more popular destination for webroomers who ultimately buy elsewhere.
  • Only recently have Bricks and Mortar retailers begun to capitalize on webrooming. They’re using tactics like knowledgeable sales staff, in-store pick-up of online orders, in-store Wi-Fi, and smartphone discounts that nudge showroomers to buy in-store.
  • New initiatives for the connected in-store experience keep popping up: tablets and mobile phones used as register systems. Also robotic arms that deliver clothing into dressing rooms, and beacon hardware, which powers in-store maps and automatic hands-free payments.

Concluding

It seems that retailers are starting to catch up with the buying behavior of their tech savvy customers. Whether their customers are webrooming and showrooming , the retailer’s main goal should be to get the sales through their businesses.

Notes:

1 Quint, M., Rogers, D. and Ferguson, R. 2013. Showrooming and the rise of the mobile-assisted shopper, Columbia Business School, Center on Global Brand Leadership.

2 Luo, Q., Oh, L.B., Zhang, L. and Chen, J. 2014. Examining the Showrooming Intention of Mobile-Assisted Shoppers in a multichannel Retailing Environment, In PACIS (p. 141).

3 Nesar, S. and Sabir, L.B. 2016. Evaluation of Customer Preferences on Showrooming and Webrooming: An Empirical Study, Al-Barkaat Journal of Finance & Management, 8(1):50-67.

4 Flavián, C., Gurrea, R. and Orús, C. 2016. Choice confidence in the webrooming purchase process: The impact of online positive reviews and the motivation to touch, Journal of Consumer Behaviour, 15(5):459-476.

5 Zimmerman, A., 2012. Can retailers halt ‘showrooming’, The Wall Street Journal, 259:B1-B8.

6 Machavolu, M.S.K. and Raju, K.V.V. 2014. Showrooming: The Next Threat to Indian Retail, MITS International Journal of Business Research, 1(1):1701.

Image:

Flickr.com

Thinking About Competing With Amazon.com? Think Again…

Competing with Amazon.com may prove to be a difficult if not an impossible challenge. You are up against an extraordinary company led by an extraordinary leader.

“Your margin is my opportunity”, dares Jeff Bezos, the founder, chairman, and chief executive officer of Amazon.com. According to Jessica Stillman, contributing for INC. , Jeff sees a competitor’s love of margins and other financial ‘ratios’ as an opportunity for Amazon. Says Jeff: “The competitor will cling to them while he focuses on absolute dollar free cash flow and slices through them like a hot knife through butter.”

The migration of Amazon.com from a sole online retailer (Clicks Only) to physical locations (Bricks and Clicks stores) is perceived by many retailers, big and small, as a threat to their existence. However, incumbent retailers can learn much from how Amazon.com conducts their business. Amazon.com is now an omnichannel retail giant that makes the most of the opportunities that digital technology in the new economy offers – showing the way for others to follow.

George Parker has recently converted from an Amazon hater to an Amazon admirer. George writes in Business Insider: “But perhaps the thing that impresses me most about Amazon’s unconventionality is its ability to structure its business model in unexpected ways. Because of the massive volume of product it sells 24/7/365, Amazon maintains 80 enormous warehousing and fulfillment centers scattered around the known universe.” Amazon.com is an uncompromising competitor with an unconventional business model.

How on earth can retailers compete with that?

Where is Amazon.com coming from?

Amazon.com was founded during 1995 and started as a website selling only books. They started out as an online bookstore and grew patiently but significantly to be the world’s largest online retailer. Being one of the few companies that survived the “dot.com” crash during 2000, Amazon.com made their first yearly profit during 2003. Net profit came in at $35 million, or 8 cents per share, compared with a net loss of $149 million, or 39 cents per share, in 2002 (Quora.com).

NASDAQ reported Amazon’s net income for 2016 was an impressive $2.37 billion. This income was mainly coming from its online retail business. RetailDive recently reported that Amazon dominates online sales traffic with an equal or greater share of sales compared to all other e-commerce sites combined, when measured across 11 retail categories. Indeed better than all the rest.

What is Amazon doing now?

Amazon.com is on a buying spree in the Bricks and Mortar retail market. They’ve also came to realize that adding Bricks to Clicks is the future of retailing. Richard Kestenbaum, contributing for Forbes concurs: “Now even Amazon has recognized that online alone is not going to work. In order to succeed in grocery, there will have to be a symbiosis of online and physical stores.” There seems no stopping from Amazon buying Bricks and Mortar retailers.

Competing with Amazon.com is getting more difficult. The Seattle giant launched a radical assault by acquiring a brand-name high-end grocery chain with 456 stores in the U.S. (436), Canada (11), and the United Kingdom (9). Whole Foods also owns three distribution centers (Brad Thomas, Forbes).

So, Amazon is now becoming a true Bricks and Clicks retailer and you will most probably have to compete with it. What are Bricks and Clicks retailers up against when competing with Amazon?

Competing with Amazon.com – the last crusade or new horizons for retailers?

Amazon’s business model is a formidable one, with deep moats on multiple fronts that make it tough for competitors to gain ground. The only way to stop Amazon is to either beat AWS [free Amazon Web Services], which holds a commanding lead in the cloud platform market, or replicate Amazon’s multi-layered Prime strategy [offering tons of benefits on Prime memberships]; (Leo Sun, The Motley Fool).

Kavadias, Ladas and Loch, (2016) have identified six recurring features in the business models of companies (also Amazon.com) that were successful in transforming their industries:

  1. A more personalized product or service – many new models offer products or services that are better tailored than the dominant models to customers’ individual and immediate needs. Companies often leverage technology to achieve this at competitive prices.
  2. A closed-loop process – many models replace a linear consumption process (in which products are made, used, and then disposed of) with a closed loop, in which used products are recycled. This shift reduces overall resource costs.
  3. Asset sharing – some innovations succeed because they enable the sharing of costly assets, e.g. Uber shares assets with car owners. Maybe independent retailers can share assets across the supply chain – what about sharing warehouses, or delivery services?
  4. Usage-based pricing – some models charge customers when they use the product or service, rather than requiring them to buy something outright. The customers benefit because they incur costs only as offerings generate value. The company, on the other hand, benefits because the number of customers is likely to grow.
  5. A more collaborative ecosystem – some innovations are successful because a new technology improves collaboration with supply chain partners and helps allocate business risks more appropriately, making cost reductions possible.
  6. An agile and adaptive organization – innovators sometimes use technology to move away from traditional hierarchical models of decision making. In order to make decisions that better reflect market needs and allow real-time adaptation to changes in those needs. The result is often greater value for the customer at less cost to the company.

Independent or small retail chains need to “think outside the box”. Maybe you should pool your resources and thereby establishing a critical mass to counter the likes of Amazon.com. Also, your location and local knowledge may be a substantial niche – be the first to explore it!

Concluding

Competing successfully with Amazon.com will probably be not viable for independent or small retail chains. Best is to learn Amazon successes and failures and use that knowledge to compete locally in a niche market.

Further reading: Amazon.com and Walmart – Set to Face Off in the Omni-Retail Channel Space

Note

1 Kavadias, S., Ladas, K. and Loch, C. 2016. The transformative business model, Harvard Business Review, 94(10):90-98.

Image

Flickr.com

 

Order Fulfillment in Omni-Channel Retail – the “Last Mile Delivery” most Retailers Fail to Complete

Shoppers expect a seamless shopping experience — no matter where they are, what device they are using, or how they choose to shop. Order Fulfillment in Omni-Channel Retail – taking the right product, putting it in the right box, shipping it, and gaining the customer’s approval – is a demanding task.

It is a demanding task, because customers in the retail omni-channel demand near perfect delivery of their products. Kirby Prickett speaks of the “last mile delivery” of eCommerce: “The last mile delivery is a metaphor used to describe the movement of goods from a fulfillment center to their final destination.”

The last mile delivery is the place where business success or failure for omni-channel retailers is mostly decided. Thirumalai and Sinha 1, (2005) suggest that “it is here – in the down-and-dirty details of consumer direct order fulfillment – that the epic battles for domination of the e-commerce marketplace will ultimately be won or lost.”

Success with order fulfillment in omni-channel retail may give a retailer a sustainable competitive advantage – take the dominance of Amazon.com as an example. However, to compete with Amazon, the average retailer needs bags of money and the greatest employees in the industry.

A more realistic approach for retailers is to have a critical look at their own order fulfillment processes, the last mile delivery, and fix what is not working.

The challenge of Order Fulfillment in Omni-Channel Retail

Indeed, Order Fulfillment in Omni-Channel Retail is a huge challenge for retailers. Results from a recent survey done by Radial with the help of EKN Research showed that 37 percent of CEOs questioned cited that their inventory order and supply chain operations are not properly aligned.

Retailers with physical shops or “Bricks and Mortar” (BM) retailers that added the online channel to their business becoming “Bricks and Clicks” (BC) retailers, have additional challenges. One of the challenges is to align their traditional store-based distribution processes with the requirements of the online channel 2.

Tony Evans from GLOMACS Training & Consulting highlighted the differences in logistic processes between Bricks and Mortar retailers and online retailers (OR):

  • Order size – BM retailer’s orders are counted in cases, picking is run per shipment and picked goods are ready for dispatch without additional handling. In contrast, OR’s orders are rather small including just a few items per line.
  • Warehousing operations – the picking system suitable for BM is not efficient for OR. A common characteristic for both channels is the high labor costs.  Therefore companies need to decide whether to keep the stock for all channels in one regional distribution center (RDC) or to keep them separated to avoid confusions and inefficiencies.
  • Technology – modern retail companies (e.g. BC retailers) are investing in new technologies to optimize logistics operations to give them a competitive advantage. Warehouse Management Systems integrated with Enterprise Resource Planning Systems and Transport Management System are essential for e-commerce operations. These systems provide real time information about the inventory level and estimated delivery time that may help customers during their purchase process.
  • Order fulfillment – BM shopping gives customers the opportunity to verify the products that they have purchase before they put them into a shopping basket. In OR operations any error in order fulfillment results in returns and problems in customer retention.  Potential errors are related to wrong item picked and packed, quality issue or late delivery.
  • Transport planning – orders that OR receive are mostly small in size. Therefore one truck typically delivers parcels in a wide area to various customers. These fragmented deliveries require retailers to plan their dispatching and delivery scheduling efficiently.
  • Network design – BM retailers choose the location of regional distribution centers (RDCs) to serve as a ‘center of gravity’ for the region and for heavy vehicles to have easy access. Hence the RDCs are usually located outside urban areas.  On the other hand, having picking centers close to urban areas work better for OR retailers. That is to do timely next-day or even same-day order fulfillment.

What cause the problems in the last mile of Order Fulfillment in Omni-Channel Retail?

Arsh Sing posting on the TOOKEN site, list a number of possible causes for problems in the last mile of Order Fulfillment in Omni-Channel Retail:

  • Poor infrastructure – especially in developing countries, poor transportation infrastructure inevitably means long journeys, inefficient routes, inefficient transportation technology, etc. All of these compound and translate into woeful costs and time lags, which may be otherwise circumscribed.
  • B2B vs B2C deliveries – now if you’re transporting a huge B2B delivery, the extra costs and wasted time may still be worth it. However, as is often the case in urban areas, especially with B2C deliveries, the costs of fuel and time wastage must be borne for just one package.
  • Types of goods – occasionally, even the type of goods can make add to the challenges of last mile delivery. For instance, toxic, fragile, perishable or flammable items call for more planning.
  • Customer nuances – phenomena like incorrect address, remote locations, cramped locations, absence of the customer to receive the package, whimsical cancellations of orders, returning orders, etc. These nuances ensure that the factors affecting potential costs of the last-mile cannot be accurately anticipated.

How can retailers improve the last mile of Order Fulfillment?

According to Jim Tompkins, Chief Executive Officer, Tompkins International, the correct approach for retailers to get the last mile of delivery right is to focus first on strategy, then on structure, followed up by implementing the systems you need. However, Melicia Morris and Dan Rottenberg writing for Retail Law Advisor have a pragmatic approach to help solve challenges in last mile of delivery:

  1. Creating a fulfillment center – a fulfillment center allows customers, who place online orders, the ability to pick up their items at a nearby physical location. Along with decreasing the shipping costs, the benefits include faster delivery of merchandise and the leveraging of existing store personnel.
  2. Constructing brick-and-mortar buildings – where customers familiar with their products and service can both shop and receive their deliveries.
  3. Implement automated locker systems – to address customer deliveries.
  4. Using drones – to deliver packages via parachute, though the method presents issues of both safety and efficiency.

Concluding

Online shoppers want to receive their goods as soon as possible. Parcel delivery has become a very powerful marketing leverage for your e-commerce. According to Mélanie Vaast from ECN about 37% of online shoppers who face a poor delivery experience blame the online seller itself and never shop again on its website. The concept of last kilometer represents a daily challenge for online stores owner in a very competitive market.

Notes

1 Thirumalai, S. and Sinha, K.K. 2005. Customer satisfaction with order fulfillment in retail supply chains: implications of product type in electronic B2C transactions, Journal of Operations Management, 23(3):291-303.

2 Ishfaq, R. and Raja, U. 2017. Evaluation of Order Fulfillment Options in Retail Supply Chains, Decision Sciences.

Image

Pixabay

 

3D Printing Technology for Retailers – An Opportunity or a Waste of Money?

3D printing technology for retailers is now emerging as an outcome for small localized retailers that are facing closure. However, as it is with most disruptive technologies, the advantages that 3D printing offer for retailers should be weighed against its potential pitfalls.

Although the 3D printing technology has been used for a number of years, it has been mostly on an industrial scale. Meanwhile, the price of desktop 3D printers has started to come down resulting in an average annually growth rate of 170% since 2008 1. The door is now starting to open for innovative retailers to include 3D printing technology into their business models. As a result, brave small retail store owners have already started using in store 3D printing.

3D printing is a game changer in retailing, according to Richard Kestenbaum, contributing for Forbes. Richard writes: “Last week Ministry of Supply installed a machine in its Boston store that can make a garment on demand in 90 minutes (with finishing done offline after the garment is created). The machine can be set to make garments all day and night or it can be instructed to make a garment to a specific customer’s design, allowing customers to customize the colors they want in the garment.”

Let’s have a look how 3D printing works…

How does 3D printing works?

3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing (AM), refers to processes used to create a three-dimensional object in which layers of material are formed under computer control  (Wikipedia). According to Berman (2012), 3D printers work in a manner similar to traditional laser or inkjet printers. Rather than using multi-colored inks, the 3D printer uses powder that is slowly built into an image on a layer-by-layer basis. All 3D printers also use 3D CAD software that measures thousands of cross-sections of each product to determine exactly how each layer is to be constructed 2.

3D printing uses such raw materials as plastics; resins; super alloys, such as nickel-based chromium and cobalt chromium; stainless steel; titanium; polymers; and ceramics. Examples of products that are manufactured by 3D printing includes artwork, automotive parts, ductwork for a mobile hospital, sand cores for automotive engine block castings, architectural models, dental bridges, jewellery, ball bearing assemblies, and gear assemblies 4. But how can retailers use 3D printers to their advantage?

3D Printing technology for retailers – a 3D-printed product out of a desktop printer

What are the opportunities of 3D printing technology for retailers?

Cremona, et al. (2016) identified the following points on how 3D printing may influence a firm’s strategy:

  • Process innovation:
    • Delivery time of the product: the time to market is extremely reduced, to the extreme that it might become real time.
    • Product development process: is optimized because adjustments are made in a faster and less costly way.
    • Quality and flexibility: is under the control of the retailer with 3D printing.
    • Satisfaction of the single customer demand: personalized products are added to the platform.
  • Customer’s value:
    • Brand awareness: a close collaborative relationship is established between the retailer and the customers thanks to usability testing.
    • Customer’s loyalty: offering customized, personalized products may help clients to feel special.
  • Product platform enhancement:
    • Pushing the limits of traditional manufacturing machines: now new products can be developed also in a different approach and materials are added instead of subtracted.
    • Personalized modules: products can be designed and delivered exactly how the customers want them.
  • Sustainable competitive advantage:
    • Differentiation strategy: carrying out projects on demand makes the retailer to perform a differentiation strategy. It aims at delivering the most technologically advanced product, which is a unique solution with a unique design for each customer.
    • High specialized production know-how: allow companies to actually integrate 3D printing in the product life cycle. In doing so, an additional service is provided.

The most important strategic advantages that 3D printing offer small local retailers are customization, personalization and control over the supply chain. But what are the pitfalls of 3D printing?

What are the pitfalls of 3D printing technology for retailers?

3D printing is in the introduction phase of its life-cycle in the retail industry. Subsequently there will be a lot of surprises (good and bad) as the technology gets adopted more widely.

Shaleen recently blogged in inkjetwholesale.com.au the following of disadvantages of 3D printing:

  1. Scale and size limitations – you can’t print multiple objects of the same type at the same time.
  2. The absence of economies of scale – because every object or product is printed individually.
  3. Cost of buying and setting up a 3D printer – the initial cost still remains something of a roadblock for most businesses and individuals.
  4. 3D printed objects may require heavy duty post processing – it isn’t only the lack of polish that is the problem but also the possible dimensional inaccuracy.
  5. Large scale adoption of 3D printing will result in significant job losses – every new invention ends up taking away jobs amongst the masses.

According to Beck and Jacobson (2017), legal implications may include what is exactly a product, who is the manufacturer, what is the marketplace, and who should be potentially liable for a defective 3D-printed product (once “product” is defined).

At the end of the day, the most important aspect of 3D Printing technology for retailers is whether the customers will accept or reject it.

What do customers think of 3D printing technology in retail stores?

Retail Customer Experience recently reported results of a survey by self-service solutions company Interactions on what shoppers want from retail technology. The study, “What Shoppers Want from Retail Technology,” surveyed more than 1,000 adult shoppers. Of those polled, 84 percent expect retailers to successfully use tech features and functionality to boost the shopping experience and 62 percent are motivated to shop after an initial human greeting when entering a store. Importantly is what the respondents said about 3D printing in shops…

“According to the survey, 95% of shoppers said they were eager to buy products that were 3D printed, and 79% said that they would even spend more money at a store that offered product customization through 3D printing.”

Wow, really? I think we should end (or start) here…

Concluding

Lastly, 3D printing technology for retailers is a genuine disruptive digital technology that may (or will) turn the retail industry upside down. There are many recent examples of disruptive technologies that changed the rules of the retail game. As the costs of buying and setting up 3D printing technology are getting less, more retailers will adopt the technology. Indeed, if you invest now in the technology, you’ll be an early adopter and enjoy (localized) market leadership. Consequently, you’ll have to battle through the growing pains of the technology. On the other hand, by waiting a bit longer, laggard retailers my get 3D printers for a bargain, but at that time, probably, the customers will already be with the pioneers.

Video: The 3D printing process

Notes

1 Li, Y., Linke, B.S., Voet, H., Falk, B., Schmitt, R. and Lam, M. 2017. Cost, sustainability and surface roughness quality – A comprehensive analysis of products made with personal 3D printers, CIRP Journal of Manufacturing Science and Technology, 16:1-11.

2 Berman, B. 2012. 3-D printing: The new industrial revolution, Business horizons, 55(2):155-162.

3 Cremona, L., Mezzenzana, M., Ravarini, A. and Buonanno, G. 2016. How additive manufacturing adoption would influence a company strategy and business model, MIBES Transactions, 10(2):23-34.

4 Conner, B.P., Manogharan, G.P., Martof, A.N., Rodomsky, L.M., Rodomsky, C.M., Jordan, D.C. and Limperos, J.W. 2014. Making sense of 3-D printing: Creating a map of additive manufacturing products and services, Additive Manufacturing, 1:64-76.

5 Beck, J.M. and Jacobson, M.D. 2017. 3D Printing: What Could Happen to Products Liability When Users (and Everyone Else in Between) Become Manufacturers, Minn. JL Sci. & Tech., 18:143.

Images and video

  1. Commons.wikimedia.com; https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:3D_print_in_process_(9437659715).jpg
  2. Proto3000

Demise of Loyal Retail Customers in the Digital Age

Loyal retail customers have for long now given Bricks and Mortar (BM) retailers an advantage over their competitors. However, the advent of the internet and the subsequent development of the online shopping channel have changed the shopping behaviour of retail customers.

Although BM retailers have invested millions of dollars in customer loyalty programs, the convenience, speed and assortment of products customers enjoy online lured many loyal customers away. This is apparent with the closedown of thousands of retail stores, and the vanishing of well-known retail brands over the last couple of years.

The big challenge for BM retailers is to the get customers back to their stores. Thereafter, the retailers should have a strategy in place to keep them coming back. In other words, making their customers loyal again…

What are loyal retail customers?

Customer loyalty is according to PR Loyalty Marketing both an attitudinal and behavioral tendency to favor one brand over all others. This may be due to satisfaction with the product or service, its convenience or performance, or simply familiarity and comfort with the brand.

Loyalty is formed in four stages 1 – cognitive, affective, conative, and action.

  1. Cognitive loyalty – in the first loyalty stage, consumers develop value expectations and preference for one brand relative to other available alternatives.
  2. Affective loyalty – here the consumers begins to develop a liking or attitude towards the brand based on an increasingly satisfying experience with the brand.
  3. Connotative loyalty – the third stage, which is confined to consumer’s behavioral intention. The consumer has deeply held commitment to buy the brand.
  4. Action loyalty – is where the desire and intention in the previous loyalty state has translated into realistic loyalty actions or behaviour.

It takes time, money and commitment from retailers to get loyal retail customers. This process, mostly took place at the BM retailer’s store in the local shopping center. However, retail customers in the digital age can shop anywhere, at any time, at the best price.

So, BM retailers need to rethink their customer loyalty programs. They need to find out what “delights” their customers. How has the internet and the online retail channel affected their shopping behaviour in the retail stores?

Loyal retail customers in multi-channel retail

Retailers can nowadays rely only on more than one channel to do business with. As a result, most BM retailers adopted eCommerce to become Bricks and Clicks retailers. Online retailers, on the other hand, started to open physical stores to serve as showrooms for their products. Indeed, loyal retail customers need to be found outside the traditional retail channels.

“In the digital age, your customers have apps that let them search for products, compare products, review products, check prices, compare prices, and even buy the product without ever stepping foot in your store “says Tiffany Marshall. So what must retailers do to get their loyal retail customers back?

Media Genesis suggests that retailers do the following to get back loyal retail customers:

  • Build an emotional connection – whether it’s through exclusive content or rewards, making your consumer feel special is an important part of brand loyalty.
  • Personalize – you have your customer’s data; use it to your advantage! Make your content relevant and engaging by making sure that it is (almost) custom-made for your consumer.
  • Use your data – use data, analytics, and your digital business capabilities to go beyond just rewards. Use the information you’ve gathered to really analyse how your consumers want to engage with your brand and build a strategy to do it.
  • Create an active online presence – forgoing a good website and a strong online presence is essentially a death sentence in today’s digital marketplace. Most consumers prefer to shop online and not having an easy to use website is like excluding your brand from the conversation. It’s not enough to just post on social media. Create conversations, respond to customers, and help make customer service a 360° experience.
  • Merge your worlds – make the online to offline experience completely complimentary by identifying all of the crucial touch points you may have with your consumers. You might even see a return in foot traffic if the consumer consistently sees your brand attached to good prices online. When they need something in a pinch, your brand will be at the top of their mind.
  • Make it easy – as a business, you now have to prioritize delivering quality, enjoyable interactions with your consumers. This is the best way to build a lasting customer relationship in the digital age. If your web presence does some of the heavy lifting for your consumer, making it easier for them to reach their end goal, the quality of the experience will resonate and they’ll be back for more.

Concluding

Online shopping caters to the busy lifestyle of modern people, and its prevalence manifests the rise of the stay-at-home economy 2. Also, the internet, big data, the internet of things and social media has revolutionized the way customers interact with their retailers. I wonder, however, how loyal retail customers can be towards a chatbot?

Lastly, has the demise of the loyal retail customer started?

Read also: Personalization of Marketing Communication – not just for your Customer’s sake

Have look at this video: “The role of customer loyalty in the small business”

Notes

1 Kursunluoglu, E. 2014. Shopping centre customer service: creating customer satisfaction and loyalty, Marketing Intelligence & Planning, 32(4):528-548.

2 Wu, M.Y. and Tseng, L.H. 2015. Customer satisfaction and loyalty in an online shop: an experiential marketing perspective, International Journal of Business and Management, 10(1):104.

Image and video

Flickr.comlynda.com

Drop Shipping in 2017 – Opportunities and Turbulence for Retailers

Drop shipping in 2017: Is drop shipping the ‘holy grail’ for struggling Bricks Mortar retailers? Or is it a retail business model that goes against what online customers demand: An easy, consistent and seamless experience.

According to Joel Padi writing in The Market Mogal, the young people in the UK choose increasingly to become entrepreneurs. This is because of the unpredictable economy, high study fees and a fiercely competitive job market. Joel says that some of the young entrepreneurs consider drop shipping as a “risk-free, low start-up cost, and profitable business venture”.

Josh Wexler, CEO and Founder of RevCascade, posting in the MULTICHANNELMERCHANT says that “Thanks to its inherent flexibility and low-risk nature, drop shipping has the potential to be your ultimate tool for merchandising and product curation”. However, Ed Kennedy cautions that with drop shipping, a retailer may put his/her good reputation in another’s hands. A real concern…

The drop shipping in 2017 will be discussed – does it offers opportunities for retailers, or is it too troublesome?

The drop shipping distribution model

The drop shipping distribution model is usually contrasted with the traditional retail distribution model. Comparing the two models is not without a good reason. Traditional retail distribution models require the retailer to buy inventory, and to store and manage it. This practice needs a monetary investment that serves as an important entry barrier to the industry.

There is no need for a retailer to buy inventory, or to handle it when using drop shipping.  Since the capital requirements starting a drop ship retail business is small, the barrier to enter the industry is low. Therefore, starting a drop ship business seems easy, but how easy is it to keep it open?

The pros and cons of drop shipping in 2017

Drop shipping, as with any other retail business model, has its advantages and disadvantages:

The advantages of using drop shipping for existing retailers are according to Josh Wexler as follows:

  • Increasing volume with existing brands – launching a drop ship program largely takes the responsibility of shipping and fulfillment off your shoulders;
  • Selling new products from new (and existing) brands – your product mix and brand offerings can be drastically expanded and diversified with virtually no risk;
  • Testing new verticals – drop shipping can mitigate risk to the point where retailers can test out merchandising with entirely new verticals, not just products and brands;

The disadvantages for retailers using a drop shipping system are according to Strategy Plus:

  • Processing your orders can become difficult. The time between selling a product and getting it shipped can take long. Also, there are many conversations and actions that need to take place before it gets sent off;
  • Not having all of the product information is problematic. As you never actually handle the products that you are selling, you have no realistic idea of what they are like;
  • Customer service issues. Drop shipping removes the responsibility of shipping but, sadly, it also removes a large part of the customer experience from your control;
  • A vast amount of competition is everywhere. Finding great drop shipping products means they generally will come with competition from other retailers in your sector.

How should retailers practice drop shipping in 2017

In a time where many Bricks and Mortar retailers are closing shops because changes in the buying behaviour of their customers, a drop shipping distribution model may provide an outcome. Indeed, drop shipping has the power to build a retailer’s eCommerce site and increase product offerings with little capital investment.

However, Peter Zaballos, Chief Marketing Officer at SPS (quoted in the MULTICHANNELMERCHANT) suggests that before retailers decide to add drop shipping capabilities, they should consider the following six questions:

  1. Do I have the infrastructure needed to support it? Drop shipping involves many moving parts and requires flawless orchestration between retailers and suppliers. Communication, collaboration and efficiency are key to meeting the promise made to consumers.
  2. Do I have the right internal resources in place? Managing the increased document flow drop shipping requires may tax your internal teams. It’s critical that you have systems and processes that can support increased volume.
  3. Which of my suppliers have drop shipping capabilities? While having a relationship with a supplier that offers drop shipping makes it easier to add this component to your merchandising strategy, it is not a necessity.
  4. How will I receive reliable, accurate product information? Today’s digital consumers rely on detailed product information when making purchasing decisions. To ensure you provide such information, gather item attributes from your suppliers.
  5. How will I maintain service levels? Drop ship agreements require collaboration and trust in order to ensure customer expectations are met. From the start, foster and encourage open dialogue and set expectations, requirements and goals.
  6. In what way will I manage returns? Even with accurate product information and a good shopping experience, returns are inevitable and must be planned for. First, determine what to do with merchandise that is returned. Will it go back to the warehouse or the supplier, be discounted and sent to store shelves or sold elsewhere?

Concluding

Although the start-up costs are low with a drop shipping business, it’s not so easy to run it. Websites such as Dropship.com and Shopify as well as other applications run by the wholesale suppliers will mostly give entrepreneurs a seamless start. However, what happens there after will require all the ‘guts’ and determination to keep going.

Then there is the ‘the paradox of choice’. Jeremy Hanks, CEO of Dsco said recently in Practical Ecommerce that “customers overwhelmed by product variety end up just window shopping.” Joel Padi writing in The Market Mogal advises that when starting with drop shipping, specialization in a niche market could prove to be the key to a profitable start-up. By reducing their focus, first-time entrepreneurs can narrow the target market, reducing advertising and marketing costs.

Finally, to do successful drop shipping in 2017, the retailer must maintain control over the entire customer experience, including how transactions and communications take place, says Adrien Nussenbaum, co-founder of Mirakl (Internet Retailing).

Image: Pixabay

Read also:  Drop shipping retail in 2016

 

 

Predictive Analytics helps Retailers to make sense of Big Data

“The most successful retail companies are utilizing data science and predictive analytics (PA) to improve efficiency, improve marketing campaigns, and gain significant customer insight for a competitive advantage” says Christine Kern, contributing for Innovative Retail Technology. But what about the “not so successful” retailers? How can they share in the advantages that Big Data and PA offer? Retailers can – by using predictive analytics.

What is Predictive Analytics?

Predictive analytics is a set of business intelligence technologies that uncovers relationships and patterns within large volumes of data that can be used to predict behaviour and events, according to Eckerson (2007) 1. Or, as Eckerson states it more bluntly “Predictive Analytics is like an “intelligent” robot that rummages through all your data until it finds something interesting to show you.”

Also, forecasting is about predicting the future, and predictive analytics adds questions regarding what would have happened in the past, given different conditions. Therefore, PA attempts to quickly and inexpensively approximate relationships between variables while still using deductive mathematical methods to draw conclusions 2.

Gregg Brunnick, Director of Product Management & Technical Services, Business Systems Division, Epson America explains the usefulness of PA: “If you know how many cheeseburgers John sold during last Tuesday’s lunch hour, for instance, you can improve the efficiency of your food ordering, preparation, labor, and marketing operations.”

The value of Predictive Analytics for retailers

Deon Abott of Smarter HQ writing in Inside Big Data, suggests that data science and predictive modeling have become the holy grail for the retail industry. For this reason retailers built reports summarizing customer behavior using metrics such as conversion rate, average order value, recency of purchase and total amount spent in recent transactions.

These measurements provided general insight into the behavioral tendencies of customers. However, says Deon “In order for retailers to create a meaningful dialogue with customers that honors the shopper’s preferred level and mode of engagement, it takes more than summarized reports, which is why customer intelligence and predictive analytics provide the opportunity to significantly change the retail marketing industry.”

Generic uses of Predictive Analytics are according SAS the following:

  • Detecting fraud. Combining multiple analytics methods can improve pattern detection and prevent criminal behavior. As cyber-security becomes a growing concern, high-performance behavioral analytics examines all actions on a network in real time to spot abnormalities that may indicate fraud.
  • Optimizing marketing campaigns. Predictive analytics are used to determine customer responses or purchases, as well as promote cross-sell opportunities. Predictive models help businesses attract, retain and grow their most profitable customers.
  • Improving operations. Many companies use predictive models to forecast inventory and manage resources. Predictive analytics enables organizations to function more efficiently.
  • Reducing risk. Credit scores are used to assess a buyer’s likelihood of default for purchases and are a well-known example of predictive analytics. A credit score is a number generated by a predictive model that incorporates all data relevant to a person’s creditworthiness.

Erick Siegel of Big Think suggests that predictive analytics allows for a keen assessment of the probability that any one person will buy, sell, click, lie, die, etc. PA doesn’t just predict the future; it can influence it as well.

The challenges of using Predictive Analytics

The big challenge for retailers is to use PA correctly. Not using PA appropriately can cause loss of brand equity and market share with astonishing speed. The key is in understanding the customer’s “digital body language”, suggests Earley (2014) 3. Retailers need to understand customer data – the attributes, needs, characteristics, life stage, behaviour, demographics, and psycho-graphics. The information coming from the data may be used to help customers behave in a way that satisfies their needs 3.

Unfortunately, the use of PA by some retailers has been reported as controversial. Not only are most companies not informing their customers of when and what data they are collecting, but they are not letting them know about their analysis policies, according to Corrigan et al (2014) 4.

According to Arliss Coates from EConsultancy retailers should note the following when using PA:

  • Is automation driving out your innovation and originality?
  • Do you have people that know how to interpret the results of PA?
  • Scenario planning – humans cannot prepare the machines to anticipate every possible nuance or scenario.
  • An over-reliance on data to substantiate decision-making may hampers innovation.
  • The “garbage in, garbage out” principle – bad data will render bad results.

Concluding

The explosion of data is here to stay. At this moment it seems that the availability and use of big data and predictive analytics will grow exponentially. In spite of some controversy and challenges, PA couldn’t have come at a better time for retailers. Predictive analytics may help retailers to integrate their channels more smoothly and thereby keeping in pace with their competitors.

Read also: Big Data for Small Retailers – Is it Doable?

Have a look at this practical demonstration of PA from IBM “”Predictive Analytics for Retail – Introduction”:


Notes

1 Eckerson, W.W. 2007. Predictive Analytics. Extending the Value of Your Data Warehousing Investment, TDWI Best Practices Report, Q1.

2 Waller, M.A. and Fawcett, S.E. 2013. Data science, predictive analytics, and big data: a revolution that will transform supply chain design and management, Journal of Business Logistics, 34(2):77-84.

3 Earley, S. 2014. Big Data and Predictive Analytics: What’s New? IT Professional, 16(1):13-15.

4 Corrigan, H.B., Craciun, G. and Powell, A.M. 2014. How does target know so much about its customers? Utilizing customer analytics to make marketing decisions, Marketing Education Review, 24(2):159-166.

Image

Pixabay

Video

IBM

Big Data for Small Retailers – Is it Doable?

Do Big Data (BD) for small retailers offer an opportunity to compete with the big retailers or is it too much trouble? One of the fall outs of the digitization of business is the massive amount of data that are everywhere. Every time a customer makes a purchase online or registers online, data is generated. The data can potentially tell you almost everything about consumers. Retailers that sort, analyse and interpret BD can add value for customers and so increase their shopping experience.

Surely retailers should take advantage of BD since it contains captured detailed information that probably was overlooked in the past. However, to get the most out of BD, retailers need to be innovative. The promise of new revenues, customers, and new businesses with BD will require development and investment in teams and technology 1. But first let’s have a look at what BD is all about…

What is big data?

Big data is a term that primarily describes data sets that are so large, unstructured, and complex that it requires advanced and unique technologies to store, manage, analyse, and visualize 2. Therefore, big data represents the data sets that cannot be perceived, acquired, managed, and processed by traditional IT and software/hardware tools within a tolerable time 3. Compared with traditional data sets (small data), big data typically includes masses of unstructured data that need more real-time analysis, according to Chen, Mao, and Liu, (2014).

Where can retailers find Big Data? Rajdeep Nair responds as follows on Quora: “Data is everywhere… it can be purchase data or images uploaded by you on the social media site or data sent by mission sent to Mars by NASA. Everything that is there on the internet and company or an organisation’s confidential data stored on the server. Mostly  data is stored on the server, the technology of which is improving and evolving rapidly.”

However, a good place for small retailers to find “Big Data” is on their own systems. Have you ever analysed your own data sets before?

What retailers can do with Big Data

According to Russell Walker 1, firms that are first movers in leveraging BD have great advantages because they develop innovative insights about customers and markets. These insights can transform services, and even business models. Bernard Marr, contributing to Forbes declared Big Data as “A game changer in the retail sector”.

Bernard notes that Big Data analytics is now being applied at every stage of the retail process. Says Bernard: “BD is used to understand what the popular products will be by predicting trends, forecasting where the demand will be for those products, and optimizing pricing for a competitive edge.”  Moreover helps BD retailers to identify the customers that are likely to be interested in their products and works out the best way to approach them. It also to help them making the sale and working out what next to sell them.

Alex Woodie writing a piece in Datanami.com suggests there are 9 ways retailers are using big data technology to create an advantage in the retail sector.

The advantages of Big Data to retailers

  1. Recommendation Engines – by training machine learning models on historical data, the savvy retailer can generate accurate recommendations before the customer leaves the Web page.
  2. Customer 360 – customers expect companies to anticipate their needs, to have the products they want on-hand. Also to communicate with them in real time (via social media), and to adapt to their needs as they change. In the cutthroat world of retail, developing a customer 360 system using Big Data may be a matter of survival.
  3. Market Basket Analysis – is a standard technique used by merchandisers to figure out which groups, or baskets, or products customers are more likely to purchase together. It’s a well-understood business processes, but now it’s being automated with the help of BD.
  4. Path to Purchase – analyzing how a customer came to make a purchase, or the path to purchase, is another way big data technology is making a mark in retail.
  5. Social Listening for Trend Forecasting – platforms like Hadoop were designed to facilitate the handling and analysis of large amounts of unstructured data, such as Facebook posts.
  6. Price Optimization – setting the right price requires knowing what your competitors are charging. Data can be collected electronically using daemons that crawl competitors’ website to get detailed info about product pricing.
  7. Workforce and Energy Optimization – big data technology can deliver benefits on the marketing and merchandising side. As a result it can help big retailers optimize their spending on human capital.
  8. Inventory Optimization – by analysing BD, retailers can plan their seasonality in the shipping algorithms better.
  9. Fraud Detection – retail fraud is a huge problem, accounting for hundreds of billions of lost dollars every year. Retailers have tried every trick in the book to stop fraud, and now they’re turning to big data technology to give them an edge.

Concluding

The narrative about Big Data is more with ‘Big Retailers’ at this moment. However, with smaller retailers adding the online channel to their business, there are ample opportunities for them to use their own data to great effect. Everything else will cost retailers a lot of money. Maybe to start with small data is better for smaller retailers.

Have a look at this video by Tera data corporation more more on Big Data for retailers:

Notes

1 Walker, R., 2015. From big data to big profits: Success with data and analytics, Oxford University Press.

2 Xu, Z., Frankwick, G.L. and Ramirez, E. 2016. Effects of big data analytics and traditional marketing analytics on new product success: A knowledge fusion perspective. Journal of Business Research69(5):1562-1566.

3 Chen, M., Mao, S. and Liu, Y. 2014. Big data: A survey, Mobile Networks and Applications, 19(2):171-209.

Image and video

Pixabay

Tera Data Corporation