This weeks sign of the times has to be the news that eBay saw their sales via mobile devices rise from $600mm to over $2b in 2010. The apps, which are available for the iPhone, Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone 7 operating systems, have been downloaded by over 30 million people in more than 190 countries. Interestingly, the UK has been the fastest Eurpoean adopter of eBay’s mobile app, and combined with Germany they “generated nearly one third of all eBay’s mobile sales in 2010“. According to eBay, every minute there are 94 bids made for various products and 13 items of clothing/shoes/accessories are purchased. This really highlights the growing trend for consumers to do their shopping online and should resonate loud and clear with traditional, brick and mortar retailers.
The message being sent by the market is very clear – develop an online/mobile presence so that our shopping experiences are as fast and painless as possible, or we’ll buy from someone else who can. We’re already seeing the response to this trend from macro retailers like Target, Safeway and BestBuy with their expanding presences on Facebook, mobile applications, and location based services like Shopkick and Foursquare. For the mid-size and smaller retailers who are losing the tech-race, the time is now to start implementing solutions like the Accelitec software suite if they hope to close this growing gap and ultimately start winning back a percentage of these sales lost to online retailers.
Facebook has released a beta version of a new form of messaging to a select few of its 500 million users that has important implications for the digital communication methods of retailers. The new platform allows easy filtering of Facebook messages, SMS, MMS, and emails within a personalized “social inbox” tied directly to each user’s Facebook friends. This platform puts a new premium on the delivery of promotional messages that are relevant, timely, and valued, and those retailers who miss the boat will risk losing the communication channel with their users. The traditional methods of mass-messaging to any email address or phone number on record will no longer be effective; the time is now for retailers to start using point-of-sale software capable of collecting and synthesizing data about their customer preferences and segmentation.
Target, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Walmart have all officially entered the arena of Social Networks in an attempt to boost their market share, and there’s still plenty of room for growth. With Walmart over 1.6 million Facebook followers, and Target with almost 1.8 million, the race is on to see who will be the Retail-King of social media. These large chains are fully underway in social media to gain exposure and build customer relationships, but mid-size and smaller grocers are strangely proving much slower to implement the technology.
Clearly there are some market-leaders when it comes to technology adoption outside of the major chains – Newport Avenue Market in Bend, Oregon and Granite Falls IGA Market in Washington state are two great examples – but the segment as a whole appears to be lagging behind their larger competitors. In an industry where smaller retailers are unable to compete with the big-boys on price or product selection, building and maintaining customer relationships should be priority number one; the vast majority of small and mid-size grocers are missing a great opportunity to connect with their customers through social media.
Two pieces of news the other day caught our eye.
First, Kroger reported strong quarterly earnings by “focusing on service to keep its current customers instead of slashing prices to attract new ones” – a core business philosophy we heartily endorse. Kroger has spent the last several years growing its loyalty program using customer purchase history and interests to deliver personalized marketing messages and promotions; this really underscores the legitimacy of customized messaging for grocers of all sizes.
Second, Capitol Hill has now produced a bill on recall legislation has that would require food retailers to notify shoppers about recalled products. A number of retailers have recently beaten their chests seeking recognition for sending emails to all of their customers during a recall.
Narrowing the scope of these messages to only those customers who are known to have purchased a recalled product and have opted into email notifications is a fundamental starting point, but what is the customer supposed to do with the recalled product? In our experience, this is a tricky question that often leaves customers thankful to know they have a recalled product, but unclear about what to do with the information.
An effective solution that drives customer affinity for the retailers and benefits existing loyalty customers is one that not only notifies consumers that they have purchased a recalled product, but also informs them that they have store credit loaded on to their loyalty card to purchase a replacement. No receipt required, since the underlying technology knows which guests are within the window of entitlement, and no confusion about what to do with the recalled product thanks to the instant credit.
Accelitec has a proprietary solution tying store credits to customer loyalty cards for recalls in just such circumstances. Retailers can begin delivering this important customer service benefit without being required by federal legislation, and potentially turn an unfortunate recall into a positive experience for their loyal customers – doing so may actually help them win new customers, as well.