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CRM


Congress Wants To Regulate Customized Pricing. Yeah, That Will Certainly Work As Intended

August 15th, 2013
If legislation pending before the House Energy and Commerce Committee is passed and signed into law, online merchants will be severely restricted in their ability to use "big data" and behavioral advertising to help set prices, discounts or coupons for customers. Fortunately or unfortunately (depending on your position on the legislation) this being the current Congress, it is unlikely that anything will actually happen. Nevertheless, this reflects the growing unease about the concept that you and I will be charged different amounts for the same product or service based upon the data collected about us, pens Legal Columnist Mark Rasch.

Recently, Rep. Susan Davis (D. Cal.) introduced H.R. 2487: the Ensuring Shoppers Honest Online Pricing Act of 2013." In the world of cutesy acronyms, this is the E-SHOP Act. The law would require the Federal Trade Commission to promulgate rules and regulations "requiring an Internet merchant [with a total annual gross revenue of more than $1,000,000 indexed for inflation] to disclose to each consumer, prior to the final purchase of any good or service, the use of personal information in establishing or changing a price." This would not include additional costs associated with taxes or shipping based on the consumers’ address.Read more...


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London’s Recycling Bins Don’t Do Mobile Tracking Anymore. (Until This Week, They Did.)

August 14th, 2013
At a time when many retail chains are trying to navigate the public-relations minefield of customer tracking, disclosure and data use, a story from London is a useful reminder that nobody is getting this right. On Monday (Aug. 12), the government told a startup called Renew to stop using its recycling bins in London's financial district to track passers-by by way of their phone signals.

Wait, recycling bins? Yes, 100 very high-class recycling bins outfitted with large, Internet-connected digital screens that show advertising (the financial district's government—yes, it has its own government—gets 5 percent of the airtime to display public announcements). But recently Renew added a new feature to a dozen of the bins: the ability to capture any passing smartphone's unique MAC address if it has Wi-Fi turned on. (Which, these being financial-district yuppies, is pretty much a given.) You can see the possibilities—but not necessarily all the possibilities that Renew sees.Read more...


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Can VeriFone Actually Outsource PCI Problems?

August 7th, 2013
In theory, you can't outsource PCI issues, but VeriFone wants to try. On Monday (Aug. 5), the POS maker announced VeriFone Point, a payments-as-a-service offering that basically takes everything in the store except the PINpad out of PCI scope—and, as far as we can tell, the PINpad doesn't belong to the retailer, so that's somebody else's problem too.

This should be a really good idea, and maybe even a good product for some chains if it's implemented right (we haven't seen details yet). But let's imagine it is: The PINpad belongs to the service provider. Card data is encrypted and transferred via the service provider's network, not the merchant's. A token is kicked back to the store POS with the card approval, so the merchant can track customers and meet branded-cart transaction detail requirements. No card data ever comes near the merchant's systems. What could possibly be wrong with this plan?Read more...


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Walmart’s Scan & Go Change Reminds Us How To Make Mobile Work

August 5th, 2013
One of the many advantages of mobile payment is significantly expanding CRM reach, getting to know about a far greater percentage of all of a shopper's purchases. Nowhere is this more attractive than with Walmart, which has never had (and still doesn't) a traditional CRM. In the latest upgrade to the chain's Scan & Go mobile payment/self-checkout hybrid, Walmart takes this all-knowing tactic to the next level, giving shoppers a reason to scan physical receipts.

At its most simple level, the upgrade merely allows shoppers to scan physical receipts from Walmart (more precisely, to scan the QR codes printed on such receipts)to receive an electronic version. For the shopper, it's a nice way to reduce paper clutter and also organize purchases in one place. For Walmart, though, it's much more.Read more...


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Sen. Chuck Schumer Wants The FTC To Start Doing What The FTC Is Already Doing On Mobile Tracking. Um, Right.

July 31st, 2013
U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer has finally gotten around to asking the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to crack down on in-store mobile tracking. At a press conference on Sunday (July 28) in front of a Manhattan store, Schumer decried the Big Brother-like surveillance that retailers engage in, demanded that retailers send shoppers a message letting them opt out before they begin tracking, and called on the FTC to investigate.

If that sounds a bit familiar, it may be because Schumer was saying back in November 2011 that he was going to call the FTC because two shopping malls were tracking customers by way of their phones. It only took him 20 months to get around to it. And in light of the fact that the FTC has been warning retailers for almost a year not to engage in surreptitious tracking—and is getting increasingly aggressive in its efforts—Schumer seems like he's a wee bit behind the curve. He also doesn't seem to have thought through his proposed send-an-opt-out-message solution. But we're sure he'll get around to explaining all that—in another 20 months or so.Read more...


Incenting Non-Purchase Behavior Great, But Only If Numbers Add Up

July 19th, 2013
To make a CRM rewards program effective today, it needs to move beyond points only offered for purchases. (Heck, even the Pope is offering concrete incentives for following him on Twitter.) Gilt.com, an e-tailer that has already gotten creative by offering mobile-only offers, is trying to do just that by offering loyalty points for visiting the site on several consecutive days.

But such a program will quickly fail—and fail in such a way as to be counter-productive—if the points are not set properly. In other words, if the number of points needed to get a reasonable prize and the number of points offered for non-purchase activities are set such that it's impossible to redeem those rewards in a reasonable period of time, this campaign won't work. The initial stats suggest that Gilt.com may have fallen into that particular trap. One incented behavior--visiting the site five days in a row—will deliver 100 points. And what will that 100 points buy? Well, a gift certificate (valued between $80 and $100) requires 25,000 points. A loyal shopper could perform that quintuple-consecutive-visit chore 249 times in a row (that's visiting the site every day for 1,245 consecutive days, which is almost visiting the site every day for 3-and-a-half years) and still not qualify for that gift certificate.Read more...


CVS App Brings Home Hard-To-Get CRM Data

July 2nd, 2013
When CVS on Monday (July 1) launched a drug interaction feature on its mobile app, it was a classic example of a deep CRM gift that was positioned—correctly—as a truly useful shopper app. In short, it was one of those rare situations where the interests of the retailer and the shopper were perfectly aligned. The feature itself is straight-forward. A customer can download all of their CVS prescriptions and then type in any other prescriptions that are being taken plus—and this is critical—any over-the-counter (non-prescription) things they are taking, anything from aspirin or a hay fever pill to Vitamin C to 5-hour Energy.

CVS now gets three extremely valuable pieces of data: First, a list of prescription drugs presumably being filled by a rival pharmacy. What a clear chance to argue that those particular drugs should be brought over to CVS, an opportunity that doesn't exist without this information. Secondly, a list of various other things the customer is buying, many of which are likely sold by CVS. Another sales opportunity. Third, given that this is a mobile app, the data is already tied into a specific customer. This sharply enriches the CRM profile for CVS customers—and does it for very few dollars and in a way that seems to be altruistic.Read more...


As Chain Trials Facial Recognition, Channel Assumptions Flip

July 1st, 2013
A major Russian convenience store chain, Ulybka Radugi, is now running a trial of facial recognition to choose digital in-store ads to be displayed and POS coupons to be offered. But as more chains start to seriously investigate the facial recognition potential, some of the fundamental CRM biometric assumptions are being challenged. Such activities need not end with the same channel where they began. Once a shopper is identified in-store and is matched with a CRM profile—or they are identified anonymously in-store and a purchase profile of this unknown-person-with-this-specific-face is slowly built—that information can theoretically be married to data from that person's desktop-shopping e-commerce efforts or their tablet/smartphone's m-commerce efforts.

The question, then, is whether it has to start in-store. What if this hypothetical chain pushes some attractive incentives to get lots of customers and prospects to download its free mobile app? And buried in the terms and conditions is the right for the app to monitor images? The next selfie or Snapchat that the shopper sends is captured and the facial data points are noted. Here's where it gets even freakier. Once the mobile app has identified the face of the shopper—and has linked it to whatever mobile shopper that customer has done—it can tell the in-store camera databases what to look for. When that shopper walks in, it can connect the mobile activity with any observed in-store activity.Read more...


How Much Trouble Could You Be In If Online Customers Can Hide Where They Are?

June 28th, 2013
One of the largest Internet providers in New Zealand is now letting customers pretend they're somewhere else when it comes to buying things online. That's likely to be a thorn in the side of digital content providers such as movie producers and e-book publishers, but it could also set up online retailers for a whole host of complications. What happens when your transaction is subject to the laws of a country you're not expecting?

Slingshot, the third-largest ISP in New Zealand with about 10 percent of the market, last week rolled out its Global Mode service, which lets users block Internet geolocation. That's used by many digital content providers to prevent movies and e-books from being viewed in regions where they haven't officially been licensed.Read more...


Extremely Sad News

June 26th, 2013
It pains us greatly to have to report to you that our PCI Columnist, Walt Conway, passed away on Tuesday (June 26) after a battle with pancreatic cancer. Professionally, Walt had that rare ability to take complex compliance issues and make them approachable. He was a huge fan of the PCI process, which meant that he felt the obligation to point out its flaws or its inconsistencies.

Personally, I've never met someone who was as personable, intelligent and just plain nice as Walt. He will be missed far more than any words can convey.Read more...


Facebook’s 6-Million-User Breach A Frightening Reminder To Retailers About Data-Sharing Partner Risks

June 21st, 2013
Retailers who worry about data and PII security issues were reminded Friday (June 21) that they have to worry about not only about their own systems, but the security mechanisms of every data-sharing partner. And given the social media goals of most chains, the fact that it was Facebook fessing up to a 6-million-user data leak didn't help their nerves. It didn't help matters that Facebook said it discovered the problem the week of June 10, fixed it within 24 hours but didn't reveal the problem until late in the day on June 21. (Want to bury news? Release it at 4:50 PM on a Friday in late June.)

The details of the breach illustrate how innocuously these problems can crop up and how destructive they can be. And when your shoppers are hurt because the data they shared with you gets stolen, the blame falls on the retailer regardless of whether your team had anything to do with the breach. It's not pleasant, but there is something you can do about it.Read more...


U.S. Supreme Court Opens New Retail Privacy Defense

June 19th, 2013
When the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday (June 17) ruled on a personal information privacy case involving driver's license information, it opened an entirely new defense strategy for retailers. In effect, it flipped privacy laws around to where chains can use privacy laws to prevent shoppers from accessing the chain's information about them.

The Supreme Court in this case used federal privacy laws to protect a car dealership from being sued in a class action lawsuit. But the facts could also serve to help, for example, Target trying to defend itself against a consumer lawsuit about a defective product, where the chain could say that privacy laws prevent its revealing key information to the plaintiffs, opines Legal Columnist Mark Rasch. The court indicated its intention to read exceptions to general privacy laws narrowly and, in an unusual way, used privacy laws not just to protect privacy, but to protect businesses themselves.Read more...


Best Buy’s Online CRM Move: Focus On Why Conversion Rate Is Low

June 14th, 2013
Best Buy is trying to push its substantial in-store CRM program to help its online conversions. Although a noble effort, it's a difficult challenge, trying to get shoppers to not merely change their behavior but also how they envision each channel. At more than 40 million accounts, Best Buy has one of the largest CRM programs in retail. But many of those accounts, of course, are dormant and date from long before the chain's current challenges. They come from a time when the site was seen as little more than a digital directory of the physical stores' SKUs, a place to do some research before heading out to the store.

These days, it's just as likely for shoppers to use the Best Buy site as a way to explore products before buying them at another physical store or a rival's Web site. In effect, the Best Buy site is becoming a showroom for other e-tailers.Read more...


Google Wallet’s Osama Bedier Confirms That Google Lost Money With Every Transaction. (Good News: It Didn’t Get Many.)

June 11th, 2013

Osama Bedier, the former PalPal exec who took over Google Wallet (and is now about to become a former Google exec as well),

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has confirmed what most suspected: that the fees Google had to agree to pay to the card brands meant that it lost money on every transaction. (Good news for Google: It didn’t make very many transactions.) “The company has dedicated hundreds of developers to Wallet and spent about $300 million to acquire digital payment startups to help develop the app. But consumers aren’t sold,” reported BusinessWeek. “Wallet has been downloaded fewer than 10 million times in the two years since its launch, according to Play, Google’s app store.”

Google’s initial plans were not about making revenue directly from transactions, but to instead collect data and then sell targeted ads, a very familiar Google model. But what got short shrift was finding a way to get shoppers to use its app. Unlike the Web where it had a very robust search engine to draw in consumers, its mobile wallet was entirely dependent on retailers and payment players to promote it to shoppers, something that no one (other than Google) had much of an incentive to do. And with losses as extreme as the ones Google was facing, adding a lot of marketing dollars …


Retail Privacy Policies Need To Focus On How The Data Is Used Rather Than Just What Is Collected

June 6th, 2013
Privacy policies, if written well, explain to customers exactly what data you are going to collect, and what you are going to do with it. Problem is, most retailers have no idea what data they are collecting, or what they are going to do with it. As a result, retailers end up writing privacy policies that are either false or misleading, and this can lead to big legal problems. In fact, it may be better to have a policy that says either "we have no idea what we are collecting and what we will do with it" or "we will collect everything we can and use it in any way we want." But that’s not good public relations, writes Legal Columnist Mark Rasch.

What does this mean for retailers? Retailers collect, store, collate, share and use a great deal of personal information and personally identifiable information. Whether through PCI terminals, CRM databases, loyalty programs, surveillance cameras, credit checks or credit reports, website and e-commerce operations or marketing activities, they have a lot of personal information. They also share it with people that they never consider in their privacy policies. For example, they may state that they share information with vendors and suppliers to deliver goods and services. But what about lawyers, accountants, auditors, regulators, consultants and others? And how will those parties use the information? How will they protect it?Read more...


Target Quietly Running Four Fulfillment Trials, But The Reason Why Is Far More Interesting

June 5th, 2013
Target CFO John Mulligan has confirmed that Target is in the middle of not one but four different fulfillment pilots, including acting as a guinea pig for the same-day-delivery trials of both Google and EBay. The other Target trials involve pay-online-pickup-in-store, pay-in-store-pickup-at-another-store and pay-online-ship-from-store.

The interesting background to these trials is that Target—as its name implies—has always been precisely focused. These trials, as the CFO pointed out, are the chain admitting that many fundamental shopper assumptions may no longer be valid. "We spent 50 years honing, moving products one direction to our supply chain and ultimately to the back door of the store. Then through the front door and trying to do that as quickly as possible. Now we're moving product different directions depending on what our guest wants and for us, we need to learn how to operationalize that," Mulligan said.Read more...


Grocery Loyalty Actually Lost Members From 2010 To 2012

June 4th, 2013
What happens to CRM when loyalty programs hit a wall? Grocery chains may be about to find out. After years of steady growth, memberships in U.S. grocery chain loyalty programs fell by about 1 percent between 2010 and 2012, according to the 2013 Colloquy Loyalty Census. Yes, total membership really did shrink, from 173.7 million in 2010 to 172.4 million in 2012.

In practical terms, that's not exactly falling off a cliff. But loyalty programs have been growing at a rate that means memberships would double every decade. If your CRM plans were based on needing the processing power to handle all those extra members' data, it's time to adjust those plans.Read more...


The Case Of The Walmart Drunk: Big Data, Big Duties, Big Headaches

May 30th, 2013
Walmart was very recently sued by a woman involved in a car accident. The driver of the car that hit her wasn’t a Walmart employee, it wasn’t a Walmart vehicle, and it didn’t happen in a Walmart parking lot. Rather, the victim alleged that the driver had recently been in a Walmart and had been kicked out for being drunk. The victim alleged that Walmart, knowing that its customer was both drunk and driving, had a duty to prevent the customer from driving, or to report that person to the police. The court considering the case refused Walmart’s efforts to have the case dismissed on summary judgment, finding that there was at least enough evidence of "negligence" to allow the case to go forward.

Even though nobody alleges that Walmart got the patron drunk, the idea is that Walmart was in a position to know about the potential harm and could have stopped it. Here’s where technology makes things messy. Once the drunk is tossed out of the Walmart, there’s a good argument that Walmart’s duty to third parties ends. Unfortunately, Walmart has installed and routinely monitors parking lot cameras. That's where data creates legal duty.Read more...


Saks Makes Some Curious Tablet Choices When Upgrading Its Flagship Store

May 29th, 2013
Trying to boost Saks Fifth Avenue's flagship store—which Citigroup reported has underperformed the chain's store-revenue average for three of the last four quarters—the retailer has turned to iPads and some old-fashioned customer service improvements. But the chain has made some curious tablet deployment choices. The first move, which should be applauded, is equipping associates with the devices to try and show the hypothetical "single view of the shopper" through multiple channels. So if a shopper routinely logs in—and logs in with the same ID—in all channels, that customer's data could be accurate, assuming an associate is able to nonchalantly ask for the shopper's full ID. It's an ideal step in the right direction.

But Saks, according to Citi, is only deploying one iPad for every three associates. That suggests some 66 percent of associates either won't have a tablet to help their customers or they will have to awkwardly borrow one from another associate. But one associate can't borrow a tablet from another associate who is working with a customer, so an idle associate will have to be located. On a busy Saturday afternoon, that could be almost impossible. Does Saks really want some of its associates to have tablet-powered capabilities while others do not? Will some shoppers be at a disadvantage? Wasn't the whole point of tablets that their pricepoint is such that it's economical for every floor associate to have one while they are actively working the floor?Read more...


What You’re Missing: Urban Outfitters Charging More Online, Does Sears Want To Go Members-Only?

May 29th, 2013

Your friends here at StorefrontBacktalk editorial also now publish a daily retail site, called FierceRetail, and wanted to give you a sense of what you’re missing by not visiting or grabbing its free newsletter. Urban Outfitters discovers that it can get away with charging more online than in-store. See? Sometimes conventional wisdom is conventionally wrong.

A look into how federal judges are likely to force changes in how price anchors are set in-store plus some questions about whether Sears is thinking about becoming members-only. Was Best Buy’s Facebook promo a victim of its own great deal—and some we-should-have-seen-this-coming rip-off artists? We also threw in our take on Walmart’s $82 million hazardous waste settlement, where Walmart spoke of mouthwash and hairspray and the feds said they were pesticides. (You say tomato, I say Molotov cocktail…) All of that—and dozens more stories—and that was just this week. And Monday was a holiday! Drop by and check it out. It’s free and the snacks all have zero calories. (That may be because they don’t exist.)…


Walmart’s Auto Shopping List: The Next Killer Mobile App?

May 29th, 2013
Gibu Thomas, the SVP for mobile/digital at Walmart, recently floated the idea of a mobile shopping app that uses POS and CRM files to prepopulate a shopping list, filling it with things that the customer is likely to run out of very soon. At a glance, this may seem like a throwaway idea his team is toying with. But for quite a few reasons, this seemingly innocuous functionality idea could truly be the killer app that retailers often strive for.

The idea, which Thomas made a passing reference to during a keynote speech at CTIA Wireless, was referenced this way: "The best shopping list is the one you don't have to create and that's what we're working on." (Technically, the best shopping list is the one that someone else has to shop and pay for, but I digress.) Presumably, this mobile app would be built atop the chain's experimental Scan & Go mobile app, which prepares in-aisle checkout leveraging existing self-checkout units. Given that Scan & Go—by its very nature—requires the shopper to register beforehand and to be associated with a verified payment method, it delivers an ideal CRM platform. This is a nice backdoor way to get into CRM for Walmart, which doesn't have a traditional CRM program and never has had one. That is a crucial element of Thomas' self-populating shopping list.Read more...


Nordstrom Halts Mobile Customer-Tracking Trial

May 21st, 2013
Eight months into a controversial customer-tracking mobile trial, Nordstrom (NYSE:JWN) has halted the effort. Although Nordstrom took a lot of criticism for the mostly misunderstood program from consumer media, it's not clear whether the project ended as a result of the criticism or the trial had simply run its course. The trial's purpose was straightforward: to use routine signals coming from shopper's mobile devices to count how many people showed at Nordstrom and, critically, which were repeat visitors (and, if so, how many times they had previously visited, dates they visited and where in the store they went). Nordstrom had maintained that it was only seeing anonymous data, meaning that it didn't know the names of the shoppers being tracked.

The trial was controversial for a reason other than consumers' fears that their privacy was somehow being invaded.The problem is that Euclid was able to see cross-retail activity. That means that it saw when, for example, a Nordstrom shopper left Nordstrom without visiting POS and then her mobile signal appeared 20 minutes later inside Macy's, where she ended her visit with that always-desired visit to POS. (Note: That was just an example. Other than Nordstrom, we're not identifying which retailers are using Euclid.) The fact that Nordstrom is only receiving anonymous data (or so it says) doesn't mean that its rivals all are similarly limited. This is a key industry problem with many forms of mobile information gathering. Read more...


How Victoria’s Secret, Nordstrom Came To Opposite Decisions

May 21st, 2013
Sometimes, doing the right thing can mean saying no to what shoppers might think is the right thing. Victoria's Secret (NYSE:LTD) recently found itself in the middle of a challenging issue when the daughter of a breast cancer survivor started campaigning vigorously—including helping to get 120,000 signatures on a petition—to get the apparel retailer to start offering mastectomy bras.

The truth is that Victoria's Secret has been a longtime champion of cancer issues, having donated more than $1.6 million to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and the American Cancer Society to fund breast cancer research, education, screening and treatment. It’s also donated some $10 million (over two years) to fund cancer research at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center. But the company was in the awkward position of knowing that it couldn't do mastectomy bras in the proper way. Read more...


Retailers Can Put Anything In A User Agreement, But There’s A Huge Catch

May 16th, 2013
Legal columnist Mark Rasch recently received a $25 debit card as an honorarium for giving a speech. To "activate" the gift card from GreenDot.com, he had to give them his name, address, telephone number, Social Security number, user ID, PIN, and answer to three security questions – all that just for 25 bucks. In fact, what he really did was to open a bank account with $25 and a monthly maintenance fee of $4.95. He apparently agreed to all of this on the website of GreenDot.com under their terms of service. But that’s not all he agreed to.

Years ago, he got a Wachovia stored value card, which similarly had outrageous fees – fees for putting money in, taking it out, checking the balance, loading the card, not loading the card, as well as an annual fee, monthly fees, etc. It amounted to usurious interest rates and fees of over 3000 percent. When he called to dispute one of the fees, the person on the other end told him that his wife (who had just handed him the phone) had authorized the fee–she did not, and he knew this because he was standing right there. That's when Wachovia said they had recorded the call. To a litigator, them's fightin' words.Read more...


Is It Technologically Practical To Send Two Different Messages Simultaneously To Children And Adults?

May 15th, 2013
One of the most challenging retail sales issues is trying to market products to children. The pitch made to sell a cereal, game, toy or piece of clothing to a child will be different than the one aimed at a parent or guardian. That's tricky when the two are often standing next to each other. A child pitch might focus on a cereal's taste, with an adult pitch focusing on nutrition and price. Or a toy message to a younger customer might emphasize fun, while the adult pitch speaks of education. What if digital signage and in-aisle displays could simultaneously make different sales pitches to children and adults?

Through the use of lenticular technology, it's quite possible. Indeed, it's being used today for something of a much more serious nature. A Spanish operation called the Aid To Children and Adolescents At Risk Foundation has created a series of street signage that was designed to send a message to a potentially abused child, understanding that the abuser could very well be standing right him to the child.Read more...


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