advertisement

Top Stories


advertisement

CRM


Mobile For Shopper Trends? No, But For CRM Depth, Yes

May 13th, 2013
The scenario is tempting. Retailers can have so much richer information about shoppers when they leverage mobile app data, including knowing when any one of those shoppers comes into one of your stores, roughly where they go and anything they scan. Although that's all true, it's also data that is about only a small percentage of your shoppers, and it's about your most loyal shoppers. Would extrapolation of that information yield any accurate trends about the rest of your potential shopper population?

Placed, a mobile geolocation vendor specializing in retail, found some intriguing stats when it was reviewing some of its retail findings. It found that the number of Barnes & Noble shoppers who were older than 55 increased 3.4 percent (for the month being probed) and that the number of customers earning fewer than $50,000/year decreased 2.2 percent. It noticed that Kohl's said its shoppers who earned more than $100,000 increased by 1.8 percent. And Target saw the largest increase in physical visits in the Midwest and Northeast regions of the U.S. Clearly, without many months (and perhaps years) of trend data, those stats are meaningless. But it does illustrate the kinds of insights that are possible when overlaying mobile geolocation tracking with CRM and demographic data.Read more...


advertisement

FTC Eyes Data Brokers, And That Could Raise Retailers’ CRM Costs

May 10th, 2013
Data brokers are now in the sights of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and that could affect some retailers' customer-information systems. The FTC sent out letters last week warning that some brokers might be violating federal law by collecting and selling information on individuals, even if the information is publicly available.

There's no indication that any retailers are being targeted directly by the FTC. But increasingly, retailers that collect large amounts of customer data through CRM or loyalty programs are using additional data they acquire from brokers to fill in the gaps as they build a picture of customers. Some chains even use data as minimal as a name and Zip code, plus broker-provided data, to get a complete CRM record on a customer from a single transaction.Read more...


advertisement

Is American Airlines’ New Social Program—Where Influencers Get Free Airport Club Access—Something Retailers Should Try?

May 8th, 2013
The idea of retailers assessing customers' value based on their social media influence—rather than what they personally spend—is not new. But the challenge of meaningfully figuring that out is still huge. American Airlines on Tuesday (May 7) announced that it was going to offer people who have a high social influence free access to its airport lounges. On the plus side, this is one of the first major programs to offer shoppers a concrete item of value (people pay a lot to join airline clubs) in exchange for having a high social influence number. The downside is that the company calculating the social influence number—a vendor called Klout—has taken the easy way out. It simply counts up the Twitter followers and Facebook friends (and other social media stats) and looks at forwarded Tweets.

It doesn't take the next logical step and try and determine actual purchasing clout. For example, the most meaningful number would be how many dollars of purchases did that shopper's Tweets generate? It's nice if someone has a lot of Twitter followers and if they Tweet that the shoes on your homepage now are must-haves. But an influence rating needs to factor in what happened after that Tweet went out. Did it deliver 48 purchases of that product from the recipients of that Tweet?Read more...


advertisement

Nordstrom’s Typhoid Outbreak Used POS Data To Contact Individual Shoppers

May 8th, 2013
After a cook in one of its in-store restaurants was discovered to have typhoid fever, Nordstrom is trying to directly contact customers who might have been exposed to the disease. The retailer is sifting through point-of-sale transactions from the Nordstrom Cafe in the store at San Francisco's Stonestown Galleria mall in an attempt to identify specific customers who could have been exposed, but that's proving more challenging than expected, a spokesperson for the chain said on Monday (May 6).

The San Francisco health department notified the store late last Thursday (May 2) that an employee was diagnosed with typhoid and may have exposed customers who ate in the restaurant to it on April 16, 17, 18, 20 or 27. As of this week, no cases of customers or other store associates having the disease have been reported, according to the health department. But Nordstrom is still trying to track down anyone potentially exposed.Read more...


advertisement


Discount Dilemma: Remember, Customers Will Compare Online Prices They Find

May 8th, 2013
Consumer Reports' Consumerist website is having some fun with an FTD customer's complaint that a "customer appreciation" special deal was actually more expensive than the price a new customer could find on the floral association's site. It seems the customer had bought an FTD bouquet for a friend, then later searched the FTD site for Mother's Day bouquets. "My husband also started looking for FTD arrangements on his computer, and found that the prices listed for him were $3 to $5 cheaper than those listed for me," the customer wrote to Consumerist. Clearing all the FTD cookies from my browser made my prices drop precipitously. Clicking on the 'customer appreciation' email link to FTD brought the prices back up."

For customers, Consumerist's wisecrack—"Watch out for the Customer Appreciation price penalty"—seems pretty appropriate. For retailers, though, it raises a serious problem. You want to reward returning customers. You also want to entice new customers with low prices. The easiest way to tell who's returning (and link them with CRM data) is with cookies—but that's an invitation to embarrassment if new and returning customers happen to compare notes.Read more...


In Kmart’s Armed Data Breach, Police Somehow Not Told Everything

May 8th, 2013
When a Kmart suffered the loss of sensitive pharmacy customer information in mid-March during an armed robbery, Sears officials and lawyers quickly reviewed details and made sure to follow all federal rules—especially HIPAA guidelines. Somehow, though, Kmart never got around to mentioning the data loss to the police, who were never able to find the gunman because the only physical evidence he took with him—a disk containing that day's data backup—was unknown to them, thanks to Sears.

The Little Rock, Arkansas, police investigating the armed robbery—where the gunman slashed the assistant manager's tires to distract him before ordering him at gunpoint to open the safe—were not happy about being kept in the dark and possibly lied to. The investigating detective, Det. Julio Gil, "only learned of the cartridges being stolen from Kmart when he was called by media," said Sgt. Cassandra Davis, who is in charge of the Little Rock Police Department's public affairs unit. The detective "called Kmart and Kmart only then confirmed. He had to call them and ask about it before he learned what (the gunman) had actually taken. No one from Kmart made a report," Davis said.Read more...


How To Defend Against a Cookie Monster

May 2nd, 2013
A new U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) case illustrates how retail chains can get in serious legal troubles when they use third parties to help mine shopper data. Although the FTC did not, in that case, go after the retailers who either provided the marketing company with access to the data or who purchased the analyzed data, we can expect that, in the future, either the FTC or consumers themselves will go after those chains.

Retailers routinely hire technology companies or marketing companies to help them better know their customers. These outside vendors can help retailers comb through mountains of data to determine the profiles of their customers, their wants and desires. But if retailers want to avoid liability for unfair and deceptive trade practices, they had better ask not only what these companies can do, but also how they plan to do it, writes legal columnist Mark Rasch. Even buying aggregated data from an untrustworthy source, or allowing a third party to mine your consumer data, can lead to big trouble.Read more...


CMOs Should Watch “Revenge Of The Nerds” And “Real Genius”

April 30th, 2013
The biggest challenge that is facing marketers in the next five to seven years is the quest to become relevant, which means that they need to become data geeks. In fact, it is crucial that they become bigger and better geeks than their IT counterparts. As the pendulum moves from art to science, many marketing leaders find themselves on a platform of skills that are no longer the keys to success, writes retail columnist Todd Michaud.

Instead of IP addresses, they need to think about e-mail segmentation. Instead of database clusters, they need live content marketing. Instead of disaster recovery, they need to wake up focused on integrated marketing across all digital channels. It’s as much science and math as configuring a new router, and that has many marketers nervous. And it should. But as these marketers find their way into this new world of math and science (digital relevancy), they need to be careful to not cross the fine line between being relevant and being just plain creepy.Read more...


The Legal Risks Of External Surveillance

April 25th, 2013
The cooperation of retailers like Lord & Taylor in the Boston bombing investigation proved to be invaluable and provided the most important clues to catching the two terrorism suspects. But retailers should be wary about using that incident as an invitation to increase the amount of surveillance that they conduct both inside and outside of their stores. Video surveillance, although a very powerful tool for certain things, can lead to loss of customer confidence, and even to liability, writes legal columnist Mark Rasch.

In the United States, it is generally presumed that the use of video surveillance technology in non-"private" places ("private" as in bathrooms and changing rooms) is perfectly legal. Unlike audio surveillance, which is regulated by federal and state law, there appears to be little regulation of video surveillance technologies. Retailers regularly employ them for loss prevention purposes, inventory management, and to defend themselves in liability lawsuits such as workers’ compensation claims or "slip and fall" claims by customers. Video surveillance technology can also be useful in tracking customer behavior and traffic patterns; footfall analysis; to evaluate the effectiveness of advertising or displays; and even to evaluate the gender, age and behavior of customers.Read more...


Facial Recognition May Not Work For Security, But For CRM, …

April 24th, 2013
With all of the in-store changes being pushed by mobile—including the long-overdue-predicted disappearance of the cashwrap—retailers are going to be moving payments in-aisle and pretty much anywhere instore. Does facial recognition make sense? One vendor on Tuesday (April 23) tried, with a system that allows facial recognition to unlock a refrigerator, which determines which products are removed based on weight.

Although the current version of the system has serious technical limitations, the potential is probably greater for facial recognition than any other technology. Unlike PIN, cardswipes or any other form of biometrics, facial recognition has the promise to do far more than verify identity, including guessing at emotional state, gender, age and other attributes. Selling suntan lotion? How about the ability to identify shoppers with deep tans? Want to be able to tailor suggestions made to first-time shoppers based on gender or age? With a thermal scan comes the ability to pitch hot cocoa to shoppers whose skin is especially cold or ice-cold lemonade to those whose skin is especially hot. (It could factor in the outside temperature so that it doesn't confuse someone who has been working in the sun with someone who is just running a fever. And if that shopper does have a fever, how about 50 cents off Tylenol?)Read more...


Kroger Adds Electric-Car Chargers And Collects Customer Data

April 9th, 2013
Kroger is adding more than 200 electric-car charging stations for customer use at 112 stores, mostly in California and Arizona, the chain announced on Monday (April 8). But it's not all about eco-friendliness. The grocery giant uses data from the charging stations to track the shopping habits of customers who drive electric vehicles (EVs). Kroger knows from the 74 charging stations it already has in place that EV drivers typically spend 30 minutes longer in stores than owners of conventional automobiles.

The chain may eventually use that data to promote specific products aimed at EV drivers, said Brian Koontz, director of strategic corporate development for Ecotality, which runs the network of charging stations.Read more...


Macy’s Thief Exploits Courtesy Hole

April 9th, 2013
Macy's has a courtesy policy in which if any Macy's card shoppers come into a Macy's and do not have their cards with them, they can still charge items to the card by inputting their Social Security number and showing the associate a government ID. It was precisely that policy that created a hole for an Indiana man to crawl through, charging thousands of dollars worth of merchandise to various Macy's customers.

The precise methodology of the accused thief, Mark A. Douglas, is not clear, but he apparently created a list of Macy's account holders and then used various techniques to learn their Social Security numbers. Making the false identifications—with the real shopper's name and a picture of Douglas—seems to have been the easy part. Although sophicated cyberthief techniques could have been used to create that list of Macy's cardholders, it might also have been done as easily as standing near a Macy's cashier and listening.Read more...


Is Giant Eagle’s Forced Self-Checkout CRM Tactic Smart?

April 8th, 2013
Some Giant Eagle stores have started blocking access to self-checkout for anyone other than loyalty card holders while they are using their cards. It's an interesting move, in that it simultaneously discourages self-checkout usage but also gathers far more information about those who do opt to self-checkout, CRM-style.

For the last couple of years, retailers have had this intense love-hate relationship with self-checkout. Chains have touted "customer service" as their reason both for yanking the self-checkout units out and for adding more of them. Higher theft rates have been reported in some stores and not others. Much of it is like any other retail IT deployment, influenced sharply by how much attention is paid to the deployment and how the customers in different neighborhoods — based on demographics — react to the machines. But the idea of requiring CRM to self-checkout is a new twist. Chains — and that's triply true for grocery — have always struggled getting shoppers to use their loyalty cards. To be fair, many of those difficulties have been self-inflicted.Read more...


Care About Issues Beyond IT?

April 6th, 2013

One of the results of StorefrontBacktalk‘s being acquired back in December is that we are going to be expanding into coverage that goes beyond Retail IT into other areas of retail. The first example of this launched last week and is a daily newsletter and site called FierceRetail.

The site applies the same kind of perspective, analysis and bad jokes that StorefrontBacktalk has always delivered, but we can now explore issues way beyond IT. Consider our coverage of an unorthodox Apple patent, the reasoning behind the Sears Portrait shutdown, why Target’s Manatee mishap is a lot worse than it looked, Samsung’s real retail strategy, why Best Buy and Target’s Geek Squad alliance was doomed and stats showing Visa having all-but-cornered the debit market. It’s all free, of course. If you’d like to sign up, our latest thoughts will be in your Inbox early each morning.…


MasterCard’s Retail Data Grab: Forget PayPal, It’s About Chains

March 26th, 2013
MasterCard (NYSE:MA) wants your customer data. That's the bottom line when it comes to the new fee that the number-two card brand will start slapping on PayPal, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) and other digital wallet operators in June. It's not really about digital wallets, which represent a tiny fraction of big chains' transactions. MasterCard just wants to put pressure on anyone who might keep customer data out of the hands of itself and its issuing banks.

Wait—isn't losing control of CRM data the biggest reason chains aren't wild about digital wallets in the first place? Wasn't everyone worried that Google might somehow share transaction data with a chain's competitors? Apparently, that fear was well-founded—just misplaced. It turns out the people who will do anything to grab CRM data are the card brands and issuers.Read more...


With Starbucks’ Grocery CRM Plan, It Had To Get Clever About Fraud

March 26th, 2013
When Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) announced Wednesday (March 20) it would spread its CRM program to grocery stores that sell its bagged coffee, it wasn't merely an industry first. It was Starbucks' attempt to track shopper activity beyond the limits of the chain's stores, site and mobile app—as if CRM deployments aren't already complex enough.

Given that its program would deliver expensive value in the form of free food and drink at its stores, the first priority of the rollout was to try and discourage fraud. And that involved some creative packaging and identification mechanisms. And a choice to exclude mobile from the launch.Read more...


Amazon’s Secret Weapon May Be A Mystery To Amazon, Too

March 20th, 2013
Is Amazon Marketplace really the E-tail giant's "secret weapon"? That's reportedly how a Walmart (NTSE:WMT) executive described it at a top-management meeting in February. Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) itself may not hold its collection of third-party sellers in quite such high esteem—especially since March 15, when two of them launched a class-action lawsuit complaining that Amazon routinely holds up payments it owes to the sellers.

In fact, Amazon Marketplace now brings in almost 12 percent of Amazon's retail revenues. But it also represents more than 40 percent of the goods sold on Amazon's site, which makes the Marketplace merchants both competition and a huge market-research pool for Amazon—and, potentially, a legal time bomb.Read more...


Want To Give Shoppers A Reason To Use Loyalty? How About Saving Their Lives?

March 15th, 2013

Grocery—and other food selling—chains that are trying to encourage shoppers to use CRM? Nothing makes customers more loyal than saving their lives. (Yes, Bentonville, even more than saving them money. Sheesh.) With a steady stream of news reports touting loyalty records as key tools in finding and then notifying customers about poisons, CRM should become a much easier sell.

The capabilities and lives being saved by CRM is hardly new. Costco (NASDAQ: COST) has championed it for years, and Safeway (NYSE:SWY) has been sued for not using loyalty to protect shoppers’ health. Grocery, QSR and convenience chains often complain about the difficulty of getting shoppers to sign up for—and to routinely use—their loyalty cards. Instead of pushing savings, maybe this is a much more effective and truly altruistic (well, semi) argument to make. On the flip side, to help government food investigators do this magic, a lot of data will have to be shared. When that data is then shared with other government agencies and a customer is surprised by an IRS visit? Law enforcement has been finding nuggets in POS databases for years. Privacy violation or saving customer lives? The joys of retail decisions.…


Privacy Sure Isn’t What It Once Was

March 12th, 2013

When it comes to softening up shoppers and making them more comfortable sharing personal information with retailers, nothing has done a better job than social media sites. Mobile devices, with their geolocation capabilities and continual beaming of “this is who I am” signals to anyone who chooses to listen, come in a close second. But a recent study has challenged that thinking. Understanding the nuances of how shoppers perceive privacy, what information they consider to be private and what incentives will work to make them give up data is crucial, whether it’s for a CRM (individual) strategy or to merely better understand shoppers in aggregate. With teen shoppers, the challenge is different. The tactic to get them to surrender a piece of private data has to start with understanding what they consider private. What Facebook and Youtube have indeed done is to make them think many of the most intimate details of their lives are not private. Hence, if you want their E-mail address, a one-time $5-off coupon may be all that’s needed.

This is explored in StorefrontBacktalk‘s March monthly column in Retail Week, the U.K.’s largest retail publication. The column lives here at Retail Week. For those who don’t have a Retail Week subscription—shame on you!—here’s a copy at StorefrontBacktalk. You can also check out all of our recent Retail Week columns here.…


KFC Discovers That Mobile Isn’t Nice. It’s Essential

March 11th, 2013
When global chicken fast-food chain KFC launched a major mobile test in the U.K. this month, it has had to learn to deal with realities that are very different than its more mobile-famous corporate brother, Pizza Hut. Although the two chains are both owned by Yum Brands (NYSE:YUM)—along with Taco Bell—the mobile similarities pretty much end there. Some 40 percent of the pizza online orders come from desktops and laptops, with the remainder from mobile.

At KFC, the mobile percentage is expected to be much higher. That's because people typically want pizza delivered to their home or office, whereas a bucket of wings is picked up—after having been ordered from someone driving or walking near the store. (KFC in the U.K. does not deliver.) Pizzas also take longer to cook—compared with preparing already-cooked chicken parts—making the "order and have it waiting for you" model ineffective for KFC. Instead, KFC UK will soon add a geolocation function (likely to be launched in May), so the app knows when the customer is truly right by the restaurant and can ask the customer if the order can be prepared.Read more...


You Know What Your Shoppers Did Last Summer

March 7th, 2013
If consumers make purchases both online and in brick-and-mortar store, you know a great deal. You have surveillance pictures of them in the store. You know what they purchased and what they looked at. You have browser information. If you subscribe to any of the dozens of data aggregation or marketing sites, you know whatever is shared. With "big data" you have aggregated this data, too. Now imagine if you had to tell each and every one of your customers exactly what you collected and what you did with that information. We mean everything.

That is already the law outside the United States and Canada, writes Legal Columnist Mark Rasch, and it may already be the law in those two holdout countries. It's a matter of interpretation.Read more...


CMU: Consumers Have Sharply Reduced Public Data Sharing

March 6th, 2013
For years, conventional wisdom about privacy has been that shoppers—especially younger shoppers—have been consistently sharing more information online to the general public, a trend that would likely continue as privacy desensitization progressed. But a report released Tuesday (March 5) from Carnegie Mellon University found the opposite when it tracked 5,076 Facebook (NSADAQ:FB) users from 2005 through 2011, one of the most extensive studies of social media privacy yet.

"Over time, Facebook users in our dataset exhibited increasingly privacy-seeking behavior, progressively decreasing the amount of personal data shared publicly with unconnected profiles in the same network," the CMU report said. The implications for retailers are stark, suggesting that many of the privacy strategy underpinnings on both retail and e-tail may be flawed. The report also found that those same consumers started sharing more information during that period, but only with people they assumed to be in a private group. And that sharing was expanded "both in terms of scope and amount of personal data." For retailers trying to extrapolate insights from this report to apply to chain CRM and mobile programs, these two conclusions are frustrating.Read more...


Isis Revamps Its Mobile Wallet And It’s Actually Fixing What’s Broken

March 5th, 2013
The news that Isis is working on a new and improved app for its mobile-payments system is a good sign, though maybe not for the reasons Isis wants it to be. OK, switching to an app developer that has never done a mobile wallet doesn't sound so good. Neither do the only numbers that anyone has yet released on Isis use: only 600 Isis-taps per day on Salt Lake City's transit system, and that's even with Isis giving its users a free ride. Nor do the terrible reviews Isis has gotten since it finally launched in October.

That good sign? As badly broken as its system may be, Isis is trying to fix what's actually broken.Read more...


Is Customized Pricing Brilliant Or An Imminent Disaster?

March 1st, 2013
A recent patent by search giant Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) may fundamentally change the sales process from a 21st Century marketplace back to a 7th Century shouk, with prices based on sellers' perceptions of who their customers are and what they are willing to pay, argues Legal Columnist Mark Rasch. There is a huge difference between "dynamic advertising" and "dynamic pricing." In the case of the former, he says as an example, he got an ad for a Toyota while his more affluent friend got an ad for a Lexus. Fine, he didn't want the Lexus anyway. In the case of the latter, he and his friend each got ads for the same Toyota Camry, but his friend's price was different from his. And that is based on what Google, and possibly the Internet, knows about his friend.

And if you go online to search for a better price? The results are "rigged." If you are showrooming at a Best Buy (NYSE:BBY), see a 60-inch LCD for $950 and scan the barcode for an Internet search for a lower price, Best Buy could pay Google (or others) not to deliver lower prices—either to the world or to certain profiled individuals.Read more...


At JCPenney, Everybody Gets A POS iPod In March

February 28th, 2013
All JCPenney (NYSE:JCP) associates will be able to do in-aisle checkout "within one month," the troubled chain's CEO said during an earnings call on Wednesday (Feb. 27). The move comes as 25 percent of sales transactions in the stores are already being done on mobile POS.

The 1,100-store chain is also a few months away from going live with a new financial system from Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL, to be followed before the end of the year by merchandising, planning and allocation systems, all of which will replace legacy systems. That's presuming the board's patience with CEO Ron Johnson holds out—unlike most big chains, JCPenney's E-Commerce site isn't doing any better than in-store, and the chain lost $552 million during the last three months.Read more...


Page 2 of 35123456102030Last »

Newsletters

StorefrontBacktalk delivers the latest retail technology news & analysis. Join more than 17,000 retail IT leaders who subscribe to our free weekly email. Sign up today!
advertisement
StorefrontBacktalk
Our apologies. Due to legal and security copyright issues, we can't facilitate the printing of Premium Content. If you absolutely need a hard copy, please contact customer service.