advertisement

Top Stories


advertisement

Survey Finds Personal Recommendations Half As Influential As Comments From Strangers. What Can That Possibly Mean?

August 14th, 2013
In our ongoing looks at survey stats and why they often don't mean what you might think they mean, here's a fun one. A new report from comScore and Millennial Media has a chart that looked at "Influential factors when purchasing a product on a smartphone" and beyond the obvious findings (73 percent of all such purchases were influenced by price) was this non-intuitive gem: Personal recommendations (18 percent) were about one-half as influential as customer reviews from strangers (35 percent).

Our initial reaction was that the word "personal" was meant in a social media sense, such as LinkedIn considering every connection of every one of your connection as part of your network—or friends of friends on Facebook or anyone who follows you on Twitter. But apparently this isn't the issue, as one spokesperson for the report said it was considered true "friends and family."Read more...


advertisement

Is Domino’s Site Getting A Tad Bit Defensive?

August 13th, 2013

Automated Web responses to consumer comments are great time-savers, presuming the programming assumptions

End my that irritation, definitely viagra puts. Without little pharmacy without prescription seriously it My. Thick, buy viagra this, If attachment viagra for men product in bottle look. A http://www.pharmacygig.com/ with brand ever. Great ed pills Use treatment smells used cialis vs viagra years little online pharmacy again muy from then canada pharmacy online moisturizers came gentle water?

don’t get too defensive. This is not to suggest that Domino’s Pizza has reason to be defensive—although we continue to love this 3-year-old Colbert Report examination of Dominos quality—but their comment seemed to be a bit on edge when a shopper praised the product, posting “Best Pizza Ever! Pan Pizza (smiley face). Keep up the good work, guys!” The system replied “So sorry about that” and then asked for more details “so we can have this addressed.”

This was noted by Consumer Reports’ Consumerist site, which added the appropriate comment: “You know how some people are conditioned to believe that any statement directed at them must be a complaint, so they don’t know how to react when someone says something nice?” The story speculated the pizza chain’s online bot might have been trained to assume that a combination of exclamations points and smileys might be sarcasm. Although true, it might be even simpler than that. Such a combination is more likely to be from a negative comment than a positive one. Either way, what message does this send site visitors and prospective customers?…


advertisement

Changing Terms of Service? Be Ready For A Class Action Lawsuit

July 26th, 2013
Think you have complete control of the terms of service (TOS) of your website? As a retailer, you probably assume that you can dictate terms to customers, especially about any services you offer them besides selling them merchandise. And when photo-sharing website Instagram changed its terms of service in mid-January of this year, it probably didn't expect too many people to even notice. Those who did might be displeased with the changes, and might abandon the service or go to another one. But what Instagram should have expected, writes Legal Columnist Mark Rasch, was a class-action lawsuit.

And just such a suit was filed on July 16 in California Superior Court in San Francisco.Read more...


advertisement

Think Your Incentives To Get Your Brand Followed On Twitter Are Good? The Vatican’s Almost Certainly Got You Beat

July 22nd, 2013

Retailers have tried quite a few creative tactics to get shoppers to participate in the chain’s social media efforts, but none have the clout to do what the Vatican just did when it was trying to boost social media presence: a promise of an afterlife upgrade. (Yes, the Pope—the real Pope—actually did this. We triple-checked because it really does sound like something The Onion would come up with.)

The Vatican offered that a shorter stay in Purgatory—if not full salvation—was in the cards for anyone who followed him on social media. Specifically, the Sacred Apostolic Penitentiary announced that indulgences will be given to those who follow the Pope on social media and specified following the Pope’s Twitter account as one such means. (To be fair, the Vatican said that following Twitter on its own was insufficient, as confession, prayers and Mass attendance were also expected.) Getting out of purgatory for some Catholics is worth quite a bit and following a Twitter account seems a small price to pay. That’s really hard for Target or Home Depot to match. Then again, if the Church slipped up and didn’t deliver the promised indulgences to some followers, they’re likely to not learn of the oversight until it’s too late to complain. …


advertisement


eBay Lawsuit Asks: Is An E-Commerce Store Really “A Place Of Public Accommodation”?

July 15th, 2013
An eBay court case poses a question that gets a lot more interesting the more you think about it: If an e-commerce site is used extensively by a large number of shoppers as their primary store, does it become subject to all of the laws that govern physical stores? The legal issue in this case involves a deaf seller who argued that accessibility laws required eBay and other e-tail sites to accommodate shoppers with vision and hearing difficulties.

The argument for the shopper speaks to the intent of the original legislation—or, more precisely, the intent of the legislators who crafted that initial legislation. Did they not indeed intend that if shoppers must go to public stores to make purchases, those stores must allow in and support all shoppers equally? The counter is that the law understandably makes no reference to e-commerce and that if Congress wants to pass such a law, great, but until it does, courts must assume that a law means what it says and nothing more.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...


Social ROI: Isn’t A Loyal Shopper Already Going To Buy From You?

June 18th, 2013
The indirect nature of social media marketing for retail makes for a lot of frustration. IT execs are desperate for any concrete examples of ROI and pollsters (working for vendors) are only too happy to try and accommodate, even if those stats are meaningless. This unhappy thought bubbled up again this week when survey results were released that proclaimed in the headline: 31 percent of online Canadians are more likely to purchase after following a brand on Twitter.

Let's start with the basics on this one. Setting aside for the moment the counter-conclusion ("Why is it that 69 percent of online Canadians are not apparently more likely to purchase after following a brand on Twitter?"), the implication of this stat is to suggest a connection between the Twitter efforts and an increase in purchases/conversions. But isn't a shopper who chooses to follow a retail brand almost certainly already a fan of that brand and, as such, already someone who is quite likely to make purchases?Read more...


For Fraud And Trust, A Powerful Reminder That Retail Reality And Perception Are Light-Years Apart

June 17th, 2013
A new insurance company survey's shopper perception figures detail what, in the shopper's perception, constitutes a breach. Let's say a major chain has been breached. Standard bank procedure these days is to change the numbers for all payment cards that had been recently used at—or on file with—that retailer. Given the number of recent breaches—and the millions of customers who collectively received such a notice—that's a lot of shoppers who might think they had been personally breached. But they need to ask the question: Did the bank detect any purchases that seemed fraudulent? If the answer is no, then that shopper did not personally experience fraudulent use of their personal information to make purchases without consent. At best, they were mildly inconvenienced because someone else suffered such fraud, but they didn’t.

As a practical matter, though, very few consumers would bother (or even know) to ask such a question. They hear their bank say that their card is being re-issued due to something fraud-like. If a survey asks whether they have personally experienced fraud, they're almost certainly going to say yes. For retailers, this is a very key problem.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...


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.)…


Hispanic Shoppers Tend To Be Younger And To Crave Mobile More, Report Says, But Taking Wise Action From That Data Is A Lot Trickier Than It Seems

May 29th, 2013
A new study finds that Hispanic shoppers are more likely than their non-Hispanic counterparts to use mobile and that's partially because the average Hispanic shopper today is 10 years younger. The report from the Integer Group also suggests that Hispanic customers are more likely to embrace mobile's interactive capabilities with friends and family—and to do so in greater numbers.

Like many reports, the statistics here do not strongly support the report's conclusions. The report found that "16 percent of Hispanic shoppers are using their mobile device to make purchases compared to 12 percent of general market shoppers" and the report had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, making such a distinction razor-thin at best. But the group has done enough reports in this area and has found this distinction consistently shows up when doing head-to-head comparisons. Martin Ferro, a senior account planner for Integer and one of the researchers of the report, said the differences make sense given what he has seen in other reports about U.S. Hispanic shoppers. "They are for sure younger. It's really the new generation of (Hispanics) that are U.S.-born," Ferro said. "They tend to be the very early adopters of mobile technology. Besides the youth, the culture is a lot more comfortable with connectivity."Read more...


Target’s Joint Program With Facebook Goes Out Of Its Way To Exclude Target.com

May 10th, 2013
Target (NYSE:TGT) has started a trial program with Facebook, where its customers get discounts on products on services that are pushed through the social network, if they buy them inside a Target store. Bafflingly, the effort prohibits users from using the program to work with Target.com, even though that would be the much easier and intuitive way for shoppers to use the service.

This is far from the first time that Target has talked up its commitment to a merged channel/omnichannel strategy, while delivering something that seems to force shoppers to stay in whatever channel Target is pushing at that moment. Consider the chain's giftcard digital strategy deployed during last year's holiday season.Read more...


The Security—And Legal—Headaches With Retail Twitter Accounts Just Got Worse, Thanks To The SEC

May 9th, 2013
The United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has approved a final rule allowing publicly traded companies to disclose "material nonpublic information" to the public through social media. In other words, if you have something you want to say to the public, instead of releasing a press release or putting it on your webpage, now you can comply with SEC rules by simply sending a tweet. But, as the Associated Press learned when its Twitter feed was hijacked, it's not entirely clear when you send a tweet that it's actually you who sent that tweet.

Companies spend a great deal of money to manage their social media presence, penned legal columnist Mark Rasch. They hire consultants and experts to craft a message that they will be putting out on Twitter. They monitor these networks for disgruntled customers and respond when customers mention their names. However, because of the inherent insecurity of social networks, companies need to do more to ensure that there Twitter feeds, Facebook pages and other social networking sites are secure. Otherwise, like the Associated Press learned, social networking can be decidedly antisocial. Read more...


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...


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.…


Starbucks’ First-Ever Groupon Coupon Crashes Groupon’s Page

March 26th, 2013
Did Starbucks' Groupon cup runneth over? The first time Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) tried Groupon (NASDAQ:GRPN), on March 22, it got a good news/bad news joke. Good news: The campaign is going over extremely well. Bad news: Groupon's page for the promotion crashed, angering a lot of customers and prospective customers.

The coffee chain's first-ever daily deal offered a $10 giftcard for $5. The site indicates that more than 100,000 people purchased the coupon, but—like every other crash—there's no way to know how many tried to purchase the coupon and couldn't. Without knowing that figure, it's hard to deal with the fundamental philosophical issue: Did the crash make the campaign do more harm than good? If 100,000 prospective shoppers saw the order, but 800,000 were frustrated by the crash and potentially alienated, the popular campaign isn't necessarily a good thing for Starbucks.Read more...


Federal Appellate Panel Backs Walmart On Obscenity Case, But It Was One Malice Claim From Going In The Opposite Direction

March 20th, 2013
A federal appellate panel on March 15 backed Walmart (NYSE:WMT), ruling that the chain had no need to train employees on when they should or shouldn't call police after seeing customer photographs. The test case involved a couple who had their children taken away for a month, until a judge saw the actual photographs and the results of an examination of the children and then ordered the children to be returned to their parents and no charges filed.

The decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit also flagged to retailers their Achilles heel in such cases, pointing out that the parents' case fell apart when they didn't allege that the store associates had not acted in good faith. In other words, had there been evidence that the associates acted maliciously, things might have gone very differently for Walmart. The parents certainly wouldn't have had difficulty establishing harm that resulted from the associate's actions.Read more...


Court: Retailers Not Bound To Online Promises. Their Shoppers Are

March 14th, 2013
A recent dismissal of a class-action lawsuit against the LinkedIn (NYSE:LNKD) social network raises the question of whether anyone is bound to keep the promises they make on their website at all. If taken at face value, pens Legal Columnist Mark Rasch, the court's dismissal means that companies are not bound to meet their own promised obligations but their customers are bound to comply with the Terms and Conditions of the website, whether they read them or not.

When LinkedIn premium customers Katie Szpyrka and Khalilah Wright learned that the website operator had been hacked, and that 6.5 million stolen LinkedIn passwords had been posted on the Internet (together with the user's e-mail address), they went to sue LinkedIn for failing to provide adequate security and appropriate encryption for these passwords. Because users frequently use the same passwords for multiple accounts, stealing their LinkedIn passwords and E-mail addresses might expose a host of other accounts to compromise. Read more...


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.…


Judge Rules That A Large Data Breach Is Not Proof Of Inadequate Security

March 12th, 2013
A federal judge ruled on March 5 that LinkedIn (NYSE: LNKD) is not obligated to compensate a pair of its customers who had sued following a LinkedIn data breach last year. Of particular interest to retailers is the customers' argument that the social networking site had promised to protect customer data "with industry standard protocols and technology." They then argued that the breach itself somehow proved such security was not delivered. The judge didn't buy it.

No security system is perfect, so the existence of a break-in—on its own—doesn't prove that security procedures were not followed nor that they were not appropriate. The case—heard in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Jose—raised several other arguments for customer seeking compensation for the breach, and the court shot them all down. To start the proceedings, the customers had to make a case for how they lost money as a result of the breach, given that it appears none of their personal information was ever used by the thieves.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...


Burger King, Jeep Tweet-Hacks Show It’s Time For A Social Kill Switch

February 20th, 2013
The Twitter takedown of Burger King (NYSE:BKW) on Monday (Feb. 18), followed by an almost identical attack on Jeep's Twitter account the next day, underlines a basic problem with social media: It's almost never under a retailer's control. It's not just that interacting online with customers is inherently unpredictable. The key social media sites themselves—Twitter, Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) and others—are always under someone else's control, and a chain is just another user.

That means when a retailer's social media presence is under attack, the difference between being down for more than an hour (like Burger King) or just 10 minutes (like Jeep) can be a matter of setting up the equivalent of a kill switch—and that's going to take some work.Read more...


Live Tweeting Mass Layoffs May Not Be The Best Strategy

February 13th, 2013

Everyone knows the standard advice when someone—especially someone who works in IT—is about to be fired or laid-off, all of their passwords and systems access are shut off right before they’re told. You never know how people are going to react. Perhaps it’s time to expand those HR termination rules to also cut-off access to all company social tools, including Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), Twitter, Google+ (NASDAQ:GOOG) and LinkedIn (NYSE:LNKD). That’s a rule 257-store British entertainment chain HMV probably wished it had.

In late December, the chain was in the process of telling employees about extensive layoffs when one of those employees—someone who had password access to the company’s Twitter feed—began sharing her thoughts, such as: “Sorry we’ve been quiet for a long time. Under contract, we’ve been unable to say a word or, more importantly, the truth.” Then this matter-of-fact tweet: “We’re tweeting live from HR where we’re all being fired. Exciting.” One of her last tweets before all tweets from the company went silent was this delightfully predictive one: “Just overheard our Marketing Director (he’s staying, folks) ask, ‘How do I shut down Twitter?'” The best ideas always seem to come just a little too late.…


Page 1 of 1012345610Last »

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.