Blogs

Impact of UPS and FedEx Dimensional Pricing Changes

In my observation, the vast majority of volume parcel shippers have tried to mitigate the impact of the 2015 dimensional pricing changes through a number of strategies. They include the following: carrier contract negotiations; diverting freight to regional carriers and the U.S. Postal Service that might offer higher DIM divisors and thresholds than the national…

Sales Down? Looking for Causes? Here's a Checklist

PATIENT: “Doc, we've recently experienced a sales drop and I don't understand why. What's the best way to track down why it happened and how to fix it?” CATALOG DOCTOR: “You're doing right to quickly dig into causes behind the sales drop. The quicker you know why, the faster you can fix things. Here's a…

How to Use Data to Stop the Inventory Guessing Game

One of the worst feelings a retailer can have is when a customer is ready to buy a product, but you don't have it in stock. Yes, they can be directed to a sister store or check online, but today's shoppers can easily take their dollars elsewhere. Another real problem is the overbuying of product,…

Other Staff Bloggers
Operations & Fulfillment

In my observation, the vast majority of volume parcel shippers have tried to mitigate the impact of the 2015 dimensional pricing changes through a number of strategies. They include the following: carrier contract negotiations; diverting freight to regional carriers and the U.S. Postal Service that might offer higher DIM divisors and thresholds than the national…

If “crowdsourcing” companies like Deliv, Uber, Roadie and Lyft offer merchants pricing that's similar to UPS and FedEx, or if retailers subsidize and price same-day shipping costs in line with standard shipping, I anticipate market adoption especially for younger, more affluent consumers living in major metropolitan areas. However, initial announcements are that UberRUSH will charge…

While FedEx SmartPost hasn't made any public announcements as of this publication, select customers have received written notifications of a price change effective April 27, 2015. Early indications are that FedEx intends to increase SmartPost rates by 8.3 percent.

Omnichannel Integration

PATIENT: “Doc, we've recently experienced a sales drop and I don't understand why. What's the best way to track down why it happened and how to fix it?” CATALOG DOCTOR: “You're doing right to quickly dig into causes behind the sales drop. The quicker you know why, the faster you can fix things. Here's a…

The fashion times are a-changin’. New products have an estimated failure rate of 50 percent, costing over $400 billion each year collecting dust on store shelves. With that kind of risk involved, a systematic assessment of consumer preferences should be par for the course. However, retailers are constantly struggling to determine what styles consumers are…

I'm at the Shop.org Annual Summit in Seattle and having a great time catching up with old friends and colleagues, meeting new contacts, and learning about new digital marketing strategies and technologies. Also, as usual, as I walk through the exhibit hall I'm being greeted by smiling vendors, eager to share with me information about their latest and greatest shiny new objects. For the most part, I actually enjoy talking with vendors and learning about their wares. But I have noticed many folks — retailers, probably — with their badges turned the other way or tucked into their jackets, and I know why: they don’t want to be singled out and aggressively sold to by vendors.

E-Commerce

One of the worst feelings a retailer can have is when a customer is ready to buy a product, but you don't have it in stock. Yes, they can be directed to a sister store or check online, but today's shoppers can easily take their dollars elsewhere. Another real problem is the overbuying of product,…

A few weeks ago, Twitter made a major change to its user interface allowing marketers to break the barrier of the 140-character limit. To those of us who found the 140-character limit challenging, this is excellent news. To others just wanting to "say more," you're going to love this new feature.

As Facebook becomes more pay for play, I've really stepped up my game on Twitter. Previously, Twitter was the least important part of my social strategy. Turns out I was missing an opportunity. Not only is Twitter perfect for getting my articles out there and shared, but it's also a great "REALationship" building tool. I've been actively engaged on Twitter for the last six months, and I've gained nearly 1,700 followers. This is pretty much a step-by-step guide to how I did it:

Merchandising

One of the buzz phrases that's surfaced with merchandise and inventory planning systems over the last few years is “predictive analytics.” At its simplest, the term reflects the fact that data processing capabilities have advanced to the point where they don’t simply generate operational reports and ask the user to interpret information. They're now capable…

As many readers of this blog know, I've been working with Direct Tech, a 26-year-old provider of merchandise and inventory planning tools for direct-to-consumer retailers, for the last few years. Earlier this year, Direct Tech was acquired by Software Paradigms International (SPI), a 20-year-old provider of IT solutions to brick-and-mortar retailers. It’s exciting to be…

We were privileged to hear from two outstanding keynote speakers at Direct Tech's annual user conference last week in sunny, warm Orlando. (Please forgive my sigh; I'm back home in Wisconsin, where the current temperature is -10°.) One of them, Elaine Beaubien, an award-winning educator, entrepreneur, and business management and training coach, shared her observations on "innovating to survive" in a rapidly changing environment.

Customer Service

Six hundred billion dollars. That’s what advertisers are set to spend worldwide in 2015. Social media powerhouses Facebook and Twitter have rolled out new ways to target consumers through advertisements. But is the return on investment there for the companies that are fronting the bill? According to Gallup, 62 percent of consumers say that social…

It’s not April Fool’s Day! Just before the holidays, Lowe's really is introducing two robotic shopping assistants at one of its Orchard Supply Hardware stores in San Jose, Calif. According to a press release from the home improvement retailer, the autonomous robots — called OSHbots — were developed by Fellow Robots, a technology company that specializes in the design and development of autonomous service robots, in partnership with Lowe's own Innovation Labs.

 

You may have noticed over the last few months that when you look at a person's LinkedIn profile, you're asked, "Does ‘Joe Blow’ have skills or expertise?" It's a blue box at the top of your screen, you can't miss it. Or you may have received an email telling you that you've "been endorsed for specific skills." This is a great feature on Linkedin, and here's why:

 

Catalog

“Our audience is dying. We need to attract a younger audience to get sales back up.” I've heard this over and over for years from both consumer and business catalogers. Yet their age-range demographic reports usually show counts remaining stable, not declining. What's up? While it’s true for catalogers with older customer bases that a…

Catalog creatives generally feel like they live in a different universe than circulation folks. However, both share the same catalog goals and you'll find you can achieve those goals faster and better by communicating with each other. Here are some tips on how and when to talk. Before You Begin Your Next Design Cycle 1.…

Being bored with your catalog design is a terrible reason for a redesign. Your feelings don’t count; your customers’ feelings do.

Mobile

If you’re a skeptic like me, all of the talk of beacons in retail stores sounds a little too pie-in-the-sky. Beacons, as you probably know by now, are devices that communicate with shoppers’ smartphones in the hopes of improving their in-store shopping experiences. When placed in-store, beacons use Bluetooth technology to detect nearby smartphones and send them ads, coupons or supplementary product information.

In an effort to make it simpler for consumers to simultaneously browse its print catalog and research and buy from their mobile devices, Sharper Image embedded a “Buy  Now” capability into its holiday preview catalog. The catalog is chock-full of electronic, recreation, fitness and travel products, and was sent to 4 million households and businesses on Nov. 4.

Global online retailer Modnique launched a responsive web design (RWD) version of its website this past September in an effort to optimize the experience of visitors using screen sizes as small as the iPhone and as large as 36-inch monitors. Here's a look at the brand's experience with RWD. 

Brick-and-Mortar

One of the universal truths I see is a lack of understanding by many marketers, from newbie to experienced, of what their website is really for. I know, I know, marketers always say the right thing: It's about conversion. When I look at their website and ask them what their site conversion rate is, I hear them proudly state, "I convert 2 percent, look how good I'm doing!" (And of course some marketers don't even know what their site conversion rate is.)

It's official: J.C. Penney scrapped its every-day-low-price strategy for the rollercoaster world of markups and markdowns. Merchants, marketers and graphic artists waited with bated breath, hoping J.C. Penney could make this strategy work. Imagine the time it would save! Price changes and errors would be a thing of the past.

Merchants and marketers need each other. On the most brilliant days of brand building, they share a brain and become united as one to create and deliver the very best offer to consumers. When this happens, they become "merchketeers."

Management

Having spent last week at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition in Chicago, I came away with three key takeaways: One, if you're an online retailer not selling internationally, particularly in Australia, what are you waiting for? You're missing out on a potential growth opportunity for your brand. Two, brick-and mortar retailers must develop a strategy to deal with "showrooming," — i.e., consumers using stores as showrooms to check out products, then buying those products online at a lower price (with free shipping, of course). Three, online marketplaces are proliferating — it's not just Amazon.com and eBay anymore — and becoming another viable channel for retailers to engage consumers and sell their products.

I like this question. I also like the related question, “If you had to reduce your marketing spend by $100K, where would you cut?”
To answer either of these questions it’s necessary to have a good understanding of the incremental return on investment (ROI) on each of your marketing activities. I’m always surprised how often that starts with “I think … ” It makes me worry and, as a consultant, probe deeper to see what’s really known vs. what’s just “felt.”
The sad reality is that most B-to-B direct marketers today aren’t working from hard facts in this area. They’re operating from

Plain and simple, Canada is booming. If your year-to-year sales to Canada aren’t up more than 100 percent, you’re missing out.
A couple of months ago, I discussed the meteoric rise of the Canadian dollar and the opportunities this presented for U.S. catalogers. Having just returned from a trip to Canada, I’m pleased to report the Canadian market is showing even more potential than I’d previously thought. The strength of the loonie, the Canadian dollar, is a matter of national pride these days. Everyone in Canada is talking about cross-border shopping and travel. I’ve never known the focus on “what you can buy for