The secret of the e-commerce titans isn't just their size — although that helps — but their excellent service. One key element of that service is personalization. Now any business can know as much or more about a given user than all the information that Amazon and Google have been collecting on us for years. How? Through Facebook Connect.
More and more retailers are using food and drink to lure customers into stores as sales increasingly migrate online. Urban Outfitters, known for selling hipster threads in college towns, has served lamb merquez and striped bass at its Terrain home-and-garden store in Westport, Conn. J.C. Penney plans to add juice bars and coffee shops. Banana Republic has served cocktails to debut new clothing collections, while ANN Inc.'s Loft brand held Friday happy hours.
Holiday shopping is about to kick into high gear, and retailers are ramping up efforts to capture sales at multiple touchpoints, not just their stores. Google's retail team, in fact, is calling this the first "Nonline" shopping season, contending that consumers, accompanied by smartphones wherever they shop, no longer see a divide between online and offline shopping, and neither do savvy retailers. In a survey of 1,500 consumers, Google found that four out of five mobile and tablet owners plan to use their devices as part of holiday shopping.
As it looks to grow its number of physical stores, Creve Coeur, Mo.-based Soft Surroundings has formed a strategic partnership with a private equity firm, which now has a majority interest in the largely catalog and internet-based retailer. Los Angeles-based Brentwood Associates has taken between a 50 percent and 60 percent interest in the company in a deal valued between $150 million and $200 million that closed last week, said Tom Wilcher, the chief executive of Soft Surroundings.
When Blake Mycoskie founded TOMS shoes six years ago, his pitch to consumers -- buy a pair and a second one will be donated to the needy -- helped start a phenomenon retail consultants call compassionate consumerism. Since then it has been imitated widely by established brands. Inspired by TOMS, Skechers USA Inc. (SKX) (SKX) introduced a brand called BOBS, as in Benefiting Others By Shoes. Urban Outfitters Inc. (URBN) (URBN) stores feature apparel by Threads for Thought, which gives part of its sales proceeds to humanitarian groups.
PriceGrabber just released additional results from its Back-to-School Shopping Forecast, revealing that while consumers are planning to spend more money on back-to-school items this year, they continue to look for ways to stretch their dollar and take advantage of retailer incentives to save. According to the survey, 74 percent of consumers chose free shipping as the top retailer tactic that would entice them to make a back-to-school purchase this year. Conducted from May 22 to June 5, 2012, the survey includes responses from 4,450 U.S. online consumers, with 1,509 of the respondents planning to shop this back-to-school season.
Following in the footsteps of Target's and American Eagle's nationwide rollouts, Macy’s announced Wednesday it would begin offering shopkick rewards at its more than 800 stores. Using shopkick's app for iPhone or Android devices, shoppers can collect points, or "kicks," by visiting and performing certain tasks in Macy's stores. They can then exchange their kicks for Macy's-specific rewards like gift cards, as well as for more general rewards, including song downloads, restaurant certificates, movie tickets, Facebook Credits, charity donations, etc.
Modern marketers face many challenges, and one of the biggest right now is finding a way to best target high-value prospects at the right time. Cross-channel integration between traditional and digital marketing is a must to optimize spend and maximize communications with current and future customers alike. It's finding the best prospects from all channels and speaking to them with relevant marketing communications when they're ready to purchase that really impacts revenue.
Amazon.com is growing its presence in the highly competitive gaming market with the launch of Game Connect, a new service that enables customers to discover a new category of free-to-play and multiplayer online digital games and have virtual goods delivered directly to their game accounts. Amazon's new service allows customers to link their game account to their Amazon account so any subscriptions and virtual goods purchased are sent directly into the game without copy and pasting a code.
Regional sporting goods chain Hibbett Sports plans to begin construction this fall on a new distribution facility that will support more than 2,000 stores. Hibbett on Monday announced plans to build, through a wholly-owned subsidiary, a wholesaling and logistics facility in Alabaster, Alabama. Construction on the new 360,000 square-foot facility is expected to commence in fall 2012 and be fully operational by fall 2014.