OPERATIONS

Amazon increasing price of Prime subscription service

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — Amazon is increasing the annual membership of its Amazon Prime service from $79 a year to $99. The online giant, which made the announcement on its homepage, had suggested last year that increased shipping costs would force it to raise the annual price of its premium membership.

The price hike takes effective in seven says. Until then, customers can still sign up for the $79 rate. The increased fee will be charged when users renew their Prime memberships.

The service gives members access to unlimited free two-day shipping on many items, plus access to thousands of streaming movies and TV shows through Amazon Instant Video, a service similar to Netflix.

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OPERATIONS

Survey: Morale top retail staffing challenge

BY Dan Berthiaume

Chicago – Morale is the biggest challenge facing retailers trying to fill and maintain their staffs. According to a new survey of 168 retail staffing managers and HR executives conducted by Harris Poll for CareerBuilder and WorkInRetail.com, 37% of respondents cited lifting employee morale as a challenge.

The following are the top 10 staffing challenges faced by retail hiring managers:

1. Lifting employee morale – 37%
2. Retaining top talent – 36%
3. Maintaining productivity levels – 29%
4. Recruiting high skill applicants – 29%
5. Providing competitive compensation – 27%
6. Worker burnout – 26%
7. Providing competitive benefits – 23%
8. Employee engagement – 20%
9. Cutting down on cost-per-hire – 16%
10. Cutting down on time to hire – 15%

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MARKETING/SOCIAL MEDIA

IBM survey: CIOs to focus on the customer experience

BY Marianne Wilson

Armonk, N.Y. — With consumers engaging more directly with businesses through mobile and social media, more than 60% of CIOs will focus more heavily on improving the customer experience and getting closer to customers, according to a new report released by IBM.

The report, entitled "Moving from the Back Office to the Front Lines — CIO Insights from the Global C-suite Study” is based on face-to-face conversations with more than 1,600 CIOs from 70 countries and 20 industries worldwide.

More than 80% of CIOs report they are shifting their focus to the front office where marketing, sales and service managers work directly with customers. To do so, they are investing in new technologies to gain deeper insights into customer data. Examples of these items include sentiment mining and social network analysis to identify unique behavioral patterns and reliably predict critical trends.

"The study reveals the emerging reality that there is no longer any real distinction between the customer experience and contemporary business strategy," said Peter Korsten, global leader, IBM Institute for Business Value. "The quality and nature of the front-end experience has become the point of entry to the most valuable information any enterprise can possess — information about its customers, employees, or any other relevant constituent group."

Getting the basics right has become table stakes for CIOs looking to push their enterprise forward with new engagement and technology delivery platforms. In fact, 66% of CIOs believe their IT departments have mastered the basics of technology within their firms. This investment in knowledge and skills is freeing up CIOs to look at new platforms that enable them to build a "Customer-Activated" enterprise.

As customer engagement becomes a critical driver for CIOs, cloud computing has soared in importance with 64% of CIOs naming it as part of their visionary plans compared to 30% in 2009. Likewise, mobility solutions have also experienced a similar jump in importance with 84% saying it’s their top focus compared to 68% in 2009. With these as a main driver, two-thirds of CIOs are now exploring how to better serve and collaborate with customers using cloud computing and social networking tools.

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