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The Blogging Bandwagon

BY CSA STAFF

Everyone seems to have a blog these days—from outspoken politicians to grandmothers who write about their tulip gardens. But adding a blog just for the sake of having one is unfortunate because so much good can come from one executed properly. That said, if your aspiration is to boost sales and click-through rates, put in the time to make your blog count.

Clearly, one of the critical parts of having a blog is that retailers need to feature viable content that can truly target their customers’ lifestyles.

It is just as important for retailers to allocate the time and resources to produce content on a timely basis, according to Tiffany Riley, senior VP of marketing at San Mateo, Calif.-based MarketLive, an e-commerce solutions provider.

“Retailers miss out on driving the brand and participating in the dialogue with their customers when they only update content once in awhile,” Riley said.

Old blogs become stale fast, and it doesn’t take long for consumers to lose interest and stop checking for fresh content. Retailers can remedy the situation by appointing internal management to oversee its blog. And Web analytic software can gauge what’s working on the site and monitor how traffic is being brought in.

After the foundation is laid, it’s easy for a retailer to achieve the blogging trifecta: achieving acquisition, conversion and overall customer loyalty.

For example, a multichannel retailer such as Peruvian Connection, a company known for its handcrafted and knitted sweaters, features “Common Threads”—a blog that lures readers back to the site with suggestions, shopping tips and updates on the latest artisan textiles in the fashion industry. By providing meaningful information to the reader in bite-size chunks, consumers are eager to return to learn more. The experience, therefore, sets them up to make better, more informed purchasing decisions.

To further engage readers, retailers can experiment with two-way blogs that invite readers to post their comments and feedback. But some companies fear that these blogs run the risk of inviting negative feedback.

“Merchants can’t control what consumers are saying about them, but they can control who they are, the service they deliver and their role in the business world,” Riley said. “As long as they are living up to their brand’s promise, the market won’t likely have anything negative to say about them.”

And for retailers that are wary of negative feedback, they need to realize that these comments can serve as a heads-up to opinions that may be surfacing throughout a consumer base. “Savvy retailers can see trends early by watching the blog, and then they can take actions to address the issues,” Riley noted.

 

Some innovative retailers are unleashing the value in consumers’ candid opinions by coupling their blogs with customer reviews. Reviews can be honest and all-telling, so consumers come to trust and rely on them when making shopping decisions. And the combination fully embraces the idea of user-recommended content.

The ideal approach is certainly up to you, but the message is clear: the more current and content-rich a blog is, the more consumers will care, and ultimately, the more time they will spend online with your brand.

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Lampert, the Eli Manning of retail?

BY CSA STAFF

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. The New York Giants triumph over the highly favored New England Patriots in the Super Bowl earlier this month, has become an example of coming from the bottom to win it all. Sears Holdings chairman Edward Lampert is one of the latest to use the Giants win, even going as far to compare himself, and the leaders of his company, to quarterback Eli Manning.

The Giants analogy, and Eli Manning comparison, is applied mainly to the company’s Kmart division. In a letter to investors, posted on the Sears Holdings investor relations Web site, Lampert said during Kmart’s bankruptcy in 2002, the unit was “like an undrafted free agent who nobody thought had a chance to play in the big leagues.” Lampert went on to say, “Like Eli Manning, we know what it’s like to be underestimated and questioned, but we intend to keep working on our game to achieve our full potential.”

Sears Holdings reported net income of $426 million, or $3.17 per diluted share, for the fourth quarter ended Feb. 2, compared with net income of $811 million, or $5.27 per diluted share, for the fourth quarter ended Feb. 3, 2007. For the fiscal year ended Feb. 2, 2008, net income was $826 million, or $5.70 per diluted share compared with net income of $1.5 billion, or $9.58 per diluted share, for the fiscal year ended Feb. 3, 2007.

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Circuit City investor seeks to replace board

BY CSA STAFF

RICHMOND, Va. Circuit City Stores today acknowledged that it has received two proposals from shareholder Wattles Capital Management regarding its board of directors. Wattles holds approximately 6.5% of the outstanding shares of the company’s common stock.

Circuit City reported that Wattles proposed the idea of replacing the company’s Circuit City 12-member board of directors with its own nominees. Circuit City said its board of directors will review carefully the shareholder’s proposals and the qualifications of the nominees in accordance with its fiduciary duties, mindful that the proposal would give the shareholder absolute control of the entire board, which would be disproportionate to its relative ownership of the company’s shares.

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