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Cisco study: CE retailers should market products and services to less tech-informed consumers

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — There is a new opportunity for retailers to market beyond the technology savvy and often male consumer pool to a larger group of less technology informed with customer service programs that provide basic device educational training around devices and product bundling to ease the buying experience, according to a survey by Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG).

The study finds that while the early adopter segment for consumer electronics is comprised largely of young affluent males, the leaders in digital content consumption — including Internet-based video, digital imagery and social media — are women. However, companies that sell consumer technology devices may be are singularly ill-equipped to maximize device sales because their messaging and in-store marketing efforts are skewed to young male early adopters. With females noted as the leaders in digital content consumption, retailers need to rethink their marketing, the report recommends.

In other findings:

  • More than 20% of the industry’s most active users seldom or never buy accessories, and more than 36% of that same group seldom or never buys go-with items. There is a clear correlation between a respondent’s confidence in using advanced device features, and how much they buy at retail.
  • Roughly one-third of today’s most active personal technology users don’t know how to use the products they purchase. They lack confidence in their ability to choose, operate, and connect today’s devices – and that’s even among the early adopters of the latest devices and digital content. Customers simply don’t have the knowledge to take full advantage of the devices’ capabilities.
  • According to Cisco, retailers can increase revenues by bridging the confidence and knowledge gap with “orchestration” services that include: aggregating all elements required to create a solution for device usage; assembling all the elements to complete a solution; and educating consumers about what’s available, what’s possible and how to put it all together.

The report notes that one of the best examples of orchestration is the Genius Bar found in Apple’s retail stores. Other examples include personal shopping and wardrobe services provided by the likes of Macy’s, Nordstrom, and Neiman Marcus; wine and cooking classes offered by upper-end grocers; and virtual kitchen design services tested at select Home Depot locations. With few exceptions, including Best Buy’s Geek Squad, few CE retailers offer orchestration services, according to the report.

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Report: Michael Francis going to Gap

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — Michael Francis, who was ousted as president of J.C. Penney Co. in June, is going to Gap Inc., according to Ad Age.

Francis will serve as a marketing creative advisor for Gap, and join the chain in the advisory role on Sept. 16, the report said.

Prior to joining J.C. Penney, Francis served as chief marketing officer of Target Corp. He left Target in 2011 to join Ron Johnson at J.C. Penney, where his responsibilities included, but were not limited to, marketing, merchandising, and product development. He was let go after only eight months on the job amid the chain’s struggles to communicate its new pricing strategy to consumers.

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Report: Online experience superior to marketplace shopping

BY Katherine Boccaccio

New York — A report released Tuesday by e-commerce marketplace technology provider Merchantry found that marketplace customer experience compares unfavorably to that of e-commerce sites, particularly in regard to comprehensiveness of product information and logistics transparency.

The State of Online Marketplaces report, conducted by Merchantry in concert with the e-tailing group, found that online marketplaces need a lot of improvement before their full potential is realized.

The team reviewed and evaluated 12 sites as part of the study – Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Best Buy, Buy.com, Kohl’s, Newegg.com, OneStopPlus.com, Overstock.com, Sears, ShopNBC, TigerDirect and Walmart. Researchers evaluated product listings, pricing, social media, customer service, shipping and return processes.

Key findings of the report include the following:

  • Only 39% of marketplace products could be added to a wish list vs. 83% of retailer-owned products.
  • Gift registry functionality was available on just half of marketplace products.
  • Retailers that provide free shipping extend the offer to marketplace products only 33% of the time.
  • The majority of online marketplace products do not have social media functionality.
  • Only 50% of marketplace product listings state seller/merchant details.
  • Less than half of marketplace products feature customer ratings.
    Only 20% of product pages have enhanced guides or videos.
  • Out-of-stock inventory notifications are universal but processing times are not often shown.
  • The average time for customers to receive marketplace orders was high (4.57 days) – more than one day longer than the industry average.
  • Conducting marketplace product returns is more difficult as not all merchants include complete return information.
  • Cross-channel services are not in place for pick-up or returns for online marketplace shoppers.
  • Email responses were incomplete or they redirected customers to the marketplace sellers/manufacturers more than half the time (55%).

“Profit-maximizing practices that have become standard in the e-commerce industry are not consistently applied on marketplaces, where we found incomplete product information, limited functionality and inadequate customer experiences,” said Lauren Freedman, president of the e-tailing group.

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