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Exclusive survey reveals that social media has growing importance for retailers

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Twitter and Facebook aren’t just for consumer networking anymore. 


With more and more retailers and shopping centers jumping on the social media bandwagon, Chain Store Age and Cleveland-based shopping center developer Forest City Enterprises surveyed CSA’s readership to find out where retailers are trending in terms of social media engagement and communication tools.


The results were telling. In the “How Retailers are Embracing Digital Technologies: Which Ones and How Fast” survey, conducted by Forest City and Chain Store Age with consumer research firm Alexander Babbage, Atlanta, respondents revealed that opted-in proprietary database communications are of paramount importance, both now and in the future. But, during the next 12 months, Facebook and Twitter, along with Web and mobile advertising, will jump considerably in importance — though not eclipsing proprietary databases and customer affinity programs.


More than half of the surveyed retailers (53.3%) said that opted-in proprietary databases are very important in communicating with their shoppers currently, and 57% said these databases would be very important a year from now. More than half said that frequent-shopper programs, opted-in databases, Web advertising and Facebook will be the most important forms of communication 12 months from now. 


Among the newer forms of communication, retailers felt that Twitter and mobile advertising would see the greatest surge in deployment within the next year.


“While retailers’ direct relationships with their customers remain their preferred link for communications, mall and shopping center owners clearly have a growing opportunity to complement those efforts through the use of social media, as well as more traditional tools,” said Jane Lisy, VP marketing commercial management, Forest City.


The survey suggested that category of retail clearly influences social tool selection. Specialty retailers were more likely than all other retail category respondents to say that Web advertising, Facebook, Twitter, organic online searches and magazines will be very important forms of communication in the future. Department store retailers, on the other hand, have a strong direct-mail bent, as 74% said direct mail is very important currently and 62.9% said it will continue to be very important in a year.


Quick-serve restaurants had the least amount of interest in opted-in proprietary databases, as just 36% would rank the medium as “very important” 12 months from now. However, the category is much higher on Facebook; half of the quick-serve operators surveyed said Facebook programs would be very important in a year. Interestingly, the biggest Facebook fan category was home improvement, as 60% of home-improvement big-box stores said the medium would become very important. Least interested in Facebook? Sit-down restaurants (33%).


It was no surprise to find that the overwhelming majority of retailers have online sales. Eighty-three percent do at least a portion of their sales online, but again the degree varied widely by retail category. 


Among retailer types, discount department stores attributed the highest percentage of their sales to online, with 14.3% saying that more than half of their total sales are conducted online. Among specialty retailers, just 8.3% said that more than half of their sales are currently online sales, but this number more than doubles when > 
looking ahead — 19.6% forecast online sales will represent more than half of total sales in five years.


No matter the tenant category, the research revealed that mall owners have huge opportunities when it comes to social media programs. When asked what landlord-provided programs were most desirable to tenants, more retailers (33.4%) ranked customer affinity/frequent shopper programs at the top of the list. 


Web advertising, free mall Wi-Fi and opted-in property e-mail database closely followed frequent shopper programs. Facebook, mobile advertising and Twitter rounded out the list of landlord programs that could sway a tenant to select one mall owner’s property over another.


“Since customers use smartphones to hunt for deals when they’re on-site, Wi-Fi access will continue to grow in importance as a customer amenity for shopping center properties,” Lisy said. “In addition, retailers are recognizing the benefits of leveraging shopping center customer databases to connect with customers.”


Retail respondents were quick to point out that the onus is on themselves, not on landlords, to push social media programs forward. Compared with the 47.8% who said customer affinity programs are currently very important internally and the 58.8% who said these programs will be important internally 12 months from now, it appears that retailers are less likely to look to landlords for this type of program and more likely to put a priority on their internal affinity programs.


But, that shouldn’t make the programs any less of a priority for landlords, according to Lisy.


“Although we’ll always be fundamentally brick-and-mortar, we’re working hard to use the power of digital communication to maximize value for our retail tenants,” she said. “Web and mobile advertising, free Wi-Fi, active Facebook and Twitter connections and innovative programs like the Shoptopia Network (Forest City’s customer affinity/frequent shopper program) are becoming almost as common expectations among potential tenants as property maintenance, marketing, security and frequent shopper programs.”


As retailers continue to add social media such as Twitter and Facebook and mobile advertising to their communications arsenals in order to more effectively engage their customers, mall owners will at the very least need to follow suit — if not lead the social media pack — in order to form landlord-tenant synergies designed to positively impact the bottom lines of each.


For a copy of the complete survey, visit alexanderbabbage.com/ChainStoreAge/Study.htm.


[email protected]

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S.Anderson says:
Mar-21-2013 11:55 pm

Actually I don't think one needs a survey for that. We can all see on our social media profiles how fast things change. I had people asking me what is the cloud, I guess part of the answer is explained by social media as well.

S.Anderson says:
Mar-21-2013 11:55 pm

Actually I don't think one needs a survey for that. We can all see on our social media profiles how fast things change. I had people asking me what is the cloud, I guess part of the answer is explained by social media as well.

N.Spotcheckbilly says:
Jan-31-2013 06:48 pm

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N.Spotcheckbilly says:
Jan-31-2013 06:48 pm

Good article. This will help to use it to learn and continue to maintain such a good job, of course, and I'm looking forward to see more of your articles. perruques pas cher Perucken

C.Floz says:
Nov-30-2012 12:01 pm

Yes, the opportunity is there. It is up to us how to take advantage of that opportunity. - Arthur van der Vant

C.Floz says:
Nov-30-2012 12:01 pm

Yes, the opportunity is there. It is up to us how to take advantage of that opportunity. - Arthur van der Vant

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Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores updates parking lot and interiors for efficiency

BY By Marianne Wilson

Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores has reduced energy by switching to solid-state lighting in the parking lot at its Ohio headquarters and adjacent store. The energy-efficient LEDs have also had a positive impact on the overall appearance of the areas.


“We’re seeing an 80% lighting-system energy savings compared with our previous high-intensity discharge units,” said Debbie Mansfield, director, energy and facilities for Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores, Hudson, Ohio, which operates more than 751 stores nationwide.


The project involved replacing 52 HID lighting systems that were located on 35 poles with high-efficiency Evolve LED area lights from GE Lighting. The retrofit took place over a four-week period. Equal in size to about six football fields, the 777,350-sq.-ft. parking lot is the largest U.S. installation of GE LED parking or area light systems.


Although the LED system generates less light than the HID units, the advanced optics of the LED luminaries direct the light more efficiently. Jo-Ann is pleased with the results.


“The aesthetics have vastly improved with reductions in both glare and the overspill of light,” Mansfield said. “There’s also an evenness to outdoor LED systems that enhances visibility for visitors and employees, a benefit that can provide a greater sense of security.”


Evolve LED Series Area Lights combine the latest in LED system electronics, thermal management, and mechanical and optical design. The result is 80% or greater energy savings compared with traditional HID lighting, according to GE. Its estimated 10-year service life is four times that of a standard HID system, cutting maintenance hassles and costs.


Interior retrofit: The outdoor lighting installation is projected to reduce Jo-Ann’s annual power use by 200,000 kilowatt (kWh) hours. It followed an indoor lighting retrofit program in which Jo-Ann replaced T12 linear fluorescent lamps and electromagnetic ballasts with more efficient T8 linear fluorescent lamps and electronic ballasts. 


The net effect of the indoor retrofit, which involved 592 stores, was a 31.2 million kWh drop in energy consumption. 


Jo-Ann is also working to reduce its electrical usage in other ways. Environmental management system controls that manage store temperatures, lighting and sign operations have been installed in 433 locations, for a reduction of 24.4 million kWh annually with 1.5 million kWh annually.


Additionally, the company has retrofitted its California distribution center, replacing all 400- and 1,000-watt high-intensity discharge lighting with more efficient, high-output T5 fluorescent lamps, electronic ballasts and daylight sensors, resulting in a reduction of 1.5 million kWh annually. 


[email protected]

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A.Marius says:
Feb-28-2013 06:19 pm

There are a lot of ways to save energy and changing the HID lighting systems with energy-efficient LED bulbs is the best option. Jo-Ann Fabric recently ordered customized stickers, I also want such stickers for my own company, they are great.

A.Marius says:
Feb-28-2013 06:19 pm

There are a lot of ways to save energy and changing the HID lighting systems with energy-efficient LED bulbs is the best option. Jo-Ann Fabric recently ordered customized stickers, I also want such stickers for my own company, they are great.

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Managed Service Strategy Provides Multiple Advantages

BY CSA STAFF

How does NCR define managed services in the retail environment?

Managed services providers offer retailers a single, 24/7 point of contact that is accountable for monitoring store infrastructure and providing high availability of assets. This is critical to improve operations, control overall IT infrastructure costs and offer consumers a positive experience.


What is going on in retail today that has caused retailers to adopt a managed service strategy?

Many retailers now differentiate themselves on the customer experience. Consumers also shop differently today. They interact with retailers across many channels and want a seamless experience from start to finish. To offer the seamless, multichannel experience that consumers demand, retail CIOs need to reliably and cost-effectively converge their digital and physical channels, while navigating the complexity a multivendor, multichannel IT environment creates. 


What is the biggest advantage that managed services brings retailers?

You gain a single point of contact. With one company managing the retail infrastructure, looking at the big picture and acting as a single point of accountability, disruptions can quickly be resolved, rather than bouncing from vendor to vendor, playing the blame game. This also means you can gain invaluable continuous process improvement ideas from a trusted partner who intimately knows your business.


In what other ways do retailers benefit?
Managed services providers offer retailers the ability to improve operational efficiency and enhance the customer experience. Today, retailers must cater to the needs of time-starved consumers who want to move in and out of a store as quickly as possible, without any disruptions. Retailers can meet this customer demand by increasing technology uptime, meaning fewer customers are affected by technology failures and will be more likely to come back, increasing customer loyalty. 


How do you think the managed services provider landscape for retailers will change during the next five to 10 years?

Retail is in the midst of a service evolution. Service was previously viewed as respond and restore … how fast will you respond, when will it be fixed. We are now moving to an environment of proactive prediction, where service interruptions can be forecast and fixed before they hit. New functionality that will improve the retailer’s business is also being delivered faster, in an easy, simplified manner. SaaS, Infrastructure as a Service and other software-driven innovations will fuel this evolution.


What should retailers look for when they are seeking a managed services provider?

Scale and having a culture built around continuous improvement are essential. For scale, can your vendor keep up with your growth internationally, particularly in emerging markets, and can they ramp up and down during peak periods? For continuous improvement, is your provider giving you a multi-year plan to continuously improve your environment and sharing best practices? Your managed services provider should sit at the table with you when you are making infrastructure purchasing decisions and benchmark your company against industry best practices. This provides retailers with a strategic process improvement plan — based on continuous improvement — to optimize retail infrastructure and maximize technology investments. 


What point(s) of differentiation does NCR bring to managed services? 

NCR is a global leader in managed services, with more than 125 years of experience supporting some of the largest retailers in the world. In fact, NCR was recently ranked No. 8 on the International Association of Outsourcing Professionals’ 2011 “Global Outsourcing 100” list. NCR is the only managed service provider to offer Predictive Services, the first offering for self-service devices that can predict failures before they happen. NCR Interactive Insight is also a huge value-add for retailers, which is one of the world’s largest databases of services information.

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