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The impulse buy playbook: Breaking down the new rules of omnichannel

BY Ben Saren

Social commerce is evolving, which means the omnichannel world is changing, too. Even the mere definition of omnichannel is in flux as the lines between commerce and communication blur and new platforms proliferate.

It’s been a slow evolution, with many attempts to perfect social commerce resulting in failure. Will consumers ever have a world where commerce is one with their social experience? Right now the experience is a lot like being at a party, talking with friends, only to be interrupted by an uninvited guest trying to sell you fabric softener.

Big name brands and social media giants continue to push forward, looking for a solution to the social commerce conundrum. Gilt recently partnered with Apple TV to provide on-screen shopping, while Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and even YouTube use social media “buy” buttons to entice users to shop while they browse.

Although the evolution continues and social commerce is far from perfect, these new platforms provide a fresh way for brands to play to consumers’ impulse-buying tendencies. There’s big opportunity here — but only if businesses get it right. For brands looking to get users’ attention in this ever-evolving space, the old rules won’t cut it anymore. This isn’t candy in the checkout lane anymore. It’s time for a new impulse buy playbook — for omnichannel.

Rule #1: Know Your Audience
While it might be tempting to jump right in and throw your marketing budget at the most popular social media platforms, you’re not going to get very far without first understanding who your target audience is and where they spend their digital time. In other words, if your average shopper doesn’t create Pinterest boards, you might be better off focusing your efforts on Twitter or Facebook.

Take Bayer for example. The pharmaceutical company is most famous for its aspirin, which boasts the ability to prevent heart attacks. While commercials commonly feature older men and women improving heart health thanks to Bayer, the company also maintains a Pinterest board — one with just a handful of followers. Because Pinterest is primarily populated by women between the ages of 18 and 29, it’s not likely to be the ideal social media outlet for Bayer. As part of a network that is typically populated with fashion tips, home decorating advice and recipes, Bayer’s science and healthcare boards stick out like a sore thumb.
That’s why it is so important consider your target audience check out demographic stats, which are easily accessible for many popular social networks.

Rule #2: That Audience Will Be Distracted — Give Them a Reason to Notice You
Building a brand presence on one, or several, social platforms can be a great opportunity for finding new customers and engaging with existing ones. With the introduction of “buy” buttons, social media storefronts and more, there’s also the potential to increase sales. That said, it’s important to understand the environment you’re working with and craft your strategy carefully. Because your audience is likely on Twitter, Facebook or YouTube for reasons other than shopping, ask yourself what will grab their attention and get them to buy — or at least pay attention to your brand. It’s quite likely that each platform requires its own approach.

This is the place to get creative and try new things. Consider weaving humorous images or videos into your marketing messaging. Engage with users by starting conversations and asking questions. The sky's the limit, so don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone.

Check out Virgin Media’s use of a Back to the Future gif on Twitter, which appeals to users by tapping in to a trending topic (Back to the Future Day). Virgin Media’s tweet does a good job of grabbing attention and if Virgin happened to sell umbrellas or raincoats, it would be a perfect product tie-in. If you’re in need of inspiration, scroll through your target social network and pull ideas from unsponsored, organic content.

Rule #3: Blend Into the Experience — Don’t Disrupt It
Users aren’t typically on social networks to shop, which means they won’t want to be taken completely out of the social media environment when they encounter a “buy” button. Jarring users away from the content they came to see can be both frustrating and alienating.

Consider the following promoted tweet from Beverly Hills MD. Although the format is in-line with much of Twitter’s organic content, clicking on the tweet drags users away from their newsfeed and directs them to the Beverly Hills MD website, which immediately launches music and a video. With unexpected and likely unwanted sound disrupting the user experience, especially if it was clicked at work, most will navigate back to Twitter as quickly as possible.

That’s why platforms like Twitter and Facebook allow users to enter their information to buy an item they’ve seen in their feedwithout leaving the social network. For platforms like Instagram where users who click on a “shop now” button are directed to an external page, the style of your post has to be in-line with the network in order to make the shopping experience feel like a natural transition from the browsing one.

Rule #4: Getting In Front of Potential Shoppers Is Only Half the Battle
Once you’ve attracted new buyers, it’s important to create an experience that turns them into repeat customers. One of the fastest ways to turn someone away is by not having the item you’re advertising in stock. That’s why you must keep a close eye on inventory as you carry out your strategy and update social campaigns frequently.

The key to succeeding with an omnichannel business approach is as simple as remembering that the evolution of outlets is ongoing. Be flexible and embrace new channels. Take the time to consider each platform, its potential benefits and how to maximize your return. The investment is well worth it.



Ben Saren is senior VP of marketing at Cayan, a provider of payment technologies and processing solutions. The company was founded in 1998 as Merchant Warehouse and changed its name to Cayan in January 2015.

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Tech Guest Viewpoint: Top Four Retail Tech Predictions for 2016

BY Rob Gonzalez

2015 has been a good year for e-commerce. Alibaba shattered records on Singles Day with $14.3 billion in sales. India witnessed a boom in e-commerce investment from companies looking to win the millions of new smartphone users. Even the Girl Scouts joined the digital mix, rolling out version 2.0 of their Digital Cookie program to boost their online cookie sales.

We expect even bigger things from 2016. The stage is set for a shift in the way brands and retailers relate to one another, and to consumers. We are developing technology to support that shift toward collaboration, and with recent market research from interviews with 200 leaders in e-commerce from major consumer brands, we have several predictions for what e-commerce will look like in the coming year.

2016 will be the year of collaboration for brands and retailers.
According to a study by comScore and UPS, 73% of consumers reported that detailed product information is the single most important factor in the search and selection process when buying online. Retailers know that content drives commerce, so they are demanding an increasing amount of content from brands.

Yet according to our market research, 62% of brands think retailer requests for content are unreasonable. Without brand support for retailer initiatives, you can forget about sales. Brands and retailers will realize in 2016 that collaboration is the only way to understand shifting consumer shopping behavior, create and optimize great content for omnichannel, and respond with one excellent shopping experience.

E-commerce departments will be broken off as standalone organizations.
Digital marketers will embrace e-commerce initiatives as core responsibilities in 2016, according to Forrester. Brands will launch their e-commerce departments as standalone organizations to concentrate expertise and maximize the success of new channel sales. E-commerce strategy at the brand level will make brands much better equipped to be true merchandising partners for retailers, making them better at optimizing content and more responsive to e-commerce demands.

Head of Digital Business will be the hottest new job in B2B2C.
Only 25% of brands surveyed believe their organizations are ready to adapt to future shopping channels and only 29% of brands agreed they know how to capitalize on the growing e-commerce and mobile commerce markets. Organizations will need to appoint a head of digital business to understand, respond to and predict shifts in consumer shopping behavior across mobile, social and other new channels.

Brands will launch their own marketplaces.
By 2030, 30% of all purchases will be made through an online community, according to IDC Research. Starting in 2016, brands across all categories will begin launching their own marketplaces to make it easier for consumers to find their products across retailers. For the past decade or so, direct-to-consumer was uncharted territory for brands, and a new and scary game to play.

Today, led by LEGO and other success stories, brands are rising to the challenge. Thankfully for retailers, direct-to-consumer is not a zero sum game. If a brand does a good job selling direct, retailers that carry that brand will likely sell more as well.

BONUS PREDICTION: Amazon drone armies will become self-aware.
Amazon captured 36% of all online sales on Cyber Monday and is amassing drone armies. Sounds like something out of Terminator 2, but Amazon drones are poised to become self-aware, e-commerce driving machines that will decide what you want and just deliver it. Their parting line will always be: “We’ll be back.”

We venture to say 2016 will be a great year for e-commerce. As you make your 2016 plans, prioritize collaboration, optimizing content for new channels and recruiting an e-commerce superstar; but don’t forget to enjoy the holidays. And say hello to your friendly neighborhood Amazon drone.



Rob Gonzalez is the co-founder and VP of business development at Salsify.

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I.Vukovic says:
Dec-22-2015 11:16 am

Great article indeed! Many noteworthy moments emphasized year of 2015 and and many more are expected to land in 2016. Bond between brand and retailer needs to be more coherent so to attain better sales and customer acquisition. I think that in 2016 we'll see retailers find new ways to get rich content (e.g. product videos) from brands and bring this to their pages, so as to faciliate online shopping for consumers. Tech intermediary solutions that deliver brand content to retailers will be big in 2016.

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Toys ‘R’ Us is focused on ‘flawless’ as it goes into holiday home stretch

BY Mike Troy

With the financial picture improving modestly at Toys “R” Us, CEO David Brandon said the company is ready to build on third quarter successes during the final days of the holiday season.

Total sales at Toys “R” Us were not impressive during the third quarter ended Oct. 31, but some of the weakness can be explained by the strong dollar and unfavorable trends in electronics categories. More noteworthy was the improving profitability picture at a company where new CEO Brandon is experiencing his first Christmas at the helm of the toy retailer and looking to execute a strategy launched in 2014 called “Fit for Growth.”

Since the inception of the strategy, the company has realized expense saving of $248 million and that showed up in third quarter operating results where the company reported a $31 million adjusted profit versus a prior year profit of $3 million. On a reported basis the company said its net loss was $167 million compared to a prior year loss of $213 million.

Sales growth proved challenging, with net sales declining by $128 million to $2.3 billion, but were essentially flat excluding the effect of currency exchange. Total same-store sales increased 0.6%, due to 2.9% international comp growth offset by a 0.9% comp decline at U.S. stores.

“Our third quarter results demonstrate the continued progress we are making to position the company for growth,” Brandon said. “As we enter the final ten days of the holiday selling period, we are focused on the flawless execution of our plan to ensure customers have an enjoyable shopping experience and find the hottest toys in-stock, no matter how they choose to shop with us.”

Toys “R” Us operates 865 stores under the banners of Toys “R” Us and Babies “R” Us in the United States, Puerto Rico and Guam, and in more than 750 international stores and over 250 licensed stores in 38 foreign countries and jurisdictions.

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