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J. Crew proposes bond offering

BY Dan Berthiaume

New York — Chinos Intermediate Holdings A, Inc., the indirect parent company of J. Crew Group, Inc., intends to issue $500 million of senior PIK toggle notes due 2019. The notes will be offered and will be sold in a private placement to qualified institutional buyers in the U.S, pursuant to Rule 144A under the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and to non-U.S. persons in transactions outside the U.S. pursuant to Regulation S under the Securities Act.

Intermediate Holdings A intends to use the net proceeds from this offering to distribute cash to its parent company to fund a cash dividend, distribution or other payment to its equity and certain equity-award holders, and to pay related fees and expenses. The consummation of the proposed notes offering is subject to market and other conditions.

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Don’t Scare Away Your Omni-Channel Customers

BY Dan Berthiaume

For many retailers, Halloween has become one of their favorite times of year. Spending on Halloween-related costumes, decorations, candy, etc. has grown to the point it represents the second-highest consumer spending holiday, only trailing Christmas with NRF estimates of this year’s spending total reaching $6.9 billion. But while a good scare is all part of the annual Halloween fun, retailers need to ensure their omni-channel customers do not get scared away by frighteningly poor digital commerce features and functions.

In honor of a holiday dedicated to fright, here are a few tips for keeping your omni-channel offerings more reminiscent of Casper the Friendly Ghost and less reminiscent of Freddy Krueger.

Consistency is No Hobgoblin
Ralph Waldo Emerson is credited with the phrase “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds," but consistency in omni-channel commerce is neither foolish, nor a mythical pest, nor small-minded. Omni-channel by definition is a removal of traditional barriers separating channels so that customers have a seamless shopping experience no matter what touchpoint they use.

If browsing and navigation, product assortment, pricing, promotions and discounts, and checkout are not consistent across every virtual and physical channel, your omni-channel experience will be a failure that causes customers to beware of your brand.

One Size Does Not Fit All
Beyond offering a consistent customer experience across channels, a big part of omni-channel retailing is offering an experience that is optimized to whatever form factor the customer is using. Beyond providing a digital experience optimized for desktop/laptop PCs and a digital experience optimized for mobile devices, retailers need to offer digital experiences optimized for the variety of different screen sizes available to the modern consumer.

At a bare minimum, this means one experience designed for smartphones and one for tablets, and more conscientious omni-channel retailers will also optimize digital experiences for at least a few standard screen sizes of smartphones and tablets. Moving forward, this will also require experiences optimized for wearable digital devices like Google Glass and Samsung Galaxy Gear.

Whether retailers develop different back-end infrastructures for different form factors, use responsive design to adapt one back end to varied form factor specs, or a hybrid development approach, they need to realize that nothing will scare away an omni-channel customer more quickly than trying to navigate a PC-optimized site crammed into a mobile screen.

Don’t Forget the Back End
Imagine a house all lit up and decorated for Halloween whose owners tell the trick-or-treaters ringing their bell, “Sorry, we have no candy.” Those owners would very likely wind up picking toilet paper out of their bushes the next morning.

Disappointed omni-channel shoppers will not likely “TP” your corporate headquarters, but this example illustrates the important fact that no matter how well you align the omni-channel customer experience on the front end, without back-end alignment your efforts will be for naught. Inventory, assortment planning and distribution systems must all be transparent in real-time throughout the enterprise so that all the various stakeholders in providing an omni-channel experience have access to the same data at the same time. Otherwise customers who try to pick up an item in a store that they purchased via tablet will feel tricked.

So have a safe and happy Halloween, and let the cheesy horror movies they show on cable TV this time of year scare your customers, not your omni-channel experience!


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Bazaarvoice enhances brand building capabilities

BY CSA STAFF

Real time retail is the best way to describe an intriguing new shopper engagement platform from Bazaarvoice that allows brands to respond to questions and reviews about their products directly on retail sites within the Bazaarvoice network.

Branded as Bazaarvoice Connections, the new capability is designed to benefit brands because they will be able to join in shopper conversations that are happening on retail sites within the expansive Bazaarvoice network. Meanwhile, retailers benefit because they are able to bring credible brand voices to their site and drive meaningful improvement in conversion by providing shoppers with relevant information at a critical point in the path to purchase.

For example, Bazaarvoice contends that online shoppers find answers from brand experts 85% more helpful than answers from consumers. Another key benefit is the ability to quickly identify customer issues and resolve complaints. According to Bazaarvoice, when shoppers see that a brand responded quickly to the complaints of another shopper it has a powerful impact. Roughly 95% of dissatisfied buyers will buy a brand again as long as the complaint which resulted in their dissatisfaction is resolved quickly. And, shopper purchase intent doubles when they see a brand’s response to a negative review vs. a negative review by itself.

From the retailers’ standpoint, having brands engage with shoppers on their sites is a way to eliminate what Bazaarvoice calls, “information gaps,” so that appropriate expectations are set or misperceptions are corrected. Doing so helps shoppers buy confidently and reduces the potential for returns.

“Retailers get a digital sales rep in every single aisle, creating a digital shopping experience,” says Lisa Pearson, Bazaarvoice CMO.

The way Bazaarvoice Connections works is simple from the consumers’ perspective, despite the powerful technology running behind the scenes to deliver the capability. For example, a shopper on a retailer’s Web site submits a question about a product they may be thinking about purchasing or writes a review. Brands are able to see the shopper generated information, and when desirable, provide authoritative responses to questions or reviews by accessing a Bazaarvoice interface. The shopper is alerted to the response, and then the interaction with the shopper is displayed where it provides the added benefit of serving as informative content that is of value to other shoppers.

Click here to learn more about the service and view a demonstration.

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