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Kurt Salmon acquires digital retail tech agency

BY Dan Berthiaume

Global management consultancy Kurt Salmon is acquiring digital retail technology agency Mobispoke LLC, the engine behind such technologies as smart fitting rooms, integrated mobile apps and other leading-edge, interactive shopping experience technologies.

Following the acquisition, Mobispoke will rebrand as Kurt Salmon Digital and will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of Kurt Salmon.

The acquisition evolved from a longstanding relationship during which Kurt Salmon and Mobispoke have provided such leading national retailers as Bloomingdale’s, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Puma to integrate and personalize consumers’ physical and digital customer experiences across the Web, mobile, social channels, and brick-and-mortar locations.

“Bringing Mobispoke’s cutting-edge digital capabilities in-house under the Kurt Salmon brand continues our drive to help clients best implement the innovative technologies that are the future of omnichannel retail,” said Brooks Kitchel, managing partner for North America and the Global Retail and Consumer Group at Kurt Salmon. “This strategic acquisition opens up some really exciting avenues to push the envelope and develop new technologies and transformative strategies that will help us secure success for what’s next for our clients.”

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Amazon commands nearly half of consumers’ first product searches

BY Gina Acosta

Amazon’s dominance in the $300 billion American e-commerce market is stronger than ever, according to a new survey.

A Survata study commissioned by BloomReach reports that in a survey of 2,000 U.S. consumers, 44% bypass the entire Web and go directly to Amazon first to search for products, compared to 34% who use top search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo!.

As recently as 2012, Forrester found that only 30% of consumers research products on Amazon first.

"Amazon has turned a slow-bleed of search engines' and retailers' e-commerce importance into a gushing wound," said Joelle Kaufman, head of marketing and partnerships for BloomReach. "Search engines like Google have done their part by making product discovery and search intuitive, convenient and seamless; but if retailers want to slow Amazon's dominance, then they must integrate technology that creates frictionless experiences for their customers across channels. Amazon has a commanding lead, but retailer personalization and brand experiences can power a counterattack."

Retailers are faring worse, with only 21% of consumers saying they'd start their product search at a specific retailer’s website. In addition, consumers are overwhelmingly being influenced by Web personalization technology; 87% said they'd specifically buy from the company that best predicts their intent and suggests products intuitively over all others.

Amazon has invested heavily in and touted its advanced algorithmic recommendation capabilities, and today a colossal 75% of consumers feel that no other online retailer can personalize experiences better than the company, with its nearest competitor Walmart.com registering 9% followed by eBay at 8%.

However, while Amazon advances the battlefield on one front, the traditional allies of retailers – the search engines – have inadvertently squeezed retailers from the other front. The BloomReach consumer survey found that consumers – by a 2:1 margin – are wondering why their favorite retailers aren't delivering the same personalized discovery experience on site or on mobile that search engines provide on the wider Web.

Consumer Attitudes: BloomReach also studied consumer attitudes toward shopping on smartphones – compared to digital marketer perceptions and strategies. Conducting research on products and prices is the main reason (47%) people shop on smartphones, and almost half of those researching are specifically "showrooming" while in store.

Yet with mobile search traffic surpassing desktop for the first time in the U.S., 81% of consumers say that laptops/desktops still are the preferred way to make purchases, and 64% said the challenges of smartphones (smaller screens, typing) negatively affected their willingness to purchase.

"People don't think 'Now I'm going to shop on my phone; now I'm going to shop on my laptop; now I'm back on my phone.' They just shop," said Kaufman. "But marketers often painfully approach omnichannel personalization in this way – siloing data and chalking every solution up to a responsive-design problem. Marketers are ignoring the 25x mobile-influence factor, inaccurately thinking that 'omnichannel' and 'personalization' are mutually exclusive."

This study was unveiled one year after BloomReach released a similar study of U.K. consumers and marketers, finding that 82% of UK consumers thought Amazon was the best at personalizing.

Get more information about the study at Bloomreach.com.

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Tech Guest Viewpoint: Four Shopping Lessons to Finish 2015 Strong

BY Tim Barton, iVend Retail

Every year, it seems, summer and the “back to school” shopping season go by in a flash. Suddenly, as the leaves change color, retailers find themselves looking ahead to what they hope will be a successful holiday shopping season.

If you achieved your back-to-school sales goals – congratulations! But now what? The start of fall is a great time to become focused and re-committed on finishing the year strong. It’s also a great time to take stock of where your business has done well, and what challenges or hurdles remain. Those retailers who constantly review and refine are in the best position to take advantage of the latest trends in retail.

Retailers large and small are operating at a faster pace than ever before, with consumers changing not just their minds, but their entire behavior patterns, in the blink of an eye. In fact, already in 2015 we’ve seen a number of shopping trends that will impact retailers’ relationships with their customers.

With change in the air, let’s look at some top tips for increasing and ensuring customer loyalty in the months, and even years ahead.

Lesson #1: Mobile is changing the game (for more than just payments)
The launch of Apple Pay so far may not have disrupted the way consumers transact in the dramatic fashion Apple hoped, but it has marked a new era for mobile. The past 18 months have seen the rise of the e-commerce mobile shopper; now retailers must adapt to the store mobile shopper.

This isn’t simply a case of installing mobile wallet-friendly technology; our favorite device is going to change other bricks-and-mortar interaction channels, such as driving digital loyalty in the store environment.

Lesson #2: Your brand name won’t carry you anymore
A recent study by Kantar Worldpanel pointed out that clothes shoppers aren’t swayed by the label like they used to be, and in fact, some brands are struggling to attract customers on name alone.

This is a salient warning to retail brands in all sectors – you must get your product, price and customer service right, because that’s what customer retention is built on in 2015.

Lesson #3: Convenience is king
Globally we’ve seen a rise in convenience shopping, with more retailers investing in small format stores.

This is part of a wider need for businesses to realize that time is consumers’ most precious currency, and implement digital technologies in store to speed up the purchasing process.

Lesson #4: The store can do more
The store has risen like a phoenix from the ecommerce flames in today’s omnichannel shopping environment; digital interactions are actually driving consumers toward brick-and-mortar – either to make a purchase after researching online, or to pick up a click-and-collect order. Indeed, “click-and-collect,” in which consumers purchase a product online and pick it up at a physical location rather than being delivered, is gaining popularity among U.S. consumers, eMarketer recently noted. However, the store is still the least adaptable, most anonymous part of the connected retail journey, with many customers feeling let down by the impersonal experience they receive.

This trend will resonate further with retailers in the coming year, but it is worth concluding with this guidance: to equal the convenience and adaptability of online shopping, stores must work harder to attract, convert and retain customers. This can be achieved most seamlessly through the effective implementation of in-store technology, like mobile point of sale, loyalty applications and digital passes.



Tim Barton is director, strategic accounts at iVend Retail.

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