OPERATIONS

NRF report: Retailers to invest in customer engagement

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Washington, D.C. — A report released Wednesday by the National Retail Federation and KPMG found that retailers in 2012 will invest heavily in IT, e-commerce, customer service and mobile platforms in order to build customer engagement.

The report, “Retail Horizons: Benchmarks for 2011, Forecasts for 2012," polled 247 retail executives from various sectors regarding their top strategic initiatives for 2012.

Findings showed that, nearly 67% of companies rank customer satisfaction as the top strategic initiative for 2012 and, similarly, 82% say customer service strategies will be their top priority in the coming year, up from 75% last year.

“Retailers are poised to enter 2012 with a renewed focus on building up and building out many of their most important operations, hoping to establish a new sense of brand loyalty with all of their customers,” said NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay.

“From increasing their brand visibility through cross-channel initiatives to providing unique, personalized shopping experiences through every channel, retailers have indicated 2012 is all about the customer,” Shay said.

A major shift found by the report was that, for the first time in the survey’s 10-year history, retailers’ websites or online channels eclipsed physical stores as the top channel for marketers (81% for brick-and-mortar versus 86% online). As such, retail executives say they will invest in programs that directly resonate with today’s shopper. According to the survey, 85% will emphasize increasing online sales, up from 83% in 2011, and 38% will have a greater focus on increasing m-commerce sales over the next year, up from 29% in 2011.

Additionally, more than half (53%) of those surveyed say they will specifically focus on web personalization engines in the coming months, which includes such enhancements as location-based services and tracking methods unique to shopping habits.

To better serve mobile-savvy shoppers in their stores, retailers also stated enhancing handheld technologies, such as mobile point-of-sale, will be a core focus over the next 18 months. While 17% already use mobile POS technologies in their store, an additional 33% indicate they plan further POS investments during that timeframe.

Social media is also becoming more important for retailers, with 45% of companies are actively developing widgets, gadgets or advanced links that can be incorporated with their social media pages, and another 41% planning to develop these items over the next 18 months.

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OPERATIONS

The Pantry names new chief

BY Staff Writer

Cary, N.C. — C-store chain The Pantry announced Wednesday that it has appointed Dennis G. Hatchell as president and CEO, effective March 5.

Hatchell succeeds Edwin Holman who served as interim CEO since Terrance Marks resigned as CEO effective in October 2011.

Hatchell previously served as vice chairman of Alex Lee, a holding company for Lowe’s Food Stores, Merchants Distributors and Institution Food House.

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REAL ESTATE

Target and Starbucks team toward Canada expansion

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Toronto — Target Canada Co. and Starbucks Coffee Canada announced Wednesday an agreement that will put Starbucks licensed stores inside most of the 125 to 135 stores that Target plans to open in the region.

"Our goal is to bring the true Target brand shopping experience to our Canadian guests, so expanding our relationship with Starbucks as we enter the Canadian marketplace is a natural fit," said John Morioka, senior VP merchandising, Target Canada. There are currently 1,097 Starbucks locations within Target stores in the United States.

Starbucks store openings will coincide with Target’s entrance into the Canadian market beginning in spring of 2013. Stores will offer an expanded selection that includes not only Starbucks beverages but also breakfast and lunch items.

"We continually look for new and relevant opportunities to bring the Starbucks experience to communities across the country, and this strategic relationship represents another way we’re able to create meaningful connections with both new and existing customers," said Colin Moore, president, Starbucks Canada.

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