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NRF urges online sales tax

BY Dan Berthiaume

Washington, D.C. — The National Retail Federation (NRF) is urging Congress to pass legislation that would require online and remote sellers to collect state and local sales taxes, telling a House committee that lawmakers should level the playing field between local retailers and out-of-state competitors. David French, senior VP of the NRF, told the House Judiciary Committee in a letter that legislation is needed to end the sales tax disparity.

While brick-and-mortar merchants are required to collect state and local sales taxes on most items, many out-of-state sellers are not required to do so, giving them what the NRF says is an unfair price and market advantage of as much as 10%. The committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the issue Wednesday, March 12.

NRF urged the committee to consider online sales tax legislation, based on principles outlined last fall by Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., that recognizes compliance costs, eliminates the current patchwork of state laws and court decisions, and simplifies the collection process. Under the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1992 Quill ruling, online retailers are required to collect sales tax only in states where they have a physical presence such as a headquarters, store, office or warehouse. Federal legislation passed in the Senate last year would provide states the ability to require sales tax collection.

“Members of the National Retail Federation believe that Congress must resolve the constitutional questions posed by the Quill decision in a fashion which promotes a level playing field between retail competitors,” French said. “As retailing evolves and Internet sales become a more prominent portion of total retail sales, it is critical that Congress address the sales tax collection discrimination that exists between brick-and-mortar and remote retailers.”

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Omnichannel Expectations Continue Past the Point of Purchase

BY CSA STAFF

By Loreal Lynch, VP marketing, Shopatron

The rise of multichannel shopping has forced retailers to begin implementing strategic omni-channel initiatives across their organizations in an effort to satisfy increasing customer demands. These initiatives are ushering in even higher customer service expectations from shoppers who have no patience for disconnected experiences that fail to match the omni-channel marketing promise.

A recent Loudhouse survey revealed that of the 67% of online shoppers who made multi-channel purchases in the past six months, only 7% were extremely satisfied that the brand provided a seamless, integrated and consistent customer service experience across channels. Moreover, retailers are not even meeting their own expectations. According to a recent survey conducted by Forrester Research, 56% of retailers support a vision for a consistent cross-channel experience, yet only 23% believe that they have the ability to provide that experience.

The current customer-centric landscape presents an opportunity for retailers to increase customer lifetime value by ensuring that customer loyalty and satisfaction continues well beyond the point of purchase. What are these post-purchase omni-channel expectations, and how will they fuel a new age of customer care?

Consistent, Multi­-Touch Support
It’s been established that customers shop in a variety of channels and rely on a variety of devices, applications and tools in order to purchase products anytime, anywhere. Not surprisingly, the same expectations that customers have of their shopping experiences are beginning to carry over to their support experiences. Customers expect to be serviced anytime, anywhere, and via their channels of choice — whether phone, email, in-store, live chat or social media.

The challenge for retailers is providing customer service representatives with the information they need in order to maintain consistence within each of these support channels. While customer care may currently be performed in a variety of outlets, the platforms and data accessed by the customer service representatives are often siloed and disjointed. To solve for this, retailers need to create a unified repository of customer data that is easily accessible across the entire organization, from the store associates to the call center representatives. Cloud-based order management systems solve for this. In fact, according to Aberdeen Research, 65% of companies categorized as offering Best­in­Class customer experience management have a centralized repository of product information available to associates in customer­facing roles.

A Knowledgeable and Authoritative Frontline
The new, connected consumer increasingly pursues self­service support options such as instructional how­to guides or step­by­step videos. These consumers expect equally knowledgeable representatives, who not only have information readily available but also the power to manage it. In an Oracle report on customer satisfaction, 35% of respondents said they would spend more with a company that makes it easy to get questions answered and has easy access to information. Yet today, only 19% of consumers view the store associate as the best resource for information according to Forrester Research, Inc.

Today’s customers no longer tolerate lengthy holds, much less transfers to other business units who are better qualified to update an order or make amends with customer appeasement. In order to keep up with these needs, enterprise­level retailers whose communications typically stretch across multiple departments must align internal knowledge with their sales, marketing, customer service, and contact centers so that frontline personnel are not only armed with the power to intercept customers at any channel, but the power to advise them intelligently, and the jurisdiction to deliver and install solutions themselves.

Rapid Response & Resolution
Same-day delivery battles among retailers and marketplaces — such as eBay Now and Amazon’s futuristic anticipatory shipping — underscore the consumer’s need for speed. In fact, a study by Right Now found that 82% of consumers in the U.S. stopped doing business with a company due to a poor customer service experience—and of those, 55% said a company’s failure to resolve their problems in a timely manner was what drove them away.

As busy consumers increasingly prioritize convenience, support centers will only be as good as the data that occupies them. Legacy customer support centers that increase time to resolution with disparate information and multi-step processes will be replaced with modern call center applications that optimize the delivery of its services. One way retailers will address this expectation is by empowering customer­facing representatives with a streamlined, easy-to-use connection to its order management systems. With this technology, customer-facing representatives have quick access to the right information and can effectively leverage the power of a retailer’s existing omni-channel initiatives, with new features like save-the-sale functionality to address consumers’ timely needs.

Personalization
The universal accessibility provided by the Internet has broadened the traditional customer bases of retailers, creating a more diverse group of buyers. In order to successfully convert these shoppers to buyers, retailers need to employ advanced targeting techniques. Segmented marketing is nothing new to retailers who aim to connect with particular groups of consumers in the purchase stage, but moving forward, retailers will need to push those targeted messages past the point of purchase, building them into the entire customer experience.

Personalized offers and rewards based on prior interaction history can build customer loyalty and increase lifetime value regardless of channel. By leveraging API libraries offered by modern cloud-based order management technologies, retailers can enable unfragmented information-sharing that could easily recognize previous shopper behavior across channels, making it easy to create meaningful connections with customers.

True omni-channel businesses not only leverage seamless offline and online channels in order to put products in the hands of online shoppers; they also place seamlessly integrated customer service experiences into the palms of their hands. With competitors only a click away, turning compelling service experiences into a competitive advantage will be a priority in the next wave of omni-channel installments, which is more customer-centric than ever.


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A.Boon says:
Mar-13-2014 11:49 am

The one constant in retail is change
Interesting article . Omnichannel strategies allow retailers to engage fully with a consumer through all channels, Smartphone’s and mobile applications deliver a personalized shopping experience to customers. I work for McGladrey and thought this conversation aligns well with a white paper that was created on this subject, if your readers are interested in [email protected] “ The one constant in retail is change” https://bitly.com/1hrViqk

A.Boon says:
Mar-13-2014 11:49 am

Interesting article . Omnichannel strategies allow retailers to engage fully with a consumer through all channels, Smartphone’s and mobile applications deliver a personalized shopping experience to customers. I work for McGladrey and thought this conversation aligns well with a white paper that was created on this subject, if your readers are interested in [email protected] “ The one constant in retail is change” https://bitly.com/1hrViqk

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Personalization push intensifies at CVS

BY CSA STAFF

The digital marketing initiative known as “My Weekly Ad” is helping CVS Caremark grow sales and deepen engagement with loyal customers by providing them with personalized versions of the retailer’s weekly ad.

The My Weekly Ad program was launched last fall and Wednesday morning during a presentation at the IRI Summit CVS Caremark SVP of merchandising and retail pricing Judy Sansone shared additional details regarding the program.

“We deliver a personal circular to every customer who is a member of our ExtraCare program and is registered on CVS.com,” Sansone said. “There is so much more power in delivering a truly personalized experience.”

CVS Caremark still relies on traditional print circulars, about 45 million each week, but the ongoing decline in Sunday newspaper circulation presents a major challenge for CVS Caremark and other retailers who for decades relied on the Sunday paper as a delivery vehicle for their weekly ads.

Recognizing this shift as well as the potential for digital technology to serve customized offers, CVS Caremark sought to leverage the wealth of data found in its database of ExtraCare member behavior. The result was the creation of My Weekly Ad last fall and superior redemption metrics that have the company looking to increase its investment this year.

According to Sansone, the typical print circular features about 300 items and the average customer will purchase about eight of the featured items.

“With My Weekly Ad we are seeing redemption rates that are seven to 10 times the rate of non-personalized offers, which is allowing us to drive a higher level of engagement,” Sansone said. “Roughly 30% of everything we spent in 2013 was on personalization tools because the investment is driving a higher level of engagement and that figure will be even higher this year.”

The opportunity for personalization and engagement is huge at CVS Caremark because the company’s 15-year-old ExtraCare program now boasts 70 million active members (defined as those who have participated in the past six months) and the shift toward further personalization is undeniable.

More than 1,000 people attended the IRI Summit and in a message clearly intended for an audience largely made up of CPG company representatives, Sansone said it is time for marketers to evaluate their investments.

“Review your portfolios for opportunities to reinvest from underperforming mass vehicles to more personalized and profitable offers,” Sansone said.

CVS Caremark is applying that same philosophy to the store experience with a clustering initiative designed to make assortment more locally relevant. Sansone said the company has about 8,500 planograms for 70 categories and further optimizing assortment based on local demand characteristics offers tremendous potential.

While most of her comments were focused on front of store, she made sure to mention that at CVS Caremark, “pharmacies and Minute Clinics are where personalization comes to life.”

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