ENERGY/HVAC

Office supplies chain recognized for sustainability commitment

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Knowing business is not just about sales, Staples leads the charge when it comes to responsible business practices.

The chain’s positive impact on society — and the planet, as a whole — has earned Staples a place on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for the thirteenth year in a row. The global benchmark weighs corporate responsibility and sustainability performance among the largest 2,500 companies listed on the Dow Jones Global Total Stock Market Index.

Staples’ selection to the report “is a testament to the chain’s commitment to sustainability," said Mark Buckley, VP of environmental affairs, Staples.

And the company’s social responsibility is far-reaching. For example, 13,000-plus products sold globally are designed with environmental attributes. This merchandise represented more than $5.2 billion in sales in 2015, and accounted for approximately 30% of global product sales, according to a company statement.

Last year, Staples ended the year with 527 active buildings certified to the Energy Star standard, or 38% of its total U.S. operations. Staples has been an Energy Star Partner of the Year for seven consecutive years. Meanwhile, this year, Staples earned the Save Energy’s Stars of Energy Efficiency Built Environment award for its commitment to energy reduction and efficiency in its stores.

These are only a few examples of how "We not only operate our business in a responsible manner, but we help our customers make a positive impact on the planet by offering them more sustainable products and services,” Buckley added.

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TECHNOLOGY

Zappos.com takes loyalty to a new level

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Zappos.com has found a new way to “wow” its passionate shoppers.

In a strategic move to drive engagement, the online shoe retailer launched its first-ever loyalty program. Called Zappos Rewards, the progression-based program will allow customers to earn points toward future purchases, get free expedited shipping on all orders, and receive early access to exclusive products and sales.

The four-level benefits program enables Zappos.com shoppers to earn and redeem “Rewards Points” based upon tier status: silver, gold, platinum, or an invite-only elite tier. Shoppers earn 10 points per every $1 spent on a purchase; 50 points for logging into Zappos.com on any device, and 100 points by writing a review. Customers may redeem every 1,000 earned points for $1 in rewards codes.

Other benefits include free, expedited shipping at all tier levels; an exclusive customer service phone number; early access to exclusive products and sales; free UPS pickups for merchandise returns, and free returns beyond the 365-day return policy.

“As we designed the Zappos Rewards program, our goal was to take our customer service to the next level,” said Arun Rajan, COO of Zappos.com. “We leaned on one of our company purposes — ‘To Live and Deliver WOW’ — and we trust this program will truly wow our customers.”

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FINANCE

NRF Study: Facebook leads digital marketing spend

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Interactive media continues to shake up retailers’ digital marketing strategies.

While paid search and email marketing still lead retailers’ lists of effective customer acquisition channels, social media and mobile marketing are gaining traction and budgets, according to the annual report, “State of Retailing Online 2016: Marketing and Merchandising,” from the National Retail Federation and Forrester. The report reveals digital marketing investments, mobile marketing efforts, and website merchandising tactics among retail eBusiness executives at large and mid-sized retail companies.

While search engine optimization (SEO) remains a priority, the report revealed that 92% of retailers surveyed are investing in social media marketing to some degree this year. This is second only to email (94%).

“Retailers are not only increasing their social media budgets, but they are looking at new ways to update their online content and stay on top of new trends to continue to grow their customer acquisition online and in-store,” said NRF’s senior VP and Shop.org executive director Vicki Cantrell.

Social media is not only a cost effective tool for many retailers, but it is also driving revenue. Specifically, 68% of retailers surveyed say they were seeing increased conversion from their paid Facebook efforts, and 40% claim the same from paid Instagram efforts, the report said.

“Although email and SEO are tools frequently used by retail marketers, it was not a surprise to see that social media is gaining traction with retailers as they continue to further connect and engage with consumers,” she added.

Social media success aside, mobile also continues to be a key investment area. In fact, 65% of retailers plan to spend more on mobile marketing in 2016 than in 2015, specifically through smartphones, data revealed. Retailers also noted that their email subscribers open an average of 45% of emails on smartphones, surpassing desktop devices (41%), and tablets (14%) — underscoring that email is a top traffic driver to a mobile site.

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