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Pandora Sticks to the Plan

BY Dan Berthiaume

With some 3,200 franchised, independently owned and corporate stores, the fast-growing Danish jewelry retailer Pandora needs to ensure customer relationship management (CRM) consistency throughout its operation — especially during the heavily promotional holiday season. It does so by using the Microsoft Dynamics CRM system and a retail portal based on the Microsoft Azure cloud platform. The solution helps ensure that every store is aligned with the same marketing and customer service plan.

“We use Dynamics for tracking of visual merchandising at stores,” explained Phillip Kennedy, director of IT for Pandora, whose North American division is based in Columbia, Maryland. “We do store visits and upload photos of holiday promotions, tagged for management to review.”

In addition, Pandora uses a custom cloud-based platform-as-service (PaaS) retail portal built on Microsoft Azure for sharing CRM information, such as product master files. Through the portal, Pandora also executes holiday promotions, such as new product drops and email releases, across the organization.

“We manage retailer participation and planning and go back to review their performance,” said Kennedy. “We get our biggest promotional volume during the Christmas and Hanukkah holidays, as well as Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. We’re able to scale up to handle the volume. Microsoft technology allows us to do it easily without significant increases in staffing.”

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Smart Furniture Uses Mobile to Promote Home for the Holidays

BY Dan Berthiaume

Furniture doesn’t leap to mind as a common holiday gift item. But by optimizing its customer experience for mobile devices and utilizing advanced personalization, Chattanooga, Tennessee-based online retailer Smart Furniture (which also runs a single flagship store) is making consumers think of the home for the holidays.

“Last year, we had the single biggest traffic pattern shift in company history,” said T.J. Gentle, president and CEO of Smart Furniture. “Our standard traffic increased 12% to 15%, while our smartphone and tablet traffic increased more than 100%.”

Smart Furniture has been busy this year creating a fully responsive site, using in-house technologies and resources, with a few outside contractors, to launch optimized versions of its site for different screen sizes, based on the same underlying code. The retailer is aiming to have the work completed by the fourth quarter in order to provide the best possible experience for mobile holiday shoppers.

In addition, Smart Furniture will be using in-house-developed personalization capa- bilities it developed this year to better target potential holiday shoppers. Noting that customers who take an online “Style Quiz” to create a customer profile have much higher conversion rates, Smart Furniture has begun creating “implied profiles” of shoppers based on buying patterns and other available data points. By calibrating personalized offers and inventory levels to these profiles, the retailer intends to boost holiday sales.

“We have gift-oriented home decor items, and there is also an increase in dining room table purchases in October as people realize they need to seat guests for holiday meals,” said Gentle. “We can target specific segments like young married professionals who have recently bought a home and will be hosting their first holiday get-together, and need a table to do so.”

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Mobile Tips

BY Dan Berthiaume

While holiday forecasts are just starting to come out, most industry experts agree that retailers can expect mobile to command a bigger share of online shopping. Forrester projects $294 billion in e-commerce sales across 30 retail categories in 2014, with $87 billion of the total occurring on phones and tablets in 2014. A report by IBM forecasts that mobile will account for more than 20% of site sales and more than 43% of site traffic, by November 2014.

“Mobile should be a primary purchase channel within a few years,” said Bill Davis, director of MB&G Consulting. Davis offers the following tips for retailers fine-tuning a mobile commerce strategy for the holiday season.

• Focus Your Mobile Presence.

Many retailers have mobile apps, but if they do not, Davis advises that establishing a focused mobile presence, not just pointing mobile device users to an existing website, is required.

“Engaging customers to download and use the app is necessary, so linking the download and registration to an in-store promotion, say 10% off a $40 order, is one way to accomplish this,” said Davis.

• Let the Beacon Guide Shoppers.

Related to mobile is the use of Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons, which enable proximity sensing of the mobile device, primarily iPhones, to identify where a consumer is in the store and to message them.

“The ability to engage consumers in store is the ‘last mile’ issue for retailers, and BLE beacons currently offer the best opportunity for addressing this,” Davis explained. “Knowing a loyalty customer has walked into a store as he or she crosses the threshold helps level the playing field with e-commerce’s analytical capabilities.”

• Manage Your Information.

While unlikely to be implemented by or during holiday 2014, Davis says most retailers should consider adopting a product information management (PIM) system to manage how they deliver product information to their various physical and digital sales channels.

“As Amazon and e-tailers have shown, information is the new gold and nowhere is this more relevant than in the depth of the product information they present to help guide a buyer’s decision,” Davis said.

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