MARKETING/SOCIAL MEDIA

PwC survey details eight consumer expectations reshaping retail business model

BY Dan Berthiaume

New York – An overwhelming majority (79%) of shoppers say they shop at their favorite retailers/brands because they trust the brand, according to a survey of 15,000 online shoppers by the PwC US Retail & Consumer practice. In other survey findings, 37% of U.S. shoppers do not use their smartphone for shopping because of security concerns, and 61% noted deals and promotions as the reason for following a brand’s social media site.

The report finds that a rapidly growing focus on the consumer and integrated, customer-focused technology has paved the way for what it calls a "Total Retail" experience.

“Today’s non-stop shoppers have taken things into their own hands, becoming more tech-savvy than retailers,’ said Steven Barr, PwC’s U.S. retail & consumer practices leader. “Consumers have the tools at their fingertips to immerse themselves into the retail brand. Our report finds that consumers have strict expectations that challenge today’s shopping experience and, in response, retailers should embrace what we at PwC are calling Total Retail.”

PwC outlines eight key consumer expectations and provides business implications for retailers to help achieve the Total Retail model. These include:

1. A compelling brand story that promises a distinctive experience
Retailers should better establish a strong brand promise that solidifies a core of loyal customers. A high percentage of survey respondents were attracted to brands that tell a story in an engaging manner. Seventy-nine percent of U.S. shoppers say they shop at their favorite retailers/brands because they trust the brand.

2. Customized offers based on totally protected, personal preferences and information
Big data and predictive analytics will help retailers use customer data to increase marketing and sales effectiveness through customizing digital coupons, exclusive content, and social media promotions, among others. However, 37% of U.S. shoppers say they do not use their smartphone for shopping because they are worried about security. Retailers should better safeguard data, by either building their capabilities step-by-step or adding proper capabilities through acquisitions.

3. An enhanced and consistent experience across all devices
Among U.S. survey respondents who do not use their mobile phones or smartphones for shopping, 32% say they do not own mobile/smartphones and 33% said device screens are too small. However, as screen sizes get bigger and more consumers obtain newer mobile devices, mobile shopping will likely accelerate. To prepare for this growth, a Total Retailer will need to have the technical agility to provide one seamless experience via PC, tablet, mobile phone, in app or web browser.

4. Transparency, real time, into a retailer’s inventory
When asked which in-store technologies would make for a better shopping experience, 45% of U.S. survey respondents chose the ability to check other store or online stock quickly. Consumers are looking for actionable inventory information from retailers, pushing retailers to upgrade technology on their supply chain, on how products are tracked, warehoused and distributed.

5. Favorite retailers are everywhere
When asked what they would do if their favorite retailer shut down its local store, 53% of survey respondents noted they would locate the next nearest physical store and 40% said they would increase ordering from their website. Shoppers today assume retailers are everywhere and always connected like themselves, and retailers need to look at store portfolio management more strategically.

6. To maximize the value of mobile shopping, both store apps and mobile sites must improve
PwC’s survey finds shoppers do not have a strong preference regarding using an app or browser for mobile shopping. When asked how often they use an app and mobile browser for shopping, respondents noted 22% and 28% weekly, respectively, with mobile browser faring a bit higher due to convenience (53% prefer mobile browser because of convenience). Retailers should take note to ensure their mobile site is optimized, while also ramping up apps to improve the experience.

7. Two-way social media engagement
Enthusiasm for social media by retailers and brands is driving consumers to engage, comment and even effect change. When asked what attracted them to a particular brand’s social media site, 61% of U.S. respondents noted attractive deals and promotions, 38% noted new product offerings and 28% said because they shop with the retailer. Retailers should in return better listen to customers on social media, transforming commentary into actionable data for new ideas and improved experience.

8. "Brands" act like retailers, and we’ll treat them that way
The gray area of overlap is growing between brands and retailers, and 44% of U.S. survey respondents noted that lower price is the main reason they buy from a brand’s website. Retailers today are partnering with brands/manufacturers to share consumer insights and collaborate on category management to drive more success for both.

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FINANCE

Carl Icahn, EBay trade accusations

BY Dan Berthiaume

San Jose, Calif. – Billionaire investor Carl Icahn and EBay are engaging in a public war of words that was ignited by an open letter Icahn sent to EBay shareholders on Monday, Feb. 24. In the letter, Icahn accused EBay CEO John Donahoe of ignoring conflicts of interest on its board and called for the company to spin off PayPal.

Icahn also disclosed he now owns 2.15% of EBay’s stock. The letter specifically alleged that board member Marc Andreesseen has personally gained by purchasing large stakes in former EBay subsidiaries and advised and invested in direct EBay competitors Boku, Coinbase, Dwolla, Jumio and Fab.

Icahn also claimed that Andreesseen was part of an investor group that purchased Skype from EBay for far less than EBay paid and then sold it at substantial profit to Microsoft 18 months later, and that Andreesseen gained from investing in online shopping platform Kynetic, which EBay sold back to its founders at a low price in 2011. As for Intuit founder and board member Cook, Icahn’s letter said Intuit is a direct competitor of PayPal because of its Go-Payment service. He called upon the entire EBay board to resign immediately, and said he will present a slate of candidates for EBay’s upcoming board of directors election.

In a press release dated Feb. 24, EBay responded to Icahn’s letter by saying it cherry-picked old and out of context news clips and anecdotes. EBay also said it has determined that its shareholders would be best served by keeping PayPal part of EBay and refuted all allegations of misconduct or incompetence against Andreesseen, Cook and Donahoe.

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FINANCE

Dillard’s net income falls in Q4

BY Dan Berthiaume

Little Rock, Ark. – Dillard’s Inc. reported declining net income for the fourth quarter and fiscal year 2014. Compared to the same period a year earlier, Dillard’s reported a 26% decline in net income to $119.1 million from $161.4 million.

Net sales in the fourth quarter declined 3% to $2.03 billion from $2.1 billion, and same-store sales grew 2%. During the fiscal year, net income dropped about 4% to $323.7 million from $336 million, and net sales slightly declined to $6.53 billion from $6.59 billion. Same-store sales rose 1%.

Looking ahead, Dillard’s plans to open two new stores in October 2014: a 200,000-sq.-ft. location in The Shops at Summerlin in Las Vegas and a 180,000-sq.-ft. location in The Mall at University Town Center in Sarasota, Fla.

Dillard’s cited the extra week in the 53-week fiscal 2013 period, as well as one-time tax benefits and after-tax gains, as reasons for the year-over-year drop in net income.

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