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Restaurants and entertainment venue to join Downtown Dallas development

BY Melonie Messina

Dallas — Trademark Property Co. announced that BuzzBrews,’ Cinépolis USA and Café Victoria will join Victory Park, a 75-acre mixed-use development in downtown Dallas. BuzzBrews’ and Café Victoria to open in early 2016 and Cinépolis USA, targeted for 2017.

Victory Park features more than 165,000 sq. ft. of retail, restaurant and entertainment space, including: Buda Juice, Chad Rookstool Salon, Classic Pilates, Hard Rock Café, The Hangar, Havana Social Club, House of Blues, Medina Oven & Bar, Metro Tickets, Naga Thai Kitchen & Bar, Olivella’s Neo Pizza Napoletana, Victory Park CrossFit and Victory Tavern. The Perot Museum of Nature & Science also is located within Victory Park, as well as 621,000 sq. ft. of Class-A office space, the 252-room W Dallas – Victory Hotel and 1,700 plus residential units.

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The secret weapon every retailer needs this holiday season

We live in the age of the empowered consumer – with little patience and sky-high demands for personalized shopping experiences. Today’s consumers are used to having everything they want available to them at the swipe of a finger or within a physical store. When there’s an app for nearly everything along with ultra-accurate search technologies, brands need to make sure they’re delivering on their promises and providing seamless and relevant customer experiences across all channels –mobile, web, social, call center, physical stores and more. This means understanding customers on an emotional level and engaging them in real-time in a personalized way to deliver the most significant value tailored to their unique needs.

This might sound like a no-brainer, but a vast majority of brands are falling short. According to a recent study from IBM and Econsultancy, there is a significant gap between what consumers expect and what brands are able to deliver. A shocking four out of five consumers believe that the brands they interact with do not understand them as individuals – which can have huge implications on a brand’s success and bottom line.

As retailers gear up for the busy holiday shopping season, they must present themselves to their customers in the most relevant way possible regardless of channel. Brands must shift their focus and recognize that delivering great customer experiences is the responsibility of the entire organization – not just marketing or customer service. Merchandising plays a significant role in how customers interact with a brand and has the opportunity (and responsibility) to take a leadership role in delivering exceptional customer experiences that will make the difference between retail winners and losers this holiday season.

Gone are the days when merchandising managers operated in “set it and forget it” mode, planning their holiday store fronts in July with little flexibility to make changes during the critical fourth quarter. Merchants have realized that they need more control over how they present products and content to their customers. They must develop a deep understanding of how customers are living their lives to make the biggest impact – and more importantly, make the sale. Optimizing a brand’s merchandising strategy results in their customers receiving an iconic brand experience which will drive increased sales, improved inventory turnover and customer loyalty.

So how can merchants make their mark on the customer’s overall brand experience? The answer lies in analytics.

The golden ticket in this customer centric world is connecting data to insights and insights to action. Analytics are changing the retail game by providing visibility across all engagement channels to better understand customer buying patterns. Predictive and cognitive analytics allow merchants to be fully in tune with what’s happening in the market in real-time, including what products are performing better or worse than expected among various demographics and regions. For example, retailers can strategically mark down slow-selling products by knowing the optimal percentage and duration for markdowns based on competitive pricing data, customer demand forecasts, real-time inventory data, coupled with knowledge of regional or individual buying behaviors. This helps retailers drive sales while reclaiming valuable selling space, a clear win-win.

With the power of these insights, merchant are able to remove the guesswork from their day-to-day and react immediately to what’s working or not working by adjusting and personalizing what products they present to shoppers online and in store. An intelligent merchandising strategy should be closely tied to inventory management and fulfillment to ensure that featured products not only reach the right eye balls at the right time, but that the infrastructure is in place to deliver those products to the customer’s doorstep as promised.

With the upcoming holiday shopping season expected to be bigger than ever before – according to the IBM Holiday Readiness Report, growth in e-commerce sales on U.S. retail websites has exceeded 10% each quarter over the past year – it’s clear brands need to leverage all of the tools at their disposal in order to provide engaging experiences across all channels. Through analytics, retailers are able to better understand and design a relevant experience for each and every customer.

Today’s brands need to look beyond the forecasting data that has historically driven merchandising decisions. Instead, they must evolve as fast as their customers do by adapting to current market conditions and use real-time data as their secret weapon. By leveraging analytics solutions, retailers can more intelligently determine the most desirable and profitable experience – including products, content, prices, promotions and markdowns – to put forward at any given time. That is what customers demand, and the time to deliver is now.


Adam Orentlicher is Director of e-commerce Offerings & Strategy for IBM Commerce. He is responsible for leading IBM's cross-unit, cross-discipline team responsible for IBM WebSphere Commerce, IBM Commerce on Cloud, IBM's SaaS-based integrated marketing, selling and fulfillment platform leveraging IBM WebSphere Commerce, IBM Sterling Order Management, and IBM Sterling Configure, Price, Quote.

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The Holiday Frenzy is Upon Us … Tips to Get Prepared

BY Tom Barone

After a 16% increase in e-commerce sales in 2014, another 14% increase is projected this year, in turn driving greater customer expectations.* Today’s shopper is more connected than ever before, which means they have more information and can turn to any number of retailers for the products they want. The bottom line is if they don’t have the experience they desire, they will go elsewhere, especially during the holiday shopping frenzy.

Here are five tips – from fulfillment with its seasonal challenges for meeting volume and service levels, to preparing locations to handle ship-from-store, and beyond – to ensure your customers have the experience that keeps them buying from you instead of another brand.

1. Forecast early and often
One of the most critical factors for holiday planning is forecasting. It’s an extreme disappointment to a customer when products are unavailable or backordered. In fact, according to a survey by the CFI Group, 79% of consumers reported that rather than waiting, they are likely to switch brands when the items they are shopping for are not available. Not only does forecasting ensure product availability, but it also enables your fulfillment partner to fill and deliver orders as promised.

To create accurate forecasts, you need to take into consideration several factors, like your performance year-to-date compared to goals. Are you on track or behind? Will you run promotions and when? Is there a new product that is likely to have higher volume? The bottom line is that you need to create your forecast early and share it with your supply chain, stores and fulfillment partner. Getting the customer to purchase is great, but without the product or the capacity to meet fulfillment requirements, it’s all for not.

Forecasting should not be one and done. You need to continue to evaluate and fine tune throughout the season because they can change. And if so, you need to be ready and so do your fulfillment centers and stores. With accurate forecasting and frequent updating, you keep the sale, keep the customer, and ensure a great experience.

2. Get your fulfillment operations ready
Whether you have a third-party partner or do it in-house, you need to be certain fulfillment teams are prepared. Product quantities need to be on hand to fulfill orders, and you need to be sure that you have the appropriate capacity and staff to pick, pack and ship those orders in the fastest, most efficient way possible. For example, if you’re doing a promotion on a particular product, it’s important to let your fulfillment centers know so they can move that product to an easy pick location to handle the higher volumes more efficiently.

Beyond the fulfillment piece, retailers need to manage the shipping and delivery time expectations promised to customers. You need to ensure carriers can meet the volume and have the capability to handle demand spikes, not to mention weather issues. Are there plans in place to mitigate risk and deal with delays if they do happen? Another new factor this year is that carriers are getting more conservative and very focused on forecasted package volumes. Even to the point of saying they may not commit to on-time delivery of package over forecasted volume.

3. Ensure stores are equipped to handle ship-from store and in-store pickup orders
Let’s not forget about your stores. If you are shipping from store or offering in-store pickup – which you should because customers have come to expect those options – you need to ensure your stores are operationally prepared. Evaluate your staffing requirements based on increased thresholds for both ship-from store and in-store pickup orders.

Store operations need to design a process for these store-fulfillment orders that doesn’t disrupt the experience for customers shopping in-store. Some questions to consider include: Do you need to train staff? Do you need to increase the number of store associates to pick and pack ship-from store orders? Are their special packing requirements and do you have materials for holiday shipments? Will you offer incentives? There are a lot of factors to consider with store fulfillment so be sure your stores understand the requirements, process and expectations to successfully deliver.

4. Prep your customer service for the good and the bad
Along with the increase in shopping comes the increase in service requests from every channel: phone, chat, email and social. Customers want additional details about products, they have questions about shipping, they want to know where their orders are, and the list goes on.

The key is to be sure that you scale your customer service operations just like you do your fulfillment centers for increased volumes. Service agents, regardless of the channel in which they interact, are many times the only live interaction the customer has with your brand. You need to continually communicate letting service centers and associate know when promotions will run and what they entail. Especially let your service centers know when a promotion or the timing of a promotion changes so they’re prepared. It’s critical to provide updates on new products, pricing and policies that are in place for the holiday season.

Also, make sure your service centers are aware of out of stock or back-ordered products, shipping delays, and any other events that could impact the customer experience. While not all service interactions are negative, it’s important to train service associates to deal with negative situations and how to turn them into a positive interaction.

5. Perfect Your Payments and Fraud Processes
It’s inevitable. A percentage of orders will be flagged for fraud, which will likely increase during the holidays. In fact, losses increased by 33% last year, with merchants paying $3.08 for each dollar of fraud.**

There are ways to ensure your legitimate customers don’t pay the price with a poor experience. Do your research, know what your fraud rate is, and assess how the impacts. While actual fraudulent activity is costly, being over-sensitive with your fraud criteria can be even more expensive. Not only is the revenue from legitimate orders lost, but you’ll likely lose that customer. That’s not to mention the cost of the labor, time and resources expended on manually reviewing false positives.

Evaluate your manual review rate from last year to see if it is at least on par with the industry standard. Work with your risk management team to fine tune your rules to reduce manual review. Evaluate the data you are using and see if you have a single view of your customer. Are you linking all of the data you have – customer loyalty with transactional data, social and digital behavior, demographics, and more? Customer loyalty is a rarity today, so it’s vital that your risk management system is fine tuned to convert as many transactions as possible.

There’s a lot to keep track of during the holiday frenzy, but you can ensure your work pays off. Keeping these things in mind will help you continue to deliver great customer experiences and lead to a better 2016.

* Source: eMarketer. “Holiday Shopping Preview.” Mar 2015
** Source: LexisNexis: True Cost of Fraud Study 2015


Tom Barone is VP of eBay Enterprise North America Operations, where he is responsible for leading fulfillment and transportation, customer service, and omnichannel solutions across the business. eBay Enterprise is global provider of retail-optimized commerce solutions, including fulfillment, freight, store-fulfillment, retail order management, customer service, and payments, tax and fraud. For more information, to to eBayenterprise.com and Magento.com.

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