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RSR Research: Marketers take interest in customer data

BY Dan Berthiaume

Walnut Creek, Calif. – The percentage of retailers who consider their marketing department to be an owner of customer data has more than doubled in the past year. According to a new RSR Research survey, “Retail Marketing 2013: Organizational Drift,” 61% of 122 retail respondents surveyed online between May and July of this year listed marketing as a customer data owner, compared to 33% in 2012.

The percentage listing IT as a customer data owner is virtually unchanged at 34% (33%) last year. The store operations (22% compared to 14%), e-commerce direct channel (20% compared to 13%) and merchandising (20% compared to 7%) have also taken a much greater ownership stake in the past year. About half as many retailers say customer data has no explicit owner this year (17%) as last year (33%), while the percentage who say the supply chain/fulfillment department is an owner remains low at 10%, but doubled since 5% indicated this in 2012.

Other findings include:

  • The top three marketing opportunities retailers see this year are more effective targeting by capturing more detailed customer preferences (53%), a greater focus on customer experience with less on product (48%) and using digital channels to drive store traffic (44%). The first two percentages are basically flat from last year, but digital driving of store traffic grew in popularity by more than 50% from 28% last year.
  • Forty-six percent of retailers think their marketing department spent the right amount of time driving digital and store traffic in the past year, while 37% think they didn’t spend enough time and 17% think too much time was spent.
  • Retailers listed the same top three organizational inhibitors to marketing this year as last year, but in higher percentages. They are difficulty getting IT resources (55% compared to 38%), lack of resources for available opportunities (48% compared to 37%) and difficulty quantifying ROI (41% compared to 27%).

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Enhanced departments, omnichannel crucial to Toys ‘R’ Us holiday plans

BY Marianne Wilson

Wayne, N.J. — Toys “R” Us is updating its in-store shopping experience and expanding its omnichannel initiatives for its more important selling season. The retailer detailed its plans on Thursday at a special holiday preview event in New York City.

Starting in October, Toys “R” Us will expand and enhance product categories that have experienced sales growth over the past few years, notably education, tablets and construction, while reducing the space dedicated to areas that have underperformed over time.

New features will include a dedicated Imaginarium shop, a dedicated 32-ft. shop that will showcase 25 tablets that can be tested and engaged with by kids and parents, and a dedicated construction shop that will showcase Lego, Mega Bloks and other major brands.

Speaking at the event, Toys “R” Us executive VP and chief merchandising officer Richard Barry addressed the effect of the uncertain economic environment and impact of the multi-year decline in birth rates on the toy industry, as well as the declines in select businesses, such as video games and electronics. He said the company’s merchandising strategy will continue to center heavily on differentiation and breadth of assortment, while simultaneously introducing new product categories and expanding growth areas.

“Our unmatched product differentiation, unique services and value offerings continue to set us apart, and we look forward to unveiling new and exciting initiatives throughout the holiday season that consumers will appreciate,” Barry said.

On the omnichannel front, Toys “R” Us said it plans to continue to leverage its $1.1 billion e-commerce operation and vast store network to enable customers to shop with it wherever, whenever and however they choose. To that end, the chain is shortening the wait time for “Buy Online, Pickup In Store” orders from three hours to under one, and improving the pick-up time for “Ship to Store” orders, from seven to 14 days to five to 10. Stores will be equipped with a secondary in-store pickup location later this fall, as the company is enabling Wish List kiosks with check-in technology, making the process faster and easier for customers.

The retailer also is offering free layaway through Dec. 15, with no upfront service fee and no minimum purchase requirement. New this year, after an order is created in-store, subsequent payments can be made on the chain’s online site.

Other holiday initiatives include:

  • An aggressive holiday marketing program that includes personalized e-mail communications, as well as values and deals every day from now until Christmas. Loyalty incentives will be enhanced throughout the holiday season, inclusive of a Friends & Family 20% coupon and an extra 25% bonus for “R”Us credit cardholders, among other programs.
  • Approximately 35 million Rewards“R”Us loyalty program members have the opportunity to earn 10% back, up to $100, on qualifying toy purchases through Oct. 31. The savings will be delivered via an e-gift card with no exclusions in November.
  • A new extended return policy allows shoppers to make returns through Jan. 25.

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Staples to open e-commerce development center in Seattle

BY Marianne Wilson

Framingham, Mass. — Staples plans to open a dedicated to e-commerce and engineering center in Seattle that will house teams responsible for driving major initiatives to enhance areas, including next generation digital platforms, personalization, and big-data. It will be the chain’s first office on the West Coast.

“Seattle is an innovation hub rivaling Silicon Valley and features some of the world’s biggest technology companies,” said Faisal Masud, executive VP global e-commerce, Staples. “Staples new Development Center will allow us to tap into the wide range of talented engineering and e-commerce professionals on the West Coast.”

Staples is adding software development, product management, usability, analytics and online merchandising positions as it continues to invest in omnichannel capabilities that let customers shop however and whenever they want, across mobile devices, desktops and stores. The company is currently working on several new e-commerce and mobile commerce initiatives.

“Staples is investing in areas with high concentrations of the e-commerce and engineering talent that will be key to our success,” said Prakash Muppirala, VP e-commerce engineering, Staples. “We will build integrated, collaborative teams with the goal of making the shopping experience easy.”

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