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A Storefront Lurks Under Every Digital Touchpoint

BY Dan Berthiaume

Technology is advancing to the degree where almost any digital consumer touchpoint has the potential to become a very real storefront. Video games, blog and social media postings, apps, and virtually any other digital environment that directly engages consumers either currently is or soon will be able to serve as a fully functioning storefront where transactions can be executed.

Chain Store Age recently covered two examples of the “storefrontization” of an ever-expanding array of digital touchpoints. Twitter is reportedly pursuing a strategy where retailers will be able to directly sell to consumers within tweets, and the new Amazon Mobile Associates API enables developers to sell physical and digital items from Amazon.com within their Android apps and games.

Surrounded by storefronts
These examples represent the tip of what will surely be a disruptive iceberg of digital storefronts that will crash into the consumer landscape in the near future. Full-scale shopping via text message, camera phone, barcodes and QR codes, and a host of other digital touchpoints inevitably awaits.

Retailers also need to consider the potential technologies wearable computing devices such as Google Glass, as well as augmented and virtual reality, hold for offering consumers life-like shopping experiences within personalized and digitized “stores.” Geofencing technology could potentially allow customers to automatically purchase an item and schedule its delivery simply by walking into a designated area. And the list goes on.

In the shorter term, retailers need to prepare for selling through non-traditional storefronts such as tweets and video games. Here are a few suggestions to help ensure success.

Break through the noise
Consumers have a remarkable capacity for screening out background noise like advertisements and marketing pitches. While digital storefronts operating in places like tweets will initially attract attention due to their novelty, as they multiply the novelty will fade and consumers will find the discovery of a digital storefront as exciting as the discovery of a promotional email that slipped through the spam filter.

To avoid blending in with the rest of the background noise, retailers must use creativity and selectiveness. This includes using relevant hashtags on storefront tweets, including purchase capability in location-based promotional texts and even creating real-time digital storefronts in response to newsworthy events such as this year’s power outage at the Super Bowl.

Tailor your assortment
Obviously downloadable products, like software and music, are ideally suited for sale through digital storefronts. But retailers should also carefully consider what types of physical products are best suited for this purchase experience. Customers will often encounter digital storefronts unexpectedly, so products that lend themselves to impulse buys, such as fast food and fashion accessories, are likely a good fit.

In addition, utilitarian products like basic household appliances and personal grooming items, where hands-on examination is not a big part of the purchase process, fit well in a digital storefront assortment.

Target your storefronts
Not every customer is going to be receptive to a storefront lurking inside a tweet, blog post, QR code or other digital touchpoint. Retailers should try to target their storefronts through means such as including them on an opt-in basis within location-based text promotions or targeted tweets, rather than including them in mass communications. Almost every digital touchpoint can (or soon will be able to) become a storefront, but that doesn’t mean every digital consumer will welcome every instance they encounter.


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Safeway caters to Hispanic shoppers

BY CSA STAFF

PLEASANTON, Calif. — Safeway and Food Network host Marcela Valladolid have unveiled a Safeway-exclusive Marcela Valladolid brand, which offers an assortment of Mexican food products.

"Growing up in Mexico, I know what real Mexican food is — and isn’t," said Marcela Valladolid. "I’m passionate about holding on to my heritage and sharing it with family and friends, and cooking is a great way to do this. Now, together with Safeway, I am bringing millions of people my favorite Mexican foods and flavors, rooted in tradition, but made easier for our busy lives."

The Marcela Valladolid brand will everything from ready-to-cook meats and tortillas to snacks. Valladolid has worked closely with the chefs at the Safeway Culinary Kitchens to create this product line.

"Hispanic Shoppers are important to Safeway and we are excited to team up with Marcela to bring this innovative brand to all our shoppers seeking a real Mexican eating experience," stated Joe Ennen, SVP consumer brands for Safeway. "Marcela has been a fantastic partner for us to work with on our mission to make authentic Mexican foods accessible and approachable for Safeway shoppers everywhere."

Marcela Valladolid products will be on shelves in more than 1,400 Safeway stores nationwide beginning this month.

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Verizon: Mobile, cloud among leading holiday retail IT trends

BY Dan Berthiaume

New York – Cloud-based e-commerce, mobile apps and mobile wallets are among the most important IT trends affecting retailers as they enter the 2013 holiday shopping season.

Verizon Communications, Inc. has compiled a list of the biggest IT trends for this year’s holiday season. Following are highlights:

Cloud-based e-commerce: Retailers are now spending more on cloud services to implement e-commerce point-of-sale and online purchasing applications which are both aimed at enhancing the customer experience. In addition, the cloud’s flexible usage model responds well to varying seasonal demand and it provides safe storage for large volumes of critical data.

Mobile apps: Retailers are providing both customers and associates with mobile apps to ease and extend activities such as checkout, marketing, and providing access to product data. In addition, data generated by mobile apps can help retailers improve the accuracy and depth of analytics.

Mobile wallets:
Growing mobile wallet options are encouraging retailers to integrate more special offers for consumers, which is helping to fuel spending across this digital channel while attracting new retailers to sign on.

Intelligent networking: More bandwidth and faster speeds are in high demand by retailers for optimizing video content, offering omni-channel selling and delivering the mobile shopping experiences that consumers have come to expect. Intelligent networking allows retailers to mobilize applications and keep business processes running smoothly, transport high volumes of data across their organizations, and provide secure access on any mobile device to bring sales associates out to the showroom floor.

Preparing for the unexpected: Business continuity and disaster recovery planning and implementation are now topping the priority lists of retailer’s business concerns. Network back-up solutions for quickly re-opening branch and store locations have become popular. As the holiday shopping season kicks off, nobody wants to get caught with shuttered store locations and flooded data centers.

Security: Data breaches can be harmful to a retailer’s customers and can also be damaging to a company’s brand, especially during the shopping season when customers are spending large sums of money and are emotionally charged.

Pop-up stores: Retailers are continuing to leverage pop-up stores to temporarily create a market presence in locations such as malls, street fairs or events. Pop-up stores can be especially appealing to customers in a hurry looking for quick access to specific items and brands.

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