MARKETING/SOCIAL MEDIA

Wal-Mart unveils details of sustainable product rating initiative

BY CSA STAFF

Bentonville, Ark. Wal-Mart Stores on Thursday detailed its plans to develop a worldwide sustainable product index during a meeting with 1,500 of its suppliers, associates and sustainability leaders at its home office. The index will establish a single source of data for evaluating the sustainability of products.

“We do not see this as a trend that will fade. Higher customer expectations are a permanent part of the future,” said Mike Duke, president and CEO, Wal-Mart.

Duke said the eco-rating effort would involve three steps.

First, he said, Wal-Mart will survey its more than 100,000 suppliers around the world. The survey includes 15 questions that will serve as a tool for the chains’ suppliers to evaluate their own sustainability efforts. The questions will focus on four areas: energy and climate; material efficiency; natural resources, and people and community. The company will ask its top-tier U.S. suppliers to complete the survey by Oct. 1. Outside the United States, the company will develop timelines on a country-by-country basis for suppliers to complete the survey.

Next, Duke said, Wal-Mart will help create a consortium of universities to collaborate with governments, suppliers and retailers in developing the sustainability index. The consortium will work with suppliers to assess each product’s impact, from the use of raw materials through the potential for recycling.

The company will also partner with one or more leading technology companies to create an open platform that will power the index.

“It is not our goal to create or own this index,” said Duke. “We want to spur the development of a common database that will allow the consortium to collect and analyze the knowledge of the global supply chain. We think this shared database will generate opportunities to be more innovative and to improve the sustainability of products and processes.”

The final step, Duke said, will be making the information available to customers in the form of index numbers “to tell customers about the sustainability of a product that they’re purchasing.”

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Samsung enters new retail venture with Micro Center

BY CSA STAFF

SAN JOSE, Calif. Samsung will begin selling its external hard drives for the first time through a retail channel. The company has forged an agreement with Micro Center to sell its external hard drives on Micro Center’s web site and in their retail stores nationwide.

As the first retail and e-retail authorized distributor, Micro Center will be responsible for expanding the market for Samsung’s full line of external drives, including S1 Mini 1.8” hard drive with capacities in 120/160/250GB; S2 portable in 160/250/320/500GB capacities; and Story Station with capacities of 1/1.5TB; and future external drives.

“Samsung will leverage Micro Center’s expert service-oriented staff that specializes in PCs and peripherals to expand our user base,” said Andy Higginbotham, director of HDD sales and marketing for the Samsung Semiconductor Storage Division. “With a strong brand name presence with many of our other consumer electronic products, our objective is to make sure that more consumers have access to top-quality, dependable external storage products.”

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Online retail checks up on check-out

BY CSA STAFF

SAN DIEGO As more and more people begin shopping online, many e-tailers are looking for new ways to improve customer experience. And, according to a new study, customers’ checkout experience has become an important priority for many companies

According to the The State of Retailing Online 2009: Merchandising Report, conducted by Forrester Research, of 117 respondents, retailers plan to focus heavily this year on improving customers’ check-out experience. Companies will also place an emphasis on image enhancement on product detail pages and site search filters to help shoppers more easily find what they’re looking for.

“In today’s economy, retailers need to be one step ahead, especially when it comes to attracting shoppers who have money to spend,” said executive director of Shop.org, the National Retail Federation’s digital retail division, Scott Silverman. “Companies are investing in their Web sites to set them apart from their competition and make the shopping experience informative, efficient and even fun.”

Forrester Research found that 79% of online retailers said enhancing the checkout process was on the top of their to-do lists for the remainder of the year. Companies said they were concerned particularly with the transparency around shipping charges to reduce shopping cart abandonment. According to the survey, 88% of retailers will focus on providing more shipping information within the next year, including such details as when a customer can expect to receive a package and information about when products have left the warehouse. In addition, two-thirds of retailers (67%) said they would pay special attention to calculating the loaded cost of an order prior to checkout.

Online retailers understand that no matter how good the shopping experience is for a customer, a cumbersome or confusing checkout process could mean the loss of a sale. As the Forrester study shows, e-tailers, like their brick-and-mortar counterparts need to make shopping enjoyable from start to finish.

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