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What technology do retail employees use to communicate?

BY Dan Berthiaume

Retail employees are using mobile communication technology in their jobs, but a more established channel is still most popular.

According to a study of 500 professionals within a variety of industries including retail from Infinite Convergence Solutions, 57% of retail employees use email most frequently for business communication. This made email significantly more popular than mobile messaging; (24%) or voice calling (19%).

The main reasons for employees who did not use mobile messaging most frequently were lack of paper trail (26%), preference for email or calls (21%), too informal (23%), not authorized by company (17%) and security concerns (14%).

Forty percent of retail respondents think email or phone is most secure method of business communication, compared to 21% who think mobile messaging is most secure. Thirty-four percent say immediacy of information needed to communicate matters most when deciding communication method

In terms of who retail employees are communicating with, 49% most frequently communicate with colleagues; 35% clients/customers; 16% external partners or stakeholders
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Of retail employees who do use mobile messaging on the job, 62% use SMS/MMS text to communicate. The most popular messaging apps are Facebook Messenger, Skype and GChat. Ten percent say their company prohibits third-party messaging apps and another 9% prefer to not use messaging apps.

Opinions on the security of third-party messaging apps is mixed. Forty-eight percent of respondents think most of their business correspondence is secure in third-party messaging apps; 13% think it’s not secure; 36% think it’s completely secure

However, 54% of retail employees say their company does not have an official mobile messaging platform. Of that 54%, 69% say their company does not recommend a mobile messaging platform. Of the 31% who say their company recommends one, they most often recommend Skype; weChat; and WhatsApp.

In addition, 43% of retail employees who use mobile messaging at work communicate seven days per week regarding business matters with colleagues, partners and clients. Fifty-five percent strongly feel they have the necessary tech to communicate effectively at their jobs, and 48% are within arm’s reach of their phones seven to eight hours during the normal eight-hour workday.

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Tech Bytes: Three Modern Strategies for Product Discovery

BY Dan Berthiaume

Enabling consumer product discovery in the omnichannel age is not a simple or easy matter. Having merchandise available and visible on store shelves is no longer sufficient. Meanwhile, products consumers see on e-commerce sites are mostly determined by prior behavior or their search choices. Furthermore, it is hard to serve effective digital promotions on the mobile screens consumers are increasingly using to shop.

So, how can retailers promote wide-ranging product discovery, including goods consumers may not be looking for or even know about, in this modern shopping environment? Here are a few strategies that may prove useful to help consumers discover new products in 2016 and beyond.

Brand Advocates
The idea of using unpaid (or minimally paid) consumers as “brand advocates” to promote goods on social media has been around for a while. But in an era where consumers can personalize their shopping experience to the point there is no unplanned product exposure, brand advocates are becoming a critical component of retailer marketing strategies.

Consumers will ignore social media posts coming from a retailer or brand, and social media ads are little more than background noise. But if they learn to trust a fellow consumer who advocates items they normally shop for, they will probably be willing to at least click on that consumer’s postings about other products, as well.

Online Video
The Internet is increasingly becoming a video-based medium, and consumers show more willingness to click on video than other forms of content. Video offers retailers an ideal opportunity to dynamically present a wide range of products and demonstrate their uses in a short period of time.

Videos can be presented thematically, such as ideas for the holidays or ways to spruce up your home, to encompass a broad assortment. Even videos focused on a specific product or brand can still feature complementary items the viewer may not have been actively searching for.

To maximize the potential of product discovery videos, retailers can leverage functionality that allows consumers to directly make purchases from videos. A good example of this type of promotion is the six-part YouTube interactive video series, “The House on Hallow Hill,” Target ran during the 2015 Halloween season. The interactive videos took viewers through a haunted house and let them visit different themed rooms, with the opportunity to directly buy featured products.

Direct Engagement
The consumer has taken control of the rest of the shopping experience, so why not use technology to let them take control of product discovery? Retailers can allow shoppers to directly engage with trained representatives via text, chat, in-store kiosks or even phone call to have broad conversations that can lead to them finding new and unexpected items.

Even natural language search engines cannot produce the type of unanticipated product discovery that a free-flowing (technology-aided) conversation with a human being can generate. A customer who vaguely knows they want to buy some new items for spring can have their focus sharpened through human engagement.

The live person on the other end of the conversation can also determine if perhaps the customer has relatives, friends or even pets they also want to buy for, leading to the discovery of products they would never otherwise consider.

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Wayfair to hire 450 for Texas service center

BY Gina Acosta

Wayfair is opening a new customer service center in Texas as it scales operations to service its rapidly growing customer base.

“Wayfair’s steadfast commitment to exceptional customer service has helped fuel the incredible growth of our business as more people discover a new and better way to shop for home furnishings,” said James Savarese, COO, Wayfair. “We look forward to expanding our operations to the Bryan-College Station area as we welcome new talent to our world-class customer service team.”

Wayfair says it selected the Bryan-College Station area of Texas because it is a hub for innovation and technology.

“As a company that is headquartered in Boston, we recognize the tremendous value of being located near some of the world’s leading academic institutions. We have found that access to higher education, ongoing innovation and a robust cultural scene all contribute to a strong local workforce. We see those very important qualities in the Bryan-College Station area with its close connections to Texas A&M University,” added Liz Graham, VP of sales and service, Wayfair. “Wayfair is delighted to join the local Bryan-College Station community and we are excited for the new team members who will help us continue to deliver the most exceptional service experience in retail.”

The Bryan service center is scheduled to open this spring.

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