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Tech Guest Viewpoint: How to Have a Happy Mobile Summer

BY CSA STAFF

As consumers continue shifting to mobile-only shopping experiences this summer, retailers have a greater need than ever for an e-commerce platform that delivers responsive, consistent experiences across any given device or channel.

Whether consumers are shopping poolside, planeside or on the road to vacation, summertime mobile campaigns provide the connection retailers need to a constantly on-the-move customer base.

According to a recent Forrester report, business-to-consumer e-commerce in the U.S. reached $300 billion in 2015, and is expected to top $500 billion by 2020. In this growing market, retailers can harness their e-commerce technology to tap into heavy potential profits, starting with an updated mobile marketing strategy. To begin, retailers need to have the right processes in place to excel digitally. In order to maximize traffic, uptime and sales, retailers must create a positive customer experience on both desktop and mobile.

Fashion retailer Bluefly recently transitioned from a traditional retail model to a fashion and design marketplace with more than 2,500 brands. Bluefly relaunched its website with a significant focus on creating a robust and integrated mobile front to facilitate a holistic customer experience.

The retailer chose to focus engagement on its mobile experience, creating push notifications to promote sales and drive traffic to the website. Bluefly also leveraged social media by integrating its curated Instagram feed with its e-commerce platform.

Offering new promotions and aligning with social media to drive mobile-based sales is a great way for retailers to promote summer-specific offers and incentives for mobile users. These tactics encourage engagement and build mobile traffic during summer months, when connecting with customers can be tricky.

A few years ago, convenience store giant 7-Eleven launched a multichannel summer campaign using a combination of SMS, mobile web, social media and mobile advertising aimed at driving in-store traffic for on the go shoppers. This multichannel campaign heavily leveraged mobile technology and reaped rewards in spades for the retailer.

Few retailers are completely prepared to make the back-end transition to a mobile-first approach. As a result of mobile commerce’s rapid growth in the last two years, many companies are struggling to adjust, leaving them vulnerable to mistakes that can hurt their business during this crucial time of transition.

Common pitfalls that often hamper operations for retailers include multichannel measurement, choosing the right technology partners and site usability issues. To successfully avoid these traps, consider the following actions:

· Make seamless handoffs and a consistent brand experience your top priorities when measuring effectiveness across channels.

· Select a technology partner that will support you now and where you want to go. Choose a platform that will work with you to achieve your business goals and is willing to give you the service level that you need to be successful.

· Prioritize site usability and user experience. According to a Forrester Research study, the majority of sites do not pass the user experience test, and that has a direct correlation to ROI. In fact, Forrester shows that on average, every dollar invested in online user experience brings $100 in return.

Understandably, the prospect of changing up e-commerce strategies is daunting, to say the least. However, retail brands that think strategically about their use of mobile during the summer, and are adequately prepared from a technology standpoint, will be the ones that come out with stronger brand engagement and higher sales at the end of the season.

Jonathan Roeder is VP of architecture at Mozu.

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With Rite Aid deal on track, Walgreens Boots Alliance Q3 sales hit $29.5 billion

BY Michael Johnsen

Walgreens Boots Alliance reported climbing sales and profits in a generally successful third quarter of fiscal 2016.

Adjusted net earnings attributable to Walgreens Boots Alliance per diluted share for the quarter increased 15.7% to $1.18 compared with the same quarter a year ago. Fiscal 2016 third quarter earnings adjustments were a net increase to GAAP net earnings attributable to Walgreens Boots Alliance of $185 million or 17 cents per diluted share. The retailer reported an adjusted net earnings increase of 14.7% to $1.3 billion for its third quarter ended May 31.

Net sales in the third quarter were $29.5 billion, an increase of 2.4% over the year-ago quarter, or 3.3% on a constant currency basis. Walgreens Boots Alliance's Retail Pharmacy USA division had third quarter total sales of $21.2 billion, an increase of 3.7% over the year-ago quarter. Sales in comparable stores increased 3.9% compared with the same quarter a year ago.

“We delivered solid results in the quarter while continuing to make progress in several key areas, including our work to develop long-term strategic relationships and pursue partnership opportunities," stated Stefano Pessina, Walgreens Boots Alliance executive vice chairman and CEO. "I’m pleased to report that since the quarter end we achieved our goal set four years ago of at least $1 billion in combined net synergies in fiscal year 2016 related to the strategic combination with Alliance Boots. This provides us with a strong platform to further enhance operating performance, to meet the challenges of the current volatility in many of our markets and to better position our company for long-term success.”

Combined net synergies were $330 million in the fiscal 2016 third quarter and $947 million in the first nine months of fiscal 2016. In June, the company achieved its goal set in 2012 to reach at least $1 billion in combined net synergies in fiscal 2016 relating to the strategic combination with Alliance Boots. This excludes the synergy benefits related to the company’s strategic, long-term relationship with AmerisourceBergen, the benefits of refinancing the legacy Alliance Boots indebtedness at a lower cost and the proposed Rite Aid acquisition.

Walgreens Boots Alliance GAAP operating cash flow totaled $2.1 billion in the third quarter, while the company generated free cash flow of $1.9 billion in the quarter.

Walgreens Boots Alliance’s proposed acquisition of Rite Aid Corporation, which was announced Oct. 27, 2015, is progressing as planned, the company stated. Walgreens Boots Alliance is continuing its integration planning and continues to expect the Rite Aid transaction to close in the second half of calendar 2016.

The company raised the lower end of its guidance for fiscal year 2016 by 10 cents per share and now anticipates adjusted net earnings per diluted share attributable to Walgreens Boots Alliance of $4.45 to $4.55.

Pharmacy sales across Walgreens Boots Alliance's Retail Pharmacy USA division, which accounted for 67.4% of the division’s total sales in the quarter, increased 5.8% compared with the year-ago quarter, while comparable pharmacy sales increased 6%. The division filled 235 million prescriptions (including immunizations) adjusted to 30-day equivalents in the quarter, an increase of 3.9% over last year’s third quarter.

Prescriptions filled in comparable stores increased 4.5% compared with the same quarter last year, primarily due to continued growth in Medicare Part D volume. The division’s retail prescription market share on a 30-day adjusted basis in the third quarter increased approximately 30 basis points over the year-ago quarter to 19.6%, as reported by IMS Health.

Comparable retail sales increased 0.1% in the third quarter compared with the year-ago period, primarily due to higher sales in the health and wellness and photo categories, partially offset by declines in certain convenience categories. The division is focused on profitable sales growth in future quarters, in part through a new, differentiated beauty offering. The first phase of these updates is in progress, with a rollout to more than 1,800 stores by the end of calendar 2016.

Retail Pharmacy International had third quarter total sales of $3.2 billion, a decrease of 2.3% over the year-ago quarter due to currency translation, with total sales increasing by 3.4% on a constant currency basis.

Pharmaceutical Wholesale had third quarter total sales of $5.7 billion, an increase of 0.7% over the year-ago quarter. In April, the company sold Alliance Healthcare Russia to the Russian health and beauty retailer 36.6 in return for a 15% stake in the combined group. On a constant currency basis, excluding acquisitions and dispositions, comparable sales increased 6.3%. This was ahead of the company’s estimate of market growth weighted on the basis of country wholesale sales, and was particularly strong in a number of emerging markets, Walgreens Boots Alliance reported.

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In-store technologies: Separating the ‘cool’ from the ‘creepy’

BY CSA STAFF

Smart mirrors are a ‘cool’ in-store technology, but facial recognition software is another story entirely.

Those are among the findings of a new survey by RichRelevance, a provider of omnichannel personalization technology. The company surveyed more than 2,000 U.S. and U.K. consumers about how technology can impact their in-store shopping experience, highlighting the differences between what shoppers thought was ‘cool’ and ‘creepy’.

On the ‘cool' side of the equation, 47% of respondents thought fingerprint technology that would allow them to pay for goods and get automatic home delivery would be cool. More than six in 10 (62%) want to be able to scan a product on their device to see reviews and recommendations for other items they may like. And 42% would like to see interactive changing room mirrors that model potential outfits on their image.

Not all in-store technologies possess the cool factor. Seventy-five percent of shoppers thought that facial recognition software that would allow them to be targeted in-store with relevant offers was “creepy." (This is down slightly from 77% in RichRelevance's 2015 survey, which the company says may indicate changing attitudes as this technology becomes more prevalent.)

Also not cool: being greeted by name by a sales associate. Seventy-five percent of respondents said it is ‘creepy' for a sales assistant to greet them by name in store, if their mobile phone or tablet device had signaled their presence.

In other findings:

• Slightly more than half (52%) of respondents are open to receiving pop-up offers on their mobile device, triggered when they enter a store.

• Another 43% would like to receive a digital coupon for a product they looked at but didn’t buy after leaving the store, while 42% would like to see interactive changing room mirrors that model potential outfits on their image. And one-third of shoppers want would like to see product recommendations included on print or email receipts that relates to their purchase.

“Smart changing rooms tend to be trialed in far-flung pilot stores, but clearly there is now a real appetite for more ambitious interactive technologies in-store,” said Matthew Chouard, VP and general manager of Rich Relevance. “There’s no reason why the personalized recommendations being given to shoppers via tablet devices on the shop floor can’t be translated to enhance the changing room experience too. By ignoring this changing room, retailers are missing an opportunity to better serve customers and ultimately, sell more product.”

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