TECHNOLOGY

Books-A-Million writes a new chapter on employee, customer engagement

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

A book retailer is improving its business operations through feedback from both employees and customers.

Books-A-Million, which operates 260 stores across 32 states and the District of Columbia, needed a new way to gain business insights. Using a platform from Service Management Group (SMG), the company has a new way to listen to employee and customer experiences to drive business results.

Using SMG Associate Voice, the company can better understand the employee lifecycle and experience, including identifying key drivers impacting employee engagement, opportunities to improve training and how managers can help employees reach their full potential. In addition to enhancing the employee experience, Associate Voice captures employee feedback during key retail periods to help Books-A-Million optimize the customer experience.

The retailer is also using SMV Visit View, a location-level customer experience survey, to capture customer feedback via point-of-sale receipts and email invitations. Through the solution’s reporting dashboard and mobile app, support center associates can tap into employee feedback while store managers have location-specific areas for focus and access to real-time customer feedback.

“As we looked to advance our business, it was apparent we needed not only a robust technology platform but also an engaged partner that would take the time to understand our business, our employees and our customers,” said Misty Fontenot, Books-A-Million senior VP of store operations. “Following a long-standing relationship with a customer experience technology provider, what really stood out about SMG was its unique ability to provide both technology and insights.”

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TECHNOLOGY

Amazon investing in British tech talent

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Amazon is focused on bolstering its innovation network across the U.K.

In addition to opening a new corporate office in Manchester, England, in 2019, Amazon will also increase the capacity of its development centers in Edinburgh and Cambridge. The new investments will provide additional capacity for over 1,000 new highly-skilled technology roles in the U.K.

The new corporate office in Manchester, which will be located in the city’s iconic Hanover Building, will be a six-story, 90,000 sq. ft. site. It will also employ at least 600 employees who will work on projects benefitting Amazon’s customers around the world, including software development, machine learning and research and development. This work will complement existing efforts happening at Development Centers in London, Cambridge and Edinburgh.

The expansion of Amazon’s Development Centre in Edinburgh will encompass three floors in the city’s Waverley Gate building, and employ more than 250 new professionals focused on new advertising technology and personalized shopping recommendations. These efforts will also complement the “hundreds” of software engineers, machine learning scientists and user experience designers already working at the Scotland Development Centre.

Meanwhile, investments in Amazon’s Cambridge Development Centre will create capacity for an additional 180 new roles. The facility already houses R&D teams that bring new consumer innovations including Amazon devices; Amazon Alexa; AWS; Prime Air, and core machine learning and retail systems.

“With the UK taking a leading role in our global innovation, we are delighted to announce plans to create capacity for over 1,000 new highly-skilled roles across the country,” said Doug Gurr, UK Country Manager, Amazon. “These are Silicon Valley jobs in Britain, and further cement our long-term commitment to the U.K.”

Another technology project that Amazon may be considering in the U.K is price-comparison site for healthcare, according to Reuters.

One source revealed that Amazon would contribute products to a British price comparison website, a move that would give the online giant a foothold into the region’s financial services. Another source denied any immediate plans to launch a site, Reuters reported.

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E-commerce giant celebrates 10th anniversary in a big way

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Alibaba Group is celebrating its 10th global shopping holiday by expanding the global event’s scale and reach.

The e-retailer kicked off Singles Day pre-sale activities on Friday. During this month-long campaign, the company’s key businesses will offer “hundreds of millions” of consumers in and outside of China high-quality products, entertainment and fast, reliable services. This year, 180,000 brands from China and around the world are expected to participate in the 11.11 Global Shopping Festival event.

To expand the breadth of this year’s sale, Alibaba is using its e-commerce sites and physical stores to highlight the company’s New Retail strategy, which melds the online and offline consumer retail experiences through technology. For example, the company’s Tmall e-commerce site will offer 500,000 items for pre-order starting Oct. 20, and promotional coupons will be available via Mobile Taobao and Mobile Tmall.

Alibaba is also leveraging 200,000 smart stores in China across the apparel, fast-moving consumer goods, beauty products, automobile and home décor industries to boost traffic to offline and online shopping destinations. Tmall Global will provides 3,700 categories of imported goods from 75 countries and regions on its platform.

TMall World, AliExpress and Lazada will also bring Singles Day to “hundreds of millions” of overseas users. For example, Lazada will host its first 11.11 Shopping Festival for customers in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam, according to the company.

Meanwhile, Hema, Alibaba’s New Retail supermarket chain, will designate 11.11 signature stores, each featuring a number of promotions. And RT-Mart will fully equip its nearly 400 stores with New Retail capabilities.

The company did not reveal a sales forecast.

“Two years ago, New Retail was first launched, and since then we have explored and embraced New Retail. Double 11 is a great opportunity to showcase our progress so far,” said Alibaba Group CEO Daniel Zhang. “The festival’s astounding growth over the past decade has powered the steady rise in quality consumption sought by Chinese shoppers. The evolution also showcases the development of the Alibaba ecosystem over time, expanding well beyond e-commerce.”

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