TECHNOLOGY

Local retailers were ‘big business’ for Amazon in 2017

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) selling on Amazon Marketplace rang up big sales in 2017.

In 2017, more than 300,000 U.S.-based small and medium-sized businesses joined the Amazon Marketplace — a network comprised of companies that operate in every state in the U.S., and more than 130 countries around the world. More than 140,000 of these small and medium-sized businesses surpassed $100,000 in sales on Amazon in 2017.

Customers ordered “billions of items” from these businesses through Amazon’s Marketplace. More than one billion items were purchased during the holiday season, and more than 140 million items were ordered between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, according to the company.

Other SMB milestones achieved in 2017 include:

• Fulfillment by Amazon shipped billions of items worldwide.

• Amazon Lending, a program launched in 2011, surpassed $3 billion lent to small businesses on Amazon.

• Amazon Handmade expanded to encompass 10 categories offering customers more than one million handcrafted items from thousands of artisans and small business owners across all 50 states, and more than 60 countries.

“More and more small and medium-sized businesses are choosing to join the Amazon Marketplace and sell alongside Amazon to reach customers around the world,” said Peter Faricy, VP for Amazon Marketplace. “Entrepreneurs and small business owners are succeeding on Amazon, and reinvesting in their local communities, efforts which create jobs and support local suppliers.”

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TECHNOLOGY

Study: Shopping is ‘habit-forming’ for Prime members

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Amazon’s Prime members are the site’s “super users.”

Almost 60% of customers shop on Amazon weekly, however Prime members are stepping up the frequency as they are more than twice as likely to shop online daily than regular consumers. For example, 6% of non-Prime Amazon members that shopped online daily, compared to 15% of Amazon Prime members, according to “Getting to Know Your Customers: Amazon User Study,” a report from Feedvisor.

Of the 1,500 Amazon shoppers surveyed, 85% of Prime members browse for products at least once a week, and nearly half (45%) make a purchase at least once a week — about half of the number who browse weekly. Thirteen percent of non-Prime members purchase on Amazon at least once a week — this is just under a quarter of those who report weekly browsing.

It is becoming more evident that Amazon customers are increasingly market-savvy. Customers’ top reason for visiting Amazon is to compare prices for items they intended to purchase (51%). Only about one-third of Amazon users go to Amazon ready to buy, and three-quarters of Amazon users will start their shopping journey with the Amazon search box. Other shoppers spend more time on the site researching products, comparing prices and browsing daily deals.

When it comes to research, more than 95% of all Amazon users report that they always or sometimes read full product descriptions before purchasing. Just under 80% said they always or often check third-party seller ratings when buying from a third-party seller, the report said.

Almost two-thirds of Amazon shoppers (65%) rank price as the most important factor (above faster shipping, free shipping and better product assortment) when purchasing on the site.

Prime members were also much more likely than non-Prime members to visit Amazon to browse deals and daily discounts (49% of Prime members compared to 32% of non-Prime members), and check delivery speed (21% compared to 10%). Prime eligibility is also an important consideration for Prime members, which 35% report checking before making a purchase.

“Customers take advantage of the platform for browsing products, deals, comparing prices and checking availability and delivery speed,” the report said. “Amazon is used for these purposes much more than Walmart, eBay, Alibaba and Jet.”

While desktops remain the most popular method for shopping online (51%), mobile is rapidly gaining ground with 47% of customers using mobile devices, up from 41% last year. Amazon Prime members shop on mobile more than non-Prime members, and are more likely to use Amazon’s mobile app than non-Prime members. Half of Prime members shop using mobile, of which nearly a quarter use Amazon’s mobile app — compared to just 14% of non-Prime members, the study revealed.

“These statistics conclusively show the growth of mobile commerce and the importance of optimizing websites for mobile use,” the report said. “Sellers who have not yet enhanced the shopping experience for mobile users should make it a priority.”

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TECHNOLOGY

CSA Q&A with Ulta Beauty CIO

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Diane Randolph, CIO of retail powerhouse Ulta Beauty, is among a distinguished group of female retail tech executives. It’s a network that continues to grow, and one that Chain Store Age honors in its annual feature, “Top 10 Women in Retail Tech.”

Randolph was a member of Chain Store Age’s sophomore class of honorees in 2015 — the year after she joined Ulta as CIO. Before that, she served as VP, CIO at Canada’s Reitman’s Ltd., for almost a decade.

Chain Store Age recently spoke with Randolph, who discussed her career path and shared insights for succeeding in retail tech.

CSA: What qualities would you say make you an innovator?
Randolph: I am extremely fortunate to be part of an organization that continually challenges itself to look for new ways to surprise and delight our guests. At Ulta Beauty, my team and I are encouraged to leverage our talents and experience and look for ways that we can provide technology solutions that enhance human interactions — for both our guests and our associates.

Collaborating across the entire organization has helped develop initiatives that look at all angles of an idea and that include many points of view. I’m particularly proud of the work we have done in building a mobile app that complements and enriches our in-store experience by offering features like GlamLab, which allows guests to virtually try products.

CSA: How has your career changed, and what keeps you motivated?
Randolph: IT, at its very core, is ever-changing. To continue succeeding in the field, IT professionals must thrive on the evolution and the challenges it presents.

Throughout my career, I have had many opportunities to learn and develop new skills — from training, development and management to executive leadership — all of which have offered exciting challenges that helped build my career. Earlier in my career, I also moved from providing solutions and services at a software company to a retail company that consumed those products and services — this was one of my most important choices.

I gained a critical advantage in seeing operations from both sides. I am able to impart what I’ve learned in building my team. Being able to shape and develop new retail IT leaders gives me my greatest satisfaction.

CSA: What advice would you give other female executives eager to achieve IT success?
Randolph: Being an IT executive today requires skills across many dimensions. My advice is to experience as many roles as possible, both within the IT domain as well as among other areas of your organization.

Exposure to different points of view is the key to continual learning and improvement. I also believe that networking is a powerful resource to be nurtured. Participating in retail CIO councils is also tremendously rewarding.

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