TECHNOLOGY

Study: Loyalty members still value fuel savings over cash-back rewards

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

When it comes to loyalty rewards, customers want their programs to deliver savings at the gas pump.

For the third year in a row, loyalty consumers in the United States ranked fuel savings as their preferred loyalty currency (39%) over cash-back rewards (35%), according to “The Road to Rewards 2017,” a study from loyalty marketing and technology firm Excentus Corp. and Ipsos.

The ability for loyalty programs to influence customer behavior is on the rise, with 36% of consumers — compared to 26% in 2016 — shopping more frequently at stores where they can earn fuel savings. And fuel savings currency is steadily increasing.

Memberships in fuel loyalty programs have risen 10% in the past two years, with 64% of Americans participating in a program that helps them save on the cost of gas. Up from 54% in 2015 and 59% in 2016, no other specialty loyalty program or reward type in the U.S. has enjoyed comparable growth in this time span, the study revealed.

This also offers opportunities to retailers, as 20% of consumers reported shopping specifically at stores where they can earn rewards that help them save on the cost of fuel, and 22% will shop exclusively at a convenience store where they are a loyalty program member.

Fuel savings also drive higher consumer engagement, as shoppers that earn and redeem fuel savings (30%) visit every few weeks or monthly versus those who prefer cash-back (29%).

Consumers want to save on fuel regardless of gas prices: 73% stated it is important to earn rewards that save on fuel when the price of gas rises, and 58% echoed the identical sentiment when the price of gas falls. This demonstrates that gas prices remain top-of-mind, even in a stable economy, and consumers look to their loyalty programs to save money and add value to their everyday transactions.

Meanwhile, 31% of consumers (up 20% from last year) use their loyalty program’s mobile app to manage their rewards, including redemption — by far the largest jump of any channel, the study said.

“Cents-per-gallon fuel savings are the currency most likely to increase frequency, customer interactions and new revenue opportunities,” said Brandon Logsdon, CEO, Excentus.

“Fuel is a predictable, consistent and repeated expense, and discounts at the pump have a direct impact on consumers’ wallets,” added Logsdon. “The unique relationship consumers have with this commodity makes fuel savings a near universal and highly relevant reward currency.”

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TECHNOLOGY

Report: Technology lets customers vet Amazon sellers pre-purchase

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Customers have a new way to validate Amazon seller ratings before they even spend a dollar.

A new technology solution is giving shoppers an accurate and complete picture of Amazon sellers. The solution brings relevant reviews to the surface that may otherwise be buried, directing shoppers to the most trustworthy sellers, according to CNBC.

The technology, called ReconBob, from 3PM Solutions, debunks any inaccuracies in Amazon seller ratings. While Amazon’s site may display high seller ratings, low-rated reviews may be buried, and out of sight of prospective buyers. By downloading ReconBob, customers have armor against a poor customer experience.

Here’s how it works: Customers download ReconBob, a plug-in for Google’s Chrome browser.  As customers search for merchandise on Amazon, ReconBob approval ratings are displayed in the results. Shoppers can also open a specific product page, and click on the ReconBob icon for further details, including why it is approved or reviews from unhappy customers regarding product quality or customer service.

The technology also reveals relevant reviews, including if merchants are selling expired goods, featuring used products as new items, offering knockoffs, or if items come with broken seals, according to the report.

The tool could come in handy to ensure the safety of consumables and other consumer packaged goods sold by third parties. Over half the items sold on Amazon, including sensitive items like food and skincare products, come from third-party sellers.

Rob Dunkel, founder of 3PM Solutions, told CNBC, “It helps them understand who they’re buying from on Amazon and creates transparency. We want consumers to look and learn a little more about who the seller is.”

ReconBob could also help in the fight against counterfeit merchandise. Amazon competitor eBay is already taking a stand against counterfeiters hiding behind its online marketplace. For example, eBay recently launched eBay Authenticate, a program that uses third-party industry experts to authenticate luxury handbags and exploit any counterfeit merchandise. The marketplace plans to expand the program to other categories this year.

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TECHNOLOGY

Study: Search engine giant garners most retail search ad spend

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

When it comes to digital shopping ad spend, Google is leading the charge.

Currently, Google Shopping, a service that allows users to search for products on e-commerce sites and compare prices between different vendors, is driving 80% of all retail search ad spend and 85% of all paid search clicks, according to “The Rise of Google Shopping, The Search Advertising Report, for Q1 2018,” from Adthena, an artificial intelligence and machine learning-based search platform.

According to the study, Google Shopping ads, commonly referred to as Product Listing Ads (PLAs), have become the most popular ad format for retailers, with ad spend now far more than text ads. In 2018, Google Shopping ads already drive 76.4% of retail search ad spend. In addition, 76.4% of search spend generated 85.3% of all clicks.

Fashion and apparel advertisers in the United States are the most dedicated users of Google Shopping ads. Their PLAs fuel 84.6% of all search ad spend in the category, and win nearly 90% (89.7%) of all clicks.

Mobility is also playing a role within PLA penetration. Mobile PLAs make up 38.6% of a retailer’s total search ad spend, and PLA mobile campaigns received 41.8% of all clicks in retail search advertising. Google shopping ads on mobile also drove 79% of device ad spend and win 87.2% of clicks.

Clicks on shopping ads are driven by non-brand search terms — but not by much. In the U.S., branded search terms fueled 33.6% of Google Shopping ad spend, as opposed to the 76.4% across all search.

“The dominance Google Shopping ads have in search is incredible,” said Ashley Fletcher, VP of marketing, Adthena. “From desktop to mobile, our data reveals that Google Shopping ads have become the most attractive units for retailer advertisers and are truly setting the stage in terms of search.”

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