TECHNOLOGY

Study: Q4 stands out as time of digital commerce ‘firsts’

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

The fourth quarter of 2017 marked significant digital milestones, including the highest rates of mobile usage, discounts and buying intent.

Mobile shoppers flexed their muscle in the fourth quarter as traffic and order share hit all-time highs of 60% and 39%, respectively, according to the “2017 Q4 Shopping Index,” a report from Salesforce.

According to data, sales growth values also were staggering, as all of the growth in traffic and orders came from mobile. Computers and tablets saw either flat or declining growth in both KPIs, but mobile saw 43% growth in orders, and 25% growth in traffic. This sets the tone going forward: Retailers’ roadmaps should begin and end with optimizing everything – everything – for mobile.

Discount rates are highest in Q4, (thanks to Cyber Week) but this quarter’s discount rates broke records even for this peak shopping period. The average discount rate was 23%, a 9% increase over the same period last year. Shoppers received some amazing deals as peak days within the quarter saw average discount rates creep towards 30%, data revealed.

Shopping visits during Q4 were some of the “most intentional,” as well with shoppers registering the highest levels of buying intent on record. Eighteen percent of traffic produced a buying signal, such as searching for a product, adding a product to cart or starting a checkout, during their visit.

Even 20% of shoppers using tablets, which continue to see traffic declines, displayed buying signals. In fact, tablets represented the strongest buying signals of all three devices. Meanwhile, the share of visits that resulted in a purchase rose by 10% overall, with mobile seeing the highest year-over-year gain of 17%, the study reported.

“For the majority of 2017, digital commerce showed increasing signs of maturity, marked by growing shopper spend and flat traffic growth,” the report said. “In the fourth quarter, though, the script was flipped, with shoppers piling into digital due mostly to the Christmas/Holiday season, driving traffic growth above shopper spend growth. But beyond traffic growth, Q4 stood out as a period of firsts for digital commerce.”

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TECHNOLOGY

Report: Boxed exec leaving amid sale discussions with Amazon, Kroger

BY CSA Staff

A retailer that sells bulk groceries, household products and other items online is losing the head of its fastest-growing business unit.

Behzad Soltani, the VP and general manager of Boxed’s business-to-business division, is leaving the company to take a C-level role at another company, reported ReCode.

According to the report, Soltani joined the e-retailer’s executive team in July. Prior to joining Boxed, he was VP and general manager, digital strategy and e-commerce at Keurig Green Mountain. Prior to that he spent more than 12 years at Staples. Most recently, he served three years as the company’s VP, global e-commerce and business development.

The news about Soltani’s departure comes amid acquisition discussions. Both Amazon and Kroger Co. are interested in purchasing Boxed.

To read more, click here.

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TECHNOLOGY

How to Ensure Network Connectivity Across Stores

BY Mark Savage

Most stores utilize a vast amount of technologies to keep running smoothly. In order to remain competitive, retailers are embracing mobile, Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to deliver an in-store and customer experience that wasn’t possible before.

Whether used to connect modern point of sale (POS) systems, digital signs or kiosks, improving the quality of retail operations requires a deep reliance on network connectivity.

Indeed, a strong Internet connection is an essential lifeline for stores. The days of using a piece of paper to track inventory and mark sales are gone, and more technologies like ATMS and kiosks rely on WiFi to function.

Unfortunately, many occurrences, like damaged lines and system crashes, can instantly take a store or many stores offline if they’re all on the same network. These outages can ruin a retailer’s bottom line, as analysts calculate that for each minute a POS system is down, it costs retailer $4,700.

Aside from revenue loss, the long-term effect of outages is another concern. Customer wait times for service increase, causing dissatisfaction in service. This in turn can deter new customers from entering the store and old customers from returning. While waiting in line, customers may use social media to express their frustration, which quickly damages a store’s reputation.

Retailers have the opportunity to proactively prepare for interrupted network connectivity and avoid the side effects of disconnected connectivity. Retailers need dependable means to ensure the Internet is running across all their stores with uniform solutions, such as:

LTE router with failover cellular to maximize uptime
Retailers shouldn’t rely on their primary landline-based connection as their only source of connectivity. In order to avoid costly outages, they should implement a cellular failover solution. If the primary source goes out, the failover cellular network kicks in immediately, just like a generator for your house. When the power goes out, the generator kicks in.

When disconnection occurs, a wireless connection ensures connections are automatically switched to 3G or 4G LTE. Most wireless operations offer a “four-nines” connection, ensuring 99.99 percent reliability – meaning that when the fixed line goes down, a business has assured connectivity. On-premise wireless routers have the ability to connect with multiple carriers, which is advantageous if one network is down or if an area has spotty coverage from a certain carrier.

An LTE router allows for scalability across chain store locations and enables synergies with administration and implementation. Network technicians can monitor and make repairs remotely, which reduces the cost of repair times, network downtime and overall cost from the retailer when we consider the time needed for technicians to travel and complete network repairs and updates onsite.

Another bonus of using this technology is that cellular data plans are less expensive, more reliable and faster than a wireline. Purchasing a pooled data plan can greatly reduce annual costs.

Separate networks to secure data for consumers and retailers
Consumers expect to access high-speed Internet within stores, and with more devices connecting to a store’s WiFi than ever before, there is also an increased risk of security threats. Eighty-eight percent of retailer (according to 2017 Thales Data Threat Report, Retail Edition)
were vulnerable to data breaches in 2017, with 60% claiming they had been breached and 75% of consumers believe that keeping shopper information safe is the retailer’s responsibility.

By offering various networks that have separate connectivity routes for the main and other offered networks, retailers can leverage network diversity to guarantee continuity for themselves and their customers, while keeping information separate and secure. Investing in separate networks for consumer Internet use and the point-of-sale and asset management systems allows shoppers to register on the in-store WiFi, which provides them with the opportunity to link their identity with beacon data on the same networks. This enables shoppers to browse freely, while also allowing the marketing system to send shoppers personalized offers based on their browsing habits without putting the store’s sensitive data at risk.

BYON solution brings connectivity to locations with no fixed-line capability
To extend their brand presence in a cost-effective manner, retailers are introducing kiosks and digital signs, so they can remotely swap out content. These techniques can skyrocket business as 76% of consumers say they entered a store based off of seeing a digital sign, and 46% of retailers (according to a study by Technavio) rely on kiosks for sales. While these sales tactics allow retailers to deliver an omnichannel shopping experience and increase consumer touchpoints, they have also brought a new set of challenges given the lack of fixed-line connectivity.

Bring-your-own-network (BYON) is the simplest solution as it takes advantage of the benefits of cellular primary connectivity, can be quickly set up and reduces security risk. Digital signs and kiosks can use cellular modems as a single point of connection on each display or as an aggregation point when combined with secure WiFi, depending on the location and density of deployment, the possibility of WiFi being overloaded and the possibility of traffic interference. Each installation can be assessed based on cost, usage security and location.

The versatility of the solution means that signage and kiosks can be placed anywhere and repositioned easily as layouts change. Digital signs and kiosks use completely separate networks from corporate network and can be managed from a central point, making continuous availability of connectivity secure and convenient.

The bottom line: chain retailers are becoming more dependent on connectivity for simple, day-to-day operations and to offer enhanced service to shoppers. With the proactive connectivity solutions available, there’s no reason to miss out on sales due to downtime. Many solutions are now easy to setup and maintain and offer retailers peace-of-mind knowing that if their primary connection goes down, their business won’t have to go down with it.

Mark Savage is director of channel sales for Accelerated Concepts.

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