The Lookout

Arguing the future of CPG category management

It’s useful to see an argument in support of category management since some people have already concluded that being shopper-centric requires moving away from the traditional product/category orientation in order to organize around shoppers’ needs for CPGs. The “net” winners of this debate will have a significant impact on how retail analysis of data creates value for shoppers, retailers, and suppliers in the future. 

Sears launches its marketplace

In the new “Fulfilled by Sears” program, the retailer seeks to leverage their extensive IT and distribution capabilities by offering an online marketplace experience. Third-party sellers will be able to get exposure to “Shop Your Way” rewards customers, and Sears will handle fulfillment.  We think the new venture has a lot going for it but we also have some questions.

Amazon vs. Safeway

like magicFood for thought: Mark Rogowsky does a nice job of defining the challenge of keeping up with state-of-the-art 21st century retailers in his recent Forbes article, Amazon and Safeway: Magic vs. Maddening.  Rogowsky compares his Amazon experience, which continues to focus relentlessly on shopper satisfaction, to his experience at his local Safeway, where his frequency of visits has diminished from  “regular” to “once a month or so” over the last several years.

Foursquare's effort to transform the shopping experience

Foursquare Labs Inc., the startup that created an app enabling people to “check-in” their current location via smartphone, seems to be positioning itself in the thick of efforts to transform the shopping experience. They’re rapidly evolving from a check-in tool into a search app that helps create new sources of value for shoppers from geo-location data.

Getting smarter about tracking retail returns

blue dressWhen big data analysis gets applied to apparel returns, some shoppers are going to find out that “wear/use-and-return” scams will not be as easy to pull off. This practice costs retailers a lot of money (about $8.9 billion in 2012), but many have accepted it as a cost of doing business. See how data is making it possible to get smarter with tracking and even preventing retail returns.

Coalition loyalty programs on the rise

Loyalty programs are moving in the direction of coalition vs. single operator programs.  It’s easy to see the shopper benefits - shoppers earn rewards quicker and get multi-channel convenience at the same time. We expect, however, that coalition programs are more likely to grow organically rather than sweeping across the market with as a comprehensive change.

What’s the potential of same day delivery?

same dayDo shoppers really want/value same day delivery? When the Boston Consulting Group asked if same day delivery improved the online shopping experience, only young high-income urban dwellers (yes, Yuppies) responded with enthusiasm. We’re not so sure things will stay this way though.

Hointer: automation creating a better shopping experience

HointerAt Hointer former Amazon technology VP Nadia Shouraboura aims to combine the best features of online and brick-and-mortar shopping and “get rid of the worst.”  Shouraboura is working hard to “eliminate the friction points,” and she calls Hointer “truly and experiment in innovation.” The Seattle store is interesting on so many levels and definitely worth your time to learn more about.

Projections for the Sharing Economy

sharing economyTimes are changing. High transaction costs used to limit the number of sellers in the market, but not any more. The internet has made it possible for many more people to become sellers – and renters. The net result is what some call the "Sharing Economy" and it is getting the attention of shoppers and other stakeholders in the commercial marketplace.

Pivot point: what if you think of a store as product?

car buyingApple recently won a patent to protect their retail store design, and Denise Lee Yohn quickly grasped the significance of this new pivot point: It completely changes the way we think about physical stores, how we differentiate them, and the role that differentiation plays. Here’s the provocative suggestion she offers retailers in her recent Chain Store Age article: “What if we considered our stores as products?

Shifting gears in car shopping and buying

car buyingChanges are on the horizon for car sales. A recent Wall Street Journal article describes the current status this way: “dealers are still learning how digitally savvy customers behave.” Ironically, new car buyers spent 12.5% more time negotiating deals in 2012 than they did in 2010, even though they averaged 18 hours of online research before the purchase – why?

Social media vs. traditional online

wins with shoppersWho wins the shopper and what’s the marketing value of social media vs. traditional online sources of information?  New research from Radius Global Market Research suggests there’s no single answer, but it does blow away some of the haze.  Overall, understanding specifically how your current and prospective customers are using information sources, will help you meet them where they are.

Grocery and digital shopper marketing

Cargill ground beefFor food retailers who are used to “drafting” behind CPG marketing efforts, the generally low level of CPG enthusiasm/investment in digital shopper marketing can be confusing.  Currently, only a few grocery retailers see what is happening and are using their own marketing dollars to fund highly-efficient digital shopper marketing, but retailers’ objectives are quite different than those of their suppliers. For retailers who are interested in doing more with digital marketing, here are two key suggestions.