28 July 2017

Three Ways to Counteract the “Retail Apocalypse”

In May 1897, Mark Twain was on a world speaking tour. While in London, he heard that an American newspaper had printed his obituary. When told about this, Twain remarked, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”

The retail industry could say the same.

Despite ongoing reports of store closings and retail bankruptcies in publications ranging from The Motley Fool to CNN to The Wall Street Journal, the “Retail Apocalypse” may be exaggerated.

It is true that we have seen the likes of Sports Authority, Rue21, The Limited, Wet Seal, and BCBG Max Azria file for bankruptcy protection. In addition, many department stores, such as Sears, Macy’s and JC Penney have closed locations. However, the so-called “Retail Bloodbath” may not mean an end to brick-and-mortar stores.

In fact, the US Census Bureau recently reported that retail sales were up nearly 4% in the first six months of 2017, compared with the same period last year.

These data suggest that multi-channel retail—including brick-and-mortar stores—is not going away. So, how can retailers stay afloat and even excel at both traditional and digital shopping? The key is to bridge the online and offline gap. You need to re-create the offline experience online. And, in turn, generate an “endless aisle” experience in the store.

Help customers move smoothly between channels

Use your online experience and interactions to drive foot traffic to brick-and-mortar stores. Email, push notifications, and social media all provide you with opportunities to promote local discounts, products, and events that can drive shoppers to stores. Store locators, product reservation tools, and ship-to-store options can boost revenue, while increasing convenience for the shopper. And there is that added benefit: while the customer is in your store to pick up that special item, it is likely that they will acquire additional items on impulse.

This can also apply in the other direction. If a product is out of stock in your store, “endless aisle” technology can allow your customer to order the item online while standing next to the shelf. Integrated IT systems mean that customers can return online orders in-store instead of having to mail them back and wait for a replacement or refund.

Use online interactions to enrich your customers’ in-store experiences

Successful retailers are using information from online channels in their offline marketing. For example, Best Buy displays product reviews and ratings on the shelf next to the product. Providing consistent product data across channels ensures that customers who found a great product online can find that same item in-store. By improving SEO and enriching product information, Primeau Velo was able to decrease customer online search time and increase in-store sales simply because shoppers could more easily find products they were seeking.

Another tactic is to personalize catalogs, adverts, and mailers based on online data. When retailers can draw insights from online interactions, printed materials can extend the digital experience and provide a seamless customer journey—from e-commerce to catalog to conversion.

Integrate your online and offline product information

Regardless of your retail industry, all your markets and channels need to tell the same story. This way, your customers will encounter a consistent brand and product experience no matter where they start their journey.

But to accomplish this, you need a single source of accurate product information.

When your catalog production in Europe can draw from the same information as your e-commerce engine in the U.S., you can go to market more quickly with new seasons or assortments. You have the means to enrich your product content so you are relevant to customers no matter which channel they are using. You can also more easily align offline experiences and online interactions, creating a consistent and satisfying customer experience.

The result? You build stronger relationships with your customers and realize higher sales and greater customer loyalty.

 - Kathryn Zwack, Sr. Content Marketing Manager, inRiver

18 July 2017

How to Pop-up Successfully

Just because retail stores are experiencing some hard times does not mean that shoppers aren’t making purchases. It is true that US retail sales fell again in June 2017 (by 0.2%) after a small decline in May (by 0.1%). However, two months of small declines after 16 months of increases may not yet be a “trend.” Let’s wait and see. Summer vacations may spur some impulse vacation shopping and spending in restaurants and at summer resorts.

In the meantime, let’s look at a trend that does seem to have some upward momentum—pop-up shops. Vogue calls pop-up shops the future of shopping. With some retailers leaving malls and store-fronts due to a myriad of reasons—downsizing, bankruptcy, and changes in marketing and sales strategy—pop-up shops are taking advantage of these vacancies. Some retailers are now hesitant to sign long-term leases, leaving more locations available for pop-up shops.

Goals of Pop-up Shops
Constructing a pop-up shop can provide you with many benefits. For retailers who are selling only online, having a popup shop can provide that “touch and feel” opportunity for customers to interact with their products. The increase in foot traffic can raise visibility and brand awareness. Pop-up shops can help you to create a deeper relationship with your customers—building loyalty or showing your appreciation for their business. You can test a new market and educate prospective customers on your product line. In addition, you may be striving for “Boundaryless Retail”—a notion introduced by Mindy Grossman of HSNi—the expansion of products into more and more channels.

Location of Your Pop-up Shop
How do you decide where and when to erect your Pop-up Shop? Economics, such as the cost of rent, marketing, and inventory, will likely have a huge impact on your decision. However, store-fronts and malls with high foot traffic that are close to your target demographic should be considered.

Products That Work Well for Pop-up Retail
When we think of pop-up shops, we invariably think of temporary Hallowe’en and Christmas stores. It is true that seasonal products are a good option for pop-up shops. However, other products are also conducive to this format. Products that are an impulse buy, have a lower price point, or offer the shopper a taste of affordable luxury are good possibilities for pop-up shop success. In addition, products that support the urgency to buy are also promising. After all, the pop-up shop is only there for a limited time!

Get Started with Your Pop-up Shop
inRiver PRIME Partner, Sophelle, recently published their latest Focus Report, entitled “Boundaryless Commerce: Pop-up Retail.” We invite you to learn more about the strategies, tactics, and technologies that are available to support you in this effort. Don’t miss this trend and opportunity! Download the report today.

13 July 2017

5 Absolute musts for taking your products to market successfully: 5. Refine your product stories with inRiver insights


Must nr 5: Refine your product stories with inRiver insights

Having a central product information management system makes it easy to bring products to market quickly, individually and in large volumes. The system is home to the agreed product story along with all the detail and imagery, tagged and categorized based on its place in the assortment.

This means product marketers and marketing managers have a single source of the truth and don’t have to waste time compiling inaccurate, inconsistent information from disparate sources. They simply share information and export what they need.  This means that you can also refine your product stories based on how consumers react to them and go from insight to action, or even enter a new market in weeks instead of months, new products can be live on a website and ready to be ordered in hours – and you can scale based on demand.

Consortio Fashion Group sells well-known brands like Halens, Cellbes and Bubbleroom in over 10 European markets and through 31 e-commerce sites. The product information management system gives Consortio full control over all assortments, significantly reducing time to market and marketing production costs.

Think big……start small……scale fast

Jimmy Ekbäck, Executive Vice President Product & Services, inRiver

5 Absolute musts for taking your products to market successfully: 4. Publish & Syndicate


Must nr 4: Publish & Syndicate

In a digital and distributed commerce age, the sales process is moving from the physical stores and traditional marketplaces to the Internet. The digital markets - where people go to seek information and shop for products -  are available 24/7 in different forms and shapes. Some are small and niched. Others, like Amazon, are simply huge and omni-present.

In this digital reality, the consumer oversees how, when, and where they purchase products.  Thus, Product Marketers in the digital commerce era are urged to provide quality product information in a mix of attracting and converting channels. These channels can be eCommerce sites, marketplaces, printed catalogs, social media, or any other touch point where the consumers are seeking to educate themselves about the products they want to buy.

To meet the increasing demand for product information, you need a system for helping you facilitate the process of getting the information published in a variety of sales channels. This process is often referred to as syndication. Syndication ensures that product content gets exported in the right format, at the right time, to the right place, and in an automated fashion.

Jimmy Ekbäck, Executive Vice President Product & Services, inRiver

5 Absolute musts for taking your products to market successfully: 3. Inspiring Product Stories


Must nr 3: Inspiring Product Stories

You will build your reputation for authority and knowledge when you promote enriched product information across channels and markets. Think about the number of touchpoints that involve product information. It’s not just about point of sale, catalogs and ecommerce – it’s about online retail portals, mobile marketing and social media updates.

When you have a central source of enriched product information, you have a goldmine full of unique and flexible content that’s easy to optimize into stories for each channel and market. You go beyond the industry standard – for example, providing Amazon with basic information in certain fields – and stand out because you’re showing an in-depth understanding of your customers and how your product fits into their context. When you juggle large assortments, multiple channels and disparate geographies, information generally comes from many sources, from supplier portals and ERP systems to individual documents, spreadsheets and image files spread across different teams. This means it can take hours, days or even weeks to compile product information for a launch, and it’s easy to end up with inaccuracy and inconsistency.

Having a central repository of product information, it becomes a single source of the truth. It saves a lot of time while helping you deliver a better customer experience. Würth is a prime example. They sell assembly and fastening materials for the trade and construction sectors. By moving to a central product information management system – which integrates with its enterprise and content management systems – new products can be live on the website and ready to order in just 2 hours.

Jimmy Ekbäck, Executive Vice President Product & Services, inRiver

5 Absolute musts for taking your products to market successfully: 2. Collaboration

Must nr 2: Collaboration

As a Product Marketer, there’s pressure to do more of everything, from campaigns to releases. Thus, there’s an opportunity cost associated with not having control over your product information– time you spend on searching for the right information is time you’re not spending on sales and marketing.

This means you need systems and processes that help teams collaborate more efficiently and free up resources to focus on adding value.  The right system support means the same resources can do more in less time, they can be more creative rather than administrative. And it adds more value by creating richer product information.

Jimmy Ekbäck, Executive Vice President Product & Services, inRiver

5 Absolute musts for taking your products to market successfully: 1. Speed-to-market

Must nr 1: Speed-to-Market

Today, customers have access to all your competitor’s stories at a click of a button and tap of a screen. Even when they’re standing in front of the shelf in store, they can be comparing prices and features on mobile. This means bringing products to market as fast as possible – and catching them in that purchasing micro-moment – is your competitive advantage.

Using the right Product Information Management (PIM) tool increases speed to market from days or weeks to just a few hours, making products purchasable much faster. And the more opportunity of choice with relevant products you can offer customers a when they’re searching, the more revenue you generate and the more loyalty you build.

Jimmy Ekbäck, Executive Vice President Product & Services, inRiver

12 July 2017

Keep Your B2B Buyers Happy...and Coming Back

You are likely already aware at the speed at which the B2B e-commerce market is growing. While the B2C market is expected to be about $523 billion annually by 2020, the B2B market in the US is expected to be nearly double that at $1.1 trillion, according to the Forrester/B2BecNews Q1 2017 B2B Buy-Side Online Survey.

Along with this rapid growth, you have also likely heard about the many disruptors in the B2B market.

Keep Your B2B Buyers Happy...and Coming Back

Disintermediation of supply chains is resulting in competition between former partners, as new partnerships form. Enterprises practicing ”business as usual” may find themselves with slimmer margins or being squeezed out of the channel altogether. Amazon Business is growing at 20% per month and already has more than 30,000 vendors signed on. With all these choices and the ability to rapidly price shop, brand loyalty is also taking a nose-dive.

On top of all of these changes, B2B buyers are behaving differently from how they used to. They are, in fact, acting more like B2C shoppers, which is who they are when they aren’t at work. Sixty-seven percent of ‘Millennial generation’ B2B buyers prefer to shop online, compared with 51% overall. Ninety-two percent of US buyers have used Amazon to research a work-oriented purchase and 74% confirm that buying online is more convenient that buying from a sales rep.

The takeaway is simple: B2B buyers now expect a rich e-commerce experience, each and every time.

Get Ahead with the Best Product Information

It is no surprise that B2B buyers begin their product search on Google or, increasingly, on Amazon. What may surprise you is where they complete their search and where they ultimately buy. You got it—it is where they find the best product information. Great product information is good for your top and bottom line!

Where B2B Buyers Make Final Work Purchases

So, What’s Next?

If you would like to continue delving into these data and insights, please join us to continue the discussion on July 20 at 1 PM CDT. Together with our partner, DATAgility, we are hosting a webinar to talk about:

  • Why customer experience matters more than ever
  • How your B2B customers are buying
  • What makes a rich e-commerce experience
  • How to tell great product stories

Register now for the webinar, Why Manufacturers Need PIM in Their E-commerce Stack on July 20, 2017 at 1 PM CDT, hosted by DATAgility and inRiver. Hear more aboutthe changes in the B2B online marketplace and how you can ensure that you are doing everything you can to give your customers the best digital experience possible.

Kathryn Zwack, Senior Content Marketing Manager, inRiver

06 July 2017

Five Absolute musts to take your products to market successfully, Part 2

This is part II in our story of the new landscape and reality for you as marketers. In this part, we will set the stage for examples on how to focus and prioritize when mastering this new reality.

Research from HubSpot found that the top three marketing objectives are converting contacts into customers, growing website traffic and increasing revenue derived from existing customers. Social selling is also more of a priority than ever before.  Online content is key to achieving these goals because it allows you to connect with customers in the micro-moments – when they’re browsing that product, or standing in a shop comparing prices. In those valuable moments, you need to have the right content in the right place at the right time to attract customers’ attention.

Just go to an everyday situation in your life, a little bit of stress on your way home from work, drizzle and slush, you feel a bit cold. Or on your way in the morning, morning sun, crisp autumn air, and a warm coffee in your hand. These are totally different moments but if you can be reached and understood in either of these moments it will create trust and loyalty to that brand or for that product. This is what product storytelling is about.

To be successful at this we believe that you need to look at this from two different perspectives: the inside and the outside. One part of it is to collaborate to create your product stories in an efficient way. Another is to have everybody knowing what I in my role contribute to in this chain of product story telling.

At the other end of this, you must be efficient in how you syndicate your products to all selling touch-points. To have your information flowing easily between these touch points, without constantly having to manually do cumbersome touch-ups for the information to work in the different contexts.

Look out for the "5 Absolute Musts" blogposts, my five steps for taking your products to market successfully, in the coming weeks!

Jimmy Ekbäck, Executive Vice President Products & Services, inRiver

Five Absolute musts to take your products to market successfully, Part 1

Why do some organizations do better than others? Why does it sometimes feel like the competition is faster to the market and always have more satisfied customers? You have probably heard a lot of explanations for this. Our colleague Johan Boström wrote a blog about that you no longer can shoot from the hip….and the discussions was about PIM or DAM, what is needed in what situation. If this is the question! Then you are at least out of the blocks on how you need to transition as an organization to start telling stories around your products at the pace that is expected. As if this is not enough, you have to do it in the moment chosen by your customers. A PIM is no longer a thing for the others, or the bigger ones, this is a mind-set and an approach that is needed for every company to meet the expectations on product information today regardless if it is in a B2B or a B4B or a B2C context.

This what the inRiver Product Marketing Cloud will help You achieve.

This is a post in two parts, where this first part will give you a backdrop to better understand the change in progress of how information is consumed today, the second part leads you further into the field and up to the subsequent five robust and hands-on priorities and focus areas that will help you as a marketing organization.

We now live in a reality with a constant flow of information, we search and scan information in a variety of places, especially as customers. The journey has been fragmented into Micro-moments. For you as a Marketer, you need to create the story of your products for each of these fractions in time. For the I - want - to - buy, the I - want - to - know or I - want - to- go moments your products must be able to grasp the attention of the consumers in these situations. To create intelligent products that can do this, you as a product marketer need to rethink the way you create the story around your products and where and when this story is being told.

Micro-moments have fragmented the customer journey:
  • 90% of people purchase across screens
  • Digital drives 87% of us in to the store
  • For 82% mobile is the new shopping assistance

This is something that is relevant for all organizations.
In the concept of the Mechanics of Last Millisecond Marketing three primary pillars are mostly highlighted as keys to success.

Therefore, it is so important to know WHO we are telling the story to, WHEN & WHERE we are telling it and WHAT are we are saying to maximize that moment.

Jimmy Ekbäck, Executive Vice President Products and Services, inRiver