At Shoptalk: Fulfillment’s Faster, Freer Finale

IN THE FRICTION-FREE WORLD of online retailing, getting the order is easy. Delivering on the promise is hard.

At the Las Vegas Shoptalk conference last week retail thought-leaders shared insights about the fulfillment challenge. Their consensus: it’s not going to get any easier.

“My bet on shipping is faster and freer,” said Jason Goldberger, president, Target.com and Mobile Target, in a panel on The Changing Role of Stores in Ecommerce Fulfillment.

“It used to be that our guests just wanted free shipping,” he added. Now they demand overnight delivery and same-day store pickup.

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Michael Tobin, SVP Strategy & Innovation at Macy’s, explained that successful and cost-effective fulfillment now requires a sophisticated algorithm that considers multiple factors, including the ship-to address, units on hand, units to ship, location capacity, combinability of items in an order, and more. “We’re on the 3rd or fourth version of that algorithm,” he said.

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The Store is Dead! Long Live the Store!

Margo Georgiadis, GoogleTHE DISTINCTION between online and off-line retail sales grows blurrier by the minute, as shoppers meld their consideration and purchasing behaviors into an “all-line” shopping continuum that spans brick, web and mobile.

“The war for store traffic will be won or lost on digital,” said Margo Georgiades, President of Americas, Google, who spoke in Tucson, AZ last week at the 19th Global Retailing Conference sponsored by the Terry J. Lundgren Center for retailing at the University of Arizona.

In 2010, U.S. retail stores recorded 39 billion “footsteps” in November-December, she reported. By the same period in 2014 that number had declined to 18 billion. Despite that huge drop-off in store traffic, store revenues grew for the same periods from $641B in 2010 to $737B in 2014.

“Those footsteps didn’t go away,” she said. They just went online.”

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Call It Mobile Yellow

Scan these tags

I SPIED THE WHOLE grocery universe in a single bunch of fruit. This transcendental experience occurred just last week in West Des Moines, IA. (Quite rightly.)

It all happened in a bright, spacious HyVee supermarket in an upscale, verdant neighborhood that a decade ago was pretty much a cornfield. I entered the store thinking, “They built this, so I have come.”

But my Field of Dreams reverie dissolved when I stepped up to the produce department. My first view was an abundant display of bananas – the largest selling produce item in most supermarkets.

I pulled out my smartphone and snapped this picture, with the classic lyric by Donovan resonating in my brain like a prophetic soundtrack:

Electrical banana is gonna be a sudden craze
Electrical banana is bound to be the very next phase

You see, what really blew my mind were the two little stickers on this hand of bananas. On the left, a stacked UPC bar code and on the right a QR (quick response) 2D code. Each of these artifacts tells a little story about the impact of digital technology on our business. (Quite rightly)

The UPC bar code is of format known as RSS_14 designed to convey more information than old-style 9-digit codes. When I scan it with a gadget on my smart phone it correctly identifies the product as Dole bananas. Presumably the POS scanners in this HyVee supermarket are just as smart. The advantage: it saves the checker a few keystrokes and accurately enters the PLU (price look up) code for this variety of produce which is sold by weight.

The QR code on the right is used to direct shoppers to a web site called yonanas.com . When I scanned it with the same smart phone app, it led me to a page pitching a simple kitchen appliance that lets consumers make a soft-serve dessert from frozen ripe bananas and other fruit.

The Dole brand is featured prominently on the target Web page. Presumably there’s a deal behind it all. The Yonana appliance is marketed by Healthy Foods LLC, itself a division of Winston Products LLC in Cleveland, Ohio.

Peering at my smartphone screen under the fluorescent lights in that immaculate HyVee store in one of the greenest places in America, I found myself thinking, “It really has come to this: agricultural and digital have converged in America’s heartland.”

Then the digital banana concept set off a minor cascade of linguistic play: Bananas come in hands… Digit is Latin for finger… Smart phones are made with gorilla glass… (Quite rightly)

So in tribute to Donovan, the iconic Sunshine Superman inducted this year into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I’d like to offer this (somewhat less lilting) variation on his theme:

Digital banana is gonna be a sudden craze
Digital banana is bound to be the very next phase
I call it mobile yellow (Quite rightly)

© Copyright 2012 James Tenser

A Web of Truths

WATCH OUT, Shopper Marketers! You may find yourselves entangled in a web of truths of your own making.

It all began innocently enough; in 2005 when brand marketing behemoth Procter & Gamble advanced a provocative set of ideas around what it called the first and second moments of truth. Thanks to some savvy and persistent promotion, the terminology caught on fast:

  • FMOT, the first moment, refers to the brief period when a shopper selects a desired product in the store.
  • SMOT, the second moment, refers to the at-home consumption experience associated with that product.

Within the then-nascent Shopper Marketing community, this framework was a minor revelation. For brand marketers, FMOT gave credence to the argument that real marketing persuasion needed to be extended from measured media into the shopping environment. The store, it was discovered, shelters a separate marketing reality, where pre-purchase leanings are transformed into final choices.

Shopper Marketing defined a path to purchase that commences with media-induced product awareness and proceeds to interest, formation of intent, and ends with product selection at the shelf, FMOT. Once home, SMOT, or the actual product experience, takes place influencing subsequent decisions.

FMOT/SMOT was a pretty handy framework at first. But the concurrent rise of digital out of home and mobile media conspired to make things a lot more complicated, fast. The path to purchase, it turns out, is littered with hundreds of moments – text messages, in-store video ads, Web search, service encounters, Facebook apps, twitter feeds, QR codes and downloadable coupons, to name a few.

Stuck in the Moments

A few weeks ago the gleefully disruptive folks at Google seized the opportunity to coin a new Moment of Truth and promote it hard. They call it Zero Moment of Truth or ZMOT. Its premise is that interactions with search, Web, social and mobile price and product research media create a third type of online decision-making moment. The concept is a bit self-serving coming from the world’s largest seller of online advertising, but it has attracted much commentary and attention.

Almost immediately, new Moments starting appearing like so many pop-up windows on an e-commerce Web site.

In his post, “What is missing from moments of truth marketing”, blogger Joel Rubinson argues for the existence of “minus one” moments of truth that include such influences as word of mouth, in-store product visibility, and various types of advertising. Most interestingly, he proposes that these -1MOTs may occur in any sequence relative to FMOT and SMOT.

Joel’s point about the non-linear nature of the Moments of Truth is worthy of frequent repetition. Product experience is certainly a web of moments, not a fixed linear sequence. Call it WOT (Web of Truths)?

On the very same day and from an independent thought process, blogger David Berkowitz proposed adding “The Infinite Moment of Truth” to the model, which reflects his excellent observation that consumers may well describe their product and service experiences to others, relaying and amplifying the message beyond the scope and control of the marketer.

Bon MOTs

I applaud David for extending this Shopper Marketing discussion from the path-to-purchase toward the path-to-loyalty. A good thing, really, since the linkages are powerful and real. It made me think about Fred Reicheld’s 2006 book, The Ultimate Question, which proposed that genuine loyalty was best judged by an individual’s likelihood to recommend a product or service to others. Social media can super-charge this potential.

Both bloggers are smart, experienced people I know for some years and their ideas are intelligent and worthy of respect. But I must confess to an impish reaction that led me to ponder: Just how many bon MOTs can one industry handle? ZMOT; FMOT; SMOT; Rubinson’s -1MOT; Berkowitz’s IMOT…

At risk of attracting ridicule, my imp compels me to toss another acronym into the mix: XMOT, the eXtended Moment of Truth. It’s my way of stretching the Web of Truths a bit wider – not quite to infinity, but toward its potential to help us understand the multifaceted tangle of influences each person receives, reflects and responds to in their roles as shoppers, consumers, and friends.

© Copyright 2011 James Tenser
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