Tablet Prescription: Take Two

Some TabletsIF THERE EVER WAS an instance of “the medium is the message,” tablets are it. Their tactile mode of interaction, image quality and scale, and untethered connectivity create a unique formula for shopping. Yes, PCs and smart phones each share some of these traits, but not all of them, and that is the difference.

Of course, shoppers don’t analyze the mediated retail experience much. I think most folks experience tablets on an emotional, instinctive level and do what comes naturally. It’s up to merchants to try to address those behaviors with relevant interactive options.

Tread lightly in this regard. Preferences change in a heartbeat, so it can be a mistake to try to corral shoppers using custom apps. Nimble is better than powerful; responsive is better than proprietary; rapid life-cycles are better than sunk costs.

[Tenser excerpt from “Will Tablets Reinvent How We Shop Everywhere?” discussion on RetailWire.com, Jan. 23, 2013.]
© Copyright 2013 James Tenser

Movin’ On Up

TENSER’S TIRADES HAS RELOCATED to this much finer neighborhood following a dispute with the old landlord.

You’ll find the entire blog (past and present) here, along with some useful new features.

If you subscribe to our RSS feed, you can update it using the link you will find at right.

Jamie Tenser

© Copyright 2012 James Tenser

The Incredible Dissolving Store

Shopper CentricI WAS ASKED RECENTLY to address a group of consumer products managers about the possible future of Category Management.

The request came at a time when I had been devoting serious thinking to several topics that at first seemed only tenuously related. Computer-generated ordering is one. Optimization of markdowns is another. The impact of social, mobile and local media is a third. Then there was this trendy concept — Big Data — that keeps getting lots of mentions, but seems to defy clear understanding.

So what was I to make of Category Management in a world where these disparate forces swirl? More importantly, what practical insights could I deliver to this audience of the best and brightest that CPG companies had on their brand and account teams? I probably couldn’t tell them much they didn’t already know. Maybe I could try to make their heads explode instead.

Thought Experiment
I challenged this audience with the following thought experiment: Try to visualize what life could be like for Category Management professionals in a world with vastly more information and a good deal less control.

The diagram accompanying this post identifies ten factors or sources of input that a Category Manager of the future might incorporate into planning decisions. Many are already familiar — optimization of assortment, price, promotion and markdowns are well-established techniques built into software suites like those from IBM DemandTec. Other vendors offer macro space planning solutions, automated replenishment, capacity planning, In-Store Implementation and competitive analytics. These factors all interact in a dizzying matrix. But wait! There’s more!

Now fold in the massive influence of social/mobile/local media and online shopping and search behaviors, which are manifest as Big Data. We are witness to the vanishing boundaries of the in-store environment, due to the advent of personal digital technology, changing consumer habits, omni-channel business models and the immense flows of unstructured and structured data that these are creating for Shopper Marketers. I call this The Incredible Dissolving Store.

Big Data postulates that we will soon be routinely mining these external data flows for relevant behavioral insights and applying those insights on a continuous basis to enable shopper success and sustain meaningful competitive advantage.

Mix Mastery
It’s kind of like the marketing mix management problem. Heck, in many ways it’s a core part of the marketing mix problem. Shopper success — and therefore, the success of our category and promotional plans — are influenced by all these factors. Simultaneously. Continuously.

The increasing intricacy of the merchandising decision process reflects the proliferation of intersecting, measurable and optimize-able factors within the store. All these new data-based influences mean the locus of power is rapidly leaving the store and distributing across your customers’ mobile devices. The shopper is always in the center — no matter where you go, there they are.

It becomes increasingly apparent that Category Management in the Incredible Dissolving Store will not be about solving the equation — it will be about tuning the system. New analytics tools make the keys to relevance more accessible and more automated than ever. The life cycle of your decisions, shorter than ever. The power resides in the network and in the hands of individual shoppers.

Category Management, like it or not, is rapidly shifting from an orderly, controlled, recursive, planning process with boundaries and well-defined metrics into a deliberately dis-orderly, multidimensional, broad, shape-shifting and organic process that incorporates planning, detection, response and continuous strategic reconsideration.

In the Incredible Dissolving Store, we need to get used to the kind of ongoing discomfort this implies and think very carefully about the metrics we use to define success. If we listen actively and shed our bias, the shoppers will tell us what those must be.

© Copyright 2012 James Tenser

 

It’s All About Conversion

Download DOES YOUR MERCHANDISING WORK? Where do shoppers travel and pause within the store? How and when do they view and respond to items on display and in promotional locations? Do you have a mechanism in place to capture and act on this vital information?

Chances are, your e-retailing rivals are way ahead of you when it comes to sensing, capturing and analyzing shopper behaviors, product views and conversions. Like it or not, the informational and analytic norms of the online world are today redefining best practice for brick and mortar retailers.

That reality is evolving fast. With the advent of new video technology solutions that sense and analyze shopper behavior, merchants are gaining the ability to understand what shoppers are doing, in every store, every day. Practical in-store sensing is coming of age. Meaningful conversion analytics can be at your fingertips.

Download Familiar traffic-counting systems no longer meet analytic and operational needs of the brick and mortar retail industry. Retailers face competition from online stores and from each other, as convenience stores, big box stores, and even apparel stores and supermarkets diversify their merchandise to compete for a larger share of shopper wallets. In much the same way that e-tailers use online analytics to improve their conversion rates, brick and mortar retailers need empirical data to gain actionable in-store insights and make better merchandising decisions.

Commissioned by LightHausVCI and prepared by James Tenser, principal of VSN Strategies, The Conversion Advantage explores why actionable insights begin with capturing key metrics about shopper behavior: by store, by category, and by product. The white paper demonstrates how using Visual Customer Intelligence (VCI) systems delivers these key metrics by capturing data on customer movement, browsing behavior, engagement, and shopper demographics. It shows how these metrics help retailers increase conversion rates, optimize staffing levels, refine marketing plans, and create winning strategies. (Click either graphic to download.)

© Copyright 2012 James Tenser
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