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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A Framework for “Best Practice”

Best-5-Banner
NOT LONG AGO I WAS ASKED to prepare a “Best Practices” document for a retail solutions company. The task stimulated a round of research, investigation and deep thinking.

Best Practice is a term we invoke fairly often in the retail consumer products industry. Industry associations devote considerable resources to identifying them. Consulting firms convene their best subject matter experts to define and explain them. (Sometimes they invent them outright.) Sales organizations, especially, like to invoke them as evidence of the superiority of their solutions.

But is there consensus on the real meaning of best practice? Well I read up on what some of the experts had to say and added some original thinking of my own. Here’s what I came up with:

Best Practices are the reusable practices of the organization that have been shown to be successful in their respective functions. To make them repeatable and consistent, they are defined by the organization and institutionalized in various ways, often enabled by technology systems. Best Practices may deliver great value in driving customer experience, workflow efficiencies, speed, accuracy, reduced re-work, cost control, operational insights, business improvement and other benefits.

While specific Best Practices may vary across different organizations and industries, some tend to rise consistently to the top. Those worthy of the adjective “best” tend to reflect five key traits: They are Designed, Conscious, Measurable, Realistic, and Customer-Focused.

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NGA Dispatch: Cyber Security Imposes Vexing Challenges

Leon Panetta at NGA“THERE IS PROBABLY NO ISSUE more important today than cyber security,” said Peter Larkin, President and CEO of the National Grocers Association, in his remarks at the opening session of the annual NGA Show in Las Vegas, this week.

True to his word, the event’s educational program included three breakout sessions and one general session devoted to various facets of cyber security – from safeguarding POS and mobile payments; to protecting proprietary customer data; to defending the enterprise against malicious attacks; to whether insurance can offer useful protection.

Keynote speaker Leon Panetta, the former Secretary of Defense and Director of the CIA, said in response to an audience question that he could foresee the possibility of a “cyber Pearl Harbor” assault on American institutions and infrastructure. The siege is already well under way: The CIA was turning back some 100,000 cyber-attacks per day during his tenure from 2009-2011, he said. The pace has certainly accelerated since that time.

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Contactless Payments — What’s Taking So Long?

Mywallet in PolandIT’S BEEN A HALF-DECADE since I first got religion about the potential for “contactless payments” using NFC-enabled wallets in mobile phones. A very bright entrepreneur brought the concept to my attention and asked me to help advise his new firm. I agreed and got myself launched up the learning curve.

Most readers probably know that NFC (near-field communications) is a form of wireless radio that works only across a few centimeters. It’s perfect for enabling a mobile phone to communicate securely with a point of sale terminal. If the phone has an NFC chip and wallet app installed, a tap can function as a substitute for a card-swipe to enable payments and even frequent-shopper redemptions in a few milliseconds.

Mobile wallets are gaining traction throughout the developed world. The image reproduced here documents Eurobank’s version in Poland. Here in the U.S. we observe a slower pace of development, although the recent launch of Apple Pay seems to have kicked up the interest. Then again, yesterday’s disclosure of a data breech affecting the competing CurrentC service from Merchant Customer Exchange (MCX) has a lot of heads shaking.

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