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Americans use smartphones before, during and after in-store visits

BY Katherine Field Boccaccio

TORONTO — A recent survey of more than 6,500 U.S. consumers found that Americans consult their social media applications before, during and after retail store visits.

The survey, conducted by customer experience management solution provider Empathica, found that mobile and social customer experience strategies are becoming more important than ever for brands, with nearly 3-in-4 consumers using Facebook to make retail and restaurant decisions.

The findings also showed that 27% of smartphone owners consult reviews before making purchases, and another 55% use their mobile devices to check prices while shopping in-store. Other popular mobile actions include scanning a QR code (34%) and writing a review (9%).

“Today’s consumers routinely perform a variety of in-store activities on smartphones and mobile devices,” Empathica chief customer officer Gary Edwards said. “Whether it’s comparing prices or scanning a QR code for a discount, brands that ignore the use of mobile technology in customer and guest experiences will miss key opportunities to connect with a large pool of potential brand advocates.”

The Empathica Consumer Insights Panel also showed that consumers are relying on social media as an important tool in decision-making. Nearly three-quarters of consumers use Facebook to make retail or restaurant decisions, while half of consumers have tried a new brand due to a social media recommendation.

For retailers and restaurants that post all user-generated content online, negative reviews don’t necessarily dissuade consumers from trying a brand, especially if it has a generally positive online presence. Only 26% of consumers indicated that they would definitely avoid shopping at a store if they first read a negative online review.

Other key findings of the survey include:

  • More than one-third of survey respondents (37%) have visited a brand’s webpage using a mobile phone;

  • Although 55% of consumers are willing to “like” brands on Facebook, women (64%) tend to use the “like” button more than men (47%); and

  • Approximately 89% of people who have shared a positive experience with a brand via social media in the last three months also “liked” a brand on Facebook; only 36% of those who have not shared a positive experience with a brand via social media in the last three months “liked” a brand on Facebook.

  • Eighty-two percent of consumers are willing to engage retail and restaurant brands in online conversations if they believe it will improve future experiences, but only 62% believe that brands monitor online conversations and just 30% think that brands act on customer feedback.

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99 Cents Only opens Santa Barbara store

BY Allison Cerra

CITY OF COMMERCE, Calif. — 99 Cents Only Stores is opening a new store in Santa Barbara, Calif., on July 26.

The new store — located at 424 State St. between Haley and Gutierrez Sts. — is approximately 12,900 sq. ft. and will feature a perishable food department, including produce, dairy and frozen foods.

99 Cents Only currently operates 301 stores, including 220 stores in California, 37 in Texas, 29 in Arizona and 15 in Nevada.

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Tops expands presence in upstate New York, Vermont with acquisition of GU Markets stores

BY Allison Cerra

WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y. — Tops Friendly Markets has entered an agreement with C&S Wholesale Grocers affiliate GU Markets to acquire 21 supermarkets located in upstate New York and Vermont.

Tops said its acquisition will bring its number of operating stores to 153 and will expand Tops’ footprint further into areas of northern and eastern New York State and neighboring northern Vermont. For the time being, 20 of the stores will continue to operate under the Grand Union banner, while the other store will continue to operate under the Bryant’s banner.

"We are very excited about this growth opportunity for Tops, especially since these stores are a natural extension of our current footprint," Tops Markets president and CEO Frank Curci said. "We are looking forward to having these stores and the surrounding communities become part of the Tops family."

The sale is expected to close by fall 2012 and is subject to customary closing conditions. Specific terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

As previously reported, Tops recently boosted its retail presence with the acquisition of Penn Traffic stores in 2010.

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