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GMDC General Merchandise Conference draws near

BY Michael Johnsen

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — The Global Market Development Center will host its 42nd annual General Merchandise Conference in approximately three weeks in Orlando, Fla., the association announced Monday. Running June 1 through June 5, GMDC is expecting more than 900 attendees for the front-end show.

GMDC again will feature its Preview (Sample) Box, which boasts 115 entries this year. The Preview (Sample) Box allows suppliers to submit one or more of their newest products, proven-best sellers or any item they wish to highlight, to be mailed to attending GM12 Retailers. Retailers recently have received their 2012 Preview (Sample) Box for GM12 and now are previewing the items, GMDC noted.

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Oracle survey: Social media users have higher expectations for customer service

BY Marianne Wilson

REDWOOD SHORES, Calif. — A "live help" feature, detailed information about products and services, and access to personal account information are the three most important features consumers expect to find at a company’s website, according to an annual survey by Oracle.

The report, "Consumer Views of Live Help Online 2012," found that social media users have exceptionally high expectations for online support: More than half of Twitter users worldwide expect a personal response within two hours of tweeting a question or complaint. And 51% of Facebook users expected a same-day response to questions or complaints posted via the social media site.

Oracle surveyed more than 3,000 consumers worldwide regarding their use of customer service channels including call centers, live chat, click-to-call and email.

It also noted that as consumers spend more time online, they rely more on live help: Half of consumers worldwide browse and research products online daily, nearly double the number reporting daily habits in 2009. Consumer use of online customer service also is on the rise, as 50% consumers use live help compared with 37% in 2009.

"Whether the customer visits the company’s commerce site or social media page, there must be a clear link to a customer service person that is informed and able to help," Oracle Retail SVP and general manager Mike Webster said. "It is critical that the ‘live help’ platform provide the representative with immediate information on the full context of the customer’s account and recent queries or transactions with the company."

On the international front, Oracle found that 76% of Chinese consumers are online daily to browse or research products (compared with 49% worldwide) and 60% said they used live help to reach customer service (versus 50% worldwide). In Latin America, consumers were most likely to expect a social media presence: 84%of consumers surveyed in Mexico and Brazil use Facebook and 63% of those using Facebook said they expect companies to have a presence on those platforms.

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Reports: Washington state pertussis cases increased tenfold since May 2011

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK — Budget cuts have added an extra challenge to the response of health authorities in Washington state to an epidemic of whooping cough, according to published reports.

According to a report by the Washington State Department of Health, there were 1,284 cases of whooping cough, also known as pertussis, reported so far for 2012, compared with 128 during the same period last year. No deaths have been reported so far.

The Associated Press reported that the state government had created special fund to contain the outbreak, which officials had declared an epidemic, but budget cuts had made the job more difficult; for example, the Public Health Department of Skagit County, Wash., had half the staff it did in 2008, while preventive care programs had mostly disappeared.

According to the article, while many states require children of school age to receive the pertussis vaccine, Washington state had the highest percentage of parents in the country who opted out, which could be a factor in the current outbreak.


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