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Smart phones becoming merchandising game changer

BY Michael Johnsen

BOSTON — Competitive everyday-low-pricing strategies and lowest-price guarantees soon may become standard as use of mobile smart phones while shopping grows, according to a new GfK Roper poll, commissioned by SapientNitro, an integrated marketing and technology services firm.

Another key learning from the survey: The shopping experience is paramount.

“Portability is a game-changer in transforming the way that people shop,” stated Chris Davey, worldwide head of commerce at SapientNitro. “Technology is causing some of the biggest shifts in human behavior that we’ve seen in years, and consumers are more informed and empowered than ever. This has a major impact not only on the way that consumers shop but also on the way that retailers need to market to consumers this holiday season.”

The national survey found that of the 3-in-10 Americans who own a “smart phone” — e.g., an iPhone, Blackberry, Android-based phone or other type of Internet and application-enabled mobile phone — many are using it to their advantage while shopping. For example, of consumers with a smart phone, 30% are price-checking the products in an attempt to find a better deal elsewhere, while they are physically standing before the product at the store.

Those consumers also are using their smart phones before they get to that retailer with the “best buy.” Approximately 48% researched products they were thinking of purchasing on their smart phones, and 44% simply surfed the Internet in search of products. As many as 40% compared prices before reaching the store. And about 1-in-3 looked for discounts, deals, coupons or discount codes (35%) on their mobile phones, or checked product availability at retail stores or websites (34%). And then more than half (52%) have used their phones to find a store location.

Once they arrive in that store, those mobile phone users are sharing their experiences with their friends and family in real time. One-in-three (33%) reported that while out shopping, they e-mailed or texted someone to tell them about an experience at a store — such as finding a great deal or a great gift. And 1-in-5 (19%) used their phone to post something on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter or other social networking sites about their shopping experience.

Of those Americans who already have started their holiday shopping, 53% said they purchased a product in a physical retail store after researching the product online. And nearly half (44%) purchased a product online after shopping for a similar item in a physical store.

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American Greetings spices up birthday calendar app on Facebook

BY Allison Cerra

CLEVELAND — American Greetings has teamed up with BigDates Solutions to further enhance the birthday calendar application on Facebook.

The duo announced that they are working together to pair the application — which gives Facebook users the ability to easily add birthdays, holidays and special events to their personal Facebook calendar — with content from the greeting card company to offer a great new experience for users. New features include an updated look, a special Daily Stamp that users can post on their or a friend’s Facebook wall for various celebrations and the opportunity to share the best-in-class e-cards and virtual gifts from American Greetings.

"We are thrilled to bring our creativity and innovation to this hugely popular application and to work with BigDates Solutions to make this experience even more fun and useful for the millions who use it every day," said Sally Schriner, American Greetings Interactive president. "We are very excited about the initial enhancements that we’ve introduced, and we have some really great features in store in the coming months that we can’t wait to share."

For more information, please visit the official Birthday Calendar Facebook application page.

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Improvements at Rite Aid are on the horizon

BY Michael Johnsen

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — Rite Aid is a glass-half-full/glass-half-empty kind of company. If your glass is half full, you’re looking at the sequential improvements in pharmacy margins and front-end comps, and the excitement around the chain’s still-new Wellness+ loyalty program. If your glass is half empty, you’re making note of the seven straight quarters of script declines and the fact that Rite Aid had to lower sales projections … again. Our glass is half full.

(THE NEWS: Rite Aid’s new loyalty program a major bright spot in tough Q3. For the full story, click here)

Here’s the crux: The building blocks are in place. All Rite Aid now has to do is execute the potentially profit-driving programs it has in place — Wellness+, store segmentation, Save-A-Lot/Rite Aid combo stores, immunizing pharmacists and an expanding inoculation program. Additionally, it will need to continue pushing the envelope with some of its more cutting-edge initiatives, such as Internet-accessible video couponing and live pharmacist consultations, available online.

Not only is Rite Aid showing improvement across several metrics and is executing against concrete plans designed to continue that upward momentum, but the team that’s driving this engine also has done it all before — twice, when you factor in president and CEO John Standley, who helped engineer Rite Aid’s first turnaround earlier this decade and then went on to turn around Pathmark.

Many of the same executives walking through the halls of Rite Aid headquarters today were with the company 10 years ago, when that team inherited a company on the brink of bankruptcy and brought that company back to black. It was because of that team that Rite Aid could even consider an acquisition the size and scope of Brooks/Eckerd. And today you could argue that Rite Aid is once again on a path — rocky though it may be — back to the black.

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