2011.10 | f-commerce

First there was e-commerce; then there was m-commerce, and now there is f-commerce to be added to the mix.  Not only is electronic commerce on the internet, it has moved to mobile platforms, and now it is creeping ever deeper into Facebook – which brings us to f-commerce – the effort to capitalize on the Facebook crowd by placing purchasing opportunities directly within Facebook.

Facebook has over 500 Million Users worldwide, and 50% of them login on any given day.  In Canada, as of March 9, 2011, there are 17,381,700 Facebook users.  Considering a population of  just under 34 million, retailers cannot ignore Facebook, and many of them have a Facebook page.  While some of the initial outlooks  on f-commerce appears to be a bit enthusiastic (1 in 4 have made purchases in Facebook already?), this is an area worthy of consideration.

It’s still early days for f-commerce, even though it’s been possible to order pizza via Facebook since I started this blog at the beginning of 2009, and Best Buy’s Facebook store has been in place for some time.  I’ve not seen any Canadian based Facebook stores (yes there are some that link to their web based stores…let me know if you see any directly integrated!), but the links are evolving and a few more are starting to show up directly in Facebook.    One interesting trend is the movement of CPGs into Facebook stores – PampersDove, Heinz, and Coca-Cola are good examples.  Another is that airlines are also entering the fray with Malaysia Airlines and Delta Airlines offering ticket purchases directly in Facebook.  To top it off, there was an announcement this week that Warner Brothers will rent movies online via Facebook.

This means one more dizzying element to consider in marketing strategy for retailers, but nothing fundamental has changed.  It’s all about selling product where customers want to buy.  It comes down to presence and preference.  Ensuring that wherever the targeted client wants to shop and where they expect to shop, they have the experience they expect from the retailer.   The challenge is integrating the ever increasing number of potential consumer touchpoints into a cohesive strategy and mapping out how to use the budget available for the best result.

2009.37 | More Solutions: Less Waiting

Nobody wants to wait in line – NCR’s buzzback survey for 2009 as well as those over the past few years provide numbers for the proof you don’t need as a consumer.

The recent article in the Wall Street Journal on waiting in line and the linked Numbers Guy blog post provide some interesting insight on single versus multiple line queueing and the impact of using one versus the other in a retail environment. In an attempt to address some of the shortcomings of single queues, JC Penney is testing a queueing solution provided by Lawrence to smooth front end throughput.

 Tabletop_Media

Table Top Media is attempting to implement table based self checkout at casual dining destinations like Chili’s and Applebee’s. Their system avoids the awkward wait between finishing your meal and attempting to get the bill by allowing access to the bill and payment directy at the table via a kiosk. It’s a great idea, but as a colleauge indicated, one has to wonder how one can tell who’s paying and who’s going to run out on the bill. Ideally there is security built in to the system to notify the servers and host staff whether a table has tendered or not.

Long a user of single queues, Best Buy has also started up BestBuy IdeaX. Much like MyStarbucksIdea discussed earlier on this blog, this solution allows consumer facing organizations an opportunity to obtain ‘free’ consulting – good or bad – as well as keep their finger on the pulse of what customers are feeling. The voting section reveals some interesting ideas NCR could assist with – electronic receiptscustomer service kiosks and more.

2009.28 | More Mobile and Social Media

Retailers continue to delve deep into the murky waters of mobile apps. A Sears representative recently talked about their experiences and suggested success criteria for mobile retail with Sears2Go. Best Buy has also jumped in, with both a mobile website an iPhone app that will provide information on deals at your local Best Buy based on location – a sort of virtual local flyer.

Taking the social media trend to its logical next level, Whole Foods recently announced that individual stores will now have their own Twitter accounts. Expect departments and special interest by store to follow as those interested in certain subjects open themselves up for communication. As mentioned previously Sephora is encouraging its customers to post reviews of its products on its site.

Geeky as these items appear at first glance, the movement of mobile technologies and their applications to the maintream represent an amazing opportunity for retailers to go back to their roots.

Years ago, retailers operated in small communities, knew their customers on an individual basis and would market to them at that level. A sporting goods store owner knew that a new rod and reel would appeal to a very specific group of people in his community. That retailer could be in touch with those people he knew to let them know about the product. Much of that one to one relationship marketing was lost with the advent of big box stores and the migration of commerce from city centres and markets to suburban shopping malls.

With the ever widening number of mobile tools and the increasing number of tribes and communities out there, there is a real opportunity for retailers and consumer facing organizations of all kinds to go back to that sort of one on one relationship that can result in real benefit to both parties – consumers recieve products and services tailored to their specific needs, and retailers obtain an opportunity to gain real loyalty and value add for providing those tailored offers.

2009.11 | “New” New Media | Mobile Stores | Changing Gaming

Not everyone is cutting and slashing when it comes to new ideas in this challenging retail environment.

New new media – with the release of Kindle 2 people seem to be taking e-books seriously. Trying to place Amazon as the iTunes of e-books doesn’t seem like a bad plan given their success. While music stores were slow to adopt digital delivery channels, it doesn’t look like books will make the same mistake. Indigo started their shortcovers.com store. Not to be outdone in the US, Barnes and Noble is buying Fictionwise to stay in the race.

Mobile Store Market – Given the incredible growth of the mobile market it’s no surprise that there are plenty of players looking to capitalize. Specialization is coming into it – Best Buy has Best Buy Mobile stores in Canada for example. Now word comes this week that Bell Canada has purchased The Source stores in Canada. While Bell already has a sizable store footprint mainly in Ontario and Quebec with Bell World and Espace Bell, expect them to build on that strength geographically and by obtaining revenue and control over gadgets that can access their core service offerings. With increasing saturation in wireless, you have to wonder if owning all your own outlets and not having to pay dealers could help the bottom line. It’s a bold move in a downturn to increase your stake as a retailer, but it’s always better to buy when prices are low.

Changing GamingGamefly’s first kiosk went in this week. As the first entry by a company that offers a subscription service, this offers a potentially interesting twist, providing them a middle ground between an online and bricks and mortar presence, and a platform with the potential to mix subscription and on-demand services – a new angle in this business.

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