LOL Surprise The global licensing program includes apparel, accessories, publishing and stationery. By Bianca Herron

At this year’s Licensing Expo, MGA Entertainment Inc., or “MGAE," will share details of a new global licensing program for its successful doll line, L.O.L. Surprise!TM.

The fashion-forward doll line took the retail market by storm when it launched this past December. L.O.L. Surprise!TM comes packaged in multi-layered balls that, when unwrapped, reveal various accessories for the doll found at its core. 

In 2018, MGAE – the world’s leading privately held toy company – will kick off its global licensing program and release a variety of fresh and innovative licensed products of the doll line, which will be done in four phases:

* Phase I will target fashion apparel, sleepwear and accessories;

* Phase II targets products, including health & beauty, gift & novelty, stationery & party good, and crafts & activities;

* Phase III will encompass publishing, back-to-school, game & electronics, and home décor; and

* Phase IV will encompass food & beverage, seasonal and sporting goods.

“In developing the global licensing program, we have a seemingly limitless opportunity to engage potential partners in every key product category – from apparel and accessories to publishing and stationery – buoyed by the phenomenal consumer response to L.O.L. Surprise! and the continuing success with major retailers including Toys”R”Us, Walmart, Target and Amazon,” MGAE’s Head of Global Licensing Juli Boylan said in a statement. “L.O.L. Surprise! is a truly innovative toy and we have an equally impressive licensing program!”

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Mobile crowdsourcingHere are three keys to in-store data retailers can use now. By Mike Grimes

 

Retail is one of the most data-driven businesses on the planet. Point of sale (POS), store-level foot traffic, merchandising compliance, customer loyalty, inventory, mobile, video, beacons, sensors, lasers …

OK, maybe not lasers, but you get the idea. Retailers don’t need more data, but with e-commerce sales set to top $27 trillion in 2020 according to eMarketer, in-store data is vital to helping brick-and-mortar stores optimize their increasingly valuable physical space.

Brick-and-mortar retailers need data direction: the right kinds of data, combined in the right ways, and presented in a format that both store operations and the head of merchandising can use right now. The goal of every B&M data initiative should be to increase visibility in-store, so retailers can improve the customer experience, simplify inventory management, boost shelf health, better (or re-) train sales associates and react to customer sentiment – at scale, and in near-real time.

It’s a lofty goal but here are three keys to data retailers can use to optimize their stores today.

Data should be systemic

No single data point stays relevant for long in today’s omni-channel environment. Customers bounce from channel to channel on the path to purchase. Demographics shift. And like any good research, scalable, affordable and repeatable results are best measured over time.

The “last mile” of store performance – the shelf – was previously considered “offline” and not systemically available. Today, both retailers and brands can use mobile crowdsourcing, RFID tags and mounted sensors to capture shelf health data over time, to better regulate inventory, pricing and presentation.

Chomps Snack Sticks, a grass-fed, healthy alternative to jerky snacks, is a great example. Chomps recently used mobile crowdsourcing to explore how its packaging appeared on shelves. Over time, the brand discovered store associates were inadvertently destroying their display boxes because corrugated tops were difficult to remove. As a result, Chomps is now systemically testing new packaging designs with better perforation.

Data should be visual

Most of the population (65 percent) are visual learners, according to the Social Science Research Network. Data visualization is critical not just in the academic world, but in business as well. Retailers should say goodbye to data locked in spreadsheets, and hello to real-time graphics that help business users analyze and act quickly and decisively.

Data visualization will become even more important as the Internet of Things (IoT) expands the number of retail data sources. Software-as-a-service (SaaS) platforms have pioneered the eloquent, data and analytics dashboard, and we expect these platforms to continue to replace legacy data management systems.

Data should be integrated

In-store, “offline” data is just as important as sales, revenue and other online data collected by a retailer, but integration is key—they’re all interdependent. By layering data streams, retailers can not only assess the current health of their stores, but also forecast trends for better business decisions in the long-term.

To start, retailers should consider integrating a few basic data flows:

* POS and other sales data

* Market research

* Store traffic

* Associate training

* Merchandising compliance

Picture competitive analysis, and performance information on product displays, adjacencies, and more, delivered and layered on top of other data streams in real-time to create a 360-degree view of the shopping experience. Better still? Include your brand manufacturer partners in these analyses and action plans.

Data You Can Act On

Imagine you’re a merchandiser for Walmart. With systemic, visual and integrated sales and merchandising data, you discover you must improve display compliance for consumer electronics brands to agreed-upon levels, versus your current 28 percent revenue shortfall.

In another scenario, your data indicates you must retrain 35 percent of your key locations whose store associates are completely unaware of the current seasonal promotion, which expires in two weeks.

Retailers need more than incremental data to increase the performance of their stores. But with integrated data, collected systemically and presented in easy-to-read actionable dashboard views, retailers hold the keys to making brick-and-mortar an immensely valuable part of the omni-channel experience.

Mike Grimes is chief revenue officer (CRO) at Mobee, an offline data and insights platform that uses crowdsourcing to collect, organize and analyze consumer data at scale. With more than 25 years of experience building digital solutions for retail-centric organizations, Grimes leads Mobee’s go-to-market strategy, sales and business development efforts.

ThinkstockPhotos 513312388Here are four insights to help retailers build a stronger, more beneficial relationship with customers. By Rachelle Sokan

A customer journey is a series of interactions a customer experiences with a company or brand to complete a specific goal, such as making a purchase or learning more about a product. But this journey doesn’t just take place in the store or on a website; it begins before customers interact with your brand, and it continues long afterward as they reflect on the experience they had. A customer journey map is a visual story board that allows us to document and experience this process as a customer might, empathizing with them by “walking in their shoes.” The map lays out the interactions and moments of truth they have with a brand.

Ideally, this map is constructed using a journey-mapping workshop — a collaborative event involving a diverse group of marketing experts and their customers. The process begins by defining specific archetypal users, known as personas. Your brand may have several different personas, each with different backgrounds and motivations; it’s important to keep each of them and their varying needs in mind. The next step is to determine each persona’s goals and how they go about attaining them. Finally, the workshop members map each possible step of the experience and the personas’ emotional responses to these steps.

1. Refine Your Engagement Strategy 

First analyze how customers come into contact with your brand in the first place. Examining this crucial step can uncover opportunities for growth, as well as making your brand easier to discover for new customers. Learning how customers enter the sales funnel can also help you determine whether your resources are being allocated properly and what improvements could be made to attract more potential customers in the future.

Dunkin’ Brands had decades of success reaching customers through traditional methods, but had to update their advertising for modern customers who expect a more customized experience. Through journey mapping, they identified opportunities to reach more customers through focused, tailored communications. 

2. Improve Brand Touchpoints

Are there moments in your customers’ journeys that you’ve taken for granted? Are there interactions you weren’t even aware of? The process of mapping can highlight touchpoints that haven’t been given sufficient consideration. In addition to helping identify missed opportunities, it can also draw attention to moments in the journey that could be made smoother and more intuitive, improving the experience for your customers. This can also uncover points in the path where customers encounter obstacles that may encourage them to end their journey prematurely.

Because Starbucks learned that their customers are avid users of social platforms, they invested a great deal of attention to their social presence, earning them enormous followings on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. This gives them a reliable source of feedback from customers, ensuring that their needs are consistently met, as well as a great way of engaging directly with them.

3. Capitalize On Emotional Interactions

For every touchpoint, there’s an emotional response from the customer with a corresponding implication for your business. Points in the journey that leave customers satisfied and pleased with their interactions are clearly a good sign. But moments that present confusion or frustration must be addressed. The journey can only try a customer’s patience for so long before you’ll lose that customer. Make sure that every interaction with your brand makes it clear to customers that you’ve designed the entire experience with their needs and emotions in mind.

Starbucks’ efforts to map their customers’ journey show how much importance they place on the emotional responses of their customers both during and after their interactions. It’s no coincidence that Starbucks locations are customized based on region, or that baristas call out customers’ orders by first name. 

4. Storyboard Your Customers Roadmap

This visual representation of the path your customers take offers an essential tool for measuring the experience and critical steps along their journey — especially aspects of the journey that typically fall outside of your focus. This storyboard is a great resource for discussing, planning, and analyzing steps in the customer journey, as well as acting as an aid to help you develop an improved roadmap for your customers.

The most valuable insights that come from mapping the customers’ journeys are revealed when you apply your customers lens and map their experience with your brand. Every shortcoming and difficulty your customers experience is an opportunity for them to look for another brand that understands what they care about in terms of choosing a product or service.

What Do You Have to Lose?

The benefits of better understanding the customer journey are evident. What may be less obvious are the risks a brand runs by neglecting to do so. Failing to give ample thought to your customers’ experiences might make it more difficult to empathize with them and understand any difficulties they may be having with your service or product. This can lead to frustrated and even lost customers. Consumers have come to expect brands to offer an experience that is tailored to their specific needs, and failing to provide this can mean lost market share. Anticipating the needs and potential frustrations of your customers is essential to maintaining their happiness and loyalty to your brand.

Rachelle Sokan is the client solutions, engagement manager for SGK. 

27399986650 90aa929dbf oAs the premier tradeshow for interactive entertainment, E3 brings the video game industry’s top talent together. By Bianca Herron

The Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, is one of the world's biggest video game expos. Owned and operated by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), this year’s annual event will be held June 13-15, 2017, at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

As the world's premier event for computer, video and mobile games and related products, the three-day expo will connect tens of thousands of the best, brightest and most innovative in the interactive entertainment industry. Leading-edge companies, groundbreaking new technologies and never-before-seen products will be showcased during the event.

The ESA first debuted the annual expo in 1995. Though it has always been closed to the public - hosting only game developers, retailers and media - this year the ESA will open the annual industry event to the public for the first time ever.

A total of 15,000 tickets have been made available and they will include access to the show floor, panel discussions and other events, including video game television host Geoff Keighley’s live studio show, YouTube Live at E3, which will include interviews with game developers and executives.

“The feedback we heard was clear. They wanted to play the games inside the convention center. In addition, exhibitors inside the convention center wanted to have access to the fans. So this year we’re bringing the two together,” ESA Senior Vice President of Communications Rich Taylor told the GameSpot website.

Taylor also said the ESA is always looking for ways to make the E3 Expo more relevant and useful for game industry professionals, journalists and the public.

“I think asking, ‘How can we improve?’ ‘Where are video games headed?’ and ‘How do we connect with fans?’ are all healthy questions, and that helps ensure E3 stays current and meets exhibitors’ needs,” he said.

In addition, E3 will also offering business passes for the first time this year. With E3's Business Pass, attendees will be able to connect with tens of thousands of industry professionals, such as industry analysts and business partners.

Attendees with the pass will also receive with several benefits, including a three-day expo pass, access to the VIP Lounge, catered breakfast and lunch each day, access to the Exhibit Hall through a dedicated VIP Entrance, as well as access to CEO/Developer panels and LA Live activations.

“This is a changing industry and E3 has always evolved to meet industry needs and anticipate where we’re heading together—as an event, as an industry and as fans,” Dan Hewitt, ESA’s vice president of media relations and event management says. “The decision to open our doors to fans was a strategic decision.

Hewitt attributes ESA’s members and their vision and leadership with making these new experiences possible at E3.

“We have a model that allows the business of the industry to continue for our business and media attendees, and provides an opportunity for video games’ biggest fans to experience the latest in innovative, immersive entertainment,” he says.

“E3 will feature more than 200 exhibitors showcasing never-before-seen video games. Couple that experience with an opportunity to listen to leading video game industry figures at E3’s panel sessions.   “E3 has a reputation around the world as the place where video game hardware and software launches happen,” Hewitt concludes. “Last year, E3 generated more than 65 billion media impressions around the globe. That doesn’t happen accidentally and it’s a testament to E3’s strength, its connection to the fans, and the event’s position in the industry.”    

 57A0384The IRCE event will provide attendees with solutions-driven educational sessions about e-commerce, including marketing trends. By Michelle Soriano

To excel in e-retail, you need to have the right strategies, technologies and connections in place to stay competitive. The Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition (IRCE), the must-attend event for e-commerce and retail professionals, has what you need to stay ahead in your business. Taking place June 6-9,2017, at Chicago’s McCormick Place West, this gathering of nearly 10,000 professionals is where experts, insights and innovation converge.

Knowledge is more than power – in e-commerce, it’s profit. IRCE offers practical, relevant education sessions – in six workshops and ten tracks – that cover the topics e-retailers want to learn about, from marketing trends, B2B-specific challenges to the latest technology and more. Our experts know exactly how to translate the information you need into the results you want. 

Find solutions to your most pressing challenges, and come away with actionable answers and practical tactics for building your sales and your brand. This year, the agenda has been expanded to include a dedicated track for the fashion/apparel/home furnishings industry, as well as two new workshops, focusing on direct-to-consumer and design and usability.

The adjacent expo hall boasts nearly 600 of the top technology and solution providers. Your company needs to stand out in the crowded e-commerce marketplace, and we have the technologies to keep your sales growing. Whether you’re looking to build loyalty, optimize search or drive revenue across every channel, you’ll find what you need here to keep you ahead of your competition.

When it comes to building your professional network, IRCE knows that there’s nothing better than connecting face-to-face. That’s why we’ve designed an unbeatable experience that brings you together with e-retail leaders, expert speakers and peers facing similar challenges. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to share insights, trade experiences and solidify relationships, all in a professional environment that facilitates connections.

Michelle Soriano is the director of marketing for the IRCE. 

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