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As we prepare to kick off the holiday shopping season with two of the biggest shopping days of the year, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it’s a good time to look back and take stock of how much the retail industry has changed in just one year.

Last year, the Black Friday and Cyber Monday craze was all about m-commerce – especially optimizing the mobile experience for the holiday season. And indeed, TechCrunch reported that overall online sales saw a 19% increase on Black Friday 2013, but mobile sales surged 43%. Cyber Monday also saw record-breaking results: e-commerce sales increased by 20% from 2012-2013 while m-commerce sales increased by 55% year-over year, according to Mashable. The question is, how will the Black Friday Weekend, including Black Friday and Cyber Monday, be different in 2014?

For much of 2014 retailers have taken note of the general rise in popularity of online retail channels, and have wondered whether brick-and-mortar retail would survive to see another holiday season. But on the brink of Black Friday Weekend 2014, brick-and-mortar retail has never been more relevant – and online retail channels are just as critical.

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“Stores are wonderful. You can examine all the stuff for sale, and then buy it cheaper from another company online!” Sound familiar? This modern consumer tactic, commonly known as showrooming, is expected to continue during the upcoming holiday season. While some retailers perceive the practice as a threat, smart merchants are beginning to use it as an opportunity. With the help of in-store analytics technologies, stores can take action to convert showroomers into brick-and-mortar buyers.

A 2014 retail survey by Accenture reveals that in-store shopping is rebounding in popularity, but still needs improvement. The good news is that data capture and analytics technologies for brick-and-mortar environments can help retail organizations provide their customers with the best possible in-store experience. These solutions provide information to help decision-makers better understand today’s multichannel shoppers, delivering the equivalent of clickstream analytics for walk-in stores.

Read more on the Retail Merchandiser blog.

Your retail store’s design is one of the most crucial elements of your success. The impact you make on your customer when they first walk in the door is what stays with them forever, so when they hear or see your name anywhere they think of the design. A lot of store owners, however, decide to focus on the interior more than the exterior. The walls, lighting, layout, and colors are all important elements of your design, but the real eye-catcher happens before the customer even walks in the door. The moment the potential customer sees your store, they immediately record this image in their mind because this design is how they’ll find you from now on. That image is their first impression.

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Gone are the days of clipping coupons and lugging around bulging coupon organizers. Our on-the-go culture doesn't allow for that kind of preparation for every shopping trip. To keep up with the evolving technology, you must think about what devices and programs your customers are using. To keep your customers coming back to your shop for the best deals, here are four apps to consider incorporating into your store.

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It’s never been easier for customers to get what they want: from the Internet to social media to mobile and, of course, in-store, shoppers can purchase virtually anything they want anytime from anywhere. As a result of this multichannel approach, retailers now have access to a vast pool of customer data that hasn’t existed until fairly recently.

By analyzing this data, retailers can better predict consumer behavior and respond in real-time to consumers’ individual needs.

To understand how the buyer expects to be “spoken to” in today’s omni-channel world, whether through a smartphone app, store associate or live chat online, retailers reach new depths in understanding customer shopping patterns and desires. Following are the types of analytics that retailers should be paying close attention to this holiday season, all of which could hold the key to not only improving the customer experience, but increasing operational efficiency and profits, as well.

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How Retailers Prep for Holiday Shopping

When something is so good, it is natural to try to relish in it as long as possible. This is especially true when it comes to shopping, specifically Black Friday shopping. In an effort to harvest as much of the holiday shopping revenue they can, businesses have been expanding Black Friday shopping hours, stretching it out over days, and even weeks, to where shoppers may start referring to it as "Black November."

One Day Becomes 30

Recent tradition has it that the biggest shopping day of the year is Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. Eager and well prepared shoppers pile up at the entrance, ready to enter stores like Wal-Mart on Black Friday to begin the frenzy of hunting down the best deals for Christmas gifts. For retail stores, this is the Super Bowl of shopping days. This year, however, things have changed. It's no longer just a big day of shopping.

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Protect Your Customers, Build Their Trust and Grow Your Business

When your customers come to your site to shop, they’re looking for convenience, ease of purchase and entertainment. They also are looking for protection from the online “bad guys.” Your customers trust you to automatically protect them from hackers, identity theft, phishing, malware, and the like. In light of some recent retail security breach fiascoes, however, a growing number of consumers are wary about shopping online.

How are you protecting your customer’s identities and profiles while they browse your site? What kinds of security policies do you have in place? Here are some ways to increase your security online so that your customers trust you implicitly.

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Injecting Financing and Streamlining the Procure-to-Pay Process

The saying “the only thing that is constant is change” couldn’t be more aptly suited to the retail industry. Retailers are striving to leap-frog one another and differentiate themselves on the front-end through marketing and advertising, yet their back end problems remain unresolved.

Global expansion and omni-channel are necessary to business growth, but if not done correctly, retailers often lose profits from high operational costs in areas such as the supply chain and supplier management. These costs often stem from lack of visibility in both the physical and financial supply chain. The latter has created such inefficiencies in operating models that the procure-to-pay process (P2P) has become a hot topic for retailers to master to mitigate financial risk and bring their costs down.

In fact, the entire P2P process was explored further in a survey of 83 retailers conducted by Edgell Knowledge Network (EKN) in June 2014, where it was revealed that a shocking 51% of retailers do not use integrated processes or systems when managing purchase orders, buying processes, trade documents, finance options and payment settlements in the supply chain. This article examines the gaps in the modern P2P process and ways to overcome them.

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