Monday, May 27, 2013

Standing on Giants
Visiting can help fire up your creativity too.
For those of you who are writers, artists, thespians or musicians outside of work, you know that creativity can sometimes be quite elusive to capture and incorporate. Coming up with new and fresh ideas can be an equally difficult task while running a business. These five tips take note from artists for sparking your creativity.
  1. Visit file sharing sites. Pinterest, Tumblr, Facebook and other social media sites can not only be fun to look through, they can trigger ideas and show you what you might want to add to your store—products, displays, events, promotions—the ideas are limitless and free. Try searching “college” to find items that you hadn't thought of yet. You can narrow down your search according to what you are looking for, or go with the flow clicking from one topic to another.
  2. Embrace mental tranquility. If you've been scratching your brain for hours trying to come up with new ideas or get beyond a “block”, it is unbelievably helpful to take a break and to come back to your thought process later. Step away and do anything you can to relax your mind: read a book, take a bath, flip through a magazine like Communication Arts or Mental Floss, meditate, exercise, or do some retail research (also known as “shopping”).
  3. Check out the competition. Do a bit of retail research by visiting other businesses in the area and online. Scope them out to see what’s working for them and what isn't, see what’s missing that you could add, then adapt and apply it to your own store.
  4. Look for inspiration. If you haven’t yet joined LinkedIn, you’re missing out. LinkedIn is a social networking site for businesses and a useful tool for igniting one’s imagination. You can connect with groups such as ICBA College Stores to dig for ideas, learn from others’ activities and challenges, and stay in-tune with your community. LinkedIn hosts a vast array of groups for you to explore, engage in and learn from.
  5. If all else fails, use Google or Bing. Think of Google and Bing as cornucopias of the internet. With everything you need at your fingertips where can you go wrong? Search for sales items that will attract new customers or items to make your store more appealing. Think of the items that your customers would ordinarily have to go out of their way for that you could easily bring to your store, making it more accessible and a destination for your customers. Searching “images” is another sure way to trigger creative ideas for displays and those random and unique items.
Isaac Newton once wisely said “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants” so unleash your creativity by learning from others and using it to better your business. Looking at what others have done and using those ideas for your own business is fine, just make sure you take their great ideas and turn them into something that’s truly, uniquely your own. Your customers will love going to a store that feels like nothing they've been to before and this helps make your store stand out from the rest.

Looking for more creative tips? Here are a few articles and websites to visit:

Posted by Sadja Pals, ICBA Marketing & Membership Manager

Friday, May 17, 2013

Putting the "H" in Hot
Top Selling Technology Products

The national retail channel has experienced a significant slowdown in the growth of technology product sales. The slowdown was noticeably evident in the brick-and-mortar retail channel — sales growth declined consistently through the spring and summer of 2012.

In contrast, online retail sales maintained the yearly growth rate showing a significant increase above last year. Of the following retailers— AT&T, Amazon,  Apple, Best Buy, Costco, Office Depot, Staples, Target, Verizon, Walmart —Amazon was the only one with 3 positive years of growth. The good news is you can still compete and win against all of these outlets.

No generation is more at ease with technology than today’s young people—“digital natives”, who have grown up immersed in a digital environment. 

Where notebook paper and pen may have formed the tool kit of prior generations, today’s students come to class armed with smart phones, laptops and iPads. 

The average merchandise mix of technology products in the ICBA member stores is approximately 20% of the store’s total sales. That is a significant share. The collegiate retail industry is full of challenges but also offers us plenty of opportunity. There are growth segments and niches in all areas of the collegiate marketplace.

Global PC shipments fell last year for the first time in 10 years, while shipments of smartphones and tablets continued to boom. Nationwide, Apple and Samsung are gaining market share in both smartphone (38%) and tablet computing (57%). Stores should tailor their product selection to capitalize on the growth in these segments.

Sales in the cellular accessories are very strong. Most of the volume is in protection/cases. As Apple iPhone and Samsung Galaxy introduce new models, make sure you have the latest accessories. Smartphone cases have become a true fashion item, with consumers purchasing more than one style for their phones.

Available at nuCourse Distribution, OtterBox (Defender Series and Commuter Series) and LifeProof are the leaders for all protective cases. Combined they make up over 42% of the total smartphone case sales in the US today. OtterBox is also available through D&H Distributing along with the Griffin Survivor Series Carrying Cases for iPhone.

As with smartphones, a majority of the sales dollar growth in tablet accessories is in cases. The Incase Book Jacket Select iPad 3/4 Black (MSRP $59.99) from The Douglas Stewart Company is a top seller this year. D&H Distributing reports that the OtterBox Defender Carrying Case for 10.1" tablet is also leading the category in sales.

Consumers say they are buying headphones at roughly the same frequency as they were last year – just under once every two years (every 22 months)*. John Koss, Jr., Vice President of Sales at Koss stated: “People use these products so much every day; there’s such a replacement business out there. And no one buys a single headphone for all uses anymore; they buy one for traveling, one for their workouts, one for gaming.”

Headphones are not just a $10-$30 retail product. Try selling higher end product and you will be amazed by the results.

D&H Distributing offers Sennheiser headphones, with the HD 25-SP II Stereo Headphone (MSRP $29.95), HD25-1 II Stereo Headphone (MSRP $249.95), PXC 250-II Headphone (MSRP$199.95) listed as best sellers for 2013. nuCourse best sellers include Klipsch Image ONE (MSRP $149.99) and Klipsch Image A5i Sport earbuds ($129.99). Douglas Stewart reports that Skullcandy Crusher Over-ear Headphones w/Mic Black (MRSP $99.99).

However, don’t forget to round out your assortment with opening price points. Skullcandy Ink'd Earbud w/Mic Black (MSRP $19.99) and Yurbuds Inspire Female Performance Fit Earbuds (MSRP $29.99) from Douglas Stewart and even the JVC Gumy Headphones (MSRP $9.99) from D&H Distributing are trending well in college stores.

Younger consumers (13-34 years old demographic) spend more on headphones, with a heavy focus on premium styles. Premium headphone ($100+) owners are more likely to own multiple pairs of headphones.* This group is your customer and is in your store daily.

Listening to music on a great pair of headphones is one of the more pleasurable experiences modern technology gives us. However, sometimes you want to let the music fill the room. Wireless speakers allow you to listen to your favorite tunes anywhere.

One area where it’s tough to get great sound out of a small package is in wireless audio speakers. However, the Braven 650 Bluetooth speaker (MSRP $169.99), available from both D&H Distributing and nuCourse, is a top seller and is becoming the new industry standard for Bluetooth audio. You may also want to try the Carbon Audio Zooka Bluetooth Speaker Red ($99.99) from Douglas Stewart.

Thirty-nine percent of expectant buyers plan to spend over $100 on their next wireless speaker purchase.** Make sure your assortment includes a wide selection of product in this price range.

As you can see, much of industry shift is determined by mobile device impacts, with smartphone and tablets leading the way in the development of new tech accessories. The amazing thing about this industry is that manufacturers are constantly bringing new products to market that provide new opportunities for retail growth.

Today, each consumer transaction is becoming more valuable. Find your niche among your student, faculty and staff customers. These vendor partners can be a great resource for your store. ICBA works with them to use their industry and product knowledge and company resources to develop programs and product assortments that will directly benefit your store. 

*Source: The NPD Group / Headphones: Ownership & Application Study, 2012 Update
**Source: The NPD Group / Audio Consumption Study, October 2012.

Written by Marty Duncan, ICBA Program Manager

Friday, May 10, 2013

Customer Loyalty
"Getting tired of hearing about Big Data and am ready for Big Insights."
- Justin Honaman, Director of Customer Intelligence, Coca Cola

Customer loyalty is a complex topic and POS and e-commerce systems often provide the data and not the insights. Customer data keeps growing with the sophistication of point-of-service, transactional data, and in e-commerce customer tracks within the website. But insights are not growing as fast. Then the task of converting insights back into analytic driven software is where third parties often enter.

Many stores overlook that emotional engagement is the dominant driver of purchase decisions and brand loyalty rather than price promotions, discounting, social networking, Internet marketing and similar efforts.

"…and if you look at what drives consumer emotional engagement in a category, it’s clear that the rational stuff is but table-stakes. If you don’t have a handle on the emotional side of the purchase and engagement process, you might as well spend your marketing budget on coupons and promotions.”
- Robert Passikoff, President of Brand Keys

Recently I read two pieces on customer loyalty that I want to share because I think each, in its own way, provides college stores with new understandings about possible future actions and investment toward customer intimacy.
First is this one by Kristine Jacobs, VP Customer Success at 500friends
Loyalty & Lifecycle Marketing: Best Practices
This is a good guide to strategy and tactics, the why and how of actions identified to produce results. It is available for free, if you consider giving your contact information to a marketing company free.
Second is The Power of Emotional Connections by Joe Skorupa at RIS.  As Joe notes, "The customer has the power to control the shopping experience today, but the retailer has the power to control the data."

Brands with highest levels of consumer engagement in their respective categories, based on emotional engagement strength achieved versus a consumer-generated, category-specific Ideal, calculated to be 100 percent:
· Airline: US Airways (85 percent)
· Athletic Footwear: Sketchers (86 percent)
· Automotive: Ford/Hyundai (93 percent)
· Bank: JP Morgan Chase (79 percent)
· Beer (Light): Coors Light (89 percent)
· Beer (Regular): Coors/Sam Adams (90 percent)
· Breakfast Cereal: Cheerios (91 percent)
· Car Insurance: State Farm (82 percent)
· Car Rental: Avis (92 percent)
· Casual Dining: Applebee’s (82 percent)
· Coffee; Dunkin’ Donuts (90 percent)
· Computer (Laptops): Samsung (91 percent)
· Cosmetics (Luxury): Clinique (93 percent)
· Credit Card; Discover (94 percent)
· Diapers: Pampers (95 percent)
· E-Readers: Kindle (92 percent)
· Evening News Shows: ABC (97 percent)
· Flat Screen TV: Samsung (88 percent)
· Gasoline: Shell (89 percent)
· Hotel (Luxury); Inter-Continental (82 percent)
· Hotel (Upscale): Hilton/Marriott (81 percent)
· Hotel (Midscale): Best Western (86 percent)
· Hotel (Economy): Days Inn (88 percent)
· Insurance: New York Life (81 percent)
· Major League Gaming: Call of Duty – Modern Warfare (93 percent)
· Major League Sports: National Football League (86 percent)
· MFP Office Copier: Canon/Konica Minolta (81 percent)
· Morning News Show: Good Morning, America (ABC) (94 percent)
· Mutual Funds: American Funds (79 percent)
· Natural Food Stores: Whole Foods (93 percent)
· Online Brokerage: (85 percent)
· Online Retailers: Amazon (96 percent)
· Online Travel Sites: Expedia (88 percent)
· Packaged Coffee: Dunkin’ (95 percent)
· Parcel Delivery: UPS (87 percent)
· Pet Food (Canned) for Cats: Fancy Feast (93 percent)
· Pet Food (Canned) for Dogs: Cesar (94 percent)
· Pizza: Domino’s (84 percent)
· Printers: Canon (88 percent)
· Quick-Serve Restaurants: Subway (95 percent)
· Retail Store (Apparel): J. Crew (82 percent)
· Retail Store (Department): Kohl’s (80 percent)
· Retail Store (Discount): Walmart (89 percent)
· Retail Store (Home Improvement): Home Depot (90 percent)
· Retail Store (Sporting/Recreational Goods): Dick’s (83 percent)
· Search Engine: Google (85 percent)
· Smartphones: Samsung (87 percent)
· Social Networking Sites: Facebook (88 percent)
· Soft Drinks (Diet): Diet Coke (89 percent)
· Soft Drink (Regular): Coke (90 percent)
· Tablets: Amazon (92 percent)
· Toothpaste: Colgate (94 percent)
· Vodka: Grey Goose (91 percent)
· Wireless Phone Service: AT&T (87 percent)
From Stacy Waymire, ICBA Executive Director