Al’s column

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SHOPPER SENTIMENT: From 800/toll-free numbers to shop at home, there has been a fear among retailers—not just in flooring—the technology or concept spelled the end to the traditional way of shopping and consumers would abandon brick-and-mortar stores in favor of these more convenient methods. Throw in the Internet and the birth of mobile and this concern has hit all-time highs. To gauge consumers’ sentiment on which they prefer—in-store, online or mobile purchases—Nielsen posed the question to more than 3,300 people who owned either a smartphone or tablet for its Mobile Shopping Report, and the results may surprise a few people.


RESULTS: So should retailers pack it in? Which method do consumers favor? As the research company noted, the answer is a resounding, “that depends…” Online purchasing was rated the “Overall Favorite” by 59% of those surveyed, as well as the “Easiest” (68%) and “Most Convenient” (68%). But when it comes to making purchases at bricks-and-mortar stores people gave the traditional outlets the highest marks in the areas of “Most Reliable” (69%) and “Safest” (77%). As the newest channel, mobile still has a long way to go be-fore it gains broad acceptance. Nielsen said it came in third place across all measures except for two—“Most convenient” (38%) and “Easiest (27%)—in which it was a distant second to online.


OPPORTUNITY: In looking at the Nielsen results, there is a great deal of hope for the traditional retailer for a couple of reasons: As the company noted in its report, “people trust traditional stores the most when making purchases,” based on the areas in which this sector won. Second, that trust should give the brick-and-mortar store an advantage when the consumer goes online—assuming, of course, the traditional store has an online presence. It is far easier and cheaper for an established retailer to set up an online existence than it is for an e-tailer to open a brick-and-mortar operation. As a traditional dealer, you already have their trust, so if they had to choose between your online deal and someone else’s, there is a 70% or higher chance you will win.


PIN DROPS: Savvy retailers are already taking advantage of electronic tools available to them to ensure their survival as more consumers turn to the Internet before venturing out. For instance, the social networking site, Pinterest, which has seen a tremendous jump in users over the past year. A study by Responsys found 33% of retailers have used Pinterest to promote products, 28% are linking to Pinboards through promotional emails, 7% are promoting contests and 4% use Pinterest’s “pin it” buttons to encourage sharing within the site. Chad White, Responsys research director, said “Evidence is mounting consumers engage with more retailers on Pinterest than on other social networks and are much more likely to purchase based on that interaction, so the opportunity is just too big for most retailers to ignore.”


PICTURES SELL: Why do manufacturers of home furnishing products, no matter the industry, use beautiful room scenes to help sell their wares? Because even before there was an Internet, they understood a picture is worth a thousand words. Thanks to social media it is now being proven, at least in terms of purchasing. A survey by Bizrate Insight found 32% of online buyers surveyed made a purchase as a result of seeing an image on a social image sharing site, such as Pinterest. Another 37% had seen items they wanted to buy on image sharing sites. Of those who made a purchase, 26% were able to click through to the retailer from the image to make the purchase.

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