Back-to-school shoppers rely more on smartphones and less on social media

July 30, 2015 Leave a comment
July 30, 2015, 11:04 AM

Sandra Guy BY SANDRA GUY Senior Editordownload (1)

Only 10% will turn to social networks for recommendations, down from 35% in 2011, a Deloitte study finds. But 44% of smartphone owners will research on their devices and 29% buy via mobile.

An annual survey of back-to-school shoppers suggests they’re more reliant on their smartphones than ever before, and less on social media.

Four out of five smartphone owners plan to use those devices in some way as they shop in advance for their schoolchildren, according to the study commissioned by business and technology consulting firm Deloitte. The largest percentage, 57%, will use their devices to get coupons or price and sales information, while 44% of smartphone owners will access a retailer’s website forback-to-school shopping. Among other uses, 29% will complete their purchases using their smartphones and 21% will access a mobile shopping app. The online survey polled a sample of 1,015 U.S. parents of school-age children from July 5-8, and has a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

The results reveal that more parents—31%—plan to complete their back-to-school shopping, whether online or offline, after the start of the school year, a 5-percentage-point increase from 2014. Spending will remain flat for children in grades K-12 and college, at $1,747, compared with $1,766 last year, the study states.

The results also show that retailers no longer control the shopping agenda, even for bargains, and that online retailers must focus on satisfying the customer with excellent service and free shipping.

“Today is about share of heart. Do customers really like me? Do they like doing business with me?” says James Dion, head of Chicago retail consulting firm Dionco Inc.

“This comes with how easy you are to deal with; how good is your return policy? Do you have live chat? Do you have a community that I care about? Do you share my values?” Dion says. “Free shipping is critical.”

A retailer must become part of a consumer’s day-to-day life to keep up, he says.

Dion cited as examples of retailers doing it right as Apple, No. 2 in the Internet Retailer 2015 Top 500 Guide, Kiehl’s, (No. 1) and subscription lingerie service Adore Me (No. 634).

Dion says he found it surprising that only 10% of those polled this year said they rely on social media for back-to-school shopping advice, down from 18% last year and 35% in 2011. The finding reflects a new generation of nonconformists, even though they value social media interaction, he says. “Social media is becoming less of a commercial thing for them,” Dion says.

Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst at NPD Group, says consumers are seeking products when they need and intend to use them, even at the expense of bargain hunting. Retailers are responding by more closely integrating their online and store operations, and they should do so with even greater sophistication, he says.

Other findings show:

  • 80% of smartphone owners in Deloitte’s survey plan to use their devices in the back-to-school shopping process, an increase of 6 percentage points over last year. Smartphone device ownership among the respondents has more than doubled, to nearly 90% this year from 40% in 2011.
  • Of all the devices consumers own, they plan to use their smartphones most frequently for back-to-school shopping, ahead of their laptops, PCs and tablets.
  • Consumers show little awareness of in-store beacon technology, which are small pieces of hardware that can send messages to a consumer who is in a store if she has downloaded the retailer’s app. Beacons, which use Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) wireless networking technology common on all newer smartphones, enable retailers, for example, to notify a shopper of a nearby sale-priced item. Among back-to-school shoppers surveyed, more than half (51%) are unfamiliar with in-store beacon technology and another one-third (32%) say they do not plan to use it.
  • While online shopping destinations continue to climb year-over-year and hold the No. 2 spot (44%) behind discount/value department stores (86%), 55% of parents shopping for children in grades K-12 also say they will research online first before making a purchase in a store.
  • Cyber security risks are a big concern, as 54% of back-to-school shoppers surveyed say they are more concerned than last year about the protection of their personal data when shopping online. More consumers are concerned about personal data security when shopping online (68%) compared with shopping in physical stores (50%

Parents and college students diverge when it comes to shopping influences: 55% of parents say they rely primarily on their child’s school for recommendations of what to buy this summer, while 74%t of students say they’ll rely on friends for advice, according to the “Back to College” portion of the study.

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Abercrombie Is Debuting a New Athleisure Line This Week

July 29, 2015 Leave a comment

“The collection is a nod to the brand’s athletic heritage, featuring sporty items that can be dressed up or down including cropped fleece tops, structured leggings, tanks with mesh inserts and ribbed jersey dresses,” the brand’s release reads. The line will also include a peplum skirt, bomber jackets, and zip-front hoodies.

Abercrombie already has most of these categories covered in its online shop, but this will be a deeper extension into athleisure. Interestingly, the much-maligned Abercrombie logo is still present in many of the designs; albeit not so prominently displayed.

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ATF to Join Pilot Test of International Trade Data System

July 29, 2015 Leave a comment


Thursday, July 30, 2015
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has announced that no sooner than Aug. 19 it will begin participating in U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s pilot test of the International Trade Data System for processing import-related forms and data using the partner government agency message set and the Automated Commercial Environment.

ATF encourages the voluntary participation of U.S. importers in this pilot. Importers or their licensed customs brokers who wish to participate must have the capability to file the relevant data through ACE using a software program that has completed ACE certification testing for the PGA message set.

Instead of using the existing process, participating U.S. importers will use the PGA message set to send pertinent information through ACE for CBP release and receipt. These data elements include agency program codes, category type codes, ATF category code, type codes and exemption codes. CBP will validate this information and electronically transmit entry and release information to ATF for purposes of satisfying CBP’s certification requirements.

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Senate Dems press gun dealers on background checks (Like WalMart does!)

July 29, 2015 Leave a comment


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Senate Democrats are appealing directly to gun retailers in a renewed push to expand background checks in lieu of congressional action on the divisive issue.

Gun safety advocates in Congress have long called for lawmakers to close background check loopholes that allow criminals to buy guns online and at gun shows, but to little avail.

Now, they’re turning their attention to gun retailers such as Cabelas and Bass Pro Shops in hopes of convincing them to tighten their policies. They’re asking these stores to voluntarily refrain from selling guns to people who have not passed background checks.

“That’s a voluntary decision by the gun dealers,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) told reporters Tuesday. “It’s a voluntary decision to enable a killer; it’s a voluntary choice to empower a murder.”

Blumenthal was speaking at a gun safety press conference hosted by Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

At issue are existing regulations that allow people to purchase guns at retail stores without completing a background check.

These stores must submit information about prospective gun buyers to the FBI so it can run background checks on them before the sale is made. In many cases, the background checks are instant and the sale is made on the spot. But sometimes it takes longer to complete.

If the FBI does not respond within three days, the store is allowed to move forward and make the sale. According to Everytown, more than 15,000 dangerous people have obtained gun through this loophole over the last five years.

Gun safety advocates are calling on stores to voluntarily refrain from selling firearms to what they say is a small fraction of people who have not completed an FBI background check.

This marks a change in strategy for gun safety advocates. They have long pressed for lawmakers to strengthen background checks, but amid a gridlocked Congress they are now turning their pleas to industry.

Some have already listened. Wal-Mart, Sports Authority, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Dunham Sports, Academy Sports & Outdoors and Big 5 Sporting Goods, for instance, only sell guns to people after the FBI has completed their background check and approved the sale, according to Everytown.

“Why not do as Walmart has done?” Blumenthal asked. “Insist that there be a background check before you sell the gun.”

“That’s something every gun retailer could do this week at no consequence to their bottom line,” added Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who also spoke at the press conference.

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July 29, 2015 Leave a comment
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Does Customer Experience Really Drive Business Success?

July 29, 2015 Leave a comment
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Microsoft, Capitulation And The End Of Windows Everywhere

July 29, 2015 Leave a comment


  • Microsoft today, I think, is a case study in knowing when you should indeed give up, and what you should do after that.
  • PCs aren’t going away any time soon, any more than faxes or mainframes did, but they are the past, not the future.
  • Windows is not a point of leverage for Microsoft in mobile.

Tech culture is very fond of persistence, stubbornness, perseverance, and the idea that you should never give up. We’re surrounded by stories of visionaries who were told they’d never succeed and went on to change the world. But sometimes, you should put selection bias aside and, yes, give up.

This applies to big companies perhaps even more than for startups. Big companies have entire strategy teams devoted to working out what to do next and how to do it, and budgets to hire strategy consulting firms for millions of dollars to produce hundred-page decks with more strategies and ways to achieve them. Such people have little interest in saying ‘give up – it won’t work’ (perhaps because that might mean you don’t need a strategy team anymore). And there’s no SmartArt for failure.

Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) today, I think, is a case study in knowing when you should indeed give up, and what you should do after that.

As (hopefully) we all now understand, mobile is replacing the PC as the dominant computing platform. Smartphones sell in much larger numbers, have a much larger user base and are already close to taking a larger share of internet use than the PC in leading markets (such as the USA and UK). PCs aren’t going away any time soon, any more than faxes or mainframes did, but they are the past, not the future.

(click to enlarge)

Since Microsoft’s mobile operating systems have failed to achieve meaningful market share, Microsoft has hence gone from dominating sales of personal computing devices to powering less than a fifth.

(click to enlarge)

If you were running Microsoft, what would you do about this?

The old option, from Steve Ballmer, was to apply the weight and force of Windows and Office on the PC to force Windows into mobile, using sheer effort to come from behind (as Microsoft had done many times before). Leverage Office and Windows against each other. Put together, late and in stages, an operating system that can answer iOS. Pay developers to make apps for Windows Phone to seed the market, if you have to. Put Office onto your own platforms first, regardless of where the users are. When all else fails and Nokia tell you it’s giving up, buy them out and make the handsets yourself.

In the past, leveraging Windows and Office was the key to Microsoft’s success, but that didn’t work this time. Windows had actually ceased to be the dominant development platform in the late 1990s with the rise of the web (though that mattered less at the time since you still needed to go online, and for almost everyone that meant a Windows PC). Hence, though a big part of Microsoft’s mobile strategy has been to push towards common code across Windows on the desktop and on mobile, so that it’s easy to write apps for both at the same time, in practice that’s largely irrelevant. The apps that people want on smartphones are not being written for desktop Windows anyway. Uber doesn’t have a desktop Windows app, and neither does Instacart, Pinterest or Instagram. The apps and services that consumers care about are either smartphone-only or address the desktop using the web, with only partial exceptions for the enterprise. You can’t tempt developers to support Windows Phone by saying ‘it’s easy to deploy your desktop app to mobile’ if there is no desktop app. So Windows is not a point of leverage for Microsoft in mobile. Neither was Office. Few people really want to edit an Office document on a phone – a viewer is normally enough. And as Blackberry (NASDAQ:BBRY) also discovered, enterprise support is not enough if the broader phone experience is sub-par. As Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) has added enterprise features, the appeal of Windows Phone has fallen away there too.

There was a slim chance that Windows Phone might have been able to overcome all this and establish itself in 2011, when Nokia’s (NYSE:NOK) partnership was announced. There was no chance at all by the time Microsoft bought Nokia in 2013. and so the write-down of that acquisition now comes as a matter of regret but not surprise. Windows Phone has failed to achieve enough scale to be attractive to developers: it is a third choice, or perhaps even fourth, after the greater appeal of just doing another iOS or Android project. There are fewer apps, and those that are there are later and have fewer features than those on iOS or Android. Consumers notice. Some people love their Windows Phones, but not nearly enough.

So, Microsoft has missed mobile. Consumer PCs, slowly, will be a shrinking platform. Meanwhile weakness in mobile also bleeds back to the desktop and undermines Office. The shift away from the PC will be slower in the enterprise than in consumer internet, and so will the rise of alternative software models. But as I discussed here, the rise of SaaS services and new productivity models on one hand and more and more capable mobile devices on the other means that Office, and hence desktop Windows in the enterprise, is also probably a declining model.

This brings us to capitulation. A new CEO is acknowledging the end of ‘Windows Everywhere’ as the driving strategic engine for Microsoft, and also acknowledging the decline of Microsoft Office as the monolithic, universal experience for productivity. Microsoft is also suggesting that Xbox is not strategically core either, reflecting the reality that it will be the smartphone, not the TV or a box plugged into it, that will be the hub of the digital experience for most people. The smartphone is the sun and everything else orbits it.

This is a little like Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) transition away from the plain-text web search as the centre of everything, and indeed Facebook’s tentative shifts away from the Newsfeed. Microsoft has two huge, profitable businesses in Windows and Office: they will slowly go away, so how do you use them to create something new? Instead of every new project having in some way to support Office and Windows, how do you use Office and Windows to support the future? You must distinguish between things that prop up the legacy Office and Windows businesses (and Microsoft is doing plenty to do that), while using them to drive the new things.

But you also need to work out was that ‘new’ would look like. Google’s mission is generalizable beyond ‘web search’ – really, (as I wrote here) it’s a machine learning company whose mission is to understand everything and help you find it, and that doesn’t have to mean a text search box. For Microsoft it’s less clear. It delivered ‘a PC on every home and on every desk’, which once seemed like a crazy goal, but now mobile means ‘a computer in every pocket’ and Microsoft has little role to play in delivering that, so what does it do? Again, as I suggested here, enterprise platforms and productivity are going to change fundamentally, and that in turn will enable and feed off a shift away from PCs. Sharing document files (or copying them as web apps) is not the future – rather, the connective tissue of work needs to be rebuilt. By someone. I don’t have a complete sense of what that looks like, but admitting defeat is the first step to working it out.

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