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Lack of U.S. apparel workers hampers ‘Made in America’ campaign

September 30, 2013 Leave a comment
 

THE BUSINESS, AND ART, OF RETAIL By Andria Cheng

One of the biggest headaches facing U.S. retailers eager to sell more American-made products is not lack of demand, but lack of workers willing or able to do the job.

Given the huge exodus of U.S. manufacturing jobs over the past two decades, manufacturers are struggling to find workers with the prerequisite specialized skills that haven’t already been replaced by machines, according to a New York Times article.

As a result of the reduced labor supply, inflation-adjusted wages for cut-and-sew jobs in the apparel industry have risen 13.2% on an inflation-adjusted basis from 2007 to 2012, above the 1.4% increase of the overall private sector pay hike, the Times reported.

“The sad truth is, we put ads in the paper and not many people show up,” the Times quoted Airtex Design Group CEO Mike Miller. The Minneapolis-based company makes home textile products for chains like Pottery Barn WSM  and Restoration HardwareRH , the Times reported.

In Minnesota, manufacturers have resorted to recruiting at high schools, fliers at churches and community centers, and advertising in Hmong, Somali and Spanish-Language newspapers, the Times reported. It said a group of manufacturers, a non-profit organization and a technical college even joined together to run a program aimed at creating a skilled sewing work force. Even more surprising, the nearly $3,700 inaugural session tuition was covered by charities and the city of Minneapolis, according to the Times article.

Behind that desperate bid to recruit garment workers: in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, only 860 were employed last year as machine sewers even though the city reported almost 1.75 million workers, the Times  said, adding the nationwide total for sewing machine operators totaled only 142,000.

The move toward “Made in America” has gained traction with companies such as Wal-Mart WMT  as wages in China have escalated to a level that makes U.S. manufacturing more competitive, especially after factoring in transportation costs, currency exchange risks and safety concerns in the wake of the Bangladesh factory tragedy in April.

Wal-Mart has committed to buying an additional $50 billion worth of U.S.-made goods over the next 10 years and in August gathered 500 manufacturers, including General Electric GE , to lay out their case for U.S. manufacturing.

However, good intentions aside, brands like lingerie label Cosabella and designer Rag & Bone, as detailed in the MarketWatch article  in January, have said sophisticated lingerie machines no longer exist here in the U.S. and finding seamstresses and young workers interested in apparel manufacturing as a career choice was among their biggest challenges.

– Andria Cheng

Categories: Uncategorized

College-Gear Makers Pressed on Bangladesh

September 30, 2013 Leave a comment
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By SHELLY BANJOand SYED ZAIN AL-MAHMOOD September 30, 2013

DHAKA, Bangladesh—Factory disasters in Bangladesh have done little to change the habits of Americans hooked on cheap clothes. But some student groups are now taking aim at a market that has proven more responsive to protests: college gear.
This fall, the students are pressing their universities to stop selling licensed gear produced by manufacturers including VF Corp. VFC +0.26% and Nike Inc.NKE -1.36% unless the companies sign on to the Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh, a five-year, legally-binding pact that has more than 80 corporate members, mostly European. The companies have contracts with U.S. universities to produce the T-shirts, hats and other gear that make up the $4.5 billion collegiate licensing industry.
The new push by United Students Against Sweatshops, which has chapters at 150 universities, follows a series of deadly garment factory disasters in Bangladesh that called attention to unsafe conditions for workers that make clothing for many Western retailers.
Companies including Hennes & Mauritz AB HM-B.SK -0.57% and Abercrombie & Fitch Co. ANF -1.28% have signed the European-led accord, pledging to secure funding for factory renovations and safety upgrades. Labor advocates consider it more substantial than an agreement signed by mainly U.S. companies that would require factories to fund their own improvements.
“Many suppliers are still pursuing the failed self-regulatory approach,” said Garrett Strain, international campaigns coordinator for USAS. “We hope suppliers of U.S. collegiate clothing will join the legally binding Bangladesh safety accord without delay.
“VF, which signed on to the separate Bangladesh safety pact made up of nearly two dozen North American retailers including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. WMT -0.28% and GapInc., GPS -0.10% said it shares the European accord’s aim to ensure safe working conditions for the people that make its products.
“It’s unfortunate that the students are focused on painting a picture of ‘us versus them’,” said Tom Nelson, vice president of global product procurement at VF. “If we could eliminate the noise around the competition between groups and get behind the real mission, which is to help the workers in Bangladesh, we could make this thing a whole lot better.”
Nike, which has declined to sign on to either Bangladesh safety pact, said it is committed to working closely with the factories that make its goods in the country. The factories have recently undergone safety and structural audits by the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, a spokesman said.
University students’ tactics have proven successful in the past. More than a decade ago, Nike was among the first companies to disclose a list of factories that produced collegiate apparel after student groups staged protests at colleges including Harvard University and the University of Michigan.
Last April, Adidas AG ADS.XE +0.07% agreed to compensate 2,700 workers owed $1.8 million in severance pay at a shuttered Indonesian apparel factory after more than a dozen colleges including Cornell University and Georgetown University severed collegiate contracts with the German sportswear company.
The world’s largest retailers have flocked to Bangladesh in recent years, attracted by cheap wages and an abundant supply of labor at its more than 4,000 factories. The country’s clothing exports topped $20 billion last year
The student group toured the country last month, visiting factories, speaking with local labor groups and videotaping worker interviews that they intend to broadcast on their campuses this fall. During one meeting at a local labor office, about 30 garment workers sat on the office floor in front of the American students and listed complaints of delayed wages, poor sanitation and physical abuse from managers.
“It’s good that you have come to see us,” said one worker at Optimum Fashions Wear Ltd., a factory 15 miles south of Dhaka that makes clothes for VF. “We need our pay on time, we need clean floors,” said the worker, Munirul Islam, who added that the managers “yell at us and call us names if we bring up these issues.”
Mizanur Rahman, managing director of Optimum Fashions, denied unsafe conditions and abuse. He said his company occasionally delayed salary payments due to disruption from general strikes in the country.
VF, which said it has worked with Optimum Fashions since 2009, said it is working with management to fix the sanitary conditions and payroll problems but that it is not aware of any managerial abuse.
The retailer’s compliance staff has visited the factory twice in three months to help the factory improve conditions but hasn’t found anything that “we would consider puts workers in imminent danger,” said Mr. Nelson, VF’s product procurement head.
National Leadership

Formed in 1997, United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) is a grassroots organization of youth and students who believe that a powerful and dynamic labor movement will ensure greater justice for all people. We use our unique roles of students as consumers, workers, and members of the campus community to win victories that set precedents in the struggle for self-determination of working people everywhere, particularly campus workers and garment workers who make collegiate licensed apparel.

National Student Coordinating Committee (contact info)

Anna Barcy grew up in New Jersey, and she’s a junior at Rutgers, the state university of New Jersey. She has been working with Rutgers USAS since her freshman year. She has worked on campaigns to cut contracts with RJ Reynolds Tobacco Company, the Fair Labor Association, and Adidas. Last year, she worked as a Regional Organizer and this year she will serve as the Campus Worker Justice representative to the Coordinating Committee. Right now, she and fellow RUSASers are pressuring Rutgers admins to cut ties with T-Mobile to fight back against the company’s vicious union busting policies.

Julia Wang is a fourth year student at the University of Southern California where she is studying Neuroscience and Human Rights. She is a member of USC’s USAS local, the Student Coalition Against Labor Exploitation (SCALE), campaigning alongside both campus workers and international garment workers. Julia helped to organize a campaign to have her university affiliate with the Worker Rights Consortium, the only independent monitoring organization in the country, and has worked on numerous corporate campaigns to garner respect for workers from some of the largest brands in the world. She is the International Solidarity Committee representative to the Coordinating Committee and is excited about moving forward to widen the scope of USAS’ international campaign work. Most recently, she’s been obsessed with lumber-jack winter socks, making biscotti, and super-spy heist films. If you buy her a coffee, she will most definitely love you forever!

Timothy Singratsomboune is a second-year student majoring in Ethnic & American Studies at The Ohio State University. Entering USAS at a time when the Sodexo Campaign, the Silver Star Campaign, and anti-privatization movements ran simultaneously at OSU, he has begun the journey to learning as many diverse tactics to create as successful Student-Worker Power as possible. Timothy has also been very involved in USAS’s Collective Liberation efforts and hopes to make USAS stand out as an example of an organization that is not just one of safety and tolerance, but one of inclusion and empowerment. Tim is 20 years old and identifies as a queer, multiracial, and proudly working class student. Tim is also a Co-Chair of the Mixed-Race Caucus.

Rachel Shevrin is in her third year at the University of Washington in Seattle, as well as her third year with UW USAS. She has worked strategically with her fellow UW USASers to cut contracts with Sodexo and Adidas, as well as campaigning with state AFSCME members to get better contracts for both the janitorial staff and student support service staff. Most recently, she helped lead the charge of making UW USAS part of the voluntary student funding system, pleasantly shaking up both the campus community and the administration, as well as the general status quo. Rachel identifies as a straight white woman who loves being goofy. As an At-Large Representative, she hopes to work with and get to know everyone!

Leewana Thomas is a junior at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. She is majoring in American Studies with accidental minors in Educational Studies and Anthropology. She has been actively campaigning against the corporate attack on campus and in the community since her first year of college– she has pressured the college to avoid hotels under boycott or dispute with UNITE HERE, she has brought Alta Gracia to campus, and she is currently beginning the new Kick Wall Street of Campus campaign with USAS. This means she’ll be pressuring her school and other institutions to cut ties with the bank responsible for the highest number of foreclosures in the region. Leewana identifies as a straight white woman, and she is super stoked to help other students fight corporate greed and administrative corruption on campuses way up North.

Lingran Kong is a fourth year student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying Political Science and Sociology. She has been involved in her school’s USAS local, the Student Labor Action Coalition (SLAC), since her first year. Lingran was heavily engaged in the 2011 Wisconsin Uprising and occupied the capitol building alongside local union members in fighting Scott Walker’s heinous attack on workers’ rights. Additionally, Lingran has worked on campaigns to push UW-Madison to cut its contracts with companies that exploit their workers and fail to uphold the university’s Code of Conduct. Lingran is also a Regional Organizer.

Martin Xavi Macias is a 4th year, studying Urban Planning at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Martin formed UIC Students Against Sweatshops after attending the Midwest Boot Camp in the Fall of 2012. The group joined (and pushed to rename) the Campus Worker and Student Coalition. Together, students and workers fought to attain a fair work contract for the Grad Employees Organization and will continue the fight for the rest of their campus workers. USAS also pressured UIC to cut ties with Adidas and carry Alta Gracia in their bookstore. Martin previously served as the Co-Chair for the People of Color Caucus on the Collective Liberation Committee. He loves: vegan food, his family, his partner and playing soccer with his team, the Mighty Mangoes – and supporting FC Barcelona! He identifies as a cisgender, working class person of the global majority (or POC) and is 24 years young. Martin is also a Regional Organizer.

National Organizers (contact info)

KB Brower started work as a National Organizer for USAS in 2012. She first got involved in her sophomore year at the College of William and Mary, where she became active in a historic 10-year long fight for living wages for campus workers. As a junior and senior she worked as a Regional Organizer in the Southeast and sat on the USAS Coordinating Committee. After two years of campaigning alongside the housekeeping and groundskeeping staff that culminated in a sit-in, the campus workers received their first raise in years. KB also helped organize USAS’ groundbreaking campaigns against Russell Athletic and Nike, in solidarity with workers who make college apparel. After graduating KB went on to organize with SEIU Healthcare 1199 NE, where she worked on a campaign that won collective bargaining rights for 6000 home-care workers in the state of Connecticut. KB is excited to be working with USAS again to help grow the student-labor movement!

Garrett Shishido Strain started as a national organizer with USAS in 2012. While attending the University of Washington-Seattle, Garrett helped organize several campaigns for student and worker power, including UW USAS’s successful campaign—culminating in three consecutive sit-ins—to end the University’s business relationship with outsourcing giant Sodexo. Beginning in 2010, Garrett also became an elected officer and organizer with UAW Local 4121 where he helped organize a contract campaign that resulted in significant wage increases and improvements for over 4,200 academic student employees across the UW campus. Garrett identifies as mixed-race/person of color and is 24 years old.

Jan Van Tol joined USAS as a National Organizer in 2012 after studying Russian and Computer Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. While a student, Jan organized campaigns to pressure the university to sever contracts with New Era Cap, Russell Athletic, and Nike over labor rights violations in their supply chains, forcing those companies to agree to groundbreaking settlements with workers and their unions. After graduation, Jan began work as an organizer for the American Federation of Teachers on a campaign to organize faculty and staff in the University of Wisconsin System and was on the front lines in the battle against Gov. Scott Walker’s corporate-backed attacks on unions. He started work as a National Organizer in 2012, and is 26 years old.

Marcelle Grair is a 2013 graduate of Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science with Pre-law and Secondary Education concentrations. In 2012, she became actively involved in the “Justice for School Workers” campaign which involved school workers, unions, and students across the state of Georgia fighting to get unemployment benefits reinstated for Georgia school workers. She joined USAS during her senior year at Spelman College, and became a Regional Organizer. During Marcelle’s senior year she helped start a USAS chapter in the Atlanta University Center (Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, and Spelman College). Additionally, she worked closely with students on Agnes Scott’s campus, Atlanta Jobs With Justice, and Georgia school workers from the Atlanta University Center, Georgia State, and Emory University to organize events such as legislative days of action and the “March to Defend Unemployment Benefits.” After a year of strong organizing, Georgia school workers’ unemployment benefits were reinstated. Marcelle identifies as a woman of color, queer, part of the working class and is 22 years old.

Regional Organizers

Amanda Mendez, University of California – Berkeley

Bianca Hinz-Foley, University of Texas – Austin

Caiden Jay Elmer is a junior at American University majoring in Spanish and Latin America Studies. He participated in Unite HERE’s Organizing Beyond Barriers program and worked on a campaign involving DC university food service workers’ contract fights. He continued to work on the same campaign with American University’s USAS affiliate, Student Worker Alliance. He’s super pumped to continue building momentum in the DC area and to help organizing groups connect with one another. Caiden’s white, working-class and identifies as gay and transgender. He’s originally from Oregon and enjoys playing sports and being outside.

Caitlin MacLaren is a senior at New York University, where she has worked on campaigns to cut contracts with big banks and sweatshop brands. She helped launch the Student Labor Action Movement at NYU to build student and worker power on campus. Caitlin is currently part of USAS’s International Solidarity Campaigns committee.

Eric Samuels is a third year student at Temple University and a member of the Coalition of Students Against Sweatshops (COSAS). He will be the new Regional Organizer for the Philadelphia area and has been a member of USAS since the National Conference at U Miami back in February 2013. Eric was involved with COSAS working on the Badidas campaign last year and will continue a new ISC and CWJ campaign this upcoming fall semester. He is majoring in Marketing and double Minoring in Spanish and Management Information Systems. He had the pleasure of visiting the Alta Gracia garment factory in the Dominican Republic this past summer and met the most amazing union leaders, creating lifelong friendships with the workers and his fellow USASers. This trip created a whole new meaning for solidarity and Eric is friggin PUMPED to start the new school year organizing like no other. HIT A BROTHA UP if you want to learn more about his experience in the DR, about USAS in general or if you are in the Philadelphia region lookin’ to cheeel.

Jonathan Londoño is a senior at Arizona State University where he is studying US and Mexican Regional Immigration Policy and Economy under the School of Transborder Studies. With the help of national leadership, Jonathan brought the USAS campaign against Adidas to ASU where previously there was no chapter. His efforts had both students and university officials critically discussing the university’s contract with Adidas. As a Regional Organizer, Jonathan hopes to greater expand USAS in the southwest for future campaigns and stronger student solidarity. He has worked as a football video coordinator for over 6 years in high school and in college. Born in central Phoenix, Arizona, Jonathan identifies himself as a proud Colombian-American. He is 21 years old. Photo credit: graduated USASer Morgan Currier.

Katie Corbit is a senior studying Spanish and Community Action & Social Change at the University of Michigan. At UMich, Katie and her fellow USASers stand in solidarity with both local and global workers. She developed a passion for the USAS mission from participating in a USAS Regional Boot Camp and enrolling in an Ethical Consumption course during her junior year. When not studying, working, or fighting for the underdog, Katie enjoys playing with her cat, eating froyo, and watching Sportscenter.

Mark Ortiz is a junior majoring in Biology and Sustainability Studies at the University of Alabama. Mark is new to USAS, just starting the Alabama affiliate, Students for Fair Labor, at the end of his sophomore year. After running a successful campaign to get Alta Gracia clothes in the school bookstore, Mark wanted to get more involved in USAS and the labor movement to help build a strong student and worker movement in the South. He is looking forward to serving as an RO this school and having the opportunity to strengthen solidarity in the South. When he is not organizing Mark enjoys listening to the experimental sounds of jazz fusion.

Naomi Carbrey, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill

Razzan Quran is a junior at the University of Memphis. Growing up in Palestine enabled her to see the different dimensions of oppression and mistreatment. Since moving to the US two years ago, she has learned so much through USAS and the power of organizing. As a member of the Campus Worker Justice Campaigns Razzan looks forward to winning the Living Wage campaign on her campus and in her state. The South is especially an intricate organizing space due to blatant worker unappreciation and the state leadership’s disregard of basic civil rights. She joined USAS Spring of 2012 and is currently a Regional Organizer in Tennessee.

Robert Naylor is a junior at the University of Tennessee Knoxville where he is majoring in Global Studies. After winning a campaign to bring Alta Gracia to the campus bookstore in 2012, Robert moved on to fight for domestic partner benefits for UT workers and started up the Badidas campaign at Knoxville. This year he will be working in solidarity with United Campus Workers to fight for living wages throughout the University of Tennessee system. He feels honored to be working to build student and worker power across the Southeast. When not organizing, he enjoys reading, rewriting pop songs for social justice flashmobs, and secretly adding more whipped cream to his coffee when his friends aren’t watching. Robert identifies as a 20 year-old queer male.

Troy Neves is a second year Sociology and Political Science Major at Northeastern University. In the last year, Troy took part in successfully campaigning for Northeastern to cut their contract with Badidas. While he is relatively new to USAS, he looks forward to serving as  a Regional Organizer for the Northeast and collaborating to build student worker power!! Troy is a self-identifying mixed race, queer male. When he is not challenging the patriarchy (or maybe while he is), you can find him cooking, doing yoga, or hanging out with friends.

Yecenia Morales-Garcia is a second year at Gonzaga University and a co-founder of the GU-USAS chapter. Before joining USAS, Yes-Si organized around the DREAM Act and the closure of the School of the Americas. Now she has been a part of the picket line that shut down Evergreen State College, winning the support staff union just cause and increased pay. When she is not using her loud voice leading chants, she is using it to cheer on her fellow Zags. She is excited to be organizing in the Pacific Northwest. Yes-Si is 19 year old, Chicana-Chapina.

Collective Liberation Caucus Co-Chairs

Arianna Feldman, Macalester College
Vanlyn Turner-Ramsay, University of Memphis
Claire Hintz, University of Wisconsin – Madison
Petro On, University of Texas – Austin
Mariela Martinez, Brown University

Francisco Rios Casas has thoroughly enjoyed living in the city of Los Angeles for the past three years as an undergraduate student at the University of Southern California studying Human Biology with a minor in American Studies and Ethnicity. He has organized alongside workers on his campus and in solidarity with those making university apparel for many different brands. He identifies as a working-class person of color and, as such, seeks out any opportunity to positively impact people in these and other marginalized groups. He hopes to be a part of an inclusive and sustainable movement for social justice: one that is made up of a diverse community and one in which people are given the tools to discover a greater meaning in their work and, as a result, a greater significance in their life. He enjoys reading science fiction or history, listening to irreverent podcasts, travelling on a budget, and jogging!

Stephanie Medina, Brown University
Troy Neves, Northeastern University
Dominique Porter, Ohio State University
Caiden Elmer, American University
Stoni Tomson, Brown University
Mark Ortiz, University of Alabama
Timothy Singratsomboune, Ohio State University

Worker Rights Consortium Board Representatives

Jose Godinez is a Bay Area native and a sophomore at Syracuse University. He undeclared in the school of management and double majoring in Policy studies. He started a chapter at Syracuse the second semester of his freshman year. This summer, Jose joined USAS in a delegation to Bangladesh. He is really excited to launch the end death traps campaign at Syracuse and serve on the WRC board this upcoming school year.

Maya Menlo is a lifelong metro-Detroiter and current junior at the University of Michigan, studying public policy and Arabic language.  She recently had the exhilarating opportunity to work on the victorious USAS campaign against Adidas, and is excited to continue organizing for international workers’ rights with the end death traps campaign. She is a travel enthusiast, a raging feminist, a dedicated co-oper, a spicy food fanatic, a lover of productive meetings, and a total nerd.

Rob Battista was born and raised in Buffalo, New York and now attends The Ohio State University. He is a rising third year in chemical engineering and has been in USAS since early his freshman year. For the past two years, Rob helped to run the Buck the Cowboys campaign that helped halt Silver Star Merchandising’s desire to tap into large public universities. Also, Rob was an international intern in the summer of 2012 in Nicaragua where he worked to document the conditions in the free trade zone factories. While not organizing, Rob is working on his research which centers around glacial environmental change in the Peruvian Andes.

Sarah Newell is a junior studying Social Entrepreneurship at the University of Southern California, with minors in Cultural Anthropology and International Relations. She got involved in USAS when the breathtaking wonder of her local USC Student Coalition Against Labor Exploitation caught her eye… or rather, her contact info. Since then, she has had the opportunity to help win a thirteen year fight for WRC affiliation at her university, easily the most fun thing she’s ever experienced. Outside of her love affair with all things labor, Sarah enjoys singing in an a cappella group, spending an inordinate amount of time reading blogs on identity politics, lollygagging with her English bulldog and the occasional geocaching session.

Youbin Kang is a 5th year student at Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design studying International Relations and Textiles. She is involved with Brown University’s USAS chapter, the Student Labor Alliance (SLA). She has worked with SLA efforts to cut Adidas’s athletic contract with Brown University, and the amazing win has motivated her to go on organizing. She is a 22 year old Korean student fighting for worker justice in the United States, and hopes that USAS in the form of international student solidarity spreads to more countries! Youbin is an avid knitter and really likes eating frozen gogurt.

Categories: Uncategorized

Advertisers Begin to Navigate the Mobile Landscape

September 30, 2013 Leave a comment

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Nearly 20% of mobile marketers will increase mobile ad spending by 50% or more in next two years 9/30/13

Mobile advertising, once uncharted territory, is being taken up by marketers in droves, as publishers offer more opportunities on the devices, usage of mobile skyrockets and the ads show strong performance. In a survey conducted by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and tech researcher Ovum, 19% of US mobile marketers said they planned to up their mobile ad budgets by 50% or more in the next two years. These respondents already market on mobile, and their responses suggest that they are seeing considerable return on investment (ROI) from the format.

As advertisers plan their mobile strategy, they have choices as to what ad inventory to use. The study found that the greatest percentage of respondents—by a wide margin—employed mobile sites or landing pages, at 70%. The next most common type of mobile ad was a static mobile display or banner ad, used by 49% of respondents. Despite search’s ubiquity as a digital tactic—and its importance on mobile—a lesser 44% invested in mobile search ads. This may be in part because there is less real estate for such ads on mobile screens. Nearly three out of 10 marketers used branded mobile apps, and 19% used mobile video ads.

There are still significant challenges mobile advertising must overcome, however. The greatest percentage of mobile marketers cited fragmented operating systems as their biggest challenge, followed closely by privacy concerns.

Responsive design should help ease mobile ad campaign deployment across devices, and 87% of respondents cited it as a “very important” or “important” development for mobile advertising, followed by HTML5, at 77%.

Despite the challenges, there is much to gain from mobile ad campaigns—a fact which has obviously not been lost on these marketers. In a Q3 2013 survey from the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) and Neustar, between 45% and 48% of US marketers cited mobile marketing as offering each of the following significant and sustainable benefits: loyalty retention, improving transactions and improving customer service.

Read more at http://www.emarketer.com/Article/Advertisers-Begin-Navigate-Mobile-Landscape/1010259#yUj0Jqqx4mch9Cxx.99

Categories: Uncategorized

The nanoRep Self-Service Customer Support Innovation

September 30, 2013 Leave a comment

 

nanoRep Customer Support Software

Customer service and support is a crowded space with numerous software vendors and various types of solutions. Many traditional vendors offer customer service portals on the front-end and a ticketing system in the back-end. To find answers, customers must find the link to the portal, drill down and narrow the search categories. If customers can’t find answers, eventually they are given the option to contact an agent via email. This traditional approach has many limitations:  
  • Accessibility: It assumes that customers will take the time to visit the company’s support portal, and navigate through articles and categories in search for answers.
  • Deflection of support tickets is more important than customer service.
  • Customer experience on website is not taken into consideration – no intelligent engagement.
  • Q&A knowledge base is built manually – agents must add new articles in pre-defined categories
  • Solution is limited to handful of products / services.  Knowledge base can’t be created for companies with hundreds, thousands and more products.  

Over the last several years, companies also adopted additional solutions such as forums, communities and virtual agents. Forums and communities help deflect support tickets, but answers are not always accurate and definitely not immediate (it may take days before and a forum or community member responds). Virtual agents on the other hand aim to deliver immediate answers and try to mimic real-conversations. However, it’s impossible to predict every scenario and therefore answers are limited. In addition, customers confuse virtual agents with chats and get irritated with the “robotic” nature of the conversation.

nanopRep realized those limitations and designed a self-service customer support software that overcomes many of these limitations and provides companies with excellent customer service. nanoRep provides a solution that enhances agent-productivity and increases online conversion.

At nanoRep we understand that web visitors abandon sites within seconds. Therefore, immediate answers must be provided in the most convenient way. Site abandonment is even more crucial for eCommerce sites.  Consumers have choices in term of product selection and price, and therefore customer service is a major differentiator. The fast growing eCommerce market presents a new customer service challenge – assisting online visitors in real-time, reducing abandonment, and increasing online conversion rate.

Keeping visitors engaged through their purchasing process requires accurate answers per product in real-time. nanoRep solves this challenge with an end-to-end customer service solution that includes a variety of Self-Service Widgets (available on every page), Self-Learning Knowledge Base, Ticketing System and advanced business analytics. Customers don’t need to navigate away to look for answers. They can ask questions thru the widget on every page, mobile and even Facebook, in their own language, just like they would ask a sales-person or an agent. nanoRep virtually holds the customer’s hand at any step throughout the purchasing process and helps reduce abandonment. 

For eCommerce companies with a wide variety of products, nanoRep offers complete knowledge base for each and every product. The artificial intelligence behind the self-learning knowledge base of nanoRep answers visitors’ questions per product in real-time and increases online conversion by 5X and more. With nanoRep, each product page can include an embedded widget, allowing customers to conveniently ask questions just as if they were visiting a brick-and-mortar store. 

Categories: Uncategorized

WHY WE DON’T BUY: Consumer Attitudes on Shopping Cart Abandoment

September 30, 2013 Leave a comment

WHY WE DON’T BUY: Consumer Attitudes on Shopping Cart Abandoment

Marketers are constantly combating shopping cart abandonment and looking for ways to save potentially lost sales.
Causes for abandonment are continually analyzed and various tactics are incessantly being developed to discourage
abandonment and get consumers back into shopping carts. We are standing by the exit door enthusiastically waving
customers back into the store by sending customer support reminder emails about a cart’s contents or offering an
incentive to come back and complete an order.
Data has been sliced, diced, automated and finely tuned over the years based on changing consumer behavior
trends and the technology available to marketers to develop sophisticated shopping carts and robust cart
abandonment email programs.
Customers have become more technologically savvy and are no longer simply interacting with a brand’s website
and email program. Social networks, mobile devices and various technologies that bridge the online and in-store
have shopping experience have not only increased consumers’ expectations of intuitive technology, they have also
become keenly aware of how technology is used market to them.
High shipping costs, shopper anxiety, technical issues… These are the tried and true causes for abandonment that
marketers have worked to combat. The truth is that many of your shoppers know they will abandon their orders
before they even click “add to cart” on your product page.
Rather than depending on assumptions, in this study we go directly to consumers and ask them about their
awareness of shopping cart technology, expectations for marketing when they abandon a cart, and if any of this
helps. Marketers know that abandonment rates continue to increase. This report will:
• Explain why consumers are abandoning more frequently and how this could be an opportunity for marketers
• Analyze what the consumers want to happen when they abandon a cart and what will annoy them
• Examine key components of the shopping cart and cart abandonment strategies

Categories: Uncategorized

Four-Figure Denim for (Only) Your Figure

September 29, 2013 Leave a comment
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The Wall Street Journal

Friday, September 27, 2013  By Daniel Bernauer

Jeans hop on the made-to-measure bandwagon. Rare selvage from Japan? Real gold buttons? Your call for a bespoke pair of jeans…

DEPT. OF FIT | Plenty of bolts to choose from at 3×1’s store in New York’sdownloadSoHo.

OD-AZ041A_DENIM_G_20130926115021WHEN A CUSTOMER comes to see Scott Morrison at his shop, Mr. Morrison sits the visitor down and asks, “What do you really love about your jeans?” This is the beginning of a conversation that can get rather personal, and can end with a client paying up to $1,200 for a bespoke pair of jeans.

It’s an exchange that isn’t only taking place in the confines of 3×1, Mr. Morrison’s specialty store in New York, but throughout the denim industry. Both small shops and major brands like Levi’s are attempting to capitalize on a slice of the market looking for made-to-measure.

While the bulk of Mr. Morrison’s business is wholesale—Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman and upscale retailers all over the world sell 3×1 brand jeans for men and women off the rack—about half of the business in his SoHo location comes from custom work. Clients can simply choose a fabric from the rolls of denim suspended from the walls and specify one of six fits ($525 to $750), or they can opt for a bespoke process ($1,200 for the first pair; $525 to $750 for subsequent ones)—both completed in the in-store factory, a hive of seamstresses sitting inside a glass cube. The majority of Mr. Morrison’s custom-buyers are male. “Historically nine out of 10 custom orders are men but more recently we’ve been seeing an uptick on the women’s end,” he said.

Ordering customized jeans isn’t unlike having a pair of trousers made for a suit: There are fittings, a pattern is drawn, the cloth is cut into pieces and finally sewn into pants. But denim can be trickier than other fabrics. Ranging in weight from 5 to 32 ounces per yard, it continues to evolve well after its been sewn. Mr. Morrison’s staff is not just tailoring, they’re laying a foundation for a fabric that will adjust to the wearer’s body.

For Mr. Morrison, who has been in the denim business for 16 years (he started the brands Paper Denim & Cloth and Earnest Sewn), the cut matters but the denim itself is key. “You realize that a measurement is just a number and it’s not going to articulate how a fabric is going to feel on your body,” he said. Mr. Morrison’s shop carries 320 denims—some as thin as an oxford shirt, others as thick as a carpet. He mails swatches of new fabric arrivals to his regular customers every week.

Like most players in the premium-denim game, Mr. Morrison worships at the altar of selvage, the high-quality, old-school denim made on small-scale shuttle looms. This material was the standard back when denim was workwear, before jeans went mainstream in the 1960s. Selvage was all but extinct in the U.S. by the 1980s. Shuttle-loom denim has been revived in Japan, where much of the best selvage denim can be found (Italy, the U.S. and Turkey are also key producers).

“It’s laying a foundation that will adjust to the wearer’s body.”

Not far from Mr. Morrison’s boutique, Jean Shop’s Eric Goldstein offers custom finishing—adding patches, signs of wear and tear and distressing to his raw denim jeans, which are worn by the likes of basketball players Kobe Bryant and Amar’e Stoudemire (athletes, for obvious reasons, can have trouble fitting into regular jeans). Mr. Goldstein only uses Japanese selvage denim, customized to his specifications by each mill that supplies him. He keeps some of his favorite pairs on a “wall of fame” behind his cash register, where the most impressively worked in—some might say ruined—jeans are displayed with pride. He pointed to a nearly destroyed pair owned by a bike courier, the winner of a recent contest Mr. Goldstein held on Instagram. “Look at that,” he said. “It’s like art.”

Brian Kim launched his first custom denim business in Los Angeles in 2002, after making custom jeans for traveling rocker friends, including members of the band the Killers. Mr. Kim is opening a new operation as part of his company, Thvm Atelier (with jeans running $350 to $400). Mr. Kim is examining ways he might offer his services online, and is fascinated by the new denims coming out of top mills in Istanbul. “They’re developing fabric with more microtechnology, adding copper fabric into the yarns and making sweat-proof fabrics, things that breathe really well,” he said.

But most men aren’t looking for something experimental. They simply want to look and feel good. “You have an emerging group of guys, not just finance guys, creative firm guys and tech people, who have financial resources and wear jeans every day to work,” said Mr. Morrison. “They’re wearing a really beautiful sweater and a nice pair of shoes and they want something that is going to round out that look.”

The fervor for custom denim is spreading across the globe. “People in Amsterdam eat jeans for breakfast, lunch and dinner,” said Jason Denham, who five years ago opened his Denham The Jeanmaker shop in the Dutch capital. It featured a “Blue Salad Bar” of customizable options for his selvage jeans. He has since opened locations in Tokyo and London, offering a menu of tailoring options for selvage jeans.

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Levi Strauss & Co.

Levi’s Lot No. 1 section in the Meatpacking District store

Of course, the master of American heritage, Levi’s, is keyed into the trend. As of last year, in New York and San Francisco, fans of Levi’s 501s can order a bespoke pair ($750 to $950). While the company’s master tailor, Ryan Grant-Hays, sources his selvage from the same American, Japanese and Turkish mills as other jean makers, he believes the brand’s advantage lies in its comprehensive 140-year-old archive and its highly personalized process. “Everything, from the fitting to the patternmaking is done in these four walls,” said Mr. Grant-Hays, 30, who cuts each pattern and sews each pair in the San Francisco shop. “Also the person I’m talking to goes into the personality of the jean. At 3×1, it’s a dozen ladies in a glass cube making your jeans. They don’t know you and who you are.”

Mr. Morrison of 3×1 takes issue with this. “Since we have the most options to choose from, and house the largest selection of selvage denim in the world, all under our roof,” he said, “I’m not sure how anyone could claim they offer a more personalized service.” His system “involves multiple fittings, measurements as well as our feedback forum, all one-on-one with our patternmaker.”

The argument over whose custom denim is most custom isn’t of interest to everyone in the industry. “It repulses me. People just want custom everything these days,” said Mordechai Rubinstein, a New York-based style blogger. “I thought Levi’s 501s were custom. You buy them, you wear them, you finally wash them and they mold to you. It’s suits that I want to fit right. When it comes to jeans, I’m about off the rack.”

But those who like it seem to like it a lot. Custom fitters cite loyal patrons buying multiple pairs. “I bought these jeans for the very precise fit,” said one custom fan, a 45-year-old neurosurgeon who went with Levi’s because 501s were the jeans he’d always worn. He said he’s looking to buy two more pairs this fall.

Mr. Morrison said his clientele is increasingly hungry to know every detail about his denim, its construction and its sourcing. He’s even printed up a little glossary in book form, so customers can develop their knowledge of chain stitching and crotch rivets. “Not everyone needs to be a denim nerd,” he said. “But at the same time we’re showing them something they can’t get at any other store, and that’s unique.” (here’s a really good one from Buddha Jeans:  http://buddhajeans.com/denim-dictionary-a-z-index/)

Mr. Morrison, whose love of denim approaches fetish levels, offers a simple justification for the trend. “Look at the seat shape,” he said, pointing to his behind. “It’s different on every guy.”

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