Category Archives: Shopping

IAB Leadership Meeting: WalMart Global Commerce CEO Neil Ashe

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Wal-Mart Global eCommerce CEO Neil Ashe told 1000+ digital marketing pros at the IAB’s Annual Leadership Meeting in Palm Desert that their responsibility is to fully integrate their efforts throughout the organization.

Ashe, who formerly ran CBS Interactive, said top company execs have got to get away from the notion that the CIO is the only one who matters because “he has the ear of the CEO. That’s bunk,” he said. “You need everyone.”

“The org chart hasn’t changed all that much,” added Ashe. “But people are really changing. It is about inspiring change among key influentials in the organization.”

Ashe noted that Walmart.com has been set up as a separate organization, based in San Bruno, CA. But it has a major impact on the rest of WalMart, and works hard to blend its activities with WalMart.

Ultimately, a company needs to be judged on “its willingness to change, and its ability to invent,” said Ashe. “We need to deliver consistency across our units and bring together marketing, merchandising and technology in ways they’ve never been before.”

The top priority, Ashe added, is to coordinate the needs of the customer. “It is no longer up to the organization to do this,” said Ashe. “It happens at the point of the customers. It happens not where we choose, but where they choose. First and foremost, it is about how to deliver a better shopping experience for customers.”

It is also time to get over the novelty of Big Data concepts, and start thinking about how to actually apply data in meaningful ways. “Six-to-nine months ago, we all sat down and said ‘we’re sick’ of talking” about Big Data. We need to turn Big Data from a noun to a verb, and make it actionable,” said Ashe.

“We need it to help us help customers to find one more item; for merchants to sell one more item; to help our fulfillment centers do their job,” Ashe added. “That’s when data becomes actionable.”

Noting that WalMart was a pioneer in sharing its data with suppliers as far back as 1992, Ashe said that the company’s new efforts with data is “manifesting itself on site and in our stores; and manifesting in merchants in how they operate on our site and our store; and with operators, from scheduling to inventory outreach.

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Local’s New Year: Some Thoughts and Predictions

Over the years, we’ve seen some major paradigm shifts in the transition of local marketing to digital. In 2003, it was the rise of Google search as applied to small business –to this day, the biggest thing that ever happened to local. In 2007, the paradigm shift was the rise of Groupon and prepaid deals as a way to drive customer acquisition. This opened the door for all kinds of non-advertising marketing, from Facebook and Twitter to Card Linked Offers.

Right now, mobile is THE paradigm shift – both as a media channel, and as a geolocation device (Mobile hasn’t been a factor yet as an ewallet. But that is sure to come, with a whole new set of implications.)

Nothing happens in 12 month cycles, but this is what I see happening in 2014:

Hyperlocal Fails to Win Destination Status, Gets a Better Life as Feature
Hyperlocal seems so compelling; contextual content that can draw users who can be microtargeted on a block by block basis. But on a super hyper local basis, it hasn’t scaled as a business model or as a compelling destination site. AOL’s Patch is reported to be winding up as an independent entity, and National Local hybrids such as Examiner.com haven’t made an impact either. The one remaining super hyperlocal site is Next Door Networks, which has raised a $100 Million war chest. The site is based on user generated content and local cells of 30+ users. It is a much cheaper model than Patch’s local staff. But will it win sustained participation from users? My bet is that it won’t. But does that mean that hyperlocal is dead? In fact, hyperlocal is everywhere – in reviews, posts, articles, maps and enhanced listings. Its use is sure to grow.

The Sharing Economy Spawns Multiple Vertical Sites
One of the big local breakthroughs has been the development of shared listing sites for apartments (Airbnb), vacation rentals (BRBO) and rides (Uber). In 2014, we expect to see shared listings become more ubiquitous, with multiple entries per verticals, and the addition of many more verticals. We also expect to see an entire ecosystem grow around these sites. As AirBnB’s Joe Zadeh noted at Interactive Local Media in San Francisco, solutions are being added based on need. For instance, Airbnb has developed a freelance photographer program because hosts need good pictures of their apartments.

Social’s Impact In Local Is Too Fragmented, But Dedicated Word of Mouth Sites Make a Dent
Social leaders like Facebook and Google+ have tremendous volume at the local level. Facebook, alone, has over one million SMB advertisers. But its local usage is so fragmented that local can’t be a real focus at the vertical level. Review-based sites such as Yelp and Angie’s List get closer to the mark, and have broadened their reach beyond restaurants and service professionals, respectively. But they leave plenty of room for smaller Word of Mouth sites that can specialize in certain sectors (i.e. Plumbers) and really dig in. Look for some of the industry’s most innovative leaders try to break through with new models in 2014, including Justin Sanger with SupportLocal; Gib Olander with Local Viewpoints; and Matthew Berk with Lucky Oyster.

‘Big Data’ and Non-Advertising Marketing Boost Local Leads
The ability to base marketing on user engagement and behavior is a fantastic opportunity. Big data, specifically, mixes and matches various data bases to determine the likelihood of engagement. It has been successfully applied to support advertising campaigns. But can users be targeted as a substitute for advertising budgets? And looking forward, can transaction activity, store inventories and user location be wedded to search behavior as part of e big data? This is a greenfield opportunity in all respects. What we are looking for is the transformation of retail email and social lists to leads and promotions. Look for big data players such as Radius Intelligence, Retailigence, xAd, Urban Mapping and LocalBlox to showcase new opportunities in leads and geotargeting.

The Hunger for ‘Attribution’ Drives Big Data and Transaction Marketing
One of the biggest problems for local marketers is proving attribution – especially as users effortlessly move from a banquet of “spreadable media” – everything from articles to email to social media posts to YouTube. It is another reason we are keen on transactional media and loyalty media – the receipts say it all. Look for the gatekeepers of transaction media and loyalty marketing–everyone from Living Social to First Data, Bank of America, MasterCard, Amex , Google Wallet, PayPal and Square – to edge their way into consumer marketing.

Online Shopping Goes Local via Delivery
Interactive Local Media has largely been defined by tech factors, such as geofencing . But the growing use of online by commerce giants such as WalMart, The Home Depot, Amazon and eBay; their development of regional warehouses and delivery networks; and use of Facebook Connect-like one stop shopping suggests a new front in the war for local commerce. The imposition of local sales taxes also suggests a level playing field with local businesses. eBay’s purchase in 2013 of the Shutl courier service, and its expansion to multiple markets, really showed where this might lead.

Happy New Year everyone, and thanks for reading and being part of the local community.

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LIL ILM: eBay’s Jody Ford on ‘The New Commerce Battlefield’

Local is front and center in the next phase of ecommerce opening up, said eBAY VP of Marketplaces Jody Ford during a keynote address Dec. 110 at Leading in Local: Interactive Local Media in San Francisco. Ford said the past several years have been about online service, inventory and convenience and have necessarily favored online sites such as Amazon. But a new era of commerce that is consumer driven and technology enabled will blur the lines between online and offline.

“That is local,” said Ford. “There will be more retail change in the next three years than in the past twenty years.” And it will necessarily favor “platform” companies such as eBay, which Ford boasts has “the largest group of closed loop transactions in the world served by eBay, eBay Enterprises and PayPal.

“My job is to remove friction from connecting buyers and sellers,” he said. In fact, eBay “sits in the middle between utility sites such as Amazon and Walmart, and social shopping sites such as Etsy, Pinterest and Fab, he said.

The company’s next steps include such efforts as same day, scheduled delivery via eBay Now, which is supported by eBay’s recent acquisition of the Shutl courier service. eBay Now has been rolled out in the Bay Area. Chicago and parts of New York City. Dallas and London are next.

Gannett Digital Marketing Solutions Rebrands as G/O Digital

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Gannett Digital Marketing, the umbrella division of Gannett that includes ShopLocal, BlinQ, PointRoll, DealChicken, Key Ring and Clipper Magazine, relaunched today as G/O Digital. The new unit – which is adding a massive hub in a Chicago skyscraper, and is specifically kept separate from Gannettt’s media properties — is lead by longtime ShopLocal head Vikram Sharma. It also adds ecommerce vet Mark Maranacci (Edo, Google, Yahoo) as ShopLocal President, where he will lead the sales marketing team interacting with national brands and retailers.

The rebranding was announced today at ShopLocal’s 8th Annual Retail Summit in Chicago. Gannett CEO Gracia Martore, at the event, said that the effort is part of “transforming Gannett into an innovative media and marketing powerhouse,” scaling local audiences “to a national level.”

Staples SVP of U.S. Stores Alison Corchoran spoke about the value of having all the Gannett services under one roof. The company views Gannett as a major marketing partner, along with companies such as Constant Contact, Google, Groupon, LinkedIn, Facebook, Cheetah Mail and Mcgarry Bowen.

Corcoran noted that Staples now has 1,500 stores, but it isn’t about the stores so much as being a “b2b marketer” both online and in the stores. With the rise of search, Direct Mail, email marketing, social media, ecommerce and loyalty services, she noted that the goal posts have dramatically changed.

While Staples continues to focus on “easy,” “the meaning of ‘easy’ has changed. Retailers have more dots to connect. Gannett’s new focus on integrated offerings have really helped the Staples team get over the dual dilemma of being “very data driven but risk averse,” she says.

GrubHub, Seamless Merge; Mobile Drives Food Ordering Growth


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Online restaurant ordering and discovery giants GrubHub and Seamless have agreed to merge their operations, creating a single company. Chicago-based GrubHub currently serves more than 20,000 food ordering establishments in 500 cities, while New York-based Seamless serves more than 12,000 food ordering establishments in 400 U.S. cities plus London.

GrubHub CEO Matt Maloney, who co-founded the company in 2004, keeps the CEO job. Seamless CEO Jonathan Zabusky becomes president. Zabusky recently came on to spin off the operation from Aramark, the corporate catering giant.
The two companies had been going head-to-head in a number of their markets. Both share a vision of the food ordering business being rapidly transformed via smart phone.

We had an extensive discussion with Zabusky in March. At that time, he noted that Seamless had two million regular users and grossed $85 Million in topline revenues in 2012. It projects $100 million in top line revenue in 2013, with major growth seen in coming years.

The company has had a strong foothold in the corporate market, providing food ordering and delivery to law firms, tech firms and investment houses. But its major effort has been focused on the consumer side, which has been experiencing year-over-year growth of 60 percent.

The company has 300 people in three major offices, as well as field based sales. While it is best known for its strong business in Manhattan, where it recently opened a 28,000 square foot facility, Zabusky notes that the company has a strong presence in 13 major U.S. markets. He added that Seamless had “a major national expansion strategy,” and was well-situated to execute it with a customer care center in Salt Lake City.

The key to growth, said Zabusky, was to keep selling new products and features to its food establishment partners. “We don’t make money unless they make more money.”

Zabusky noted that Seamless has been processing electronic order forms, and providing electronic terminals, along with table side ordering apps. Generally, its focus is to move restaurants away from fax machines, and away from phone calls and paper, which he says remains the segment’s biggest competition.

With Seamless, restaurants move up to a “multi-platform portal,” where they could “view, confirm and track orders,” he said. Restaurants also leverage Seamless and its vast network for discovery and retention. For instance, it offers different deals on different days to keep customers coming back. “It is very different than the daily deals space,” he said.

The industry’s transformation via mobile, however, is expecially key. Zabusky says it represents 40 percent of the total business, up from 10 percent a year ago. But for online food ordering, mobile doesn’t just represent a phone. The company’s best customers use the PC-based Web, phones and tablets, he says. “Thirty percent of the mobile volume comes from the iPad.”

After the merger is completed, major competitors for the combined company will include Living Social, which has recently bet big on online food ordering; Delivery.com, which claims a roster of almost 10,000 restaurants in 50 cities; and Eat24.com, which covers 20,000 restaurants in 1,000 cities across the country.

AnyPerk Expands Concept of Employer Driven Discount Clubs

We like the idea of using corporations as a distribution base for media and services. In the 1990s, The Family Education Network built a great newsletter business distributed in corporate lobbies. The concept’s been widely extended with the addition of email and the ability to more effectively target employees based on different criteria.

NextJump, for instance, has built a business providing discounts and deals sent out as part of employee communications. The deals are generally aggregated from other sources, but it can target the offers based on buying and browsing habits. It takes a commission from sales. The service is free to companies.

Now we’re also looking at San Francisco-based AnyPerk, which shifts the employer shopping model to a premium offering, charging $5 a month per employee. CEO and Founder Taro Fukuyama tells us that the 15-person company — a graduate of Y Combinator — now has 2,500 companies signed up, distributing perks from 250 different marketers. Investors include Andressen Horowitz, SV Angel and a number of individuals, as well as Japanese-based funds .

Fukuyama says that AnyPerk’s goal is to use its volume-buying capability to drive discounts of 5-50 percent. It proves its value as a consumer-centric service from the get-go, rather than serving the interests of merchants. “We do everything we can to save them more than $5 a month” he says.

Typically, customers will start with 15 percent monthly discounts on mobile phones and services and work their way up to other products, specifically monthly utility products such as gyms, video services or rent. There may be 20 things you pay for every month, he says.

Entertainment, especially, stands out. AnyPerk’s top products, in order, are fitness, entertainment, travel and cell phone. Among its perk providers are Verizon, AMC, Redbox, Regal Entertainment Group, Equinox, AT&T, Budget, Zipcar, T-Mobile and LA Fitness.

Fukuyama, a native of Japan, tells us that employer shopping services are common in his homeland, where there are four major companies. But the concept is still relatively new to the U.S.

SpaFinder Last Minute: Scheduling as Promotion Opportunity

Is appointment scheduling poised to be a new anchor for service promotions? That vision –”look for an appointment, get a deal or upsell ” — has been articulated by a number of scheduling vendors, such as Agendize, FullSlate and Schedulicity. Most recently, RedBeacon founder Ethan Anderson has launched MyTime as a scheduling supermarket that allows shoppers to find discounted appointments at unfilled times.

Now comes Spafinder Last Minute, which provides same day and next day appointments. Started as “bTreated” by founder Josh Brenner, the company was acquired by SpaFinder last August. SpaFinder works with over 20,000 spa and wellness locations, and has recently spun off from the Booker platform service.

Now rebranded as “Last Minute,” it has initially launching in New York, where it has 50 merchants; Miami (25 merchants) and Chicago (25 merchants). Launches are expected this Summer and Fall in Los Angeles, Atlanta, Boston, Washington DC, San Francisco, Toronto and Dallas.

Local sales teams will be hired in some of the markets, with other markets served by telemarketing efforts. The service can be filtered by category, daypart and neighborhood.

Brenner tells us that he is especially looking to see merchant defections from deals companies such as Groupon. “They are burnt out” from the high commissions. he says. Last Minute enables healthy levels of discounts.

Customers get a “really good deal,” with minimum discounts set at 30 percent to 50 percent off, says Brenner. Some spa treatment with very high margins, such has medical specialties and laser hair removal have discounted as high as 80 percent. SpaFinder, for its part, takes “sustainable” commissions of 20-25 percent (although the reality is that this isn’t far off from what many deals companies will negotiate for desirable merchants).

Brenner says the appeal of Last Minute is that it fills in empty slots. And it doesn’t “tarnish” the merchant’s brand.

At this time of year — pre-summer –most spas are booking a lot of massages, adds Brenner. Gyms are also booking a lot of classes. Most of the site’s users have been women. While men might buy spa treatments for wives or girlfriends, appointments are almost always booked by the persona receiving the actual treatment.