Category Archives: Shopping

Pinterest: Buyable Pins and the Evolution of Social Commerce

Pinterest has great goals for its new Buyable Pins program, which it believes will make social commerce relevant again, and mobile shopping usable. During a keynote at Cardlinx’s “Data Driven Commerce” event Sept. 22 in Bellevue, WA, Pinterest’s Head of Commerce Business Development Tiffany Black said the two month old program enables mobile and social commerce for a new generation for which social commerce has died, and mobile shopping is “terrible.

“There’s nothing ‘Group’ about Groupon anymore,” Black quipped, referring to its current identification as a marketplace. She also argues that social gamification sites such as Sneakpeek are also done (although we would argue that other social game sites such as MOGL and Lucky Diem have plenty of life left in them).

In any case, Pinterest shouldn’t be lumped in the same categories, says Black. It is a “forward looking,” “visual discovery platform,” “where people are thinking about tonight, tomorrow and next month. “Pinners are planning for their future,” she said.

They are also highly oriented towards mobile. Eighty percent of Pinterest’s 100 million monthly users come in via mobile devices.

While there have been complaints about the Pins turning Pinterest into a schlocky shopping mall, Black says it is only as commercial as its users want it to be, since it is entirely personalized. Top pins are food and drink, fashion, home improvement, health and fitness, cats and travel, she notes.

There’s also no problem with the merchants, which receive buyer information to confirm every purchase, with Pinterest merely acting as a common carrier. Currently, Pinterest is enabling purchases for 5,000 merchants and two million products.

BoA Sees Card Linked Offer Program Deepening Customer, Merchant Relationships

Bank AmeriDeals was launched in 2012 with the most ambitious marketing effort in the card linked offer space. Since then, the promotions program has given BoA insight into spending for over 35 million accounts, and helped deepen customer and merchant relationships, says BoA’s Alfred Hamilton, SVP of Bank AmeriDeals, during remarks on Sept. 22 at Cardlinx’s “Data Driven Commerce” event in Bellevue, WA.

Noting that customer attrition has gone down among Bank AmeriDeals users, Hamilton says that customers have gone from being leery of having their spending habits scrutinized in order to target them with better offers to actually wanting more specific targeting. “We’ve come a long way from ‘this is creepy,’ he says. “Customers expect offers to be very, very targeted.”

Bank AmeriDeals continues to make the safeguarding of consumer data a top priority, however. “No customer data leaves the bank,” Hamilton emphasizes. “We don’t have insight into all your wallets, just your BoA wallet.” That insight has proved critical for showing businesses how much incremental business AmeriDeals is providing them. As “retailers are getting more astute in this space, they need to know that this is incremental business we are getting for them,” says Hamilton.

Separately, Hamilton notes that Bank AmeriDeals is riding the wave from desktop towards mobile payments. With 18 million Bank of America customers now using mobile banking services, desktop-oriented online banking has become increasingly “kind of passe,” he says.

Hamilton’s insights into the positive impact of card linked offers were seconded at the event by Cardlytics U.S. Operations President John Brown. Cardlytics is the vendor providing the platform for Bank AmeriDeals, among other bank efforts.

Speaking generally, Brown said that card linking has multiple benefits for financial institutions beyond direct revenue – al leading to more engagement and less attrition. He notes that users do more online and mobile banking after activation, increasing their monthly sessions from 7.9 times a month to 9.1. times a month. They also increase their total monthly spend after their first redemptions by 5-7 percent;. It also helps boost a financial institutions’ CRM program because the interest in seeing offers plays a role in boosting email open rates by 2x, and click through rates by 10x.

Brown also says that the roster of companies providing card linked offers is getting increasingly stronger. While many brands are watching early results before they sign on, brands such as McDonald’s and Nordstrom Rack are participating and attracting redemptions from well heeled consumers. “Upscale people eat at McDonald’s as much as anyone else,” he says.

Microsoft Earn: CLO Effort Aligns ‘Time, Location, Context, Commerce’

Microsoft continues to push ahead with its card linked offer program, which has been in Beta in Washington, Arizona and Massachusetts since May. But since we last wrote about it in April, the program has been rebranded from Bing Offers to Microsoft Earn. The program is now more oriented towards promotional redemptions at The Microsoft Store. Registrants can earn points at participating merchants towards Microsoft products.

Participants in Microsoft Earn include hundreds of local restaurants, as well as national brands with local outlets. THey include 7-Eleven, Starbucks, Papa John, Whole Foods, Shell and Pet Smart. 1-800-Flowers is also participating.

Speaking at Cardlinx’s “Data Driven Commerce” meeting in Bellevue, WA, GM of Holistic Monetization Erik Jorgensen says “merchant acceptance is shifting from skeptical to believers.” CLO represents “a great signal for measuring the impact of the digital world to the real world.” It provides “friction free, almost magical consumer experiences.”

Early results have been promising with “member acquisitions easier and engagement great than anticipated,” said Jorgensen. “Meanwhile, customer confusion and support (issues) have been less than anticipated.”

Microsoft Director of Payments Will White said that CLO is an anchor product for a new generation of commerce built around wallets and authentication (“vitally important”), ease of use and personalization. CLOs “align time, location, context and commerce,” he said. The idea is to use signals to offer the right things at the right time.

Shopping Malls as Local Rewards Targets? Starwood Partners with Spring

Shopping Malls get a lot of foot traffic, but other than some email and newsletter marketing, haven’t really had success parlaying their brand and their consumer loyalty to online marketing efforts.

Starwood Retail Partners is seeking to change that with the rollout of “Oh, So Simple Rewards” at the Chicago Ridge Mall. The launch will be followed by three additional markets by the end of 2015, and all 29 Starwood properties during 2016, reaching 3000 retailers locations and more than 100 million annual consumer visits. The rewards program is a partnership with Spring Rewards Network, which says its mission is to connect digital marketing efforts to in-store sales.

For consumers, the one-step signup process links an existing Visa, MasterCard, or personal American Express credit or debit card to an Oh, So Simple Rewards account. Members can connect as many of their cards to the account as they wish. They will then automatically earn credit for purchases made across the entire mall and receive real time notifications for cash back rewards. When the shopper spends $250 at Chicago Ridge Mall stores, they will automatically earn a $10 credit connected to the card(s) registered to their rewards account. Members can use their earned cash value at a retailer they choose.

At the Chicago Ridge Mall, the Rewards program will be promoted via kiosks, signage etc. In return, the malls receive a small percentage of spending and also incents its customers to return more regularly and spend more. (malls typically receive a percentage of gross receipts).

Review: Planet Retail’s Report on The Future of Shopping

We lose track of the incremental changes in our culture that digital has wrought. But shopping has really changed.

The core components of shopping — Search and discovery, promotions, prices, inventory, instore browsing, checkout, pickup and delivery, store locations and maps –have each shifted with the rise of Internet access, Wifi, big data and cloud-based payments.

Sometimes, it is hard to keep things in perspective. Amazon and online shopping have certainly had a huge impact on many categories. Most store segments absolutely require online and offline omnichannel strategies.

But did the arrival of “showrooming” – which allow consumers to compare prices on items in store — deeply change shopping habits for most people, most of the time? Will wireless Beacons that help to recognize shoppers and target offers to them change shopping habits for most people, most of the time? Showrooming and beacons are having impacts on shopping, for certain, but fall short of being game changers.

Looking ahead several years, Analyst Natalie Berg at Planet Retail, a UK-based consultancy, has put together her “Future of Retail — 10 Trends of Tomorrow” report. I like the list and report; agree with a lot of it; and wish I had done my own.

Berg notes that shopping trends will mandate fewer locations; more differentiation; specialty stores within big box stores; and – it cannot be underemphasized — WiFi access to not only enable showrooming, but also permit instore mapping, offer targeting, and eventually, click-free checkouts. She goes on to predict the death of card-based loyalty points programs. These efforts will need to fold into new types of mobile- based personalization, including card linked offers and other features – which, to me, are pretty much the same thing but with new skins and capabilities.

She also predicts the death of automatic free shipping, which has made strides towards scaleability, but remains unsustainable. In the future, free shipping should only be applied to incent upsells or promotions.

Uber’s $3 Billion Bid for Nokia’s HERE: Too Much, Too Soon

As my colleague Mitch Ratcliffe points out, Uber is apparently bidding $3 billion to buy Nokia’s HERE mapping service (which was formerly NAVTEQ.) It is a huge bid that comes out of left field. But does it make sense?

A case could be made for it. Uber seems especially eager to juice its valuation before the IPO. It wants to reposition itself as an ecommerce leaders and move away from its current reality as a collection of freelance drivers. Moreover, the number of mapping competitors that it could partner with is definitely shrinking. It comes down to Google, Microsoft and perhaps, MapQuest.

If successful, Uber would control a highly customizizable mapping service that would provide shortcuts and accuracy for its deliveries of people and it hopes, commerce. HERE’s international orientation is appealing for Uber, which is a true worldwide play.

Owning HERE would especially be helpful in the next age of driver-less, autonomous vehicles (AVs), which would be highly dependent on accurate, strategically efficient information. Deep mapping is also an area that Google and Microsoft have ID’d as their competitive advantage. Watching Yelp keep its advantage against Google while depending on its search engine is enough proof to realize that depending on Google as a common carrier isn’t an ideal strategy.

But this age of AVs isn’t likely to occur for 10 years or longer. And only small items like toothbrushes and shaving cream are being delivered by existing Uber drivers. While it has aspirations and vision aplenty, it isn’t yet an ecommerce company. When/if it becomes one, a whole new set of competitors come into play (Fedex, UPS, USPS, Amazon, WalMart , Safeway).

We applaud the vision, and don’t count Uber out at all. The competitors listed above could as easily become major partners. In fact, this could be the biggest play of all. But the idea that Uber should spend $3 billion — which would only be a down payment on the high maintenance mapping industry — seems like it is too much, too soon. Google is likely to be a perfectly good and safe partner for a number of years.

Groupon Re-thinks its Ambitious SMB Platform

Groupon is apparently thinking hard about dismantling its ambitious SMB platform, and refocusing on its core strengths in daily deals, goods and travel. Reports have come out saying that Groupon is offering to sell its Breadcrumb POS platform, which had been rebranded as Gnome; and also sell its interest in Serviz, a Local On Demand Economy home services company that has been developed as ClubLocal by former ReachLocal CEO Zorik Gordon. Groupon has also been in talks to cash in on T-Mon, the South Korean ecommerce service that it bought last year from Living Social for $260 Million, but could now been seen as a cash cow that could allow Groupon to invest in other areas.

According to Bloomberg Business Week, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster thinks that the Breadcrumb part of Gnome could fetch $100 million, and that Groupon’s stake in Serviz could be worth $30 million. T-Mon, which is seen as an ecommerce winner in Asia, could ultimately get as much as $800 million. Groupon’s apparent decision to explore the sale of Gnome is the most interesting to us. A report in Re-Code said that executives casually offered to sell at least a portion of it to Square.

In developing Gnome, which has been built on top of its June 2012 purchase of Breadcrumb, Groupon assessed its widespread, international merchant base and concluded it could reinforce and upsell that base and position itself as a global ecommerce giant. It would do so via a compelling package of highly discounted point of sales devices, payment services merchant analytics and strategically targeted offers to customers.

The investment in Serviz – which gave the greenlight to Gordon’s team to continue developing a service that was not going to go further at ReachLocal – was also seen as strategic as Groupon looked for more and more ways to connect and broaden the local marketplaces. Coincidentallly, it looks like Groupon is giving up on having a piece of the home services market just as Amazon and Google are diving in.

Is Groupon giving up too early? We’ve been impressed with the capabilities of the Gnome platform and the strategic vision behind it. The Serviz product is also impressive, although perhaps too rarified for Groupon, as it aims for higher ticket repairs and services. And separately, T-Mon is going to require enormous investments to grow and maintain its market share in a business that has come to not only include deals but also ecommerce, fashion and services.

The bottom line here, however, is that Groupon may have concluded that its merchant base sees it as a 3rd, 4th or 5th choice for this kind of activity – rather than as a substitute for blue chip and diverse players such as American Express, VeriFone, First Data and Salesforce . While Groupon can always work to keep repositioning itself, it currently seems most secure as a provider of discounted goods and deals that it continues to mold into an always on marketplace.