Category Archives: Research

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.

‘Scheduling: An Anchor for Commerce’ (My New Paper)

Scheduling software programs for SMBs have had their ups and downs since they were initially introduced in the 2008-2009 timeframe. But the emergence of cloud platforms and the use of scheduling as an anchor for loyalty and leads programs suggests the opportunity is ripening. This is the subject of BIA/Kelsey’s latest Insight Paper: Scheduling as an Anchor for Commerce.

Indeed, MindBody, the largest scheduling company, has contracts with more than 42,000 SMBs. It is set to take advantage of its leadership position in a $100 million initial public offering. Opportunities are also suggested by Booker, which claims 90,000 professional users and processes more than 3 million appointments per month across 73 countries and in 11 languages; and by vertically integrated giants such as Intuit.

All in all, more than 75 scheduling programs currently compete for a potential marketplace of 2.6 million SMBs. These include horizontal SaaS scheduling providers; vertical subject specialists; and vertically integrated SMB marketing players that provide a wide range of services.

As the scheduling industry matures, a number of questions are raised:

1. Which types of scheduling platforms are best positioned?
2. Which specific companies will ultimately win in the marketplace?
3. Is scheduling a true SMB anchor, or just one feature in a platform?

We answer these questions in the Insight Paper, including projected business models and best practices. More can be found on the report’s landing page, including the executive summary and information on downloading a copy.

Our New Study: Momentum for Card-Linked Offers

BIA/Kelsey is out with my new paper on the status of card-linked offers, which is based on detailed discussions with 14 leaders of the card linking ecosystem, including credit card firms, tech vendors, payment processors, publishers and merchants. Most of the respondents are members of The CardLinx Association.

This week, I presented report highlights to The CardLinx Association’s Mobile Summit in San Mateo. Among the findings: universal agreement that card linking is seeing momentum among merchants; that some budgets for card-linked offers have begun to move from experimental to seven-figure spending; and that many key categories are participating, including Quick Service and Fast Casual restaurants, specialty retail and subscription services.

Challenges remain, however. Once seen in simple terms as a successor to the prepaid model pioneered by Groupon and Living Social, there have been some slow-downs in the business. As Coupons.com SVP Bruce Sattley noted at The CardLinx Summit, “There is not as much fervor among retailers as I would have thought a year ago.”

Clearly, the ultimate success of card-linked offers will be linked to better coordination among the various segments of the CLO ecosystem; the development of a constant stream of attractive offers; greater awareness of CLOs; the elimination of structural sales blockages; and the development of industry standards for card-linked transactions.

More information about the report, including purchase information, may be accessed here.

The BIA/Kelsey/CardLinx Survey: Momentum For Card Linked Offers

Will card-linked offers supplement coupons and advertising for national and local merchants and services? Will financial institutions such as banks and credit card companies take advantage of their access to card data to become major players in ecommerce and media as well? And will cash back remain the primary driver of the card-linked offer space?

These are some of the key questions we asked in an anonymized survey we have just completed with members of The CardLinx Association, whose roster include such companies as Microsoft, Facebook, Bank of America, MasterCard, American Express, First Data, Cardlytics, Living Social, Deem and Linkable. Some non-members also participated in the survey, which had 14 respondents in total.

One key finding: this space appears to have momentum. While some startup publishers have ceased their operations, others have dug in. And more merchants and consumers are participating in card-linked offers than last year. Respondents also noted that card-linked offers have gone from representing “experimental” marketing budgets to – in some cases — seven figure contracts.

Survey results will have their public debut at BIA/Kelsey’s Leading in Local: Interactive Local Media Conference Dec. 3-5 in San Francisco. The session also includes interviews with CardLinx Association CEO Silvio Tavares and Cardlytics CMO Kasey Byrne.

Craigslist’s Revenue Up 101%; Measuring Its Impact

There have been several game changers in local. One is Google search. Another is Yelp reviews. Another has got to be Craigslist.

Craigslist started out as a totally free community site focused on recruitment. In recent years, it has incrementally added paid sections – partly to make them more manageable – and it is beginning to make real money from these. According to “conservative” estimates compiled by our friends at AIM Group for its annual Craigslist report, the site’s revenues grew 101 percent in 2013 from $166.5 Million to $335.7 Million.

While Craigslist now serves 700 markets around the world, AIM Group says the vast majority of the revenue comes from 54 markets. The dollars largely come from Craigslist’s affordable fees for recruitment in 28 markets, and its auto ads, which were just introduced in 4Q 2013. AIM estimates that 79 percent of Craigslist’s revenue comes from recruitment; 16 percent comes from autos; and the remaining five percent coming from things like “therapeutic” listers in New York City. The site’s fees range from $5 to $75.

Yet, the site stays true to its roots as an altruistic community resource by not charging for “private party” person to person ads – recruitment ads are just charged to agencies and companies; and auto ads are just charged to dealers.

The question we’ve asked in the past is whether Craigslist is vulnerable. It still seems easy enough to produce a better classifieds site. eBay Classifieds – started after eBay was unable to take over Craigslist — is a much better site in terms of user experience, with links to social media, easy photo uploads, etc.

To be sure, Craigslist is — as AIM notes — “the same drab user experience” as it has always been. Under the hood, however, AIM notes that Craigslist has finally started improving the site. Suddenly, listings are mapped; there are new ways of searching for goods and services; there is a picture gallery view; and even a way to save thumbnail photos. Moreover, by imposing fees on dealer auto ads, it has become easier to find autos for sale — spam entries have been significantly cut back.

Does all this suggest that Craigslist is now poised to become a state-of-the-art site that truly serves the needs of its users as we move into the mobile age? Not necessarily. But Craigslist has probably done enough to keep its critical mass of listers, and users.

Media Execs: ‘Local’ Sales Are 7th Most Impactful Revenue Issue

Localizing ad campaigns via geo targeting and local sales is increasingly important. At BIA/Kelsey, of course, the importance of localization for digital ad sales is an article of faith.

Local Sales are not, however, part of the “A” list of impactful issues for media executives. In a poll of media executives attending Operative‘s Op/Ed 2014 event last week in Palm Desert, Local Sales ranked 7th out of 11 features that impact revenues.

It ranked as less impactful than Effectively Scaling Ad Ops; Changes in buying/RFPs; Consultative Selling; Mobile Monetization; Ineffective Technology; and Cross-platform Selling. Video Monetization; Third-party Data; Buy/Sell Automation; and Real-Time Bidding ranked lower than local.

IAB Presenation 2014_2

Local Onliner Bookshelf: Christopher Schroeder’s ‘Startup Rising ‘

Let’s just concede that Silicon Valley is the biggest hub for Web activity, and that it has some real advantages over other locales in terms of engineering and programming talent, fundraising and industry attention. But Silicon Valley’s tech-centric view –which is less oriented towards media and content smarts and culture– doesn’t always hit the bull’s eye. We certainly find a lot of talent in Seattle, Boston, Austin, New York, Washington, Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Salt Lake City.

There is also fantastic new activity in countries like the U.K., Germany, Finland, Israel and China. But can countries without a core tech center also cut it? A significant challenge is posed by the countries of the Middle East, including Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, The UAE, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

Former Washington Post. Newsweek Interactive and HealthCentral CEO Christopher Schroeder, in his powerful new book, Startup Rising, focuses on how the tech community in the Middle East has not only developed a solid infrastructure for new Web and mobile companies, but has been an important driver of democracy and social progress as well. In fact, the new generation is demanding a life and opportunities that its parents and grandparents never had (See Google’s Wael Ghonim’s leadership role in the Egyptian revolution).

Schroeder got involved in the Middle East as an adviser to several companies and as a judge for a State Department startup competition in Cairo. Prior to his direct exposure to the region, Schroeder concedes he probably held the patronizing view of the region as lacking the political and economic freedom, or the culture or technology infrastructure, to develop startups from scratch. It is not just that women aren’t allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia. It is also that the Arab culture itself seemed unable to accept failure.

But in studying the startups of The Middle East, Schroeder discovers a lot about the grit of the entrepreneurs who organically build apps based on their real day to day needs – some of them desperate (Amazon-like ecommerce sites, social nets, online education, traffic apps, event guides, restaurant review sites, investor guides) And as he points out, entrepreneurship isn’t exactly new to the Middle East – it has been going on for thousands of years, dating back to the ancient bazaars.

Ecommerce especially drives the activity here, as the region moves from a cash on demand culture. But so does mobile, in its leapfrog over the landline based telcos that have held back the countries. And so do women – many of whom — even in their hajibs and burkas, in some cases — are focused on educating the next generation, and working to develop new services.

Schroeder points out that the entrepreneurial efforts in The Middle East can be broken down into Improvisers that play off successful sites elsewhere; Problem Solvers that take over roles once reserved for government; and Global Players that can impact any market.

Developments in the Middle East, of course, are at the book’s core. But what really makes this book important to the tech community — and a worthy complement to other “startup” tomes such as David Kidder’s “Startup Playbook” — is that it strips away the hubris and conventional thinking of what has made startups successful in the U.S. Instead, it focuses on the passion and creativity, real needs of consumers, and community that really anchor next generation services.

We are proud to announce Chris Schroeder’s keynote at BIA/Kelsey’s Interactive Local Media conference Dec. 10-12 in San Francisco.