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So, another week is behind us, but not just any week — the week of Shop.org. Missing the free coffee and tchotchkes — and that omnichannel, POS, mobile buzz? Check out the BloomReach Relevance Report. Amazon buries a college in packages amazonboxes The BRRR admits to being hooked by a Business Insider headline proclaiming “Amazon Prime wreaking havoc on college mailrooms.” It did half of what a good headline should do, which is get people to read the story. It fell short on the other half — telling prospective readers what the story is about. Essentially the story described something a little less than havoc at one college mailroom, the one at the University of Connecticut. Still, it’s an interesting tale of Amazon’s scale and dominance. It seems the Seattle behemoth’s cut-rate Prime membership for college kids has packages arriving at the Storrs, Conn., campus by the truckful, to the tune of 3,000 a day. The problem is, the campus mail system doesn’t have anywhere to put 3,000 packages and the volume is apparently causing a bottleneck at the local post office, too, where workers are working into to the wee hours to deal with them, according to BI. And while the story deals only with one campus, you’ve got to believe the same thing is happening at other schools, large and small. (Nice job, by the way, by the UCONN Campus Daily , which first reported the story. If any other student journalists are reading this — and why wouldn’t you be — you should look into the situation at your school.) Amazon Prime is a college kid’s dream. The $99-a-year service is free for six months for students and then only $49 a year after that. Brick-and-mortar shopping options are limited for a significant number of students who find themselves on isolated campuses without a car. What better way to order not only textbooks (a natural), but also chips, sodas, cereal, electronics and their accessories and, hey, let’s not forget free (well, free for $49 a month) video and music streaming. It’s a match made in heaven — or Seattle, at least. Amazon (again) crushes the competition 2561885967_f5f0be5834_z Speaking of Amazon and its dominance, it turns out that the originator of the Everything Store is cornering the market on product search. A survey out this week, commissioned by BloomReach, found that 44 percent of consumers start their product searches on Amazon , bypassing the wider Web and the sites of specific retailers. The number surpasses both search engines (such as Google, Yahoo and Bing), which were the first choice for 34 percent of those surveyed, and retail sites, which commanded only 21 percent. The trend represents a widening gap between Amazon and the other alternatives. In 2012, Forrester Research found that 30 percent of consumers first went to Amazon when searching for products. The trend line is particularly disconcerting for online retailers, because in an odd way they’re being squeezed by both sides. Amazon continues to take search share and the search engines continue to condition consumers to expect rapid and relevant results when they are searching for products. In fact, 86 percent of retailers in a companion BloomReach survey said they believed that the main search engines were heavily influencing consumers’ expectations in regard to search on their sites. And they’re right, according to the consumers that BloomReach surveyed. By a 2-to-1 margin, shoppers said they didn’t understand why retailers don’t offer the same personalized experience that the most popular search engines offer. Perhaps not coincidentally, in the retailer survey, 44 percent of respondents said they saw Amazon as their biggest threat. Another 21 percent named eBay and 20 percent said a direct retail competitor represented their biggest competition. Amazon, it seems, rolls on. Shop talk: mobile, mobile, mobile Shop.orgsign Well, another Shop.org is in the books. This week’s hootenanny in Philadelphia was the expected fire hose of omnichannel, dynamic marketing, attribution strategies and mobile, mobile, mobile . Beyond the biggies, there were side trips into the not-so-distant future for a look at “mood analytics” and virtual reality, for instance. Is the day coming when retailers will monitor customers’ heart rates and in-store movements while analyzing facial “micro-expressions” to determine what products to present to each individual? Could be, but it’s going to take a lot of buy-in from shoppers. More in the here-and-now were the on-going discussions about mobile. 2015 appears to be the year that the talk is moving beyond just the talk. For years, it’s been necessary to at least discuss developing a mobile strategy, but this week it was clear that retailers have come to the conclusion that they need to get it done now. Forrester’s Suchartia Mulpuru announced from the stage that for the second year in a row, retailers selected mobile as their top priority in a Shop.org and Forrester survey. They (Who are "they," anyway?) say data wins arguments and the numbers are impossible to ignore. In her presentation, Mulpuru noted that 30 percent of retailers’ traffic is coming from smartphones, but that phones account for only 12 percent of sales . And she said that’s primarily due to one other set of statistics specific to shopping on smartphones: “Eighty percent of customers find some kind of problem, some sort of frustration, and when they experience that problem, in a significant percent of circumstances, they just switch devices and they go to a desktop or a laptop. A significant portion, nearly a quarter, give up entirely.” Add that to Deloitte Digital’s Kasey Lobaugh’s presentation, in which he pointed out that nearly half of in-store sales are influenced by digital devices — 28 percent by smartphones alone. He also projected that by 2018, e-commerce sales would reach $492 billion, with 27 percent of that coming from mobile. “Digital is no longer a channel,” he said. “Digital is pervasive." You can find parts of the presentations on the Shop.org website. Holiday sales to rise modestly, except for e-commerce retailers Retail sales will be up , but modestly, this holiday season, Bloomberg Business reports. The predictions factor in two consumer trends — the shift toward buying experiences rather than goods and a preference for shopping online, according to the Washington Post. The National Retail Federation this week, released its forecast, saying sales would be up 3.7 percent over last year in November and December. Other prognosticators put growth in the range of 2.8 to 4 percent. The NRF figure represents a slowing from last year’s 4.1 percent, though higher than the 10-year average of 2.5 percent, Bloomberg says. CNBC reports that retailers' practice of deep holiday discounts and fierce price competition will also be a drag on growth this year, as consumers have come to expect significant deals on the holiday gifts they buy for others and themselves. The slower growth will mean fewer temporary retail jobs, although shipping companies are going to be looking for at least as much holiday help as last year. E-commerce will remain a big bright spot. Online sales are expected to rise between 6 and 8 percent , the NRF says, topping $100 million, up at least slightly from last year’s 5.8 percent increase, the Washington Post says. Consumers are still nervous about the economy and while the overall economy has picked up, wage increases remain torpid. Quote of the week “There is a need for electronic devices with faster, more efficient methods and interfaces for interacting and or controlling external electronic devices.” — Apple’s patent application for an iRing, similar to the Apple Watch, as reported by SmartCompany . Photo of Amazon boxes by Global Panorama, magnifying glass by Jeffrey Beall and newspapers by Jon S., published under Creative Commons license. Photo of Shop.org sign by Mike Cassidy. Mike Cassidy is BloomReach's storyteller. Contact him at mike.cassidy@bloomreach.com; follow him on Twitter at @mikecassidy.