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Archive for the ‘Convenience Store’ Category

Alexa, how do you spell “competition”? H y p e r -M a r k e t

In connected consumer, Convenience Store, digitization, Hypermarket, merchants, omni-channel, Platforms, retail, retailers, smart speaker, Uncategorized, workspace services on August 24, 2017 at 5:09 pm

Michael Buffer is the boxing ring announcer who coined his trademarked catchphrase, “Let’s get ready to rumble!” I could hear Buffer’s distinct announcing style as I read about Amazon’s repositioning pricing at Whole Foods and Wal-Mart which has teamed up with Google. Can you hear him today saying; “This is a special tag- team match between Amazon & Whole Foods in the red tights, fighting Wal-Mart & Google in the blue tights……. Let’s get ready to Rumble!”

What does the paring of these four behemoths’ mean to the rest of the retail market? When these two finish fighting, will there be anything left? Or are these announcements related to something else? In this blog, I’ll explain how these announcements are related to your business and what you need to compete in this new “Hypermarket”

Amazon.com, Inc. & Alphabet Inc (GOOGLE) are two of the world’s biggest tech companies. Their partnership with traditional “Brick and Mortar” (Wal-Mart and Whole Foods) combined with the introduction of smart speakers represents a new, more aggressive, type of competition. What makes these two partnerships so dangerous is that they link world-class, leading-edge technology with major product distribution channels. If Google can get Home right, Wal-Mart’s store based distribution means I put my money on the blue tights.

The Hypermarket links the consumer to their shopping in a subliminal way by simplifying the process, and the processes, between need, order, payment and delivery. The objective is to provide a seamless, consistent shopping experience…and kill your competition. The smart speaker is an early form of Artificial Intelligence (A.I) in the home. Either “Amazon Echo” or “Google Home” links consumers to the retailer in a new way, surpassing Smart Phone apps, TV’s, Tablets’ or PC’s. The scale of these partnerships are immense! As an example, 55% of U.S. adults start their online shopping trips on Amazon and they expect to ship 10 million Amazon Echo speakers in 2017. As for Wal-Mart and Google; well, they are Wal-Mart and Google! Apple will soon announce I-Home and we don’t know yet how it will be marketed. If retailers plan on keeping or growing their market share, competing in the Hypermarket will require new tools and offer new reasons for consumers to visit their store.

To compete, retailers will need to look to new aggressive strategies, innovative solutions and technology. Stephen Covey wrote about “Sharpening the Saw”. Sharpening the Saw is to preserve and enhance your greatest assets. Partnering with others, as these four industry leaders have done, adds speed and expertise. Competing in the Hypermarket will require each retailer to identify its own unique market position and focus on building similar partner and consumer relationships, both with operations and marketing.

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The Battle of the Titans continues as NACS squares off with the ETA over mobile payment.

In Convenience Store, merchants, mobile payment, Retail Payment on October 30, 2014 at 12:05 pm

Greek Mythology and the payments industry seem to have a lot in common. There’s something similar about CVS and Rite Aids decision not to accept Apple Pay that reminds me of when “Cronus attacked Uranus, and, with the sickle cut off his”…..well, you get the point.

There has been a lot of noise about mobile payment over the last few years. Confusion about technology and economics clouds the issues. Now, in the same tradition of Durbin (legislation) and Brooklyn (litigation), banks and retailers are setting the stage for another battle over mobile payment. The new issue is; does Apple Pay, Softcard and other NFC based solutions simply enable the traditional payment providers (read fees), or is MCX just an anti-competitive alliance of retailers created for no other reason to leverage the emerging consumer acceptance of mobile payment systems to drive the cost of payments down? In the middle is the consumer who simply wants convenience and choice.

The Apple Pay launch opened the latest salvo in the fee/service war. The Electronic Transactions Association is saying that the decision by CVS and Rite Aid to block mobile payments services like Apple Pay, Google Wallet, and Softcard is “anti-consumer and anti-competitive”. NACS, apparently in support of the Retailers MCX relationship is saying that Apple Pay essentially allows “Visa/MasterCard monopoly into mobile payments”. saying “Those two dominant credit card networks have faced a lengthy series of antitrust actions from the U.S. Department of Justice and merchants over the years due to their anticompetitive conduct. Now, they are working feverishly to require merchants to accept their preferred technology, near-field communications (NFC), so that they can extend their dominance into the future.” How supporting MCX, a program that requires exclusivity within the mobile payment channel, even the exclusion of non-VISA/Mastercard 3rd parties is not Anti-Competitive is a bit of a mystery.

Let’s be clear, MCX could allow either Visa or Mastercard into the CurrentC wallet, it’s a business decision, not a technology issue. Apple was clever enough to shift costs (at least for now) to the issuer, rather than the merchant. This opened the door to many merchants avoiding the interchange conversation. Why many merchants have chosen not to join MCX might have something to do with membership fees, product availability, or perhaps that it is an ACH program rather than a new low cost 4th network. After all, there are many ACH providers, why spend a lot of money joining a coalition only to pay a high membership fee for a product that is already available from other providers?

The reason the industry is lining up to fight over the CVS & Rite Aid decision is because this is another skirmish in a multi-year battle over the fees retailers pay, or banks earn, when consumers make a payment. For retailers simply wanting mobile payment at low cost, the program is available today. Retailers can compete with banks for consumer’s method of payment, that’s the “Competitors Code”. The point is, Retailers don’t need legislation or litigation to drive fees down, competition will do the job. If CVS and Rite Aid don’t want to accept Apple Pay, so be it. On the other hand, how does a restrictive exclusive contract with MCX serve the consumer?

Right to the “3rd” power”: Mobile Payment the POS and ROI

In ACH decoupled debit, alternative payment, Bank Fees, big data, Coalition Loyalty, connected consumer, Convenience Store, interchange, loyalty, merchants, mobile payment, omni-channel, payment, Payment card, Peter Guidi, Petroleum retailing, Platforms, retailers, swipe fees on July 8, 2014 at 4:46 pm

The arc of loyalty/payment programing, particularly as it relates to mobile, is now mature enough for retailers to set long-term strategic goals. The high level strategy is about consumer engagement. The objective is to create a more intimate consumer shopping experience that is contextual in nature. The requirement being: “Right to the 3rd power”; the right offer, to the right person, at the right time. The tool set for loyalty, payment and the integration of omni-channel marketing in the mobile channel is the POS.

Mobile is the most important next generation service, in many ways it is here today. Consumer adoption of mobile services is exploding. The consumer is willing and ready, even waiting for the retailer to catch up. First to market retailers will be in the lead and have an advantage. Ignore mobile and you risk losing both the Millennials and the X-er’s. Is there any doubt that the next group will only be more mobile? Cards, checks and cash will exist, and will require attention, but having a mobile strategy is the key to future success.

While EMV will drive NFC to the POS, consumer engagement will be driven by merchant rewards. The days when retailers give over control of their customers to banks and associations will end as mobile payment becomes the norm. In this war for the mobile consumer, the POS and cloud-based mobile payment is supreme. The transaction is changing from the legacy model of capture/authorize and settle to a robust IP based dialogue. This dialogue is between the consumer and the POS and is about the relationship between the retailer and the consumer. Unlike today where the transaction begins when the item, coupon or loyalty card is scanned, tomorrow’s consumer will begin the engagement long before they arrive at the location. Mobile app based solutions will leverage Geo Fencing, Wireless, and BLE to engage the consumers according to their preference. The IT environment required to deliver these services must be tightly coupled to the POS at the Transaction Services Layer (TSL). This important change in the transaction flow means that payment, rather than being outside of the TSL, is now a part of the TSL. This change means that the entire legacy payments network may be disintermediated from the mobile transaction. We see this with companies like National Payment Card Association and believe MCX shares this goal.

Retailers are understandably concerned about ROI. ROI is a result of more profitable shopping. ROI is more than a function of “frequency and shopping basket”, it is about shaping the consumers purchasing decisions. People are asking about ROI and Mobile and reluctant to allow legacy payment fees into the branded app. To the extent that consumers react through the use of offers, coupons, push notifications, points etc in the mobile channel, payment is required to close the transaction within the same user experience. The notion that the mobile consumer will be interactive with the mobile experience and then be asked to use a card for payment does not make sense. Using a card in the mobile channel would destroy the user experience and make it impossible to measure conversion.

Certainly, there are many issues impacting retailers and the POS environment. The key questions is: which IT solution makes the most sense and how does it set the retailer on the road towards a larger goal of implementing a successful consumer acquisition and retention program that is “Right to the 3rd Power”?

Big Data, mobile payments and the connected consumer

In alternative payment, big data, connected consumer, Convenience Store, mobile payment, omni-channel, payment, Peter Guidi, Platforms, retailers, Uncategorized on March 9, 2013 at 6:36 pm

“Big Data” is a term that refers to the vast quantity of consumer information that is available both on-line through 3rd party resources and within the retailer’s environment. Connecting Big Data to consumers through mobile payments represents the commercial usefulness of the information. Thanks to more powerful ePOS, the internet and the emergence of the “information cloud” this data can now be manipulated and utilized to drive pre-sales consumer engagement and drive sales during the purchase cycle. Big Data information is more potent when it can be applied to areas unconnected with how it was originally collected. As an example, the ability to link the CDC’s tracking of the flu with promotions for cold medications, or the ability to link coupons for hot/cold drinks to National Weathers Services tracking of temperatures. The back bone of retailer performance will be connecting Big Data to mobile payments (the consumer) during the purchase cycle through “personalization” and driving consumer engagement.

Mobile payments. The integration of the consumer through their smart phone to Big Data is the technical challenge facing the industry. Leveraging Big Data in a mobile payment environment means establishing a dialogue between the consumer’s smart phone/wallet and the ePOS at the time of purchase allowing a robust exchange of data so that the consumer experiences payment, loyalty, and offers (product recommendations, coupons) in one seamless experience.

The technical requirements of serving mobile payment and the connected consumer at the ePOS during the purchase cycle will drive change in the payments processing environment. Perhaps the greatest change is the potential disintermediation of the traditional payment processor from the mobile payment. A large shift in consumer payment behavior to mobile payment means a significant drop in card transactions across the legacy payment processing network. 

The legacy payments processing network was built to handle payments at the beginning of the electronic payments era before the emergence of Big Data. The result is that the infrastructure, while highly fault tolerant and reliable, does not lend itself well to change and is not compatible with a robust exchange of Big Data between the consumer and POS at the time of the transaction. This is great for the traditional card based ISO8583 message, but severely lacking for mobile payments and Omni-channel shopping.

The ePOS has evolved from a limited “dumb” machines built around closed systems with proprietary code to a very powerful computing device utilizing open standards. The ePOS now has the ability to communicate in an IP environment and as a result, has the ability to communicate both payment and Big Data to networks outside of the legacy payment network utilizing IP based communication.  ePOS vendors have changed their payments strategy and are moving to cloud based systems. In Petroleum all four major providers are developing cloud based payments applications that will standardize the software between the POS, EPS and Payments Cloud.

The future of Omni-channel shopping depends on the ability to communicate to the connected consumer through an IP/cloud based mobile payment with access to Big Data. Big Data is the “secret sauce” of mobile payments.

The MasterCard/Visa settlement; an alternative point of view.

In alternative payment, Bank Fees, Bank Tax, Convenience Store, credit card, debit card, interchange, payment, Payment card, Peter Guidi, Platforms, retailers, swipe fees, Uncategorized on August 9, 2012 at 2:18 pm

Opportunities are often difficult to recognize and they do not come with their values stamped upon them. It is often hard to distinguish between easy choices and those of opportunity; such may be the case with the retail industry’s reaction to the proposed Visa, MasterCard Settlement. As it stands today the proposed “Brooklyn” settlement has been rejected by nearly all retailer associations like; NACS, SIGMA, NGA as well as multiple retailers including large national and smaller local companies and even Senator Dick Durbin has added his disapproval to the chorus of rejection. It’s fair to say that the proposal is “Dead on Arrival”. Even so, I wonder if by refusing to embrace this settlement an opportunity is being missed.

With so much opposition to the settlement, how is it possible that an opportunity may be missed? The answer lies in the fundamental assertion that retailers can compete for the consumer’s method of payment steering them to low cost payment, rather than relying on legislative price controls or judicial action that seek to control the payments industry. Core to this belief is that there is significant competition in the credit card industry, it just happens to be between banks competing for consumers, rather than between retailers and banks competing for the consumers method of payment. There is nothing unusual about this model, it’s standard platform economics. The more end-users (retailers accepting cards and consumers with cards) on either side of the platform (MC/VISA), the more valuable and hence expensive the platform. This is why banks do not negotiate fees with retailers. Their mission is adding value to the consumer to carry and use their card for payment. The result is richer reward programs that add cost and drive the transaction fees higher. The retailer’s perception is a monopolist market, when in fact, as consumers we all participate in the very same economic activity.

In today’s rapidly evolving payment landscape consumers have many payment options. Surcharging creates an opportunity for the retailer to compete with the associations and promote low cost payment options. The challenge with surcharging is that it forces retailers to compete not just for the consumers purchase, but also for their method of payment and as a result some retailers may choose to use card payment as an economic advantage. Up until the proposed settlement this concept was merely theoretical because the card association rules prohibited the activity. While some retailers had experimented with cash discounts, the concept of charging for credit or debit card use has not been tested. The reason there is no information on surcharging is because it was prohibited by the associations operating rules. The Associations prohibited surcharging because it exposes the real cost of payment to the consumer and therefore allows the consumer to understand that using their card is not free.  This capability provides a powerful new tool for retailers to steer consumer payment choice.

Now armed with the tool needed to expose this cost, retailers are more concerned about the perception and customer services issues than the costs of payment. One retailer was quoted in NACS Online as saying he wants customers “impressed by the quality of products and services they receive” lamenting that surcharges for payment may appear to penalize them for the use of the card saying “it does not make for very good customer service”. This statement tends to suggest that the current costs accepting credit cards is acceptable, a suggestion that tends to explain why the opportunity presented by surcharging may be overlooked.

It’s unlikely that we will learn the answers to these questions in the near future. The industry is committed to seeking significant concessions that go beyond the proposed settlement which means the lawsuit is likely to move forward.  Stay tuned……

Surcharging for credit versus discounts for cash; why it makes a difference and how the consumer will react.

In alternative payment, Bank Fees, Bank Tax, Convenience Store, credit card, debit card, interchange, loyalty, merchants, payment, Payment card, Petroleum retailing, Platforms, retailers, swipe fees on July 16, 2012 at 8:02 pm

In the struggle between the Credit Card Associations and Retailers this week’s court decision reminds me of the old western film when two guys are fighting and the guy with the rifle runs out of ammo as the other guy’s gun is a few yards away. There is that brief moment when they both realize that the game has changed and now the race to the finale is upon them.  This week MasterCard Inc. and Visa Inc. along with some large banks settled what had become known as the Brooklyn case, setting the stage for retailers to pick up the gun and shoot first.

 The weapon that the Brooklyn decision has given the retailer is the ability to surcharge the consumer for the use of a credit card.  Surcharging is a tremendously powerful tool that has the ability to dramatically shift consumer behavior. Surcharging is fundamentally different than Discounts; understanding why, is the key for retailers wishing to leverage this decision. How powerful is surcharging?  Alphawise (Morgan Stanley Research) reports that “43% of consumers would be “very-likely” to switch from credit/charge cards to debit, cash or check if asked to pay a 1-2% surcharge by a merchant”. Further, “on average, those who said they would be “very likely” to stop using a credit card would shift about 67% of their credit purchases to other forms of payments”.

Retailers have some experience with offering discounts for cash or alternative payment discounts.  In the Convenience Store Industry, the per gallon discount for cash or merchant issued debit has been moderately successful. Some merchants like Savannah’s Parker Stores, are offering up to 10 cents off per gallon for consumers using their PumpPal card. These programs are reported to have captured between 5% and 25% of their consumer’s transactions.  But if Alphawise is correct, and Parker posts a price of $3.50 with PumpPal, and then ROLLS-UP the price of gas by 10 cents per gallon for the use of credit, then according to Alphawise’s survey results,  upwards of 50% of consumers appear ready to walk away from credit cards

The reason Surcharging is more powerful than Discounts is because of “Network Effects”. Network Effects are an economic term that describes the attraction of two groups of end-users across a “platform”. The reason the card associations have never allowed surcharging is because the economic principles driving a platform (two-sided market) state that only one side of the platform can be weighted with fees to the end-user.  An example of network effects is the Adobe PDF Reader. Almost all of us have the PDF reader on our computers, and it is free. The PDF writer on the other hand is expensive. The reason the writer is expensive is because so many people have the reader. If Adobe had charged for the reader it’s likely no one would have purchased it and as a result, the writer would be valueless. The same is true for credit cards, show the consumer the real cost of using their credit card and they are likely to find another way to pay.

The question is; will the Retailers react? Like our gun fighters, there is risk going for your gun.  Mike Schumann, owner of Traditions Classic Home Furnishing in Minneapolis was quoted in the WSJ saying that he is “hoping that surcharging will become commonplace, but that small firms will not lead the charge” adding that he might charge 2.5% to 3% if his competitors adopt the practice. During a call with a national home furnishings chain, the CIO wondered aloud how consumers would react to seeing an $80.00 upcharge for a major purchase. It’s a good question. But what does seem clear, is that in areas of every day spend, like gasoline and groceries, retailers have a new tool. We’ll have to see if they choose to use it.

 

New Bank fees set the stage for Merchant Issued Debit and Rewards.

In alternative payment, Bank Fees, Bank Tax, Coalition Loyalty, Convenience Store, credit card, debit card, interchange, loyalty, merchants, payment, Payment card, Peter Guidi, Petroleum retailing, Platforms, retailers, swipe fees, Uncategorized on October 1, 2011 at 3:01 pm

The stage is set for an epic battle between the merchant community and the financial industry to win the consumers method of payment (MOP).  This week, BoA joined the list of financial institutions announcing either fees, or cut backs in consumer rewards programs, for debit card use .  Senator Dick Durbin sounded surprised when he said of BoA’s actions; “It’s overt, unfair” adding that “Banks that try to make up their excess profits off the backs of their customers will finally learn how a competitive market works”. Many in the industry had long predicted that this would be the immediate result of the regulation (see my June 13, 2011 Blog).  Regardless of the merits of the regulation, or the banks reaction to it, one immediate result is that merchants have the opportunity to steer consumers to a lower cost form of payment (debit): the question; will they be able to leverage this opportunity, or will the payments industry adjust their payments offerings steering consumers to unregulated forms of payment with higher fees i.e. credit, pre-paid cards, etc.

The pivotal decision for merchants is how to recapitalize the anticipated saving from swipe reform and use that money as an incentive for consumers to choose a lower cost form of payment.  Many merchants, particularly in the petroleum and grocery industry are already actively competing for method of payment by offering ACH decoupled debit card programs (merchant issued debit) or cash discounts. For these merchants, and vendors offering alternative payments  like PayPal or National Payment Card Association, the Durbin Amendment is living up to expectations providing them with a strong tailwind to the merchant and consumer.

Merchants are understandably cautious as they approach payment.  While technology, investment and ramp time look like the heavy lift, the real challenge is to understand the economics.  Traditionally merchants have relied on the bank and card associations to deliver payments.  During the lead up to regulation one argument was that; “there was no competition for payment”. Merchants’ successfully argued this point, irrespective of the intense competition between banks for consumers. What was missing from the debate is that the reason consumers use one form of payment over another is often rewards. These rewards had been paid by the issuers of the card using interchange fees (as much as 50%), and now with regulation, that funding source has disappeared.  Therefore merchants can provide consumers with the same incentive to use a low cost form of payment by offering merchant issued rewards.

Finally, there is a saying “He who enrolls; controls”. Issuance or enrollment is a critical question for merchants choosing to compete for MOP using rewards. Assuming that the merchant chooses to offer rewards for a specific MOP, which MOP should it be, cash, PayPal, Google, or perhaps a merchant issued debit card.  The smartest strategy might be a flexible approach to payment where rewards are based on the costs associated with the method of payment, regardless of whether the rewards are paid for by the merchant, or a 3rd party.

More Durbin confusion from the Fed, will they or won’t they; Bernanke Agrees!

In alternative payment, Convenience Store, credit card, debit card, interchange, merchants, payment, retailers, swipe fees on March 31, 2011 at 10:11 pm

This week Federal Reserve Board Chairman Bernanke sent a mixed message by stating that the Fed won’t be able to meet the April 21st rule making deadline but will meet the July 21st deadline for imposing the rules set by the Dodd-Frank Act for regulating the debit card business. This seemingly contradictory statement raises the question; how can the impacted businesses prepare and be ready for the rules implementation without knowing the final requirements within the prescribed time. Advocates on both sides of the issue cheered the news as another sign that their cause would carry the day.

Retail groups applauded Bernanke’s statements as a commitment to move forward and implement the rules set forth in the Durbin Amendment. One industry representative stating “This confirms the Fed’s commitment to putting forth a rule that has been thoroughly vetted” adding “there is no need for a congressional mandated delay.  

Meanwhile opponents of the legislation lined up for battle pinning their hopes on exactly that type of congressional mandated delay as Sen. Jon Tester attached the “Debit Interchange Fee Study Act” to the Small Business Reauthorization Act. Passage of this act would move Durbin into a two-year obscurity as quickly as it originally appeared.

The confusion now extends to consumers who are equally puzzled as more information on Durbin’s impact makes it into the main stream press. Last week a Time Magazine article by Bill Saporitio explained to consumers that they may see lower retailer prices as a result of lower fees while warning that free checking may also vanish along with rising bank fees. Hilary Shelton, Washington Bureau Director for the NAACP echoed the same concern when she testified saying “that Regulators should guarantee it (the rule) wouldn’t push poor and minority consumers out of the banking systems”. Consumers are left wondering, is this good or bad? 

(http://www.linkedin.com/in/peterguidi)

Customer Engagement; network effects and building long term customer value using a loyalty platform.

In Coalition Loyalty, Convenience Store, loyalty, Platforms on November 10, 2010 at 12:47 am

The need for customer engagement in retail business is critical to effective marketing programs. Societal changes in the way information and communication is received have diminished the ability of traditional “Top Down” marketing strategies to reach the consumer. Media fragmentation and smaller audiences have reduced the effectiveness of mass; “interrupt and repeat”, newspaper and other print media advertising models. Easier access to information about retailers, products and brands has increased consumers’ choice. The internet and emerging social media along with decreasing brand loyalty and lower entry barriers have increased competition. New products and services reach consumers rapidly bypassing traditional sales and distribution channels. Mass-market discounter’s makes customer loyalty hard to achieve as retailers fight to capture a share of the consumer’s wallet by selling at lowest possible profit margin.

Retailers can avoid the “rush to the bottom” by focusing on “Customer Engagement”. Customer Engagement is about strengthening the emotional and psychological affinity a customer has with a retailer. Consumer loyalty is the best measure of current and future customer purchasing behavior. The most effective way to increase a consumer’s engagement with a retailer is by stimulating the consumer’s loyalty. Retailers can change the consumer engagement paradigm by utilizing a loyalty platform to create and leverage “network effects” to drive affinity.

Customer Engagement typically refers to the engagement of customers with a retailer rather than a brand; a loyalty platform can change that paradigm. When retailers add vendor supported incentives to a loyalty program, the program develops network effects. Network Effects are in play when consumer’s access brand (and retailer) supported benefits through the platform. The retailer, who owns the platform, experiences the value of the network effects when consumers shop in their store. Proprietary loyalty programs are closed loop platforms that leverage network effects to drive customer engagement. Coalition point based programs like “Air Miles” is an example of an open-loop loyalty program that exhibit network effects. Like all platforms, loyalty programs require two different parties to adopt the network to be viable; in this case it is either the vendor or retailer offering incentive on one side of the loyalty platform with the consumer and their desire to enjoy the incentive on the other side.

Loyalty platforms are the tool retailers can use to create the customer engagement needed to compete and win in this new social, technological consumer market. Creating an engaging dialogue with consumers and motivating their loyalty with the retailer is the key to driving both sales and margin. (http://www.linkedin.com/in/peterguidi)

Incentives or Discounts; increased profit or eroded margin? Are you using buckshot, or firing a rifle?

In Coalition Loyalty, Convenience Store, loyalty, merchants, Petroleum retailing, retailers on September 23, 2010 at 10:11 pm

When it comes to loyalty programs and promotional strategy there are two schools of thought in retail. On one hand, there are those who believe that everyday low pricing is the surest way to gain consumers trust and their business. These businesses believe that loyalty programs are just about giving bigger discounts to your best customers. Certainly one very large retailer with “every day low pricing” has reached the pinnacle and it is hard to argue with their success. But, with the giant sitting on top of the low price heap, what can the rest of the retailer community do to gain market share? Certainly you can not compete on price and stay in business very long. Nevertheless, many retailers cling to the monthly coupon flyer or web site promotion offering today’s new deal; the Buckshot approach.

The second school of thought has a different perspective on pricing and strategy. These retailers believe that consumer’s make purchasing decisions for a complex set of reasons and that their behavior can be motivated by incentive. In this model the customer’s loyalty is critical to business success. The concept is to track, measure, and then provide specific incentives to individuals based on their demonstrated purchasing behavior. This science is the most effective use of marketing budgets and is focused on increasing business with each current customer. This is the rifle shot, one bullet for each customer.

At the end of the day it’s all about profit. Profit is the difference between success and failure.  When it comes time to pay the bills, or dividends, the only number that matters is the “bottom line”, you either earn a profit or you go out of business, “no margin, no mission”. Regardless of strategy, every program, and every effort must have an ROI. The objective is to make money; buy low, and sell high. It’s hard to make up a loss on volume!  Successful retailers negotiate for the best price, terms & conditions and then set prices and launch promotions that will motivate more profitable customer purchasing thus, maximizing profit. Earning a profit is the battle you fight with yourself as you pick the right price point to execute your sales strategy.  It takes cunning and courage to set solid price points, avoiding the traps of promotional discounts that erode margin simply to increase “top line” performance. Does your sales strategy drive more profitable sales, or is your strategy to be the low priced retailer turning over inventory for increased sales?

In every contest there is a moment when the game is decided. A touch-down or goal is scored, a home run hit, or a competitor’s doors shuttered. Retail is a lot like sports. Taking the lead and then winning the contest is about momentum and emotion. Employees and customers must be engaged, excited and motivated to participate. Success is defined as both top-line and bottom-line growth. Company strategy needs to set realistic goals designed to achieve long term success. Retailers use incentives to motivate employees and engage customers.  Incentives without loyalty programs are simply discounts.  Discounts erode margin. Loyalty programs increases both top line growth and increased profits. 

(http://www.linkedin.com/in/peterguidi)