Retailers of All Sizes Win Global Shoppers

Hanson Marketing recently structured an online retail strategy with global reach for a retailer of natural personal care and gourmet food goods. No matter the size or current reach, any retailer with the right mix of unique solutions and compelling story can go global.

Cisco’s Internet Business Solutions Group (IBSG) states that “Domestic-only retailers and online pure-plays are using e-commerce to achieve global reach without opening stores by enabling cross-border trade (CBT) from an existing website (e.g., Saks Fifth Avenue) or by building complete, local e-commerce operations (e.g., Amazon).”

Think about what this means, particularly for local, one-shop bricks and mortar retailers and for those operating purely online: the global retail market isn’t just for the big boxes!  If you believe that the products you offer are unique and that your store is the best source for them — after all, this is what you tell your customers everyday, right? — then you’ve got a foundation for going global.

Contact Tom for a detailed case study on how Hanson Marketing formed a global retail strategy with proven growth results.

Online Loyalty Shopping: 21st Century Green Stamps

Hanson Marketing forms specialized channels for makers of various goods and services, that link them to customers worldwide. Each time we dig into a new project, we find that no matter how we slice and dice the desired customer demographics, there exist e-commerce websites that cater to them. Whether the targeted customer is an avid RVer who hits the road with Good Sam Club card intact, a government purchasing officer buying IT equipment on contract, or a frequent flier, these online shoppers are introduced to e-commerce sites by the organization they have in common, sites that enable them to shop as usual while rewarding them with points or discounts or rebates.

My mom used to collect S & H Green Stamps with every transaction at the gas station and grocery store. Licking the stamps and filling up the pages was a fun chore for me, despite green tongue and sticky hands. Once I filled in the books, she would visit the local Green Stamp storefront to swap them for merchandise. What a satisfied feeling you get from earning points and free merchandise for being a loyal customer.

Collecting and redeeming trading stamps has evolved to online shopping malls, frequented by like-minded loyal members. Such online malls are powered by affiliate marketers, which collect and publish various loyalty sites; and by such service providers as Google Affiliate Network. These enabling services extend the reach of even the smallest manufacturer by connecting them with millions of loyalty shoppers, routing buyer to seller and collecting transaction fees.

So, if you’re a retailer, a dealer, or even a manufacturer of goods that sell particularly well among like-minded consumers – professional or leisure – then take notice of loyalty shopping sites, and talk to those enabling service providers who can accelerate that link. Their negotiated discounts are a bargain, with fees based solely on sales; and their marketing programs are as focused and timely as you’d expect from any online campaign. Word of mouth recommendations fly further and faster, too.

And what of Green Stamps? Sperry & Hutchinson, the people who invented rewards currency, brought them into this century as S&H greenpoints, a site launched in 2000. And, while they no longer operate neighborhood redemption stores, loyal S & H members still get the same thrill as they got when turning in a book full of stamps, by redeeming points online.

Sales Channel Strategies for In-home Fitness Equipment

My latest assignment: create a new retail brand category that addresses the unique fitness needs of an ever-growing consumer set. And, to recruit and motivate retail partners who are desperately seeking high-quality and innovative products to stock in-store and online that will serve these loyal customer groups.

Simple, In-Home Solutions for Fit and Active Lifestyles

The product line is fitness equipment for low-impact, high-result, in-home workouts for dedicated athletes in the “fit and 50s” upward into the “silver sneaker” sets… now that’s a fun challenge. Fun, because retail channel partners get to hear a compelling story of how these active folks want to sustain a healthy lifestyle… and up until now, haven’t been able to find simple, durable and affordable products in stores. And, the gym experience can be off-putting for these groups… particularly women. Hence the appeal of a compact, in-home solution.

The company’s product already sells quite well through TV advertising, and has terrific global play, too. As with any successful channel formation endeavor, in addition to the mainstream retailers – Sears and BestBuy (yes, they’re selling fitness gear now…) — smaller, niche retail channels exist. For instance, did you know Camping World sells a whole line of “add-on” products to RV owners, that enrich their on-the-move lifestyle? Well, who says Snowbirds can’t remain physically fit as they bask in the Sunbelt winters?

When recruiting retail channel partners, we also rate in-store staff and their ability to inform and educate older shoppers; and the ambiance of the store. A super-charged, gym-like show floor pumping techno-beats and stocked with high-performance and bulky equipment can be intimidating to an older shopper. Online transactions can’t be counted on to carry the bulk of sales volume, either, yet — at least for the next few years.

Learn more about the Resistance Chair line by VQ ActionCare.

Japan’s Online Mall Rakuten Makes Global Bid

Japan’s largest online shopping mall is making a bid to become the leading global online shopping mall. With 7 million+ registered members in Japan, Rakuten already has a beach head in the US (they own with its 12 million members) and the EU (just bought France’s Price Minister with 12 million members) On the way to their planned 27-country expansion through end of 2012, they’ll bump up against eBay and amazon and myriad regional power e-tailers.

The world of online retail is fragmented and de-centralized, with neighborhood boutiques jostling alongside Rakuten and those other behemoths. I foresee success for Rakuten in enabling a highly personalized “shopping bubble” experience, wherein each of us are in constant contact with our own personal shopping mall; but in the form of an anonymous back-end engine. That will mean a complete absence of a Rakuten brand, in favor of a “[Your name here]’s Store” approach… even bypassing the home page banner that we now see on eBay, Buynow, or other sites.

Remember the “We’re Beatrice” campaigns of the 1980s? Sometimes, when a conglomerate tries to step out front and win brand loyalty, it comes back and bites them. Annual sales of Beatrice, mega-holding company, were roughly $12 billion by 1984. It was during this year that the corporation ended advertisements for its products with the catchphrase “We’re Beatrice”; the red and white “Beatrice” logo would simultaneously appear in the bottom right hand corner. It was determined that the campaign alienated consumers, calling attention to the fact that it was a far-reaching multinational corporation, and the campaign was pulled off the air. (read more here).

Channel leaders and brand marketers can succeed in the online shopping mall by maintaining focus on brand personalization. That means direct-to-consumer promotions that goose shoppers toward Rakuten-driven, personalized shopping malls. If you’re a brand manager for a consumer manufacturer, you don’t worry so much about who owns and runs the shopping mall, as who its tenants are. By the same token, you’ll continue to focus on reaching consumers through personalized online shopping portals with little regard to the Rakuten engines running in the background.

Can any one provider ever really claim title as The World’s Online Mall? If anyone can, Japan can. I feel Japan’s expertise in in-home shopping will push them to the front of the pack — already, Japan Travel Bureau offers vacation souvenirs for sale and delivery to its travel customers BEFORE they leave on their trip.

Of note, Rakuten has become the first significant Japanese company to nominate English as the official in-house language, including among staff in Japan. CEO Hiroshi Mikitani states that this will be practice by the end of 2012… which coincides with the company’s ambitious expansion plans. Read more at a blog post on this topic.

Let's Shopping! 🙂

Gee Whiz Job: Grab-Bag Retailing

“Funny, I Feel Like I’ve Left Something Behind…” More than 810 million air travelers took off and landed somewhere in the USA during 2008, from all around the world, on 10.7 million flights. That’s a lot of baggage, and one humongous lost and found room. Where do orphaned suitcases and their contents go?

Enter Unclaimed Baggage, based in Scottsboro, Alabama. These smart folks buy left-behind luggage, unclaimed after 90 days of intensive back-tracking to find owners, and re-launch the goods into the retail world, as one-of-a-kind buys for creative shoppers. Over 1 million items pass in and out of Unclaimed Baggage’s store, which I imagine resembles a very well-organized rummage sale without the funny smells. There’s even a concierge … go ahead, check to see if your AWOL bag of Tijuana treasures ended up there!

“Oh, I Dunno What I Want… Just Buy Me Something…” Recapture that lost thrill of reaching into a grab bag and pulling out… Something. Or satisfy that vague yen for Something new and different. The brains behind the online retailer SomethingStore have reduced the retail transaction down to the lowest common denominator: You, $10. Me, thing. We, trade. That’s it. I’m trying to imagine what their inventory control system must look like, or if I could make heads or tails out of their POS data reports. Oh, well. Pay the 10 bucks, sit back and wait for Something to arrive. I think I will try this out, and let you know what I get.

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