American Apparel’s Hurricane Sandy Sale – Brilliant or Boneheaded?

Steve Olenski

It’s not often I have cause to quote this person but in this particular article in this particular context, something this person said (and in fact wrote a book with the same title) seems quite appropriate, at least depending on which side of the American Apparel Hurricane Sandy debate.

The quote is “There is no such thing as over exposure” and it was of course uttered by one Donald Trump.

Now if you’re in the Trump camp, so to speak, you won’t have any problem with what American Apparel did recently in trying to capitalize on the fervor and interest in Hurricane Sandy. And perhaps the word “capitalize” is the operative word for we do live in a capitalistic society, right?

In case you missed what exactly transpired, the folks at American Apparel decided what better event to tie a sale into then a hurricane? So their marketing department and/or agency put together the following email which was blasted out to their database.

Now I don’t know about you and your particular tastes and values and all that good stuff and I am not here to pass judgment on anyone, other than American Apparel, that is.

But how in the name of common sense can you send an email like this out during such a tragic situation where, oh by the way, people lost their lives? (Guess you can tell by now what side of the aisle I fall on in the brilliant or boneheaded debate)

Seriously? Bored during the storm?

Apparently I was not alone in my complete disdain for this as the Twittersphere lit up in disgust. Here’s a sampling:

Hard to pick my favorite from the above Tweets but I would have to go with Brian Clark’s for this decision had to be made by someone of such inexperience, right?

Some even went so far as to include a screenshot of the actual email just to drive home their point even further:

Is It A Crisis If You Actually Initiate The Crisis?

Way back in January I wrote a piece Crisis Management: The Real Test Of A Brand In The Social Media Space?

Now the premise of that article was how a brand, business, company, whatever handles a crisis that is not of their doing OR if if were of their doing how they respond to the crisis and in particular how they respond in the social media world.

Last check of both their Facebook and Twitter accounts I saw no mention of the Hurricane Sandy sale and no remorse whatsoever.

Fine. It is totally their call to respond or not.

But something tells me that Mr. Trump is not right when he says there’s no such thing as over exposure or too much public relations or whatever. If your brand is cast in a negative light – and the aforementioned Tweets are just a sampling of the backlash, don’t you owe it to not only your loyal customers but to everyone to respond in some fashion?

Oh Wait, This Just In

Apparently someone at American Apparel had the foresight to respond.

Whew. Thank goodness.

Let’s see what an American Apparel spokesperson told Fashionista.

“Of course we’d never mean to offend anyone and when we put the email out yesterday it came from a good place.” The motivation, the retailer explained, “is that retail stores are the lifeline of a brand like ours so when they are closed, we need to come up with ways to make up for that lost revenue. People forget how expensive it is to run a Made in USA brand like American Apparel and if we made a mistake here it came from the good place of trying to keep the machine going–for the sake of our employees and stakeholders.”

‘Came from a good place?’

What place was that exactly and how in the world was it good?

Oh that’s right, you did all of this (the Hurricane Sandy sale) to keep your doors open so you could sell more merchandise and keep your employees employed otherwise you would have to lay them off which means they couldn’t afford to buy their kids the G.I. Joe with the kung-fu grip for Christmas this year.

And the fact that they live by the “Made in USA” credo makes this even more galling as they took advantage of an American tragedy that killed Americans!

Ok, your turn.

Weigh in. Chime in. Jump in.

I don’t care. Just tell me what you think of all this.

Sources: MashableFashionista


Why 3D Printed Food Just Transformed Your Supply Chain

Hans Thalbauer

Numerous sectors are experimenting with 3D printing, which has the potential to disrupt many markets. One that’s already making progress is the food industry.

The U.S. Army hopes to use 3D printers to customize food for each soldier. NASA is exploring 3D printing of food in space. The technology could eventually even end hunger around the world.

What does that have to do with your supply chain? Quite a bit — because 3D printing does more than just revolutionize the production process. It also requires a complete realignment of the supply chain.

And the way 3D printing transforms the supply chain holds lessons for how organizations must reinvent themselves in the new era of the extended supply chain.

Supply chain spaghetti junction

The extended supply chain replaces the old linear chain with not just a network, but a network of networks. The need for this network of networks is being driven by four key factors: individualized products, the sharing economy, resource scarcity, and customer-centricity.

To understand these forces, imagine you operate a large restaurant chain, and you’re struggling to differentiate yourself against tough competition. You’ve decided you can stand out by delivering customized entrees. In fact, you’re going to leverage 3D printing to offer personalized pasta.

With 3D printing technology, you can make one-off pasta dishes on the fly. You can give customers a choice of ingredients (gluten-free!), flavors (salted caramel!), and shapes (Leaning Towers of Pisa!). You can offer the personalized pasta in your restaurants, in supermarkets, and on your ecommerce website.

You may think this initiative simply requires you to transform production. But that’s just the beginning. You also need to re-architect research and development, demand signals, asset management, logistics, partner management, and more.

First, you need to develop the matrix of ingredients, flavors, and shapes you’ll offer. As part of that effort, you’ll have to consider health and safety regulations.

Then, you need to shift some of your manufacturing directly into your kitchens. That will also affect packaging requirements. Logistics will change as well, because instead of full truckloads, you’ll be delivering more frequently, with more variety, and in smaller quantities.

Next, you need to perfect demand signals to anticipate which pasta variations in which quantities will come through which channels. You need to manage supply signals source more kinds of raw materials in closer to real time.

Last, the source of your signals will change. Some will continue to come from point of sale. But others, such as supplies replenishment and asset maintenance, can come direct from your 3D printers.

Four key ingredients of the extended supply chain

As with our pasta scenario, the drivers of the extended supply chain require transformation across business models and business processes. First, growing demand for individualized products calls for the same shifts in R&D, asset management, logistics, and more that 3D printed pasta requires.

Second, as with the personalized entrees, the sharing economy integrates a network of partners, from suppliers to equipment makers to outsourced manufacturing, all electronically and transparently interconnected, in real time and all the time.

Third, resource scarcity involves pressures not just on raw materials but also on full-time and contingent labor, with the necessary skills and flexibility to support new business models and processes.

And finally, for personalized pasta sellers and for your own business, it all comes down to customer-centricity. To compete in today’s business environment and to meet current and future customer expectations, all your operations must increasingly revolve around rapidly comprehending and responding to customer demand.

Want to learn more? Check out my recent video on digitalizing the extended supply chain.


Hans Thalbauer

About Hans Thalbauer

Hans Thalbauer is the Senior Vice President, Extended Supply Chain, at SAP. He is responsible for the strategic direction and the Go-To-Market of solutions for Supply Chain, Logistics, Engineering/R&D, Manufacturing, Asset Management and Sustainability at SAP.

How to Design a Flexible, Connected Workspace 

John Hack, Sam Yen, and Elana Varon

SAP_Digital_Workplace_BRIEF_image2400x1600_2The process of designing a new product starts with a question: what problem is the product supposed to solve? To get the right answer, designers prototype more than one solution and refine their ideas based on feedback.

Similarly, the spaces where people work and the tools they use are shaped by the tasks they have to accomplish to execute the business strategy. But when the business strategy and employees’ jobs change, the traditional workspace, with fixed walls and furniture, isn’t so easy to adapt. Companies today, under pressure to innovate quickly and create digital business models, need to develop a more flexible work environment, one in which office employees have the ability to choose how they work.

SAP_Digital_Emotion_BRIEF_image175pxWithin an office building, flexibility may constitute a variety of public and private spaces, geared for collaboration or concentration, explains Amanda Schneider, a consultant and workplace trends blogger. Or, she adds, companies may opt for customizable spaces, with moveable furniture, walls, and lighting that can be adjusted to suit the person using an unassigned desk for the day.

Flexibility may also encompass the amount of physical space the company maintains. Business leaders want to be able to set up operations quickly in new markets or in places where they can attract top talent, without investing heavily in real estate, says Sande Golgart, senior vice president of corporate accounts with Regus.

Thinking about the workspace like a designer elevates decisions about the office environment to a strategic level, Golgart says. “Real estate is beginning to be an integral part of the strategy, whether that strategy is for collaborating and innovating, driving efficiencies, attracting talent, maintaining higher levels of productivity, or just giving people more amenities to create a better, cohesive workplace,” he says. “You will see companies start to distance themselves from their competition because they figured out the role that real estate needs to play within the business strategy.”

The SAP Center for Business Insight program supports the discovery and development of  new research-­based thinking to address the challenges of business and technology executives.


Sam Yen

About Sam Yen

Sam Yen is the Chief Design Officer for SAP and the Managing Director of SAP Labs Silicon Valley. He is focused on driving a renewed commitment to design and user experience at SAP. Under his leadership, SAP further strengthens its mission of listening to customers´ needs leading to tangible results, including SAP Fiori, SAP Screen Personas and SAP´s UX design services.


Digital Connectivity: Reimagining Retail Business Models With Retail-As-A-Service

Tom Redd

In the ever-changing world of retail a fundamental shift is occurring. Retailers are moving away from a product-oriented world and toward an outcome-oriented one—a world that’s based more on experiences than products. Digital connectivity is a crucial player in this transition.

With digital playing a bigger role, newer business models must rethink the use of technology in creating and capturing value. This improves customer-centric merchandising. Retail-as-a-service (RaaS) is a primary example. Trends are developing around the convergence of business models. Ecommerce retailers such as Amazon and China’s Alibaba are redefining retail-as-a-service.

But what is retail-as-a-service? It is the bundling of payment processing, service and support, loyalty programs, and gift cards all in one package. Amazon is rolling out new tools that allow brands to own their presence on while providing these retail-as-a-service means.

Retailers understand that data-driven strategies are the keys to value creation. Those rising to this challenge are moving in three strategic areas:

Reimagine business models

Business models are evolving. The shift from product-based retail to a more customer-focused and experience-based strategy is driving this change. This evolution means more opportunity to find value.

Retail-as-a-service such as the men’s personal shopping service Trunk Club, focus on an outcome. Fashion rental service Rent the Runway offers another example. Under Armour’s new digital health platform has created a large community of users who share fitness data in real time. This data has many uses and is crucial to the future growth of the company. It also increases its ability to create alternate revenue streams.

Through business networks like Alibaba, eBay, and Amazon, retailers can to cut physical inventory. The shoppers need for thrill, speed, and instant gratification is giving rise to new retail-on-demand models. These models include flash sales designed to capture consumers at the moment of impulse.

Reimagine business processes

Retail companies are reinventing the process of buying, selling, fulfilling, and servicing merchandise. This occurs when consumers, sellers, and suppliers digitally connect. This is driving new insights from large volumes of data. Based on a shopper’s digital footprint, retailers can offer automated, dynamic, and contextual pricing.

The hyperconnectivity is bringing new meaning to retail. Through the collection of data, engaged vendors can see customer demand in real time. They can adjust production, shipments, and promotions to drive sales. This will improve merchandise planning and boost personalized shopping. Transparent supply networks enable short lead times and “make-to-order” assortments that reduce inventory. This also improves on-shelf availability and delights customers. Connected warehouses cut costs by tracking the supply chain from production to sale. For example, manufacturers can alert retailers of faulty or expired goods.

Flexible payment methods that enable wallet-less shopping aid anywhere, anytime consumption.

Reimagine shopper engagement

Retailers can engage customers by incorporating technology in a meaningful way. This happens across all touchpoints and will be at the heart of survival in the digital age.

Tailoring shopping experiences for a particular shopper lets retailers highlight “segment of one” loyalty, helping retailers alert consumers to designer pricing, promotions, and loyalty rewards in real time. Using interactive technology to boost in-store experiences is key. This not only improves satisfaction, but it also enriches the shopping experience.

Key to tailored shopping experiences is the education of both customers and employees. Knowledgeable staff will enhance the shopping experience. Social media is an important method to build brand loyalty and can be a powerful recruiting tool. It can help a business attract top talent. In-store technologies improve productivity by reducing tasks and maintaining compliance with pricing and displays.


The traditional business model involved selling products and services at a markup to cost. Newer models rethink the use of technology in creating and capturing sources of value. This will accelerates as digital plays a larger role in commerce.

Subscription-based companies can determine with high accuracy what consumers want and when they want it, which in turn enables retailers to deliver the right product at the right time and place. This focus on relationships over sales transactions is revolutionary. Services such as Amazon’s Subscribe & Save are already doing this. and fashion management retailers such as Nordstrom’s Trunk Club are on board as well.

Retail-as-a-service has set the foundation for the reawakening of the sharing economy. It has proved once again that consumers are much more comfortable renting and sharing products than buying them. The shift to retail-as-a-service -continues to revolutionize the industry, providing unique opportunities for retailers to attract and maintain new customers while also growing margins.

Learn more about digital transformation for retail at Retail. Reimagined for the new economy.


Tom Redd

About Tom Redd

Tom Redd drives strategic communications for the Retail Global Industry Business Unit for SAP. With over 32 years of experience in retail technology, Tom is focused on the latest action within the retail industry. He is also shared his knowledge with SAP communication teams, including analyst relations and public relations.

Data Lets Retailers Deliver Personalized Experiences To The "Segment Of One"

Kristin Howell

Rich data modeling and mining are driving retailers to embrace the “segment of one” and respond to shifting expectations to deliver what consumers want.

Consumers today shop differently than they did a generation ago. Connected users enter stores with their smartphones and tablets on and ready to provide product information, reviews, and price comparisons. This data offers retailers the ability to give consumers customized experiences and to deliver based on these experiences.

With shifting consumer expectations, these “segment of one” experiences in turn boost brand loyalty and broaden consumer relationships.

Shifting consumer expectations

For retailers, the power of data has created a dramatic change. Today’s savvy retailers are using data to connect with consumers everywhere. Whether in the store or after a sale, retailers are finding better ways to engage with the segment of one.

Meanwhile, consumers are providing a motherlode of data points about themselves. Companies today can collect valuable information about consumers’ gender, location, wealth, product preferences, shopping habits and patterns, and much more. Retailers then leverage this data to create new experiences for consumers and maintain deeper relationships with shoppers after a sale.

Getting personal

Consumers today want and expect to experience brands differently, so retailers are using technology to personalize their message to a segment of one. Consumers are more interested in outcomes from using products than in the products themselves. They care about the totality of the information, services, and advice retailers provide. They expect interactions to be personal, based on a company’s understanding of their needs. Consumers want a relationship.

For retailers, these expectations are everything. Consumers now have seemingly limitless choices and ample information, and costs are low enough to justify switching from one brand to another. Retailers that deliver the information and experience consumers want are best positioned for success.

Timing is everything

Marketing to the segment of one requires knowledge of individual tastes, preferences, and triggers. It also requires the right technology to measure, record, and send data.

When Big Data analytics programs can harness the data, retailers gain an edge. Retailers are leveraging data across channels, precise segmentation, and consumer insights. Retailers can provide the right message through the right channel at the right time. Brand loyalty grows as customers experience products, not just buy them.

Data in action

How are retailers using this data to personalize the shopping experience? There are many examples.

One cosmetics retailer gives consumers ID cards. When a customer shows the card in a store, a salesperson can call up a sales history and customize a conversation based on the consumer’s preferences. Compare that strategy to a scripted sales pitch.

Consider grocery stores that let consumers shop using a phone. The store can keep a record of previous purchases online and suggest shopping lists based on past behavior.

Shopper partnerships with other retailers allow the store to deliver coupons for items in a customer’s cart, and emailed reminders can encourage them to shop again based on the timing of previous trips.

Before the store

How do retailers approach a segment of one?

Personalized marketing uses purchase histories and predictive modeling. Outside the store, loyalty programs track consumer preferences, enabling retailers to deliver offers directly to customers’ devices. Ad campaigns move beyond price points and focus on consumer values.

In the store

At the store itself, the experience changes too. Mobile point-of-sale technologies let smartphones and tablets complete transactions. Retail space once used for large checkout stations can be re-purposed.

Smart screens offer promotions and advertisements at strategic locations. Touchscreens deliver information to consumers browsing or waiting for a salesperson. Smart screens also give consumers information about products they are interested in. Live data about inventory, time of day, and online trends drive promotions.

Shopping cart sensors allow automated carts or carriages to follow consumers at a safe distance. Bluetooth technology connected to apps deliver coupons based on cart contents.

Virtual reality mirrors let consumers see different versions of a product. Makeup applications can be applied virtually, for example, to see which tones work best.

Smart fitting rooms connect to store inventory to determine what’s in stock and suggest available items first. Consumers can “see” how a pair of shoes in the store matches a particular outfit.

New payment methods

Even the checkout experience is changing. Simple swipes have replaced PIN numbers and passwords. Iris scans replace IDs and driver’s licenses.

These technological, data-driven qualities create an experience for consumers that deepens brand loyalty, but they offer major benefits for retailers, too.

Retailer systems shifts

For retailers, the omnichannel era arrived some time ago. It is now going through a change involving data modeling. Data from online sales patterns inform in-store offers. Consumer behavior patterns drive automated and contextual pricing models.

Digital patterns “married into” inventory and financial models of the past. Predictive processes replace office functions. Pricing meets demand in real time. Connected warehouses and inventory systems let sales associates know about shipping schedules and availability.

Vendors with access to real-time data shift production schedules to align with consumer demand. Flexible supply networks let retailers offer “make-to-order” fulfillment options. Inventory spoilage drops.


Collecting consumer data gives retailers an incredible opportunity to offer shoppers customized experiences via new technologies. These segment of one experiences boost brand loyalty with consumers wanting experiences, not just products.

Learn more about digital transformation for retail at Retail. Reimagined for the new economy.


Kristin Howell

About Kristin Howell

Kristin Howell is global vice president within the Retail Industry Business Unit at SAP. She specializes in the areas of business-to-consumer marketing, loyalty management, pricing, promotions, and predictive analytics. Howell has 20 years of technology and retail experience, including leadership roles across management consulting, solution design, product marketing and software development organizations.