Competition Promises To Be Fierce For Brands This Holiday Season

Steve Olenski

Healthy competition is a good thing. I happen to believe that, for it is the spirit of competition that brings out the best in all of us. Or in Lance Armstrong’s case, the worst.

But I digress.

The holiday season is (a) upon us and (b) often the deciding factor in whether a given brand had a successful year or not. Not exactly the kind of information that makes one sit up and say “I did not know that.” Of course you know that.

In recent weeks I have told you how the Lack Of Mobile Integration Means Not So Happy Holidays For Brands and also How Retailers Can Make Their Email Marketing Glisten This Holiday Season.

The former article speak to the fact that more and more consumers are turning to their cell phones to shop this holiday season and more than half of America’s fastest growing retailers have yet to fully connect online and offline shopping experience, leaving shoppers unsatisfied with their shopping experience.

The latter piece tells you how you can make the most of your email marketing campaign this holiday season by downloading and reading the Retail Email Guide For the Holiday Season, put out by Responsys. Full disclosure: At the time I wrote the latter piece I was not employed by Responsys but have since taken the position of Sr. Content Strategist.

Ok, now that that’s out of the way, let’s get to why I think competition will be fierce this holiday season. The cold hard truth is of course it has to do with the economy as it was in years past. This year there is the added uncertainty of who will be in the White House as well. A good recipe for shopper weary which translates into major competition among brands.

Shoppers Remain Conservative With Holiday Gift Budgets

This was the headline of a press release on the website of the National Retail Federation. The headline spoke directly to the findings the NRF uncovered during a recent survey of consumers.

Logo of the National Retail Federation

From the release:

“According to the survey, the biggest portion of shoppers’ budget this year will go towards gifts for family members with the average person planning to spend $421.82 on children, parents, aunt, uncles and more. Additionally, people will spend $75.13 on friends, $23.48 on co-workers and $28.13 on others, such as pets and community members.

Consumers will also spend on food and candy ($100.76), greeting cards ($28.66) and flowers ($19.55.) When it comes to decorations, the average person will spend $51.99, up from $49.15 last year and the most in the survey’s history. Total spending on holiday décor will reach $6.9 billion.”

Wow, who knew holiday décor was so popular?

But I digress, again.

NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay says the competition will heat up and in fact, already has. “As the most promotional time of the year, retailers will continue to look for ways to  stand out, specifically with attractive deals on toys, electronics and apparel, even well before the ‘official’ start of the holiday shopping season – Black Friday and Cyber Monday.”

Judging by the survey results, I would say Shay is right as four in 10 (41.4%) of consumers say they will begin holiday shopping before Halloween.

So what this basically tells me and should tell all brand managers and brand marketers and ALL marketers that if they have not already started their holiday marketing and advertising push, they may in fact already be too late to the dance.

If The Price Is Right

Not surprisingly over one-third of respondents (36.6%) said the most important factor in deciding where to shop are offers for sales and discounts.

Source: National Retail Federation


Recommended for you:

13 Scary Statistics On Employee Engagement [INFOGRAPHIC]

Jacob Shriar

There is a serious problem with the way we work.

Most employees are disengaged and not passionate about the work they do. This is costing companies a ton of money in lost productivity, absenteeism, and turnover. It’s also harmful to employees, because they’re more stressed out than ever.

The thing that bothers me the most about it, is that it’s all so easy to fix. I can’t figure out why managers aren’t more proactive about this. Besides the human element of caring for our employees, it’s costing them money, so they should care more about fixing it. Something as simple as saying thank you to your employees can have a huge effect on their engagement, not to mention it’s good for your level of happiness.

The infographic that we put together has some pretty shocking statistics in it, but there are a few common themes. Employees feel overworked, overwhelmed, and they don’t like what they do. Companies are noticing it, with 75% of them saying they can’t attract the right talent, and 83% of them feeling that their employer brand isn’t compelling. Companies that want to fix this need to be smart, and patient. This doesn’t happen overnight, but like I mentioned, it’s easy to do. Being patient might be the hardest thing for companies, and I understand how frustrating it can be not to see results right away, but it’s important that you invest in this, because the ROI of employee engagement is huge.

Here are 4 simple (and free) things you can do to get that passion back into employees. These are all based on research from Deloitte.

1.  Encourage side projects

Employees feel overworked and underappreciated, so as leaders, we need to stop overloading them to the point where they can’t handle the workload. Let them explore their own passions and interests, and work on side projects. Ideally, they wouldn’t have to be related to the company, but if you’re worried about them wasting time, you can set that boundary that it has to be related to the company. What this does, is give them autonomy, and let them improve on their skills (mastery), two of the biggest motivators for work.

Employees feel overworked and underappreciated, so as leaders, we need to stop overloading them to the point where they can’t handle the workload.

2.  Encourage workers to engage with customers

At Wistia, a video hosting company, they make everyone in the company do customer support during their onboarding, and they often rotate people into customer support. When I asked Chris, their CEO, why they do this, he mentioned to me that it’s so every single person in the company understands how their customers are using their product. What pains they’re having, what they like about it, it gets everyone on the same page. It keeps all employees in the loop, and can really motivate you to work when you’re talking directly with customers.

3.  Encourage workers to work cross-functionally

Both Apple and Google have created common areas in their offices, specifically and strategically located, so that different workers that don’t normally interact with each other can have a chance to chat.

This isn’t a coincidence. It’s meant for that collaborative learning, and building those relationships with your colleagues.

4.  Encourage networking in their industry

This is similar to number 2 on the list, but it’s important for employees to grow and learn more about what they do. It helps them build that passion for their industry. It’s important to go to networking events, and encourage your employees to participate in these things. Websites like Eventbrite or Meetup have lots of great resources, and most of the events on there are free.

13 Disturbing Facts About Employee Engagement [Infographic]

What do you do to increase employee engagement? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Did you like today’s post? If so you’ll love our frequent newsletter! Sign up here and receive The Switch and Shift Change Playbook, by Shawn Murphy, as our thanks to you!

This infographic was crafted with love by Officevibe, the employee survey tool that helps companies improve their corporate wellness, and have a better organizational culture.


Recommended for you:

Supply Chain Fraud: The Threat from Within

Lindsey LaManna

Supply chain fraud – whether perpetrated by suppliers, subcontractors, employees, or some combination of those – can take many forms. Among the most common are:

  • Falsified labor
  • Inflated bills or expense accounts
  • Bribery and corruption
  • Phantom vendor accounts or invoices
  • Bid rigging
  • Grey markets (counterfeit or knockoff products)
  • Failure to meet specifications (resulting in substandard or dangerous goods)
  • Unauthorized disbursements

LSAP_Smart Supply Chains_graphics_briefook inside

Perhaps the most damaging sources of supply chain fraud are internal, especially collusion between an employee and a supplier. Such partnerships help fraudsters evade independent checks and other controls, enabling them to steal larger amounts. The median loss from fraud committed
by a single thief was US$80,000, according to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE).

Costs increase along with the number of perpetrators involved. Fraud involving two thieves had a median loss of US$200,000; fraud involving three people had a median loss of US$355,000; and fraud with four or more had a median loss of more than US$500,000, according to ACFE.

Build a culture to fight fraud

The most effective method to fight internal supply chain theft is to create a culture dedicated to fighting it. Here are a few ways to do it:

  • Make sure the board and C-level executives understand the critical nature of the supply chain and the risk of fraud throughout the procurement lifecycle.
  • Market the organization’s supply chain policies internally and among contractors.
  • Institute policies that prohibit conflicts of interest, and cross-check employee and supplier data to uncover potential conflicts.
  • Define the rules for accepting gifts from suppliers and insist that all gifts be documented.
  • Require two employees to sign off on any proposed changes to suppliers.
  • Watch for staff defections to suppliers, and pay close attention to any supplier that has recently poached an employee.

About Lindsey LaManna

Lindsey LaManna is Social and Reporting Manager for the Digitalist Magazine by SAP Global Marketing. Follow @LindseyLaManna on Twitter, on LinkedIn or Google+.


Recommended for you:

Compelling Shopping Moments: 4 Creative Ways Stores Connect With Their Customers

Ralf Kern

compelling shopping momentsOn a recent morning, as I was going through my usual routine, my coffeemaker broke. I cannot live without coffee in the morning, so I immediately looked up my coffeemaker on Amazon and had it shipped Prime in one day. My problem was solved within minutes. My Amazon app, and my loyalty account with that company, was there for me when I needed it most.

It was in this moment that I realized the importance of digital presence for retailers. There is a chance that the store 10 minutes from my house carries this very same coffeemaker; I could have had it in one hour, instead of one day. But the need for immediate access to information pushed me to the online store. My local retailer was not able to be there for me digitally like Amazon.

Retail is still about reading the minds of your customers in order to know what they need and create a flawless experience. But the days of the unconnected shopper in a monochannel world are over. I am not alone in my digital-first mindset; according to a recent MasterCard report, 80% of consumers use technology during the shopping process. I, and consumers like me, use mobile devices as a guide to the physical world.

We don’t need to have an academic discussion about multichannel, omnichannel, and omnicommerce and their meanings, because what it really comes down to for your consumers, or fans, is shopping. And shopping has everything to do with moments in your customers’ lives: celebration moments, in-a-hurry moments, I-want-to-be-entertained moments, and more. Most companies only look for and measure very few moments along the shopping journey, like the moment of coupon download or the moment of sales.

Anticipating these moments was easier when mom and pop stores knew their customers by name. They knew how to be there for their shoppers when, where, and how they wanted it. And shoppers didn’t have any other options. Now it is crucial for companies to understand all of these moments and even anticipate or trigger the right moments for their customers.

In today’s digital economy the way to achieve customer connection is with simple, enjoyable, and personalized front ends that are supported by sophisticated, digital back ends. Then you can use that system to support your customer outreach.

Companies around the world are using creative and innovative methods to find their customers in various moments. Being there for customers comes in many different shapes and forms. Consider these examples:

Chilli Beans

A Brazilian maker of fashion sunglasses, glasses, and watches, Chilli Beans has a loyal following online and at over 700 locations around the world. Chilli Beans keeps its customers engaged by releasing 10 limited-edition styles each week. If customers like what they see, they have to buy fast or risk missing out.


Online men’s fashion retailer Bonobos reaches its customers with its Guide Shops. While they look like traditional retail outlets, the shops don’t actually sell any clothes. Customers come in for one-on-one appointments with the staff, and if they like anything that they try on, the staff member orders it for them online and it is shipped to their house. The 20 Guide Shops currently open have proven very successful for the company.

Peak Performance

Peak Performance, a European maker of outdoor clothing, has added a little magic to its customer experience. It has created virtual pop-up shops that customers can track on their smartphones through, and they are only available at sunrise and sunset at exact GPS locations. Customers who go to the location, be it at a lighthouse or on top of a mountain, are rewarded with the ability to select free clothing from the virtual shop that they have unlocked on their phones.

Shoes of Prey

The customer experience is completely custom at Shoes of Prey, a website where women can design custom shoes. From fabric to color, the customer picks every element, and then her custom creation is sent directly to her house. Shoes of Prey has even shifted its business model based on customer feedback. Its customers wanted to get inspiration and advice in a physical store. So Shoes of Prey made the move from online-only to omnicommerce and has started to open stores around the world.

While the customer experience for each of these connections is relatively simple – a website, a smartphone, an online design studio – the back end that powers them has to be powerful and nimble at the same time. These sophisticated back ends – powering simple, enjoyable, and personalized front ends – will completely change the game in retail. They will allow companies to engage their customers in ways we can’t even begin to imagine.

Technology will help you be there in the shopping moment. The best technology won’t annoy your customers with irrelevant promotions or pop-up messages. Instead, like a good friend, it will know how to engage with customers and when to leave them alone – how to truly connect with customers instead of manage them. Consequently, customer relationship management as we know it is an outdated technology in the economy of today – and tomorrow. Technologies that go beyond CRM will help retailers to differentiate. Aligning your organization and those technologies will be the Holy Grail to creating true and sustainable customer loyalty.

Learn more ways that business will never be the same again. Learn 99 Mind-Blowing Ways The Digital Economy Is Changing The Future Of Business.

Find out how SAP can help you go beyond CRM and support your retail business.

Ralf Kern is Global Vice President Retail for SAP and a retail ambassador for SAP. Interested in your feedback. You can also get in touch on Twitter or LinkedIn

This blog also appeared on SAP Customer Network.


About Ralf Kern

As Global Vice President for the Retail Business Unit at SAP SE, I am taking up the challenge of the future direction of SAP’s solution and global Go-to-Market strategy for Omnicommerce Retail, leading them into today’s digital reality. My career reflects a permanent expansion of my expertise that I achieve through continuous professional training. Based on my Master’s degree in Computer Science and Business Administration from the Saarland University (Germany), I broadened my professional knowledge through challenging positions within different industries and through further trainings regarding professional management and leadership at the Columbia Business School and at the European School of Management. After working for an international bank and a leading insurance company, I decided to go the next step and started to change my career direction at the retail software and consulting start-up Dacos and later at one of the world’s leading information technology company SAP. Now, with more than 25 years of experience in the field of information technology, Retail, consulting, global project management, merger and acquisition as well as solution and service development, I have a proven record of satisfying customer needs and continuously exceeding performance expectations. Due to my successful record of accomplishment within SAP SE, I reached my current position as Global Vice President for the Retail Business Unit, where I complete my task with an extremely talented and solution-oriented apporach. Besides, as an enthusiastic professional, I acquired over the years the ability to manage large teams and multiple responsibilities in a fast-paced environment and possess strong interpersonal and communication skills coupled with extensive technical, commercial and strategy development skills and I am exceedingly committed to the highest level of professional and personal excellence.

Recommended for you:

Is Digital Business the Answer to the Climate Crisis?

Kai Goerlich

By Kai Goerlich, Michael Goldberg, Will Ritzrau

Among the studies of climate change that indict human inventions and activities for the ecological damage done to the earth, there is a hopeful glimmer that digital business can bend the curve to reduce carbon emissions. According to #SMARTer2030, a study by the Global e-Sustainability Initiative (GeSI) and Accenture Strategy, it is possible, during the next 15 years, to hold worldwide carbon emissions to 2015 levels by digitizing business processes and applying data to decisions about resource use. That would represent a valuable contribution, according to the research, in decoupling economic growth and greenhouse gas emissions, thus helping to solve the tradeoff between the two.

SAP looked at a subset of companies in six major industries that are currently using business software such as enterprise resource planning, data analytics, supply chain, logistics, production planning, resource optimization, and remote access. Then SAP did their own analysis to estimate how applying these technologies to emerging digital business models in these industries globally would contribute to reducing carbon emissions.

The “Business as Usual” Scenario

The heat is on. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world body established in 1988 to assess the impact of humans on the climate, notes in its most recent report that “business as usual” practices would lead to temperature increases between 2.6°C and 4.8°C by the end of the century—beyond our expected ability to reverse the damage.

More IT = Less CO2

By rolling out information and communications technologies (ICT) across the global economy, total emissions of carbon dioxide equivalent could be cut 12.1 gigatons by 2030 and help forestall temperature increases, GeSI research has concluded. GeSI is an ICT industry association working with, among others, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to improve its members’ sustainability performance and promote technologies that foster sustainable development.


About Kai Goerlich

Futurist and resource optimization thought leader

Recommended for you: