December 12th, 2016 by Oren Smilansky

Some people are naturally skilled at picking out the perfect gift–they enjoy it, put their hearts into the act, and the recipient is rarely disappointed. Others are not so fortunate, and can use some assistance in this department. I–who have seen Fitbits fall by the wayside, and hardcover cookbooks collect dust on the shelf–fit into the latter camp, so I was pleased to learn that Nordstrom has introduced a new chatbot that’s designed to help shoppers find the right holiday presents.

Nordstrom’s bot–which was developed by the retailer with
Snaps, and accessible on Facebook Messenger and Kik–asks users a series of questions about the recipient’s interests and preferences, and leverages artificial intelligence to make an educated guess at the best gift for that person. For instance, the might ask where the recipient is most likely to go if they could take a vacation, or what factors are most important to them when they’re looking for a restaurant. It then surfaces a number of suggested answers to choose from, and when it has enough to work with, scans Nordstrom’s online catalogue for the best matches. GeekWire reports that users who are still having trouble can request to connect with a human agent, who can then offer further assistance.

This strikes me as a clever move on Nordstrom’s part–they’ve identified a pain point that plagues many Christmas shoppers, and are tapping an emerging technology to personalize a common customer experience. The app is available through December 24th, but hopefully they decide to keep it open year round for Bar Mitzvah’s, birthdays, weddings, etc.

December 8th, 2016 by Sam Del Rowe

Native user acquisition ads outperform other mobile ad units in click-through rates and conversions, according to research from mobile growth marketing platform YouAppi.

Drawing from several hundred mobile user acquisition campaigns run for apps in 2016, YouAppi found that native user acquisition ads generated a 30 to 40 percent higher click-through rate than other mobile user acquisition campaigns. Additionally, the native user acquisition campaigns yielded double the conversion rates of the other mobile user acquisition campaigns. The results indicate that it may be worthwhile for organizations to invest in native advertising, despite the challenges of customizing ads to fit different environments.

“Over the last three years, we’ve seen a tremendous increase in the acceptance of native ads on the part of publishers, while our app marketing clients can now run the same or moderately customized creative ad units across tens of apps and mobile websites,” Julie Ben-Nun, vice president of media management at YouAppi, said in a statement.


December 1st, 2016 by Sam Del Rowe

Although text messaging services and messaging apps such as WhatsApp and WeChat have rapidly risen in popularity, the platforms are not without their risks.

95 percent of employees send work related information from their smartphones, according to information gathered by secure text messaging provider TeleMessage. Furthermore, 75 percent reported sending sensitive or confidential information in this way, and just 13 percent said that their organizations have policies in place  that regulate the use of texting for work-related materials.

With many businesses incorporating messaging platforms into their daily operations, TeleMessage has several suggestions for those looking to secure the information sent via those channels. End-to-end encryption and self-destructing messages are both solid options, while remote data wipe services can assist when devices are lost or accounts are deactivated.

November 28th, 2016 by Oren Smilansky

Online and mobile sales hit an all-time high this Black Friday, according to shopping data* Adobe released on Saturday. In 2016, for the first time, customers spent more than $3 billion on the net, accounting for a total of $3.34 billion and a year-over-year growth of 21.6 percent. More than a third of these purchases ($1.2 billion) were done via mobile devices, making Friday the first day in retail history to break the mobile billion dollar mark.

While two thirds of the online transactions were completed on desktops, the majority of people are using their handhelds as a starting point for their purchases. 55 percent of visits to digital retail destinations were done on smartphones and tablets, Abode’s data finds.

Large retailers have been the biggest beneficiaries this holiday season, as they’ve seen a 50% larger growth in online sales than small retailers. Unsurprisingly, those companies who’ve made investments in mobile, email, and social support have seen 30 percent more sales on average, and 25% bigger average order sizes. Firms also saw a boost in profits coming in through “Shopper Helper Sites” such as RetailMeNot and CNET, which made up for 16.5 percent of the sales, and lagged just behind email (17.3 percent) and search ads (38.3 percent).

“Shoppers hit the buy button at unprecedented levels as conversion rates were up nearly a full percent across all devices in the evening hours on Black Friday,” said Tamara Gaffney, principal analyst and director, Adobe Digital Insights, in a statement.

Gaffney adds that “Black Friday may have just dethroned Cyber Monday’s position as the largest online shopping day of the year.” I suppose we’ll have to wait until tomorrow to find out.

*Adobe’s report is based on data from 22.6 billion visits to retail websites. The vendor measures 80 percent of all online transactions from the top 100 U.S. retailers (a list compiled annually by Internet Retailer), which is more than any other technology company, Adobe claims.

November 21st, 2016 by Oren Smilansky

Forrester Research predicts that in the United States online sales will reach $112 billion dollars this holiday season, an increase of 13% from last year’s $99 billion.  

One reason for this growth is that economic indicators are positive. Unemployment is relatively low, and so are gas prices.Online retail sales have grown faster during the first three quarters of the year than they did in 2015.

forecastAnother reason for the boom is that, this Christmas, it’s expected to be colder than it was last year, when the Northeast region hit record-high temperatures of almost 30 degrees above average. As a result, online sales for seasonal products–such as clothing and footwear, for instance–suffered. And, granted that the weather made it more enticing to get out of the house and do some real life shopping, that might have also factored into people’s decisions to shop at brick-and-mortar locations. Nevertheless, since 2008, the growth in online retail in the months of November through December have shown a steady year-over-year growth. In 2015, the nation saw an 11% increase in online sales from the previous year.


Forrester’s data shows that customers are starting to shop earlier this year, prior to November, which means that retailers have had to prepare holiday marketing collateral sooner than they normally would. Unfortunately, this won’t translate to an overall increase in sales–it simply means that people have begun to tap their budgets and plan their purchases ahead of time.

The data also indicates that more people are using their mobile devices to shop this year. In 2015, roughly 30% of online buyers used their mobile phones, while this year, that number has grown to 40%. While smartphone commerce represents only a small fraction of online retail sales, its influence on offline purchases is estimated to be in the trillions. 


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