Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sephora Glosses Up Mobile Web Offering With Debut of MobileVoice Reviews App

Written by John Gaffney
Mobile applications continuing to gain momentum in the retail sector as Sephora and Intuit recently debuted MobileVoice, a product review application from BazaarVoice specially designed to allow customers to access reviews at hosted mobile websites via product categories, keyword search and product pages. The new application will also provide mobile-specific analytics to retailers and suppliers.

“Everybody wants to do something with mobile,” says BazaarVoice CMO Sam Decker. “This application allows the voice of the customer to enter the store. It allows retailers to leverage their mobile ambitions as well as leverage their word-of-mouth initiatives.”

The BazaarVoice announcement taps into the mobile wave as well as the continuing concern with user generated content initiatives and capturing the voice of the customer (VOC). A report to be released in late January from the CMO Council shows that 2/3 of the companies it surveyed do not have a voice of customer program in place. Only 12.9% of companies have deployed real-time systems to collect, analyze and distribute customer feedback, according to the CMO Council data. With U.S. mobile adoption by all accounts now well north of 75%, and adoption of smartphones increase by 478% according to Gartner, MobileVoice is designed to provide a new avenue for VOC.

A leading pioneer in the area of cross channel retailing and also CRM initiatives, Sephora is trying to capitalize on the huge success it has had with customer reviews on its successful website. The leading beauty chain which sells through more than 515 stores in 14 countries, will post signage in all its locations encouraging customers to access the reviews at, as well as promote the new initiative on its website.

“We wanted to reach the next level for ratings,” says Sephora SVP Julie Bornstein. “It is just the perfect category for us and we’ve had wild success with them. We believe our clients will love to have the added technology in the store and it will increase the voice of customer to a new level.”

Bornstein is justifiably enthusiastic. Sephora’s launch with BazaarVoice generated more than 100,000 reviews within days. Many Sephora products have been reviewed by more than 1,000 customers. The company’s average product rating is 4.5 out of five. She also said suppliers and internal executives gain a tremendous amount of knowledge from reading individual product reviews, as well as aggregate data.

Intuit launched mobile reviews for its Turbo Tax product at on December 26th, 2008. The software giant’s rollout spotlights the opportunity for mobile reviews to benefit both suppliers and retailers, Intuit plans to promote its mobile reviews via in-store signage at retailer chains such as Staples, Office Depot, OfficeMax, Wal-Mart and Best Buy.

Although Sephora and Intuit are the first to debut MobileVoice, BazzarVoice’s Decker says new functionality is already being explored. For example, it is possible to integrate quick response codes into the MobileVoice platform, which automatically present anything from like product reviews to like product pictures. He also believes iPhone applications, which saw light from Amazon and Target last Christmas, could easily include reviews.
“There’s a lot of practicality here,” he says. “The data generated will help supply-retail relationships and I believe it will also enable cross-channel behavior from customers. And if you have to compete with someone who has mobile capacity, I believe you either have to get your own or suffer a disadvantage.”

Thursday, January 15, 2009

New Consumer Loyalty Consolidation Solutions Showcased At NRF Show

Customer loyalty programs remained a hot topic of interest at the 2009 National Retail Federation’s Big Show in NYC earlier this week, and several new innovations debuted with the goal of simplifying the loyalty process for consumers.
Rather than carrying multiple loyalty cards and/or weighing down a key chain with multiple add-ons, the KeyRingThing card is designed to combine up to six club, discount and/or loyalty cards on one credit-card size card. Designed to slip easily into pocketbooks and wallets next to credit cards and cash, the card is accessible at point of sale transactions. In addition to loyalty card consolidation, KeyRingThing will offer a new membership issuance website, enabling consumers to combine up six store cards on one card and also house their account information safely in password-protected accounts.
"At one point, I was cutting bar codes from loyalty cards and pasting them onto old, expired credit cards,” says Tim Jackoboice, Founder & President of KeyRingThing. “Today, consumers need only pick up a free KeyRingThing card from participating retailers, or at the KeyRingThing website. At no cost to them…It's important to many people to take advantage of as many store discounts as they can today. And it's more important than ever for retailers to retain loyal customers."

The KeyRingThing is aimed at increasing the usage and ROI of loyalty programs, as Jackoboice points to research indicating that of the 1.3 billion cards issued, only 39.5% are active. The KeyRingThing is also designed to enable POS advertising, and reaches consumers literally in their wallets.

My HomeStore Card, a free rewards program, enables members to earn cash back from shopping at participating online and brick-and-mortar merchants. The solution is designed to make saving easier for consumers, as it automatically keeps track of earnings.

HomeStore Rewards utilizes a registered-card tracking process. Members can register up to five credit or debit cards, which are used to track members’ spending. The solution is designed to get consumers what they have already earned placed back on the card without any hassle.

Shoppers can visit store websites through a HomeStore Rewards account and are given two options to optimize savings— HomeStore Rewards cash back and/or store-specific offers, provided directly by the store. In addition, shopper can visit brick-and-mortar stores in their area where registered cards can be used at the checkout counter for cash back. The convenient map will display store locations where shoppers can use registered cards.

My HomeStore Card will track everything behind the scenes and display earnings through consumers’ My HomeStore Rewards account. Once the cash back earnings exceeds $25, cash is automatically placed directly on the registered cards.