About Samantha Holloway
Sam is a Co-Founder of GoSpotCheck, as well as the company's Chief Sales Officer. She is a former retail entrepreneur, with graduate degrees in business and psychology.
While spring has finally sprung, it may well take some time for large swaths of the country to fully thaw out from memories of the brutal, record-breaking, polar vortex that punctuated the 2013/2014 winter. A National Climate Data Center overview notes that this was the 25th most extreme U.S. winter since 1910 and the 34th coldest on record.
But despite the miseries of a relentless freeze, we are on the same page as the popular blog Motherboard—from satellites to radars to weather ships and beyond, the amount of climate data collected every day is awesome… and that’s exactly, word-for-word the name of this blog post by Motherboard! Weather forecasters rely on a superabundance of data collection tools, including over 10,000 manned and automatic surface weather stations and 1,000 upper-air stations. And it all goes back to the National Climate Data Center—run by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration—which “maintains the world’s largest climate data archive and provides climatological services and data to every sector of the United States economy and to users worldwide.”
Indeed, the NOAA’s Climate.gov is a treasure trove of real-time data collection in action. The site’s map application offers a range of regularly updated global weather data snapshots. Sea ice, precipitation, atmospheric carbon dioxide, surface temperature—it is all here. And their Global Climate Dashboard, replete with a century’s worth of temperature data and over 50 years of carbon dioxide data, provides an essential barometer of climate change.
Now, one major impact of extreme winter weather is evident on the nation’s roadways, which can be made extremely dangerous and impassable in severe snow and ice events. We saw this hazard on full display in Atlanta in late January, as thousands of drivers were stranded on highways when the city was blindsided by a winter storm. Here is an arena, though, where mobile data collection solutions are on the rise. A new “connected vehicles” venture by the U.S. Department of Transportation – Research and Innovative Technology Administration seeks to leverage mobile sources “to focus the analysis on improving the ability to detect and forecast road weather and pavement conditions by specific roadway links.”
Such a mobile data collection enabled approach to weather forecasting and preparedness could significantly mitigate the risks associated with roadway travel in inclement weather—a welcome development in an age defined by a climate of extremes. We may not be able to control the weather, but we can be encouraged by mobile data collection technologies contributing to our greater safety in the face of the next big storm.
The 86th Academy Awards are set to air this Sunday, March 2, and as the preceding year in movies will soon reach its glamorous peak at the Dolby Theater in Hollywood, we’re tackling the exciting intersection of data collection and the Oscars.
The fact is, when the Oscars come to town, Hollywood simply overflows with high-profile galas, and mobile data collection tools are doing plenty of the legwork to reduce event planning and execution headaches. Take the Zkipster guest list app, which will replace burdensome stacks of paper on clipboards and minimize entrance lines at several Oscars-related functions. The Los Angeles Times notes that the cloud-based mobile application syncs with zFace “to append photographs of people to guest lists, allowing party organizers to confirm the identities of prospective attendees.” This means that organizers can check in guests “with the confidence that partygoers are who they say they are.”
The holiday season is of utmost importance to retailers. After all, according to the National Retail Federation, 20-40% of sales take place in the final months of the year. In 2012, $579.5 billion in retail sales occurred, and the NRF predicts this number will rise 3.9% this year to $602.1 billion. Traditionally, the holiday sales season kicks off the day after Thanksgiving, well known as the legendary Black Friday. Cyber Monday comes the following Monday, with a bounty of online deals enticing customers to make purchases on the web. And then of course December heats up with Christmas and end-of-year holiday shopping.
But many retailers are launching holiday sales earlier in the year. According to the Los Angeles Times, Walmart and Toys R Us commenced holiday promotions in mid-September. Walmart began offering its holiday layaway plan then, and Toys R Us set in motion its price match guarantee promotion. Price matching is one of the leading strategies of bricks and mortar stores this holiday season. The Wall Street Journal reports that such big brands as Best Buy and Target are embracing price matching as a means to dissuade customers from testing out products in-store and then proceeding to purchase online elsewhere for less.
Brick-and-mortar retail outlets are going digital, and it’s changing the world of in-store shopping to the benefit of both retailers and their customers. Through the use of branded mobile apps, mobile point-of-sale tablets and digital innovation, retailers are understanding customers better, who in turn enjoy a more personalized shopping experience. After all, 90% of sales still take place offline in physical stores, so it’s no wonder brands are working on digital in-store transformation to further optimize merchandising strategies.
What drives—and deters—customer loyalty? According to a recently released Market Track study, customer loyalty (or lack thereof) is strongly affected by promotions and merchandising. Customers are price-sensitive and promotion-sensitive. When prompted, they may speak of brand loyalties, but when it comes to purchase decisions, their actions say otherwise. Take a look at the study’s eye-opening findings about the influence of promotions on purchase behavior:
- 80% of shoppers surveyed said they would change stores or brands when offered a compelling promotion.
- 83% said they made an unplanned purchase based on a promotion they received, with 65% saying they made the purchase in store.
- Over 80% said they use more than one promotional media type—most frequently print and websites—to make purchase decisions.
Shopper behavior is significantly influenced by promotions, and thanks to the Internet, customers have greater visibility—and thus, purchasing power—across the market to comparison shop and hunt for promotions. In light of these results, merchandisers must ask themselves: what’s the optimal way to embrace these trends, build brand loyalty, and develop appropriate merchandising strategies?
Pop-up shops have become an established retail execution phenomenon put into use by a great range of companies, from ecommerce merchants to brands with bricks and mortar stores across the country. This flash-retailing trend is a proven and viable sales strategy, unlocking terrific ways to generate buzz and strengthen relationships with customers offline, a channel where more than 95% of purchases are still completed.
Strong merchandising strategy is essential to drive revenue and optimize customer experience. There are many common blunders and best practices when it comes to merchandising. Stock-outs, hidden items, and insufficient marketing signage are just a few examples. With multiple branches and store locations, merchandising mishaps become even more important for field teams to keep an eye on.
Stephanie Brady, an awesome new friend to GoSpotCheck, shared some insights with me about LaunchUR and how GoSpotCheck’s platform is going to help them with their teen reporting initiative.
LaunchUR is a national youth entrepreneur accelerator, expanding the affordability and accessibility of real-world, peer-driven youth entrepreneurship experiences for teenagers (13-18). Our out-of-classroom programs help our school and community partners enhance critical financial literacy, 21st century and job readiness skills. All of our programs offer practical, hands-on learning to build our next generation of problem-solvers, inventors, innovators, small business owners and community leaders.
Last Saturday, the team from GoSpotCheck and some of our friends went out to Denver International Airport to support the Special Olympics Colorado Plane Pull Event. SOCO is an amazing organization and we were lucky to participate in an event that was not only a great opportunity for some team building, but allowed us to get involved with a local organization worth supporting.
Empower franchisees to share marketing ideas.
At GoSpotCheck, we help a lot of our customers measure the execution of national marketing initiatives across their locations. This is definitely important in order to keep a consistent brand image, but sometimes franchisees have a better idea than the corporate marketing department does of what their individual markets need, in terms of promotions or advertising. That being said, it can be daunting as a franchisee to approach corporate with an idea.
So why not empower these franchisees to come up with marketing ideas that can be executed at the local level, but also shared with the larger company? As TCBY has exhibited with its support of franchisees and its Street Treat Sampling initiative, it’s hugely important to focus on learning from franchisees as well as just directing them on how to market.