Planogram Technology Still a Defining Force in Age of E-Commerce

In the early phases of e-commerce, people saw the Internet has a way to expand their choices and find the best price on big-ticket items—while still routinely going to the store for the daily essentials. As time goes on, this paradigm seems to be reversing itself. People are increasingly buying basic household items through Amazon, while going to a brick-and-mortar store for their big-ticket items so they can see the products and services for themselves before making a final decision. With increased convenience and choices come increased expectations for the value offered by products and services. Making the wrong decision for one’s phone, TV, gaming platform, car, or bigger pieces of furniture can be a regret that one must live with for years. And so, people are more motivated to visit a brick-and-mortar store for these and other items.

As such, many of today’s Big Companies have transformed more of their floor space from inventory displays to showroom floors and an interactive customer experience, while also offering many or all of their products through delivery from their distribution centers. Newer planogram and inventory management technologies allowed these retailers to analyze the dynamic effects associated with adopting an integrated approach to their retail sales model and how to best use their in-store inventory and assets.

Data Reporting and Planogram Compliance

Planogram technology—even in its traditional role of modeling the placement of retail products on shelves to maximize sales—is still as important as ever. More so. In addition to floor planning and range planning software that have been around for years, today’s retail industry is using more powerful data technologies for analyzing the performance of individual products within product categories as well as niche categories within broader categories. Which products benefit most from being featured on particular shelves? Which products hardly benefit at all from being on the retail floor? What products don’t benefit directly from being featured but which increase overall sales through related products? Take a look at this example of category management software to get a glimpse into the types of nested product information that can be reported on an easily viewable dashboard display.

To be sure, it’s not just about the data collection and mining. It’s also the data reporting and actionable intelligence. Especially when it comes to planogram compliance. Image recognition software can be used to create automated reports for planogram compliance. Store associates will know when store shelves or retail displays need attention. Visual merchandising managers can track planogram compliance remotely. Supply chain managers will know when products are under- or over-performing. Even newer planogram and merchandising technologies are turning the cameras around and using facial recognition software to measure customers’ eye movement across the shelves to optimize sales and inventory management.

Competition and Integration

Too often, today’s retail sector is described as the unstoppable march of e-commerce capturing an ever-increasing market share. But this isn’t really reflected in the data anymore. Even as some legacy retail brands go bankrupt in the rise of e-commerce, brick-and-mortar sales have stabilized and been positive for many years now, increasingly in lockstep with e-commerce sales trends.

The competition has also spurred plenty of innovation along the way. Price-matching guarantees seem so commonplace today that it’s easy to forget how relatively new they are. Digital Commerce 360 offers this reminder that it was only in 2012 that Best Buy’s newly minted CEO, Hubert Joly, made a price-matching guarantee policy one of his very first actions. “Customers who entered the store to personally try out the product felt empowered to buy on the spot—thanks to the guarantee. Further, he carved out showroom space for big brands, including Apple, Microsoft and Samsung so vendors could interact with customers.”

More and more, e-commerce and brick-and-mortar retail stores are evolving together. Recent trends show momentum toward a more complete integration of e-commerce and brick-and-mortar retail. More traditional retailers than ever have a robust e-commerce operation, while Amazon has shown increasing commitment to, and value in, establishing brick-and-mortar stores.

Planogram Tech Finding Applications in More Sectors

Beyond its role as a defining force in retail, planogram and merchandising technology are demonstrating their value in other sectors of the economy. For healthcare, for real estate, for hospital and entertainment venues, merchandising and other display strategies help these industries get more value from their available space. Even as many shopping malls are struggling to survive, commercial real estate prices have surged over the last several years, putting additional pressure on companies to optimize and monetize their space.

Working with Big Companies: Essential B2B Tips

Working with large business-to-business clients is a demanding process and making the transition to serving large accounts can be difficult. However, businesses of every shape and size are beginning to work together—whether it’s to improve market reach or PR relations. Access to lending and a global talent market mean that your business may land a contract with a big company. If this happens to you, here’s what you need to know.

Big B2B will change your business. A bigger client means a bigger budget. The extra revenue may help to fund resources you need to go after other businesses (both large and small), so think of large B2B contracts as investments in the future of your company. Additionally, larger companies will often have people in place to make your job simpler. Prominent clients can dramatically raise your profile and working with well-known businesses can boost staff morale and aid in employee fulfillment. A big B2B contract will allow you to “plug in” to larger networks.

 

Your small size is an advantage. Though your company will benefit from big B2B relationships, the larger company will also benefit. They’ll get faster responses, fewer bureaucratic hurdles, and personal relationships to make the process more enjoyable. Additionally, your team will likely be able to provide the outside perspective creative services many big companies seek.

 

Understand the risks. Working with large clients is both fulfilling and challenging. When taking on a massive client, it is essential to recognize how the contract can negatively impact your business. See below for our complete list of risks.

 

  • If you lose a major client, it will take a long time to replace the revenue source. Additionally, losing big clients will often happen without warning, leaving you and your team scrambling to make up the cash. Be sure to maintain additional clients to safeguard against disaster.

 

  • They will be demanding, and large clients will generally have several checks on process and approval requirements. They’re going to use up a lot of your time. To reiterate: do your best to maintain additional clients for the duration of the contract.

 

  • Price negotiation may be out of the question. To that end, becoming reliant on a big client will leave you without bargaining power when renegotiating fees and retainer arrangements.

 

  • They can cost you money. You will likely need to hire additional staff and subcontractors. Additionally, meeting the expectations of a large, demanding client will increase workplace pressure levels.

 

While entering a contract with a large-scale company will, in most cases, dramatically change your business for the better, it is essential to consider every side and outcome of the relationship.

Working at a Big Company: What You Need to Know

Big companies are impressive, and their actions can impact the lives of every American. But what is it like to actually work for one of these massive corporations? Whether you’re flirting with a job offer or simply curious, working at a large company may not provide the lifestyle you’d expect. Below, we’ve outlined the benefits and disadvantages of working at one of the world’s largest companies.

You’ll become part of a large community. Sure, you’ll be working at the same company as a brilliant CEO, or perhaps a company pioneering a new type of technology. It’s never a bad idea to rub elbows with those types of colleagues, but—more importantly—you’ll be launched into a global network of big company workers. Large companies often participate in global and country-wide networking events, meaning you’ll have a greater professional exposure.

 

It will probably come with a lot of perks. Large companies often have some extra money to spend on their employees. In addition to earning a competitive salary, you’ll likely have access to great office amenities, such as a gym, a canteen, or new technology. You might be able to finagle partial funding for another degree, or you could be sent on training retreats around the world. Regardless, your perks will be larger than those at a smaller company.

 

You’ll have more obvious structure. When you’re a part of a large company, you’re entering a machine that’s been in use for a long time. There is an established way of doing things, allowing you to learn the system quickly and effectively. Additionally, you’ll know exactly how you fit into the system, learning the best pathways for promotions and other benefits. Conversely, you won’t have as much room for creativity, but you’ll have a greater sense of stability.

 

You’ll have more room to grow. While your initial role may be specialized, you’ll have the ability to change positions and explore new areas without leaving the company. While you’ll still need to do some hunting, a lot of large companies prefer to hire and promote from within—that’s one less thing for the recruiter to worry about, and the onboarding process will be far easier.

 

Changes happen slowly. If you want to shake things up at your job, a big company may not be the best choice. Even if your company is open to new ideas, getting your department to move to a new model or create a system can take a lot of time, effort, and convincing.

Working at a Fast-Growing Company: What You Need to Know

We all know the benefits and disadvantages of working for large and small companies. However, few resources are able to address what it’s like to work at a fast-growing company. Making this step can be very difficult; these companies can experience a variety of growing pains, and you might not have the type of security that comes with working at a large company. However, signing a contract with a fast-growing company can change your career for the better. Here’s what you need to know.

You’ll never get bored. Fast-growing companies are consistently innovating, allowing employees to truly test the bounds of their creative abilities. Additionally, these businesses often hire individuals to do a variety of jobs. At a large business, you might get a job as a social media monitor. At a smaller, faster-growing company, you may be in charge of generating social media content, engaging the audience, and monitoring.

 

You’ll always have a voice. Employee opinion is the bread and butter of fast-growing companies. If you have ideas, you’ll have the opportunity to pitch them to the people who matter. If accepted, your ideas could be implemented quickly and efficiently—without the bureaucratic mess that may come with introducing ideas at a larger company.

 

You’ll likely have stock options. If you join a company at the ground floor, you might have the opportunity to invest. In small, fast-growing companies, you might be able to turn a substantial profit on this investment.

 

You’ll have access to company leaders. You could spend a decade at a large corporation without ever meeting your CEO. At high-growth companies, you’re likely to get a lot of face time with the executive team. These interactions are incredibly valuable—for both professional connections and educational opportunities.

 

You’ll experience some frustration. Companies often grow faster than they can keep up. Whether that means increasing your personal workload, failing to regulate a specific function, or not understanding the hierarchy within the business, these growing pains can lead to severe frustration. In some cases, this frustration passes as the company is able to catch up with its projects. In some cases, the company is never able to catch up.

 

Big Companies Changing Everyday Life: Netflix

As part of our blog series, we will occasionally spotlight an exciting, fast-growing, or game-changing company. These businesses are working to disrupt their industries—in the best way possible.

 

If you’ve ever streamed a movie or television show online, you likely did it through Netflix. Headquartered in Los Gatos, California, this company was founded in 1997. Netflix offers a subscription-based streaming service, offering consumers a large library of films and television shows. Though Netflix has been around for over twenty years, its current form is relatively new.

Netflix began as a DVD subscription service. The idea was to bring the flexibility of a video rental store to the convenience of home; users would request films, which were then mailed to their homes. This rental by mail model was popular among American households, but Netflix truly changed the home entertainment world when it began to provide streaming services. In 2007, the company expanded its business with the introduction of streaming media, though it continued its DBD and Blu-ray rental service. The first of its kind, this streaming service became extremely popular; by January of 2006, Netflix operated in over 190 countries. The service is available worldwide except in Mainland China, Syria, North Korea, and Crimea.

Netflix continued to expand as a media company by entering the content-production industry. In 2012, the company debuted its first original series. Since then, it has continued to expand the production of both film and television series. Netflix released an estimated 126 original series or films in 2016—more than any other network or cable channel. In 2018, the company received more Emmy Award nominations than any other network, including HBO.

As of April 2018, Netflix had 125 million total subscribers worldwide. Around 57 million of those subscribers live in the United States, meaning around 20% of all Americans have a subscription. The company continues to break ground in the home entertainment and production industries, and we’re looking forward to see what they do next.

 

What’s Different About Today’s Biggest Companies

Today’s biggest companies aren’t the same as they were a generation ago, nor with a few exceptions were those companies the same as the biggest companies from a generation before that. And this is a sign of a healthy, dynamic economy. Fortunes are made by finding and creating the next big thing, not by entrenching in existing industries until their decaying utility makes the entire system collapse and reset. Nevertheless, it’s worth looking at the current-day behavior, effects, and larger consequences of today’s biggest companies.

A Conversation Starter

We recently heard an online interview with PJ O’ Rourke, economic and political writer, who was talking about the new, digital economy when he said:

“You think back 20-30 years ago and you think of the top ten companies and you knew them. You knew what they did; they made stuff. They provided services, and you used that stuff. They made Chevrolets. They made electricity. They made toothpaste. Now, you look at the top corporations and they make what?…Money. Money and trouble as far as I’m concerned.”

 

Marketing Today’s Big Companies

We’re not sure how much we agree with this view. As was also mentioned in the interview as part of the larger panel discussion: With Amazon, people like being able to buy things online and have them show up at their door step. It may be a different kind of service, but the digital economy delivers, in large part, digital services that make things easier, if the tech itself is complicated to understand.

On the other hand, it’s not entirely satisfying to say that appropriating and then monetizing the world’s social networks is just a different version of making toothpaste. So maybe here’s a better way to put it: We’re not sure how much we disagree with O’ Rourke’s larger point, either. And with this dueling perspective in mind, we wanted to take a deeper dive into how today’s big companies are marketing themselves.

 

Loyalty Marketing and Customer Success

If, like us, you keep tabs on trends in the marketing industry, you know that many of the buzzword practices currently include loyalty marketing and customer success. You have experts in the industry blogging about how companies need to understand the difference between customer support vs. customer success—with the obvious implication that many businesses need to put more emphasis on the latter. You have big-time digital marketing publications with articles discussing “how businesses can use AI tools to improve customer engagement. You have major marketing agencies, like rDialogue, out there talking about how loyalty marketing is “the root of their company.”

In turn, we wonder if, and how much, this new emphasis on businesses making a deeper connection with their customers is a reaction to the perception that the only thing “today’s biggest companies do is make money and trouble.” Loyalty marketing and customer success are more important than ever because being associated with a positive customer experience is necessary to reassure the customer that the company is offering any “real value” at all.

 

A New Generation of Socially-Conscious Monopolies?

What are the stakes if the new digital economy continues to churn out winner-take-all companies based on their unquestioned loyalty to their customers. Where does this path eventually lead us? Are we to believe that a new generation of socially-conscious monopolies is going to deliver an economic utopia? With the interconnectedness of customer networks and a business culture in which customer success is so deeply ingrained, will customers continue to have leverage if their success depends on a single company and for which they have no other reasonable choices? Or will the old rules of monopolies apply and loyalty marketing is just a Trojan Horse for price-gouging down the road? We noticed that Amazon Prime membership has gotten more expensive yet again, while you need to use more of their ever-expanding roster of benefits to make the higher membership fee worth the cost. Likewise, we’re skeptical that Facebook’s investment in network security and self-monitoring infrastructure (the one that took a big bite out of future profit projections and thus the company’s market value) was out of any obligation to their customer. Rather, it was to guard against governmental action that would change how the company was regulated, a potentially bigger threat to its bottom-line.

 

Big Companies Changing Everyday Life: Amazon

As part of our blog series, we will occasionally spotlight an exciting, fast-growing, or game-changing company. These businesses are working to disrupt their industries—in the best way possible.

If you’ve purchased something online in the past week, there’s a big chance it came from Amazon. This company now represents nearly half of all U.S. e-commerce sales, and more than 75% of U.S. online consumers shop on Amazon. The company was founded by Jeff Bezos in 1994, but it originally operated as an online bookstore. The website later diversified to sell video downloads and streaming, MP3 downloads and streaming, audiobook downloads, software, video games, and electronics. In its current iteration, customers can purchase and sell nearly everything and anything on Amazon—and its changing the way Americans shop.

Amazon did not expect to make a profit for four to five years after its rebranding in 2000. They experienced slow growth, causing stockholders to complain that the company was not reaching profitability fast enough. However, when the dot-com bubble burst, Amazon survived. The company eventually turns its first profit in the fourth quarter of 2001: $5 million on more than $1 billion. In 2011, Amazon had 30,000 full-time employees in the United States. By the end of 2016, it had 180,000 employees in the country.

In 2015, Amazon surpassed Walmart as the most valuable retailed in the United States by market capitalization, and it is the fourth most valuable public company in the world. It is the largest Internet company by revenue and the second largest employer in the United States. Amazon currently has thirteen subsidiaries, including Audible.com, Whole Foods Market, Goodreads, and Junglee.

So, why have we listed Amazon as an Upcoming Company? Because its innovations continue to change American life. Through services like AmazonFresh, customers can have groceries delivered to their doorstep. Through Amazon Video, customers can watch and stream thousands of movies and television shows. Users can utilize Amazon Drive, the company’s cloud storage application, or read any book on their e-Reader, the Kindle. This company developed Amazon Alexa, a game-changing virtual assistant and a step forward in smart home technology. Amazon continues to innovate, and we can’t wait to see their next service, product, or invention.

 

 

A Succinct Guide to Building Relationships with Big Brands

In a previous post, we discussed tips for working with big clients in B2B contracts. However, we need to cover the ways in which smaller companies should enter into these relationships and negotiations. Corporate companies and smaller, start-up-type businesses handle negotiations differently, so you should do your best to prepare for intense, ongoing talks. Here’s our advice for entering these relationships.

 

  • Develop personal relationships. Understand the role and function of the people you meet during negotiations and try to build personal relationships. This will allow you to cater your pitch to their individual interests, highlighting one of the key reasons why working with a smaller company has advantages.

 

  • Be clear and forthright. Focus your pitch on where you can make the most impact for the larger company. Utilize quantitative data to quickly and succinctly tell them that utilizing your services will save X money, X amount of time, or generate X measurable PR benefits. Speak their language and use empathy to make a big impression.

 

  • Value your work. You may be tempted to cut your price in order to snag a big client. In reality, these large clients are the businesses who can and should be paying more; they have the resources, and they’re going to take up a lot of your time. Don’t low-ball price negotiations.

 

  • Understand how your size works in your favor. Don’t change who you are or how your company operates to cozy up to a large client. In most cases, large companies are pursuing you because of the way small businesses operate. Delivering the goods on time and sticking to a budget are essential but remember to incorporate the personal touch you’re known for. Don’t posture your company to seem larger than it really is.

 

  • Find an excellent lawyer. Odds are that you don’t have experience in negotiating commercial contracts. Prevent yourself from getting pushed into a corner by hiring a good lawyer. This resource will tell you what’s normal, if you’re getting a good deal, and how to stick up for yourself when negotiations get tough.

 

Verizon Communications

Market Cap: $200.9 Billion

Industry: Telecommunications services

Founded: 2000

Chief Executive Officer: Lowell McAdam

Employees: 155,400

Sales: $127.99 billion

Headquartered: New York, NY

 

Summary: Verizon Communications is a popular and well-known holding company which engages in the provision of broadband and communication services. The company provides wireless and wireline services. The wireless portion provides wireless communications services and products on both a post- and prepaid basis. This is provided to consumer, business, and government customers. Conversely, the wireless segment offers broadband video and data, corporate networking solutions, data and cloud services, security and managed network services, and both local and long-distance voice services.

 

Why you should care: Verizon currently ranks as the 18th largest country in the world. It is number seven in profit and thirty-one in market value. These numbers are incredible impressive for a company less than twenty years old. Verizon Communications is also leading the charge toward 5G communication services, which they plan to roll out in late 2018. With a safe dividend and a stable emphasis on technology, Verizon is an excellent buy for investors seeking long-term gains.

ExxonMobil

 

Market Cap: $344.1 Billion

Industry: Oil and Gas Operations

Founded: 1859

Chief Executive Officer: Darren Woods

Employees: 71.,200

Sales: $230.06 Billion

Headquarters: Irving, Texas

 

Summary: Exxon Mobil engages in and facilitates the exploration, development, and distribution of oil, gas, and petroleum products, operating through upstream, downstream, and chemical channels. Their upstream segment produces crude oil and natural gas, whereas their downstream segment manufacturers and trades petroleum products. The chemical segment offers and distributes petrochemicals. Founded by John D. Rockefeller in 1882, ExxonMobile is one of the most successful oil development and distribution companies of all time. The company is currently the thirteenth-largest in the world, number ten in sales, number sixteen in profit, and number ten in market value.

 

Why you should care: According to Bloomberg, an emerging shale oil producer is beginning to court ExxonMobil to invest in Algerian shale reserves. The producer, headed by a man named Ould Kaddour, encouraged companies to “come explore” while at the World Gas Conference in Washington. ExxonMobil’s participation in this venture could lead to massive changes in the shale oil market, as Algeria is a relatively “untapped” country. To that end, a federal judge in California recently dismissed a climate change lawsuit brought by San Francisco and Oakland against ExxonMobil. The company continues to drill worldwide and is understood to be one of the biggest contributors to global climate change.