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Store Wars: The Rise Of Floorwalkers

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A long time ago in a galaxy that seems very far away retailers used to provide something that has gotten lost over the century-long history of modern retailing.

Call it service, call it customer care, call it knowledgeable sales help, even call it guest services if you must, but whatever you call it, it all falls under one heading: people on the selling floor to help customers buy things.

From the days of the first general stores and the local merchant who stocked pretty much whatever you needed, the most basic part of retailing has always been about someone behind the counter who could help.

In the rush to dumb down modern retailing, that concept got lost in the spreadsheets, replaced by ever decreasing numbers of salespeople, self-checkout lines and minimum-wage workers whose main function was to stock shelves, not help customers.

With the online onslaught and the need to compete, that process is being reversed—not that it’s by any means a universal turnaround for retailing in general. Far too many physical stores are void of any human life forms there to assist. But some retailers are starting to get it.

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• Say what you want about the Story concept at Macy’s—and I still have my doubts they are ever going to make this work—but one of the pleasant surprises one finds when shopping these ever-changing pop-up shops is that there are living, breathing salespeople there to help you. They are for the most part cheerful, enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the products for sale in the area. It’s a stark contrast with the rest of the store.

• Showfields, the experiential retailer in downtown Manhattan that features small shops leased to mostly online brands, has a person in each of these areas ready to tell you all about what’s for sale. They’ve even tested a reality shopping experience where salespeople play-act roles revolving around the products being sold. It could go horribly wrong if the salespeople-cum-actors lay it on too thick but it works nicely in the best traditions of a Disney-Broadway mash-up.

• Whenever anybody pines for the good old days of department stores, they usually end up referencing Nordstrom as the only present-day player in the space that still adheres to the concept of professional salesperson. Even with some of its recent struggles, Nordstrom remains probably the most successful department store in the country and it’s largely due to the quality of their people. They are the poster child for customer service in today’s legacy retailing world.

There are many other examples but let’s not forget the reverse: the poster child for getting customer service wrong was the late, little-lamented Circuit City. During one of its iterations, the consumer electronics big-box chain systematically got rid of all of its best, most knowledgeable salespeople in the pursuit of lower costs. The move was a disaster as evidenced by the fact that the company went out of business a few short years later.

Contrast that with Best Buy, which has gone the opposite route, emphasizing customer service through its Geek Squad and other initiatives that thrive on salespeople helping customers through the often-frightening world of buying a big expensive electronics purchase. This strategy has made Best Buy the envy of most comparable physical retailers that are trying to come up with anti-Amazon strategies.

This Rise of the Floorwalker movement is catching on across many parts of retailing, though some stores remain oblivious. Those that get it right are likely to have long runs. Those that don’t probably won’t have any sequels in the Store Wars.

The business of retailing is my specialty…and boy is it special. Plenty of good, bad and ugly to go around and my job, as it has been for most of my career as a business journalist, is to try to sort it all out. I do so as a regular contributor to Forbes.com, as well as The Robin Report, Progressive Business Media and other media, plus my own blog, stupidbusiness.com. My regular commentaries have elicited both praise and scorn and I welcome them both equally. I expect to be doing this for the duration.

Source: Store Wars: The Rise Of Floorwalkers

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How Do You Build a Customer Base? Follow These Steps

Many factors will determine how good a story is. Some variables are beyond your control, such as how forthcoming your subject will be, or what (maybe dumb) headline your editor will write. But the factor you can control is how much research you conduct, the questions you ask, and the follow-ups that help you find the information that really matters.

Related: What Work Should You Outsource?

I used to joke that writing was a two-part job. First, you have to be a miner, doing the grunt work. If you want gold or diamonds, you’d better be willing to dig deep in your reporting. The second part — writing — gets all the glory, but it’s really just polishing. If you’ve already found a beautiful diamond, it’s hard to mess it up.

Growing an audience is no different. You want to tell your brand story, but before you start polishing your marketing campaigns, you need to go mining: Ask your audience so many questions that you know them inside and out.

Connecting with an audience is harder than ever because of all the noise on social media and other platforms. In order to thrive in today’s digital environment, you need to have a deep understanding of what “job” your potential customers will pay you to do. In order to get that, you must speak to people directly.

Surveys and form questions are not enough; in-person conversations allow you to gather insights by reacting to people’s responses, hearing their tone of voice, and recognizing when there is more information hiding within a shallow answer.

But most people skip this part of the marketing process because it’s time-consuming. Even if they do it, they’re not always productive. The majority of market-research interviews consist of asking customers why they bought your product or service.

But this is a mistake. People will unknowingly tell you what they think you want to hear, oftentimes repeating your marketing back to you. Moreover, they won’t be able to articulate why they feel this way — so they’ll simply invent a reason.

Related: How Much Should You Spend on Social Media Marketing?

To work around these human habits, there’s a technique called jobs to be done (JTBD), which requires you to interview potential customers in order to truly understand their needs and wants. Not everyone can do JTBD; it takes someone who is skilled in both the process of leading the interview and in drawing conclusions and providing direction for your business.

Years ago, at my consulting company, I hired the best JTBD expert I knew, and I’ve never looked back. (You can also pay for courses and learn the method yourself.) Instead of just considering the functions that people want from a product or service, JTBD digs into the multifaceted nature of decision-making.

That’s what makes it more powerful than data — it helps you understand consumers’ social and emotional drivers and paints a complete picture of what “job” people want from you.

Related: How to Make Smart Hires on a Tight Budget

Once you understand your job — and your core customers — the path forward gets easier. You’re finally in a position to polish: create effective ads, engage with platforms where you’re most likely to find additional consumers, and present them with incentives and pricing that will appeal and convert.

Growth is no longer about wondering if you know what you should do. It’s simply about how well you can execute on your plan.

Related:

How Do You Build a Customer Base? Follow These Steps.

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By: Adam Bornstein

Source: How Do You Build a Customer Base? Follow These Steps.

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Follow the Golden Rule: Treat others the way you would like to be treated. Focus on attracting your customers and spending time holding on to them. Watch this video for specific examples. Remember, there is nothing more important than a happy customer. What is the one thing you can do immediately to make your customers happier than anyone else? Download my free leadership questionnaire to get clarity on every area of your business here: http://ow.ly/LUIww

How Leading Enterprises Are Building Blockchain Innovation On AWS

Blockchain hype—led by cryptocurrency headlines—obscures powerful enterprise applications of the technology. We aim to change that. In this series, we’ll bring you insights from Amazon Web Services customers and partners who are using blockchain to change the world.

The world grows more interconnected every day. Businesses collaborate across the globe. Transactions increase in volume and intricacy. Organizations that share sensitive information across public networks risk information leaks and the possibility of sophisticated cyber attacks.

Traditional methods of storing, verifying, and securing transactions struggle to keep pace with this rising complexity. Massive inefficiency results from the need to process and verify information spread across entities. Entire industries exist only to serve as trusted intermediaries between parties. Attempts at automation create fragile webs of APIs.

Blockchain and digital ledger technologies solve these problems by storing transactions in ways that are transparent, immutable, and verifiable. And they allow multiple parties to transact in a trustworthy and efficient manner, with or without a centralized authority.

Many exciting use cases are possible. Manufacturers could build track and trace ledgers that unify data from multiple systems, enabling faster identification of the reasons for product defects. Consumers could see the history of goods from raw materials to last-mile delivery. Insurers could pay claims in seconds. The time it takes to issue a bond through a securities exchange could shrink from months to minutes.

Companies are working to reap the benefits of blockchain, such as greater speed, efficiency, and reduced risk. For example, Gartner calls blockchain one of the top 10 strategic technologies of 2019. Eighty-five percent of enterprises in a Deloitte survey said they invest $500,000 or more annually in blockchain technologies.

Yet few have deployed these systems to production. Significant challenges hamper the transformative potential of blockchain. Businesses cite regulatory issues, technical barriers, security threats, uncertain ROI, and lack of in-house skills as the biggest barriers.

Many of our own customers, such as Nestlé and Singapore Exchange, have told us about the complexity of building scalable enterprise applications on blockchain. Setting up the hardware, networking, and software can be daunting, even before getting to the experimentation phase. This delays potentially life-changing innovations.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) solves these issues in two major ways. First, we built Blockchain on AWS—a set of massively scalable blockchain and distributed ledger services in the cloud. If all you need is a centralized ledger that immutably records all application data changes, there’s Amazon Quantum Ledger Database (Amazon QLDB). If you need to build a distributed application with ledger capabilities and the ability for multiple parties to transact without a trusted central authority, there’s Amazon Managed Blockchain.

Second, we collaborate closely with leading enterprises to speed innovation. From global manufacturers to finance-industry cornerstones, these companies are creating a more scalable, secure, efficient future. For example, they’ve demonstrated that blockchain delivers throughput to handle U.S. securities trading. Others have built solutions to connect small-scale farmers with consumers thousands of miles away.

We’ll highlight these and many other exciting use cases in the coming weeks. We’re thrilled to bring you along on the journey.

For 13 years, Amazon Web Services has been the world’s most comprehensive and broadly adopted cloud platform. AWS offers over 165 fully featured services for compute, storage, databases, networking, analytics, robotics, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), mobile, security, hybrid, virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR), media, and application development, deployment, and management from 66 Availability Zones (AZs) within 21 geographic regions, spanning the U.S., Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, India, Ireland, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Sweden, and the UK. Millions of customers—including the fastest-growing startups, largest enterprises, and leading government agencies—trust AWS to power their infrastructure, become more agile, and lower costs. To learn more about AWS, visit aws.amazon.com.

Source: How Leading Enterprises Are Building Blockchain Innovation On AWS

 

Jeff Bezos Unveils Blue Origin’s Lunar Lander; Announces Launch Of Next-Gen Rocket In 2021

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos confirmed that his space company, Blue Origin, will launch its next-generation rocket, New Glenn, for the first time in 2021, and also hinted that his company might be capable of helping NASA put humans on the Moon within the Trump administration’s stated five-year time frame.

“We can help meet that time line,” he said. “But only because we started three years ago. It’s time to go back to the Moon—this time to stay.”

Leading up to this dramatic announcement on Thursday at the Washington Convention Center, Bezos couched his vision for his space company in the context of the problems of the world as he sees them. Within the next couple of hundred years, Earth will run out of resources necessary for people to live comfortably, Bezos predicted. Which is why, he says, humanity needs to move into space.

To that end, Bezos revealed Blue Origin’s next-generation rocket, New Glenn, which will begin operations in 2021. New Glenn would be a “heavy lift” rocket, competitive with SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket, as well as United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV and in-development Vulcan rocket. According to Bezos, New Glenn will reduce costs by having a first stage that can be reused 25 times and use liquid natural gas as a propellant. Though he did not reveal any pricing information about the rocket, he did mention that the fuel costs per launch would be less than $1 million.

And one of the things that rocket may launch? One of the answers came immediately as Bezos—to great fanfare—showed off a large mock-up of the company’s proposed Blue Moon lunar lander. According to Bezos, the lander will use liquid hydrogen as fuel—just as the company’s New Shepard rocket does today. It will be capable of landing autonomously and be equipped with cameras, lidar and other sensors to map terrain. It will also be configurable in order to handle a variety of missions such as carrying a rover—or humans—to the surface.

Again, there wasn’t any information provided about how much it will cost for a company to buy a mission on the Blue Moon. However, Bezos did reveal that Blue Origin already has customers.

“We already have a bunch of customers for Blue Moon, some of whom are in the audience,” he said. “They’re going to be deploying science missions to the Moon as well.”

Bezos couched these product announcements in the context of his vision for the future, which for him means humanity migrating out to O’Neill habitats–gigantic, miles-long space stations envisioned by physicist Gerard O’Neill in the 1970s, are where humans will live and work comfortably, and conduct heavy industry, Bezos said.  This will leave Earth “zoned for residential and light industry,” he said.

Building grandiose habitats—or even more relatively modest goals like any kind of permanent settlement in space or on the Moon—is not the job of this generation, but the next, according to Bezos. He sees his goal as building the infrastructure necessary for it to happen. “It’s this generation’s job to build that road to space so future generations can release their creativity,” he said.

The company also released a promo video for its lander, which you can view below.

Read more: Jeff Bezos And Elon Musk Want To Go To The Moon—They Just Disagree On How To Get There

Follow me on Twitter or Facebook. Read my Forbes blog here.

I’m an Associate Editor covering science and cutting edge tech.

Source: Jeff Bezos Unveils Blue Origin’s Lunar Lander; Announces Launch Of Next-Gen Rocket In 2021

DoorDash And Amazon Won’t Change Tipping Policy After Instacart Controversy; If You’re Worried, Carry Cash

The tipping controversy that prompted Instacart to reverse a compensation plan to its contract workers isn’t likely to go away: Rivals DoorDash and Amazon Flex are continuing to adjust driver pay based on how much they get tipped, saying doing so ensures a minimum payout. The practice, which has its roots in the way brick-and-mortar restaurants pay waitstaff, has been adapted to suit the needs of app-based delivery companies…………

Source: DoorDash And Amazon Won’t Change Tipping Policy After Instacart Controversy; If You’re Worried, Carry Cash

ShopABot – Discover The Secret 3-Step Amazon Formula & Start Earning Affiliate Commissions On Demand

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With No Laws To Guide It, Here’s How Orlando Is Using Amazon’s Facial Recognition Technology – Davey Alba

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Walking around downtown Orlando, you might not notice the lightbulb-sized camera affixed to one of the traffic signal poles along the city’s palm tree–studded avenues. But it’s there, scanning all the same. If it sees you, the camera will instantly send a live video feed over to Amazon’s facial “Recognition” system, cross-referencing your face against persons of interest. It’s one of three IRIS cameras in the Orlando area whose video feeds are processed by a system that could someday flag potential criminal matches — for now, all the “persons of interest” are volunteers from the Orlando police — and among a growing number of facial recognition systems nationally………

Read more: https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/daveyalba/amazon-facial-recognition-orlando-police-department

 

 

 

 

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