Off the Shelf provides a platform for Retailers and Consumer Packaged Goods companies to discuss and gain insights on the pressing problems, trends and solutions.

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December 31, 2010

Ever wondered why one size fits too many?

Variations in actual physical dimensions across diverse apparel brands for the same labeled size is nothing new. That's the case more often than not! There is rarely uniformity in actual physical dimensions for the same labeled size apparel across brands. However, what have become more often, are variations in fit and actual physical sizes for a given tagged size even for the same brand. And here I am not talking about local or lesser known brands but leading apparel and sportswear brands.

 

One reason for such a discrepancy can be that the merchandise may be ticketed incorrectly, for instance a ticket for smaller size may be attached to bigger sized merchandise or vice versa. This can be easily remedied by making necessary corrections to the ticketing and labeling processes. However, another reason for this size inconsistency, which is faulty production, is far more troublesome. Unlike other product types, consistent fit and size are essential for apparel items. In fact these very aspects can differentiate a particular apparel brand from another. With varying actual sizes even for the same brand merchandise, consumers can't rely on the size labels alone and have to take many trails every time they buy apparel items, even when they are of same make and kind! This doesn't present a nice shopping experience to in-store shoppers. Also, given the focus of apparel companies to grow online this issue presents a serious challenge to the industry. Unlike in stores, where you can take trials and select the merchandise which fits you well, online shopping doesn't offer you such a convenience. If consumers are not sure that a particular size will have the same fixed physical dimensions then it's going to discourage them from making a purchase online and offset retailers' online expansion plans.

 

Shortened apparel life cycle and reduced time to market can lead to product inconsistencies and production related issues. Adoption of IT can help in providing big enough window for merchandise production by correctly reading the right demand and market signals. However, this too, may not always suffice given how fast trends and market dynamics change in fashion and apparel industry. More important is to invest further in skills and training of shop floor workers and to strengthen the quality control processes of manufacturers. It appears that maintaining consistency in sizes, an unquestioning expectation in apparel industry, can also become a differentiating factor in today's marketplace.

December 22, 2010

Better shopper experience and loyalty with QR codes

A casual glance at the soft drink bottle or a can of juice running a loyalty program shows that the whole process and experience of earning loyalty rewards is antiquated. Imagine the number of people who will actually note down the website address and the rewards code, login to the website, register and enter the code to win rewards or loyalty points. The conversion rate must be abysmally low also leading to erosion of brand affinity. What if you could effectively bridge the gap with a simple bar code?

 

QR codes are the answer. With a smart phone and a QR code reader, consumers can scan the code from an ad, a catalog or the product packaging and get automatically redirected to the website or send an SMS with their entry.

 

CPG firms and retailers can embed QR codes in catalogs, print ads and product packaging to enable physical world hyperlinks and mobile tagging to drive up sales. A few applications of QR codes that I'm already seeing in the wild:

 

Shopping:

1. QR codes on products which you browse in stores and you use it for online research for comparison with other products

2. Geocoded QR tags for quicker mapping and store locations

3. Google's Favorite places campaign already has QR code decals in the windows of local businesses that link back to their online websites

4. QR codes on product packaging to enable product replenishment by customers through QR code scans

 

Loyalty:

1. QR codes for rewards (like the code on a bottle which currently has to be entered by logging into a website could potentially be scanned by your smart phone and it instantly takes you to the rewards website)

2. Wine bottles (social wine discovery site) now have QR codes which link you to a website with all information about the wine.

3. Store loyalty cards as QR codes

 

Coupons & Promotions:

1. QR codes for coupons on catalogs and print ads

2. Create buzz around new product promotions

 

Other areas:

1. QR codes in the supply chain to bring in efficiencies (Supply Chain)

2. QR codes to drive traffic to a business' Facebook page to increase customer engagement (Social Media engagement)

 

The fact that you dont need a special scanner and any smart phone with a camera and qr code reader software can read it is the selling point of QR codes. I think the appeal of QR codes will only increase in a world ruled by the ubiquitous smartphone.