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3 Trends retailers can capitalize on

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link so make sure that logistics support is your point of strength. Make this a time of festive cheer for your customers and your business. 

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By Kawal Preet
President of Asia Pacific, Middle East, and Africa (AMEA), FedEx Express

Today, if you’re not buying online, you’re probably the exception rather than the norm, especially with the holiday gift-buying season upon us. Consumer demand is such that e-commerce growth rates in the Asia Pacific region have already met projections for 2025. For sellers, setting up a storefront on platforms like Alibaba – home to a combined 1 billion active users globally – is now a given.

This year, retailers are ramping up efforts to cut through an increasingly crowded online marketplace. As logistics underpins e-commerce sales, we’ve witnessed some critical shifts that may help retailers stay ahead this holiday season.

1. E-commerce 3.0: Winning through immersive experiences 

E-commerce 1.0 was all about building a website and product catalogue for people to purchase. E-commerce 2.0 centered on building omni-channel retail and understanding more about customer buying patterns through data analytics. Now we’re living in an era of e-commerce 3.0, which applies approaches like live streaming and augmented or virtual reality to create immersive customer experiences that bring better brand and product understanding and better service to those browsing online. In fact, close to 50% of consumers say they would pay extra for a product if brands could offer more immersive shopping experiences.

China has long been the global trendsetter in the e-commerce field and it’s fair to say what happens here defines the way forward. With more than 638 million Chinese engaging with livestreams and shopping online, livestream platforms are now a critical engine driving e-commerce growth. Ahead of this year’s Singles Day sale, one of China’s top live streamers sold a staggering US$1.7 billion worth of goods within the first 12 hours, attracting more than 250 million views.

As more small businesses build their e-commerce presence, China’s live commerce successes are now being replicated elsewhere in the region. The intent to shop on social media platforms is going up, as high as 88% in countries like Thailand.

2. Dig deeper: Consider subscription models 

Shopping online may have lowered the barrier to making a transaction but engaging with your customers so they keep coming back for more can be tricky. Consumers are inundated with a sea of product information every day. A simple search of “camera” on Google yields over 1 million results, and let’s not forget the programmatic advertising that consumer are explored to once the search occurs In short, consumers are easily distracted.

Subscription models can help increase returning customers. When it comes to e-commerce, small businesses in Asia are also capitalizing on this trend. Just look at the popularity of monthly wine hampers in Australia, beauty boxes in Korea, and premium fruit baskets in Japan.

All of this is being fuelled by consumers’ increasing disposable income and pent-up desire to live life to the fullest during the pandemic. Prolonged lockdowns have meant that receiving little moments of joy through the post regularly helps to break through the monotony of not being able to travel. If retailers can capitalize on this and find a way to have their customers sign-up for a subscription, it can become a stable stream of revenue.

3. Supply chains: Agility and resiliency will be key 

In the old days, e-shoppers’ focus sat squarely on price. But in today’s on-demand economy, where instant gratification means the world to consumers, personalized delivery services such as when and where the product should arrive and whether it can be redirected to a locker if they’re unavailable to pick it up are critical to driving sales. 

Companies therefore need to build more robust delivery services and resilient supply chains to meet consumer needs. It’s no exaggeration to say that your e-commerce success depends on how strong your supply chains are. Just look at how many times ‘supply chain’ has been mentioned in earnings calls among S&P 500 companies this month – a whopping 3,000 times.

This need is particularly pronounced with COVID-19 restrictions still in place in many countries. For example, a well-known South African footwear brand relied on FedEx during the lockdowns, as they were facing difficulties driving sales via their local retail outlets. By leveraging FedEx transportation solutions and technology expertise, the brand was successfully able to expand to new international markets beyond Africa, and double their global distribution network.

What does that mean for retailers like you? Collaborating with a reliable logistics company that can flex its network to reach your customers in whatever circumstances is critical. You earn an extra bonus point if your consumers save on delivery costs. And that’s exactly where we’ve been investing in – fast and convenient international delivery services at attractive prices. 

This holiday season is set to be another epic one for small businesses and e-commerce merchants. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link so make sure that logistics support is your point of strength. Make this a time of festive cheer for your customers and your business. 

BizNews

Study finds saturation in images is key to marketing menu items

The food in the more highly saturated photos looked fresher and tastier to participants, and that led them to be more likely to purchase the food.

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An appealing photo of a pizza or other menu item can help a restaurant increase sales – especially if the right filter is used, a new study suggests. This is because photos high in color saturation make food look fresher and tastier to viewers, which increases their willingness to order the menu items.

Color saturation refers to the intensity of the color in the image – the vividness and richness of the reds and greens and blues.

But how well color saturation works to make food appealing depends on the visual distance of the food in the photo – and even on whether consumers plan to dine alone or with others.

In the cutthroat restaurant business, these results provide a simple method to increase sales, said Stephanie Liu, lead author of the study and associate professor of hospitality management at The Ohio State University.

“On Instagram, it means using the ‘X-Pro II’ filter on your food photos rather than the ‘Earlybird’ filter,” Liu said. “It is not difficult and doesn’t cost a dime, so it is an easy win for restaurant marketers.”

The study was published in the Journal of Business Research.

The researchers did two online studies.

In one study, 267 participants were asked to imagine themselves browsing through options on an online food ordering platform. They were shown photos of a poke bowl, a Hawaiian dish featuring chunks of raw, marinated fish, vegetables and sauce over rice.  They were from a fictitious restaurant named Poke Kitchen.

Study participants were randomly assigned to view one of the four different photos with either high or low color saturation and either close or farther away visual distance.

The photos with high color saturation were edited with professional graphic design software to be 130% more saturated than the low-saturation photos. The up-close photos were 130% larger in radius and appeared nearer to the observer than the more distant photo.

Participants were asked to rate how fresh the food in each photo looked, how tasty it looked and how likely they would be to purchase it.

The food in the more highly saturated photos looked fresher and tastier to participants, and that led them to be more likely to purchase the food, results showed.

But color saturation had a stronger effect when the food appeared more distant in the photos, Liu said. “When the food is shown close up, it is already easy for the viewers to imagine how fresh and tasty the food would be,” she said. “Color saturation is not as necessary.”

The second study involved 222 online participants.  In this case, the participants were asked to imagine they were browsing Instagram and came across images of pizza from a fictitious restaurant near their home named Pizza City. They were shown photos either high or low in color saturation.

People in the study were also told they would either be eating alone or with family that night and were again asked to rate the pizza on perceived freshness and tastiness and on whether they would likely purchase the menu item.

As in the previous study, the food in the color-saturated photo was always seen as fresher and tastier and one that people would be more likely to buy.  But that effect was stronger for people who were told they would be eating alone and weaker for those who would be eating with family.

“When people are eating with others, the social experience is a big part of what people look forward to,” Liu said. “But when they anticipate eating alone, they focus more on the food itself. They want the food to be fresher and tastier and that’s why color saturation is more important in this context.”

These findings are more important now than ever before, with people ordering online and looking at photos to help them decide what to eat, Liu said.

“Restaurants have to post pictures of their food on social media and online ordering platforms,” she said. “They should be paying as much attention, or maybe more, to the photos they post as they do to the text. Color saturation is one key element they need to focus on.”

Co-authors on the study were Laurie Luorong Wu of Temple University, Xi Yu of the City University of Macau and Huiling Huang of the University of Macau in China. Xi Yu and Huiling Huang are recent doctoral graduates of the hospitality management program at Ohio State.

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BizNews

One way employers can head off ‘quiet quitting’

Companies can address “quiet quitting” among employees by ensuring employees spend time with other people who identify with the company. The findings can inform everything from office layouts to assigning mentors to new employees.

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A study from North Carolina State University finds that companies can address “quiet quitting” among employees by ensuring employees spend time with other people who identify with the company. The findings can inform everything from office layouts to assigning mentors to new employees.

“We’re not fans of the term ‘quiet quitting,’ since it seems dismissive of employees who are fulfilling their roles in a company,” says Erin Powell, co-author of a paper on the work and an associate professor of entrepreneurship in NC State’s Poole College of Management. “That said, it is clear that companies can benefit significantly when employees go above and beyond what’s required of them. And our study offers insights into what gives employees that sense of purpose and drive that can benefit their employers.”

Says Tom Zagenczyk, co-author of the paper and a professor of management in NC State’s Poole College of Management: “Historically, attempts to explore ‘organizational identification’ – or the extent to which your organization is part of your identity – have focused on how employees perceive the organization’s reputation and how they view the way they’re treated at work. We really wanted to explore possible social influences.”

To that end, the researchers conducted an in-depth social network study of 91 employees at a company that employs a total of 97 people. Study participants were given a survey designed to capture the role of each employee, how they related to the company, and how they interacted with other employees. For example, questions assessed the extent to which each employee identified with the company; how they viewed their treatment by the employer; how helpful co-workers were; and how they fit into the structure of the organization.

The researchers then used statistical tools to account for potentially confounding variables and to identify factors that affected organizational identification and helpfulness at work.

“One key finding was that a given employee’s organizational identification was similar to the organizational identification of the people who give that employee advice in the workplace,” Zagenczyk says. “In other words, it appears that the people an employee turns to for help at work have a significant influence on how the employee feels about the company.”

“That’s important because it is well-established that the more a person identifies with their company, the more likely they are to go beyond the call of duty at work,” Powell says. “And that helps the employer’s bottom line.

“This finding has practical applications, since employers have myriad ways of influencing how employees interact with each other. For example, employers decide where people’s desks or offices are located, they can determine who is assigned to mentor new hires, and so on.”

The researchers also found that, when people occupy similar places in their employer’s social network, they exhibit similar levels of helpful behavior. That was true regardless of how closely the individuals identified with the employer.

“We think this demonstrates that workplace behavior can also be influenced by observing the behavior of peers, regardless of whether they interact directly with those peers,” Zagenczyk says. “This highlights the importance of establishing those positive social interactions we mentioned earlier – the effects can extend beyond the people directly involved in the interaction.

“One reason companies are freaking out about quiet quitting is that many workplaces have moved away from clearly defined job descriptions to adopt team-based, decentralized organizational structures,” Zagenczyk says. “In that sort of environment – in which many tasks don’t fall within any employee’s defined job description – a lack of ‘organizational citizenship’ in employees can really hurt the company. Employers can address this challenge by better understanding the informal social networks that influence the way people feel about their employers. Studies like this one will help managers do that.”

The paper, “Social Networks and Citizenship Behavior: The Mediating Effect of Organizational Identification,” is published open access in the journal Human Resource Management.

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Strategies

Beyond likes, shares, and comments: How can brands use social media to stimulate both engagement and sales?

With more than three billion social media users worldwide, brands have long recognized the importance of establishing a strong social media presence.

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Researchers from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam published a new article that examines the impact of owned social media on customer engagement and sales.

The study, appearing in Journal of Marketing, is titled “A Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Brand Owned Social Media on Social Media Engagement and Sales”, and is authored by Georgia Liadeli, Francesca Sotgiu, and Peeter W.J. Verlegh.

With more than three billion social media users worldwide, brands have long recognized the importance of establishing a strong social media presence. Recent surveys indicate that over 91% of firms will increase social media marketing budgets in the next three years and that 62% of consumers believe brands will succeed in the long run only if they have a strong social media presence.

The content that brands create and share through their social media channels is called “owned social media.” Liadeli says that “While brands are increasingly investing in owned social media, many are unsure about the overall return on their social media presence and ask how they can design more effective social media campaigns along the purchase funnel.” In other words, firms ask the following questions:

  1. How effective are owned social media and do they only drive engagement, or also sales?
  2. Can the content that generates social media engagement also be used to improve sales?
  3. Is a firm’s owned social media equally effective across settings? Is it more effective for hedonic brands than for functional brands?

This new study about the impact of owned social media on social media engagement and sales is based on a meta-analysis of 1,641 elasticities across 86 studies spanning from 2011 to 2021 that covers 31 industries, 14 platforms, and 17 countries. Sotgiu explains that “Contrary to managerial beliefs that owned social media are primarily an engagement tool, we observe a stronger impact of owned social media on sales. There may be many consumers who ‘like’ individual posts or take the time to leave a comment or share the post from their personal accounts, but brands may be underestimating the impact of their owned social media by focusing on such easy-to-measure metrics.”

To create engagement via social content, companies are often advised to include a question at the end of their posts or create a contest. “However,” says Verlegh, “our study shows that the most effective content to stimulate social media engagement is to focus on emotions, such as with funny or touching posts. But if the goal is to stimulate sales, social media content should focus on communicating information and product benefits and steer away from the emotional.”

The study provides the following guidelines for Chief Marketing Officers and social media managers:

  • Balance “what you say” and “how you say it” depending on the goal: Focus on the “how” to engage consumers with more emotional content and on the “what” to stimulate sales with more informational content (e.g., the hedonic brand Oreo recently boosted its sales using an informational post on Facebook about a recipe featuring its limited-edition red velvet flavor).
  • It is not necessary to always grow communities to reach as many consumers as possible. Owned social media are more effective for small brand communities with consumers valuing the intimacy of a small community with greater trust in the brand and its messages.
  • Social networks like Facebook and Instagram are better suited for stimulating social media engagement than microblogs such as Twitter. This suggests that tie strength and trust are more important than open access and wide dissemination.
  • The introduction of advertising on different platforms weakened the effect of owned social media on engagement. While advertising may amplify the reach and engagement of owned social media content, it can distract the audience and reduce its contribution.
  • It may be suboptimal for brands to use one social media strategy across different geographies, so managers should adapt strategies to account for differences in country characteristics. The increasing use of social media on smartphones amplifies the impact of owned social media on sales, and managers can expect stronger sales effects in countries with a greater mobile phone penetration. For countries with high power distance, owned social media exerts stronger effects on sales. High power distance is related to greater receptiveness of branded communications fulfilling materialistic and status needs.

Full article and author contact information available at https://doi.org/10.1177/00222429221123250.

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