By Honey Kirtley, Head of Insight and Loyalty at The Logic Group
The retail industry is not one unfamiliar with change. With the rise of the mobile and the Internet it is hard to imagine a time when technology has changed so radically, and where change has had such an immediate effect on the consumer and retailer alike. Globally, the number of smartphones surpassed the 1 billion mark in October 2012i. It comes as no surprise that according to research from Deloitte, half of shoppers say they have bought products from a mobile app, with 57%ii having checked for stock using a mobile device. As a result, retailers are now racing ahead to embrace new payment technologies including mobile services as part of a wider multichannel customer interaction strategy.
Shoppers are doing more research before they buy, undergoing price comparisons, reading reviews, browsing and conducting their purchases at any time, day or night. Mobile technology has taken this even further, giving shoppers access to the internet and the ability to shop from almost anywhere. Mobile shopping is clearly here to stay, however the benefits of ‘purchasing on the go’ are not just limited to the consumer looking to find the best deal. The rise of smartphones has created an important lifeline, connecting the shopper to the store and opening up new buying opportunities beyond an initial visit. Apps and incentives that complement shoppers’ experiences and integrate with retail campaigns are vital to engaging consumers and generating greater loyalty.
While smartphones may be willingly used by consumers looking to compare purchases or even buy on the move, a recent survey into mobile attitudes and use conducted by Ipsos MORIiii found that retailers may still have some way to go before engaging all demographics via mobile. The survey found that only 30% of British consumers admitted to trusting major retailers to protect their personal information. This indicates that retailers looking to truly capitalise on this new tool must tread carefully in order to first build this customer trust.
Other Ipsos MORI researchiv found that over half of the British consumers surveyed (58%) said that they have purchased products and services online (excluding groceries), suggesting consumer confidence is building when it comes to shopping online, leaving the door open for mobile devices to follow. These findings highlight just how important trust is in the customer- retailer relationship. In particular, the findings of the mobile study revealed that consumers are particularly wary of housing credit/debit cards on their mobile phone to enable them to pay without cards. However, for those who do trust their retailer, 46% said they would be happy to share their location via their mobile in order to receive relevant rewards and offers, and 54% say they would be happy to house their loyalty cards on their mobile to collect and redeem points without cards. Effectively, if your customers have high levels of trust in your brand, they will be keen to interact with you, regardless of channel. Give these customers the option and ease of accessing your services via their mobile devices and you’ll see a very encouraging return on investment.
To be able to stay one step ahead of their competitors and capitalise on the increasing uptake of all payment activities, adopting new payment and loyalty technologies is key. To benefit fully however, retailers must take care to build a trusted consumer relationship, partnering with businesses that value and respect the wealth of data that can be collected and brought to bear to deliver an engaging customer experience.
Allowing mobile to be adopted initially as a customer interaction tool to drive traffic in-store and online is a key step to achieving loyalty among customers. Only by taking this type of approach will retailers improve this trust level and move beyond the initial customer apprehension that is typically associated with new technology. Retailers must not forget when adopting these new solutions that loyalty schemes and payments pivot around trust with customer willingness to participate directly relating to perceived data sensitivity.
Mobile devices are already changing consumer experiences in many ways. Consumers are becoming more comfortable with using mobile technology in the shopping environment and increasingly measure a retailer on how well it supports this change. As such, for retailers to gain maximum benefit it is vital that they engender customer loyalty first before embarking on this new technology journey.
‘This is not normal’ – Wall Street grows wary of stock bubbles
By Thyagaraju Adinarayan, Lewis Krauskopf and John McCrank
LONDON/NEW YORK (Reuters) – Growing concerns about stock bubbles on Wall Street are sparking fears of a pullback, highlighted by the wild ride for shares such as GameStop Corp.
A flood of money supply, ultra-low or zero interest rates and COVID-19 vaccine rollouts have sparked a “buy everything” rally, helping world stocks add a whopping $33 trillion in value from their lows of last March.
Surges in share prices of some loss-making firms, red-hot public markets and amateur investors chasing stocks have drawn concern as the benchmark S&P 500 has gained more than 70% since March.
Elevated retail participation has contributed to soaring prices.
“For retail traders, the warning signals on this … (are) if you are trading it, you are taking so much of an extra risk compared to normal activity. This is not normal activity,” said JJ Kinahan, chief market strategist at TD Ameritrade.
As a prime example, investors pointed to shares of U.S. videogame retailer GameStop, which, after rising about 250% already this year, more than doubled on Monday before paring back. Traders said short-sellers were quickly buying back in to the stock to cover potential losses while retail investors were piling in to benefit from the surge.
“Retail investors are a huge part of it,” said Christopher Murphy, co-head of derivatives strategy at Susquehanna Financial Group, referring to GameStop.
Early in Monday’s trading session, users of several major retail trading platforms, including those of Charles Schwab Corp and Robinhood, reported operational problems, according to outage monitoring website Downdetector.com.
The problems were the latest in a string of technical glitches among retail brokerages, which have faced a massive surge in volumes over the past year. Overall, around 16.4 billion shares traded hands on Monday, compared with a month-to-date average of around 14.5 billion shares, according to Cboe Global Markets.
The euphoria is also evident in the small-cap Russell 2000 index, whose component companies with a negative operating profit outperformed the wider index by nearly 50 percentage points over the last year, a Reuters analysis of Refinitiv data showed.
“Pockets of the market have recently demonstrated investor behavior consistent with bubble-like sentiment,” Goldman Sachs analysts led by David Kostin wrote in a note.
Goldman noted the outperformance of negative earners was still a far cry from the 140 percentage points clocked during the dotcom boom of 1999-2000 and more in line with that of the immediate aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.
“You don’t have to reach 1999-2000 levels of frothiness to have the market go down and to go down in a meaningful way,” said Matt Maley, chief market strategist at Miller Tabak.
For examples of these selective bubbles, investors point to electric vehicle-related stocks – Tesla Inc is up 8-fold and electric vehicle charging equipment maker Blink Charging by 2,000% in the last 52 weeks, while an IPO index has surged 200% since last March versus a mere 57% for the benchmark S&P 500 index.
U.S.-listed shares of Canadian tech specialist Blackberry also surged on Monday while the company said it was not aware of a reason.
Deutsche Bank said in a research note that average call volumes over the last three months have hit a new peak with the bulk of the increase driven by small contract issues, reflecting retail buying.
Stocks with the highest call volume as a percentage of the market capitalization were Fubotv, GameStop and Riot Blockchain, said Deutsche.
Ninety percent of the respondents in a recent survey by Deutsche Bank said they saw price bubbles in some parts of markets, with a majority expecting Tesla to halve in value by the end of 2021.
Among the investors that have expressed concern are Jeremy Grantham of money manager GMO, who said earlier this month https://www.gmo.com/americas/research-library/waiting-for-the-last-dance that the long bull market since 2009 has finally matured into an “epic bubble.”
Baupost Group founder Seth Klarman told clients recently that risk “has simply vanished,” according to the Financial Times https://www.ft.com/content/9c3ecb09-c4bd-4066-a462-af496725105d.
However, not all the major banks see bubbles.
“Everyone’s asking us about bubbles … even the frothiest equity indices still lag well behind performance during previous bubbles,” said Robert Buckland, Citi equity strategist.
The S&P trades at 22 times 12-month forward earnings, below the peak of 25 times seen ahead of the dotcom crisis.
Citing premia over rock-bottom bond yields, Citi believes equity markets have a long way to go yet.
A possible rollback of U.S. Federal Reserve easing is seen as a threat to markets.
“Equity bubbles are not delicate,” Buckland added. “They don’t burst on the first hint of tightening from central banks.”
(Reporting by Thyagaraju Adinarayan in London and Lewis Krauskopf, John McCrank and April Joyner in New York; Editing by Kirsten Donovan, Megan Davies and Matthew Lewis)
Nissan flips the switch on electric reboot in China
By Norihiko Shirouzu
BEIJING (Reuters) – Nissan Motor is accelerating the rollout of electric vehicles in China under its main brand and its local, no-frills Venucia marque as it overhauls its strategy in the world’s biggest auto market, four sources told Reuters.
Besides the focus on green vehicles, the plan involves using more locally made parts and technologies to reduce costs and help the struggling Japanese carmaker compete better with lower-cost Chinese firms and major global rivals, the sources said.
The China strategy is a key pillar of Nissan’s turnaround, which involves focusing on producing profitable cars for China, Japan and the United States, rather than chasing all-out global growth as it did under disgraced former boss Carlos Ghosn.
“Before we were saying global, global, global, and China was just part of that strategy,” one of the four people familiar with the plans told Reuters.
“With regionalisation now replacing globalisation, we have to improve the cost competitiveness of all the components and technologies that go into a car by going totally local,” he said.
Both the Nissan board and the board of its China joint venture Dongfeng Motor Company have backed the plan and some elements of the new strategy will be unveiled at the Shanghai auto show in April, the sources said.
Nissan plans to launch three cars in China this year: the new all-electric Ariya crossover, a significant redesign of its X-Trail sport utility vehicle (SUV) and a hybrid Sylphy compact car using its e-Power technology, the sources said.
At least one new Nissan car will hit the Chinese market each year through 2025, with most either fully electric or hybrids equipped with autonomous and smart driving technology, the sources said. One is likely to be an e-Power X-Trail.
Two of the sources said the plan also involves turning Venucia more into a brand for affordable electric vehicles (EVs), though details are still being worked out. The idea is to price new Venucia EVs well below its current cheapest EV – the e30 mini car – which starts at 61,800 yuan ($9,540).
All four sources work for Nissan and spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorised to speak to reporters.
Nissan declined to comment on its future product strategy.
“China is a core market for Nissan and Nissan is getting prepared to launch a slew of technologies including e-Power technology to fulfil customers’ aspirations,” a Nissan spokesman said. He also confirmed the Ariya would be launched in 2021.
Despite being one of the world’s first automakers to fully embrace fully electric cars with its best-selling Leaf, Nissan has fallen behind Toyota and Honda, analysts said. Both launched a slew of new hybrids in China in 2019 and 2020 which has helped boost their sales.
“Nissan has nothing to show off in terms of green cars in China today,” said Yale Zhang, head of consultancy Automotive Foresight in Shanghai. “That’s hurting their image and, most importantly, sales.”
Nissan’s new China strategy is also a response to growing competition from price-competitive Chinese automakers such as Geely Automobile, GAC Motor, and BYD, two of the sources said.
One of the sources said a new focus on “China-specific” cars designed to appeal to local tastes underpinned Nissan’s more decisive turn towards electrified models. That should mean bolder grilles, sharp-looking headlamps and tail lights as well as richer, softer and more sumptuous vehicle interiors.
Many local brands are now producing better-quality cars and that’s putting pressure on Nissan’s mainstream cars, as well as vehicles produced by other global automakers.
The most critical part of Nissan’s China-specific strategy, however, is to make cars with more parts and technologies procured within the country to slash costs.
After posting its first loss in 11 years, Nissan is scrambling to slash its production capacity and models by about a fifth and to cut fixed costs by 300 billion yen ($2.9 billion) over three years.
Nissan expects to post a record operating loss of 340 billion yen in the year ending March 31.
Two of the sources said there wasn’t necessarily a cost-cutting target for the China initiative.
However, Nissan is worried about the potential hit to profitability from increasingly stringent emissions and fuel-economy rules, as well as a likely rise in the cost of materials such as steel, other metals and semiconductors, they said.
Under the new China plan, parts engineered and procured locally should go well beyond bumpers, seats and lamps to include more complex technologies such as sensors and electric power inverters, three of the sources said.
Batteries for Nissan’s e-Power models, for example, will be locally developed and sourced from China’s Sunwoda Electric Vehicle Battery Co.
Nissan’s new plan is modest in terms of volume growth. It is simply aiming to outpace the overall Chinese market for cars and light commercial vehicles, which Nissan expects to grow by about 10% to 25 million vehicles by 2025, one source said.
Nissan’s previous “Triple One” China plan aimed to boost annual sales to 2.6 million cars by 2022 but the COVID-19 pandemic derailed it. Nissan sold 1.46 million cars last year, down from 1.56 million in 2018 when that plan was unveiled.
While Nissan’s performance in China last year was broadly in line with an overall 6% decline in passenger car sales due to the coronavirus, its Venucia brand fared particularly badly.
Established in 2012 to compete with local brands making cheap, gasoline-fueled cars, Venucia’s sales peaked in 2017 at 143,206 before sliding to 79,000 last year. The plan is to relaunch Venucia more as a brand for affordable EVs though it won’t be going fully electric for now, two sources said.
Carmakers in China need to make enough so-called New Energy Vehicles to win green-car credits which then offset negative points from their production of combustion engine vehicles.
Nissan looks set to fall short of credits so it would either have to buy them from rivals, or step up its EV production. As buying credits would eat into profitability, it is favouring the second strategy, one of the sources said.
Cheaper EVs made locally by global rivals such as General Motors through joint ventures have also proved to be a success story with customers, especially in big cities.
Launched in July, GM’s tiny Wuling MINI EV has already become China’s best selling electric vehicle, knocking Tesla’s Model 3 sedan off its perch.
“We don’t have enough electric cars in China. The new plan for Venucia is all about changing that more decisively,” said one of the sources familiar with Nissan’s plans.
($1 = 6.4767 Chinese yuan renminbi)
($1 = 103.8300 yen)
(Additional reporting by Tim Kelly in Tokyo; Editing by David Clarke)
Top global traders work to ease seafarer crisis due to coronavirus
By Jonathan Saul
LONDON (Reuters) – Over 300 leading companies said on Tuesday they would work together to help hundreds of thousands of merchant sailors stuck on ships for many months due to COVID-19 in a crisis that risks creating more dangers at sea.
About 90% of world trade is transported by sea, and coronavirus restrictions in many jurisdictions are affecting supply chains.
In December the U.N. General Assembly urged all countries to designate seafarers and other maritime personnel as key workers. Nevertheless, ship crews are still struggling to swap over with colleagues on land.
Shipping industry officials say many sailors are at breaking point and many have been at sea for longer than an 11-month limit laid out in a maritime labour convention.
The companies, which include shipping groups such as A.P. Moller Maersk, miners Anglo American and Rio Tinto, oil majors BP and Royal Dutch Shell as well as trading companies Cargill, Trafigura and Vitol, will boost information sharing as signatories of the “Neptune Declaration” initiative.
“All of us have a duty of care to seafarers,” said Kit Kernon, global head of shipping at Vitol.
“Their wellbeing is essential to safe and efficient operations.”
Signatories will also increase collaboration between shipping operators and charterers to speed up crew changes while also calling for key worker status for mariners.
“We are witnessing a humanitarian crisis at sea,” said Jeremy Nixon, chief executive of shipping group ONE.
“They have become hostage of the situation and unable to disembark from their ships.”
Sven Boss-Walker, senior vice president of shipping at BP, said the “remote nature of their roles meant their contributions are often out of sight and out of mind”.
“It is critical that the industry comes together to provide a collaborative response,” Ashley Howard at Rio Tinto added.
(Editing by David Evans)
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