Business Trends

Archive for February, 2010|Monthly archive page

IT Spending Increases; Focus on Optimizing Processes for Fast ROI

In Uncategorized on February 25, 2010 at 12:35 am

A recent survey conducted by Altada Solution — a leading provider of software solutions for the retail industry — shows that IT budgets appear to be recovering after the initial downturn at the start of last year’s recession, with averages for all retailers at 1.3% of sales compared to 1% last year, while 26% of respondents expect their IT budget to increase; the same figure as last year. The company released findings from the 2nd annual Global Retail CIO Survey, jointly sponsored with IBM.

However, while last year’s survey showed that increase to relate to projects already underway, this year’s interviews revealed more aggressive plans to implement new systems. The survey of 109 retail CIOs and IT Directors in both the Americas and Europe was undertaken in Q4 2009 by retail industry research specialists Martec International.

This year’s Global Retail CIO Survey clearly shows that optimizing the product / place / promotion offer is becoming an increasingly critical element of retail IT spend. More than 50% of retailers will be upgrading, replacing or implementing new systems in areas such as Automated Replenishment (52%), Assortment Optimization (58%), Promotions Optimization (56%), Promotions Management (54%), with a further 46% looking to invest in Demand Forecasting. Master Data Management (MDM) has the highest planned implementation of all applications studied in the survey, both across the Enterprise (35%) and for Supplier Management (28%).

“The top line statistics from this year’s survey, and indeed last year’s, suggest that the retail sector has survived the recession remarkably effectively,” said Allan Davies, CMO, Aldata Solution. “The truth is, though, that while the downturn hasn’t halted retailers’ IT spend, it has certainly changed the way that money is spent. Gone are the days of end-to-end, rip and replace projects, and instead we’re seeing a big focus on process optimization. Retail CIOs are not afraid of investing in new projects, but they need to see a quick return on investment. And by quick, I’m talking about months, not years.”

Customer is King

Systems to attract and keep customers featured prominently in this year’s survey. Multi-channel CRM was ranked as the most important application by respondents, with 42% having yet to implement multi-channel CRM, but with plans to do so within the next three years. Similarly 38% of CIOs surveyed plan to implement Loyalty systems – with customer data linked to buying patterns and behavior – within the next three years. And finally, systems that support the safety of customers were considered the most important application by 47% of respondents.

Sustainability Not a Priority

For the first time, attitudes to sustainability were considered as part of the research. Respondents were asked to score the impact of sustainability on IT spend and strategy on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being the highest). The average emerged as a lukewarm 5.1. Views appeared to be polarized, with 13% considering sustainability to have a negligible impact on IT strategy, while 6% considered it to have a major impact. In terms of which applications retailers feel are having the greatest impact on sustainability, applications for store operations came top of the list. For the future, more retailers believe that multi-channel retailing will have the biggest impact on sustainability.

Related Links: IBISWorld industry reports

Software Publishing Industry in the U.S.

IT Consulting in the U.S.

“New Frugality” May Be an Enduring Feature of Post-Recession Economy

In Consumer Trends, economy on February 25, 2010 at 12:11 am

A “new frugality,” born of The Great Recession and evidenced by two consecutive years of declining per capita consumption, is now becoming entrenched consumer behavior that is reshaping consumption patterns in ways that will persist even as the economy rebounds, according to a new survey of 2,000 U.S. consumers from Booz & Company.

This new consumer spending report confirms a picture of pervasive retrenchment in consumer spending that spans a broad range of consumer product categories. But the survey also suggests that increased frugality may have become learned behavior, making many Americans more cautious and discerning consumers. What is more, the study suggests that these behaviors are “sticky,” and unlikely to quickly change as the economy shows signs of improvement. For example, in the next 12 months just 9% of consumers intend to spend at pre-recession levels on household products, 10% on mobile phone service, 11% on health and beauty products, and 18% on apparel, clothing, and shoes. Moreover, nearly two-thirds (64%) of consumers say they’ll shop at a different store with lower prices even if it’s less convenient for them.

“Frugal behavior is now considered trendy by many shoppers, and will continue for years to come,” said Matt Egol, a Booz & Company Partner. “In this changed environment, marketers need to develop deeper insights into shopper attitudes and behaviors in order to better align their product, pricing, and marketing communications strategies.”

Evidence of changed consumer attitudes abounds in the study. For example:

•Approximately two-thirds of the respondents (65%) say they now consider saving to be more important than spending, and that they frequently use coupons.
•More than half (55%) say they would rather get the best price than the best brand.
•More than half of consumers surveyed reduced discretionary spending on a range of categories, including dining out (58%), consumer electronics (53%), apparel (53%), and media and entertainment (51%).

Further, these attitudes are translating into strong behavioral change going forward:

•Nearly two-thirds (64%) of consumers say they’ll shop at a different store with lower prices even if it’s less convenient for them.
•Only one-third (32%) of respondents believe that their household financial status over the next twelve months will change for the better, reinforcing focus on frugal shopping behaviors such as deferring spending, trading down to lower price points, or buying their favorite brands during promotions
Several other consumer behaviors characterize the “new frugality.”

Highlights include:

Shopping itself is less impulsive and more disciplined. Recession-habituated shoppers are more inclined than ever to do research before going to the store. This was especially true, the survey revealed, in three categories: Health and Beauty (83%), Household Products (82%) and Food and Beverage (79%).

Another study conducted this past Fall by Booz & Company in collaboration with Grocery Manufacturers Association, “Shopper Marketing 3.0,” found a comparable proportion of shoppers conducting research before they shop, with a focus on finding the best prices, clipping coupons, and reading circulars for what is on sale. The “Shopper Marketing 3.0” study also found that many shoppers use price breaks to justify buying the brands they love.

The shift to private label products has accelerated and shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, Booz & Company analysis shows that private labels are likely to continue to take share from brand names. Said Egol, “Retailers are unlikely to give brands back the shelf space that private label has taken given their dependence on private label for profits. In addition, consumers are reporting generally positive experiences when trying private labels, so for some consumers they are becoming preferred brands.”

However, the move to lower price points overall, while pervasive, is not universal. Generally, shoppers are opting for lower priced brands in apparel, household products, and food. But they are less inclined to “trade down” when purchasing alcoholic beverages, tobacco, and health and beauty products.

Not surprisingly, big ticket items will continue to see the biggest household spending cuts: In the past year consumers continued to defer expenditures for items like consumer electronics (only 22% made purchases) or home improvements (23% made purchases). These behaviors will continue in 2010; only 13% and 17% respectively said they would revert to pre-recession buying habits in these categories.

Implications for Marketers

The Booz & Company survey sheds light on the challenges faced by consumer marketers and retailers emerging from the recession. Specifically, faced with the same basic economic trends, consumers are behaving differently with respect to their attitudes toward value and loyalty. Booz & Company identified six distinct, new consumer segments that can help interpret how customers shop in terms of brand loyalty, retail format loyalty, and online behaviors. These segments range from “Shopper 2.0” – young consumers who tend to buy online, regardless of product category, who are price sensitive with few brand or store format loyalties – to “Loyalists,” largely male, who are loyal to both brands and the stores where they shop, but are also avid users of the Internet for research and buying.

“This more cautious consumer approach to spending began even before the recession came into full swing but has since picked up speed,” said Booz & Company Partner Andrew Clyde. “As manufacturers lured consumers with new promotions, consumers traded down and liked the experience. As the economy recovers, marketers need to better target their strategies to preserve the value of existing brands, and avoid destroying value through too blunt a competitive response across segments.”

For retailers and consumer products manufacturers, Booz & Company identifies specific areas to spur growth and profitability coming out of the downturn:

•Building marketing strategies and tactics that address where and why consumers shop – rather than relying too heavily on demographics-based approached used for advertising buying.
•Determining differences in consumer behavior across product categories, offline vs. online shopping occasions, and specific retailers/etailers.
•Differentiating marketing messages and promotional offers to more price conscious consumers vs. those who place greater value on brand or convenience.
•Engaging shoppers along the full path to purchase, rather than treating online and in-store interactions as silos.

The Economic Consequences of Restrictions on Domestic Energy Exploration; Next Generation Biofuels; Devon Energy Reports 2009 Financial Results

In Uncategorized on February 15, 2010 at 9:49 pm

America’s reliance on foreign energy will grow by 19 percent over the next 20 years, expanding the transfer of U.S. wealth to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) by more than $600 billion, according to a report by the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners.  The two-year study broadly examined the social, economic and environmental impacts of continued restrictions on developing America’s oil and gas resources.

“The study highlights the importance of developing our domestic petroleum resources in an environmentally responsible manner,” said American Trucking Associations Vice President Rich Moskowitz. “Continuing restrictions on the development of U.S. energy resources will adversely impact our economic well-being and our national security.”

The study predicts the economic results of maintaining current restrictions on accessing America’s federally owned onshore and offshore energy resources. The results, when compared with the effects that could be expected from a reasonable energy policy on federal energy resources, will include:

•Import costs for crude oil, petroleum products and natural gas will be $1.6 trillion higher;
•Imports from OPEC nations will be 4.1 billion barrels higher, resulting in increased payments to OPEC of $607 billion;
•U.S. production of crude oil will be 9.9 billion barrels lower;
•U.S. production of natural gas will be 46 trillion cubic feet lower;
•Energy-intensive industries will produce nearly 13 million fewer jobs;
•Housing starts will be 200,000 fewer;
•Annual average natural gas prices will be 17 percent higher;
•Annual average electricity prices will be 5 percent higher;
•Real disposable income will be a total of $2.34 trillion less;
•Energy costs to consumers will be $2.35 trillion higher;
•Gross Domestic Product will be $2.36 trillion lower.

The American Trucking Associations is a member of the Consumer Energy Alliance, which was among the public sector and private sector organizations that contributed energy experts’ information and analysis for the NARUC report.

The report was assembled by experts from the Science Applications International Corp. and the Gas Technology Institute and provides the most up-to-date assessment of America’s oil and natural gas resources. Utilizing the National Energy Modeling System, the study renders a quantitative summary of the jobs, revenue and number of housing starts that Americans should expect to surrender in the future under the restrictive energy policies currently in place.

To view the executive summary of the report, click here.

Next Generation Biofuels: Market Drivers, Growth Opportunities and Regulatory Change

Over 80% of the world’s primary energy supply is currently derived from coal, gas and oil (collectively known as ‘fossil fuels’), which are used to generate electricity, power, energy and heat for industrial, commercial, domestic and transportation purposes. The world’s dependence on crude oil for transportation is particularly marked, with the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimating that fuels from crude oil currently supply about 96% of the worldwide energy demand for transport purposes.

As the world’s population grows and developing countries look to expand their economies, this insatiable demand for fossil fuels is unlikely to show any sign of easing, with oil and gas accounting for 60% of the world’s increasing energy demand between now and 2030. Furthermore, with most significant reserves of fossil fuels unevenly distributed throughout the world, energy security is set to become an increasingly critical economic and political issue over the coming decades. Real or perceived disruptions to the global supply of fossil fuels — notably crude oil — are likely to grow in frequency and cause wild fluctuations in the price of energy, as they have done so in the past. However, one of the most pressing reasons for seeking alternative sources of energy and fuel lies in the form of ‘climate change’.

The combustion of fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide (CO2), a potent ‘greenhouse gas’ (GHG), which are considered by some to be responsible for ‘global warming’. According to the IEA, if no changes are made to the world’s existing energy economy, related emissions of CO2 will grow marginally faster than energy use, meaning that by 2030 global CO2 emissions will be more than 50% higher than today. Over two-thirds of that projected increase in emissions is expected to come from emerging economies, such as India, China — both of which are set to rely heavily on coal-based power stations to drive their rapidly developing economies.

The combination of biomass and biofuels accounted for around 26% of the world’s total renewable energy production in 2008. Second generation biofuels have been developed due to limitations of first generation biofuels, primarily that the resources used threatens food supplies. Second generation biofuels production processes include a variety of non-food crops such as waste biomass, the stalks of wheat, corn, wood and miscanthus. Second generation biofuels use biomass to liquid technology, such as cellulosic biofuels from non-food crops. Third generation biofuel primarily references fuel derived from algae. Algae fuel is not yet commercially available or viable due to cost constraints, but through various laboratory experiments promising results have been obtained. In 2008, the US Department of Energy noted that algae can produce 30 times more energy per acre than land crops such as soybeans.

North American Onshore Proved Reserves for Devon Energy at Record 2.6 Billion Boe; Drill-Bit Reserve Additions More than Double Record Production

Devon Energy Corporation reported that 2009 full-year and fourth-quarter financial results as well as its 2009 full-year oil and gas production from continuing operations has reached an all-time high. In addition, Devon reported record-high proved oil and natural gas reserves at December 31, 2009.

“2009 was a pivotal year for Devon as we began repositioning the company to focus entirely on our high-return, North American onshore natural gas and oil portfolio,” commented J. Larry Nichols, chairman and chief executive officer. “We grew North American onshore production by more than six percent in 2009 and replaced more than twice our production with the drill bit at very attractive costs. We expect to receive after-tax proceeds of $4.5 billion to $7.5 billion as we divest our offshore and international properties this year. This will further strengthen our rock-solid balance sheet and enable us to accelerate growth across our U.S. and Canadian asset base.”

In accordance with accounting standards, Devon’s year-end reserve reporting pertains to the company’s continuing operations, which include its Gulf of Mexico properties. Following is a discussion of proved reserves pertaining only to Devon’s North American onshore assets.

Devon increased North American onshore estimated proved reserves by 20 percent to a record 2,641 million oil-equivalent barrels (Boe) at December 31, 2009. The company added 669 million Boe to its North American onshore proved reserves from all sources. Costs incurred applicable to North American onshore properties were $3.3 billion.

Successful drilling (extensions, discoveries and performance revisions) accounted for 492 million Boe of North American onshore proved reserve additions. The company invested $3.2 billion of associated drill-bit capital during the year. Revisions related to changes in oil, natural gas and natural gas liquids prices increased 2009 North American onshore proved reserves by 176 million Boe.

North American onshore oil and gas production increased more than six percent to 220 million Boe in 2009. The reserve life index (proved reserves divided by annual production) for the North American onshore properties is approximately 12 years.

Proved developed reserves of 1,869 million Boe at December 31, 2009, represented 71 percent of total North American onshore proved reserves. Proved undeveloped reserves were 29 percent of the total. Year-end North American onshore proved reserves included 653 million barrels of crude oil, 9.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 419 million barrels of natural gas liquids.

Related Links: IBISWorld industry reports

Oil Drilling & Gas Extraction in the U.S.

Global Oil and Gas Exploration and Production

Petroleum Refining in the U.S.

Rail Transportation in the U.S.

Natural Gas Distribution in the U.S.

In-Game Advertising Maximizes Marketing Dollars In Sports Category; New Mobile Advertising Opportunity for the Sports Industry

In Uncategorized on February 10, 2010 at 7:38 pm

According to a recent study conducted by TNS, advertisers interested in sports content who are not leveraging in-game advertising are missing a big opportunity. The company released findings from the ESPN Sports Poll, a monthly tracking study that explored the similarities among traditional sports fans and the sports gamer audience.

“Fans consume sports in multidimensional ways,” said Robert Fox, Senior Vice President at TNS and Executive Director of the ESPN Sports Poll. “Today’s interactive entertainment enables fans to engage with their favorite sports on a platform that looks incredibly close to the real thing.  When a person is engaged in the video game, there is no channel surfing, and the game is paused only for necessity. This is a terrific way for real-world advertisers and sponsors to develop incremental affinity for their brands.” 

Avid Fans Create an Opportunity for Marketers

The average Sports Fan follows six to eight different sports. Marketers are challenged to capture fans’ attention.  Sports Poll data has consistently shown that the average person is an “Avid” Fan of two to three sports.  By targeting the “Avid Fans”, marketing campaigns have a much better chance of being noticed by the audience that is paying the most attention, and is likely driving their business.

At 85 million, the National Football League has the largest number of Avid Fans, followed by college football (64 million) and Major League Baseball (53 million).

Sports Video Games are a Targeted Approach for Reaching the Same Avid Sports Fans Marketers Want to Reach

About half of the households in the country own a gaming console.  Of those households, half of the sports fans and 69% of the avid sports fans own at least one sports video game.  The demographic profile of the Sports Gamer is favorable to brands wanting to reach their target market through sports. 

•Three-quarters of these players are male
•More than half are between the ages of 18-34
•They tend to be single males with disposable income
•Most surprisingly, they are more physically active than sports fans in general (60% of Sports Gamers have exercised or participated in a sports activity within the past week compared with 44% of sports fans.)

Advice for Marketers

Sports video games represent an attractive opportunity for marketers to activate sponsor commitments already in place.  IEG Sponsorship estimates that about $12B, or 68 cents of every dollar, is spent on sponsorship that is sports related.  Those sponsorship investments require activation to be effective. The Sports Poll study shows that three out of four sports fans say that in-game advertising plays a part in reinforcing a company’s real-world sponsorship of that sport.

“Fans have grown to expect that the game experience mirrors the real world and allows them to be Mark Sanchez for the night.  Part of the authenticity is the advertising that is imbedded in the game or that is dynamically served during connected play, and includes the finer details like in-stadium and in-arena signage,” said Elizabeth Harz, Senior Vice President, Global Media Sales at Electronic Arts.  “For sponsors looking to differentiate their brand in a crowded field, the Sports Gamer is influential and the messaging options robust.”

(1) Question Wording:  Thinking of the sports video games you own, in a typical week during that sport’s season, do you spend more time watching live sports on television or playing sports video games (Responses were rotated).

RainedOut now allows companies to sponsor text messages sent to their members

Omnilert, LLC, maker of RainedOut, the first text message service for sports leagues and clubs, has announced a new mobile advertising medium. All RainedOut text messages will now contain a national sponsor incorporated at the end of the RainedOut notification. In a world where content is king, this opens up a unique opportunity for companies trying to reach the highly mobile sports industry. The first national sponsor is a brand from Sony called Crackle.

“This is an outstanding opportunity for all involved,” explained Ara Bagdasarian, CEO of Omnilert. “RainedOut customers will continue to enjoy our award-winning communication service free of charge, and national brands can sponsor sports organizations and receive recognition on each message.”

Players, parents, and fans opt in to RainedOut for relevant content, not spam or unsolicited ‘coupons,’ to be sent to their cell phone via SMS text messages. RainedOut delivers time-sensitive news such as game cancellations, field changes, requests for volunteers, and much more. Each text message is 160 characters long with the last 20 characters displaying a national sponsor.

“Mobile advertising up to this point has required brands to hire expensive mobile marketing firms and slowly grow their own opt-in list,” said J. Gerry Purdy, Ph.D., the Principal Analyst at MobileTrax LLC. “RainedOut offers one of the first mobile marketing opportunities that bring willing participants to the table – and at a very low cost of entry. This is a mobile service that every sports fan can appreciate, especially considering all the recent weather delays from the Daytona 500 to the Winter Olympics. I think this technique is going to be copied by a lot of other people in the industry.”

This new advertising medium allows companies to reach hundreds of thousands of eyeballs in the sports-oriented demographic. They achieve positive brand association by supporting non-profit sports organizations across America.

Each sponsor message is read on the mobile phone – a very captive environment. Sponsors receive a fast impression – 95% of text messages are read within 4 minutes. This creates what is called ‘situation-based advertising’ – a day-changing event for a customer creates a new opportunity to spend time and money.

The 20-character sponsor text can be in the form of a hyperlink, so smartphone recipients can click it to reach a website or unique landing page, which further strengthens the power of this new advertising medium. Sponsors can see the results of their mobile advertising campaigns in real time. Sponsors do not have access to individual members’ data as RainedOut enforces a zero-spam policy.

Current participating sports include:

Nationwide youth, collegiate, and adult league sports
YMCAs, Boy Scouts, and regional/county/city parks & recreation departments
•Soccer, football, baseball, softball, lacrosse, swimming, hockey, and cheerleading
•Auto racing speedways, dragways, dirt tracks, and many more

Related Links

Video Games in the U.S.IBISWorld industry report

ATA Joins Suit Challenging California Low Carbon Fuel Standard

In Uncategorized on February 2, 2010 at 11:19 pm

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) joined petroleum refiners and other end-users in a legal challenge to California’s recently enacted low-carbon fuel standard (LCFS) today. The regulation adopted by the California Air Resources Board requires annual reductions in the carbon intensity of gasoline and diesel over the next ten years. The LCFS regulation falls directly upon fuel providers (refiners, importers and blenders of fuel), but will impact end-users because of associated fuel price increases.

The legal challenge is largely based on the Commerce Clause with assertions that the “shuffling” of low-carbon fuel to California and away from other states will significantly burden fuel providers and consumers without any net change in fuel’s carbon-intensity on a global scale, resulting in no reduction — and a likely increase — in greenhouse gas emissions.

“The LCFS would essentially ban imports to California of fuels derived from unconventional sources such as oil sands from Canada, oil shale from the Western U.S., or domestic coal supplies that can be converted into transportation fuels,” said ATA Vice President Rich Moskowitz. “Discouraging these fuels will simply increase costs while failing to prevent their export to and consumption by other nations.”

The Complaint, filed in United States District Court in California, also challenged the regulatory scheme as discriminating in favor of California-produced fuels by assigning them lower carbon-intensity ratings because of shorter transportation distances to users. Others joining the suit include the Center for North American Energy Security, Consumer Energy Alliance and National Petrochemical and Refiners Association.

Related Links

Petroleum Refining in the U.S. – IBISWorld industry report

Oil Drilling & Gas Extraction in the U.S. – IBISWorld industry report