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Amazon to raise price of Prime

BY Marianne Wilson

NEW YORK — Amazon is increasing the annual membership of its Amazon Prime service from $79 a year to $99. The online giant, which made the announcement on its homepage, had suggested last year that increased shipping costs would force it to raise the annual price of its premium membership.

The price hike takes effective in seven says. Until then, customers can still sign up for the $79 rate. The increased fee will be charged when users renew their Prime memberships.

The service gives members access to unlimited free two-day shipping on many items, plus access to thousands of streaming movies and TV shows through Amazon Instant Video, a service similar to Netflix.

 

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Survey: CIOs to focus on the improving customer experience

BY Marianne Wilson

ARMONK, NY — With consumers engaging more directly with businesses through mobile and social media, more than 60% of CIOs will focus more heavily on improving the customer experience and getting closer to customers, according to a new report released by IBM.

The report, entitled "Moving from the Back Office to the Front Lines — CIO Insights from the Global C-suite Study” is based on face-to-face conversations with more than 1,600 CIOs from 70 countries and 20 industries worldwide.

More than 80% of CIOs report they are shifting their focus to the front office where marketing, sales and service managers work directly with customers. To do so, they are investing in new technologies to gain deeper insights into customer data. Examples of these items include sentiment mining and social network analysis to identify unique behavioral patterns and reliably predict critical trends.

"The study reveals the emerging reality that there is no longer any real distinction between the customer experience and contemporary business strategy," said Peter Korsten, global leader, IBM Institute for Business Value. "The quality and nature of the front-end experience has become the point of entry to the most valuable information any enterprise can possess — information about its customers, employees, or any other relevant constituent group."

Getting the basics right has become table stakes for CIOs looking to push their enterprise forward with new engagement and technology delivery platforms.  In fact, 66% of CIOs believe their IT departments have mastered the basics of technology within their firms. This investment in knowledge and skills is freeing up CIOs to look at new platforms that enable them to build a "Customer-Activated" enterprise.

As customer engagement becomes a critical driver for CIOs, cloud computing has soared in importance with 64% of CIOs naming it as part of their visionary plans compared to 30% in 2009. Likewise, mobility solutions have also experienced a similar jump in importance with 84% saying it’s their top focus compared to 68% in 2009.  With these as a main driver, two-thirds of CIOs are now exploring how to better serve and collaborate with customers using cloud computing and social networking tools.

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NRF shares findings from February sales report

BY Vivian Gomez

WASHINGTON — Many retailers have pointed to a persistent and severe winter for weak holiday and fourth-quarter sales. But according to the National Retail Federation, retail sales rebounded in February.

The NRF said that February retail sales, excluding automobiles, gas stations and restaurants, increased 0.2% adjusted month-to-month and 2.3% unadjusted year-over-year.

“Today’s positive retail sales report indicates that the economy is primed for growth,” said president and CEO Matthew Shay. “Retailers and consumers endured the harsh winter and they’re hoping both the natural and man-made obstacles to growth will leave with the snow.”

Shay went on to say that retailers are facing “serious” headwinds placed on them by policymakers in Washington who are pushing for new overtime mandates and a higher minimum wage. According to Shay, for the economy to fully recover, the administration and Congress need to “quit politicking and focus on growth and job creation.”

“Despite a long and cold winter, consumers continued to persevere and spend in February,” added chief economist Jack Kleinhenz. “This month’s retail sales data is encouraging and above expectations. However neither the jobs nor retail data reflect the fundamental health of the economy. While the weather continues to play tricks on economic forecasts and figures, we expect much-needed clarity come spring as consumers release pent-up demand.”

Additional NRF findings from the February retail sales report include the following:

  • Building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers stores sales increased 0.3% seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and 3.2% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Clothing and clothing accessories stores sales increased 0.4% seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and 2.4% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Electronics and appliance stores sales decreased 0.2% seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and 2.3% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Furniture and home furnishing stores sales increased 0.4% seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and remained unchanged unadjusted year-over-year.
  • General merchandise stores sales decreased 0.3% seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and 0.9% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Health and personal care stores sales increased 1.2% seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and 5.6% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Nonstore retailers sales increased 1.2% seasonally-adjusted month-to-month and 6.8% unadjusted year-over-year.
  • Sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores sales increased 2.5% seasonally-adjusted month-to-month yet decreased 5.3% unadjusted year-over-year.

 

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