|exposure and subsequently their earning potential because they have not fully capitalized on technology? And, is it technology alone that works for these successful companies or is there more to the equation?
While this article focuses on employing the use of technology for maximum output and gain; the answer may not be solely based on technology alone but on many key components working in combination to make an effective whole. Let’s take a look at the department store Macy’s for example, a dominant retail giant whose 2015 fiscal sales boast $271 billion2 in revenue. Yes, they maximize the use of technology, but other prominent factors include Macy’s focused drive on customer engagement and their “agile” ability to adapt to consumer demands, distinctively setting them apart from other retailers. In fact, Macy’s 2015 Annual Income Report is aptly titled, “The Agility to Adapt,” proclaiming themselves as “the nation’s premier omnichannel retailers.” With revenues in the billions, Macy’s can afford to be a bit self-indulgent.
Mind-staggering revenues aside, Macy’s have mastered the practice of agile adaptability. Customer satisfaction and engagement is at the forefront of their foundational premise offering their clients ease and simplicity of transacting business.
2 Macy’s Annual Report, 2015.
|Caribbean Businesses and Organizations in the Age of Information Technology
Shifting times call for shifting minds. In this day and age of information technology, where everything from online banking to virtual entertainment takes place at the click of a button, it is impossible to stay afloat without shifting with the cyber tide. Emails and e-vites have replaced hand-written letters or mail invitations; touch-screens and voice activated systems have replaced locks and keys and a large percentage of hiring companies require online applications and employee profiles just to access career-worthy opportunities. Research have long suggested that businesses and organizations that embrace and adapt technology as part of their core operating principles sustain long term survivorship and stay well ahead of their competitors. In fact, profitable companies hire technology-research firms like Gartner, Inc or Forrester Research who “provide client organizations with competitive analysis reports, industry overviews, market trend data, and product evaluation reports” 1 enabling and equipping them to make informed decisions regarding information technology products.
So why in a virtually paperless society do we still have Caribbean organizations, businesses and entertainers failing to maximize their 1 Gartner online 14 June 2016.
| On a very small scale, let’s further examine some of the ways Macy’s interactive customer experience enhanced by technology systems afford them revenues in the billions. Macy’s and their business conglomerates are well aware that customers lose receipts. The IT solution: digital receipts, retractable either by email, phone or method of credit card payment should a purchase result into a return. And if emailed receipts aren’t enough, Macy’s take an extra step to assist customer accountability by placing small bar-coded stickers on each purchased item to readily recall a transaction should the customer lose a receipt. How many of us have ever haggled with a merchant because they refused to return an item in the absence of a receipt? Or worse, offered the lowest selling price for your item when you’re certain the purchase price was much higher. With a customer-centric platform, Macy’s strive for satisfied, happy customers which usually equates to frequent repeat customers.
Let us also take a closer look at another of Macy’s customer engagement marketing strategy. Almost every weekend, customers can expect some sort of sale or “door-buster deal.” And of course, it is no longer necessary to keep track of coupons and receipts because customer’s have the option to register their profile with Macy’s online database, which keeps track of the customers’ information, including coupons and rewards which are readily available for access at each purchase. Furthermore, there are countless online benefits, size availability, offers, rewards and donation programs geared at engaging the customer. Bottomline: Macy’s, through their profound ability to adapt, keep
| their clientele engaged using Information Technology.
So of course we know that Macy’s have the financial backing to engage million dollar researchers to expand on their wealth. But how does the local family-owned Caribbean franchise, restaurant, organization, retailer, or entertainer engage his/her clientele without seemingly spending a fortune? One of the first steps is adaptability. Older generation of Caribbeans for example, believe in hard work, which usually interprets to hard physical labor. While hard work is good, working smarter is even better so that at the end of that hard work, the physical person is still preserved to enjoy the rewards of retirement.
We live in an unavoidable age of technology. The sooner Caribbean entrepreneurs engage technology to work for them, the more earning potential they can envision. Of course, this article does not promise immediate wealth from signing up to social media forums like FaceBook or Twitter, but the informed visionary will see that to engage younger demographic of consumers having disposable income, social media is a must. Can your business reap maximum profit if it is a well kept secret? Where else can you freely advertise your products or services without sacrificing an arm or leg? Exposure and consumer awareness of your products and services are key components in bringing customers, clients or members to your business or organization.
Similarly to Gartner, Inc or Forrester Research, I recently met a business entrepreneur, Mr. Howard Saddler of CaribbeanFinder, LLC, who is fully committed to the advancement of the Caribbean and its
|cultural legacy, primarily on businesses and organizations who service the needs of the Caribbean and its Diaspora. CaribbeanFinder, LLC wishes to bridge the technical gap between Caribbean businesses and their use of technology as a tool for exposure and higher earning potential. For the hectic business owner, restaurateur, and organization president, who seldom engage social media advertising, CaribbeanFinder, LLC offer alternative solutions, with a target audience geared specifically towards Caribbean businesses and organizations. “CaribbeanFinder provides an online/mobile business directory, targeted at Caribbean communities, where business owners and individuals can communicate, exchange cultural information, promote local events, and increase revenues by using targeted promotional tools to drive sales in local, national, and international markets.”3
In the same vein, I was afforded an opportunity to speak with another Caribbean professional who spent tireless hours organizing a health fair forum. With much vendor participation and much excitement to engage the Caribbean demographic, the volume of anticipated attendees was minimal and disappointing. It was not for lack of advertising why the turn out wasn’t as prosperous because I personally came across the flyer and had heard of this event by word of mouth. So what else could be
3Online CaribbeanFinder 17June2016.
|contributing factors as to the slim attendance? Likewise, a Caribbean Festival was held in the beginning of June, the month which celebrates Caribbean Heritage, but the volume of attendees was just as discouraging. “Meager attendance for events and entertainment for and toward Caribbeans should not be the case,” states Howard Saddler of CaribbeanFinder, who readily sees the vision for a Caribbean online presence in the Tampa Bay market. “Our rich cultural heritage should be of greater priority.”
In hindsight, Saddler who has been researching the Tampa community, was present for the festival and wondered if a vast majority of the Tampa population even knew of the event. Were there other factors accounting for the grim attendance such as too many other similar activities planned simultaneously? What if there was a Caribbean calendar of events that planners could consult before making decisions to set a date for their function? Perhaps we cannot isolate one factor over the next to arrive at a definitive conclusion as to cause, effect and outcome but Saddler, in his vision to bring spotlighted awareness to the Caribbean businesses of Tampa Bay, is making headways into his research to ensure that Caribbean functions are well supported. In fact, CaribbeanFinder offers a complimentary online subscription for patrons to upload and promote their business or event schedule. And additionally, there is a downloadable mobile app of the same nature. Saddler encourage organizations to employ the use of technology to aid with exposure of service availability and products not just to the Caribbean public but to the entire community as a whole; including tourists, visitors, and international sectors that may not be otherwise aware of the abundance of Caribbean-related organizations in the Tampa Bay
|It is Saddler’s vision that the community of Caribbeans, through the utilization of technology as a medium for visibility, will sustain a lasting presence recognizable to patrons near and far. With diversified cultural activity to engage Caribbeans and the public alike, it is only beneficial if the intended audience is aware of the resources around them and subsequently makes use of them. There is no harm in applying principles or developing practices that foster growth and|
|development to uplift the Caribbean’s rich heritage but it is our duty as entrepreneurs to be agile in taking the first step to shift with the tidal current that effects positive change. To borrow from the lyrics of a popular Caribbean chorus, I join with the songwriter in saying, “the water is troubled my friend, step right in.” In this analogical case, the cyber tides are troubled, what is stopping you or your organization from fully immersing?|