After our sit down with the Port Authority back in October 2013, PGHretail began investigating water taxi’s more heavily. We made a call in to Wandella Boats, Chicago’s premier commuter water taxi service. The Director of Operations was very excited to talk to us and share information about the water taxi business.
Their business has been picking up to expand their boat fleet. Largest users were suburban residents coming to downtown through park-n-rides. They run their commuter business from March until November with competitive rates against bus fares. Just by glancing at our river system, it was expressed that Pittsburgh has the ability to be successful in the water taxi business with optimal travel time to destinations within the three rivers.
PGHretail contacted Mark Schiller, owner of Pittsburgh Water Limo, who is the only ferry boat company who has publicly announced interest in pursuing the water taxi service. He was adamant that water taxi service would thrive in Pittsburgh under a free-enterprise business. Ongoing discussions with the Port of Pittsburgh, URA, and other key players have been going on over the past three years.
Mr. Schiller directed PGHretail to contact another interested individual to partner in the investigation and lobbying of the water taxi project to the Allegheny County and City of Pittsburgh. This highly active and insightful guy is Dave Mansueto. We can’t even begin to tell you all the awesome start-up projects Mr. Mansueto is in. His current project is a mobile Podcast app called bossjockstudio.com/. You can follow him on Twitter @tacomancini.
Back in October 2013, PGHretail sat down with County Executive, Rich Fitzgerald, and proposed a wide array of alternative transportation ideas. We’ve been able to sit down with key players from the county, city, and Port Authority of Pittsburgh.
In addition to public transportation projects, which directly impact our local retail economy, we addressed the lack of information and support for the Creative Class and Creative Economy. Entrepreneurs, innovators, grassroots organizations, artisans, and skilled craftsman have a huge impact on development in micro-economies within communities. The City of Philadelphia is a great example of how local government can gather information for that demographic, businesses that serve those folks, and non-profit organizations looking to cater funding initiatives. Check out their site: http://creativephl.org/ and particularly, the CultureBlock site that maps resources: http://www.cultureblocks.com/wordpress/
Now, Pittsburgh organizations are trying. Our professional critique is that passively crowd-sourcing, with little marketing efforts, to gather data is a very slow process to obtain information from very busy, focused individuals working hard to build their businesses and projects. We hope that the URA is able to provide funding for a position that actively obtains and updates their latest project: http://launchpgh.com/
If you or someone you know, needs the resources from LAUNCHpgh, suggest their involvement to help establish the important information our growing economic developments need.
Throughout the week we’ll be posting updates on PGHretail’s behind the scenes work on grassroots initiatives presented at the end of 2013 to key players in the city and county. Check out our Facebook every afternoon for each installment. If you’re interested in getting involved, email us at pghretail [@] gmail dot com
For decades the mystery shopper was the main way retailers assessed operations from a customer’s point of view. By sending in a fake shopper, typically once a month, an individual store essentially was buying a dozen performance snapshots per year. Then telephone surveys began to supplement mystery shopping. Today, digital technologies are supplanting both, with online customer surveys providing an exponentially greater number of performance snapshots per day.
A well-managed loop that links customer experience feedback with recommendations on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp, can boost service quality and operational performance, increase traffic and create more happy customers — people who crow about a retailer online for free, turning their friends into new customers too.
A new mini-industry has emerged using these techniques, known as “customer experience management,” or CEM. Our company, Empathica — as well as a number of competitors — are providing customer feedback to operations, while partnering with “web-scraping” companies to listen to random chatter online.
A person with a smart phone can scan a bar code in Best Buy or Macy’s, check the price, and order from Amazon or Target on the spot. So Amazon could receive an order from a customer that was stimulated to buy while in Best Buy.
This may revolutionize retailing and cause considerable consternation and ultimately dislocation for several players.
Remember when the Internet arrived and customer who was savvy gained the power to check prices of all the options. Especially for durables, that power led to sensitivity to prices and resulting price pressures.
“Like many men, I’ve never been very enthusiastic about shopping.
That’s partly because I’m frugal, and don’t enjoy spending money. It’s partly due to the hassles I associate with visiting retail stores — a series of inconveniences that begins in the parking lot (hunting for spaces), continues in the aisles (where I can never find what I need), and ends at the cash registers (where I have little patience for long lines).
Much of the problem, though, lies in psychology. While I can be confident of my decision-making skills in other areas of life, my shopping decisions are often plagued by second-guessing, paralysis, and buyer’s remorse. Even when I recognize the need for a product — I’ve been looking for a good pair of lace-up black shoes for three months — I often put it off, afraid of making a decision I’ll regret.
In the last year, however, I’ve noticed these problems are ebbing. I don’t dread shopping as much as I used to. At times, I’m even starting to enjoy it. Upon reflection, I attribute this attitude adjustment to a simple phenomenon: I’m becoming armed with better information.”
While Black Friday and Cyber Monday were successful days for the retail sector, these two days alone are not a panacea to the sector’s performance challenges. Some retailers will continue this momentum. Others will not. The difference between the two sets of retailers? Knowing when and how to act as the water around you gets hot.
In our world, there are two kinds of frogs — those that jump out of the pot when it’s boiling and those that boil. Smart retailers jump out of the pot before it boils. They are keenly aware of changing conditions on the ground. And they don’t allow personal opinions about the cause behind the changing conditions to stand in the way of decisions and actions.
The global push to meet today’s needs without compromising future generations’ ability to do the same is one such boiling pot for retailers. Some are ignoring customer interest in all things environmental and social. Smart retailers, on the other hand, have realized the water around them is getting hot and they are proactively taking action. As a result, these retailers are cutting costs today, planting growth seeds for tomorrow, and setting the stage for accelerated strategic agility well into the future.
“It’s a snowy Saturday in Chicago, but Amy, age 28, needs resort wear for a Caribbean vacation. Five years ago, in 2011, she would have headed straight for the mall. Today she starts shopping from her couch by launching a videoconference with her personal concierge at Danella, the retailer where she bought two outfits the previous month. The concierge recommends several items, superimposing photos of them onto Amy’s avatar. Amy rejects a couple of items immediately, toggles to another browser tab to research customer reviews and prices, finds better deals on several items at another retailer, and orders them. She buys one item from Danella online and then drives to the Danella store near her for the in-stock items she wants to try on.
As Amy enters Danella, a sales associate greets her by name and walks her to a dressing room stocked with her online selections—plus some matching shoes and a cocktail dress. She likes the shoes, so she scans the bar code into her smartphone and finds the same pair for $30 less at another store. The sales associate quickly offers to match the price, and encourages Amy to try on the dress. It is daring and expensive, so Amy sends a video to three stylish friends, asking for their opinion. The responses come quickly: three thumbs down. She collects the items she wants, scans an internet site for coupons (saving an additional $73), and checks out with her smartphone.
As she heads for the door, a life-size screen recognizes her and shows a special offer on an irresistible summer-weight top. Amy checks her budget online, smiles, and uses her phone to scan the customized Quick Response code on the screen. The item will be shipped to her home overnight.”
“Between 1994 and 2011, the number of farmers markets across the United States grew from 1,755 to 7,175. While much of this growth is likely due to a broader understanding of the importance of eating local, fresher, and seasonal, I also suspect that it is driven by a desire of many people to shop differently — in pleasant family-friendly contexts that enable low-key, face-to-face interactions with merchants. A parallel trend is the rise of the food truck movement. In research we conducted earlier this year on the future of commerce, we found that people gravitate towards these kinds of “pop-up” vendor experiences because of the more personal qualities they provide — getting to know the vendor, suggestions for making the most of a purchase, or even just a certain quirkiness. In other words, these are fundamentally more human retail experiences.”
PGHshare is dedicated to sharing ideas about sustainable transportation for Pittsburgh. Now in Phase 2 with Ideas & Movement, we’re ready to open our site for your feedback and support.
We’ve put together a package of ideas from other cities and updates on how some are already in development. Our transportation climate has been rough to weather more recently than ever.
Though things are looking brighter with various initiatives underway, like GoBurgh, the BRT from gettherepgh.org/, there is still much to be done about making Pittsburgh a more livable city with adequate public transportation options.
Check out PGHshare’s website and find us on Facebook for updates specifically about transportation projects happening in the city!