July 6th, 2011
Today, I get to combine two of my favorite things:
1. When it comes to customer engagement and loyalty, I am a complete fanatic about the symbiotic relationship between marketing and customer service. The brand is codified in the moment of contact with a customer or prospect – period. I can spend millions of dollars on marketing, get wonderful recall and purchase intent scores and have it all wiped out by persistently poor customer care.
And isn’t that the way it should be? Reality trumps promises, after all.
Sometimes things just come together…
June 14th, 2011
Do you ever feel like your head might just explode if you have to shove one more new business term in there? Or perhaps you’re simply in the mood for a friendly game of buzzword bingo. I have some extra cards right here…
Who could blame you? I mean, I think I actually met with the guys in this VIDEO just last week:
There isn’t room to list all the new words, terms and acronyms we’ve learned in the last few years: moblog, m-commerce, phishing, NFC, PPC, CPA, CPO, CPS, DSP, skyscraper, pure play, Splinternet, semantic Web, SMS, TCP/IP, VOIP, XML, RSS, API, CSS, SMM, SMO, black hat (and white hat – I mean, duh) SEO, cybersquatting, adware, P2P, spider, favicon, mousetrapping, greenwashing, augmented reality, branded entertainment, geotargeting, behavioral targeting, network effect, SERP, cloud, triple play, (Web) abandonment, (Web) arbitrage, bot, deep linking, delist, linkbait, spyware, widget, maybe a million others… and certainly dinner isn’t dinner without a good forking. Or something like that.
But there’s a new new term whose fear factor I want to eliminate right away: agile commerce. As defined by Forrester in its March 2011 paper, Welcome to the Era of Agile Commerce, agile commerce is “an approach to commerce that enables businesses to optimize their people, processes and technology to serve customers across all touchpoints.”
There are 15 pages of text and charts delineating the difference between multichannel and agile commerce, and the analyst also penned a Forbes article titled “Why Multichannel Retail is Obsolete.” “Agile commerce is a metamorphosis,” he says. “It is time for organizations to leave their channel-oriented ways behind.”
The problem is that all this relies on what I consider to be a seriously antiquated view of multi-channel operations.
The definition of multichannel commerce upon which the new agile commerce movement depends is a way of doing business that leaves customer touchpoints and transactions in silos: potentially envisioned, designed, managed and measured independently from one another. It assumes that prospects/customers probably use one channel but not another (e.g. Jack’s a “store person,” Jill’s a “Web person,”), that user expectations in each of these channels do not overlap, that content, design, functionality, payment options, etc. etc. all differ from one channel to another and that it doesn’t matter because consumers don’t really see all the channels anyway.
What contemporary marketer believes this anymore?
Is there a digital-savvy executive alive who doesn’t know all the stats about connectivity exploding, and audience fragmentation, and the accelerating evolution of technologies, and the emergence of smartphones and tablets and ebooks (oh my)? Is it news that TV watchers also like being online, or that newspaper readership is sliding around? And yet these are the metrics and conversation points that the paper uses to announce that it’s a new world and that ecommerce players better get with it.
For any marketer trained to start with the customer, the revelation that we must strive to deliver a 100% (a girl can dream) seamless experience from one channel to the next and that our business eco-system must be woven together and able to learn so that a user’s behavior is reflected and rewarded as she wanders from one touchpoint to another… well that’s no revelation at all.
Good marketers recognized and began turning their organizations toward this vision many moons ago. The consumer is where everything begins and ends. In the future, channels will be like lights in a galaxy that deliver a seamless, 24 hour brand experience. Rather than you having to travel to the brand (e.g., you drive to the store), all the access points will do the virtual traveling instead. With you in the center, the brand will constantly update its customized knowledge of and relationship with you, in all directions and in nearly all applications. A little like ”Minority Report” but in a good way – and without having to remove your eyeballs. [And yes, I wrote this paragraph while entirely sober.]
Now don’t get me wrong here; I doubt there is an organization on the planet that feels fantastic about where it is on this trip we’re all taking together. Forget even the fantasy of walking into a physical location and having a person (or digital display) interact with you in a way that reflects a 360° level of knowledge of my relationship: I’d be excited just to talk to a call center rep who can see me transacting on his company’s own website in real time and help me out in a normal, knowledgeable manner.
We have a long long (long) way to go. But this post is my way of saying that no one should be discouraged, or privately assume that keeping up is impossible. The next time you see or hear a new Internet/marketing/digital business buzzword, it may be just that: a new arrangement of letters describing a principle you already understand (perhaps better than those making up some of these new terms in the first place) and live by.
Either way – as long as we keep our heads – it makes for a good game. And, hey! I’ve got Bingo!!!
A version of this post was originally published on the Marketing Executive Network Group‘s blog, MENGBlend.
June 6th, 2011
Birth control ads are strange. Exhibit A: the Nuvaring ad (see HERE) where the gals take off their clothes and climb into a hot tub with their yellow bathing suits on. Each woman has a… each has a number… and… and one has a bathing cap… and then the hot tub spins like a ride at Disneyland… and then there’s a song that makes me hear Satan’s voice urging me to kill (Mommy!).
I don’t know what’s going on, other than understanding that I better use Nuvaring because remembering to take a pill every day is simply too much for me. At least I think that’s what is says.
So in a land of weird, one must rise extra high to be noticed – and I think Beyaz overshot by a mile. Check out the ad (see below or HERE):
The “it’s good to have choices” positioning is fine, but to put women in a shopping setting, where they can simply choose the men, educations, homes and discretionary incomes of their dreams off a shelf at any time – with as much thought and planning as picking a bottle of ketchup – is offensive. And what was the general idea here: that because women understand shopping the best, we can make birth control a section of a department store to help the message hit home?
Then there are the choices themselves. The home the female shopper chooses is a sweet little purple house, with a car out front that looks like it’s from the 50s. Is that where women belong, or when women were “best” – in the 50s? Have we already failed if we don’t want the picket fence?
And the stork: the only “selection” that tries to literally follow the woman once it is rejected (a stalking stork, if you will). All the women in this ad are still in their 20s: are young women supposed to have babies… or else? Note there are no “and” equations in this ad. It’s all about the ”or,” as in grad school or a baby. None of the shoppers leave with more than one item.
or me, though, the most disappointing episode takes place over in the Significant Other section of the store. First of all, the store only carries men in inventory. Being homosexual is not a choice in this retail establishment. Then comes the best part: a woman standing in front of a man (under glass…), only to have another female come along with a smirk on her face and snatch the man off the shelf.
That’s nasty and cruel. And pits women against one another.
The site TresSugar.com does a great job breaking down the ad, scene by scene, object by object. Take a look if you get the chance.
Even in the fantasy world of flying snacks, sodas that never make you fat and perfect hair, I think this ad is over the top in its disdain for women.
This is an encore presentation of a blog post originally published on Stephanie Fierman: Marketing Daily.
May 3rd, 2011
A friend of mine, Stephen Denny, has written a new book, Killing Giants: 10 Strategies to Topple The Goliath In Your Industry. The chapter titled, “Winning in the Last Three Feet” plays to my particular devotion to brands that understand that the moment of contact with a consumer is the most precious in the entire marketing lifecycle, or – put differently – that all the advertising and promotion in the universe cannot overcome the true experience at the point at which a consumer must make a decision.
A Wall Street Journal article recently had me thinking about the same thing. “Tracking the Loyalty of Coffee Drinkers” is interesting, because the research study on which the piece is based doesn’t study its navel by exploring why consumers “roam” between proprietors; it just captures how much wandering people do.
The author of study, Dave Jenkins of CustomersDNA, says, “ Getting that customer to come one more time to their restaurant and one less time to their competitor’s is how the battle will be won or lost.” One more for me, one less for you. Over and over and over. So simple. But how often do senior marketers think like this – about the trees vs. the entire forest?
Denny tells a great story of one such marketer, Mandy Torvick, at Adobe. With Thanksgiving weekend fast approaching Mandy was ready for Black Friday: she had a big category-exclusive ad buy ready to go with Adobe’s largest big box retailer in the U.S., and she was dreaming of turkey. Then the retailer came back at the last minute and said the ad space would instead be given to Microsoft.
Now, I’ve been a businessperson a long time, and know plenty of talented people who would have absolutely freaked out. Frrrrreeeeaked out. Instead, Mandy viewed the event as an opportunity. She could not control the altered landscape, but she could control what she and Adobe did about it. Mandy took some of the advertising money and used it to send guerrilla teams into the retailer’s stores to stand in the aisles and enthusiastically demonstrate the product. And there were plenty of shoppers in the aisles, of course, because Microsoft’s advertising and discounting got them there.
Adobe’s lovingly planned, detailed holiday ad plan went up in smoke, but Mandy wasn’t focused on the advertising: she was focused on the sale.
What is the Web equivalent of this? And I don’t mean that sites ought to be easier to use, or faster to navigate: I mean really, really at the last minute. I started thinking about this after I bought my first yoga mat last week.
With no loyalty to any particular seller, I did what I always do: start with Google, learn about products and pricing and then start hunting around for discount codes. Gaiam.com had me at hello. I was familiar with the brand, its website helped me understand all the choices, it sold the extra-thick mat I wanted and – cool! – the product even came with a free yoga DVD. Free yoga video is all over the Web, but the DVD was a nice, thoughtful touch. I had nearly completed the payment form when I decided to do just a little last minute checking. YogaAccessories.com was selling the same mat, advertising a deal on shipping and – with the discount code I found – saved me enough money to make dropping Gaiam worth it.
Actually, that wasn’t the end: a friend asked me to let him know if I liked the mat. Once the mat had my approval, the easiest thing to do was to simply hand him the YogaAccessories.com invoice right out of the box so he could see the name of the website, the item number and all.
Score? YogaAccessories: 2. Gaiam : 0.
And not a peep from Gaiam. No pop-up with a last-ditch discount offer, no “research study” request – nothing. And I made sure to give them a shot, keeping the same browser window open and going directly to YogaAccessories.com from Gaiam.com.
That’s scary. In a split second, Gaiam lost not only two sales but also two enthusiast buyers – with friends.
The sale that Gaiam lost is a drop in a very big bucket. Retailers lose $18B a year to shopping card abandonment every year, and my personal experience reflects the top two reasons cited by millions of shoppers: shipping charges and a desire to comparison shop. Worse, more tech-savvy shoppers are even more likely to drop a transaction when it’s nearly completed.
But this is about far more than the “25 ways to ensure shopping cart abandonment doesn’t happen to you” lists you can find all over the Web (thought this is a good list, fyi), or whether or not you re-market to a lost shopper. This is about you being Microsoft, and Mandy being right there in front of your customer 24/7, offering another – and sometimes better – option.
So what’s a site to do? I’d love to hear everyone’s thoughts, but the #1 most important thing that an online retailer must do is follow the path of your shopper. Every day. Make sure you have a grasp of what’s happening in your competitive space on a day-to-day basis. Who’s doing what? Who’s running specials or offering free shipping? Some of this can be designed into algorithms, but nothing beats a human review comparing your presentation to your shopper’s other choices.
Second, a retailer must test mercilessly. Who are your customers and what are the habits? How price elastic are they? Where are your core segments and (a) what are you doing for them right now on your site, and (b) what are you doing for them all year ‘round, to help built loyalty and perhaps a little price insulation? You’ve got to understand what you are and are not willing to do and for whom. Not all shoppers are created equal, for example and – while you have your target populations – some may not be “worth” the effort. How many Stephanies are out there, for example, willing to spend 10-15 minutes gaming discount codes, with no history of purchasing yoga-related product? Can I ever be saved? Probably not. Should I be on the top of your target list, relatively speaking? Probably not.
But all this is unknown without a solid, day-to-day grasp on (and primary research about) your target segments and their behavior.
There are some interesting new tools out there than can help. Dynamic serving of both content and offers from companies like Monetate is exciting new work… but you still need to know what to serve to whom. And what offers your competition is promoting. And when to stand in the aisles to grab one more transaction. To win… in the last 3 clicks.
May 1st, 2011
April 11th, 2011
A couple days ago, I returned a dress to Kenneth Cole in NYC. Clearly criminal behavior, based on the way I was treated. The staff seemed almost surprised that I had the receipt AND the credit card associated with it.
Once the associate began the return, he asked for my phone number. I declined to provide it. He said “they” needed it, or he couldn’t process the return. Since the card associations (in this case Mastercard) do not require a phone number for a return, the “they” in these cases is clearly the retailer. But in some cases – where providing a phone number is the shortest path between me and my money – I provide a phone number. Sometimes it’s mine and sometimes, not so much.
Since I squeaked out a weak protestation, I suppose, the associate snarkily replied, “Are you having a good morning, miss?”
I said yes. What I really wanted to say was, ”Why? Does Kenneth Cole require a phone number AND a good attitude for a return?”
How much business do these companies need to lose to Internet shopping before they realize that they’re going to have to make a face-to-face transaction really, really good?
Which reminds me of another experience I had recently at Best Buy. I bought a not-unusual item for about $30. I paid cash. Simple.
‘Turns out the item did not have the feature I needed, so I went back to the store a few days later to return it. I had not opened the blister pack, etc. – the item was pristine.
The rep at Returns asked for my phone number. Then I think she may have asked for my email address. Since I use an email specifically for this purpose (cataloguers and the like) I gave it to her. I did ask why it was relevant for a return, and again it was the mysterious “they” who needed it.
Sidebar: Do you think there’s a “They Club” somewhere where all the theys hang out, eat candy and plot their next diabolical scheme? The TSA could run it.
So anyway, the associate has my phone number and my email and I’m holding on, I can do this, go with the flow. Then she asked for my driver’s license.
This is a problem.
My driver’s license for a $30 item? My driver’s license number is not a retailer’s business, particularly when I make a (low-value) purchase with cash. I don’t recall anyone at the store when I purchased the item having any trouble taking my cash: they only appear to have a problem giving it back.
But this post isn’t about the fact that fraud and theft have driven some retailers to do crazy lengths and that they clearly believe an employee can’t do hard things like ask for a driver’s license only for items priced at more than, say, $100.
No, this post is about creating an environment where employees and customers feel welcome and understood.
This “they” thing is pervasive – and completely unnecessary. What it means is that associates are either trained to say “they” – which would be super obnoxious – or they’re not trained for pushback from the consumer at all, and squeeze out a “they” because they truly do not know what to say. In either scenario, the retailer has pitted some innocent, often 19-year-old kid against an unhappy customer, transforming this stranger across from me into the faceless “they” – The Corporation. And no harried consumer appreciates this when s/he’s trying to get something done.
It doesn’t have to be this way. The associate is human, the shopper is human. Why aren’t employees trained to diffuse the situation but making eye contact and saying something like (insert head shake here): “I know, but Best Buy requires me to do it. I’m really sorry.” Or replace the “sorry” with an ”I know it can be annoying.” Or “I know it seems silly and I will try to get you out of here as quickly as possible.”
Something – anything - that reinforces and reminds the customer that the employee is not the company. We all do things we don’t like to do: when a sincere rep looks me in the face sympathetically and says anything close to the phrases above (and the smart ones do), it is a far warmer transaction for both parties. Then we’re in this together.
And let’s not forget the employee’s feelings too, by the way: how does Best Buy think this rep feels about her job if half of it is occupied by unhappy shoppers? So the company is whittling away at morale by tossing these kids out on the floor without the appropriate “human interaction” training, as well.
Once again I am inclined to say… Grrr.
So the next time, gentle reader, an employee says that “they” need you to swab the inside of your mouth to prove that you’re you, take a deep breath, consider writing an email or letter to the retailer and assess all of your shopping options. Fortunately for us, there are more choices than ever.
March 21st, 2011
March 2nd, 2011
February 17th, 2011
In December 2007, I went to a breakfast about women and financial services and wrote the post you see below as a result.
As I surfed over to Beyond Today, I was optimistic. Unfortunately, I found more of the same.
Why why why must we continue to alienate big blocks of women? 51 million women in the United States are single and I’d wager that a lot of them, like me, don’t cook. To start a blog post about investment allocation with “Pasta, pot roast, peas… ever get in a rut with your menus?” is just old school. Not to mention the shot of the hysterically-delighted older couple (maybe he’s on Viagra) on the home page while 40-50% of marriages end up in divorce, 32 million people live alone, women live considerably longer than men, etc. Or the primary involvement of Jean Chatzky: an expert I like, but one who is frequently seen in other venues (like The Today Show and Oprah).
In other words, there’s no new news here – still Version 1.0. I guess I expect more. Maybe the thrashing is because gender is no longer (or shouldn’t be) a primary segmentation characteristic in the first place.
Women And Financial Services
I attended a breakfast last week entitled “Marketing to the Female Investor.” I was pretty jazzed about this because, in addition to a pretty good expert panel, the core of the event was a review of fresh research on the topic and I was looking forward to getting a sophisticated update on my own experienced-but-possibly rusty notions.
That’s not exactly what the audience got.
The research’s executive summary declares that “single women are on the rise” (is this the 70′s?) and the study confirms that women are living longer, marrying later, get 58% of all undergrad degrees awarded in the US and are opening businesses at 2x the rate of men. Speakers presenting the research still referred to this as the “women’s market” – despite the fact that 52% of all US citizens are female – and declared that members of this group have “special needs.” The research itself, as in years past, said that 71% believe that financial services marketing is targeted to men, and fewer women then men say they understand financial services products well or extremely well (e.g. mutual funds, stocks, IRAs, trusts). A nervous presenter inadvertently plunged me into a moment of despair when she explained that, while the female respondents may not have an equal understanding of said products, “they are still intelligent.”
Good grief. Had nothing changed in 15 years?
When the morning (mourning?) turned to the panel, however, the tone began to change for the better. Most of the panelists’ real-life priorities and programs focused on women’s changing roles in society, and how these role changes are increasingly non-linear: that women, more so than men, may move back and forth between the core roles of provider and caregiver… and may, as a result, be more or less educated about financial services, may be shopping for products at different times, etc.
So is there a primary segmentation scheme more relevant than gender? Is it more valuable to target based on whether a person of either gender is home taking care of a child or aging parent vs. bringing home the bacon? With roles, education levels and life span all changing, is gender becoming a secondary variable, rather than a primary one?
There’s no question that, when observed in as close to real circumstances as possible, men and women tend to have different ways of consuming information, choosing financial advisors and so on. But, right or wrong, “women’s marketing” has frequently been housed in retail bank groups focused on special niche populations – and this has not served to create a breakthrough positioning for, well, anyone.
Maybe we’ve reached a critical mass at which point it’s not whether one is female or male that should drive marketing communications and sales process design, but rather the role a person plays that dictates her – or his – financial needs, habits and buying behaviors.
February 14th, 2011
In honor of Valentine’s Day, here’s a cartoon from Tom. I like to think of it as… sort of a budding Internet mogul run amok. Enjoy!