Get Working on Tomorrow. Today.

We better get working on tomorrow. Today.

With a wary eye on the future, it’s way past time to start thinking, seeing and acting differently. Businesses today are trying to change, but still unwilling to break out of deeply rooted operational habits like control, predictability, standardization and faster is better.

One of my inspirations for doing differently comes from a wonderful book titled Presence. 

Its primary benefit to me, apart from an introduction that is phenomenal, is the concept that there is an art to seeing. The idea is that if you can learn to see differently, the whole becomes more than the sum of its mechanical parts. New ways to think about solutions to challenges emerge from the belief that organizations are living systems that can be thought of as a moving whole. If we can see broadly and more holistically by practicing suspension of our existing bias and habits, we can experience the phenomenon of “letting come”.

For tomorrow to be better, we need to become more aware and attuned to what is emerging and organize around it.  Instead of trying to fit emerging ideas into our habitual constructs of today.

Human systems are changing fast. Enabling change to serve the whole without the constraints of our industrial heritage of parts is hugely challenging. The path forward requires different actions from each of us today.

I think the concept of “presence” is a wonderful way to approach the future with more confidence and hope.



Walmart on the move – to your doorstep

Retailing today is at an inflection point unlike I’ve ever seen in my “too many to count” years in the business. No retailer has as much at risk or to gain than Walmart. The company is one of the most fascinating stories to follow and talk about in the industry today.

As you might know by now, one of my retail/shopper marketing industry opportunities is being a panelist on the Retail Wire portal
where I post comments regularly on one or more of three discussion topics listed every weekday.

Today, we have a story about Walmart on the move, this time with a courier to your doorstep, delivering on the incessant need we have for instant gratification from the online shopping experience. Walmart, with logistics rigor, and stores galore, can and will deliver happiness to you the same day you click. (in some markets, they are in test expansion mode).

Is this the BIG opportunity in the making  for Walmart or a desperate reaction to the muscle of Amazon as it flexes to deliver same day to the 45% of US adult shoppers who name them as the number one place they shop online?

I believe Walmart is one of the bravest retailers  out there, with a renewed interest in testing and learning what’s good for the shoppers and good for their business too. I support this move, and I think it has HUGE potential upside in the two most important consumer groups to retail – Boomer and Gen Y consumers.  Read why….

Then read what everyone has to say on this critical topic. I believe that I’ve gained more insight and intellect from the power of the group discussion than from any other form of media in this business.

Join the movers and shakers and read RetailWire. Add your comments and raise the level of insight even higher! It’s not just Walmart on the move. Retail is racing to a tipping point, it’s critical for more thought leaders, like you, to join the discussion.



Crackin’ with McCracken

A few years back I sat in a conference hall enjoying this jitter-bug kind of of guy flit about the stage and roam up and down the aisles ranting about human culture and marketing.

I was riled up, excited by this McCracken guy, being a former student of both anthropology and marketing… and then of course I had to go back to work.  I’m lucky my work combines these disciplines nicely, working through various models for innovation and insight.

Today, I’m more excited than ever, reading Grant McCracken’s new book “Culturematic” because the main theme is about blowing up the models and provoking the world with experiments that probe the possible.

It’s easy to love this kind of a book. It’s hard to get paid to do the kind of work he’s recommending. But it’s 100% possible to invigorate your mind with this thinking.

I’m gonna get crackin’ on finishing this book and give my mind a nice big long rope to play with. This is business conversation worth joining.



Solving for Shopper

Many people in shopper marketing seem to think and act as if the shopper is the problem.  That’s a different and, in my opinion, incorrect way of putting the shopper at the center of the universe.

In Chapter 26 of the second edition of the book Shopper Marketing, Matt Nitzberg, an EVP from dunnhumbyUSA defines shopper marketing, when done well,  as “an expression of shopper-centered thinking and a deeply rooted shopper-centered culture.”

That’s number one on his list of five. Number five is “managed as a dynamic set of activities benefiting from continual measurement and improvement. ”

It’s a great chapter, full of frameworks to think about and use to build better shopper marketing practices. But, simply combining two key points in his definition premises gets me right back to my point. Solving for Shopper. Understand. Measure. Improve.

I’d ask you, as a practitioner, if you’re measuring improvement in sales in your category at retail, but ONLY if you’re also measuring an improvement in how the category (or your brand) is improving the shopper’s experience while shopping or life when he/she is using or consuming the products.  If all you can report is yes to the short term sales lift, you’re missing the whole point.

The shopper isn’t the problem. But she probably HAS one.  True shopper-centered culture means you’ve dug deep enough to understand the problem, and through your actions, are doing everything you can to alleviate it on her terms across her purchase experience. That is how you earn behavior change. When you can measure that type of improvement, which may take many versions of test and learn, you may actually be able to get to that elusive thing called loyalty.

It’s simple, yet we make it so hard. Matt lists eleven things that typically get in the way of the true promise of effectiveness in shopper marketing. In my twenty years, I’ve seen a lot of these things in play on a very regular basis.

As Matt Nitzberg says so eloquently in Chapter 26 of the Shopper Marketing book,  it’s important to understand how to stay on track with the shopper so shopper marketing doesn’t become “yet another way to rent market share from week to week.”

“Focusing on attempting to change shopper behavior through fairly irrelevant brand or store-centered initiatives must be subdued” in order to focus on the shopper, says Matt.

Those that do it well will use the continual cycle of test, learn, measure and improve to show results that reflect an ability to solve for the shopper’s problems. And that’s when the magic happens, and shoppers start sharing your stories, says ShopperAnnie.

FYI for my readers: I am NOT compensated in any way to write about this book. I did receive a complimentary copy of the book from the editors, based on my tenure in the industry. My choice to write about specific elements of the book reflects the passion points I have always supported; first and foremost a true commitment to face the shopper as the center of the universe.

The fishy business of Shopper Marketing

I’ve got a voracious appetite for reading. This weekend I’m trying to catch up on a few industry reads. This morning I’m browsing through the 2nd Edition of Shopper Marketing, published by Kogan Page Limited in 2010 and updated in 2012. I like it because it has 36 chapters, each by a different professional from across the globe,  many of whom are colleagues and friends.

The subtitle of this new book is called “How to increase purchase decisions at the point of sale” but it’s hardly ironic that my favorite chapter is about what happens at home.  Because it is truly the day-to-day patterns of our everyday lives that shape not only what items we impulsively toss in the cart on a given shopping trip, but what brands become inscribed in our sub conscious brains as cultural preferences.

It’s also no surprise that Harvey Hartman wrote the chapter. Shopper marketers, especially those in insights areas of the discipline, tend to drone on about need states. Harvey, (whom I know and admire for his frankness) will tell you, correctly so, that experiences in our homes generate cultural tasks, not need states. In a nutshell, the study of culture trends and shifts matters greatly to all things shopper.

His story in the book gives me a fond memory AND true understanding of exactly why I used to buy Gorton’s fish sticks, and why, since picky eater toddler finally grew up, I no longer ever need to buy them again, but feel connected to the brand in a positive way.  It also explains why my husband continually sneaks regular Ritz crackers (and liversausage) into the cart despite the daunting nutrition label and its impact on his physical heart. The impact of Ritz crackers on his emotional heart is just to strong to resist.

At the end of the day, it behooves (love that word) every marketer who is accountable to the shopper (read as: ALL of us) to back away from thinking just about in-store behaviors. It’s prudent to move some of your research and personal reading time to understand the culture of preference and the impact of life at home to the deep-seated preferences we all bring with us to the stores.

The Hartman Group, encompassing a fine group of smart and intuitive humans that surround the always outspoken Mr. Harvey Hartman himself, have continually provided true depth and dimension to my reading and to my understanding of the fishy business of shopper marketing. They helped shape my non-stop shopper-centric focus in the business.

For now, I’m on to a chapter called Too Many Choices, a situation that actually prevents sales at the shelf. This chapter will likely explain why I love small stores and farmer’s markets!

What’s on your reading list?


Is price the only answer to showrooming at retail? I think not.

If you touch retail in any manner in your profession, you’ve no doubt heard about “showrooming” – the practice of using a smartphone from a store aisle to check prices and potentially buy from another retailer or an online only retailer.

This practice isn’t going away, in fact I believe it will increase, causing a potential billion dollar problem for our nation’s retailers. Amazon is the most notable beneficiary of the dollars that leak out of both the retailer’s physical store and website.

This week, an article in the Wall Street Journal posed the thought that the only answer to this problem is price. The common belief is that retailers have to do whatever it takes to get their price points down to match Amazon. I SAY THIS IS CRAZY.  If price is the only rathole left for retailers to go down, I, for one, am going to call it a day and go work on a golf course driving the beverage cart. (my dream retirement job, in case you don’t know me that well).

Why do I feel this way? Because my years in the business of marketing strategy have taught me a few things about the almighty shopper, even those with the smartphone in their hands in the aisle.

First point. Price is important.There are a lot of shoppers who will flit from retailer to retailer for price. So let’s just give up now, right? WRONG.

There’s one solution on the table that makes sense in the digital world, and that is to use “near-field” communications to offer an in-aisle shopper a price-match to retain the sale in the store. “Offering people personalized prices through their mobile device may be the most effective way to beat showrooming,” said Anne Zybowski, director of retail insights for KantarRetail, a global consulting firm. But that practice has huge margin implications, for the likes of Walmart, Target and BestBuy, especially as showrooming behavior escalates.

BestBuy is on to a good old fashioned retail idea – incentivize the sales person to close the sale on the floor. Really.

If you are a student of human behavior, and I am, it’s clear that marketing should always intersect with anthropology. You’ll want to remember that for ages and ages, and still today, the number one influencer of purchase behavior is information from other people. Also known as word-of-mouth. Human influence. Yes, it can come from a smartphone in the aisle, in the form of ratings and reviews. The shoppers are absorbing content that influences their behavior from other humans. The smartphone is just the device to bring the content to them in a most convenient way! But really, it’s best from human to human.

REMEMBER THIS  – Over 70% of conversations that influence behavior take place face-to-face. Read this blog post from Keller Fay to see the details. Only 10% of it happens online.

REMEMBER THIS TOO – 75% of consumers say they will walk out of the store if they don’t have access to knowledgeable associates. And 80% of consumers say their shopping experience is improved when staff is eager to help. This comes from a whitepaper from Retail TouchPoints based on research conducted late in 2011.

AND THIS – 71% of retail executives say that shoppers want a meaningful experience with the sales associate as brand ambassador with strong product knowledge and the ability to up-sell and cross-sell for greater customer satisfaction and loyalty. This comes from a Deloitte Retail Survey in 2011.

Just consider those recent research results. I’ve been reading similar research for decades. So why is price the only solution to showrooming? It’s not.

Maybe if the retail show room actually was a showroom with people to “show shoppers” something, to perhaps participate in some face-to-face human influence, retailers might have a more powerful weapon against Amazon and other online only retailers. And they might just provide the kind of shopping experience shoppers crave. Fancy that.

Despite whatever is said about not being able to “afford” this human solution, I propose that it might just be worthy of a little more face-to-face discussion. I’d bring the chart below from Nielsen as Exhibit A.

Human conversation. Face to Face. A alternative solution to showrooming.

The debate on using BIG DATA for retail insights!

Yesterday, the RetailWire discussion board posed some questions about the merits of using big data sets to gain understandings and insights into shoppers. Use of big data sets is a growing trend, in part because the data is available, and in part because advanced (and mega-fast) analytics truly can churn out a lot of information.

But the key is what is actually done with the data, both on the front-end query and the back-end actions taken from data outputs.

The comments are here in the link below. Whatever your job, if you touch retail in any manner, this is worth ten minutes of your time to read.

(In my humble shopper marketing opinion!)



How to keep current on retail issues!

Today, I’m posting a link (above) to my comments on the RetailWire discussion site. It’s a wonderful site, and I’m proud to have been a BrainTrust panelist for a number of years.

But this post isn’t about me. It’s about you.

I encourage you to read and participate in this daily discussion board. Anyone can post, not just the panelists. It’s great to see what everyone has to say. I use links to RW discussion boards all the time to keep up on issues and inform my clients.

Here is the link to the main site, so you can bookmark it for daily or weekly reading and posting.


Best Buy Trains Shoppers to Distrust Pricing


…that 86% of consumers are somewhat or highly likely to move their business to another retail brand when they encounter inconsistent pricing across channels?

It’s true, and here’s the source: 2011 Shopper Preference Study, RetailTouchPoints Whitepaper, August 2011

One would think that major retailers would know this. Best Buy obviously doesn’t know, or doesn’t care. It’s no wonder the press is all over the stories of their imminent demise.

All I can say is this. Good thing I did my pre-store homework, researching for a portable phone to replace one that no longer works. On the Best Buy website, I put one in the cart, but decided to visit the store since I was going to drive by it anyway on another errand.

The online price – $24.99 – either shipped or for store pick up. The in-store price – $34.99

I expressed my STUNNED reaction to the $10 upcharge to the sales guy, who offered to price match. Then, I followed him around to not one, but two in-store terminals so he could verify the online price. He then walked me to the register with a price adjustment slip, but when I checked out,  I had to wait even longer for a manager to come over and approve the transaction price.


When I asked the cash wrap guy why, in today’s age of transparent information, there could be a ten dollar discrepancy on a $25 item, he just shrugged and said  “that’s a good question” as if he could have cared less.


I think Best Buy has the power and knowledge to fix this problem. I also think ShopperAnnie is not unique in saying she might be done with Best Buy if they don’t.

Shopper Marketing – Top Trend for 2012 – Smart tech and human contact come together.

As I browse through 2012 trend articles, I look for threads that weave seemingly disparate trends together into something more meaningful.

This year, I see a distinct link between the breakneck pace of smartphone use and the growing desire even die-hard techies have for more human contact. This is especially evident in the world of shopping.

In 2011, smartphones gave us shopping convenience, pricing transparency, mobile wallets (review of Apple’s EasyPay app) and now Siri, princess of augmented humanity, a.k.a. the girl in the iPhone 4! Note the photo below, her face is a microphone!!

Our craving for humanity even within our technology has already superseded her reality. This is best described through videos on YouTube about “sexy” conversations with Siri, which if you must see, you can surely find! With Siri beside us on the couch, why would we ever stop clicking and get off our butts to go a store unless we’re showing off our Google wallets.

The way we use our smartphones will indeed continue to change the way we shop.  Need proof?  Walmart is ready to deliver a truly personalized “suite of products” directly to your smartphone (or tablet) based on what they glean from analyzing every bit of information they can access in your transparent digital/social graph.

The craving for technology and enhanced humanity in shopping seem like odd bedfellows, but fit like the circle yin and yang form together. According to trend watchers, we crave more sensory, exciting in-store retail experiences to offset the advanced shopping technology we’re so excited to have. I believe this has been in the works for much longer than just the past year.

Consider the quality of the experience shoppers must have had at what I’ll call the ancient marketplaces. No doubt, they were the true center of human relationships, exchanges, and social interaction, in addition to commerce. The experiences at the marketplace were tangible and fulfilling in a multi-sensory way. Smell the intense spices, taste new flavors and enjoy the rich conversation with those you see every week in town market square. Hear the high pitches of voices in negotiations, coins jingling as deals were reached.  Indeed, we crave this, more so now that it’s so far removed from that device in our pockets.

Even as today’s shoppers conveniently click around, they also flock to watch their meat ground fresh at the butcher’s counter, carefully and lovingly select the freshest veggies at the farm stands, congregate merrily at street markets and lunch with gusto at authentic ethnic food trucks. When they want service, they might crave a razor shave at The Art of Shaving, or the known, trusted sense of clean they’ll enjoy at a Tide Dry Cleaners.  Procter & Gamble obviously gets it, winning the top 2011 Excellence and Innovation in Retail award. These experiences create stories worth sharing, on smartphones of course, but also in face to face with those in our inner circles.

In 2012, I think we’ll see retailers and brands step up their mobile relationships with shoppers, while striving to connect their products and marketing efforts firmly to experiences that deliver multi-sensory benefits. Phil Lempert, “The Supermarket Guru” thinks food passion is still strong. I think that means knowledgeable experiential teams in stores should replace basic boring sampling.  If pupasas from El Salvador are the top new food at the Vendy Awards, the team that launches the packaged version in-store better look, feel and sound like they rolled in from that country last night. Think Heritage, real human style.

People gathered together with a common purpose share a sense of empowerment. Lempert says “Look for food groups to form that cook together, crowd sourcing in the kitchen” if you will. Add a savings focus and they’ll be couponing, shopping, cooking, eating and counting their saved dollars as a team.

My AHA! moment for 2012!  Bring top bloggers and followers together IRL (in real life) for shopping meet-ups. Digital promotes the exclusive human experience.

It’s a given that in 2012 Siri, on command, will text your friends and invite them to go shopping. The bigger question is – whose command? Will shoppers use Siri to extend invitation to friends? Or will a savvy retailer ask Siri to help them invite like-minded shoppers to an enhanced retail experience?

What are your thoughts?