Peeking into Retail Windows

What ever happened to retail windows that could cause a shopper to pause and ponder?

These windows did just that.

Thank you, Louis Vuitton, for your design point of view – worth taking a moment to appreciate. Amidst the crowd on King St. in Charleston, you managed to not only bemuse, but also to reflect the scene on the street itself.

 

Louis Vuitton retail window – Charleston, SC

 

Retail Fitness? Off the scale……

My son, 23, can not afford a fancy gym membership, but he does pay for a basic workout membership at a local franchised Planet Fitness.

In the club, there’s a separate area with tanning beds, massage tables… you know…the spa side. It’s usually not very busy.

So, when he inquired about the option for a per-use visit fee, seeking to book a massage, he was told that basic members cannot buy services in the mostly empty spa side on a one-off basis.

Why?

“Because it’s too confusing for the employees.”

You tell me why “retail” is so unfit today!

 

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.

 

 

I’m totally upside down!

Putting a camera in front of my face is one of my favorite ways to use my brain. For me, when I’m using my vision and perspective with the equipment, I’m also allowing my brain to do its own thing with whatever I’m working on for business.

The beauty is the dual outcome. I get photos that please me and ideas that please my clients.

What’s not to love about that?

Here’s a little treat of a photo on a clear fall day at Big Lake in Northern Michigan. I love this reflective world we live in!!

The world on the lake is wonderful when it’s upside down.

 

The Primal Urge

It’s August and I’m shopping. Like a siren, the back-to-school shopping crave pulls me into Nordstrom.  But my kids are out of school and I’m not in school. I saw no ads, I have no flyers from the postman. I should resist the primal urge. But the bell’s ringing in my head and I want to be in the stores.

I have rationale, believe me! Industry conference season is coming up and I’m a consultant. That equals a need, but really, a desire to be in the stores browsing all the new arrivals is the real pull.

I have yet another rationale! This one involves upcoming  travel to the Caribbean and summer sale racks. This means nice clothes without sticker shock. Works for me, and is surely the reason the for a jam packed parking lot.

I know why July retail sales were up, and why Back-To_School forecasts f02 2012 are up. It’s just that we really WANT to be in the marketplace. It’s primal, and seasonal. Just like the urge to go to the farmer’s market for the late summer harvest, we are pulled to the mall.

For the sake of the industry of shopping, this pleases me.

So does this cute seasons’ hottest mustard skirt I bought.  And the shoes!  Nothing beats new red shoes!.

 

Be. Very. Afraid.

Just take a look at this chart.

 

What shoppers had to say in Q1 2012 about their method of shopping.

Shoppers said shopping in bricks and mortar retailers is reliable and safe.

Reliable and Safe. Reminds me of the guys my parents used to tell me to date when I was seventeen. I then brought home guys of whom they were very afraid.

Reliable and Safe. Major brick and mortar retailers in the U. S. should be very afraid.  These words are not the hallmarks of the future of in-store retail, in my humble opinion.

The kids are bringing home convenient, easy and favorite.

Recently, I was reading The Buying Brain, which has a chapter about several types of in-store experiences that engage shoppers’  brains, causing them to rate that experience as more superior. In this neuroscience research, conducted by Nielsen-owned NeuroFocus, the types of experiences shoppers connect with in brick and mortar stores have one of the following elements:

Entertainment.

Information. (as in findability)

Education.

Social/Self Worth.

Community.

We need to ask shoppers about these words. But, first, we need to deliver on them in store-based retail. It’s not impossible, but it takes commitment and investment in more than just the goods on the shelf.

Reliable and Safe. These words are a hint to the kiss of death, not the kiss of a passionate connection.

Real live retail without a passionate connection to the shopper?

Be. Very. Afraid.

Is Sinking Shopper Conversion is a “No Shit, Sherlock” Finding?

It seems that otherwise very successful retailers are having an effectiveness problem.  Their social media efforts to boost traffic and sales from their mobile commerce sites aren’t working.  Fancy that! The shopper is isn’t converting to buyer at rates the retailers had hoped.

This bears looking into.

The company who produced and reported these metrics supports the mobile apps and commerce platforms for retailers including American Eagle Outfitters, Ralph Lauren, Sephora, Anthropologie, Dick’s Sporting Goods, GNC, Steve Madden, TigerDirect, West Marine, Timberland and Crate & Barrel.

The CIO of the company, called Branding Brand says this: “Many retailers are flooding social media and jumping on the bandwagon, (to get shoppers to visit their mobile sites and apps) but are they attracting someone who will actually buy?”

I have different questions.

1. Who is tracking the target shopper’s in-real-life response to the content being delivered on social media? Is the shopper actually going to the store to buy instead of to the mobile site or is there no compelling content in the social media that is inspiring engagement at all?

2. Is the social media being done on a local basis? National social media trying to drive very market based retail sales has continues to show poor results. Localizing the origin of the social efforts will typically produce better results because shoppers consider shopping a local activity, and they want to talk about it and do it with those in their closer networks, not a corporate social media manager sitting in some office somewhere.

3. Speaking of lack of engagement… is this a “no shit Sherlock” finding? Note the retailers that were part of this “conversion drop-off “study are highly experiential and engaging places to shop.  A mobile experience that enhances convenience is quite different from the pleasure of a self-indulgent trip to Sephora. I can’t imagine the mobile commerce experience having much of a sensory pull like the store does.

There are so many ways to influence a shopper. Pushing social media at them with a call to visit mobile commerce sites may not be what’s even remotely close to effective when  in-store experience delivers on shopper’s desires for interactive and meaningful interactions. At most of these retailers, the shopping experience even includes real humans to help you!

Perhaps the social media efforts of these retailers should be more focused on a local call to action to meet up at the store, to engage in and enjoy the experience the retail brand is known for, not just use a mobile app that’s about price or convenience.  A shopper visit that converts is one that delivers what the shopper craves…an emotional human connection. Someone to help. guide, inform, entertain, feel in community with….. Imagine that, an enhanced shopping experience at retail. Human influence as effective media versus efficient.

In the world of all things digital, perhaps we need to stop and consider human behavior as it is, instead of using digital media and technology as a come-on that doesn’t feel like much more than another efficient spend on a marketing push.

Shoppers can see right through that one-way push, and they ignore it.  Shoppers are hard-wired to enjoy the social shopping experience. I say let’s use more local social media to inspire and empower the shopper to get off the couch and come on back to the store.

What’s your take on it?

 

 

Of frames and frameworks

My life lately has been full of frames. For my dear friends’ daughter who was recently married, a Waterford picture frame to help her forever cherish the memory of her wedding day on June 15 to a man that is truly her soulmate.

For my son, a new flexible frame backpack that he’ll use for a life-framing trip to Isle Royale National Park up in Lake Superior that begins on June 22.  May he find the flexibility to succeed despite any obstacle he encounters.

For me,  a month’s worth of work that revolves around patterns and frameworks. Big picture thinking brought info focus by developing frameworks that will guide differentiating actions. This work frames up why I absolutely love what I do for a living.

And also for me, an injury to my frame. And the potential to deploy a lesson I know well in business and now need to apply to my personal life.  “When you hear a voice say “I’ve got your back” that voice should really belong to the person who faces you in the mirror every day.   I’ll certainly be taking the fitness of my “frame” more seriously as I go forward.

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.

Hello Kitty

I’ve always been a fan of the Hello Kitty brand, mostly because the founders never “gave” the brand a positioning, It was always about letting the consumer define what it meant to her. I loved that.

Until yesterday, I was cool with that. But yesterday I wandered around the Chicago Cultural Center (which is an amazing space) during a break from the 8th Annual Marketing to Women Conference, into an exhibit that was a celebration of type and fonts and words. (very cool exhibit, btw)

Being a marketing woman for decades, I must say the exhibit was super engaging and I took a bunch of pictures and fully enjoyed the visual stimulation.

And then I found this image titled “Hell No Kitty” and it made me sad. Especially since some guy, named Zach Schrey, whoever he is (and I’m NOT googling him) exhibited this screen print he did in 201o of the Hello Kitty image.

a sad day for women

I’m sad because this was and is an iconic brand that always inspired women to create their own meaning, which is an uber-powerful concept, especially in marketing, where the norm is to push your brand meaning out and on to your target audience. Hello Kitty trail-blazed the idea that women, even young girls, had power to create meaning in the world.

And then,  some random guy who I don’t even know just trashes all that goodness with what he calls art, titled “Hell No Kitty.” All I can say is UGH! Well, I could say more but it might be profane.

I’m posting his “art” even though I don’t want to give him any press. But I am posting it so women might be inspired to rise up and say “HELL YES KITTY” as an anthem for women to make their own mark and their own meaning in the world of marketing today.

That is the inspiration I got from the 2012 Marketing to Women conference called She’s Got the Power. She does, and she is me and you and us. So let’s just use that power. Shall we? I plan to use mine by buying and gifting Hello Kitty merchandise to all the young girls I know. Will you join me?