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:


Information. (as in findability)


Social/Self Worth.


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.

My trip to the store….

Posted on my friend Bill’s Facebook status on this blazing hot 4th of July… enjoy!

My trip to the store.

There was a bit of confusion at the store this morning. When I was ready to pay for my groceries with my credit card, the cashier said, “Strip down facing me.”

Making a mental note to complain to my congressman about Homeland Security running amok, I did just as she had instructed.

When the hysterical shrieking and alarms finally subsided, I found out that she was referring to my credit card.

I have been asked to shop elsewhere in the future.

They need to make their instructions to us seniors a little clearer!


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?



Which comes first?

Which comes first? The chicken or the egg? The sale or the system? The process or the team?

I think the answer to all of these is a combination of effort and trust.

When the bird goes through the effort to lay the egg, she trusts in the opportunity for either a meal for someone else in the food chain, or the chance for a next generation.

When the smart person sells an idea that is great, they trust the organization that they represent will put in the required effort it takes to build the system to make it happen.

And when a process comes first, it works in theory, but sometimes its the sheer effort and trust (read KARMA) of a team can shine like a beacon to lead a client through new or muddy ground toward a big win.

And that is why some of us keep our heads high and our reputation on the line every day. Bring on the chickens and the eggs. We’re building a feast!



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!)




I’ve spent many years in my career(s) being responsible for looking out the front window of the car, being responsible for having a view on what to think about next, and what to do about it. I’ve always called it the “So What, Do What” capability.

Now that I am an independent consultant, I find this to be the most valuable asset in my portfolio of services. Today’s pace of change is reminds me of a hot day in July a few years back, where I literally put the pedal to the metal and raced my little red BMW down the back road at 120+ mph. Windows open, wind in my face…..thrilling.

Scary? Sure, for the one second I thought about getting a ticket. But the thrill of the pace totally outweighs the fear. I’m not saying I’m going to race my car down that road again. But it sure is a thrill to be working in a space that feels so similar. 


Three Words for 2012

I do this because it works. Following the lead of Chris Brogan,  a business leader who continually gives to others, I set three words in 2011 and used them as a lighthouse to guide me to where I knew I wanted to be.

For 2012, I choose to use AHA! as the framework for my words. Here goes….

ASSAY. I like this verb. It means to examine and determine. It’s similar to the “So What” word I chose in 2011. It defines what I’m good at and how I conduct myself in my work. And in 2012, I am thankful to have a lot of work, so I’m keeping focus on doing great work through the selection of this word.

HEROIC. This word is the “H” word for my AHA! framework for two reasons. One, because it’s a synonym for many other words I love, such as bold, brave, spunky, and undaunted. Those words help me state who I am.

Two, in a lot of my work, the consumer (or the shopper) is the hero. As part of the executive team at my former agency, MARS, we launched the company positioning around this concept. So I feel connected enough to the concept that the shopper’s journey is analogous to the hero’s journey to use it still.

APPLY. This word is a great motivator.  Get it done. Ship it, a phrase I love thanks to Seth Godin’s great books. We all can benefit from a word that holds us to the promise of delivering great work. This is mine for 2012.

My consulting practice is built on delivering AHA! moments. These three AHA! words: ASSAY, HEROIC, APPLY, will help me continue to do just that.

What are your three words?