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The countdown is on and the holiday shopping season is in full swing! And, just as we expected, the mobile revolution is making its mark. How you ask? Check out this infographic by Sparked that takes a look at how mobile usage is transforming engagement between brands and consumer this holiday season:
Black Friday is as much a part of Thanksgiving as turkey. Lines upon lines of people waiting in the cold night, their bellies full of stuffing and pumpkin pie, their wallets ready to be emptied in what is America’s busiest shopping day of the year. Walmart’s chief marketing office called Black Friday the Super Bowl of retail.
Some Black Friday experiences involve groups of family members sipping on to-go cups of steaming coffee, waiting to get their children’s big Christmas present 75% off. Others have experiences not unlike the running of the bulls in Pamplona. But they all involve late nights in the cold. From 2000 on, the hours have crept earlier and earlier, from Friday dawn to as early as 11pm on Thursday. The earlier these stores open the more business they get.
This year, however, the larger stores will be opening as early as 5pm on Thursday. Some news outlets attribute this year’s early opening to this year’s calendar quirk: there are six days less of shopping this year between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Retailers live for the holiday season. It almost makes sense to ask families to wrap up their dinners and take them to go. Next year we’re having an equally late Thanksgiving and if one retailer seems to be getting all the Christmas list shopping because it opens a few hours earlier we might be seeing a repeat next year.
However, encouraging people to shop while their families are still eating dinner isn’t going so well with many Americans. As one Facebook user put it: “I used to love shopping on Black Friday at Walmart, Unfortunately, my money will be going elsewhere this year as I choose to spend thanksgiving with my family.” Furthermore, Daily Finance reports that retailers that opened on Thursday did not see incredible sale hikes.
Will the happy deal shoppers outweigh those who do not want to shop on Thursday?
And just because I definitely was sold on some of these deals, here’s a compiled list of great Black Friday deals (via USA Today):
• Get a $100 gift card when you buy any iPad.
• iPhone 5s is selling for $179 with a two-year contract with AT&T or Verizon Wireless.
• $30 gift card when you buy an iPhone 5s.
• Samsung is offering a 55-inch, LED HDTV for $697.99, a savings of $202.
• Nikon L320 camera for $99, regularly priced at $229.99.
• LED TV will be available for $98 on Nov. 28.
• Apple iPad mini Wi-Fi 16GB is going for $299 with a complimentary $100 Walmart gift card.
• 50% or more off headphones, car electronics, tablet cases, cellphone cases, and laptop bags.
• $15 of free Kohl’s cash to spend in the store with every $50 you spend on Thanksgiving or Black Friday.
• LG 42-inch HDTV is selling for $379.99.
The 2013 4A’s Strategy fest & Jay Chiat Awards, held in Nashville, TN this year, were a huge success (yee-haw!). It was a crazy couple of days filled with panel discussions, dynamic speakers, case study presentations and even an improv workshop. Though everyone did an outstanding job, I have to say the Cole Haan “Chelsea Pump Campaign” by BBH NY/Deep Focus was by far my favorite case study presentation. It was the perfect mix of social media, art, expression, and spunk needed to engage their new target consumer. If you don’t have time to read the entire case study, check out the video below that highlights how BBH NY/Deep Focus succeeded with this campaign. Congratulations to the team at BBH NY/Deep Focus for a Gold Jay Chiat Award!
Blockbuster is dead. It has been a long time coming but the demise of the cultural icon of home movie viewing is officially over, heralding the end of an era where renting a movie was an “event” that offered a sense of excitement and anticipation of leaving the house to wander the aisles of the video store in search of an evening of entertainment.
What I find particularly interesting about Blockbuster closing its last 300 stores is the juxtaposition of the demise of the video store with the revival of vinyl and the rise of record stores. Every city and town that I have been to lately has one, if not a few, record stores. The growth of record stores confounds all logical explanation in a world where analog technology is going the way of the dodo.
All of this makes me wonder if VHS tapes will eventually make a comeback. I realize there are all kinds of arguments about the quality of sound that vinyl produces that probably do not apply to the quality of video that is possible with VHS technology. But nonetheless there is word creeping out about VHS watching parties in such hotspots as Hollywood and Brooklyn and VHS swap meets in Seattle, Portland, and Austin. So if you have an old VCR and VHS collection that you just haven’t been able to part with, don’t throw it out just yet. And as for your old Blockbuster membership card… you may want to hold on to that too, because once VHS comes back around the way vinyl has, you may just be able to use it again.
Consumer insights research is an extremely fascinating line of work for those with an innate curiosity about what makes people and the world around us tick. Through the research we conduct we get to continually learn about a broad diversity of industries, brands, and consumers as we dive into uncovering insights and finding solutions to the specific challenges facing our clients. We also, however, get an interesting read on the broader cultural, social, and business macro-trends that cause the anxieties that lead to the requests for research that cross our desks.
Over the last year there has been increasing interest among clients wanting to conduct consumer journey research as they seek to make sense of, and strategize against, the multitude of digital touchpoints that consumers face across the multiscreen world that has officially “arrived,” according to Google CEO Larry Page. As e-commerce and retail sales through mobile devices increases exponentially, everyone wants to be sure they are on that train as to avoid becoming the proverbial BlackBerry of the mobile communications game.
However, considering the possibility that we may be missing the forest for the trees, it would do us well to take a step back from our myopic focus on all things digital, mobile, and multiscreen to take the broader view about where people are actually spending their money. As it turns out, e-commerce accounts for only about 6% of retail sales in the U.S.
This is not to say that 6% of retail sales is insignificant. U.S. online retail sales are predicted to be $262 billion this year, have grown at an average yearly rate of nearly 18%, and are expected to grow at 10% a year through 2017. It is also worth noting that retailers like Nordstrom who have invested heavily in e-commerce and mobile strategy are seeing a return on their investment and certain industries (e.g., books and music) have been drastically changed as a result of e-commerce. Finally, we only need to remember that at one point in the not too distant past only 6% of people in the U.S. used the internet and that forward thinking business opportunities, like the internet stock bubble and NBA draft picks, are based on expectations for future potential.
But what shouldn’t be forgotten in all of this excitement about the seemingly endless opportunity around online and mobile engagement and shopping is the value of brick-and-mortar stores for consumers and retail brands. Even Amazon, the soon to be #2 global retailer behind Walmart whose existence is solely based on online sales, is interested in opening retail stores.
A recent study conducted by A.T. Kearney titled “Recasting the Retail Store in Today’s Omnichannel World,” concluded that “while retailers need to continue to provide customers the ability to shop where and when they want, it is equally important to make the store the place people want to shop.” Brick-and-mortar stores provide, perhaps most importantly, an opportunity for consumers to experience instant gratification, a basic trait of human nature. Retail stores also provide a location for consumers to enjoy the social aspect of shopping with friends or family as well as an opportunity for retailers to build relationships and loyalty with their customers through personalized face-to-face service.
Shopping at brick-and-mortar stores is also much more likely to lead to impulse purchases, with 40% of respondents saying they spend more than they planned to in stores compared to 25% who spend more than anticipated online. While the internet is ideal for researching and discovering products and brands from the comfort of the couch, it seems the unanticipated discovery that is experienced in-store is more likely to lead to an actual purchase, perhaps because in-person spontaneous purchases fulfill our desire and instinct for instant gratification.
Considering the positive aspects of shopping at brick-and-mortar for both consumers and retailers, the challenge becomes figuring out how to integrate desktop and mobile digital touchpoints and e-commerce with the brick-and-mortar retail experience to create an interconnected brand ecosystem. A practical and easy way of creating a multichannel retail experience that has the potential of improving sales and consumer/brand relationships is offering and encouraging consumers to pick-up or return products purchased online in the retail store which, as it turns out, they actually prefer. For all the focus on the importance of free shipping, offering an incentive for additional purchases when coming into the store to either pick-up or return something purchased online could be a purchase motivator on par with free shipping. Getting these consumers in-store gets them closer to experiencing that feeling of instant gratification while also offering the retail brand an opportunity to create personalized social interactions with the consumer.
While digital and mobile strategy is clearly the hot topic driving much of the creative innovation and research these days, integrating these efforts with opportunities for in-store retail engagement cannot be ignored and should be considered as an integral part of strategic initiatives. That is, until the day that we can purchase something on our mobile device and have it instantly teleported to wherever we are. Teleportation will undoubtedly be a retail disruptor the likes of which we have not yet seen, and at that point all bets are off!
How important is concision to brands?
Less really is more, especially in marketing. It might be a bit off-putting for brand handlers to put less and less information about a brand out there but consumers today are seeking minimalism and brevity because they are inundated with information all day, every day. We see this minimalism in successful brands like Apple, Google and in Pinterest’s UX.
A recent MediaPost article made the case that if you can’t boil down your brand message to a sentence or two it will get lost. “The reality is our customers don’t think about the brand every day the way we do,” explains John Costello, president of global marketing and innovation for Dunkin Donuts. “More devices equal more distractions,” he said. “We are finding that in a distracted world we really need to have consistency of message. We are finding a greater premium on making all of those screens consistent.”
Our hyper-connected lives are forcing us to become more simplified information absorbers and 2014’s successful marketing campaigns are predicted to be those that focus on a concise message. Forbes listed ‘Less is More” as one of the 7 Top Marketing Trends for 2014: “With many consumers feeling burned out by a constant barrage of information and advertisements that scream ‘look at me’, some of the most innovative marketers are going the opposite direction.”
Marketers need to simplify and begin catering to the consumers’ need for brevity. In today’s purchasing world, we purchase more quickly and absorb less information and a digestible message might be the only way to ‘read’ a brand. When we’re given too much information with little time to think it over we begin to over-think our purchases and feel less confident about what we buy.
As market research consultants it’s our job to explore how consumer decision making occurs on both a rational and emotional level. Typically we begin our analysis by asking our subject direct questions about behaviors, preferences, and thoughts that dictate how they interact with products and brands. But a key priority for all market research consultants, particularly those in the qualitative field, is to not only gather conscious aspects of decision making but also dig below the surface to uncover unspoken motivations, needs, and emotions that categorize the consumer experience.
Our toolbox for this type of substratum exploration includes a repertoire of social skills that help us better relate to participants. We observe participants’ facial expressions, gestures, and vocal intonation so we can relate to them and help them feel comfortable opening up to us about their experiences. While most of these skills are inherent, a new study from the journal Science suggests a new way of improving these skills. The magic pill? Read more fiction! But according to the study, it can’t just be any old potboiler. Researchers say that after reading literary fiction (not popular fiction or nonfiction), human subjects performance improved on tests measuring human relation skills such as empathy, social perception, and emotional intelligence. Literary fiction works best because the author tends not to cloister characters in predictable stereotypes, but leaves room for complexity and nuance in character development.
A perfect mental exercise for those of us whose day job involves reading participants to garner better conversation and deeper insights. So, if you’re looking for a way to refine your human connection skills, might I suggest reading a little Austen, Dostoyevsky, or Wilde? For more information on the study go here or here.
Creation stories, also known as creation myths or origin stories, are an interesting aspect of human cultural evolution that are universally found among cultures all over the world. We humans have a unique propensity to ponder our existence and reflect on both our individuality and membership in communities, and creation stories likely originated as a way to help our ancestors make sense of their place in the world.
Even today there exists in most people a curiosity about where we came from, and though some may not believe the creation stories passed down through history, everyone can at least tell their life story as well as some aspects of their family’s history. History and origin are a central part of our identity and form the backbone of our personal story that defines who we are. History is also an important part of brand identity in that history offers the story of a brands’ origins and the development of its personality.
The appeal of creation stories is but one explanation that I would offer for the success of Chipotle’s Scarecrow ad campaign. I must admit that the high production value, CGI graphics, Wizard of Oz meets Willy Wonka theme, and promotion of organic sustainably farmed food vs. mass produced processed food probably had more to do with the viral success of the ad than the Chipotle creation story that was told. However seeing the fantasized origins of Chipotle helps consumers understand the Chipotle brand persona, thereby creating a deeper connection with the brand.
For brands thinking about creating emotional connections with consumers there is value in remembering the importance of creation stories to the human experience. While the majority of consumers may not actively seek out the history and origins of brands, offering those stories taps into our basic human desire to understand the world around us.
Telling stories is a good way to understand your consumer. It’s the idea persona research is built upon – good, solid consumer research becomes a story about people’s needs and wants that your team can use to design products or services.
But persona stories can be thin, giving the basics without any life, context, or emotion. It’s a problem inherent in research. We take the voices of many and turn them into an abstraction, a set of rules, or “insights” that are prescriptive rather than inspirational.
But inspiration is the important part and stories are what inspire.
I like this example. It’s fiction from science-fiction author Tim Maughn based on hard thinking about what daily life might be like in London, 2023. It shows us his vision alongside the mundane details of daily life. It’s fiction, but feels like real life.
What does the clothing you wear really mean? Are you prone to leather, floral prints, or maybe a basic pair of khakis? What, if anything, does that say about you? At some level, I think, everyone takes what they wear into consideration to communicate to others who they “are.”
I grew up with the Clash while attending an Ivy League college. I am prone to both Doc Martens and rep ties. It just suits me (excuse the pun). But when, if ever, does what you wear “cross the line?” Nowadays, in America, an adult can pretty much wear what he/she wants out and about, though we do hear about kids wearing a certain t-shirt to school and raising a controversy, now and then.
Over the past year or so, I’ve occasionally bumped into a series of articles that piqued my interest on the topic, and not in a positive light. It seems there’s a clothing brand in Germany Thor Steinar that positions itself as an active-wear ”Nordic lifestyle” clothier, a fashion favorite among what one may arguably label themselves right wing extremists throughout central Europe. True, there’s nothing new with extremists integrating and embedding a uniform as part of their code in representing their linear, dogmatic lifestyle.
The brand has a successful following and is a growing company, which further distresses German officials. So much so that the state of Brandenburg forbids the Thor Steinar brand within its borders. Government buildings including the Bundestag and many large football stadiums refuse anyone wearing the brand on their premises. Amazon refuses to carry the brand anywhere in the world.
The brand has gone further with its opening last year of a retail store “Brevik,” named after the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik. Over the years various clothing designs and related logos have had Norwegian flags and names though some of the store’s images are painted in splattered blood red color.
I have no personal diatribe here, though I will say I found it increasingly shocking the more I read. I think it’s important that it’s further known by those outside of Germany, as ignorance can be costly. As a professional who consults to many leading brands in helping them better communicate to their intended audiences, something like this gets me further wondering about the power of brands, their symbolism, and the importance of individual choice. Choose wisely.