December 16, 2013

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What Women Want Women buy everything. They are the ultimate predictors of commercial success for most brands. The recent SheSpeaks/LippeTaylor Holiday Shopping Index offers us some insights into consumers’ confidence levels and holiday shopping plans. Among the 3000 American women surveyed the economic outlook is mixed. Forty percent feel confident or somewhat confident in their families’ financial situation and forty-three percent don’t, up nineteen points from last year. This reflects the haves versus the have-nots we are hearing about daily. Ninety one percent of those responding will spend the same or less than last year. About half (48%) will spend less on holiday gifts while another forty-three percent will spend the same as last year. So its no surprise that retail is running below forecast regardless of a shorter holiday season. Most consumers will shop both online and offline. Six out of ten will use a shopping app. The most popular apps will be those offering coupons, retail store apps and comparative shopping tools. Finding value, getting the most for the money and racking up loyalty points or scoring deals is clearly on women’s minds. Facebook, Amazon Wish Lists and Pinterest will be useful shopping resources. One in five shoppers will seek out flash sale sites. Women are generally concerned about the quality of gifts received. Tchotchkes and knick-knacks are the absolute worst. Extended family members generally give the worst gifts, which explains why 25% of those surveyed admit to re-gifting. If you are shopping for women clothing, personal technology, beauty products and gift cards are at the top of their wish lists. Though making the right brand, size or quality decision can be tricky. If in doubt, give a gift card because nothing says, “I love you” better than cash or cash equivalents. While not surprising, these results suggest that the economy is still much shakier than we’ve been thinking. The impetus for brands and marketers is to focus on customer experience to establish value and incent sales
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4 Hot Marketing Topics for 2014 A new year means new budgets, new priorities, new alignments and new worries. Here are four critical issues my clients are working on for 2014. Leveraging Loyalty. People with strong connections to favorite brands buy more, buy more often and influence others to buy. Identifying, engaging and motivating these people to serve as vocal advocates are high on every brand’s wish list. Incenting loyal customers to talk up a brand, especially in social media, is an incredibly efficient way to go to market. A strong base of loyalists gives brands added flexibility in allocating trade and media resources. The challenge is that loyalty is a fleeting psychological state not just a points, rewards or coupon scheme. The heartiest brand advocate can be eliminated with a single bad experience or an incredible price offer. Today’s tout can be tomorrow’s critic with one click. Consumers are fickle and are constantly being offered new and different deals in the hope to enroll them as loyal customers. The archetypical programs, like air miles, have been consistently devalued and complicated. Getting loyalty right is a matter of understanding the customer mindset, in the moment and over time, and mapping an appropriate series of stimuli and responses to intersect customer behavior and attitudes. Ideally brands can enhance existing consumer behavior by focusing on the most profitable prospects by combining triggered surprise and delight experiences with escalating incentives that can be tracked and quantified. The ultimate solution is a combination of customer intimacy and smart segmentation, regular genuine two-way conversation and feedback and a data infrastructure for continuous measurement and improvement. This sounds much easier than it is to execute well. Making Sense of Measurement. Brands have gone statistics crazy. Everybody counts everything. Each silo reports numbers weekly, monthly and quarterly. Each agency produces a colorful graphic dashboard. Marketers have mountains of data that they can’t make sense of. Brands are missing the big picture and lack actionable intelligence. The search is on for standardized key performance indicators (KPIs). Generally there are two critical metrics questions. Are we meeting our business/profitability goals or forecasts? And are we using our resources as efficiently as possible? Getting the answers requires brands to break down silos and share sensitive business data with key partners. Centralizing analysis of disparate data with one team, preferably a team without media buying responsibilities, provides dispassionate insights. Developing a reporting cadence that is long enough to see developing trends and short enough to respond to marketplace or competitive developments is critical. Synching Social Media. The role, value and ROI of social networks have been a mystery since they came on the scene. Now that many brands have considerable followings and social networks are morphing from purely word-of-mouth to paid advertising vehicles, marketers are eager to understand how the channels fit together and how they map to and impact consumer buying cycles. Brands are asking tactical questions. Is Facebook an awareness or lead generation tool? Will carefully crafted or sponsored celebrity tweets impact the top or the bottom of the sales funnel. Can Pinterest drive brand differentiation and preference or accelerate the buying process? Should brands run simultaneous or sequential email, Facebook ads and broadcast or cable spots to introduce a new product? Independent data is hard to come by, though online retailers know that multi-channel buyers are their best customers. Media mix models rely on assumptions and very fuzzy math when it comes to social networks. Social network sales reps are eager to find numbers or conduct research to justify buys. Trial-and-error is the current state of the art. Maximizing Mobility. Mobile users, the majority of our population, expect to access brands on many devices whenever and wherever the mood strikes. Consumers expect content and sites, no matter what device or form factor is used, to be easy to see or read and easy to interact with. Unique patterns of behavior by segment, device, task and time-of-day are emerging. Brands must be aware of and respond to these trends and produce content that meets consumer functionality and graphic expectations. That means scan-able and snack-able content, rendered quickly and clearly with easy-to-use buttons and links that require the minimum number of clicks. Similarly mobile advertising, while still in the early stages, is much more dependent on mood, timing and device than its digital and traditional counterparts. Understanding mobile usage by brand and by audience is a key research need.

Danny Flamberg

I am a veteran marketing consultant working with leading and emerging brands

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