Friday, January 25, 2013

The Real Level of e-flyer Usage

What's wrong with omitting an adverb?

In an interesting article about digital promotions, and eflyers in particular, there is this sentence:
E- flyers, on the other hand, aren’t nearly as popular. Only six per cent of Canadians use them, according to a 2011 KubasPrimedia poll.
The comparison is to the overall readership among Canadians - which is near saturation levels at 75% plus depending on source.   If three-out-four read weekly flyers, does it make sense that less than 1 in 10 use the digital equivalent?  Particularly in the age of smartphones and tablets.

Looking for the original report from Kubas I ran across this comparison of print to eflyers which contains this bullet point:
  • A relatively small number, 6%, use e-flyers exclusively.
Sound familiar? The key is that last word.

In the Kubas report the usage of flyers is reported in a nice graph.
This looks like 62% of the measured audience uses e-flyers - or 10x what the Canadian Grocer article states.   I'm sure that difference matters to marketers and merchandisers. 
  • Since there is little incremental reach, the role of the digital promotions is not a pure acquisition play; it reinforces the brand.
  • The form factor for the delivery of promotional content in page form is still "OK" for the moment.  Although, the article does list out some interesting trends - aggregation across retailers, personalization and repurposing.
  • Cross-channel marketing and consistently delivering the content along the shopping journey matters.
So, check the source of those claims...

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Post-Digital Retail Marketing

Where are the opportunities now that digital is so 2012?

First, let's use David Cooperstein's description of what post-digital means. In a year-end post in Forbes, he described several key characteristics of the new marketing landscape.
  1. Budgets will be based on outcomes, not silos.   Since consumers don't think or care about channels, there will be an emphasis on more integration to achieve objectives.
  2. Campaigns (programs) will be designed the way consumers think and act.  Start with the questions: How do they want to engage?  and Why do some hate doing business with us?
  3. Push digital into the physical realm to facilitate choice and decision making by making interesting and relevant information ubiquitous along the journey.  
  4. Leading organizational structures will no longer be driven by media type; agencies are sure to follow.
These trends suggest there are new opportunities within retail that simply aren't re-purposing existing thinking on digital platforms.   Here are two likely candidates:

  • Broadly speaking, this is the use of a mobile device in store as part of the shopping experience.  The more specific definition continues to include later purchasing online making it evil in the eyes of some.   Some baseline metrics:
    • While it varies by country, showrooming behavior exceeds 40% among Millennials
    • Stores still matter (for now) since 80+% of transactions occur in store.   However, when viewed from online purchases nearly half were Showroomers.  That is, given an online purchase - about 50% of those consumers got some information in store first.
  • This behavior suggests that consumers are simply trying hard to minimize their risk.   They want to...
    • Avoid buyers remorse. Often done by checking reviews to see how other people feel about the product.
    • Be assured of a good enough deal. Price comparison (and matching) is a way to ensure we're not getting screwed.
    • Trade off the right benefits.   Convenience of the here and now, as well as click to store, are powerful factors in the purchase process.
  • Given given that value is the ratio of benefits to price there are numerous things that retailers can do on the benefit side of the equation. And that means looking for emotional, promotional, informational and communal content opportunities.
  • Retail remains on a course where marketing and merchandising will continue to intersect.   And this is no more evident than in the area of promotions.
    • The principles of CRM are being used to deliver targeted offers - whether in an email or in-store.  Tailoring offers based on purchase history works.
    • Digital and print circulars are complements, not substitutes, thus allowing for different consumer experiences based on the same offer library.  In the post-digital age consumers will want to access more information from whenever and wherever.
    • The incremental reach from flyers is probably less than 10% (given the dominance of print reach) suggesting that merely replicating the page experience is only the first step toward providing consumers value.
  • Price isn't the only attribute of a promotion.   Exclusivity - either in time or person - makes offers more attractive. 
    • Personalization drives sales; as do "Deal Chic" and intermittent reinforcement. But special needs to mean special, not just a word used weekly.
    • Since consumer needs vary across retail segments (expert opinion is important in pharmacy, not so much in apparel) the offer should include what consumers value most.
  • The competitive nature requires that offers get in the hands of as many consumers as possible; and this still means physical distribution.  
    • The digital equivalent to the door knob is the banner ad; and it doesn't take much to imagine linking POS data with the delivery of display ads in a kind of "Merchandise Re-targeting" scenario that leverages geo-targeting in both worlds.
I'm sure there is much more....but these seem like a good place to start thinking.


Big Data is Not a Thing

Is Big Data a thing or an attitude?

We often read stories that use Big Data as a proper noun, either as representative of the future - "Big data: The next frontier.." or just something to deal with - "Is Big Data too big to back up?"   But as a noun, we run the risk of trying to characterize it with adjectives we understand and verbs we commonly use.

The opportunities provided for by the recognition and manipulation of streaming events (even if they're static for the moment) are quite new.   We now have the opportunity to work at the most granular events of processes rather than with surrogate aggregates.   Early in my career I worked with data from 300 customers and monthly warehouse withdrawals as a means of predicting new product success.  Today, the volume, velocity and variety of the available data allows for all kinds of nuanced simulated test marketing models.  All of which provide a better understanding of how and where consumers decide to try a new product.

Maybe we should look at the burgeoning field of data journalism - the purpose of which is to ultimately tell a story.  Mirko Lorenz depicts the process as follows, where data by itself has no real value.

Looks like a strategic planning or creative brief to me; just change 'public' to 'consumer'.   In most organizations, marketers are in the best position to do the filtering and visualization aspects - and those are activities not things.  

The early adoption of this approach is likely to be to confirm the stories we're currently telling - Do the data support what we claim?   The big data phase will be to create new stories from the ground up.  And it is there that game-changing stories will be found.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Implications of Being Digital

What do we have to do to be 'digital'?

Some quotes and comments that reflect the changing face of marketing:
"You can't think or strategize to perfection." BCG
"What do people hate about doing business with us, and can we use digital to fix it?” Forbes
"if you have 100,000 employees and you’ve got only 14 that actually know this stuff ..., you’re not going to get sustainable change."  McKinsey
The above represent some serious challenges to most organizational cultures.   We will simultaneously have to learn that a) facts replace opinions, b) marketing isn't fluff, and c) analysis is everybody's job.  Guessing won't be good enough.

Based on the above articles, a company can be considered digital if in 2013 it...
  1. Boasts deep in-house digital skills (or at least leadership)
  2. Marries brand and technology
  3. Understands how consumers choose and use technology 
For the marketing ecosystem (agencies, marketing services, technology vendors) that support such clients change is coming.   No longer will we have separate and distinct roles - we are going to have to play nice with others because the solutions will be framed from the consumer's point of view and they don't care about us.

And we'll need to bring something of value to the table.  Be it a curious mind, a blend of business and digital acumen or analytic chops.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Migrating from Beliefs to Hypotheses

Is there a difference, and does it matter?

A recent set of conversations about how various marketing campaigns were performing all included the phrase: "I believe".
  • I believe the drop in acquisitions is due to the holiday period
  • I believe the lift in sales is incremental
  • I believe the best to time to contact consumers is before or after work
Beliefs are premises that we hold be true based on personal conviction.  Challenging them can get ugly, so we often condition ourselves not to offer alternatives - particularly when dealing with HiPPOs (Highest paid person's opinion.)  In comparison, hypotheses - which can be stated with equal conviction - are meant to be challenged and proven to be correct or rejected. 

Sometimes it is easier to work under a belief system than a hypothesis-driven one for the simple reason: there is a lot more work to do.
  • What are the right questions?
  • How do we go about answering them?
  • How can we be sure?
In a post about 'The Year of Measured Retail', the folks at RSR make the point:  Lame questions lead to lame insights and that "if no one asks the right questions, no one will get the game-changing answers."  And that means being free to get creative rather than shot down. And their research suggests that the best performing retailers have an outspoken visionary leading the change.

And to be creative, we need to be able to see the shopping experience from the consumer perspective.  As evidence of this view, the Media Decoder blog of the NYT highlighted a set of M&A deals that reflect a roll up along the journey in order to provide clients with end-to-end solutions.   No more silos means lots of unknowns.

The surety issue suggests that we need the tools to reduce risk by quantifying uncertainty - and that is the domain of analysis in general and statistics in particular.   These disciplines are grounded on the notion of testing hypotheses.  Thick skins required; it won't be personal.

So, how do we transition from a belief system to a culture of testing?  Some recommendations:
  1. State what assumptions have to be true for a belief (or opinion) to be valid.
  2. Focus on confirming the assumptions, one at a time, where being proven wrong has less impact.
  3. Build to the conclusion slowly, in bite size pieces, to allow it all to sink in since the mind is the hardest thing of all to change.
In the end, try to get everyone in the habit of asking questions rather than stating opinions as facts.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Blog Post Number 500

What I have I learned by writing this blog?

This is the 500th post I've written since late 2006.  So, I thought I'd interview myself and see what I have to say.

Why did you start a blog?
At the time blogs were both a source and outlet of thinking ans analysis.  So, I thought I should share some of my thinking as well as interesting ideas.  At the time the posts weren't written around a single topic, but rather an anthology of topics.

How has the blog evolved?
Over time it tracks the discussions happening in the marketing world. For example, both social media and data-driven have been common themes.  More recently it has been more focused around the implications of such trends. 

From a communication point of view, Twitter and LinkedIn feeds are now much better sources for reference material.  As a result, I try to think more about what value I can add to the mix. 

Having a different point of view and an opinion seems to work best.  For instance, arguing that we need social media strategies because everyone is on Facebook is akin to arguing we need a billboard strategy because everyone drives.

What do you want a post to do?
Since there are a lot of detailed analyses, how-to, and news oriented sources I try to take a different approach and synthesize a variety of sources and roll them up into a conclusion or implication.    Since people are likely to scan web content, I try to make them succinct and pithy, often with a sense of humor.   

In the end, I simply hope they stimulate thought and more conversation.  One of the most circulated was entitled 'leveraging communities of interest' which looked at common interests as the new demographics.

What is the benefit of blogging?
For me it started as a personal project and it remains so today.  But I'll admit it, while I like the retweets I really feel good when people say 'interesting take on...'

Now, back to figuring out marketing in the fluid fog - what we need to do when everything is interactive and people are the media. 

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

7 Traits of Data Driven Marketers

How do you know a marketing organization is data driven?
  1. The CMO talks about hypotheses not just strategies, freeing you to test them.
  2. Creative briefs and manifestos are equal part aspiration and analysis.
  3. Every manager has a 'just say yes' budget for testing crazy ideas.
  4. The interns the company just hired speak HTML, Java and particularly R.
  5. People are obsessed with how to find and fix what's broken (digitally).
  6. Every presentation starts and ends with: "We still don't know...."
  7. Everyone asks 'what do the data say?' when responding to HiPPO (highest paid person's opinion.)
The above points come from a collection of sources, interviews and articles so apologies to the authors for not finding the links to their original thinking. 

Monday, January 07, 2013

Marketing with the Five Senses

Can a smartphone smell or feel?

Each year IBM posts the annual"5 in 5" - trends that their analysts see occurring in the next several years.   The question of interest: how will the five senses be integrated into technology?

While the examples cover everything from monitoring soil to reading MRI's for anomalies there are implications related to retail marketing.  
  • The goal of satisfying needs profitability requires a) making it easy to decide in the face of hyper-choice and b) providing a frictionless path to purchase/consumption.   A lot has been done in the latter arenas, e.g. click-to-store and text2buy.  These five trends suggest that the experiential part of choosing will be next frontier in retail.
  • Of the five senses, they will be adopted in the order in which consumers find them useful to filter out noise and uncertainty.  The trends suggest that devices will provide input on the environment, not just show features.  
  • Examples of these trends abound today...
    • Sight: virtual and augmented reality is used in a number cases where information is overlaid based on context and location.
    • Hearing: SoundHound and Shazam make building playlists easy by identifying ambient tunes.
    • Touch: tactile products abound - from Corinthian leather to shag carpet - that need to be felt to buy.
    • Smell: breathalyzer apps like Alcohoot use the same process as smell.   Can a wine app be too far behind?
    • Taste: the business rules for food pairing are continuously evolving.  Thus, it seems likely that judging the freshness of fruit and seafood can't be far behind.
Some broad thoughts about the future that are broad, strategic 'facts of life':
  • The future comes slower than we think, but change happens faster.  Thus, any predictions are likely to be vaguely correct but precisely wrong.  Remember, ATT passed on the mobile market in the early 80s when the number of handsets was estimated to be less than 1 million in 20 years time.
  • Miniaturization allows for portability. We have willingly morphed into cyborgs where technology is used to enhance our normal capabilities.   The smartphone/tablet is a step in the communication pathway and glasses will be next.
  • Disruption will happen on the fringe where problems are solved rather than products being sold.  LifeWatch, the first medical device based on current mobile standards is in development based on patents filed 10 years ago.
Time to get creative about putting the smart into a device.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Marketing in 2013

What does the future hold for marketers?

The season for highlighting consumer trends for 2012 has come to a close.   Firms like JWT Intelligence, Trendwatching and Global Trends identified a number of trends that can be summarized as follows...
  • Technology will be used to do anything, anywhere at any time - with shopping and knowing leading the list of personalized tasks.
  • Social connections, both known and unknown, will be leveraged to make decisions or get help- from opinions to content to money.
  • The choice to interact with a brand will be based on our values or well being, e.g. green or organic. At a minimum our expectation is that the senses will be stimulated.
So, what does this suggest for marketing?  Some thoughts:
  • If an organization isn't buzzing with activity and doesn't look somewhat frenetic then it is going too slow.   The number of options in the 'unknown unknown' category is simply too large to try to sort it all out before executing. 
  • Share of wallet results from providing a frictionless, enjoyable experience worth talking about.  This requires leadership from marketing generalists with a strong understanding of technology, not subject matter experts or [adjective] marketers.
  • Purpose trumps offers.  We need brand marketers to provide the guidelines required to keep from falling into the short term realm of exaggeration
Time to create a 'just do it' budget.