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Click here to view the entire video.
Yes, once again, weather seems to be thwarting another trip that I've been looking forward to for months. I get it. There's a hurricane. It's messing everything up and it's not anyone's fault. But Delta, there are things that are your fault and that you need to change:
Retail Grows in Importance: Retail spaces will become even more important as a connection point between the consumer and the brand. And the people you hire to run your retail is becoming even more important today. Do you hire to save money or to find the best people possible to represent your brand? The consumer will know the difference.So think about that the next time you're getting ready to hire someone. Would they be a great brand ambassador or are they simply a warm body that you can get on the cheap. Yea, I know money's tight, but give your employees something other then money to motivate them. Give them a passionate place to work. Give them the tools they need and let them make decisions. And don't be pissed off when you're employees don't care about the company when you cut their salaries/benefits while announcing that upper management made tens of millions in bonuses for saving the company money. If you're not going to treat them like they're important, they won't act like the company is important. I'll remind you again of something I wrote back in 2003 for Event Marketer magazine. These rules are even more important today then when I wrote more then 8 years ago. So read them and learn them. Your survival depends on knowing them!
Dozens of companies were showing mobile apps (to be truthful, they were trying to show mobile apps. Thanks to the incredibly crappy cell service at the Javits, they frequently didn't work.) and it was the hot topic of numerous presentations throughout the program. The emphasis was on putting information into the hands of the people.
And, mobile shopping tools certainly seemed to be a big part of the 2010 holiday season as well. Anecdotally, it seems that the use of cell phone based price-checking tools was on the rise this holiday shopping season. Best Buy reported lower sales and speculation was that people were looking at the items at Best Buy, but buying somewhere else. I know lots of people who do that. Yes, I do it too.
Look at some findings by a recent survey by Motorola:
A majority of retail associates (55%) said that 2010 holiday shoppers, driven by increasing availability of online shopping tools and mobile phone applications, were better connected to consumer information than in-store associates, according to a survey by Motorola Solutions.
The survey found that retailers that aren't investing in technology to stay ahead of increasingly tech-savvy shoppers are hurting their own bottom line. Nearly three in 10 (28%) store visits ended with an average of $132 unspent due to abandoned purchases driven by deal-habituated behavior, out-of-stocks, limited store associate assistance and long check-out processes.
As the Motorola survey confirms, a lot of the conversations and presentations was about how since consumers couldn't get help from the sales people on the floor, just give them the information they need on their cell phone.
There was also a great deal of conversations about making the physical retail store work and act like an online store.
Now, I'm a big of creating Oneline™ brand experiences and have also been speaking for many years about the need to e-tail your retail. So, I'm not suggesting that you shouldn't give your shoppers more information or deliver it through tools like mobile, QR codes, etc.
But, based on many conversations I've been having lately, I'm also starting to think that we're missing a big opportunity to emphasize just what makes place special. As I've said in the past, I continue to think that there's a coming trend to socialize the retail environment instead of just merchandising the real estate space. And the more we try to use the space for our purposes rather then our guests, the more they'll stay away.
Can you afford to have hundreds of thousands (or millions) of square feet of retail space and all of the expenses that go with it, and just have it act like windows for people to do online shopping? And they may not even shop online at your store! Can you continue to support online social media efforts while creating physical spaces that are almost anti-social? Sure, open up your info so that I can get it on my cell phone. But shouldn't you also hire better people and do more to train them? And create better physical spaces?
I think that retailers with physical stores need to spend a little more time looking at what makes place special. Stop trying to compete with the online world by making your places more online-like and start competing by your rules. Use place to your advantage.
Every time I go to an Apple or Lululemon store, I wonder why more retailers don't copy their model. They work. They generate great loyalty from their consumers. And they generate great return for their investors. There are plenty of other examples of retailers, big & small, that use place as an integral part of their business success.
If you're putting more effort into turning your stores into a web site, rather then capitalizing on what makes place unique, you might want to start looking for a great real estate broker to help you sell off your stores.
For example, one of our ideas was the Chase Your Dream Machines. What we realized was that people didn't know what bank services they needed, but they did know what they wanted to accomplish. So, the Dream Machine allowed customers to input financial “what if” information and see future possibilities. For example, a customer could query the device about investing $100,000 in a CD vs. a money market with an average return of X% and get hypothetical return on investment scenario along with possible recommendations on appropriate Chase products. The Chase Your Dream Machine could also package full-service programs that allow the customer to conveniently take care of items like home or auto purchases in one simple step. For instance, it could package an auto loan with On-Star, Insurance, Pre-approval paperwork and an address with specific sales referral to the nearest appropriate dealership.
Some of our ideas were pretty simple, like the Chase Blue Pages. This would be an exclusive listing service will be created to help Chase small business customers network with one another. This could be delivered in-branch at the small business area in a kiosk as well as on-line. Or the Swipe & Go Transaction, which would allow customers to swipe their Now Card, enter information and print forms or instantly transfer information to the next available teller for processing.
Given our work back then with multitouch technologies, we also recommended Interactive Windows, that would be utilized as interactive media screens or Dream Machines using projected interactive technology.
Sadly, we didn't get a chance to execute any of our ideas, but 7 years later, Citibank has opened up a branch of the future. What I like about what they're doing is that they're turning the branch into a focal point for the community. Just yesterday, I was joking about how there was a Chase branch and a Starbuck's on almost every corner in NYC and I didn't know why they just didn't combine them. Seems that Citi is realizing that they should offer their customers more then just basic banking functions at their branches.
Banks are in a very difficult position, especially at a retail level. They basically offer the same services that every other bank offers for pretty much the same price as everyone else. And most customers think that that the average bank puts itself ahead of its customers, so they don't even have a positive emotional attachment with their customers.
But I think Citi's heading in the right direction by creating a different branch experience. I'll be in the city next week and I'll make sure to checkout this new branch.
If you're interested, click on the Chase Book link to see our full presentation that we made in 2003. And if you're with a bank and like the presentation, give me a shout to see how I can help you with an experience audit.
The flagship branch that Citibank opened in New York’s Union Square today is a bit different from banks in its other locations.
Instead of picking up a paper brochure, patrons can use one of the six interactive sales walls with touchscreen capabilities to learn more about bank services. Instead of using deposit envelopes, they can use enhanced-image ATMs to deposit checks without them. And instead of waiting for business hours to speak with a customer service representative, customers can use a 24/7 video chat station in the ATM lobby.
The digital components of the 9,700-square-foot branch are based on technologies pioneered by Citibanks in Hong Kong and Singapore.
Some features of the new bank seem more suited for a cafe or a airport lounge than a bank. Customers can access free Wi-Fi (in a private seating lounge if they are Citigold customers), and “media walls” display news, weather, and information about Citibank. Atmosphere Proximity, Citi’s digital agency, also designed a chip with the bank’s social media team that accesses a special Foursquare feed. Whenever a certain amount of people check in to the branch, an “internal marketing screen” shows which users are inside the branch at that very moment.
“We want this branch to be more than just a bank,” Brad Dinsmore, Citigroup’s head of retail banking in North America, said in a speech at the opening ceremony. “We want this branch to be a place where customers view it as a hub, a center of the community, if you will. A place where they feel warm and welcome, that they can come in and experience our free Wi-Fi access.”
The problem was that as an existing customer, I wasn't able to get an upgrade until August of next year. While that would be good for whatever phones were available then, it certainly didn't help me now. And paying $500 for the phone seemed like a pretty dumb idea.
I had been to several locations in the city and they all told me the same thing -- I needed to wait until August or cough up $500 bucks. So, I went to my local T-mobile store to see what they could do.
Carlos was on duty and he punched me into the system to see what upgrades were available to me and, as expected, there were none. But as he continued to look at my account, he realized that I've been a customer for a number of years and on the spot gave me the phone for the $199 price (Yes, I probably could've pushed for a better price, I know others who did.). He started right away on the paperwork with no questions asked. His comment was that it was important to keep existing clients happy.
The entire staff there was great, with everyone helping me whenever I came by with questions or problems. The battery life was really terrible, but that seems pretty standard for smart phones these days. But a few days in, my entire contact database started disappearing. Since it's always synched with my Gmail account, I didn't lose anything, but it was kind of annoying to suddenly not have any contacts with me. I took it back to see what I should do and they swapped phones for me. Again, their attitude was "Yes, we could have you call customer service and go through that whole process or we can just take care of the problem."
I know that I can go back there at any time and they'll take care of me. That's what great customer service is all about. They know me, they take care of me. They don't make me jump through hoops to get something done. Hats off to Carlos, Rob, Alden and the whole crew there.
An interesting side note, I've now spent a lot of time looking at sites like TmoNews (The unofficial T-Mobile blog) and other sites, listening to what people are saying about T-Mobile and the service they provide. While they seem to be working to catch up with larger cell companies like AT&T and Verizon, most of their customers think they should be zigging when everyone else is zagging.
For example, I think they should offer An Early Adopter Program, rather then charging existing customers more to upgrade their phones. This would be something very different then what other cell companies are doing and maybe get them some positive attention.
Recently there have been lots of rumors about T-Mobile letting its customers tether through the phones. Some phones, like the Nexus One already does it. The phone I have has the software on it, it's just been disabled by T-Mobile. Just read what existing customers have to say about this at T-Mobile Launching $14.99 Tethering Plan November 3rd. Other then wanting to make more money, no one can understand why we have to pay extra for something we're already paying for if you have a data plan. How I use my data shouldn't matter and T-Mobile knows that. I'm OK paying for different levels of usage, but if I'm paying for 5GB (which I am now), it shouldn't matter if I use it on my phone or by tethering to my iPad.
I would love to see one of the telco's step up and try something different. Since I'm already a customers of theirs, it would be nice if it was T-Mobile. With AT&T rumored to be losing iPhone exclusivity in 2011, people will be willing to move to new carriers. T-Mobile could pick up a lot by offering things like free tethering and continuing their excellent customer service.
In addition to speaking at the conference, I'll be leading a retail tour on Friday, exploring how retailers are making changes to engage todays consumer.
Hope that you'll join us!
Your in-store marketing strategies may have included point-of-purchase displays, digital signage or even interactive displays in the past. But today’s consumer-driven technology continues to evolve, placing the at-retail environment in the best position to utilize these new tools to influence shopper behavior. Yet, many companies are overwhelmed with the rate of technology change and challenged to find ways to adopt technology into the right state.
You need to stay current with the latest technology, understand new research on shopper behavior, and develop a fresh perspective – All to ensure a winning strategy!
POPAI’s Marketing at Retail Technology and Shopper Behavior Conference will help you find answers to many pressing questions, including the following:
How do you incorporate smartphone apps, mobile advertising, near field communications, location based services, instant messaging, mobile couponing, interactive digital signage, augmented reality and more into your brand or retail strategy today? How do you align your current business and marketing objectives with the opportunities presented by these new technologies? How do you adapt externally and re-organize internally to capitalize on this emerging technology?
For this Breakthrough Thinking conference, we are assembling technology leaders in this space along with current practitioners to help you formulate stronger marketing strategies which includes effectively deploying such technologies.
Who should attend? Senior Brand and Retail Marketing executives; Communications and Strategy Officers; Buyers of displays, digital signage, mobile marketing; and Executives from companies providing products and services to the Marketing at Retail industry.
Companies have to focus on creating great customer experiences. Because when their customers go searching online—for a movie, a camera, a travel destination—their friends’ recommendations are going to be front and center. Launched a store that no one "Liked?" you’re not going to show up in the search results.
Silicon Alley Insider has a pretty clear look at how it might work. "For example, Microsoft online veteran Yusuf Mehdi demonstrated that if you're looking for a steak house in San Francisco, Bing wil be able to look at your friends' likes and dislikes to rank certain restaurants higher or lower. Same thing with videos: a video that a lot of your friends have posted will show up higher in Bing results than a video that hasn't."
Google algorithms have been great, but they can be easy to game if you know what you're doing. Plus, they're based on connections, so it's possible that the really best results turn up on top because people click it first. Many times, I find that the top results aren't always the most relevant.
But adding how people are really ranking the business is pretty interesting. And this is closer to how we search for things in real life. I ask friends and family what they think. Combining that with other search information, gives me a potentially much better picture in the results.
Interesting to see where search goes from here and how Google will respond.
Among the features Bing is rolling out to users in the coming days is a module called “Liked Results” to its search results. Looking for information on that new Tom Cruise movie? On Google, your search engine would serve up the relevant pages it has calculated are the most popular. On Bing, as of now, it serves up the regular Google-style results and a module that shows you pages your friends have liked -- including, for example, movie reviews. You no longer have to do the work of trolling through search results to figure out which of the pages might tell you whether the movie’s a hit or a bomb. Trust your friend Sara’s taste? Click on the page she Liked.
Have you seen any movies set in the future, say Blade Runner or Minority Report? What do you notice about those films as it relates to the future of advertising? Yep, that all of that time in the future and advertising is still pretty pervasive. In fact, it's even more pervasive then it is today. Think of those giant billboards from Blade Runner or the famous (or infamous, depending on your POV) scene where retinal scanners welcome Tom Cruise to the Gap. The only future world I can think of without pervasive advertising is the one from Brave New World and there, they train you in-vitro to be a consumer. That's pretty pervasive.
Now I want you to think about the brands you use every day. Not just the big brands, but all the brands you use. Your car, computer, phone, phone service, washer & dryer, your food, your socks & underwear, your deodorant. All the brands you interact with on a regular basis.
Do you have relationships with any of those brands? Are you part the tribe of those brands? Or do you mainly use them and hope and expect that they will actually deliver based on what they do?
I've written about this before, but today listening to Seth Godin and seeing how people reacted to his presentation made me think about it again. Full disclosure, I am very envious of Seth and what he's built. I am. He's done an incredible job of building the Seth Godin brand. I've read many of his books and many of his blog posts and usually find them very helpful and inspiring.
But lately I've been questioning this whole relationship thing. I use Apple products, but I'm not really involved in the Apple tribe. And I definitely have a love/hate relationship with Apple. It's certainly passionate, but that passion isn't always positive.
I drive a Subaru Outback, which I love. It's the best car I've ever driven in the snow. I would recommend it without hesitation. But, I'm not part of the Subaru tribe. I've barely registered our Outback with the online Subaru groups.
My relationship with T-Mobile is sometimes OK. Its a little strained right now thanks to the fact that they want me to pay $329 for the new G2 phone when new customers can buy it for $199 and I'm thinking about moving to AT&T and getting an iPhone. I've really been trying to stay with T-Mobile, but the G1 just isn't cutting it any more and as much as I like android and a keyboard, for a $150 savings, I'll go back to the iPhone.
I'm pretty happy with my Fruit of the Loom, but there's no relationship there. Dog food we use, same way. Got a new Dyson and while it's started off strongly, I have to wait and see if it dies in a year like my other vacuums. Two dogs will do that to vacuums. And while I've almost always owned Nikon cameras I don't think I've ever visited a Nikon users group or anything like that. Maybe with the new S8000 I have since I'm still trying to figure some things out. Sydney loves mac & cheese, but she's not brand loyal at all.
But Seth said it's all about connections and if you make a boring product it's hard to connect. Hugh MacCleod has a cartoon (and a shirt I got at the GasPedal WOM event) that says advertising is the cost of being boring. And I started think that most of the products I use are pretty boring. And if boring products have no place in the connected world and they all went out of business, well that would send us into a pretty big economic disaster, wouldn't it?
So I'm wondering, how many brands really can create movements? I hear lots of examples of small companies that create local movements. Certainly companies like Apple, Lululemon Athletica, Trader Joes, Anthropologie and others have done very well creating relationships with their audience, so I know it's possible. But my socks & underwear? Not likely. And many other brands I deal with every day are like that too. Good, solid companies, but a movement? Not so sure.
I would love to hear your thoughts. Can every brand create a movement? And if brands can't create a movement or they don't have a tribe, does that mean they should be out of business? Don't get me wrong, I think all brands should strive to look for ways to engage their audiences. But I'm worried that we might be setting some pretty false expectations for brands to follow.
After months of rumors, T-Mobile finally announced that the T-Mobile G2 phone would start taking pre-orders this weekend. I was psyched! I've had my G1 for a little over a year (when my Nokia 9500 Communicator that I loved finally died) and jumped online to do the pre-ordering. That's when I hit the existing customer roadblock. You see, the phone is $199 for new customers, but folks like me -- existing customers who have been with T-Mobile for several years now, the cost would be $329.
Now, I want to start by saying that the help I got when I went to a T-Mobile store was excellent. Really excellent. They did everything they could to try and help me make this work. They came up with options. I could cancel my account, pay some cancellation fee and then get a new account, porting my cell phone over. Or I could add a line for Sydney (who's only 9, so we don't really want her to have a phone), put the G2 on that line and then switch sim cards with my G1 so I wouldn't lose my phone number.
But since I'm getting a smart phone I would then need to add a $30/month internet service for a phone for Sydney, something that's not needed. Plus, that would add $720 ($30/month for 2 years) to the cost of the phone, and that seemed pretty dumb. I'm more then willing to re-up for another two years, I like my T-Mobile service. Heck, I'd re-up for 3 years to be treated like a new company.
So, here we are in the age of relationships, a time when the consumer is in control and yet T-Mobile still treats its new customer better then its existing customers. Not that this is only a T-Mobile issue, most, if not all, US carriers do the same thing.
So, maybe cell phone companies don't know that the consumers are in control today? Maybe they haven't gotten the memo's about this? Or maybe they just don't care that consumers are in control.
Or maybe we, the consumers, only think we're in control.
Cell carriers here in the US do all kinds of things that show that we're not in control. In fact, it was just announced that this new G2 won't support tethering (T-Mobile G2 Will Not Support Tethering At Launch) despite the fact that the phone supports it. Why? Because carriers would lose money on other services that they sell to let people tether their phones today.
So, I'll keep pestering T-Mobile in the hopes that I'll get the right deal on this phone and maybe they'll surprise me. But until that happens, it's pretty hard for me to believe that I'm in control.