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Eight reasons why Apple Watch will be successful

In Apple, brand-building, Fashion, innovation, iPhone, mobile & tablets, retail, Technology on April 12, 2015 at 2:54 pm

How will fans love thee?  Let us count the ways.

by Robert Liljenwall

8 apple watches1.  Apple relies on its existing customer base to drive initial sales on all new products.  Apple has sold over 500 million iPhones.  Their customers have the highest upgrade % of any comparable smart phone. As they say, the existing customer is the easiest and ‘cheapest’ to sell. If you own an Apple product, you have already received many emails about the Watch.  Apple knows how to mine it’s customer base, and they are uniquely successful at extracting money from their customer’s wallets.
2.  Apple customers are “discreet adopters”.  Apple never introduces a new device (think iPod, iPhone, iPad) that isn’t tested and performs at the highest level.  Apple is not the first to jump into the new product space — they take a wait/see approach, figure out how to do it better, and then fill in all the gaps and produce exquisitely designed devices that are superior in execution in all areas.  Samsung has given them a ‘run for their money’ but they’re perceived as a lower-tier product — certainly not on the same prestigious level with Apple, regardless of their performance.
3.  Apple’s customers are brand loyal.  They ‘believe’ and ‘trust’ just about everything Apple says about its products.  But these customers don’t just take Apple’s word for this — they know first hand that Apple products perform as expected, and they learn that their customer service is superior.  Yes, they pay more and are eager to do so, but they honestly believe their products are worth it.  For example, they know from experience how polite, courteous, and knowledgeable the ‘geniuses’ at the Genius Bar are.  And they love how they can ‘experiment’ and access all Apple products in their store.  All this builds their brand — they know that every contact they have with their customer is a solid building block for selling future products.
4.  Apple’s snob appeal.  Make no mistake about it — Apple is a luxury product.  They  never discount.  They don’t put on “sales” in Apple stores.  That Apple logo that shines brightly from your laptop in a Starbucks says this about you:  I have an Apple laptop….I paid top dollar for it….I am the kind of person who wants and needs the best…I am proud to be an Apple user.  Being an Apple user also says that you appreciate quality products and services because that’s the kind of person you are.  You want the best.  And wearing the new Apple Watch on your wrist for everyone to see will just be another way to express your commitment to the highest quality, the best.  In many ways, Apple users are tech snobs.  And they’re proud of it.
5.  Apple’s frenzied cult.  This brings us to:  Is Apple a cult?  Of course, it is.  It was always Steve Job’s vision to create the best computer in the world, the MacIntosh.  Then the iMac….then the MacBook…..iPod….iPhone. And now, Tim’s Watch.  Apple customers have been enraptured by the company’s products, its culture and position as a truly luxury brand, they have almost a blind passion for any new product.  They will ‘blindly’ buy their next new thing because  even if they may not need it, they want it.  This is based on customers wanting to always be “cool”, “chic”, tech-savvy, smart.  Apple customers believe so strongly in the Apple methods of inventing new things, they want desperately to be the owner of their latest invention.  It’s a sign that “I am truly a member of the one of most exclusive clubs in the world.”  I may not be able to join the country club, but I can own an Apple Watch and enhance my own brand at the same time.
Passionate Apple users also believe they truly own and depend on the best products in the world that makes their life better.  Apple is not a commodity — it’s the #1 brand in the world today (and the most valuable) that stands for something truly great — Superior Invention.  Superior Design.  Superior Innovation.  These are the common themes in the reviews we have seen on previous Apple products, and the Watch is no different this time around.
6.  Apple takes advantage of its market position.  They are not fools ….they can be arrogant for sure, but for the most part, it’s deserved arrogance.  They have earned, time again and again, the loyalty of their customers because they have delivered in the past.  Consequently, they rely on an established and proven methodology for creating and marketing new products that limits (or eliminates) failure.  There have been glitches — the antennae on the early iPhone was one — and the Apple Map app was a disaster.  Since Jobs created the first new Macs after his return to the company in 1996, their development and marketing process has essentially remained the same.  The only difference Jobs made the second time around was to open up the source code so they could extend their programming and offerings to users without having to spend the $$ on them.  Hence, there are over 1.2 million apps today for the iPhone and developers are now pushing for new apps for the Watch, although we doubt it will handle that many apps.
7.  Apple is the World’s Biggest Tease.  Think about it:  We have been teased about the Apple Watch for over a year.  This teaser campaign is perhaps the best marketing strategy ever created in the history of new product launches.  Nobody does it better.  Not even James Bond.  And what this does is create a “feeding frenzy”.  I asked a gentleman last night in a restaurant who was dining with his wife….they were both looking down at their iPhones — he had a 6, she had a 6 Plus (and proud of it).  I asked him if they ever talk at dinner anymore….they laughed.  Of course we do.  Are you getting an Apple Watch…she emphatically said “no.”  He, on the other hand, nodded ‘yes’, with a huge grin.  “Have to.  It’s my destiny.”  Think about that….his “destiny”?  Every brand marketer in the world wants this kind of customer loyalty.
8.  Apple is the ultimate creative force.  There is an old marketing adage:  The Creative Plan is the Marketing Plan.  I learned this while at Disneyland years ago.  Disney’s creative plan — designing and operating the world’s best outdoor attraction — was the reason for its success.  Not its marketing.  And what makes Apple’s marketing so effective is that their products are so damn gorgeous and work flawlessly (most of the time), they require less marketing than what their competitors must spend.  The brand extensions from Apple II to the Watch have proven winners every time.  Steve Jobs is responsible for building this creative culture.  And yes, he was a meanie.  He wasn’t always the nicest guy.  They got rid of him once.  But it was his devotion to creating the world’s ultimate products that serves today as their foundation for being the world #1 brand and most valuable company.  
 
With every new launch, Apple takes its brand equity for a spin.  They use this equity — tangible and intangible assets — to insure that their products are superior in every aspect of their design, function, and purpose, but more importantly, Apple hires the best “experts” in their field to guide the company down a new path — in this case, the watch business.  They recruit the best and brightest (“who can resist?”) from the world market and make sure that they pay attention to their cultural beliefs and practices at every turn.  They may, perhaps, stumble on the Watch launch, but for any company to take on such a mammoth undertaking in a whole new category — such as the tradition-bound watch business, there is no company better qualified to take this plunge than Apple.  They’re not betting their farm on this one product — but they are indeed dealing from a position of strength.  It’s a marvel to watch, pun intended.

Am I going to get the Watch?  Yes.  When?  Not sure.  I have gleaned myself from the frenzied rush to stand in line for hours or dial 17 times to reach an Apple order taker after the clock strikes Midnight.  I’m older now…and besides I have learned that, like with the Watch, I don’t really need it.  I want it.  And yes, it’s my destiny.

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Google dips its toe into the retail world….

In brand-building, Google, innovation, retail on March 18, 2015 at 11:46 pm
Liljenwall 3-18-15by Robert Liljenwall
It’s only a “toe” — not a full, dedicated retail store like its rival/pal, Apple.  But nonetheless, it represents the first-ever physical presence for the Silicon giant Google.  Here’s what they have done:  This past Wednesday, Google unveiled its debut foray in London’s Tottenham Court Road within retailer Currys PC World. Designed in similar fashion to Apple’s successful model, the storefront plays host to a wide range of Android phones and tablets, as well as Chromebook laptops.  Customers will be able to comb through the store to test out devices and software, as well as attend classes and events that teach them how to use the products.
“The pace of innovation of the devices we all use is incredible, yet the way we buy them has remained the same for years,” James Elias, Google’s UK marketing director, said in a statement at the store launch. “With the Google shop, we want to offer people a place where they can play, experiment and learn about all of what Google has to offer; from an incredible range of devices to a totally-connected, seamless online life. We think it’s a genuinely unique try-before-you-buy experience.”  But for now, Google will be sticking with the store-within-a-store model and the company plans to unveil two more shops later this year!  Where?  No one knows yet! — RJL

Technology Trips Up Target Brand

In brand-building, retail, Target on January 16, 2014 at 9:07 am

There are the good guys. And the bad guys. Pick your Target

by Robert Liljenwall

Cash_Registers

Image from Wikipedia Commons

Well, the bad guys won this round.  110 million hacked Target accounts.  Are you kidding?  And the CEO just now comes out (1/13) and apologizes.  While Rome was burning, he sat there – obviously speechless. Although he made no comments, he did authorize a 10 percent discount for the inconvenience for those on the first wave (70 million) who had their accounts hacked, with PINs no less.  And then, when it was discovered another 40 million were hacked, he decided to descend from his throne and make a comment – on CNBC and the Today show nearly a month after the breach.

The Good Guys

The strength of Target’s brand (which “was” one of America’s strongest, most recognizable brands) could not counter the weakness of their technology.  When technology fails – as it did here, the brand suffers the most.  Sure, they were quick to announce a fix for the first wave, and then another admission of 40 million more breached accounts sorta put a dent in their already weakened brand.

Talk about a brand and technology “perfect storm.”  There is no end to this story of course, since there could be more bad news from Target.  Target reports that they did suffer loss of sales (2 percent to 6 percent) after the revelation of the first 70 million (duh!), but the CEO now says that there are getting back to more normal numbers.

This reminds us of how the CEO of Exxon sat in his office for a full week when the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Alaska in 1989 and had one of the largest oil spills in US history.  He shut down like a dry hole in West Texas.  Like the Target CEO, he was hopeful that nobody was watching … that they, too, would be swept away in the next tide.  It was … and Alaska’s shoreline has proof that it did.  They’re cleaning up that mess and it appears the oil damage in many areas will continue unto the future.

But it all goes back to the core of branding: Do you trust the brand?  I recall that I was tempted to visit the nearby Target store in Pasadena – but first, I would go by the ATM and get some cash.  Good decision at the time.  And then the news of the second wave hit – “my God, is this never going to end.”  While Target did admit that sales were down, they stated the fix is going to be costly and will affect earnings.

Question:  Are you willing to swipe your card at Target now?

But wait!  Now we learn that Neiman Marcus has been hacked – and more on the way.  Isn’t this just terrific?  The Neiman Marcus hack has not be divulged, but my friends with NM cards have already changed them.

Who are the bad guys?

Was this an inside job?  Was it the Russian mafia?  The latter suggestion has surfaced in more than one news report – “they are very talented in hacking into our systems.  I can see them penetrating other large retailers around the globe,” said one security expert.  Do you believe him?  We think more breaches like this lie ahead.

What is so scary is the apparent ease the hackers had in breaching more than 100 million accounts.  Who is next?  That’s the big question.

But make no mistake about it:  Technology failed.  Brand damage is severe for now – but BTN believes they will recover – especially if there are more hacked retailers.  Spreading the bad news actually helps Target.  Pity the thought. – RJL

The Brand behind the Brands We Love

In brand-building, Healthcare, innovation, retail, Shopper Marketing on January 2, 2014 at 1:01 pm

Inmar leads the way in digital promotions

by Jeff Sandgren

As we wrap up another round of holiday shopping mania, there’s a powerful force at work behind the scenes. For more than 30 years a company you may not know has been quietly helping you shop every day, and lately they’re ambitiously working to change the way you’ll shop tomorrow. In the ‘Emerald City of Retail,’ the hidden Oz who’s helping to enhance your shopping experience (while not bothering to attract your attention) is a company called Inmar, and their ‘Intelligent Commerce Networks.’

Inmar Inside

Sometimes the brands you know and trust deliver on their Brand Promises by relying on other brands. Think ‘Intel Inside®[i]’: a great advertising slogan, catchy, memorable, succinct and effective. When you buy a computer, you’ll hopefully never even have to see the Intel chip, much less actually touch it; but the little sticker on the outside telling you it’s in there could easily sway your purchase decision. Another example, wordier but similarly powerful, is BASF’s old slogan:

We don’t make a lot of the products you buy. We make a lot of the products you buy better®[ii].

In both of these cases, the B2B company wants you, a consumer, to value their brands in order to make you feel better about buying – not from them, but from their customers, the B2C companies that sell finished consumer goods to you. It’s unlikely that you ever bought a chip directly from Intel or a drum of chemicals from BASF (unless you’re a bigger geek than the editors of BrandTech News, or go by the street name “Heisenberg.”)

But while you almost certainly know who Intel is, and probably have heard of BASF – the largest chemical company in the world (even if you don’t know what the letters stand for) – you might not know who Inmar is. And you might be surprised to learn that the financial transactions they process en masse daily have an annual aggregate value of about $44 billion across their promotion, supply chain and health care networks.

If you’ve ever clipped and used a paper coupon, chances are good that it was processed by Inmar. This was their first competency, and remains a major component of the company’s business. They started handling coupons back in the early 80’s, as Carolina Coupon Clearing, a company formed by the son of a Reynolds Tobacco exec who brought in a team of former IBM associates to elevate the process from one which, at the time, relied on weighing masses of paper coupons by the pound. The solutions they built, and the refinements that have evolved since, now enable a smooth, secure processing of billions of coupons from thousands of brands in countries around the globe. They currently process coupons for a large share of US companies; and they serve a global customer base with their broader promotional solution portfolio that has grown to include not only paper coupons, but also rebates, sweepstakes and now digital coupons – more on that in a minute. This approach of harnessing technology and smart thinking to improve complex processes still steers the company.

David Mounts, Inmar CEO

David Mounts, Inmar CEO

“It all starts and ends with people,” explained Inmar CEO David Mounts, at a recent interview. “We strive to find the best minds and intellectual capital we can, then we direct our investments to make it easier for bright people to deliver great solutions to our customers … and ultimately great experiences to consumers.”

Inmar innovation

In the coupon world, paper still dominates in sheer volume, but the most impressive growth percentages there days are being posted by digitally discovered coupons. Digitally discovered coupons fall into two major groups. The already familiar Print-At-Home (PAH) coupons – those discovered online and printed with home computers – increased in use by more than 12 percent in the first half of 2013, relative to 2012. The newer kid on the coupon block is the use of completely paperless “e-wallet” coupons, where the reward is either loaded to a consumer’s loyalty card or stored on a smartphone app. While still a small segment, the use of these promotions increased by more than 230 percent in the same period.

The targeting and personalization capabilities of these digital offers provide powerful new ways for marketers to engage and entice consumers with increasingly relevant offers, and to gain insights on what consumers preferred (and what provided the best return on investment). But with this new sophistication comes the matter of new complexity. To help brands and retailers cut through the cyber-maze, Inmar has developed their Offer Management app, which lets marketers easily create offers, aggregate performance data and score the promotional effectiveness of multiple offers across all channels.

The rapid development of these solutions by Inmar has, in part, been accelerated by two recent acquisitions: the first, a company that pioneered an innovative technology to facilitate the secure distribution and redemption of digital promotions; and the second, a company with deep expertise in shopper behavioral analytics. By combining Inmar’s own knowledge and experience of couponing and promotional strategies with the added power of analytics and shopper insights, and with the real-time, on-demand delivery of offers to smartphones and tablets, Inmar’s innovations are changing the promotional game for brands and retailers – and delivering offers to consumers on products they want, with promotion types they like, across the digital platforms they individually prefer.

Inmar integration

One shopper insight that everyone knows is that shoppers in the checkout line don’t want to be delayed. Retailers are keenly aware of that, and they are particularly (and rightly) sensitive to the impact of any new technology at checkout that might slow things down. So the big hurdle that digital couponing has had to clear has been one of achieving a seamless and super-fast digital redemption when the paperless coupons are presented. No one wants to download a coupon offer to their loyalty card or unique identifier, then have to wait for an elaborate network to validate the coupon, in a setting where passing seconds feel like minutes. But the validation can’t be skipped, either, because coupon fraud can cost retailers millions. Inmar’s point of sale technology, developed by acquired company M-Dot achieves secure, accurate, real-time redemption by leveraging the speed and scalability of cloud technology. In fact, prior to Inmar’s acquisition, M-Dot was chosen as the winner of Amazon Web Services’ Startup Challenge. The solution is so scalable that it has been demonstrated to execute over a million concurrent transactions in a 10th of second.

More recently, Inmar built on that impressive back-end integration with a promising new front-end partnership. They recently announced a strategic relationship with NCR, one of the top Point Of Sale (POS) system providers for retail. The new offering will integrate Inmar’s digital coupon solution with NCR’s marketing and POS applications, providing retailers with a powerful new platform for quickly and easily planning and implementing digital coupon campaigns, offering paperless coupons to shoppers across multiple touchpoints … including mobile phones and tablets.

According to Mounts, “Retailers that ‘opt in’ will be able to introduce digital promotions into their marketing efforts with remarkable speed – and at minimal cost.”

It’s a win-win-win solution: shoppers get the added savings of digitally discovered coupons, without slowing down their checkout experience; retailers get an easy platform for implementing their digital coupon campaigns; and consumer goods manufacturers get a much more targeted delivery mechanism that can yield new insights in minutes.

Inmar involved

For all the technology focus, Inmar hasn’t lost sight of its ‘human goals’ either. Ever since opening shop in Winston-Salem, Inmar has remained true to its community, where it is one of the area’s major employers. This part of North Carolina has seen economic decline over the past decades with the erosion of three of its major industries – tobacco, textiles and furniture – the latter two primarily declining due to relocation of the industries to cheaper offshore markets. Inmar, by contrast, has stayed in the game locally, opening three different offices as headquarters for its coupon, product returns and pharmacy solutions groups. Supporting operations in the supply chain, health care, and coupon redemption networks occupy around 30 additional facilities across North America.

Exterior_8.29.12

Now the company is upping its ante by consolidating all three local offices into a beautiful new complex in downtown Winston, with almost a quarter million square feet of modern office space, renovated from an old tobacco processing plant. Located on the edge of the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter, a cornerstone of the Renaissance of Winston-Salem, the new facility clearly underscores Inmar’s corporate social responsibility and its commitment to the local jobs it has created.

When Mounts says it all starts and ends with people, he clearly means it. – JTS


[i] Registered trademark of Intel Corporation

[ii] Registered trademark of BASF SE

Free Product Sampling Sound Like a Dream? Then PINCHme.

In brand-building, curation, retail, social media on September 24, 2013 at 2:30 pm

by Jeff Sandgren

Product sampling: a time-tested stalwart of consumer engagement, new product trial-driving and brand conversion. Whether it’s that first slice at the deli, or the cheery little kiosks scattered throughout Costco, the experiential pull is strong – and historically low-tech. That changed several years ago when online companies like StartSampling began offering subscription-based “e-sampling” programs. But as quickly as the online providers grew, the consumer engagement turned in many cases to disengagement, with complaints about subscription fees, irrelevant product samples … even scams. Indeed, a quick Google search of “online product sampling” includes names like “scamfreesamples,” above the fold. That alone speaks volumes.

Fast forward to 2013, and an innovative Australian company is looking to reinvent sampling into the brave new world of Internet-enabled, socially-connected, value-conscious consumers, with a model that promises to deliver relevance and delight to consumers at the same time as it provides laser-like targeting (and ROI) for the sponsoring Brand Marketers.

Sound like a dream? Jeremy Reid says “pinch me.”

pinchmelogo2No, literally. His company, PINCHme, founded earlier this year in Sydney Australia, is about to cross the Pacific and beachhead in the US market, starting in October. The formula has been a big hit Down Under, where in a mere six months Jeremy and his 30-person team have signed up a half million consumers and 50 major CPGs. In the first 30 days of its launch in the Sydney market, PINCHme signed up 2 percent of the population, and it’s been a steady climb since. As for the brands, they include CPG giants Procter & Gamble Co., Unilever, Kraft, Nestle and many more.

To find out how the new service is different, we asked Founder Jeremy Reid to explain the new approach.

Jeremy_Reid_23-(1)

Jeremy Reid, Founder

“Sampling today is very effective,” said Reid, “but not very efficient. Are the brand sponsors getting the right products in front of the right consumers? Are they getting a measurable ROI on the sampling costs? Those are the problems we’re solving with PINCHme.”

A key element of the platform is its integration with shopper loyalty data from some of the key providers. “It’s a win-win,” said Reid. “The shoppers see only personalized offers on their home page, so they don’t have to browse through products that really don’t fit them. And the brands are only investing in sampling for consumers they want to target.”

There’s a lot of analytics going on in the background, Reid explained. When consumers are presented with their targeted offers, they can only choose one-third of the selections. “That’s powerful choice information, and it drives a much higher trial rate on the samples,” said Reid. Even before the choice, unsure consumers are offered an array of digital content and other product information. In other words, they’re engaged in the selection process – thoroughly.

Fulfillment is handled by PINCHme, who delivers a PINCHme-branded gift box in three to seven days. The offers refresh every Tuesday, but before a consumer can select more items, they have to answer a mini-questionnaire of six questions, anytime within a 30-day window after receiving their package. Reid claims the completion rate in the Australian test market is an impressive 94 percent. Consumers can even make a follow-up purchase right from the survey website … and may be incented to do so with special offers from the Brands.

And, of course, all this is tightly integrated with social media, encouraging the consumers to share their discoveries with their networks, including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and all the usual suspects.

Proof of success back in Australia comes from the Brands themselves: Nestle is already on its eighth campaign, and P&G is on its 10th.

Pinchme-graphics

The big news for consumers is that they can pre-register now for the upcoming US launch, simply by going to pinchme.com. So if you like the idea of trying new things, and love the idea of doing it for free, you might want to check it out …

… and let us know how you like the service. – JTS

Niche and Innovation: Simplicity Sofas Puts the Pieces Together

In brand-building, innovation, retail on September 24, 2013 at 7:59 am

by Jeff Sandgren

The Piedmont Triad of North Carolina, formed by Greensboro, Winston-Salem and High Point, was once the dominant hub of furniture manufacturing in the US. High Point still tags itself as the “Furniture Capital of the World,” boasting some of the largest showrooms in the country; but the manufacturing core that fills them has moved offshore to lower cost facilities in Asia. Much of the area now has a ghost town feel, with shuttered factories – and shuttered local businesses that once thrived when furniture-making drove a vibrant local economy.

In the middle of this arid business landscape is a bright, thriving oasis of success: Simplicity Sofas. Starting with a small factory in High Point in 2007, they’ve already had to relocate to a bigger facility to keep up with the demand for their specialized product, shipping more than $4 million of furniture to thousands of customers … without a single negative review. Along the way they’ve been a finalist for the Customer Experience Innovation Awards, received two “Best of Market” awards at the International Home Furnishings Market, and been recognized with a $20,000 Grand Prize as Small Business Innovator of the Year. All without moving out of town.

How have they pulled off this commercial miracle?

The answer is twofold: niche and innovation. Back in 2003 designer/inventor/master craftsman Glenn Laughlin and furniture industry veteran Jeff Frank teamed up to create a line of high quality, quick-assembly upholstered furniture that fits into small rooms and tight entranceways where normal furniture cannot go. Glenn and Jeff spent four years perfecting the revolutionary technology and building the first prototypes. Locating in High Point has allowed them to tap into a deep local talent pool. They custom build one piece at a time using solid oak frames, and back their product with a lifetime warranty.

I experienced the ingenuity of this solution firsthand a year ago, when I ordered a full-sized couch, oversized chair and storage ottoman from them. The whole shipment arrived in the back of a van, with room to spare. Because we’re local, a company employee delivered it and assembled the furniture in our living room, in less than 15 minutes. For those outside of the Piedmont Triad, they offer free catalogs and fabric swatches, and shipping across the US.

Dawson and Sydney, furniture installation experts

Dawson and Sydney, furniture installation experts

Watching the assembly process, I realized that I could just as easily have done it myself – and that’s saying a lot, since I’m all thumbs. See for yourself: here’s a video of an 8-year-old boy assembling a couch in less than five minutes. Not impressed?  Then how about a 7-year-old girl assembling a chair in a minute? Go, Sydney!

This fall, the company is innovating into another ‘tight spot’: the RV (recreational vehicle) market. Simplicity began to hear of customers who were installing their furniture in RVs, easily navigating the extremely narrow door width and avoiding the headaches and cost of the previous solution. The old way? Remove the windshield. No wonder they love Simplicity Sofas. But what the RV enthusiasts said they really wanted was a convertible sofa bed that could fit into the same tight spot.

So Simplicity Sofas innovated for this new niche, designed one, perfected it and launched it earlier this month at the largest RV show in the country, the Annual Pennsylvania RV & Camping Show in Hershey, PA, drawing more than 40,000 attendees. It takes a little longer to assemble, and probably isn’t a project to delegate to the children, but it’s still … simplicity.

Jeff Frank, President Simplicity Sofas

Jeff Frank, President
Simplicity Sofas

“Everything we develop is designed to meet an existing need,” said President Jeff Frank. “Our sectional sofa is another example. We had a customer whose family room was at the end of a particularly difficult staircase, so even our sofa couldn’t navigate the turn. We went back to the drawing board and developed an easy-to-assemble sectional [just see Sydney’s video] that solved their problem. Today they’re another happy customer, and we’ve got another successful product line.”

Therein lays perhaps the simple key to Simplicity Sofa’s success: fanatical devotion to understanding and satisfying their customers. They listen to customers, innovate designs to solve problems no one else addresses, and then delight buyers every time – all right here in the former heartland of American furniture making. As William Shatner (yes that William Shatner) recently observed, “Simplicity Sofas furniture boldly goes where no furniture has gone before.”

And by the way, I love my sofa.  Maybe too much. – JTS

Looking back and forward on 5s Journey

In Apple, brand-building, iPhone, retail, Steve Jobs on September 22, 2013 at 3:48 pm

by Robert Liljenwall

The journey is over. And it is now beginning. I have my 32GB Gray iPhone 5s in hand … and I am warming up to it. If you really want to experience it before you buy it, download iOS7 and you’ll get the (almost) complete look/feel, which takes time getting used to. I hated the color and font scheme of iOS7 but my passion to get the 5s overcame my dissatisfaction with the look I had on my 5 after downloading 7.  Thought the pastel/light gray scale was very inappropriate and still do, but I am getting used to it. If you need glasses to read your screens on your iPhone, you’ll need them for sure on the 5s.

But back the journey. As you may have read, I canceled my phone order for a gold 32GB when I realized that I could actually get one on 5/20 at the Pasadena Apple store (instead of waiting until Oct. 8). They still had plenty of gray 32GB in stock … and the wait was a very tolerable 45 minutes in line. The Apple sales people were extremely helpful, courteous and gave me all the time necessary to feel comfortable with some minimal training. The entire transaction took less than 20 minutes, and it was seamless. I was, indeed, thrilled I made the right choice to stop by for a second time at the now infamous Pasadena store (where fights broke out early 5/20 with homeless stand-ins who were cheated by a rather unscrupulous creep who refused to pay them to stand in line for 10 hours). The line at Apple was 3 times longer than when I got inside … apparently word spread that they had some inventory – AT&T had only 64GB.

iphone-5s-loveWhy am I so passionate about this?  Brand marketers love people like me – we put up with lines, some dissatisfaction with the product, and still plow forward through what most people think is insane. This is what Steve Jobs has done to me and millions more. Is the torch passed?  I think so. Business Week had a great cover “What Us Worry?” – showing CEO Tim Cook and his two henchmen – Craig Federighi and Jony Ive. But like I said earlier, “it’s too early to tell.” I can tell you this:  It’s fast. Video and photo quality are the best ever. Downloads are quicker. New pull-up that gives you immediate access to key programs is brilliant. And thank God for iCloud – all apps and programs perfectly preserved.

So far, the Journey with Apple has been a real treat, actually. Well that’s not totally true. My girlfriend, Julie, wasn’t particularly happy with me waking her up on 5/20 at 4:45 a.m. to run me down to the Apple store (some 5 miles away) to see how the line was (too long) … and she continued to comment on this ‘sacrifice’ during the day. “Yeah, but haven’t you had fun telling all of your friends about your ‘experience’?” “Of course …” So, I just provided her with some great story-telling fodder … so she benefited, too, wouldn’t you say?  She agreed. – RJL

New Valassis Survey Reveals Fresh Insights on Millennials’ Shopping Behaviors

In brand-building, mobile & tablets, retail, Shopper Marketing on September 13, 2013 at 3:00 pm

by Jeff Sandgren

This week Valassis released the results of its Sixth Annual RedPlum® Purse String Survey, to gain insight from today’s shoppers and learn more about their shopping behaviors – especially where and how they look for deals. The study, based on insights from more than 5,100 respondents, found something surprising about Millenials in particular: although they are more ardent digital devotees (no surprise there), they prefer good old paper coupons.

Lisa Reynolds, Valassis Vice President of Consumer Engagement

Lisa Reynolds, Valassis Vice President of Consumer Engagement

“The RedPlum Purse String Survey results are somewhat counter intuitive from what you might expect based on what we know about Millennials,” said Lisa Reynolds, Valassis Vice President of Consumer Engagement. “While they are heavy digital users, this group also embraces tried and true methods for savings, as much as any other age group … they area a true testament to the use of savings from both print and digital sources.”

Perhaps most surprisingly, 51 percent of Millenials indicated that print is their first choice for savings. Unlike other groups, they rely slightly more on in-store coupons and deals than retail circulars; but like other groups, their top four sources are newspaper, emails/coupon alerts, Internet searches and their mailbox.

We wanted to learn more, so we were fortunate enough to get some Q&A time with Lisa Reynolds. Here’s what she had to say.

BTN: Millennials are seen as being less brand loyal than other demographics.  What strategies do your most recent findings suggest for Retailers and CPGs to at least hold ‘share of wallet’ with this segment?

LR: When asked to self-identify as promotion sensitive, price conscious, brand loyal or time crunched, Millennials like all other respondents indicated they were promotion sensitive (69 percent  versus all respondents 75 percent). Given their desire to seek out savings from a variety of sources and the multitude of influencers along the path to purchase, retailers and CPGs must utilize an omni-channel approach, using not only digital but also print and in-store initiatives to reach this consumer.

BTN: You mention various vehicles for conveying offers – have you observed any correlation between offers types and conveyances?  i.e., what types of offers work best as retail circular deals versus mobile coupons?

LR: While we didn’t specifically ask a question correlating offer type, what we do know is that Millennials use their smartphones to a higher degree for savings and in a variety of ways. For example, 45 percent (compared to 24 percent all respondents) of Millennials accessed a coupon in an email on their smartphone; 38 percent downloaded a savings app (versus 21 percent of all respondents); and 36 percent compared deals on their phone (versus 20 percent overall). The RedPlum Purse String Survey also found that these promotion-sensitive Millennials are getting their savings the same way as all other consumers across age groups and income levels with 51 percent indicating newspaper is their first choice for savings.

BTN: You note several differences between Millennials and all age groups.  What trends are you observing in these gaps – are Millenials pulling away from the herd and becoming more distinctive in their behaviors over time, or are any other age groups (if so, which) becoming more like Millenials, closing those gaps?

LR: The RedPlum Purse String Survey confirmed Millennials’ penchant for all things digital. They are leading the way using more mobile coupons and using their smart phones to access a coupon in an email, a coupon code, compare deals and download a coupon to a loyalty card. These trends will continue. We also found some distinctions between the Haves (those with an income over $60,000) versus the Have-Nots (those with an income under $60,000). Haves spend about 10 percent less time looking for deals to achieve the same savings. Both use their savings for basic necessities; the Have-Nots to a higher degree (65 percent versus 52 percent for Haves). Next, the Haves use their savings on dining out while the Have-Nots put it toward paying down debt. As a result, besides groceries, the Haves are more interested in coupons and deals on dining out and entertainment.

BrandTech News View: Regardless of demographic, consumers embracing digital coupons still rely heavily on paper coupons. Wise retailers and brand marketers need to tightly integrate their omni-channel offers and messages to make sure they engage all consumers at the Zero Moment of Truth.

Shopper engagement sounds like ‘war.’ It is.

In Apple, brand-building, retail, Shopper Marketing on August 21, 2013 at 4:29 pm

By Robert Liljenwall

Retail isn’t the same anymore.  Consumers are marching into their favorite retailer with their smartphones at the ready … these handy data companions are helping customers analyze retailer offerings and give focused advice on their shopping list where and when it’s not available from the retail shelf.  Shopper engagement is not managed by the retailer as much anymore as by the shopper, who is now in control.  Armed with new ‘shopping weapons’, today’s shoppers know exactly what they’re looking for. And if they don’t find what they want, they either move on or order online when they get home.  Shoppers are on the hunt, especially in these challenging economic times (and, yes, we know that recession was officially over in June 2009.)??????????????????????

It is not always ‘bad news’ that consumers are now empowered with more information than ever before.  Retailers and brand marketers who truly know their customers’ needs and wants are able to capitalize on the shopper desires.  And as Internet sales continue to rise in all sectors (e-commerce rose 18.4 percent through the first six months of 2013 compared to same period in 2012), we spent more than $64 billion online during the second quarter of this year according to the US Census Bureau, which tracks these things … an increase of 4.8 percent over same period in 2012 of total retail sales of $1.126 trillion for 2013 2Q.

So what does this all mean?  We know several things:  One out of four Americans work in retail services.  Retail sales is increasing … slowly at a rate of 0.09 percent for the second quarter, and, no, retail is not going away.  Also, we know that mobile commerce is not going to take over retail (projected that only 1 percent of total retail sales will be on mobile devices by 2016.) And according to latest consumer research, the average consumer uses 10.7 different sources to make a purchase decision.  It all doesn’t just happen in the store.  But we know that, too, don’t we?

But what is happening is that individual retailers are fighting to keep their customers happy and keep them buying “in-store.”  Best Buy is notable for its struggle against Amazon and was able to make a dent in their California market by forcing Amazon through legislation to pay sales tax, but is that enough?  Target kicked out Amazon Kindle products – each were tired of being “showrooms” for Amazon and its own products.

Enter POPAI – the Global Association for Marketing at Retail – which published their fourth edition this spring of “Marketing at Retail – Understanding, Influencing and Winning Today’s Shopper.”  POPAI itself has experienced a metamorphosis in its 76-year history – starting out as a vendor-driven point of purchase trade group attracting producers, retailers and brand marketers.  But as technology expanded across all fronts, POPAI today reflects the broad array of “interests” that serve the entire retail industry – both in-store and online.

Marketing At Retail

Marketing At Retail

In this 386-page text – the largest ever – you will certainly recognize the change in the retail and technology landscape.  New chapters on mobile commerce, social media, and technology advances and online integration with in-store merchandising.  You will find an expanded offering presented by 23 of the top professionals in marketing at retail.  This publication is also available on an e-Version.  You can order your copy at http://popai.com/book/buythebook. Hard copy sells for $39.95 and the e-Version for $35.95.

Starting in summer 2011, we found that in putting this publication together we wanted to have the most complete resource for everyone serving the retail industry – and subjects not previously covered such as mobile commerce and social media were going to play a major role.  Throughout the editing process, too, we were constantly updating the chapters because technology and new retail initiatives were coming into the industry and we wanted to insure our readers they had the latest.

We do recognize that retailers certainly know that their #1 goal is to gain customer insight.  Consumer behavior, as Dr. Dan Flint (University of Tennessee) points out, is changing as technology changes, because consumers now have more data available to them than ever before.  “They can make choices quicker and more accurately because they have current data at their fingertips.”  And the authors point out that retailers are learning how to provide better customer technology support inside their stores with Wi-Fi and local data points on what’s on sale and to guide them to their own personal shopping needs.

Speaking on behalf of the authors, I want to share with you one grand example of how stupid some major retailers can be.

I have a Macy’s revolving account and pay my monthly bill online.  When I made a ‘confirmed’ payment on my Macy app. via my iPhone, I noticed that the payment had not been subtracted from my account within a week’s time.  I called Macy’s only to learn from the Macy’s customer service rep that…”We’re sorry, but we’re finding that many payments made on the iPhone do not get recorded even though you receive a confirmation!”  “Well, is this new?”  “Oh, no, it’s been going on for some time.  We’re sorry.”

Sorry!!!  I couldn’t believe it. But wait … the nightmare continues … I went to make my payment online with my iMac, and then I can’t seem to get a confirmation, so I called customer service again. The Macy’s rep asks what kind of browser I am using.  “What do you mean?  I am using Safari.”  “Oh, sir, we don’t really support Apple.  Do you have a PC you can use?”  True story, so help me Steve Jobs.  Can you believe that a major retailer would allow this to happen?  My next purchases were with….guess who?  Amazon.  (We awarded Macy’s the Lemon Award for August.)

Retailers who don’t give the same kind of attention to detail and support that an Amazon gives to its customers is going to find defections growing.

Is there a ‘war’ going on?  You bet.  Retailers who understand the stakes are Disney, Costco, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Starbucks, In & Out Burger, Nordstrom’s and Apple, of course.  They have their customers in focus – they have gained keen customer insight, which should be the goal of every brand marketer and retailer.  There are many great retailers who are embracing the “new, smarter shopper” and are eager to support them online and in-store with technology that enables them to easily get the ‘stuff’ they want.

Shoppers have more choices than ever … and when retailers make it difficult to do business with them … you lose them, perhaps forever. You have to win the shopper battles to win the war! – RJL

[Note: both editors of BrandTech News are also contributing authors to the POPAI textbook, and Robert Liljenwall is Co-Editor]

A Day in the Life of Canadian Retail

In brand-building, Canada, retail, Shopper Marketing on August 21, 2013 at 2:32 pm

Challenges and Champions in Canadian Retail

by Jeff Sandgren

Dawn breaks over the eastern Maritimes, and the great economic engine of Canadian consumers revs up for another day.  Breakfasts and school lunchboxes, clothes and cosmetics—millions of consumer goods will all be synthesized into the activities and lives of thirty-five million Canadians.  Virtually every one of these items passed at some point through the vast enterprise of Canadian retail.

Happy Canada Day

Happy Canada Day (Photo credit: Anirudh Koul)

As Canadians awaken and prepare for their workday, one out of every eight will be heading to a job in retail; in the US, the retail sector employs about twice that proportion.  Yet while retail’s activity accounts for approximately six percent of Canada’s economy, the ratio in the US is triple that.  This significantly lighter saturation of the Canadian retail market, relative to that of the US, is one of the notable disparities luring the attention of US-based retailers to growth opportunities north of their border.

Powered by the engine of Canadian consumers—and by their annual shopping infusion of over $12,600 per capita (totaling over $450 billion)—Canadian retail was up before the dawn.  In fact, it never sleeps. Complex global supply chain networks source goods around the clock and around the world, as Canadian retailers—both domestic and foreign-based—constantly seek to better serve the changing tastes and escalating demands of the shoppers of Canada. Sophisticated retail technology systems ceaselessly churn through mountains of data. Retail merchants strive for the perfect assortment of goods, offered at the optimal price and promotion; while retail operators execute the merchants’ plans to ensure that all the right items are in the right places, each at the right time, with just the right number of retail store associates to deliver the ideal shopping experience.

One hour later, in the Eastern Time zone that stretches from the mouth of the St. Lawrence to the western bank of Lake Superior, dawn wakens the heart of the French Canadian market. The urban centers of Ottawa and Toronto comprise over 60% of the population of Canada, a large majority of whom live within 90 miles of the US border.   Fashionistas make plans for shopping trips in the apparel stores of Quebec and Montreal, where the latest styles from France, Europe, and around the world adorn the storefront windows.  The apparel tastes of the world are brought to these markets by merchants like Larry Rosen, Chairman and CEO of the Harry Rosen chain, founded by his father in 1954. Although his chain already accounts for 40 percent of the Canadian market in high-end menswear, Larry personally visits fashion centers around the world every year, immersing himself in the customers’ shopping experience there at clothiers large and small.  These days, Larry make his visits with his new iPhone in hand, having replaced his business-worthy Blackberry with the device that he finds helps him better identify with his target consumer.  Customer-centricity is a mission that never ends.

Local markets across the culturally diverse greater Toronto area serve up the particular tastes of their local enclaves.  The strategy that ethnic eateries, handbag boutiques and neighborhood booksellers have always known—that of being obsessively tuned to the tastes and experiences of their local clientele—now drives all of retail. Some have had to adapt, like Eleanor LeFave, whose bookstore, Mabel’s Fables, has recently countered the pressures of online and big box booksellers by finding new sales opportunities in wholesaling to school book fairs.  In the ceaselessly competitive world of retail, the courageous merchants who innovate and adapt to changing customers and competitors survive and thrive. Those that have failed to steer by the customers’ compass lose their way, and ultimately fall behind.

Sunrise in the eastern prairies shines each morning on one of the most notable sites of changing retail formats.  Portage Avenue in Winnipeg was once the home of “The Big Store”, Winnipeggers name for the then-giant Eaton’s, where in the 1960s they spent 50 cents of every shopping dollar (excluding groceries).  The store, however, was only a small part of the giant catalogue fulfillment centre which covered 21 acres and employed 8,000 workers.

As times changed and Canada’s population became increasingly urban, more and more consumers had local access to stores; by the mid-1970s over 60% of Canada’s suburban population lived within a thirty-minute drive of an Eaton’s store.  In January of 1976, Eaton’s announced their last catalogue, and a massive layoff.  A string of missteps over the next two decades culminated in filing for bankruptcy in 1997, acquisition of assets by Sears a few years later, and the eventual retirement in 2002 of one of the most iconic Canadian retail brands.  Today Portage and Main in Winnipeg features shopping malls connected by an underground concourse and the Winnipeg Skywalk—both measures taken against the location’s legendary (if unproven) status as the coldest and windiest intersection in Canada.

As morning reaches the western prairies in Alberta, another day’s preparations begin for the 23,000 employees who work at the West Edmonton Mall—with over 350,000 m² of leasable area, the largest mall in North America (the world’s largest until 2004).  In the mid 1990s this mall included two full Bay department stores, the second having been added when the chain took advantage of space vacated by the bankruptcy of Woodward’s.  Other retailers leaving at that time included Canadian Tire and IKEA, part of a trend towards ‘big box’ standalone properties; but the space was subsequently filled by T & T Supermarket.  Since then, new additions have included the first Victoria’s Secret in Canada (2010), and La Maison Simons’ first outlet outside of Quebec (2012).  Today there are over 800 stores and services offering world-class retail experiences to over 28 million visitors per year.

Finally, dawn lights up the Rockies and the westernmost Canadian urban center of Vancouver.   Here, as in many urban areas, fewer young people are getting driver’s licenses—healthier lifestyles, digital socializing, and online shopping are making personal automobiles less relevant as the Millennials move into the mainstream. Smart retailers are reading these winds of change, and finding opportunity there.

Mountain Equipment Co-Op, a pioneer in healthy lifestyle merchandising since its founding in Vancouver in 1971, was also an early innovator in multi-channel retailing.  In 2013 it won the Canada Post E-commerce award for Best Multi-Channel Retailer of the Year.  Lululemon began here in 1998, also with a focus on healthy living.  Its 4,500 “educators” (a.k.a. store associates) mentor customers—traditionally females, but now including male yoga enthusiasts—towards the benefits of healthy lifestyle (with, of course, the proper apparel) in over 200 stores.  In a model to which many retailers aspire, the focus of retailers like these on quality goods and a well-educated customer base are overcoming the traditional “race to the bottom” on price discounting, which has dragged down other low-cost-focused retailers.  It’s working: Lululemon is now expanding into the US, UK, and across the Pacific to Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand. MEC has over 3 million members in Canada and internationally.

Meanwhile, in the global time zone of cyberspace, where the sun neither rises nor sets, retail is always open.  Retailers with strong e-commerce programs are continuously retuning or reinventing themselves.  Staples, voted the most trusted brand in Canada in 2008, and a top 10 most trusted brand ever since, just re-launched its already successful loyalty program, and plans to add another 200,000 items to its e-commerce site by the end of 2013.  In the world of consumer-driven retail, continuous improvement is now de rigueur.

The machines and merchandise of Canadian retail, with their planning and problem-solving, never sleep – because they dare not.  Because the retail and consumer goods sectors are as challenging as they are rewarding, and as brutally competitive as any industry.  Because shoppers today have more choices and knowledge of alternative sources, more access to product and price information, and more connection with the influence of their peers than was dreamed of even a decade ago.  The dynamics of Canadian retail are accelerating at an unprecedented pace – and retailers that are slow to keep up are thrown out of orbit. – JTS

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