Archive for May 29, 2014

Three Key Messages from Savvy Shoppers

 

changesBy Travis Lewis…………

This year’s Inmar Forum brought a host of top speakers to Winston-Salem, including Andreas Weigend (formerly

the chief data scientist at Amazon), Peter Fader from the Wharton School, John Phillips with PepsiCo, Matt Gymer

of Novant Health and many, many others. But as insightful and informative as these and the other expert presenters

were, the most impactful sharing at the conference may have come from the eight “everyday folks” who

participated in a panel discussion exploring shopper attitudes toward promotions, the in-store experience and the

retailers and brands trying to engage with them.

The collective commentary from the panelists was candid, at times colorful and very, very telling. Here are some the key messages we heard from this diverse group of consumers:

Technology is critical to shoppers’ efforts, but traditional sources have not been abandoned.

The panel members, who ranged in age from 19 to 71, all spoke to their use of the internet to search for product information and availability, make price comparisons and find coupons and other savings opportunities. A multi-source search for savings was common practice among the Forum panelists who spoke of using retailer and manufacturer websites, apps and coupon blogs when looking for coupons and discount opportunities. However, while smartphones and apps were the preference of some consumers, newspapers, Sunday circulars and direct mail were all acknowledged as having real value and a definite place in the pre-trip planning process.

Engagement must be relevant, genuinely facilitate the shopping effort and deliver real value.

The collective message from this group of cost-conscious, self-described “savvy shoppers” was that outreach from marketers had to align with their demonstrated wants and needs. Random or “hard sell” techniques were not effective in moving them to trial or purchase. If they had an interest, the panelists would voluntarily engage with a retailer or brand – but, with the expectation that the “return engagement” would deliver information and offers of immediate, obvious value.

Social media also plays a part in the panelists’ shopping experience, as several in the group expressed a willingness to “like” a product or brand on Facebook in order to receive promotions. Twitter posts were also identified as influential, but more so when broadcast as informative enticements rather than direct advertisements.

Quality customer service trumps convenience in building shopper loyalty and driving repeat business.

Whatever their particular level of engagement, the panelists were consistent in their expectations of quality service – both in-store and online. Ready availability of product information, easily accessible and personally delivered offers, direct and prompt customer service, assurance of product quality and ease of return where all cited as reasons the panelists remained loyal to both retailers and brands.

The panelists also said that they would travel further to those retailers who provided superior customer service, especially when it came to retail pharmacy. Those panelists speaking to their experience in this area voiced that personal attention, close consultation with the pharmacist and the availability of information relative to medication and patient care were the primary decision drivers – having much greater influence than either cost or convenience.

While the panel did not comprise a scientific sampling, the comments from the group did represent, as our Chairman and CEO David Mounts said, “first-person verification” of previous research by Inmar Analytics showing increased use of technology by shoppers along the path to purchase as well as the desire among shoppers for more personal, relevant engagement from retailers (grocery stores, pharmacies and mass merchandisers) and brands (both food and non-food CPGs).

Hearing directly from end-users has always been a particularly powerful information-gathering experience. It’s a reminder that there is always something more to be learned from – and about – the customer.

Travis Lewis is President of Inmar Promotion Network. More information: www.inmar.com.

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Many Consumers Say Marketers’ Mobile Alerts Aren’t Useful or Relevant

Many Consumers Say Marketers’ Mobile Alerts Aren’t Useful or Relevant.

When technology outpaces content and strategy, alerts and other automated consumer messages can become more of a negative distraction, than a positive disruption.

Think before you hit “send” is an acxiom from which we can all benefit!

 

So Many Retailers, So Little Time……

 

Like many of you, I have become a very accomplished “speed deleter” of un-targeted and irrelevant retailer email.  I believe my record is a hundred and seven deleted emails in twenty-five seconds.  Too lazy to actually unsubscribe to the author of the email, I rationalize staying connected by believing that they may actually send me something of value someday.  I wait.

En mass “email speed deletion” may be this consumer’s way of cutting a an email marketer off in mid sentence, but with more merchants doing un-targeted email blasts, the lower the open rates will become for everyone. While email has become a preferred alternative of more expensive direct mail, its efficiency is waning as more join the fray.

Alternatives are emerging.  Blogger-fed websites and the more established coupon distribution sites are beginning to build a following with shoppers who seek deals and content as they plan their next shopping trip.  These sites have a distinct advantage over the email distribution method.  First and foremost the shopper is motivated to come to the site, looking for deals.  The more relevant the offers and the retailer’s are to the shopper, the better the traffic and the results will be for that site.

All You, Retail-Me-Not and Savings.com are three such sites that are gaining traction by creating enough content from enough retailers to make the visit to the site worthwhile for the shopper.

They are on the right track.  

However, they still suffer from being disconnected from the total shopping experience.  Many of these sites have mere passive relationships with the retailer content they post on the site.  While coupon codes, shopping lists and circular content are available, a shopper cannot fully engage with each retailer by checking on their point totals for continuity programs, or drill down into their loyalty clubs and personal preferences.  For that content, the shopper must go back to the retailer’s own site in turn making the shopper’s life more complicated, not less.

One answer appears to lie in the creation of comprehensive central content aggregation site, one in which the list of participating retailers satisfy key requisites for shopper-centric loyalty.  I see them as follows:

1. Content: The retailers must understand the enhanced reach they will receive by “actively” posting both targeted and mass content on an additional central shopper/loyalty site for shoppers and use the site as a means to allow full integration into points, personal profiles, and past performance. While they maintain their own sites, this new central site provides the shopper a new, additional option for engaging the retailer.

2.  Community: This central site must represent the major players in each of the Shopping Communities built, meaning one or more major supermarket, mass retailer, chain drug, sporting goods, home improvement, electronic superstore, and an array of smaller complimenting loyalty retailers.  Consumer Research tell us that Shoppers wildly support the concept of a single site with overwhelming numbers of intended engagement if such thing every existed.

3.  Consistency:  This central site must strive to grow its community of retailers in both number and volume of content, by promoting a dialogue with its shoppers and retailers, meeting their evolving needs. Shoppers and the components of loyalty are extremely dynamic and if retailers are going to actively participate, they must see the platform as one of consistent growth and progressive thinking.

4. Centricity:  Big retailers will not engage any new commonly-shared platform with other retailers unless the central site and its engagement platform embrace the importance of maintaining the retailer’s control of their brand equities and their shopper database.  Both are table stakes for participation. Attempting to lure big retailers to the site without recognizing their requirements and strategies, will not succeed, no matter how loud the clambering from the shopper.

Final Thoughts on the Subject

Creating a comprehensive, central shopping/loyalty site will not happen without investment in both systems and strategy.  Actively sharing content from multiple retailers ultimately means a Single Shopper ID for each shopper that links to shopper back to each of the retailers on the site.  “Innovators” are in the marketplace and focused on just this concept.  Like many “Big Ideas”, a comprehensive central shopping/loyalty site is much easier to image than to execute, but if memory serves me correctly, I believe that’s what some said about scanning UPC Codes back in the seventies!!

 

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