November 8, 2017 - Comments Off on 2017 Holiday Shopping Forecast — Black Friday is No Big Deal?
Black Friday is here again! Well not here, yet. But that’s how it's worked for years, it’s here even before it’s here, right? It’s the big event before the big event. Retailers and the advertising industry create news and events around announcing that it's almost here. Getting the engines primed, right? In the meantime, Amazon is dominating the early deals game, announcing Black Friday action, 50 days early! So yeah, it’s here.
Black Friday is still the single biggest day of spending and shopping on the calendar. But while online opportunities expand, popular attitudes around friday-focused brick-and-mortar feeding frenzies have cooled a bit. Two years ago REI made noise with their OptOutside campaign, staying closed on Thanksgiving and Black Friday in a sort of sacredly secular celebration of the outdoors and non-consumerism — and generated a lot of conversation in the process. They stuck to it last year and just announced they will continue the tradition moving forward.
Then last year we saw more stores choosing to stay closed on Thanksgiving.
Even the Mall of America closed on Thanksgiving last year, opening at a tasteful 5am on Friday morning. Malls are feeling the pinch as much as any individual retailer as spending continues to rise, but primarily in newer transaction channels. Malls are generally claiming a desire to spare the employees and the shoppers all that stress but reducing overhead in the face of stiff competition is also pretty fundamental.
So what does that mean for expectations this year?
According to a study from Field Agent, both Black Friday and Cyber Monday are polling at just over 50% of respondents saying they are “very likely” to shop on those days. The question now is not so much about When or, which days will get the most sales activity — but rather Where and How will customers choose to shop this year? Over half of respondents said they plan to buy “most” of their holiday gifts online. This is the first year this expectation has hit a majority percentage.
With shifting behaviors we also see shifting values. “Affordability” and “quality” are top values this year, while “traditions,” and “brand names” are falling to the bottom of the pile. Amazon is loving it, Macy’s not so much. Macy’s and Nordstrom are forecast to see outright declining sales through holiday season as malls struggle to draw shoppers.
Amazon, WalMart and Target lead the field for retailers overall. Amazon.com soundly dominates the website category with 62% of shoppers expecting to use it. WalMart.com is #2 at 11%. Amazon and WalMart also lead with customers in the mobile app category.
With online and mobile shopping sliding into the forefront of all shopping experiences this year it only makes sense that the in-store frenzy of Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday shopping may be a thing of the past. The same study cites a lot of frustration from a majority of shoppers around overcrowded stores with under-trained agents and fickle availability of in-demand inventory. These realities may accelerate the trend toward better shopping experiences that hinge on more convenient technology.
Make no mistake that physical stores are an asset to the brands that use them well and staff them well. But the familiar narrative around Black Friday highlights some very apparent pain points for customers. And in turn, smart technology and savvy shoppers have deemed all that FOMO and frenzy to be an easy trade off for a happier holiday experience.
Director of Interactive Media
October 31, 2017 - Comments Off on 70/20/10 — The Responsible Recipe for Discovery and Innovation
Say it with me now. Seventy, twenty, ten. Seventy, twenty, ten.
Is it the recommended ratio of lean proteins to fats and carbs? Maybe it’s a stock market strategy or a component in a learning and development process. You’d be correct in every instance. The 70-20-10 model can be useful in many aspects of our daily life. In relationship to the marketing industry, the 70-20-10 model is a flexible path to help allocate your marketing dollars.
Words tossed around in current marketing strategy discussions are “agile, flexible, and nimble.” Companies need the agility to react in a timely manner to new industry developments. Flexibility is fundamental. Adaptation reigns in the chameleon world that is digital marketing. Blah, blah, blah. It’s enough confusion to keep you from doing anything. But before you run willy-nilly chasing the latest “something shiny”, tossing dollars at everything that might produce results, put a plan in place.
That plan can be loosely based on the 70-20-10 principle. Simple, and easily remembered
it works in the digital world with social and content marketing as well as traditional marketing. The basics are to allot 70% of your budget to tried and true, low risk, steady mediums that have worked for you in the past. The next 20% of your budget is earmarked for media that is relatively new, but has “legs.” The idea is to develop media that will move into the 70% bucket.
Finally, the last 10% of marketing dollars go to experimenting, finding the next big opportunity in untested areas. High risk? Yes. But it pays off when you find high reward in the process. The future of the 70% depends on knowing what’s out there and what works for you. We are in an age of emerging media and testing new ideas and new channels is a vital way to turn small plays today into big scores tomorrow.
Some industries refer to the process as Now, New, Next. Coca-Cola has structured their content marketing around the principle. McKinsey & Company a global management consulting firm, outlined a similar model in its approach to creating organic growth in the industry. “Now” focuses on generating growth quickly. “New” takes something that works and uses some aspect of it to innovate. Next is total disruption, off the rails, the great unknown.
So that’s the key! Build in tolerance for the great unknown and invest responsibly in it. This will set you up to learn from unexpected and exciting discoveries in emerging media.
Senior Media Buyer & Planner
October 26, 2017 - Comments Off on The Spirit of Halloween Spending
As Halloween approaches this year’s spooky spirit is at an all time high.
According to the National Retail Federation's Annual Halloween Survey on eMarketer, Halloween spending will increase by 8.3% from last year with record spending at 9.1 billion. Now that’s a lot of candy!
The excitement for creepy lawn decor, trick-or-treating and late night costume parties is nothing new, but our path to purchase is evolving and becoming more complex. Luckily, more sources of inspiration have become available with the increased use of social media platforms. But the real heavy lifting of idea generation can be attributed to Halloween enthusiasts and creative people alike, who are sharing them on social platforms for all to snag.
Interestingly enough, for planned Halloween purchasing channels, the survey shows online ranked as number five; behind discount, Halloween, grocery, and department stores.
The NRF reported that 35.2% of respondents conducted online searches for Halloween celebration inspiration with Facebook and Pinterest as top choices, but stats show that those searches are not converting to ecommerce. This means that over a third of the American population is using online sources for costume, decor and treat ideas before they plan to step foot in brick and mortar stores.
Retail is reminded of how important it is to be aware of influencers in the customer journey. But it’s exciting to see holiday spirit grow as it can only mean good things for the industry and hopefully some pretty sweet costumes!
Market Research & Insights
October 20, 2017 - Comments Off on Contemporary Coupons — More Than Old Fashioned Value
I was the kid that thought it was fun to cut the coupons out of the Sunday paper then sort and organize them for the proper category placement in my mom’s coupon organizer. Sure, you could call that OCD, but it instilled in me a habit that still holds true today.
No longer am I waiting for the Sunday paper, but rather, going to my grocery store’s website and loading the coupons straight to my loyalty card. Why, because, well who doesn’t like to stumble upon a good deal and save a little money. Free pint of Haagen Dazs, yes please!
This trend doesn’t end with the grocery store. Within minutes of searching, customers can find a discount or online coupon within a variety of retail categories.
And these savings aren’t just targeted to those of us that grew up with physical coupons, they have also transcended generations. Millennials are savvy and fickle shoppers. They aren’t as brand loyal and their willingness to buy private-label brands and try lower price brands has kept retailers on their toes. It’s their desire for a good value that will lead to choosing the brand that offers a discount.
And with the availability to find savings online and load them to a loyalty card or combine multiple coupons through an app, these fickle shoppers have become frequent online couponing users.
Now the question is, how to keep your brand top of mind for these millennial shoppers. Maybe it’s following the Bed Bath and Beyond method. Their coupon for 20% off shows up at my house and in my inbox regularly. Sure, I rarely use it, but when I need something and I don’t have the physical coupon, the first place I go is online. Just having it available when I need it is a definite perk.
Now, if only there was a digital coupon organizer. Good thing there is an app for that: Krazy Coupon Lady. Might have to give that a try!
October 11, 2017 - Comments Off on The New Retail Ecosystem Needs Traditional Chains
Twenty years ago, I watched the movie You’ve Got Mail starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks and hated the fictional big chain Fox Books (owned by Hanks) for driving Ryan’s small, independent book store out of business. After the closing is inevitable, Ryan writes in one of their AOL Messenger exchanges, “My store is closing this week. I own a store, did I ever tell you? It’s a lovely store, and in a week it will be something really depressing. Like a Baby Gap.”
For years, the traditional retail chain has been the villain. Retail chains so big that small, independent stores can’t compete. They get squashed by the 600-pound gorilla who sits wherever he wants. But the fallout from the Toys “R” Us bankruptcy suddenly casts this movie in a new light. The big chain retailers are still 600 pound gorillas, able to drive the independent stores out of business. But now they are equally endangered, and the success of entire industries rests on their survival.
The mighty Amazons and Wal-Marts of the world have left the single category chains vulnerable. However, it is imperative that these big chains do not die. Much like how the 600-pound gorilla is an apex predator in its ecosystem, single category chains are apex stores in the retail ecosystem. Traditional retail chains now anchor the brick and mortar shops by giving suppliers a place to sell goods at full price, year-round. They provide the manufactures with a place of resistance against the price wars indicative of the online and big box retailers. This explains the unwavering vendor support Toys “R” Us has been getting since its bankruptcy announcement last week. Toys “R” Us is the last remaining single toy chain standing. If they fail, suppliers will lose their last leverage point.
Isaac Larian, founder and chief executive office of the toy manufacturer MGA Entertainment, Inc. described the importance of the relationship, “Oh my God, they are very important, and people don’t understand. I’ve always said that is there is no Toys “R” Us, there is no toy business.” Larian said he has already shipped his holiday goods to Toys ‘R’ Us and will continue to do so, and he is one of many toy vendors saying the same. Why? Suppliers know that without Toys ‘R’ Us, the toy industry will topple.
The toy industry’s dependency on Toys ‘R’ Us as a single category chain is not unique. Best Buy holds up the electronic industry after the closings of Circuit City and HHGregg. Home Depot and Lowes share the responsibility in the DIY home improvement industry. And Barnes and Nobles now bears the cross after Borders’ liquidation. Without these single category, traditional retail chains there would be no single electronics industry; no single DIY industry; and no single book industry. In today’s world, it is a symbiotic relationship between small independent stores and big retail chains, rather than the competitive world of twenty years ago. The success of the small shop owner is directly tied to the success of the chain store. They need the chain retailers to survive, because without them there are no single category industries. Traditional single category chain retailers serve as apex stores in the retail ecosystem, supplier leverage points. Without them, entire industries would fall.
It turns out the big, bad Fox Books might just be the hero after all.
September 28, 2017 - Comments Off on Barber Martin Welcomes Jane Broadbent!
Jane has joined the Barber Martin team as our new Senior Strategist.
A Brandcenter alum, her career in marketing has allowed her to put her touch on some great brands like Walmart, HCA, Bon Secours, Discover, Markel, Blue Bunny and the Girl Scouts.
Jane takes all the information we have available and uses it to identify all of the questions we need to answer. Then she helps us answer them and do great work. She turns relative chaos into effective order! This is a helpful skill in any aspect of life but Jane is not ALL business.
When she’s not making the work smarter, Jane is spending time with her family or hitting the water for some kayaking, kiteboarding and fly fishing.
Welcome Jane! We’re really excited to have you!
September 19, 2017 - Comments Off on Will Kohl’s Harness Amazon’s Foot Traffic?
Kohl’s is bringing Amazon’s brand and customer service into their floor space. The apparel giant will now allow Amazon returns to be serviced through Kohl's store locations. The move is controversial, but without much analysis the first thing I considered is that “inventory" is not enough of a motivator at brick and mortar anymore. The key is driving foot traffic into the store. Give the customer a prioritized reason to come in that is either experientially valuable or need-serving. Once they are there, inventory can do more to win purchase.
Amazon is so engrained in the broader fabric of customer behaviors with a leg up through volume of inventory, ease of experience and convenience of transaction that this move by Kohl’s does not seem that crazy to me. The convenience of brick and mortar returns for online purchases is a huge factor for higher register sales at brick and mortar.
Shopping behaviors are in flux and retail relationships have to figure out new ways to break down the literal walls of retail. If this gambit is not Kohl’s solution to that, they seem well poised for selling to Amazon. Historically speaking, groceries and apparel have been two of Amazon’s low-points. In that light, Kohl’s position looks an awful lot like Whole Foods’ prior to that acquisition. This development may well be another first-down in Amazon's game plan to expand its real estate.
Director of Interactive Media
September 15, 2017 - Comments Off on It’s a New Day for Dollar Stores
In the past “dollar stores” have been seen as the misfits of mainstream retail. Over the past few years, they’ve evolved. They are now tough competition in the retail landscape. Why? And how has this industry made its transformation?
Random to useful
What used to represent a mishmash of random party supplies, cheap toys and low priority items has turned into a more practical assortment of products.
“Companies like Dollar General and Family Dollar capitalized by tightening up their operations and increasing their assortment of groceries, household goods, and other consumables” (Dollar Disrupters: How discount stores are shaking up the grocery world, Retail Dive). They have realized that food sells.
A focus on brick and mortar
While most companies are making efforts to improve the digital experience, Dollar General has confirmed a remarkable plan to build 1,000 new stores in 2017 (Why Dollar General will keep its promise to build 1K stores this year, Retail Dive).
At last count Dollar General’s numbers were at 13,205 stores across the country, more than any other retail brand. Family Dollar and Dollar Tree together have 14,284 stores. The brick and mortar presence of these brands significantly outweighs even the biggest dogs in retail (Wal-Mart at 5,229 and Target at 1,803).
Store volume and placement are strategically used to interrupt the customer's journey to the local Walmart or convenience store.
New and old customer development
“Many affluent millennials are choosing to save money on consumable products and splurging on experiences and big ticket items” (Dollar Disrupters: How discount stores are shaking up the grocery world, Retail Dive). These customers are starting to show themselves more and more at Dollar stores recently.
But unlike affluent millennials, the core customer sometimes may not have any other choice but to shop at the Dollar store price point. Many of these customers don’t own credit cards, they pay with cash Dollar Stores' Growth Opportunities- and Challenges, eMarketer), which continues to lend itself to the strong brick and mortar presence of this industry.
So what does all of this mean? If Dollar stores continue to assert themselves as the closest and most convenient, price sensible option, then we could potentially start to see a blurred line between c-stores and Dollar stores, as well as a shift in strategy amongst other larger retailers.
The good news is that you can now fulfill immediate needs at your local Dollar store such as milk, eggs, or that appetizer you promised to bring to happy hour. But good luck finding your noisemakers, plastic champagne flutes, and paper tiaras for New Year's Eve this coming year!
Market Research & Insights
These days it's almost impossible to scroll through your social media feed without seeing your friends gushing over their pets; I'm guilty of doing it myself. My cat is both regal and gorgeous.
A recent Washington Post article pointed out some huge statistics about the implications this may have on the $63 billion pet industry which has been growing exponentially since the 90's. Findings from the same study also show that over three-fourths of Americans in their 30s have dogs, and 51 percent have cats. Many adults between the ages of 20-36 are waiting until later in life to marry and start families, but in the meantime, they're finding companionship with a furry friend.
But in a world where pets have entire Instagram accounts dedicated to their antics and promoting products (some with millions of followers), brands would be foolish not to pay attention. Expanding purchase power among millennials means pet-parenting has become an industry unto itself. The majority of millennials are more likely to splurge on pet-pampering than they are on themselves, along with spending money on strange products like dog costumes, a pet backpack, and even a brush that allows you to "lick" your cat (personally I don't need a brush for that).
According to Adweek, 44 percent of millennials consider their pets as starter children, so it's easy to see why we can be very particular when it comes to taking care of our furbabies. Just like how we treat our food, we're wary of the ingredients. We read the labels, and we do the research. We’re willing to spend the extra money on a unique brand that resonates with us. Above all else, we desire convenience, quality, and customization in the products we buy; and if a brand has an interesting origin story or aligning values, even better. If the major brands recognize this and adapt quickly, they can maintain their hold over the market and grow millennial brand loyalty for years to come.
As someone crazy enough to walk their cat, my takeaway is this: I think it’s entirely reasonable to treat a first pet as a learning experience for the future. I personally feel better prepared (not by much) for parenthood thanks to raising my cat. But I treat her like an animal, not a child; I don’t think she needs to be fed “Non-GMO Organic Wild Alaskan Salmon” pet food in order to be happy, especially while I eat Kroger brand groceries.
I guess I'm lucky that her favorite toys are hair ties and rubber bands. I've done enough research to know that the difference between a specialty food and the best grocery variety is very nutritionally minimal, but incredibly cost efficient. I try to make sure her quality of life is the absolute best it can be, and I want her to live a long time, but at the end of the day, she's a cat. If she has a clean litterbox, a full food bowl, and a place next to me on the couch where she can attack my laptop screen, she's good.
Proofreader / Jr. Copywriter