Your Own Personal Retail

Like so many people do this time of year, my husband and I decided to make a change and move. Specifically, we chose to uproot from a one-story house in the Dallas ‘burbs to a three-story townhouse downtown so that we could be closer to the things we enjoy doing, reduce our commutes and make a step towards becoming a one car family. All that being said, we needed to not only downsize but to use our move as a opportunity to clean house and get rid of all the extra stuff the two of us accumulated over the years. And so over the past few months, I’ve been on an adventure in personal retail and resale. With the perspective I have as retail marketer, I would fine tune my approaches, observe potential buyers of my wares and take note, and wonder where brands could authentically fit into this very organic, grassroots shopping arena. Here are a few of my takeaways after diving head first into the world of personal retail.

The Yard Sale

The yard sale is still a mainstay and key route to selling your extraneous stuff in a time crunch. Step 1: Organize and promote your sale. One can still go with a low-key approach of posting a few handmade posters at key intersections the morning of your lone yard sale because there are still people that shop for yard sales by driving around early Saturday mornings looking for said signs. However, in 2015, you can do better without a ton of effort. First off, there’s power in numbers. Multi-family yard sales are typically big draws. Propose a neighborhood yard sale day, or even take it further by partnering with another neighborhood. With just a few clicks on your neighborhood’s Facebook or NextDoor pages to rally the cleaning house spirit, you can exponentially drive traffic to your front door and boost your sales. A simple post on your personal social media can go a long way – in fact, you’ll be amazed at the responses you’ll get, the shares of your post and who of your friends is or knows a yard sale connoisseur. Post on Craig’s List, which has pretty much replaced the classified ads in local papers and it’s free. Post about it on the virtual yard sale groups (more on those later). And just think, if all your neighbors are doing this, too, that network will be spreading the word beyond your reach to their mom groups or their work friends, etc.

Yes, the day of your sale, you’ll still want to put out some kind of signage to direct people to your sale, but for the most part, the leg work is done and you just have to focus on Step 2: Close the sales. In my opinion, cash is still king, so it’s important to be able to make change. Staging your goods is important because only the rare yard saler is going to want to dig around in your stuff. In fact, plenty of shoppers will do the “slow roll” in their car to scope out what you’re selling without getting out of their car. Suggest bundles to make folks feel like they are getting a deal (and it also gets more of your stuff gone).

Even with all that, be prepared to see shopping behavior that you wouldn’t have expected. People will walk away from deals over a difference of 25 cents. I had a shopper spend no less than 20 minutes looking up reviews on Amazon for some of my items – showrooming is not uncommon with brick and mortar shopping these days, but at yard sales? Really? Really. I also had another shopper Facetime his wife for nearly 30 minutes over $2 storage containers, which he ultimately passed on. If I wasn’t in shopper marketing, I probably would have been guilty of an eyeroll or two, but it was all very fascinating to observe the trickle down effect of technology on even yard sale shopping behavior.

What’s in it for brands? Some retailers have already gotten in on the direct connection between yard sales and moving by selling yard sale signs on the same aisle as moving boxes. Organization brands, like Container store, could sponsor National Yard Sale Day (the second Saturday in August) with parking lot events or promote offers to help you stay organized once you’ve decluttered.

The Virtual Sale

There seems to be about a million different ways to sell stuff virtually. From EBay to Etsy to Craig’s List, you can sell your stuff, but much of that depends on knowing your target audience and understanding the medium. Etsy is really more about selling crafted and made products, not so much for selling your old high school calculator. EBay can do instant sales, but it’s still mainly about the auction and you will have to make time for shipping. Craig’s List can be very hit or miss in terms of the kinds of buyers you’ll attract, and I always approach it with caution to never meet anyone alone. These days, you have even more options and even more control over how to sell things online and via apps, but I’ll touch on the one that seems to be gaining the most traction in my opinion, the Facebook Sales groups.

I probably joined my first Facebook sales group a few years ago at the invitation of a friend. It essentially served as a virtual garage sale. You could post a picture of an item, the sales price and approximate location of where it could be picked up. Interested parties would comment and then through private message, work out the details to finalize the sale. Over the years though, it’s become a culture, complete with it’s own language, rules and trends. The dynamics of these groups evolved so much that Facebook even created a new post form specifically for groups to help streamline the essential details of a post and requiring those details before a post could be submitted.

Let’s talk about the lingo. Want and Next comments are enough to solidify your place in line. Porch Pick Up means I’ll leave it for you on my front step and you better leave the money for it under my doormat when you come to get it. PPU means pending pick up, which a seller will post to indicate that the sale is almost done but since sales fall through all the time don’t lose hope entirely. A seller can also comment Bump to send their post back to the top of the group’s news feed to ensure fresh eyes see it. X-posted means you’ve posted this item across several groups, so even if it looks like you are first in line for an item, someone in another group make actually be first. No holds means the seller isn’t hanging onto the item for anyone, it’s a first come, first serve to make the sale.

The trends are fascinating to me. Pinterest inspiration is a big one here. For example, in the last year or so on these groups, I’ve seen a spike in the sale of “project pieces,” specifically rehabbed wooden coffee tables, end tables, entryway tables, and consoles painted in bright pastels or bold colors. Most of the time, these sales are for the completed projects, but there are also plenty of the incomplete “I bought this with the intention of rehabbing it and either my time or my skill level prevented me from actually finishing” pieces. There are bloggers and youtube channels dedicated to teaching people how to bring old furniture back to life with chalk paint and glaze. In the past, people used to go to flea markets to find these project pieces, and now they don’t even have to leave the comfort of their homes if delivery of the piece is included. (Other current trends I’ve seen in these include wood pallet crafts and barnwood/farm tables).

What’s in it for brands? Furniture and craft brands should be looking into this underground network for insights and noting these trends (much like fashion designers seek inspiration from people on the street or dancing in clubs). For instance, I would love to see a long established furniture company like Bassett or Broyhill run a targeted FB promotion that asks shoppers to rehab one of their brand’s furniture pieces from the 60s or 70s for a chance to win a $10,000 living room makeover. It authentically ties into what this audience is already doing, establishes the heritage and quality of the brand, and is prime for social sharing.

The Resales

Consignment and second hand shops have been around for decades as yet another avenue for getting rid of your unwanted items. From clothes to books to furniture to sporting equipment, these days sellers can not only look to brick and mortar specialty consignment/resale stores but also to any number of apps to consign their wares from the convenience of their phone. For my purposes, I went the brick and mortar route for the luxury of immediacy.

Dallas-based national chain Half Price Books, while known for selling new and used books at a discount, is a great resource for getting cash for your old books, magazines, CDs, DVDs, videos and, dare I say, even laser discs. It’s a very familiar process for anyone that ever sold their study books back at student bookstore at the end of a semester. You bring your items in, a store clerk looks them up in their system while you wait in the store and you receive a cash offer for the total of your bounty. Demand and condition are the main factors for determining offer prices. Unless you are trying to sell something special, like a signed, limited first edition Harry Potter, they don’t break it down for you item by item – it’s a lump sum, take it or leave it. Don’t expect to make out like a bandit selling your books and CDs back, but something is better than nothing. Also keep in mind, what they don’t resale, Half Price Books will donate to nonprofits in support of literacy, so you can feel good about where your items are going. (Don’t have a Half Price Books near you, Amazon also has a trade-in program.)

Clothing consignment can be a bargain shoppers dream, but for someone looking to unload unwanted clothes, it can be a little confusing and nerve wracking. So many of these stores are locally-based and have their own guidelines for selecting what items they’ll take and the method for selling, which means every store is different. For my needs, I opted to give national consignment store Clothes Mentor a try. Here, you bring in your items, a store clerk accepts them for review and gives you an approximate time for your estimate to be completed, then you receive a text to let you know your estimate is ready, and upon return, they’ll walk you through what items they want and what they are willing to offer. Based on my experience (and from reviews I’ve read of others’ experiences), it’s completely hit or miss and not much rhyme or reason as to why they want some items over others or offer a certain price. Seasonality and condition can play a roll, but for the most part, they tell you it’s about your items not being the latest style. I was told this about a batch of clothes I brought in and yet one of the shirts they did buy from me, I kid you not, was 12 years old. It’s a roll of the dice, and again, something is better than nothing.

And then there is Good Will. An American mainstay in donated clothing, furniture, electronics, etc, Good Will makes these things accessible to people of all economic levels, but their stores and proceeds also go to support job creation and career education. Any true purge of belongings should involve several trips to your local Good Will, where you can get a receipt good for writing off your donations on your taxes. Win-Win for everyone.

What’s in it for brands? Clearly, specialized brands in the market of resale know their niche and understand their place in the resale market. But with all these burgeoning apps furthering simplifying the resale of not only the things you don’t want (like that sweater your mom gave you for Christmas without a gift receipt), but also of luxury and high ticket items that you may have used once and no longer have a need or space for them. It’s also important for brands to consider the benefits of trade-ins for credits over cash, which ensures the money essentially stays in there pocket but almost always guarantees a greater return as a shopper has to spend more than their credit to get the benefit of spending it all.

Image: Getty

Targeted Marketing takes Aim

That time West Elm advertised to me with a photo of my living room:

Last week, I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed and came across a photo of my living room. This wasn’t something I had posted on Facebook, it was a West Elm ad. I snapped it on my iPhone when my new couch finally arrived and uploaded it to Instagram with the hashtag #mywestelm.

In April 2015, Facebook began testing a new product ad with Olapic that pulls in user-generated content for ad imagery. This is the first true test of user-generated content in a Facebook ad.

In the past, consumers didn’t want to interact with brand content on their social platforms. But with the rise of image-based platforms like Instagram and Pinterest, a shift happened. Consumers now want to share how they engage and interact with their favorite brands and products. Because of this and consumers’ need and desire to have everything hyper-personalized, we are seeing the rise of user-generated content, from staged food photos on Instagram to product hacks on Pinterest. When consumers started seeing products friends and influencers were showing interest in, they found a desire to buy, right from social. They became shoppers.

Facebook is taking the Instagram and Pinterest user experience that motivates shoppers to make a purchase, and applying it to their ad units. West Elm didn’t know they were showing me my own photo (why would they sell me a product I already own?). What they do know is that consumers are more responsive to user-generated photos than branded content and I was the type of consumer likely to shop at West Elm (which is very accurate). My photo could have sold someone a coffee table. I should probably take a new picture now that I have a new West Elm rug.

Move over millennials. Tech-savvy boomers are here to stay.

Millennials are receiving a lot of attention these days.  They’re reportedly self-centered, entitled and can’t survive without technology.  And while Facebook usage is waning among the generation thanks to instant-gratification platforms such as Snapchat, what about older generations?

Both of my grandmothers – proud baby boomers – are on Facebook, use a computer daily and one even has an iPhone (gasp!).  They often comment about how they cannot keep up with technology, but in my opinion, they’re doing pretty well.

And according to a new study by Mashable and Statista, several technologies millennials may view as archaic are vastly prevalent among boomers – but they’re also adapting rather quickly to new tech.

While basic cell phones, desktop computers and VCRs are more popular among individuals 65 and older, they’re catching up to millennial youngsters in tablet and eBook reader usage.  Further, as millennials adapt to video streaming services, cable television companies may have to adjust marketing efforts toward older generations.

Click the infographic below for additional comparisons.

Technology

http://www.statista.com/chart/1759/technology-adoption-among-americans-of-different-age/

For the Love of Cereal?

Cereal is a mainstay of the American diet. Since the introduction of cereal in the 20th century, which evolved from oatmeal and granola, we’ve been enjoying this simple, ready-to-eat meal around our breakfast tables…. and in the evening, as a quick, it’s just me and I don’t want to clean dishes, dinner solution… and as an afternoon snack… and as a late night I’ve got the munchies but I don’t want to go out hunger fix.

Although considered a basic breakfast staple, cereal has made its way into the American lifestyle as a popular, anytime meal. There are even restaurants purely dedicated to cereal, like R U Cereal in Albuquerque and Cereality Cereal Bar and Cafe at Terminal C in the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport. People love cereal.

General Mills is embracing cereal lovers everywhere with its website and social media campaign, Hello, Cereal. Its Facebook group alone has 313,000 followers and is growing.

According to a recent article in the New York Times:

The Facebook group is part of a broader online effort by General Mills that includes a Web site, and accounts on social networking sites like Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr. While representatives of the company tend to post about popular General Mills brands like Cheerios and Lucky Charms, the company occasionally takes the counterintuitive approach of highlighting rival cereals.
On Facebook, for example, Hello, Cereal Lovers featured a recipe suggested by a user made with Post Honey Bunches of Oats, while on Twitter it reposted a recipe made with Post Fruity Pebbles and Kellogg’s Rice Krispies.
Carla Vernón, marketing director for General Mills cereal, said taking a “brand agnostic” approach was suited to social media.“It is a new framework to consider now that we’re in great conversations with the people that buy and enjoy our products,” Ms. Vernón said. “It’s important for us to be authentic and recognize what they want to share and hear about.”
The first Twitter message was sent in December and the first post to Facebook was made in January, but Ms. Vernón said that the effort had thus far been “piloting and learning” and that “it’s really truly in launch phase right now.”

So by embracing cereal as a whole and being inclusive of all brands (though it does primarily promote its products) has General Mills elevated the conversation about cereal? Through this platform, GM promotes cereal as more than just a breakfast solution and embraced consumers using cereal for multiple usage occasions and different functions. From coatings for chicken to ice cream toppings to crafted jewelry, cereal is versatile, going beyond the bowl and milk.

What can other brands take away from this campaign? Is it enough to embrace the consumers that already love your product or category, in order to get them to buy more? Or does this type of campaign need to incorporate more elements to also drive conversion, to up sales in general? Should your campaign be inclusive of competitors, if consumers are helping to drive the content and conversation? It’ll be interesting to see where this campaign is after a year and how other brands may employ something similar or better.

APPtitude: Candy Crush Saga

Background

Candy Crush Saga is an addictively simple game that challenges players to match three or more pieces of candy in a row.  That’s it…well except for the seemingly never-ending number of levels (as of now, there are 385).  Further, the game has integrated pay-to-play technology that allows users to make in-app purchases to continue playing or buy booster candies.

Candy Crush by the Numbers

  • It is the number one app on Facebook with 45.2 million active players
  • On mobile phones (iOS and Android), Candy Crush is the number three most downloaded app
  • The game is played more than 600 million times on mobile devices each day

Why does this matter?

Many mobile apps hit a popularity peak, and struggle to sustain that popularity.  Candy Crush, on the other hand, has steadily been increasing in popularity since it’s launch in April 2012, and shows no sign of slowing down.

What does this mean for brands?

Candy Crush’s simplicity, pay-to-play features and expansive number of levels, means players can’t – and won’t – stop crushing candy.  The game’s mix of digital ingredients and subsequent popularity demonstrate the impact of keeping consumers engaged in an ever-changing digital world.

 

Feature photo credit: itunes.apple.com

Social Media, Branding Superhero

Inc. Magazine recently featured a post about whether social media is more advertising or PR. The author believes that social media can be either, depending on a marketer’s goals or objectives. My Millennial opinion: Social media is its own entity.

PR is message and communication management, a key aspect of social media. Advertising is focused on business strategy and achieving measurable results based on set objectives. Any social media promotional campaign that depends on conversion as a success factor harnesses the skills of advertising.

I agree with the author that social media can be what a client needs it to be and can lean toward PR or advertising, depending on the objective. But, as a whole, social media is the future…happening now.

The fact that social media can tackle the demands of PR and advertising in one fell swoop gives it a power that neither PR nor advertising can have on their own. It’s a medium that gives anyone the power to become a brand — and that’s exactly how my generation is using it.

We are setting the future of business by branding ourselves without the assistance of PR or advertising, but instead using social media. And thanks to this special medium, when consumers set trends on Facebook, Twitter or the like, brands tend to follow in their footsteps. If you’re wondering who is really in control…look no further. Consumers and Shoppers. They hold the power in today’s dynamic retail ecosystem.

And mark my words, the more prominent social media becomes, the more brands will begin to test its limits in ways no one could ever imagine with PR or advertising alone.

Feature photo credit: ViralBlog

Social Media’s March Madness

The Superbowl may have commercials, but March Madness is nipping at its heels with social media, thanks the medium’s ability to attract and interact with a broad range of consumers – and a lot of them.

Nielsen’s 2012 Year in Sports revealed that among 18-49 year olds, 99 percent of sports events were viewed on various devices the same day as airing. This means brands that ran campaigns during the 2012 NCAA championship game were guaranteed a timely interaction with a portion of the 20.8 million viewers who tuned in for the Big Dance.

To take advantage of 2013’s potential reach, Coca-Cola is spending 10 times what it did on social media in 2012 with a campaign that takes a look into the loss of productivity during NCAA March Madness.

The campaign pairs Coke Zero with Bleacher Report, one of the leading sports brands during March, to provide various insights via multiple channels as to why “it’s not your fault you’ve been slacking off” during tournament time.

Other brands have also embraced social media to connect with the NCAA March Madness consumer.

ESPN took a somewhat political approach by having President Obama fill out his bracket on SportsCenter, followed by YouTube star Robbie Novak, also known as “Kid President,” making his predictions. While the President’s video has only 3,000 views thus far, Kid President has racked up more than one million views, demonstrating the power of a strong social media presence.

NCAA sponsors AT&T and Hershey’s Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups have both created campaigns that promise a chance at attending next year’s tournament, all the while ramping up brand page views and Facebook likes. Even more, AT&T and the NCAA teamed up on Twitter to provide “real-time highlights” of games under the NCAA’s @marchmadness handle.

And although the final numbers for 2013 are not yet in, brands that implemented social media campaigns during the past month are sure to see positive results — results that will likely spark an influx of social media campaigns in 2014 and years to come.