Valentine’s Day Gets a Facelift

Millennials, described as “confident, connected and open to change” by PewResearch, are living up to their characteristics according to TPN’s Seasonal Pulse New Year 2014 study.

Among all generations, millennials are the most likely group to “change it up” this Valentine’s Day. Thirty percent of millennials are planning to celebrate the romantic holiday differently than last year (see graph below), providing a huge opportunity for marketers to influence their plans – especially if millennials are trying to impress a new special someone.

Further, 21 percent of millennials plan to stay home and cook a special meal this Valentine’s Day. As notorious foodies who are always online, millennials will be hunting down new meal inspirations across social media and the web. Grocery retailers and online brands should be targeting this generation as they plan for their night in.

While 29 percent of millennials do plan on going out for a meal, those staying in, including myself, won’t have to make a last-minute reservation or spend an arm and a leg on food. Maybe it’s me, but I think millennials may be on to something.

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Source: TPN Seasonal Pulse, New Year 2014

For more information regarding TPN and our Seasonal Pulse findings, please visit www.tpnretail.com.

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/

Macy’s Gets Active to Draw Millennials to Stores

In an effort to attract a younger audience, Macy’s will introduce a wider array of athletic apparel to its stores this month.  Brands will include Nike, Under Armour and the North Face, among others.

“We are working with the best brands in the category to bring our customers exciting merchandise that will serve their athletic interests in all endeavors — from the yoga studio to the weight room, to hiking and rock climbing,” said Jeff Gennette, Macy’s chief merchandising officer.

It’s no surprise that the department store saw an opportunity for growth in the category, as athletic apparel is key among Millennials, who are already purchasing two to three times more clothing than previous generations.

Further, athletic apparel is no longer just for working out.  These days, Millennials want to look good in their athletic gear while at the gym or running errands, making it “lifestyle” apparel, more than anything else.  This category shift has been also a driving force behind the success of Lululemon Athletica, the third most successful U.S. retail store in 2012.

Macy’s introduction of additional athletic brands will also include kiosk technology to further create a bridge between in-store and online shopping, allowing shoppers to find any brand in any store.

Feature Photo Credit: spafinder.com

Pew Research Center: 72% of Online Adults Use Social Networks

A new study by the Pew Research Center found that 72% of online adults use social networking sites.  For users 65 or older, there has been a 30% increase in social media use from four years ago.  And while younger online adults ages 18-29 still lead the way for social networking use, older users are continuously and rapidly increasing their presence.

What does this mean for brands?  Digital mediums are becoming omnipresent in the lives of all consumers.  Millennials and moms are no longer the only consumers to consider targeting through digital and social mediums.

Feature photo credit: www.arikhanson.con

Retail Technology Takes Consumer Tracking To The Next Level

As the variables impacting shopper behavior continue to increase and diversify, retailers want to know more and more about their shoppers to keep them shopping and coming back for more. Online, retailer and e-commerce websites can track and get to know shoppers through a plethora of tactics (i.e. bread crumbs, click-throughs, mouse hovers, shopping carts, favorites, cookies and social media, just to name a few). In-store, loyalty programs have been around for years that enable retailers to collect data about shoppers’ habits. Many shoppers have caught on, connecting the ads they see online to their search habits or the catalina coupon printed at the register for brand X because they bought brand Y the week before.

Theories behind shopper behavior have been driving retailer research and exploration for years. Technology is now enabling the testing and observation of such theories in store on a whole new level. Today, retailers are experimenting with various technology in-store in an effort get more well-rounded snapshots of their shoppers and to bring those tactics for data collection on par with the depth of data that can be reaped online.

The New York Times recently covered this subject with an overview of an experimental tracking system at Nordstrom, which tracked customer movements via the Wi-Fi signals from their smartphones. Nordstrom posted a sign alerting customers of the experiment and ultimately ended the experiment in May 2013, in part because of the complaints.

“Way over the line,” one consumer posted to Facebook in response to a local news story about Nordstrom’s efforts at some of its stores. Nordstrom says the counts were made anonymous. Technology specialists, though, say the tracking is worrisome.
“The idea that you’re being stalked in a store is, I think, a bit creepy, as opposed to, it’s only a cookie — they don’t really know who I am,” said Robert Plant, a computer information systems professor at the University of Miami School of Business Administration, noting that consumers can rarely control or have access to this data.
Some consumers wonder how the information is used.
“The creepy thing isn’t the privacy violation, it’s how much they can infer,” said Bradley Voytek, a neuroscientist who had stopped in at Philz Coffee in Berkeley, Calif. Philz uses technology from Euclid Analytics, of Palo Alto, Calif., the company that worked on the Nordstrom experiment, to measure the signals between a smartphone and a Wi-Fi antenna to count how many people walk by a store and how many enter.
Still, physical retailers argue that they are doing nothing more than what is routinely done online.
“Brick-and-mortar stores have been disadvantaged compared with online retailers, which get people’s digital crumbs,” said Guido Jouret, the head of Cisco’s emerging technologies group, which supplies tracking cameras to stores. Why, Mr. Jouret asked, should physical stores not “be able to tell if someone who didn’t buy was put off by prices, or was just coming in from the cold?” The companies that provide this technology offer a wide range of services.

The article goes on to discuss several companies that are on the leading edge of these new technologies. RetailNext, one such company, uses multiple layers of technology, such as video footage to study shopper navigation and differentiate individuals, smart phone WiFi pings to pinpoint where a shopper is in the store, and mobile device identification codes to identify repeat shoppers and their frequency of shopping. RetailNext can help retailers collect this data to ultimately impact the design of their stores, such as display placement in relation to the shopper path recorded.

Just last week, an European outdoor advertising firm kicked off ads using face detection technology, OptimEyes. This technology promises to enable advertisers to know the number of people seeing their ads and the kinds of people specifically, identifying them by gender and approximate age. According to Todd Wasserman at Mashable:

Amscreen, which has a network of more than 6,000 screens in Europe in gas stations and convenience stores, is using the technology to let advertisers see the results of their ad spends. Such ROI data is common for online ads, but has proved elusive for more traditional forms of advertising, like outdoor and TV… The company isn’t alone in looking to Minority Report-like face detection as a solution for advertising ROI. Last year, Microsoft filed a patent for Kinect that would let advertisers know how many people were using the product at any given time. A company called EyeSee manufactures mannequins for retail stores that use face detection to let retailers assess their traffic.

This area of technology will continue to develop and further push the line. How shoppers will react or adapt to these tactics as they become more main stream remains to be seen. Take into consideration that there are several factors at play here. Some technology gathers data purely through observation, some gather data through submission (think app downloads and email sign ups) and others gather data building off other technology (like smartphones). With that said, some shoppers are participating in the data collection voluntarily, perhaps in hope of a coupon or special sale, while others feel a heated aversion to such tactics and consider any range of these techniques a violation of privacy.

However, I can’t help but wonder if that as generations of shoppers shift and as millennials, who are so accustomed to sharing everything about themselves, grow older, this aversion will become less and less. Until then, as the boundaries of privacy become blurrier and the avenues for retail continue to blossom into more areas of daily life, retailers will have to walk a fine line of learning all they can about their shoppers through technology while not alienating them by trying to learn too much.

Introducing “APPtitude”

As of June 2013, there were 900,000 apps available in the iTunes app store. So how is it possible to know which apps can help drive marketing efforts and which are a waste of time?

The answer: “APPtitude” — a new feature by TPN’s Millennial Minute that will highlight the latest and greatest apps, app news and how each can tie into retail marketing efforts.

This week’s featured (and inaugural) app: Instagram.

Background

Instagram launched in 2011 as the iPhone version of a classic Polaroid camera. Most of you probably downloaded it. Or, your kids did. Facebook recently bought the app and last week it launched a new feature that allows users to take short, 15-second videos, in addition to photos.

Why does this matter?

Earlier this year, Twitter launched Vine, the first app of its kind that allowed users to upload six-second videos. As a user of Vine, I’m not overly impressed. It lacks features to create videos truly worth sharing.

Instagram’s new video feature is essentially the same concept, but has quickly blown Vine out of the water. Here’s why:

  1. Instagram already has an established user base — people understand the app, how to use it and what kind of content works best. The video feature falls quite naturally into the structure of the originally photo-only app, making the video easy to use.
  2. Vine users weren’t quite sure what to do when the app first launched. Stop-motion movies are a lot of work, and for only a six-second video … worth the time investment? I’m still on the fence… On the other hand, the quality and beauty of seasoned Instagram users’ photos translates into their Instagram videos. This gives direction to all users and remains within the user-established Instagram style standards.
  3. Instagram includes features that Vine users have been asking for since its launch.  The most notable: the ability to take front-facing video for — of course — video selfies.

What does this mean for brands?

Brands have just started to discover ways to connect with their audiences through Vine, but Instagram provides an already-established user base, cutting out a huge portion of the work required when connecting to audiences through social media.

Further, Instagram already established itself as a lifestyle-focused app, giving brands the ability to connect with audiences on a very unique level. The addition of video will simply extend the ways in which brands build meaningful social relationships.

 

Feature photo credit: www.digitaltrends.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

Give and Take in the Millennial Generation

I once had a manager tell me that it was my job to make her look good and her job to make me look good – somewhat of a shocking statement for me, a newbie to the workforce, to hear.

But as I quickly found out, this philosophy is all about give and take, and finding a balance between the two; something, Adam Grant, award-winning tenured professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, talks about in his book, Give and Take.

If you’re anything like me, your mornings go something like this: rush out the door, grab a latte on the way to work and catch up on the latest news (via iPhone) along the way. Yesterday morning was like any other, but I did manage to capture a few minutes of the Today Show before beginning my commute.

The show featured Grant, a few highlights of his book and the research he’s done on the power of giving to get ahead in business. He highlights a shift in the business mindset, leading to better development of leadership through collaboration and networking, a shift from focusing success drivers on hard work, talent and essentially, luck, to a dependence on how people interact with others.

Which takes me back to my first point about give and take and what Grant is telling us: Business relationships in the Millennial generation are not “you do this, I’ll take credit.” Rather, they are about giving credit where credit is due, working hard and earning time to relax with a little karaoke to build stronger relationships with co-workers.

 

Feature Photo Credit: Stephen Huneck