Back-To-School

Back-to-School Shoppers Plan to Purchase

As the new school year kicks into high gear for most of the country, parents and students will find a changing shopping landscape. No longer are they racing to retail stores without a plan for braving the crowd days before the school year starts. Digitally-driven brick and mortar purchases are changing the way consumers shop.

Shopping at brick-and-mortar retail stores without being prepared is less popular with back-to-school shoppers. Digitally driven shopping now guides the shopping habits of consumers looking to grab better deals and avoid long lines. Digital is also helping them plan their back-to-school shopping strategy throughout the calendar year. Consumers are using apps to research products on their mobile phones. The statistics help explain the behavior shift:

  • According to Deloitte, last year nearly half of every dollar spent on apparel in brick-and-mortar stores was digitally-influenced, a number that jumped to 62 cents of every dollar in the electronics category.
  • Nearly 4 in 10 of surveyed parents shopping for children in grades K-12 said the back to school shopping season is less important to their families because they replenish school supplies throughout the year and feel less need to stock up.
  • And 31% of consumers complete their shopping after the school year begins.

 

 

As part of our back-to-school Shopper Safari retail audit, we saw four key themes: 1) Battle for the best prices, 2) Impactful point-of-sale displays, 3) Charitable and caused-based program overlays, and 4) Selling solutions. Click here to view our Shopper Safari recap.

 

 

 

 

Retailers should be targeting a window larger than the traditional back-to-school shopping period for their marketing efforts. Back-to-school shopping is now a year round endeavor, so opportunities exist for brands and retailers to capitalize on that. By focusing on consumers and their reliance on digital, retailers can drive in-store purchases more successfully. Digitally fluent shoppers have a plan before they walk through the doors, and in-store purchases of items like apparel are easily planned for. According to Bazaar Voice, 61% of back-to-school shoppers research online before purchasing in-store.

As consumers continue to look for more convenient shopping experiences for their students, digital allows them opportunities to plan and to purchase when it’s convenient for them. As retailers look to future shopping seasons such as Black Friday and the Christmas shopping season, the goal should be to stay on top of this shift in consumer behavior and take advantage of the digital movement to boost their in-store sales.

Connecting With Shoppers In-Aisle Via Mobile

 

How do brands break through the “cluttered” digital and “uncluttered” retail environment?

The concept of a “clean” store has been around for a decade. The idea suggests that consumers, in a desire to have a more pleasurable shopping experience, are a looking for uncluttered, clearly labeled aisles and products. They are looking for promotions and deals in store but not at the sacrifice of a manageable trek through the aisles.

We’ve seen this trend pushed to the brink of virtually no POP by Walmart a few years ago and more recently pulled back to a compromise but still the fact remains that brands have fewer opportunities to connect with the consumer due to a number of macro trends:

1. Clean Store policy – Retail brands are looking to own a branded store environment and keep aisles clean for consumers.

2. Digital disruption in-store – 75% – 90% of shoppers have used their phone while they shop in a retail environment (eMarketer and Internet Retailer)

3. Collapsed purchased funnel – The time from awareness to purchase to advocacy is short and growing shorter due to the dynamic of “always-on shopping” and the pervasive influence of digital shopping tools. In fact, digital tools will influence 90% of in-store retail sales by 2018 and already influence more than 65% of retail shopping decisions.

Given these realities, brands have to get smarter and think differently about how to reach the shopper in-aisle or anywhere where they are in a position to make an instant purchase decision. The rapid proliferation of mobile and in-store retail technologies that have infiltrated and disrupted the traditional shopper journey have forever enhanced, yet clouded the way in which marketers talk with and engage consumers and shoppers. In this type of environment the key question that marketers must consider is one of prioritization in order to reach shoppers at the point of purchase. So how do marketers go about prioritizing these digital opportunities?

In a world that is increasUntitledingly over-messaged, over-advertised, and maybe over-connected, how do you connect with your shopper differently?

It starts by applying the fundamentals of consumer research – understand the mindset of the consumer, the behavior of the shopper, and the surroundings of a person across the modal dialogue. So, in other words, we need to understand how the consumer moves from consumer to shopper to buyer to influencer mode not only behaviorally but in terms of what they think. At TPN, we call this the “Modal Dialogue”. By understanding the consumer you can better determine high-level focus areas around selection, timing and content. By determining these focus ares we know where our message be seen along the shopper journey (in-store, pre-shop, etc), what type content we should be developing (inspirational, instructional, etc) and the timing of our message based on behavior.

With a deep understanding of the consumer, we can reimagine how to effectively communicate with her across channels. As we look across channels at TPN, we look to marry traditional in-store channels with digital and emerging strategies. With more than thirty-five identified digital channels mapped at TPN, this proves to be a challenge to prioritize but offers the best opportunity to market in aisle when retailer based programs are inefficient, aren’t available, or simply aren’t differentiated.

At TPN, the way we do this is to of course, look at the objective of any particular marketing and / or activation campaign, but we also look at the opportunity to effectively reach the shopper in a way that is most relevant to her. As we look to find third-party strategies and tactics to reach a shopper in the aisle, we may find that she is responsive to push notifications that provide timely and relevant content, like recipes or dinner hacks, while she is in shopper mode. We may find that she is responsive to virtual reality experiences at the shelf that immerse her in the brand. We may find that she is browsing the web via apps or her web browser and is responsive to advertising and messaging during those experiences. The power of mapping out her digital preferences, channel reach, and the potential of those channels allow us to more efficiently develop the tactical mix to activate in aisle.

With many, but not all, of the tactics that we look at, we can now reach a level of precision targeting and efficiency in ad spend that really does thread the needle for the campaigns we run. For example, using data management platform partners, media partners, and emerging technologies, marketers can target specific consumer subsets in aisle. More and more we can message the consumer with personalized messages based on a variety of variables right in the aisle.

In essence, as brands look to find ways to better target consumers and shoppers in a crowded digital and increasingly clean store environment, they must look at intelligent, respectful, and calculated use that digital channels can provide the greatest ROI. Thoughtful planning can redefine how shopper marketing interacts with and engages the shopper in-store. The keys to remember are that relevant, efficient, activation-oriented campaigns can succeed but they must enhance, not detract, from the shopping experience.

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.

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.

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

From the Westside: Fresh & Easy Exits US Market

It comes as no surprise to many retail watchers that British parent company Tesco announced this morning that it will attempt to sell all 200 Fresh & Easy stores, located in California, Arizona and Nevada. Incredibly, the chain did not make any money during its 5-year duration in the US.

It’s an unfortunate situation for the small-format, innovative stores that launched in 2007 with high hopes for bringing fresh food to “food deserts,” or areas that were underserved by supermarket and grocery store chains. Initial plans were to launch 1,000 stores in California & other western states before expanding east. Those plans were scaled down due to the economic climate as well as lack of performance & profit.

Why did Fresh & Easy fail? Theories abound. Primarily, the US grocery market is competitive, with well-established banners under Kroger, Safeway, and SuperValu brands.There’s also increased competition from high-end/specialty/independent grocery chains like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, as well as the rise of mass-market retailers with grocery components, notably Walmart and Target.

Fresh & Easy also pursued a self-service check-out model that was not popular with consumers who are used to cashiers, especially for high-volume, check-out intensive purchases. The chain also did not offer vouchers or coupons, which US grocery shoppers are accustomed to. In fact, many grocery chains highlight their coupon program as the primary draw for shoppers, even offering shopping incentives such as double coupons. Fresh & Easy also made a push to sell ready-made meals which were not necessarily compatible with local shoppers and their habits, mainly because shoppers in the west tend to grocery shop once a week and look for a wide range of products rather than shopping more frequently, where they’d be more inclined to shop for a grab-and-go/ready-made product.

Finally, Fresh & Easy launched with a high percentage of private label brands and a reduced SKU assortment in the center of the store. Many consumers were unable to find the brands they were used to purchasing, leading to frustration and an additional shopping trip. Many shoppers willing to give the new concept a try visited once and never returned.

Ultimately, the store failed to find it’s niche in the competitive US grocery landscape and solve a real need for consumers. It tried to introduce a new way of shopping that wasn’t compatible with US shopper needs, desires or patterns.

Retail analyst Neil Saunders of Conlumino in London said “Retail history will likely record Tesco’s American foray as something of an unfortunate misadventure.”

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.