Blogs

When Science Collides With Retail: Giving the Public What They Want

The fashion times are a-changin’. New products have an estimated failure rate of 50 percent, costing over $400 billion each year collecting dust on store shelves. With that kind of risk involved, a systematic assessment of consumer preferences should be par for the course. However, retailers are constantly struggling to determine what styles consumers are…

Time for a New Design or Just Bored?

Being bored with your catalog design is a terrible reason for a redesign. Your feelings don’t count; your customers’ feelings do.

Same-Day, Crowdsourced Delivery Options to Penetrate, Not Disrupt Next-Day Models

If “crowdsourcing” companies like Deliv, Uber, Roadie and Lyft offer merchants pricing that's similar to UPS and FedEx, or if retailers subsidize and price same-day shipping costs in line with standard shipping, I anticipate market adoption especially for younger, more affluent consumers living in major metropolitan areas. However, initial announcements are that UberRUSH will charge…

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Omnichannel Integration

The fashion times are a-changin’. New products have an estimated failure rate of 50 percent, costing over $400 billion each year collecting dust on store shelves. With that kind of risk involved, a systematic assessment of consumer preferences should be par for the course. However, retailers are constantly struggling to determine what styles consumers are…

I'm at the Shop.org Annual Summit in Seattle and having a great time catching up with old friends and colleagues, meeting new contacts, and learning about new digital marketing strategies and technologies. Also, as usual, as I walk through the exhibit hall I'm being greeted by smiling vendors, eager to share with me information about their latest and greatest shiny new objects. For the most part, I actually enjoy talking with vendors and learning about their wares. But I have noticed many folks — retailers, probably — with their badges turned the other way or tucked into their jackets, and I know why: they don’t want to be singled out and aggressively sold to by vendors.

The concept of attribution modeling isn't overtly sexy. It enables marketers to look at a variety of ads that contribute to a sale or conversion over an extended period of time and then attribute credit to each ad or "touchpoint" within the sales funnel. After I learned about how omnichannel men's apparel brand Bonobos uses attribution modeling to cut its marketing costs and double sales, the concept downright sizzles. I had a chat recently with Craig Elbert, the vice president of marketing at New York City-based Bonobos, and got the skinny about the company's attribution modeling program.

Catalog

Being bored with your catalog design is a terrible reason for a redesign. Your feelings don’t count; your customers’ feelings do.

Are your catalog and products unique? Are they loaded with customer benefits? If "yes" to both, are you also telling your benefit and unique story well enough to your customers?

Cost cutting among catalog brands has been widespread for the past few years — and with good results. It's kept many catalogers afloat during the recent tough times, and helped build profits as well as operational disciplines. All that's swell, but beware of going to extremes and overcutting in ways that could harm. Here are four ways that, reliably for most, increase sales and return on investment, and therefore should be on your do-not-cut list:

Operations & Fulfillment

If “crowdsourcing” companies like Deliv, Uber, Roadie and Lyft offer merchants pricing that's similar to UPS and FedEx, or if retailers subsidize and price same-day shipping costs in line with standard shipping, I anticipate market adoption especially for younger, more affluent consumers living in major metropolitan areas. However, initial announcements are that UberRUSH will charge…

While FedEx SmartPost hasn't made any public announcements as of this publication, select customers have received written notifications of a price change effective April 27, 2015. Early indications are that FedEx intends to increase SmartPost rates by 8.3 percent.

UPS announced another rate increase for shippers, effective Feb. 2.

E-Commerce

A few weeks ago, Twitter made a major change to its user interface allowing marketers to break the barrier of the 140-character limit. To those of us who found the 140-character limit challenging, this is excellent news. To others just wanting to "say more," you're going to love this new feature.

As Facebook becomes more pay for play, I've really stepped up my game on Twitter. Previously, Twitter was the least important part of my social strategy. Turns out I was missing an opportunity. Not only is Twitter perfect for getting my articles out there and shared, but it's also a great "REALationship" building tool. I've been actively engaged on Twitter for the last six months, and I've gained nearly 1,700 followers. This is pretty much a step-by-step guide to how I did it:

Call me a heretic, but a lot of the "gospel of modern digital marketing" seems a bit too familiar to me. Digital marketers have done a great job of discrediting "traditional" direct marketing in an effort to make what they're selling (pure digital) more palatable. I get it. They need an edge, and bashing channels like DRTV and direct mail, while building up search engine optimization, inbound and social makes sense for them. But lets get real for a minute, shall we? Many digital marketers "coming up" don't even know where the rules they practice daily come from. Yet they still say traditional direct marketing is dead. Makes no sense, right? 

Customer Service

It’s not April Fool’s Day! Just before the holidays, Lowe's really is introducing two robotic shopping assistants at one of its Orchard Supply Hardware stores in San Jose, Calif. According to a press release from the home improvement retailer, the autonomous robots — called OSHbots — were developed by Fellow Robots, a technology company that specializes in the design and development of autonomous service robots, in partnership with Lowe's own Innovation Labs.

 

You may have noticed over the last few months that when you look at a person's LinkedIn profile, you're asked, "Does ‘Joe Blow’ have skills or expertise?" It's a blue box at the top of your screen, you can't miss it. Or you may have received an email telling you that you've "been endorsed for specific skills." This is a great feature on Linkedin, and here's why:

 

Since January, The Fresh Diet has seen its Facebook fan base swell to over 3,500 fans. Here’s how we did it:

Mobile

If you’re a skeptic like me, all of the talk of beacons in retail stores sounds a little too pie-in-the-sky. Beacons, as you probably know by now, are devices that communicate with shoppers’ smartphones in the hopes of improving their in-store shopping experiences. When placed in-store, beacons use Bluetooth technology to detect nearby smartphones and send them ads, coupons or supplementary product information.

In an effort to make it simpler for consumers to simultaneously browse its print catalog and research and buy from their mobile devices, Sharper Image embedded a “Buy  Now” capability into its holiday preview catalog. The catalog is chock-full of electronic, recreation, fitness and travel products, and was sent to 4 million households and businesses on Nov. 4.

Global online retailer Modnique launched a responsive web design (RWD) version of its website this past September in an effort to optimize the experience of visitors using screen sizes as small as the iPhone and as large as 36-inch monitors. Here's a look at the brand's experience with RWD. 

Merchandising

We were privileged to hear from two outstanding keynote speakers at Direct Tech's annual user conference last week in sunny, warm Orlando. (Please forgive my sigh; I'm back home in Wisconsin, where the current temperature is -10°.) One of them, Elaine Beaubien, an award-winning educator, entrepreneur, and business management and training coach, shared her observations on "innovating to survive" in a rapidly changing environment.

Merchandise and inventory planning for catalog retailers used to be a thorough, highly detailed process from start to finish. The goal,

Just about every day, a shipper asks me what FedEx or UPS incentive they should be achieving for their specific spend level. But it doesn't work that way. While overall volume and revenue certainly play a role in pricing, the discounts you get from UPS and FedEx are largely based on their understanding of your distribution footprint and package characteristics, which are directly tied to the carriers’ "cost to serve" pricing models. 

Brick-and-Mortar

One of the universal truths I see is a lack of understanding by many marketers, from newbie to experienced, of what their website is really for. I know, I know, marketers always say the right thing: It's about conversion. When I look at their website and ask them what their site conversion rate is, I hear them proudly state, "I convert 2 percent, look how good I'm doing!" (And of course some marketers don't even know what their site conversion rate is.)

It's official: J.C. Penney scrapped its every-day-low-price strategy for the rollercoaster world of markups and markdowns. Merchants, marketers and graphic artists waited with bated breath, hoping J.C. Penney could make this strategy work. Imagine the time it would save! Price changes and errors would be a thing of the past.

Merchants and marketers need each other. On the most brilliant days of brand building, they share a brain and become united as one to create and deliver the very best offer to consumers. When this happens, they become "merchketeers."

Management

Having spent last week at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition in Chicago, I came away with three key takeaways: One, if you're an online retailer not selling internationally, particularly in Australia, what are you waiting for? You're missing out on a potential growth opportunity for your brand. Two, brick-and mortar retailers must develop a strategy to deal with "showrooming," — i.e., consumers using stores as showrooms to check out products, then buying those products online at a lower price (with free shipping, of course). Three, online marketplaces are proliferating — it's not just Amazon.com and eBay anymore — and becoming another viable channel for retailers to engage consumers and sell their products.

I like this question. I also like the related question, “If you had to reduce your marketing spend by $100K, where would you cut?”
To answer either of these questions it’s necessary to have a good understanding of the incremental return on investment (ROI) on each of your marketing activities. I’m always surprised how often that starts with “I think … ” It makes me worry and, as a consultant, probe deeper to see what’s really known vs. what’s just “felt.”
The sad reality is that most B-to-B direct marketers today aren’t working from hard facts in this area. They’re operating from

Plain and simple, Canada is booming. If your year-to-year sales to Canada aren’t up more than 100 percent, you’re missing out.
A couple of months ago, I discussed the meteoric rise of the Canadian dollar and the opportunities this presented for U.S. catalogers. Having just returned from a trip to Canada, I’m pleased to report the Canadian market is showing even more potential than I’d previously thought. The strength of the loonie, the Canadian dollar, is a matter of national pride these days. Everyone in Canada is talking about cross-border shopping and travel. I’ve never known the focus on “what you can buy for