What’s on Your Shopping List? Part 1

28 Nov

What do YOU planning on buying this holiday season?

As Ana Serafin Smith reports for the National Retail Federation:

“With shoppers eager to take advantage of early promotions from retailers, more than half of consumers have already started making dents in their holiday gift lists, according to the annual mid-season survey released by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics.”

“NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said: ‘This time of year is about finding the right gifts while staying on budget. For those looking for anything from toys to apparel at retailers large and small, in-store or online, retailers are ready with great merchandise at affordable prices.’”

 
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Does Avid Social Media Use Harm Your Career?

22 Nov

Over the years, we have posted a lot about self-branding, the importance of interpersonal communication (especially TALKING!), and similar topics. Last month, we discussedMonotasking Vs. Multitasking,” concluding that monotasking is a lot more effective than multitasking — urban legends aside.

Today’s post focuses on a recent provocative article by Cal Newport for the New York Times, “Quit Social Media. Your Career May Depend on It“:

“Many people should follow me and quit social media. There are many issues with social media, from its corrosion of civic life to its cultural shallowness, but the argument I want to make is more pragmatic: You should quit social media because it can hurt your career.”

“First, interesting opportunities and useful connections are not as scarce as social media proponents claim. In my own professional life, as I improved my standing, I began receiving more interesting opportunities than I could handle. I currently have filters on my Web site aimed at reducing, not increasing, the number of offers and introductions I receive.”

“My second objection concerns the idea that social media is harmless. The ability to concentrate without distraction on hard tasks is increasingly valuable in an complicated economy. Social media weaken this skill because they’re designed to be addictive. The more you use social media in the way it’s designed to be used — throughout your waking hours — the more your brain learns to crave a quick hit of stimulus at the hint of boredom.”

“Third, dedication to cultivating your social media brand is a fundamentally passive approach to professional advancement. It diverts your time and attention from producing work that matters and toward convincing the world that you matter. The latter activity is seductive, especially for those raised on this message, but it can be disastrously counterproductive.”

 
Click the image to read more.

Image by David Saracino

Image by David Saracino


 

PLEASE Be a Smart Customer This Holiday Shopping Season

21 Nov

Yes, Black Friday WEEK is finally here — after weeks of being bombarded by holiday shopping ads. This post has two goals: (1) To alert you to the possible deceptions this week and (2) to again present our THIRTY-FIVE holiday shopping tips.

Our first topic is this: Is Black Friday week really a good time to shop? Are there bargains that won’t be available after Friday? Let’s turn to Brian Chen, writing for the New York Times (1, 2), for an assessment of Black Friday deals:

“The overwhelming majority of Black Friday deals are duds. Retailers’ sales promotions begin weeks before Thanksgiving, with a smattering of modest deals that eventually build up to the shopping bonanza that is Black Friday. That is followed by Cyber Monday, a so-called online shopping extravaganza after Thanksgiving weekend.”

“It has become fashionable for online retailers to build up anticipation for Black Friday with so-called flash deals. These last only a few hours, putting pressure on consumers to buy with little or no research. Yet, however you shop, chances of snatching a great deal for a quality item are slim, because Black Friday is mainly for retailers to clear out unwanted goods and best-sellers rarely drop much in price.”

“Year round, The Wirecutter tracks prices across the Web to unearth true deals on high-quality items. Less than 1 percent of the tens of thousands of Black Friday deals online last year were good deals — that is, discounts on high-quality, well-reviewed, and durable products. This year, the situation is likely to be the same.

“A quick search on Camel Camel Camel, which looks up price histories on Amazon, [can be quite enlightening]. Some mediocre deals can be tricky to catch. Toward the end of October, Amazon listed a deal for its Kindle Paperwhite E-reader for $100. This may seem like a good deal because the retail price is $120. But at the beginning of October, the Paperwhite was discounted to $90 — a price drop that Camel Camel Camel could not detect because the discount was applied at the end of the checkout.”

 

Take a look at the following New York Times video for further insights.

 

 

Our second topic is this: How can you be a better shopper for the 2016 holiday season? Here are 35 tips (originally posted two weeks ago).

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Is Uber Eat(s) Setting Itself Up for Defeat?

18 Nov

Uber has grown rapidly as an alternative to the taxi. Nonetheless, Uber wants to be more than just a passenger app. And one of its more recent pursuits is Uber Eats, a restaurant food delivery service that already operates in 53 cities: “By tapping into the Uber network, you can get anything from our roster of local restaurants, fast. The average order takes 35 minutes from start to finish. When you’re ready to place your order, you’ll see a total that includes the food and delivery price. There’s no need to tip. Pay with your Uber account and track your order on the site as it comes to you.”

There are questions about whether Uber Eats will generate long-term success. There is substantial competition from services such as GrubHub and Seamless. Many local restaurants will deliver in their immediate area. Perhaps most importantly, other services are often free, while Uber Eats charges a delivery fee in some instances.

Take a look at this video clip by industry expert Phil Lempert regarding the prospects for Uber Eats. What do YOU think?
 

 

10 Tips on How Companies Can Be More Customer-Centric

17 Nov

A while back, Professor Joel Evans of Hofstra University’s Zarb School of Business wrote an article about “Customer Centricity” for Promo Magazine (now part of Chief Marketer.)

The essence of that still rings true today — even more so given the level of competition faced. Here is that article (with only slight edits).

We are now in an era where the marketplace is so cluttered that it is more difficult than ever for any one firm to stand out from the competition—or even be recognized. As a result, a customer-centric approach is imperative.

Most firms promote as fact that they are customer-centric. Many even believe they are. But, one of the most abused terms in business is customer-centric. Here are three true examples to illustrate the point: (1) A leading department store branch is busy. In the women’s apparel section, the checkout line is long. In the shoe department (which is not leased), no one is waiting on line. The sales clerk refuses to ring up any apparel sales. The department store prides itself on outstanding customer service. (2) A customer buys a $100 gift card from a leading consumer electronics chain. The gift recipient spends $90 at the chain and asks for the balance to be remitted in cash. The request is refused. The chain prides itself on outstanding customer service. (3) A local bookstore promotes a policy to “beat any prices.” The policy is good for only three days after a purchase. The bookstore prides itself on outstanding customer service.

There are several things that firms of any type or size can do to truly be customer-centric. Here are 10 ways to facilitate the process:

ONE — Be your own customer. Interact with salespeople. Visit all your facilities. “Think like a customer.”

TWO. Be proactive. Use mystery shoppers to engage your employees in various types of situations. Do customer surveys. Adjust practices as necessary.

THREE — Encourage employee empowerment. A number of firms have cut back on employee flexibility in “bending the rules” for fear of hurting profitability. Yet, research shows that customers are more loyal when they feel the company listens to them.

FOUR — Small gestures can be big. Take a look at “Simple Truths of Service” and see how.

FIVE — Be as honest and informative as humanly possible. Don’t run a full-page ad with the word “SALE” if not all the items in the ad are actually on sale.

SIX — Every firm should offer a meaningful loyalty program. There’s no better way to be customer-centric than to reward continued patronage.

SEVEN — Match your sales staff requirements to your positioning. It is okay for Walmart to have a limited number of sales workers on the floor because of its low-price, self-service approach. Likewise, it is proper for Best Buy to have a lot of staff on the floor since it promotes more personal service.

EIGHT — Use customer-friendly signage. I once addressed a group of supermarket executives and made what I thought was a rather non-provocative suggestion: Have a large sign at the entrance depicting the full layout of the items in the store. My reasoning: With more men starting to shop in supermarkets, better signage was needed. The intense negative reaction to this suggestion was stunning. The supermarket executives thought this would cut down on impulse shopping. My response: If shoppers feel more comfortable and knowledgeable, there will be more impulse shopping—not less, I lost that battle. Supermarkets (and many others), for the most part, still do not have enough customer-friendly signage,

NINE — Run special-themed promotions throughout the year that are NOT price-oriented. Too often, firms view promotions only as “sales,” and run them frequently. However, promotions do not have to just focus on price. (Such tactics typically encourage customers to wait for the inevitable sale and not buy on full price). Examples of good promotions: Contests don’t only have to coincide with special events, such as the Super Bowl. Similar activities can be done at other times. Be creative!

TEN — Encourage employees to be more customer-centric. All those who personally interact with customers should have name tags—from the sales staff to senior executives. Every person who answers the phone (or makes calls) should state his or her name. Employee photos should be prominently placed. Recognition of good employee performance should be posted. One nice thing that I always observe is when a company has a parking space designated “employee of the month.” This is a signal that the company cares about people.

 

Can You Personalize Marketing without Shopper Participation?

16 Nov

One of the toughest issues for marketers to deal with in this high-tech world is how much to personalize their communication and offerings. On the one hand, marketers need as much customer information as possible to target individual shoppers more specifically. On the other hand, many customers want their privacy and do not appreciate it when they think they are overly tracked.

What do YOU think is the proper balance?

Here the thoughts on this subject by Louis Foong, the founder and CEO of ALEA Group Inc., (a B2B demand generation specialist):

“You want to give your prospects and customers a seamless, personalized, and sublime experience, and you know that you can’t do that without collecting their personal data. The trouble is, a lot of your customers don’t like the idea of sharing their information with you – what exactly are they so afraid of?”

“Findings by Boxever show that attitudes toward personalization and privacy are complex, and there are a few reasons why many of them are so against sharing their personal information with companies. The infographic below shows the trickiness of balancing privacy concerns and effective personalization.  Customers are also wary about receiving spam mail or offers that aren’t relevant to their interests. Only 14% of people say data collection through connected devices will improve their life.The other 86% either aren’t sure or don’t think it will improve their life.”

 
Here is the challenge.


 

Best Blogs for Small Business

15 Nov

There are many great online resources for small business, including the Web sites of Small Business Administration, Entrepreneur, and Inc. They deal with a variety of topics to assist startups and other small businesses. In addition, there are numerous blogs that focus on information and advice specifically geared to small businesses.

Recently, CreditMonkey published “Best Small Business Marketing Blogs 2016: Top Experts to Follow.”   Here  are some of CreditMonkey’s choices. Check them out:

 
Click on the image to see why these are considered top blogs — and to see more blogs cited by CreditMonkey.
 

 

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