WMT vs. AMZN: War As a Catalyst for Innovation & The Implications for Grocery Retail

Posted by on Jun 18, 2014 in Amazon, Digital Coupon, Digital Strategy, Loyalty, Online Grocery, Retail Disruption, Strategy, Vulnerability, Walmart | 0 comments

War has always been a great catalyst for technical innovation. And in this particular war, a lot of reinvention is happening as two of the biggest players in the competition for consumer share of wallet are duking it out, big time.  Great rivalries also redefine what is possible, break records, change the rules of the game. See these two recent events:   1. Walmart Uses Rivals’ Discounts to Fuel New Loyalty Program  This is brilliant because: Only Wal-Mart can do it, it builds off of a core strategic advantage…the low prices they are able to secure from suppliers due to their size/volume. It’s a way for them to capture real time pricing info of competitors quickly and efficiently (something AMZN has been doing for a while, and built upon further with their app below). It’s a simple value proposition that naturally evolves into a new level of relationship with their customers…building their digital engagement to higher levels. FYI – Most brick & mortar retailers see digital customer engagement between 5-10% – considering both initial opt-in and ongoing frequency of engagement. As a defensive tactic against the coming ecommerce evolution, all retailers need to be strategizing about how to improve that metric now. Also, for your info, just promising “coupons” has already been tried, by almost everyone and has strong but limited appeal. To get bigger, you must thing broader – as WMT has done here. 2. Amazon just unveiled a new smartphone called the Fire Phone with a Built-In Showrooming App.  If you throw out,for the sake of argument, whether the phone itself is going to be successful or not – the move to include a built-in showrooming app is a critically strategic piece of information for us in this space and the approach is brilliant because: Only Amazon can do it, it builds off of a core strategic advantage…the ability to be everywhere, carry everything and adjust its price “on the fly” based on current price/market information (something brick & mortar stores are going to have to figure out how to do, if they want to combat showrooming attrition). It’s a simple consumer value proposition that is also, a way “into a new level of relationship with their customers…building their TACTICAL, ON-SITE engagement to new levels. If they can get 8-10% of their digital customers to use the showrooming app, the would be huge…an excellent example of usurping a competitor’s advantage to become your own. But what’s important is not the specifics of what these two companies are doing, what’s more important is HOW THEY ARE PLAYING. These are NOT “play nice” moves, and if you – or your team – are hesitating to take action because the path is not clear… let me...

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Don’t Quit Your Marketing Job! 2 Helpful Tips to Make It Easier

Posted by on May 9, 2014 in Big Data, Bluetooth LE, Burnout, Consumer Data, CPG, Digital Coupon, Digital Strategy, iBeacon, innovation, Inspiration, Just For Fun, Leadership, Learning, Retail Disruption, Strategy, Vulnerability | 0 comments

If you are employed anywhere in the art & discipline of marketing, this clip of Kevin Spacey  from American Beauty will resonate with you, to a dangerously close degree (the more so the longer you’ve been in it and the more you are paid). And you may think it is because the space has gone completely insane, and you would be right. I mean, look at this graphic.  LOOK AT IT.  Are you kidding me?  Over 950 companies and it’s not even complete – Catalina Marketing isn’t even on the slide… no brick & mortar commerce is represented in any direct fashion and it’s still intimidating as hell!   It is so easy to feel stupid, inadequate, behind and incompetent.   If you feel that way, it is really, really important for you to know that you are – very likely – the smartest person in the room.  DO NOT LET THE HYPE INTIMIDATE YOU. You’re like the “divergent” ones (if you saw the movie or read the series). The rest of the population – most especially those who are prone to believe the simulations – need you to help figure out what is real and what is not.  The fate of your company, literally, is in your hands if you don’t speak up. Believe in yourself. I know it’s hard. And I also know that if you do the personal accounting, it’s also not actually worth it, but I offer to you anyway…because I believe in you… 2 Tips to Make Your Marketing Job Easier  (in the form of Scenario & Response) …which I hope will encourage you to keep the good fight going  – specifically, the one in your brain that is trying to think for itself and figure it out using logic, reason and strategy: Scenario 1: John “Know-It-All” Doe (client or industry guru or competitior) tries to invalidate you by asking if you if you have heard of a company that you have not heard of but which can do all the things your own company and service cannot do. In 2010 I was the 4th most traveled person at my company, helping to introduce a new digital offering to clients. I was in such high demand because entering into a discussion about digital marketing with their clients made the sales professional feel vulnerable, for very good and logical reasons (these sales people are some of the most impressive individuals I’ve ever met, they aren’t easily intimidated). The client would ask…  “Well, have you heard of company X? They said they could do A, B and C…you guys can only do B” (I paraphrase of course). The salesperson would feel stupid if they didn’t know the...

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Upstream Insight on the Latest Ecommerce Trends (Common Sense)

Posted by on Apr 29, 2014 in Amazon, CPG, Digital Coupon, Digital Strategy, innovation, Inspiration, Leadership, Online Coupon, Online Grocery, Retail Disruption, Walmart | 0 comments

This chart makes complete sense to me. Ecommerce provides the highest consumer value when the item you are looking for is hard to find (in geek speak, we would say it has a relatively low purchase incidence among the general population).  A compelling consumer value proposition would be most difficult for ecommerce in retail verticals where the purchase incidence is very high and therefore the items are very reliably found in nearby stores (in plain speak – everyone buys food, most people buy shampoo and toothpaste, so your neighborhood market or drug store is likely to carry what you need). In the case of high purchase incidence product categories (food, toothpaste, toilet paper, shampoo) the cost of having to wait for the to be delivered vs. the benefit of getting exactly what you want  is higher than the cost of stopping in the store on your way home from work and having it within a few hours or a day of realizing you needed to buy more. You are also less interested in these items and are probably going to spend less time researching/browsing online than in other categories which have migrated to ecommerce faster. Other than logistic challenges, this is why Grocery and Drug have been slow slow to migrate to ecommerce. All ecommerce companies have to do is continuously improve that consumer value proposition to capture an increasing share of increasingly large retail sales…and they will. Susan O’Neal Gear has over 20 years of experience at the intersection of consumers, marketing and technology. Passionate about all aspects of a consumer’s relationship with brands and retailers, we’re spending the next year looking for new, groundbreaking thought leadership  – if not disruptive solutions – with the potential to redefine the parameters of consumer loyalty. If you also want to see some game changing happen -then follow Upstream Insight, contribute your voice, share this post…do...

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Why is CIRCULATION REVENUE consistently the ONLY CATEGORY TRENDING UP when stats about Newspapers are released???

Posted by on Apr 29, 2014 in Brand eCRM, CPG, Digital Coupon, Digital Strategy, Load to Card, Loyalty, Online Marketing, Printable Coupon, Retail Disruption, Strategy | 0 comments

  Why, why, why is CIRCULATION REVENUE consistently the ONLY CATEGORY TRENDING UP when statistics about Newspaper Ad Revenue are released??? The Decline of Newspapers Hits a Stunning Milestone This is a rhetorical question, I know “why”… sort of…I just don’t like the answer. Summary of the actual U.S. Newspaper Industry report on its own health… The headline is that there is, once again, no headline. Consistent with 20 YEARS (?!?!?!?) of reports from similar sources…. “revenue trends were largely unchanged” …which remains consistently surprising given how few consumers read or buy the newspaper anymore. Overall decline in ad revenues was consistent with prior year, about 6% each – mostly driven by decline in print ads. Hardly a cliff. How much innovation could actually be happening if year after year, one of the biggest channels for RETAIL & CPG MARKETING  (nearly $11 Billion annually!) consistently reports that things are  “largely unchanged”???    Are we RETAIL and CPG MARKETERS being boiled really, really slowly – like frogs – so we stay comfortable and don’t jump out of the pot?   I KNOW we are a smart group of people, so I try to unpack it… Circulation revenues increased 3.7% Digital only circulation revenue up 47%. Print + Digital BUNDLES are up 107%. Print only circulation revenue is is down 20%. Umm…so, are they printing more circulars or fewer circulars?  When offering a Print+Digital Bundle, how is the discount weighted? I’m guessing that the part with the low to no variable cost (digital) may be bundled into the print for free, which means if we’re being honest with ourselves, we’re not REALLY being all that adventuresome and innovative, are we? COME ON RETAIL AND CONSUMER GOOD MARKETERS!!!  If we want to really break new ground and innovate, we have to STOP DELUDING OURSELVES.  While we’re at it, we also have to stop doing the same thing online that we’ve always done in traditional media (i.e. digital circulars and pre-roll video of the same advertising we run on TV). The only logical conclusion is that there is INSUFFICIENT INNOVATION happening in our space.  The money goes where it’s always gone simply because IT. DOESN’T. HAVE. ANYWHERE. ELSE. TO GO.  At least it doesn’t have anywhere to go that the point of diminishing returns on ROI doesn’t time out earlier than the audience. What say you? What’s the most promising company or solution you’re seeing now? What are the issues we need to address?  Are circulars really ALL THAT and more? Is it really all in support of in-store merchandising? Susan O’Neal Gear has over 20 years of experience at the intersection of consumers, marketing and technology. Passionate about all aspects of a consumer’s relationship with...

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Coupon Fatigue? Don’t give up now!

Posted by on Apr 23, 2014 in CPG, Digital Coupon, Digital Strategy, Inspiration, Load to Card, Loyalty, Online Coupon, Online Grocery | 0 comments

In no area of marketing does innovation have greater potential to positively and significantly impact the daily lives of more people than in the weekly task of GROCERY SHOPPING.  And yet for all the money, technology, data and brainpower invested, we have very little to show for it as an industry (no offense to those who have been trying, I’ve been right there with you for more than a decade). The best opt-in rates for digital consumer engagements in grocery are less than 10% (lower than that on average).  Maintaining that engagement is a whole other challenge. Most grocery consumer engagement is funded through and by digital couponing, a tactic that appeals to less than 15% of U.S. Households on an ongoing basis and is currently “out of vogue” with brands desperate for new ways to build brand value (and profit margin). Less than 1% of Grocery sales occur online (although this is changing, more on that in another post later). As a result, there are literally billions of brand and retail marketing dollars stuck in increasingly inefficient marketing channels – not because they don’t want to go online (many famous pronouncements have been made to move budget dollars online over the last 15 years) – but no existing solution has the scale to spend that kind of money (not even the biggest dogs in the digital CPG fight). Never, never, never has there been a spending population more patient and willing to test nearly anything and everything – and the fact that there has been no true game changer – well, I’ve literally seen it break hearts. The heart breakers – “great ideas” that turned out to be not-so-great; super cool companies with value propositions that left consumers cold; hot and hungry teams  that turned out not so “hot” at follow-through; “game changers” and “killer apps” with funky or ambitious names that … in the end …have struggled to deliver the only things that really matter: meaningful, scalable, repeatable impact on volume of units moved “brand value” creation store preference and retailer share of their customer’s spending. Many of the pioneers, thinkers, doers, and innovators that I’ve run across along my journey have given up – clients and colleagues – they call it “coupon fatigue” (because a lot of these efforts centered around varying consumer currencies like coupons). They jump out and start businesses in other industries, where the ground is more fertile for innovation…and the consumer value proposition is, quite frankly, easier to deliver. But it’s not the time to give up! It’s time to admit that (I hate to say it), is going to take a village. We need to pool together the collective insight from our...

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What is Robinson-Patman and Why Should You Care?

Posted by on Apr 9, 2014 in Burnout, CPG, Digital Coupon, Digital Strategy, Load to Card, Loyalty, Robinson-Patman, Shopper Marketing, Sliderpostings | 0 comments

In 1936 the U.S. Congress passed the Anti-Price Discrimination Act (more commonly referred to as the Robinson-Patman Act). The intent was to prevent unfair price discrimination by requiring that sellers of products offer the same price terms to customers at a given level of trade.  Under the Act, it is illegal for the manufacturer of a product to sell to one retailer for a different price than that retailers similarly sized competitor. Volume discount is one form of price discrimination that is allowed under the law. In fact, as far as I can ascertain, it is the only form of price discrimination allowed by the law – even though one could imagine other reasons a product manufacturer might desire to give a smaller retailer preferable pricing (better store position, positive brand associations, other?). When a retailer qualifies for the lowest (or among the lowest) price from the manufacturer, based on their volume, they can take those discounts and pass them along in the form of a lower price to their customer.  (Note: These “volume discounts” are more commonly referred to as a retailer’s “trade budget” from a given manufacturer and are also often applied to co-marketing and other mutually beneficial applications…but for the point I’m trying to make here, I’m going to continue to refer to this money as a discount to the product price). When a retailer is big enough to be the leading volume seller across many categories, and by a pretty significant margin, as Walmart has been for some time – we call their strategy for winning over price conscious consumers an Every Day Low Pricing Strategy (EDLP). Because of Walmart’s size, it has proven to be a sustainable competitive advantage – made possible primarily thanks to Robinson-Patman. For the price-sensitive consumer, it is hard to beat an EDLP strategy – but combined with other positive attributes, such as a more pleasant shopping experience, supermarkets have had success over the years with the following alternatives: Hi-Lo– Retailer places some high interest items on deep discount and promotes them, enough to draw the consumer into the store, then makes up revenue and profit margin on the other items consumers may pick up in the same trip. All retailers do this to varying degrees, some better than others. BOGO – A form of “Hi-Lo”, BOGO stands for “Buy One Get One Free” and it has been around for a long time. Consumers love it, partially because it involves the word “FREE” (always gets people’s attention) – but also because the consumer value proposition of a BOGO strategy involves low work and high reward…almost as good as EDLP (no couponing, no special cards, few conditions to meet). BOGO as...

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