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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Almost Half of US Consumers Emotionally Indifferent to Brands

Posted by on Jun 5, 2014 in Brand Purpose, Brand Value, CPG, Digital Strategy, innovation, Learning, Loyalty, Shopper Marketing | 0 comments

This headline caught my attention. As it should catch the attention of any of us who are paid to build, protect and develop brand value. We should not dismiss this, like we dismiss it when consumers say they think products should cost less and that they eat less junk food than we know they do. We should not dismiss it, because the green statistics are signs of things that have been – for US marketers – not of things to come. And we need to understand why, and evolve and adjust our not just our marketing strategy…but our product development and entire go-to-market approach. People grow apart for valid reasons. And consumers and brands are growing apart. Or – more precisely – consumers are maturing and doing grown up things, and we marketers are still loitering around the convenient stores, drinking suicides and trying to get better at Asteroids. That consumers are maturing, thanks to increased access to information and a ton more choices, is not a tragedy! Rather, it is the opportunity of a lifetime – for all of us. Empowered, informed consumers create the context we’ve all been dreaming of…a chance to have a deeper, more meaningful, sustainable, efficient and longer lasting consumer relationship (which is also, by the way, the real definition of “brand loyalty”) . 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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Amazon vs. All Other Retailers: Is It Really An Unfair Fight?

Posted by on Jun 2, 2014 in Amazon, Digital Strategy, innovation, Leadership, Loyalty, Online Grocery, Online Marketing, Personalization, Retail Disruption, Strategy, Target, Technology, Walmart | 1 comment

              I have been pondering this quote from famed author James Patterson, which you may have seen: “Amazon seems out to control shopping in this country. This ultimately will have an effect on every grocery and department store chain and every big box store and ultimately put thousands of mom and pop stores out of business. It sounds like a monopoly to me. Amazon also wants to control bookselling, the book business and book publishing. That’s a national tragedy. If this is the new American way, it has to be changed by law if necessary.” While I understand the frustration that Patterson and his publisher must feel about their lack of leverage against Amazon in negotiating retail price, it would be a greater national tragedy for government to step in and legislate – any more than they already have – an unnatural competitive advantage for brick and mortar retail. Yes, Amazon is out to control shopping in this country. The only way they can do it is by finding better and better ways to serve consumers. Yes, “we” shouldn’t allow Amazon to control shopping in this country. But brick and mortar retailers have an advantage, and should not allow a lack of creativity or fear of failure to serve as an excuse to go whine to Mom & Dad (er’ the government) that someone isn’t playing fair. We should prevent Amazon’s dominance by… (revolutionary thought)… GETTING BETTER AT SERVING CONSUMERS! Brick & Mortar retail has the advantage of proximity (75% of all retail spending occurs within one mile of the consumer’s home, not online), the advantage of “I want to see it before I buy it”, the advantage of “I want to take it home with me now”, and – theoretically at least – the advantage of human touch. Amazon  (and Google Shopping Express and eBay Now and others) are investing aggressively and thinking creatively about how to erode the first three advantages – but what about the last one? How important is the human in retail? It used to be very important, before the age of Big Box and Discount Retail. Before chain retail the shop owner and his family – they were the brand. They gave personal, knowledgeable service. They were the epitome of personalization and high touch. This is what actually got me hooked on marketing technology – the possibility that technology held to make that epitome of the shop keeper/consumer relationship actually efficient. I wonder now, if we marketing technologists and our love of data and analytics have created  more distance than we’ve closed – especially when I read that 52% of consumers believe that shopping is too impersonal (mediapost)....

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Big Data Says The Answer is 42!

Posted by on May 23, 2014 in Big Data, Consulting, Consumer Data, Digital Strategy, innovation, Leadership, Learning, Strategy, Technology | 0 comments

It’s been a long, long time since I read Douglas Adam’s “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy“. But I’ve been trying to dive deep into understanding this “big data” craze more…pragmatically. At present, my brain feels pretty scrambled on the topic – but lots of associations and analogies keep coming to mind – a riff on “Maslow’s Hierarchy”,  Hitchhiker’s Guide… So I did some searching to try and figure out why these things were coming to mind, thought I’d share this tidbit. “O Deep Thought computer,” he said, “the task we have designed you to perform is this. We want you to tell us….” he paused, “The Answer.” “The Answer?” said Deep Thought. “The Answer to what?” “Life!” urged Fook. “The Universe!” said Lunkwill. “Everything!” they said in chorus. Deep Thought paused for a moment’s reflection. “Tricky,” he said finally. “But can you do it?” Again, a significant pause. “Yes,” said Deep Thought, “I can do it.” …… [Seven and a half million years later…. Fook and Lunkwill are long gone, but their ancestors continue what they started] …… “Good Morning,” said Deep Thought at last. “Er..good morning, O Deep Thought” said Loonquawl nervously, “do you have…er, that is…” “An Answer for you?” interrupted Deep Thought majestically. “Yes, I have.” The two men shivered with expectancy. Their waiting had not been in vain. …. Both of the men had been trained for this moment, their lives had been a preparation for it, they had been selected at birth as those who would witness the answer, but even so they found themselves gasping and squirming like excited children. “And you’re ready to give it to us?” urged Loonsuawl. “I am.” “Now?” “Now,” said Deep Thought. They both licked their dry lips. “Though I don’t think,” added Deep Thought. “that you’re going to like it.” “Doesn’t matter!” said Phouchg. “We must know it! Now!” “Now?” inquired Deep Thought. “Yes! Now…” “All right,” said the computer, and settled into silence again. The two men fidgeted. The tension was unbearable. “You’re really not going to like it,” observed Deep Thought. “Tell us!” “All right,” said Deep Thought. “The Answer to the Great Question…” “Yes..!” “Of Life, the Universe and Everything…” said Deep Thought. “Yes…!” “Is…” said Deep Thought, and paused. “Yes…!” “Is…” “Yes…!!!…?” “Forty-two,” said Deep Thought, with infinite majesty and calm.” ― Douglas Adams, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Pretty funny, huh?  Get it?  I laughed out loud. I’m a fan of data (love, love, love it … the more the better). But in this passage above, can’t you imagine that “Deep Thought” would be the poor, unfortunate team you’ve hired to make sense of your big data  – so many times without a...

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Is Your Strategy Scaring Consumers? General Mills Online Legal Policy.

Posted by on May 22, 2014 in Big Data, Brand eCRM, Brand Value, Branding, Consumer Data, Consumer Privacy, CPG, Digital Strategy, iBeacon, innovation, Retail Disruption, Strategy, Technology | 0 comments

Seems to be a lot of tension in the relationship between consumers and marketers these days. As I re-read  an article from my April 17th AdAge  (General Mills Legal Policy Could Threaten Consumers’ Goodwill), I was reminded of something that happened the summer between my 4th and 5th grade year. It was my first time at sleep away summer camp.  We were all swimming and having a great time in the large camp pool, but suddenly – it seemed – every time I would come up for air this little boy named David would splash water in my face. I would duck underwater, hold my breath and swim as far away as possible – but again, he would find me, and splash water in my face and laugh. This happened three times when finally I got out of the pool, tears of frustration streaming down my face. Why was he being so mean to me? Later, around the campfire, it turned out that David has a crush on me. He “liked” me, and actually wanted me to be his girlfriend (remember, this was 4th grade, although I’m pretty sure it works the same way today). Marketers want so badly to connect with and engage consumers, yet so many of the techniques and attempts have the exact opposite effect. I don’t know, maybe it’s time we grew up a little? 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 something! ...

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How to turn Ignorance into a Competitive Advantage

Posted by on May 20, 2014 in Digital Strategy, innovation, Inspiration, Leadership, Learning, Strategy, Vulnerability | 0 comments

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 company, or they couldn’t match the capabilities in the meeting. I was essentially on the road and in these meetings to handle this one question over and over  and over. The truth is, in many areas of tech (and definitely in Marketing Technology these days) it’s IMPOSSIBLE to know all the companies. The barrier to entry in “marketing services” is flat out non-existent. And here is something has and always will be true about the vast majority of technology start ups (and many new ventures within non-startups)…but established companies tend for forget this:  More often than not – there is no there, there. (shhhh, don’t tell anybody) And the newest of ventures have very little to lose by overselling what they can do (whereas an established company, trying to take a new capability to existing clients, has quite a lot to lose… the clients trust for one, opportunity cost of selling what they know works for another). If someone asks you about a company or a person you’ve never heard of (but your client thinks you should have), IT’S AN INTELLIGENCE GATHERING OPPORTUNITY! Say, with confidence and without losing a beat, “Nope, I haven’t heard of them. But we have a team tracking the space very closely, tell me more about them & I’ll see what I can find out for you.” Here’s what that statement just got you: The chance to learn something, and gather intelligence. In fact, the most valuable intelligence…such as, what your real or potential competitors are saying to your clients. You leveraged your role as an already trusted, existing advisor to expand your expertise into this new field. You demonstrated good, active listening skills, let your client know that what’s important or of interest to them is important and of interest to you. You bought yourself time to research and come back with a thoughtful, useful and well-positioned reply. You have an explicit reason to follow up and continue the conversation with your client about the new capability. If you lie, or skirt over the issue, and pretend either that the...

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