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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Don’t Panic! Personalization in Perspective

Posted by on May 9, 2014 in CPG, Digital Strategy, Learning, Loyalty, Online Coupon, Online Grocery, Online Marketing, Personalization, Sliderpostings | 0 comments

The bandwagon of the day is PERSONALIZATION. Everyone who is anyone is modifying position statements and priorities to be a world-class leader in it. But before you launch your organization into “must have a proprietary personalization engine right now” panic mode, please consider the following: 1. Personalization – as a means to organize how you present content – is an optimization tactic, not a strategy. Your survival as business and your ability to effectively serve your customers might not depend on having absolutely the best, proprietary personalization engine in the galaxy. Personalization may not even make sense for you. 2. Personalization is most effective if you have thousands of “quality” content units for it to prioritize – the more the better. If you had the best personalization engine in the galaxy and it was only personalizing a hundred units of average content, there might be little to no optimization effect at all on your business (depending upon the media you are personalizing on). Think about the number and variety of content units Amazon is choosing from to create your personalized experience – how would you grade them? How does your relevant content database compare to that of Amazon? 3. “Freshness” of content also impacts the effectiveness of your personalization engine. Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and select news/curation services have arguably the best personalization potential because their inventory of content is both vast and continously fresh. If they didn’t have both, they would never be able to sustain the frequency of consumer engagement that they do – with or without personalization. If you have or are trying to achieve frequent engagement, without either a vast or fresh inventory, the impact of personalization will be less impressive and possibly even detrimental to your brand. Online dating sites have this challenge if a new member logs in too frequently – satisfaction and engagement will decrease. This isn’t because their matching (or personalization) algorithm is bad, it’s because they don’t have enough continuously fresh inventory to sustain the value proposition. (Insert snarky comment about online dating here, if you wish.) And here’s another thing about frequency – if you’re only going to rely on derived data (i.e. purchase or browse data or other insight proprietary to you), the more frequent the visits the better that data set is. If a consumer engages with you weekly, you can make conclusions about them with much greater confidence than if they only engaged with you quarterly – for example. 4. The personalization algorithm, by itself, is unlikely to ever be a point of sustainable competitive advantage for most companies – unless your proprietary algorithm is also pulling from a proprietary (meaning nobody else has anything like it)...

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Upstream Insight on Bluetooth LE/iBeacon (for non-techies)

Posted by on May 3, 2014 in Amazon, Big Data, Bluetooth LE, Consumer Data, Consumer Privacy, Content Marketing, Digital Strategy, iBeacon, innovation, Learning, Loyalty, Online Grocery, Personalization, Retail Disruption, Strategy, Target, Technology, Walmart | 0 comments

There’s new technology out there creating some buzz. It’s simply the ability for a one-way communication  to occur between your smartphone and one or more radio frequency emitting device(s), called “beacon(s)”.   The capability is enabled by Bluetooth Low Energy  (aka Bluetooth LE). Common Base Use Case for Retail: If a retailer places beacon “123” in the cereal aisle, then the beacon can help a receiving device (like your smartphone) know two things: 1) How far away from the cereal you are (and, potentially, are you nearing or exiting) 2) Whether or not you are in the cereal aisle (and, potentially, how long have you been standing there) What your smartphone (or any other receiving device) then does with that information is a function of the application you have downloaded on the phone – with the most frequent ideas bandied about including the triggering additional product information, coupons or videos.  Dave Peterson, senior group manager of digital vendor marketing at Target, is looking at allowing brands to deliver promotions and messages to consumers through iBeacon while in a Target store. (source: MediaPost) What is making the functionality buzz-worthy is that it has all the hallmarks of a classic Clayton Christensen-like disruptive innovation, with the potential to revolutionize many  value propositions – from the supply-chain to health and wellness applications (are you wearing a FitBit right now? If so, you’re already using it. ) As for Retail Marketers, there are two features which make this technical capability particularly exciting:  1. Cost. Bluetooth LE makes location-based solutions, services and marketing not only more accurate, they are extremely affordable. The beacons, which essentially transmit a continuous messages that says “here I am”, cost very little, between $3 and $5  (actual cost of components) and are powered by common, inexpensive batteries. (Estimote sells a developers package, which includes 3 beacons, for $99 on their site today.) 2. Lower barriers/dependence on consumer compliance. Most exciting to retail marketers is that it removes a significant amount of dependance on consumer compliance to enable location-triggered marketing – which should, theoretically, increase the scale potential of location-based marketing solutions. The consumer no longer has to remember to open the app on their phone when they enter the store. As long as the consumer has downloaded the retailer’s app at some point prior (and are allowing notifications from the app), the app can open or trigger a notification (or video, or coupon) automatically when the consumer is near a relevant beacon. Still to be figured out… 1) Will engagement decline after initial use or will consumers love it?   How the technology is used to improve the in-store consumer value proposition will be critical. Personally, I haven’t seen or heard of very many use...

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You Can Hide Your Pregnancy Online, But You’ll Feel Like A Criminal

Posted by on Apr 29, 2014 in Consumer Data, Consumer Privacy, CPG, Digital Strategy, innovation, Inspiration, Learning, Loyalty, Personalization, Retail Disruption, Strategy, Vulnerability | 0 comments

Excellent illustration of what it really takes to protect your consumer data.  But do consumers care? Why might they care? Does it bother you that companies are profiting off of your digital trails? You Can Hide Your Pregnancy Online, But You’ll Feel Like A...

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