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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I miss long boring meetings!!!

Posted by on Apr 17, 2014 in Burnout, Consulting, Inspiration, Just For Fun, Learning, Sliderpostings | 0 comments

Just this morning I realized that it has been months since I sat through a boring meeting. Contrary to what you might expect, this was not a “good for you Susan” moment. At the time of the realization, I was driving back to my home office after dropping my son off at preschool – mentally ticking off all the things I needed to do, and knowing there was no way in hell it was all going to get done. When I worked full time, for a company, in a real office – I’d often spend the first 30 minutes of every day “un-double/triple-booking” my calendar…so when, exactly, was it that I got all that other “stuff’ done that seemed impossible to knock out now??? Then it hit me – and I probably shouldn’t admit it – but what is not getting done is all the stuff I used to do during long boring meetings! In a long boring meeting, where your presence often seems to be more of a requirement than your  attention, I got a lot of mindless or administrative stuff done. That I am admitting this is horrible – I know – but I also know, based on all of the typing on laptops and phones that is *not* taking of notes – that I am far from the minority. So what’s different for me now and why? I still have a lot of meetings. The problem is, when I have a meeting, my full attention is a requirement. I’m chasing down and exploring thought leadership, and it is intensely interesting to me.  To be at all worthy of the time and attention of the party at the table or on the phone, I must be on my game the whole time.  Not only that, I often need at least 30 minutes after each meeting just to process what I’ve learned and what to do with that new knowledge. Not to mention the benefits of a good nights sleep when you are learning at this pace. By the way, my apologies to all who are waiting for me to get back to you “regarding availability” for a call or a meeting…I’m doing the best that I can, and I really do want to meet…just rest assured that when we finally do get something on the calendar, you will have my full and undivided attention! It’s all very fun and cool, and yet I still worry – am I being more or less productive?  Productivity has always been one of my strongest value points (see the quotes on my bio page?).  If I am less productive, it feels like backwards personal progress. If I am getting fewer things...

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Monday Inspiration

Posted by on Apr 14, 2014 in Burnout, Inspiration, Leadership, Sliderpostings | 0 comments

You know how they say “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey” – well, the same is true for leadership. If you have an exciting, grand vision, that’s only one piece of having an engaged, inspired team. These other things are just as important: Do you employees understand and believe in the vision? Do they know what their role is in making it happen? Do they know that you know it? Are they empowered to apply the best of their expertise or creative thinking – or will they be labeled a trouble maker  – or worse, ignored, for sharing insight better than you or your executive team can comprehend? There are persons on your team who embody a deep wellspring of creativity and potential. Are you creating the kind of culture that will draw them out?  Is your mission, your vision, your culture worthy of their wild and precious life? Susan O’Neal Gear,  founder of Upstream Insight, has over 20 years of experience at the intersection of consumers, marketing and technology. Upstream Insight can help mine your own team for their best contributions, and make sure you and your leadership can hear it and understand it in a way that brings everyone closer in-step. If you want to unlock the passion and potential of your organization – then follow Upstream Insight, contribute your voice, share this post, call us today…do something!   ...

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General Mills, Brand Purpose & Vulnerability

Posted by on Apr 11, 2014 in Brand eCRM, Brand Purpose, Brand Value, Content Marketing, CPG, Digital Strategy, Loyalty, Online Grocery, Online Marketing, Sliderpostings | 0 comments

How did your best friend become your best friend? How about your spouse? At some point the superficial relationship must have become more interesting, more fulfilling and more mutually beneficial. If the relationship was lacking in any one of those areas, it would have stayed superficial. This is what we meant last week when we posted that “Next Era of Brand & Consumer Relationships will be Peer to Peer.” Most brand marketing to date has been about creating emotional relationships between human beings (aka “consumers”) and individual products (aka “brands”). As a secondary or tertiary objective, there might be an effort to create a relationship between consumers and the company that made the products – but there seemed to be risk to that (primary risk to the warm fuzzy emotional feelings a brand was better able to create if disassociated from the parent company). What General Mills seems to be opening themselves up to is creating relationships between consumers and the people who make the products…and in doing so, the product (and the brand) become a co-creation of the consumer and company. Brilliant. And scary. But then again, most brilliant things are scary. If it wasn’t a little bit scary, if it didn’t involve some degree of vulnerability, then everyone would be doing it. Why the timing is right for this “brand purpose” movement… In an era where push marketing media options were plentiful, marketers could be effective with consumer to brand relationships that were relatively superficial  – as in “if you love your family, you’ll buy Downy” or “wear this product and you’ll be cool” and other slightly veiled, but effective forms of emotional blackmail. For years, this worked and it was fine – for both marketers and consumers. But today’s consumer is grown up, they know better and they have more control over their influences. We could say that they are, perhaps, just a tad more confident and well-adjusted than the soap opera audiences of the 50’s and 60’s? Further, consumers are hard to find en masse on any particular media. Procter & Gamble may have the largest advertising budget  ($4.8B) – but they disperse that budget over 39-41 wholly different brands.  In contrast, most of the other “top ten spenders” are applying their $2B-$3B advertising budgets to promote 1-5 brands. Even if CPG had the same opportunities for online efficiency as marketers in other verticals (and they don’t, more on that in a later post)…unless they create breakthrough content that is sought out by consumers, it is going to get increasingly difficult. So, well  done General Mills…it’s hard and you’ll have some flops, but all innovation starts with a willingness to be vulnerable, to be wrong and to...

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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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Where’s the WOW in Grocery?

Posted by on Mar 6, 2014 in Brand eCRM, CPG, Digital Coupon, Digital Strategy, Loyalty, Online Grocery, Online Marketing, Sliderpostings | 0 comments

Enjoyed this recent post from McKinsey’s David Edelman, You Need Your “WOW”.  Across the spectrum, consumers are overwhelmed with information and underwhelmed with product and service. Got it. No industry is more in need of a “WOW” moment than Consumer Packaged Goods (“Coupon Fatigue? Calling All Digital Grocery Burnouts!”). A massive “new market-like disruption” is the only answer – meaning, consumers must get something they never dreamed they’d ever get. And it can’t be a one-off event – like winning a sweepstakes (or a random “we remembered your birthday event”) – consumers are onto that trick and only the gamers are playing. The game changer only changes the game if it comes into play every purchase, every trip, for the average consumer. Not such an easy task when your shoppers number in the millions, shop weekly and your product is one of 25 products in the basket (out of a possible 20,000 in the store) when they do. Grocery is indeed a unique challenge. If you know it – comment below. What makes Grocery a uniquely challenging place to innovate?...

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