Flooring The Consumer on Simple Marketing Now

Please visit Flooring The Consumer's new home on SimpleMarketingNow.com where you can subscribe to receive updates to blog articles in real time!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

An Amazing Month!

What a month this is turning out to be....

First, invigoration and inspiration from Blogs: Conversation and Connection Enablers.

Next, John Moore from Brand Autopsy pairs Flooring The Consumer with Brand Autopsy in Marketing Bloggers Bracketology. That rocks!

Then, I discover [belatedly] that Mack Collier, author of The Viral Garden, in celebrating his one-year blog anniversary on 3/26/07, included a really special banner - that Drew in Perspective -- the bright side of blogging and CK in Thanks for a heck of a year, Mack capture - with "pics of 32 people that have helped grow The Viral Garden into what it has become." Mack, I am honored [and well surrounded!]. Congratulations, and here's to an amazing year ahead!

To make matters even cooler, Ken Ryan, Executive Editor of Floor Covering Weekly, mentions my Surfaces presentation [Why Amazing Shopping Experiences Matter] in his Viewpoint Editorial in the March 5/12, 2007 issue of FCW. He writes:

Another FCW columnist, Christine Whittemore [aka C.B.], delivered a terrific seminar at Surfaces titled "Why Amazing Shopping Experiences Matter." She made the point that being the cheapest is no longer sufficient, that uninspired experiences are unacceptable and that "amazing experiences" are a must.

Whittemore, who is the director of in-store innovation for Wear-Dated Carpet Fiber, noted that retailers like Starbucks, Anthropologie, and Whole Foods have successfully created amazing experiences.

Flooring dealers can create amazing experiences as well, according to Whittemore, who suggests engaging the senses: play soft classical music, create the appropriate lighting, bake cookies or make cappuccino.

Don't sell the steak, sell the sizzle.

Now, Ken was a real sport during the presentation when I called on him. Thanks, Ken!

I'm doubly pleased because Ken also refers to Christopher P. Ramey, formerly with CCA Global and now Chairman of The Luxury Marketing Council of Miami, and his article titled "What Do You Stand For?" Be sure to check out The Luxury Marketing Council of Miami's website which is chock full of terrific resources, references and research.

To top it all off, the 3/26/07 issue of FCW includes my article "Walk in her shoes" in a section now called "flooring the consumer" as well as an article by Maya Avrasin titled "Appealing to your female consumer" that Maya interviewed me for. I will definitely capture this latest article in a separate post, and refer to Maya's article in another.

I am so totally jazzed!

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Blogs: Conversation & Connection Enablers

070322blogher originally uploaded by Chookooloonks.
Wow! Talk about witnessing firsthand the power of conversation and connection that social media makes possible...

The first BlogHer '07 Business Conference in NYC this past March 22-23, 2007 brought it all to life. And, it was amazing.

I witnessed a multitude of blogging forms:

- live blogging [experience the entire conference via this BlogHer link thanks to live bloggers]
- video blogging [Beach Walks with Rox]
- photoblogging [e.g., Chookooloonks whose photo anchors this post]
- corporate blogging [e.g., Staci Schiller from Wells Fargo's The StudentLoan Down, Cisco's Blogs@Cisco, ...]
- personal business blogs [like Flooring The Consumer]
- small business blogs [e.g., Gift Basket Business]
- blogs to promote solutions to social issues [e.g., New Demographic addresses racism and how to eliminate it]

All those participating in social media agreed that the power comes from the conversations that develop which then create connections around the conversation. And, although relatively new [2004 saw the creation of the term 'Web 2.0', flickr.com [the photo sharing site where photos can be tagged and consequently searched on by tag name] and the blogswarm created by the Kryptonite bike lock failure [see The pen is mightier than the....u-lock]; 2005 is when GM started its GM Fastlane blog and YouTube started], as of early 2007, Technorati now tracks over 72.7 million blogs and it continues to grow.

I attended a breakout discussion about the changes being forced on traditional marketing tools [like press releases]. Social media, blogs, tags, podcasts, links, keyword searches, etc. allow for a more versatile and relevant way of connecting information with relevant audiences. The following documents helped illustrate some of the new possibilities for PR in a social media world courtesy of SHIFT Communications:

+ Social media press release template
+ A press release based on the template above: Belkin press release.
+ A template of what an online newsroom would look like: social media press room template.
+ And, SHIFT's press release based on the template above: SHIFT press room.

[Thanks to Megan Garnhum for capturing this session at The Press Release Must Die.]

Not only did I get to meet several of the bloggers included in my blogroll:
+ Mary Hunt from In Women We Trust - her account of the conference appears here: BlogHer Biz 2007
+ Yvonne DiVita from Lip Sticking [and Lena West from Xynomedia often found guest blogging at Lip Sticking]
+ Toby Bloomberg, the most gracious Diva from Diva Marketing Blog

But, I also had a chance to live the magic of connection made possible through the intensity of blog conversation later Friday evening at an event organized by CK [promoted here Bloggers Take Manhattan] during which I met:

+ Valeria Maltoni from Conversation Agent who details it all in The Manhattan Connection
+ CK from CK's Blog who describes it here: It's A Fact!
+ David Reich from My 2 Cents
+ Toby Bloomberg was there, too [see Beyond Fabulous Blogger Happy Happy Time].

And, meet new friends:
+ Matt Dickman from Techno//Marketer captures it in Magic in Manhattan [Matt, thanks for taking so many photos! My daughter enjoyed them.]
+ Lori Magno from Moda Di Magno - Blog for Stylish Living
+ Rebecca Edmonston, a.k.a. Red, CK's cousin and talented actress, who blogs at Red's World
+ Mark Goren from Transmission Marketing
+ Fard Johnmar from Healthcare Vox

I look forward to continuing this conversation online and connecting offline again soon and hope you will consider how best to create conversation with your customers so you,too, can connect and establish a relationship with them!

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Brand Perceptions: Target Shopping Carts

target target target originally uploaded by Supercapacity.
I witnessed an interesting situation today involving Target shopping buggies and it affected my perception of the Target brand.

I had just parked my car, and was walking purposefully first towards Dick's Sporting Goods [they carry Croc Jibbitz accessories!] before going to Target. As I crossed the street, I noticed a woman pushing a shopping cart and 3 kids: a small one sitting in the front seat, one inside the buggy and the oldest hanging off the end of the cart [something my daughter frequently does].

All of a sudden, she comes to an abrupt stop, so abrupt that the child hanging off the end falls off [which is why kids shouldn't be doing this, but they do]. She picks up the child, gets her back on the buggy and tries to vigorously push that cart again, but it won't budge. It had obviously worked just fine [this was the end of her shopping expedition], and now it was absolutely paralyzed! What was going on?

Luckily, she was at the edge of the main thoroughfare, but she was still blocking traffic. Try as hard as she could, she couldn't move it and was obviously getting frustrated.

A woman in a car tells her not to worry, that there's nothing wrong with the buggy, but that the yellow strip in the parking lot was the reason for the freeze-up: no buggies beyond that point. Wow. Isn't that extremely helpful information! The woman successfully screeches the cart around to point in the opposite direction and maneuvers differently to her car.

I was stunned.

When I finished with my errand at Dick's, I paid closer attention to the yellow strips and looked to see if there was any signage explaining to poor unsuspecting souls [I could have been that woman] that a perimeter had been drawn around the Target parking lot -similar to those invisible fences for dogs- and shopper beware if you go beyond it! I did see a beat up metal sign that looked a lot like a parking sign on the sidewalk at about the same level as the yellow strips. I was looking for it. Otherwise, I never would have paid attention to it.

Now, on one hand the solution to keeping shopping buggies from wandering to extremes of strip malls is pretty clever. In fact, these two articles New devices stopping shopping-cart thieves by Edmund Mander and Attention, Shoplifters" from Business Week dated 9/11/2006 suggest that the issue is much bigger than I had even imagined. But, why not explain it better? or communicate it more?

Many stores have physical barriers to prevent the carts from leaving the immediate premises. It's a low tech solution, and perhaps irritating, but very difficult to not get. Here, the solution is more elegant, but way too subtle. We have little experience with this level of technology. Not only is it still unexpected, but it isn't intuitive. This woman would never had understood had the driver not stopped to explain. She's busy, she has 3 kids in tow, she's just finished her shopping expedition and Target not only slowed her down, it scared her [her child could have been injured], and it frustrated her. Not a good thing to do to your core woman shopper!

I admire Target from so many perspectives, so was doubly shocked that they hadn't considered the shopper in the solution. The scenario just didn't match up with my interpretation of the Target brand and the Target retail experience.

This wikipedia article on Target Corporation includes a lot of good information on Target. Immediately before the section on Distribution Centers, you will see mention of shopping carts with locking wheels....

And, this other wikipedia article about shopping carts includes a section on theft prevention [a big deal with shopping carts] and the locking wheel concept, including some of the injuries associated.

So, when you come up with elegant solutions, don't forget to consider that experience from your customer's perspective. Make sure to communicate with HER, multiple times. In this case, why not have a message on the buggy, remind her at checkout, and also closer to the perimeter area?

Remember that if you communicate with her and give her information, she will get on board. She will be happy to cooperate and become a part of your solution. But, if you don't, you might not like the results.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Wal-Mart Plano - Like No Other Store!

Earlier this month I spent 10 days in Dallas, allowing me to explore a world of retail experiences like no other.... Yes, this world is in many ways a far cry from Lafayette Gourmet - A Feast For The Senses. However, the lessons remain valuable...

Take the Wal-Mart Plano Supercenter store located at 1700 Dallas Parkway which opened to the public one year ago on 3/22/2006: New Plano Wal-Mart Unlike Any Other Store posted on 3/21/2006 on nbc5i.com. The subtitle reads: "Supercenter To Be Laboratory As Wal-Mart Tests What Works". It sells sushi, natural and organic produce, an extensive selection of wine and beer and offers more atmosphere than normally encountered in a Wal-Mart.

That sounds like no other Wal-Mart I know! I had to check it out.

Starting with the view from the parking lot, the store offered surprises. Note the use of green.

The photo above captures the center of the front facade - a relatively traditional Wal-Mart statement. However, this store featured 2 entrances! On either side of that central section you see the two attractive entries framed in red brick: Home & Living on the left hand side and Market & Pharmacy on the right.

I entered through Market & Pharmacy... and stepped into the produce section of a grocery store - fruits and vegetables beautifully displayed; great visuals, good lighting. Smells of delicious things cooking [roasting chicken? bread baking?].

Essentially, one-third of the store seemed dedicated to groceries and filled with organic [or natural] products and flowers. I bought fresh sushi, walked through a dizzying array of beer and wine offerings. Visual cues were vastly improved with large graphics and imagery that actually conveyed useful information.

Adjacencies seemed better thought out: the pharmacy was across from the grocery section. A wide tan racetrack indicated a path through the store. Individual sections [e.g., clothing, toys, electronics...] were differentiated via different flooring choices [e.g., faux wood]. Lots of skylights let in natural light.

The home section actually featured vignettes to showcase how to accessorize or highlight new products. If Wal-Mart can do this, surely every flooring store can, too!

Behind the cash/wrap section, I noticed a whole slew of services: embroidery, nails, vision center, hair care, customer service, banking. In my Wal-Mart, those appear along the right wall as I enter the store and contribute to a 'cheesy' feeling. The effect here was more upscale.

Over by the Home & Living entrance, I noticed a books and stationary/card section with more intimate lighting than in the rest of the store, mood music [possibly to relax?] that I found irritating, wood veneer displays that made the products more attractive. Immediately, by the entrance was an impulse item display [similar in spirit to the Target bargains] with appealing displays of plates and bowls, as well as cleaning products. Definitely less ebullient than Target's section, but a lot more attractive than the regular Wal-Mart depressingly displayed shelf of bargains by the shopping buggies.

I encourage you to view the video included in the article above [New Plano Wal-Mart Unlike Any Other Store] as well as this link from Wal-Mart in their Local Store Designs section. It, too, includes video and photos and explains in more detail some of the radical experimentation taking place [e.g., the "clutter to clarity" concept, merchandising, marketing and operations to improve the shopping experience, better adjacencies...].

This other Wal-Mart article titled New Plano, Texas, Supercenter Takes Innovative Approach to Enhancing Shopping Experience includes many of the same details, as well as Wal-Mart facts.

More specifically, the store and the experimentation represent "a direct response to the shopping preferences of female customers who make the majority of purchases in Supercenters."

The official low-down on what is different lists [note all of the food related enhancements]:
• A store layout that positions departments in a way that female customers said made sense for them. For example, consumables, pet food, and health and beauty aids are adjacent to grocery.

• New signage and graphics that give each of the store’s eight principal areas – home, apparel, health, beauty, food, do-it-yourself, electronics, and baby – its own character, to make it easier for customers to find what they are looking for.

• A redesigned apparel area with its own cash registers, more space around displays and racks, and a fitting area that offers more privacy and convenience. Customers will carry most of their apparel purchases out of the store on hangers.

• A quieter shopping experience with fewer PA announcements, no in-store radio, directional Wal-Mart TV confined to distinct areas of the store and quieter cash registers.

• A significantly expanded and diversified grocery selection, with more than 2,000 premium items in wine, dry grocery, meat, cheese, and produce that are new to Wal-Mart Supercenters.

• A wine section with 1,200 different selections, including more than 700 premium items specific to this store.

• An increased selection of gourmet cheeses.

Made-to-order sandwiches, hot panini sandwiches and hot pizza.

Expanded organic and natural offerings with nearly 500 items added to the produce, deli, bakery, meat, seafood, dairy and frozen departments.

• A fresh sushi bar and a spacious, trendy, Wi-Fi-enabled coffee shop.

• A site-to-store section where customers can pick up most Walmart.com purchases without a shipping charge.

• A streamlined checkout area, including new cash registers, to help customers check out more quickly.

The apparel areas seemed very similar with soso product selection [and certainly very little depth of selection]. I loved the quietness of the store with no Wal-Mart TV blaring. The new adjacencies made sense: I found cute pet toys intuitively placed by the grocery section. I loved the bench in the pharmacy section [in fact, I've noticed more benches placed around our new Wal-Mart], and the wide racetrack seemed more cushiony than the normal concrete Big Box floor....

I regret that I did not visit the women's room [I am begging Liz or Sonya, our Wear-Dated reps in the Dallas area, to PLEASE take a swing through there with a camera], but I nonetheless found the experience fascinating and educational particularly when compared, not to other retailers or discounters, but to other Wal-Marts.

Now, when a retailer as behemoth in size as Wal-Mart starts to pay attention to its retail experience, realizing that the shopping experience matters, especially to its women consumers, doesn't that make you stop and think that something important is going on? In fact, if Wal-Mart has realized this, shouldn't EVERYONE ELSE IN RETAIL be paying attention and focusing on delivering a better experience? I sure think so. What about you?

Technorati Tags: , ,

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Lafayette Gourmet - A Feast For The Senses...

Galeries Lafayette illumine originally uploaded by Julie70.
I'm very pleased to share another guest post from Marianne Cone [see Fun at the Doctor's!?] capturing a delectable sensory retail experience in what I consider to be the 'nec plus ultra' city of seduction - Paris.

Yes, I admit, I am biased! One half of me does hail from this part of the world and many of my earliest memories [e.g., my grandmother's apartment building, les Jardins du Luxembourg, la rue du Cherche-Midi, le Bon Marche...] are filled with sights, sounds, smells, visions and touches of absolute delight and amazement that to this day inspire me.

Nonetheless, as you read this, imagine translating some of this to your retail environment. Wouldn't that be a feast for the senses?

I was recently on vacation in Paris and before I left Christine [a.k.a. CB] asked me to be on the lookout for interesting retail experiences...

Now, I have loved the shops along the Rue de Rivoli since my first trip to Paris at the age of sixteen, but I was adamant… This was not a shopping trip! This trip was about atmosphere and flea markets… about croissants in the morning and chevre, a baguette and a nice Chardonnay for lunch… It was about watching the sunset from a park bench in the Tuileries.

Retail shopping? Not me! I was in search of the je ne sais quoi that is Paris! That is until I heard about the new ‘dime store’ brand of Chanel makeup available at Galeries Lafayette!

So away I went to Boulevard Haussmann where the 10-story flagship store for Galeries Lafayette is located. From furs to fromage – from champagne to Chanel – it is all at Galeries Lafayette!

The fragrance and make-up department is certainly a site to behold under the 19th century neo-Byzantine dome. And the new Chanel line, Bourjois, was all I expected and more… even with the ridiculous exchange rate that week!

Christine had suggested Lafayette Gourmet as a possible place for lunch and -as luck and good planning would have it- once I had played in the makeup and then purchased as much Bourjois as I thought I could pay for when good sense returned and my American Express bill arrived, it was indeed time for lunch!

It had been several years since I had been in the department store so Lafayette Gourmet was new to me. Having lived in London for many years, I wondered how any continental food hall could possibly compare to the food halls of Harrods...

And, as I exited the elevator in Lafayette Gourmet I instantly understood that I was in a place unique in all the world of food shopping. This was not a place to buy groceries. This was a place to shop for a gastronomic experience. This was a place that said choosing was as important as preparing and eating the food.

I learned from Mireille Guiliano’s book, French Women Don't Get Fat: The Secret of Eating For Pleasure, that a French woman is very particular about the way in which she chooses and prepares her food in much the same way she is particular about the way in which she chooses her fashion. Lafayette Gourmet seemed to reinforce that principle at every turn.

Dare I say it about the Parisiennes? In Lafayette Gourmet my sense was that choosing food might just rank on a par with choosing fashion. In fact, as I thought later about this retail experience it dawned on me that in Lafayette Gourmet food is fashion!

It was apparent in the way the food was presented - can you imagine Rice Krispies merchandised in such a way they appear to be a special offering? The packaging on everything from cookies to tea bags was fashionable, many with ribbons and bows – easily done when items are sold in reasonable quantity rather than bulk quantities to feed American appetites! Displays of featured items were beautifully arranged and lighted for the best effect – I observed a woman considering an artistic display of spices in much the same way I had seen someone regarding a lovely display in Hermes the day before. As in fashion, it was apparent that color and texture were strongly considered in merchandising the food items. Even in the seafood section red snapper and pink shrimp were arranged together.

The store was laid out to propel the consumer through a fashionable and intimate food experience. The aisles were wide enough for a consumer to stroll with her small gold-toned buggy, carefully choosing each item for the food experience she wished to create. The sections were well marked with delicately lettered signage that said, ‘here is something you’ll want to see and taste,’ the floors immaculately clean and shiny. Shelf stocking was done so discreetly I hardly noticed until a stock person politely excused himself to hand carry the boxes he had just emptied away from the aisle I was in.

The Lafayette Gourmet retail experience was just that…..an experience – a memory of the flair for fashion that epitomizes Paris for me.

And by the way, Christine, lunch was wonderful!

Thank you, Marianne, for bringing to life through your words and images this sensory feast from Paris !

It's amazingly powerful to witness the magic that special loving touches can bring to a category. Particularly when those touches truly appeal to the senses. If Rice Krispies [which my French Grandmother referred to as 'Krispies'] can be made to appear special, then imagine what might be done to make carpet or flooring look as enticing to the consumer as she wishes the end result in her home to look? Magnifique, non?

Technorati Tags: , ,

Friday, March 16, 2007

Michael Cape On The Brand Promise

"The Brand Promise: Connecting With Your Customer Through Marketing, Store Environment and Online" was the subject of Michael Cape's keynote presentation at the December 2006 TREX show in NYC.

At the time of the presentation, Cape was VP of Brand Marketing for JC Penney. He has since accepted the position of EVP for Old Navy [see 2/26/2007 DDI Magazine article Michael Cape Names Old Navy's EVP Marketing].

Exciting changes have taken place at JC Penney during Cape's tenure: the introduction of Sephora as a store within a store, a pop-up store in Times Square, a successful turnaround and expansion. No wonder he has decided to join Old Navy. Things were probably starting to get boring!

Cape started with the following questions. Notice that each one relates to the CONSUMER, not to the store or products.

1. What does the brand stand for in the heart/mind of the consumer?
2. Is your brand relevant to your customer's life?
3. Does your brand make an emotional connection with your customer? [Get away from brand arrogance and build an emotional connection.]
4. Is your brand an inspiration to you customer?

It boils down to needing to understand the consumer. JC Penney noticed that their men's business was on the upswing, it attracted young people just starting out, their teen business was strong, and their sweet spot consisted of women 35 to 49 who work, with moderate income, a mom, wife, and gatekeeper to the home.

However, it knew very little about the needs and wants of these customers, their ambitions, their sources of inspiration. To better understand its consumers and relate the brand essence to their lives, JC Penney needed to develop a 2-way dialog.

Inspired by Saatchi's Kevin Roberts, Cape set out to understand "how the lion hunts in the jungle", or in other words to live with the customer and go places with her.

Next, his group conducted a gap analysis to understand how the existing brands aligned with her life [work, home, social, family, romantic, life/beauty, casual, busy, life's special occasions...] and determine if JC Penney was truly serving her, and helping her to live her best life ever. In so doing, JC Penney realized that it didn't have a position around life/beauty and addressed that through the introduction of Sephora within the JC Penney Store.

JC Penney's Mission became to offer her attainable style through any of 3 shopping channels [store, catalog, online].

Again referring to Kevin Roberts and his book Lovemarks: The Future Beyond Brands, Cape discussed the power of Emotion in leading to action [compared to reason which leads to conclusion or justification]. At the center of Lovemarks is a grid plotting hi/lo respect against hi/lo love. The quadrant to own [i.e., the lovemark space which JC Penney decided to pusue] is hi love/hi respect or "a brand I identify with, a brand known for something I care passionately about". [Read this post by Roberts titled Starbucks Coffee Break.]

With that in mind, which are the emotional milestones that the JC Penney customer reaches? A wedding, a baby, a new home, a new job.... All important opportunities for relating the brand essence to that consumer's life.

And don't forget that all touch points shape customer perceptions: the merchandise, store experience, associates interactions, social responsibility, on-line, convenience [reminds me of David Polinchock's advice in Brand Experience Lab's Experience Manifesto].

JC Penney implemented these learnings in the Spring 2006 with the launch of the largest brand campaign in the 104 history of JCPenney, using new techniques [living ads online], and fully integrating the campaign across multiple platforms, including its hispanic programs and its first ever sponsorship of the AcademyAwards, all coordinated in-store. The tagline "It's All Inside" accurately captured confidence, trendiness at a smart price, and that the consumer has a friend in JCP.

On 3/3/06, JC Penney introduced a pop-up store in NYC in Times Square; it stayed open for only 24 days. They successfully retooled the space in 8 days [!], and held a gala event with their design partners. The event was extremely successful [stock price increased significantly as a result], announcing to the world the new JC Penney. [See JC Penney sells with an attitude by Mindy Fetterman, USA TODAY. It's a great article with lots of info about Penney's strategy including Get more customers; Expand off-mall; Update at the mall; Make Web shopping easier and more seamless; Get more wallet-share.]

The media attention provided 3rd party endorsements [and the equivalent of $6m in advertising] and energetically showcased JC Penney's key points of difference [unique, private designer brands], that JC Penney had reached a major milestone [JCP.com passed $1B in sales], and demonstrated strong brand momentum.

Cape then discussed other exciting focus areas within JC Penney:

- The bridal gift registry - a key point of entry especially for new customers. 90% of those who register are brand new to JCP and outspend existing customers. The registry has a strong viral quality, combined with emotion/romance that they have played on with witty copy and valuable advice for bridal showers. They offer a wedding planner, a magazine and a catalog. It's easy to do, available online and in Spanish. [See J.C. Penney courts brides to boost business by Nicole Maestri from 1/23/07 in Reuters.]

- Huge Home Business! ~$2B/year made unique through the association with Chris Madden, an authoritative source of inspiration for the home. JC Penney created its first pop-up store in Rockefeller Center [see Stores Are Popping Up from August 01, 2004 by RoxAnna Sway] to introduce the breadth of its home collection.

- Teens/kids/young adults especially at Back-to-School when kids drive traffic. JC Penney again focused on touch points important to this audience: mtv, video/music awards, competition to be VJ for VMA insider [did live TV commercials, broke some rules, fun!]. [See Penney's Back-to-School Campaign Integrates Social, Rich Media.] The competition became a platform event, integrated with broadcast, on line, magazine, publicity, preprint, store environment, and even a mall tour.

Cape repeatedly emphasized the criticality of delivering on the brand promise within the store environment. The store entrance should display ceremony and tie into the rest of the brand experience; all brand elements within the store [e.g., light fixtures, the red cube, and 3 different ways to shop] should tie into the campaign. And, don't forget that in-store displays absolutely influence consumers!

Interestingly, JC Penney's cash-wrap area allows consumers to access all of its offerings online. Their focus has truly been to make the online experience seamless with the in-store experience.

He brought up key punctuation points: fitting rooms offer chairs with plasma screen tvs for entertainment; common imagery; a common store profile; a dynamic store enviroment... The Sephora Salon has increased the number of visits to the store and has created a WOW! effect.

Cause marketing remains an important way to connect with the JC Penney core consumer - a mom, whose most important concern is her kids. Not only it is important to be a good corporate citizen, but it also matters to building an emotional connection between the brand and consumers. JC Penney realized that 14 million kids have nowhere to go after shcool and established in 2001 a fund to address this, and created events to raise awareness and funding. For example, it held a JC Penney JAM concert for America's Kids. Tickets and the dvd/cd recording generated proceeds to support the fund. [See JC Penney Press Release.]

Cape closed his presentation by quoting Guillaume Apollinaire:
Come to the edge. No we'll fall.
Come to the edge. No we can't.
Come to the edge. No we're afraid.
And they came And he pushed them And they flew...

Cape certainly demonstrated flying at JC Penney. As his Old Navy adventure begins, I expect that he will not only fly, but soar!

I join Retail Design Diva in wishing Michael Cape the very best at Old Navy [see Can Old Navy Become New Navy?].

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Words of Wisdom For Graduates

Graduation originally uploaded by Peter F. Martin.
Drew McLellan from Drew's Marketing Minute needs our help. He's looking to give back to young graduates in Help me give college grads a fighting chance by gathering as much advice as possible that he will capture in an e-book.

I have a wonderful nephew who graduated last June from U.Va., and a terrific niece who just started at Villanova, so have a vested interest in making sure that they get this e-book!

Drew encourages all of us - including YOU, dear reader - to contribute to this worthy project! Simply address any of these topics in the comment section of his post [or forward me your thoughts and I'll get them to Drew]:

+ How you landed your first job (war/success story)
+ What you wish you had known when you were trying to get your first job
+ Advice for someone trying to break into the marketing/advertising business
+ Words of wisdom about careers in general

He reminds us: "Someone helped you once upon a time. Time to return the favor."

Here goes!

When I think about my first work experiences after college, I can't help but consider each individual job experience as well as the entirety of these experiences before business school in terms of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.

At first, it's about physiological needs: figuring out what's what and where [my workspace/desk, the lunchroom, the bathrooms...] and what the basics are [phone number, passwords, dress code, responsibilities...].

Then, it's about safety & security: how quickly can I absorb all of the newness? how can I fit it? how can make it beyond whatever the trial period is? can I position myself for an early evaluation to get feedback? how have others been successful in this position? what's critical?

Next, comes love & belonging: who has an interesting perspective on the job/company/marketplace? can I get to know that person? who might offer advice? how can I get more involved?

Then, self-esteem & esteem of others: I'm really proud of what I am contributing. how can I add more value? within the organization and outside of it?

And finally self-actualization - am I pursuing my passions? how can I develop further? can I do it in this environment?

From that perspective:
+ Definitely be dependable, professional, punctual, responsible, courteous... Commit to deadlines and meet those deadlines.

+ Keep a positive attitude, be interested and enthusiastic. If you can't be upbeat and professional, then find another job where you can be, otherwise you will enter into a vicious cycle of unhappiness.

+ Be an information sponge. Watch, listen, absorb. Ask questions. Listen to the answers. Understand the big picture and appreciate that even the smallest details matter to that big picture. Look at the big picture from your customer's perspective, and your customer's customer's perspective. Can you improve on anything?

+ Be flexible and willing to take on even the most boring jobs. Can you be creative in how you get those jobs done? [I once had to sharpen pencils for my boss. To ensure that he always had ready access to sharpened pencils, I bought him an electric pencil sharpener. Never again did he have to wait on me for perfect pencils!]

+ Finally, don't get caught up in internal politics. Therein lies the road to ruin!

Be sure, too, to refer to Conversation Agent Valeria Maltoni's post titled Five Tips to Succeed at Work. She succinctly addresses success at work from the perspective of the strategist, the investor, the connector, the master thinker and the business statement - advice valuable not only to a recent graduate, but to anyone serious about success at work!

Technorati Tags: , ,

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

To Rock or Not To Rock at Customers Rock!

!Rock'n'Roll! originally uploaded by L.A. Woman.
Becky Carroll from Customers Rock! graciously invited me to contribute a guest post to her blog.

My starting point for the post - which you can view for yourselves at To Rock or Not To Rock - came from my last post of 2006 titled Happy 2007 From Wear-Dated!

Within that post, I included the following: "retailers in all industries can remain competitive by focusing on 'value-added' strategies, such as loyalty programs that reward customers" and "consumers want experiences, not just purchase transactions. They want memorable events that make them feel appreciated and create a positive emotional experience while getting something of value."

Becky asked me to elaborate on these points.

As I thought about them, I considered the notions of defining and creating value [which Jeffrey and Bryan Eisenberg explore in Call to Action: Secret Formulas to Improve Online Results]. I asked myself -as a consumer- what is it about an organization that makes me feel passionately about that organization over another?

The long and the short of it is that it all has to do with whether an organization truly believes that customers rock.

Advertising Age featured a special report on loyalty on March 20, 2006, discussing different approaches to building loyalty. Many of these approaches include card programs, so it's interesting to discover the differences between a Starbucks gifting/loyalty card vs. a Chico's Passport Club. Regardless, success requires looking outside of the category for innovation, focusing on simplicity and constantly reevaluating and reinventing with the customer in mind to create a memorable positive experience.

Here are the articles in that report:
+ The Big Payoff, subtitled "Customer retention is the mantra, but marketers quickly appreciate you have to win them and keep winning them over and over" by JAMES TENSER.

+ Latte reward: Cards add up at Starbucks, subtitled "With single b-to-b order of 100,000 cards, effort fills bottom line to brim" by KATE MACARTHUR.

+ Retail lesson: Small programs best, subtitled "Some grocery efforts flounder but specialty stores build on benefits" by MYA FRAZIER, Contributing: James Tenser, Tricia Despres.

+ Four to follow by Tricia Despres. The four being: American Airlines, Buick, Citibank and Starwood Hotels & Resorts.

I end this post the same way I ended my guest post:

I bet you can come up with your own customer rocking examples that have earned your loyalty. What about your own organization? How do you nurture your customer relationships? Do customers rock, or do they not - and how do you demonstrate that?

Thanks, Becky, for the opportunity!

Technorati Tags: , ,

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Fun At The Doctor's!?

Doctor's Office originally uploaded by Lindsey Beyerstein.
When is the last time you had FUN at the doctor's? Seriously.

Well, I'm very pleased to share the following post about a good experience from my friend Marianne Cone, Director of Marketing for Solutia's Ultron and Wear-Dated carpet fibers.

Sadly, it's more common to encounter lousy experiences [see
Sorry Pumpkin! The Labcorp Saga Continues and Hall of Shame Inductee: LabCorp] than good ones. Which makes this post so fascinating.

I was recently at a prominent Atlanta medical facility for a long awaited appointment – you know the drill – find the specialist, make the appointment……. and wait for the month, day and hour to appear on the calendar. I entered the beautifully appointed building somewhat apprehensively partly due to the nature of the appointment, and certainly due to the overwhelming size and specter of the facility. However, a kindly woman at the reception desk seemed to sense my apprehension and, with a wonderful smile that dissolved it completely, pointed me in the right direction.

I entered the doctor’s office and was immediately greeted by the registration person – another very kind and friendly woman. She took all the necessary data to be sure I was indeed who I said I was, and that I did indeed have the insurance to cover such an appointment! But she, too, accomplished her rather mundane task with a smile.

I sat down with the inevitable clip board and forms and was almost immediately called from the waiting room back to the inner halls and rooms of this medical teaching facility. What? No wait? No wondering when or if I would see this revered medical deity? Was it really possible that I would be in and out so quickly? The friendly female nurse who ushered me back said the doctor would be in soon and I thought to myself – ‘ah….this is where I wait.’

But no! In a very few minutes a young woman walked in and introduced herself as a doctor – not the appointed doctor – but the doctor who would be gathering more information for the appointed doctor. My first thought was whether this young woman was old enough to BE a doctor – her fresh-faced look, manner and accent had me thinking she was just off a Midwestern farm. For the next hour we talked…. and talked…. woman to woman. Her earnest interest and seemingly complete lack of any time constraints set the tone for me to share everything on my list. Once her examination was complete she excused herself saying that she and the appointed doctor would return momentarily.

Right! I’m still not completely convinced so I settled in with my BlackJack to catch up on the email messages of the morning. No sooner had I entered my password than the two of them walked in and here was yet another fresh-faced young woman. I felt as if I were in some kind of bizarre scene in which two little girls were playing doctor! For the next hour these two young women plied their trade as doctors. And, I was an integral part of the examination and the diagnostic process – a decidedly new experience since the last doctor I had seen for the same symptoms wasn’t interested in anything I had to say. He acted as if he had a stopwatch in his pocket he was so eager to process me through and out!

It’s a given that these two doctors are very well educated and highly qualified to hold the positions they do at this prestigious facility. Beyond the medical qualifications, however, they are passionate about their field of practice, they are human and they are women. They practice medicine with the nurturing sensitivity of women. They believe the patient is integral to their practice of good medicine, and they share their knowledge and expertise with each other in order to achieve the best results possible. Furthermore, they were completely uninterested in whether I was impressed or even aware of the demands on their time and skills. I can say without reservation that women are the best thing that has happened to the practice of medicine!

Here's why I really like this good experience. Marianne -as do most consumers- expected a bad experience. She expected to wait, to be treated as a number rather than as a person, to encounter unhappy or surly people. Instead, she received personalized attention. So, you can imagine her surprise and delight in having each subsequent element of the experience be even more positive than the last. Not only did she leave extremely satisfied, but she has been talking about it. Pretty powerful!

Furthermore, this medical institution has put great effort into hiring the right people: professional, courteous, empathetic, and competent. Is it a coincidence that Marianne encountered primarily women? I don't know, but everyone she met obviously made a difference. Each one was committed to delivering that personalized level of attention! How many of your employees are that committed? Which ones are more empathetic and better listeners? Can they share some of those skills with those less adept?

In case you don't believe how important it is to truly focus on your customers, consider this 3/6/07 article from E-Commerce Times titled
Personalized Customer Care: It's More Important Than You Think by Philippe Gaillard. I found the first part of the article particularly relevant as it discusses how important customers are to our business, and the criticality of improving the customer experience.

How might you turn your customers' negative expectations upside down to deliver a totally fun and positive retail experience instead?

Technorati Tags: , ,

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

20 Year Relationships

20th originally uploaded by Marvin (PA)
Today my husband and I celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. A milestone celebration, and I am - unfortunately - away on business...

Milestones often put things into perspective. They can also lead to musings [particularly when traveling!].

Have you considered what it takes to maintain a longterm relationship - be it in a marriage or a customer relationship?

Here's my list:

Definitely, two willing partners.

An ability to learn from one another and adapt to changes - in circumstances and within one another.

A genuine desire for the best for the other.

Total honesty and total respect.

An ability to laugh together and to emphathize with the other.

Acknowledging responsibility and learning from mistakes.

And a desire to work things out rather than walk away.

Which organizations can you think of that can be proud of the milestones they've achieved with their customers?

Nordstrom comes to my mind given how many people from multiple generations speak with reverence about their relationship with the store. And, I bet that Jack Mitchell's [author of Hug Your Customers and CEO of Mitchells of Westport, Richards of Greenwich and recently Marshs of Long Island [high end clothing retailers] organizations do, too [see A Good Hug Is Worth... and Hugs or Relentless Customer Focus]. I bet they have celebrated many 20 year [or more] relationships with their customers.

How do you go about building milestone relationships with your customers?

Technorati Tags: ,

Monday, March 05, 2007

Stores That Floor!

What makes a Store That Truly Floors Consumers?

In my mind, the basics must be covered really well. And the basics I have in mind correlate with Raymond R. Burke's 10 Principles of Retail Shoppability.

Raymond R. Burke, Ph.D., teaches at Indiana University's Kelley School of Business and researches what goes into making a successful retail experience. I first heard him speak on the subject at the 2005 Total Retail Experience [TREX] conference [which reminds me that the James Damian presentation was fascinating, too, and that I need to share that here...] when he was the featured keynote speaker on 12/8/2005 and discussed "Retail Shoppability: 10 Principles for Converting Shoppers into Buyers". I was in awe at how clear and universal his principles were and vowed to mention them at every opportunity [see Why Amazing Shopping Experiences Matter ].

The 10 Principles of Retail Shoppability consist of:

• Showing the Product.
• Providing Effective Navigational Aids.
• Simplifing Product Organization and Presentation [i.e., think Are There Too Many Choices?]
• Minimizing Clutter [or eliminating it!].
• Maximizing Product Affordance [i.e., communicate what value you offer].
• Showcasing New Items and New Ideas [yes, you are selling FASHION!].
• Making the Shopping Experience Convenient.
• Making the Shopping Experience Enjoyable.
• Speaking with Authority.
• Maintaining Flexibility.

Assuming the basics are covered, then consider tweaking those basics to make the retail experience stand out:

• Does it represent a total brand experience, starting before the store physically begins? And continuing on after the consumer leaves the store? Does every brand element consistently reinforce the message?
• Does the store environment appeal to and engage the emotions? [Remember that shopping is about seduction!]
• Does it create a sense of community [i.e., a Third Place]? Is it welcoming?
• What message does your product assortment send? Is it edited and does it represent the unique perspective of your store experience?
• How impeccable is your customer service? Does everyone in your environment focus passionately on the consumer?

If done well, the consumer will consider the retail experience well worth the premium!

And, finally, from Pamela Danziger's new book Shopping: Why We Love It and How Retailers Can Create the Ultimate Customer Experience, a fascinating "equation" for Shops that Pop! that definitely applies to a Store That Floors. Such a store should:

• Offer a high level of customer involvement and interaction.
• Excites consumer curiosity to explore and experience.
• Exudes contagious energy and excitement.
• Represents a fine synergy between all tangible and intangible elements [atmosphere, store design, merchandise…].
• Captures an authentic concept [have you noticed how authenticity is cropping up repeatedly? See Authenticity Goes Mainstream and the original post from Experience Manifesto for more authentic perspective.].
• Offers superior value at a reasonable cost.
Welcomes all with an inclusive [not exclusive] attitude.

Do you think I've missed anything? Let me know.

Given this recipe for Stores That Floor, I'm excited to share that I have just identified my first honoree! More on that shortly....

[Hat tip to Maria Palma at Customers Are Always for inspiring me with this concept!]

Technorati Tags: , ,

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Marketing To Women - It's A Business Thing!

Continuing on with capturing relevant articles on Flooring The Consumer, here follows the more-in-depth interview that Kim Gavin refers to in Marketing To Women - from Floor Covering Weekly, October 3/10, 2005, page 16, by Kimberly Gavin.

[Note that the reference to "It's a Business Thing!" comes from
Tom Peters where in Re-Imagine!: Business Excellence in a Disruptive Age and Women Roar! he reminds us that addressing the needs of women represents business opportunity #1 in our economy: “Women’s increasing power is the strongest and most dynamic force at work in the American economy today”.]

By now the industry is well aware that its target customer is female. Study after study has proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the woman makes the flooring purchase decision.

To help retailers of Wear-Dated carpet - admittedly often a bunch of guys - capitalize on the market, Solutia deploys Christine Whittemore, director of in-store innovation for Wear-Dated. She says retailers should target and cater to women for one reason: "It's a business thing."

FCW editor Kim Gavin spoke with Whittemore about the whys and hows of marketing to women.

Why should retailers market to women?
Whittemore: Women represent 51 percent of the population and 47 percent of the labor force. This may surprise many in our industry -- women hold 50 percent of the managerial positions. Women tend to be better educated than men. There are more women graduating from college and graduate programs than are men. They represent 47 percent of Americans with assets over half a million dollars.

They are the chief decision makers on a whole number of fronts. Relating to the home: 40 percent of home improvement projects and products; 61 percent of major home fix-up projects; 83 percent of consumer purchases – and I’ve seen that go as high as 85; 91 percent of home sales. There are more single women purchasing homes and about 94 percent make decisions on home furnishings.

Those retailers who don't make an effort to address that core consumer are going to lose business. On the floor covering side, consumers tend to consider it a commodity item because it's so unpleasant to shop for. There's no emotion connected to it, no romance. It's been reduced to the lowest common denominator and that's price. If you want to have fun, you go elsewhere. That's a critical concept that flooring retailers need to wrap their heads around. Consumers are willing to spend money. They will trade up where they can because some products will make them feel good about their homes.

Another reason that retailers should pay attention to women is they will talk up their experience like crazy, be it good or bad. Word of mouth is extremely powerful.

What do women want from a retailer?
Whittemore: They want an enjoyable shopping experience. Flooring is complex and represents big dollars. It’s not going to be a snap decision. She could fall in love with something, but she's rarely given the opportunity to make the emotional connection with the product. She wants a place where she can relax, a store that draws her in to browse and touch. That conveys a commitment to the category, fashion and her. That brings in lighting, color, how product is showcased. Women pay attention to everything. If it's unpleasant, she will walk out. If she’s accompanied by a spouse, is there a space for him to be comfortable? If she has children, is there a place they can play so she can relax? Women can be very tolerant, but I think they are developing higher expectations of the retail experience because there are more places now that are fun to go to.

What else?
Whittemore: The next important aspect beyond the physical environment is the "software" - the people, all the points of interaction with the consumer. Is the salesperson going to listen? It's not about a hard sell. You want to welcome her like you were welcoming her into your home. "Let me take your coat. Can I offer you something to drink?" Doing all of that conveys respect. You have the opportunity to ask questions, to find out what it is she's trying to accomplish. It takes time. Women like information, but don't like to be pushed. They may come back three or four times. They may also come in armed with more information than the salesperson has.

What are some of the more successful marketing strategies that you've come across?
Whittemore: Events where a consumer can come in. Maybe it's a bring-a-friend promotion to hear someone talk in a store environment. Those are successful because she has a reason to go into a non-threatening environment. I can't stress enough: No Hard Sell. Some of the retail stores that are getting it are the ones that will have different categories under one roof - maybe wallpaper and paint. I've heard of things as simple as having balloons to give to the children, which says "I care about you." Although there are some incredibly high-tech events people can do, the ones that are successful are the ones that say "I know who you are. You belong in my community. I can help you make difficult decisions as you go through life."

It's important for retailers to provide information. Women want to understand what it is they are purchasing. That's why they react so negatively to the hard sell. Give them a chance to be in control of the decision.

What are some other key points about the process?
Whittemore: Give her information. Make sure everyone (in your store) understands it’s a fashion item and it’s about making her home better so you get some of that romance in there. Giving her infromation lets her try things out. Be very patient with all of her questions. She likes to go to people for information. The Web is a source, so she may be emailing and doing blogs, but she will go to her friends, family and salespeople. That's an opportunity to develop that relationship.

Visually, it’s important to show the product in a situation she can relate to. Show people living on the product. That was a big revelation for us when we were doing our brand revitalization in 2002 - how critical it is to put people in the ad.

What about advertising? Do women view ads differently?
Whittemore: If you go back to cave times, men were hunters and women were gatherers. The whole notion of shopping is a lot about gathering. I've seen a lot of work on ads that resonate with women vs. men. Women respond well to ads that are about affinity, relationship, not "This is going to make my home better than her home. This is going to make my home a wonderful place to welcome the family."

What are some big marketing mistakes?
Whittemore: A big one goes back to respect. If you don’t respect her or take her seriously she’s going to walk out. Be helpful. Use signage and material so she can get educated. Walk in her shoes. No hard sell. Don’t be a car sales person. Don’t prejudge.

Don’t focus just on product features and benefits. Her eyes will glaze over. Ask the question, "How will it help her achieve what she wants?"

Store environment. Don’t have one that overwhelms her with racks and racks. That's a core paradigm we face in this business: We love having our racks. How about giving her information with all those racks? And information that makes sense to her, not just to the trade. It goes to the environment that draws her in. She’ll spend time. The more time she spends, the more comfortable she’ll be and the more likely she’ll be to spend money.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Thursday, March 01, 2007

BlogTipping Day - March

And another hat tip to Sandy Renshaw at Purplewren and Try Montage-a-google for a Neat Visual Experience for this "BlogTipping Montage".

It's the first of March. Do you know what that means?

Why, it's BlogTipping Day as announced by Easton Ellsworth himself of Business BlogWire fame in Announcement: May 1, 2006 will be blogtipping day!

For me, blogtipping is about highlighting blogs and/or specific blog posts that get me thinking.

Here, then, are my March BlogTips. I encourage you to check these blogs and postings out:

+ Service Untitled has put together an amazing, fascinating and thorough interview with Robert Stephens of The Geek Squad summarized in Robert Stephens interview round-up. It's a four part series and well worth the read - if you're serious about your customers and your relationship with them. "It's about listening and building solutions." Isn't that a great way to describe your interactions with customers? "We are in the perfection business." Wow! And read about the feedback tools that Geek Squad uses.

+ Subscribe to Woolgathering for a daily dose of creative zen. It soothes, delights and inspires. I will paint again, and soon. I can feel it, thanks to you, Elizabeth!

+ I'm really intrigued with David Reich's new blog My 2 Cents and am -once again- grateful to Christina Kerley from CK's Blog for her infectious enthusiasm [David says she's the reason he is now blogging] and amazing commitment to causes marketing [e.g., MarketingProfs Book Club Hosted by CK].

+ The Perfect Customer Experience featured this post by By John I. Todor, Ph.D., Author of Addicted Customers, titled Who We Trust and Why We Trust. Definitely download the pdf. It discusses the differences between transactional or "satisficing" trust vs. relationship trust, with some interesting parallels to The Problem With Too Many Choices [e.g., the notion of "principal-agent"].

Definite food for thought! I hope you enjoy March's BlogTips.

Technorati Tags:, , , , , , , ,
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...