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Monday, June 30, 2008

The Carpetology Blog RoundUp - June 2008

Amazing to realize that July starts tomorrow! Here in Northern New Jersey, July represents full summer... with sluggish days, the smell of honeysuckle, steam off the pavement as raindrops collide with the ground, impenetrable walls of deep green leaves, repetitive waves of cicada chirps, and corn 'knee high by the fourth of July'.

It also indicates that it's time for The Carpetology Blog Roundup - for June, 2008!

If you are new to Flooring The Consumer, The Carpetology Blog is the official Wear-Dated blog about all things carpet... design, inspiration, care and stories carpet-related. Please do check it out and let me know what you think...

Back to goings on over at The Carpetology Blog...

During the month of June, here's what happened.

We launched a newly redesigned Wear-Dated website: The New Wear-Dated Website Is Live! which triggered The Carpetology Wear-Dated Website Guide: Home Page and The Carpetology Wear-Dated Website Guide: Carpet Catalog I.

There are two new installments of A Foot's Perspective for you to check out:
+ A Foot's Perspective - Episode 5 [with Elizabeth discussing The Art of Living]
+ A Foot's Perspective - Episode 6 [in Teacher Emma's schoolroom]

My favorite Carpet In The News story is Wednesday Is Carpet Bros Day. although other gems this past month include Bill Gates and Carpet... What Does The Future Hold..., Getting Carrie-d Away on the Pink Carpet and Green is the New Red Carpet.

Elizabeth shares My New Outlook on Carpet.

Finally, we have added a new category focusing on retailers and their stories. The first describes how Lewis Floor & Home Offers Endless Home Solutions.

The second, A Discussion About Carpet Maintenance With Kerns Carpet One Floor & Home, addresses a critical subject: carpet maintenance in view of recent changes affecting consumer warranties. As part and parcel of the overall consumer retail experience, carpet maintenance matters. The more we educate our consumers about how best to care for their investment, the more satisfied they will be.

Thank you for reading.

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Friday, June 27, 2008

8 More Things Meme - With a Social Media Slant

numberplate 8 originally uploaded by holeymoon.
When Mark Goren tagged me at the beginning of the year in 8 more things, I was stumped. What might I share?

But, then, I got to thinking about social media.

I really enjoyed the social media angle that Mark expresses in his blogpost. Plus, I've been living and breathing social media more than I ever thought possible, particularly in the last few months. Yet, I'm still figuring it out.

So, I got to thinking some more and wondering... and decided to morph this meme as follows:

What are 8 ways in which you've used social media? These can be your success stories, suggestions on how to use new social media vehicles to improve on older ones, or even mistakes that taught you how to make sense of it all....

1. Today, June 27, represents a personal social media milestone. It corresponds to Flooring The Consumer's 2nd blog birthday, and The Carpetology Blog's 6 month birthday. Regretfully, the Wear-Dated website - which has strong social quality - launch day of 5/30/08 missed the 27th by 3 days. It's almost one month old!

2. Matt Dickman sold me on the Flip Video Series Camcorder at the October 2007 MarketingProfs B2B conference. [See have you googled yourself?] It took me a while to figure out how best to use it [video can really intimidate], but during Blogger Social '08 I broke out of my cocoon to launch the YouTube series titled "A Foot's Perspective?" No faces. Only feet. It's still evolving.

3. I'm figuring out Facebook. I realize that carpet isn't the most buzzable topic, but I remain optimistic... I've created a Facebook page for Wear-Dated, and my very first group for Friends of Wear-Dated. Care to join? By the way, Jason Alba has - as usual - terrific tips!

4. I'm taking to Twitter, to such a point that I've modified my background. Blogger Social helped make it meaningful. I'm also frustrated with it. I don't want to just be Broadcasting with 'Social' Media, but I also find it really difficult to monitor the conversations. I'm just now giving Twhirl a whirl. Is Plurk the answer? The interface is fascinating.

5. I haven't figured out how to manage all of the streams of interaction. And, given the pace of the past few months, I've had to let some things slide.... Which complicates the catching up process. I'm not sure about Friendfeed for integrating the various tools, but really appreciate Steve Woodruff's post asking Where is the Ideal Social Media Interface? Check out his really fancy graphics.

6. LinkedIn is getting more dimensional, especially with the creation of groups. But, it's still quite formal. I find that a soothing counterpoint to all of the other exciting tools out there.

7. Animoto has been on my horizon ever since Mark Goren created the Blogger Social video. Especially after taking so many pictures of shoes and feet at my friend Claudia's wedding in Morelia, MX in April. Here is my first go. I'll take it through a few more versions [I have a LOT more pictures than appear here] before posting it as an official Carpetology video, but I'm pleased with the overall effect...

8. Despite all of the novelty on the social media scene, it's even more important for those of us experimenting with these conversational tools to not forget that there remains a big world out there for whom this stuff is confusing. And that the end goal is to enable and facilitate conversation. When it gets too complicated [i.e., having to upload yet another profile] or too distracting [i.e, read this New York Times article titled Fighting a War Against Distraction], then we miss the boat. So, it's important to integrate the new tools with the old tools. To figure out how to showcase that it truly is friendly and conversational and all about making traditional face-to-face interactions that much stronger.

That's certainly what I got out of Blogger Social 2008, BlogHer Business '08 and Marketing Profs B2B 2007.

Given the social media nature of this meme, I'm particularly interested in hearing how the following are using social media to experiment and communicate better, smarter, and more intuitively than ever before....

+ Marketing Diva Toby keeps all of us on our business toes, most recently examining twitter business feeds for Atlanta. Cool!
+Lolly has used social media to redefine herself from researcher to advertising planner
+ Personal Branding Blogger Dan Schawbel interviews the author mentioned in the NYT article above in Will Our Personal Brands Enter a Dark Age of Distraction? [how perfect!]
+ Paul Chaney uses Facebook [and others] in amazing ways
+ Tangerine Toad's Alan Wolk brings together advertising, marketing and Web 2.0
+ Mack Collier methodically dissects social media tools in The Viral Garden and MP's DailyFix
+ Steve Woodruff, recent videographer and existentialist
+ Connie Reece manages to be actively involved in all of the cool places. How do you do it?
+ Katie Chatfield whose passion for celebrating goodness, the positive and others, in the most concise way possible, inspires me.

So many of you have inspired me [Mike Sansone, Ann Handley, CK, Valeria Maltoni, Drew McLellan, Gavin Heaton, and many more...] and I invite you, too, to participate in this discussion.

Related Posts:
Connecting Via 8 Random Things About Me
Tag.. I'm It!

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Monday, June 23, 2008

Meet Lisbeth Calandrino - Executive Coach Extraordinaire

I recently caught up with Lisbeth Calandrino. If you don't know Lis, this is a big deal as she runs faster than anyone I know.

Lis is an amazing Woman in Flooring. Her enthusiasm for the retail experience is so contagious that the shortest conversation will have you considering new approaches to old problems, energize you to tackle the impossible and generally inspire you to transform the flooring retail experience

She and her sister Sonna Calandrino [equally amazing and subject of a future Women in Flooring post] were the subject of my second post: "What Consumers Really Think."

Lis' ability to put people so much at ease came through at Surfaces 2007 in Lis Calandrino - Tips From the Trade. Finally, she contributed Time For Decorating From the Floor Up!.

Here follows my conversation with Lisbeth Calandrino, Executive Coach Extraordinaire.

CB: Lis, please tell me about yourself.
Lis: My company and mission are Improving Human Performance; it’s all about getting better to meet the challenges in life both personally and in business. My background is physical education and psychology. I have a BA in physical education and psychology and a masters in organizational psychology. Physical education training helped me understand the value of focus and persistence; it taught me more about goal setting and why people compete. For years I was a competitive runner and it was 20 years in-between winning my first and second 5 K. I’m not sure why I hung in so long, maybe because I love the run and all the other people.

My passion is human beings and what makes them tick. For the last 7 years I have been a student and coach at Executive Success Programs in Albany, New York which is all about maximizing human potential and understanding our belief systems. The basis for our behavior and decisions is based on what we believe. If you want to change your behavior you have to change your belief system. I’ve had the privilege of coaching business guru, Michael Gerber, who wrote, The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It.

I worked in the field of Human Services for many years as a college instructor administering field placements for students in work study situations from the police station to the nursing home. During that time I also had a consulting business where I did team building and organizational consulting for the state of New York.

CB: How did you get started in the flooring business?
Lis: Sonna, my younger sister, talked me into it. She decided to open a flooring store right out of college. At the time I was teaching college, but, like my sister, always wanted my own business. She talked to me about carpet and home furnishings - she majored in textile design in college - and it seemed like a wonderful way to meld my love of people/performance/potential and build my own business.

CB: What do you like most and least about the flooring industry?
Lis: Most I like that it's forever changing and becoming more fashion oriented. My first job was in the fashion business as a women’s clothing buyer in Washington, DC. – I've always loved fashion. Our industry is becoming more fashion focused; more retailers are taking risks, building vignettes, holding in-store parties for their customers and focusing on the female customer.

Least, that there's too much focus on product and not enough on combining the sales aspect with product. In other words product is boring unless you know what questions to ask the customer so you can give them the “right” product knowledge. Selling is a partnership with the customer—customers know what they want; and what they want is a “unique” solution. Once you combine product knowledge with a customer's motives, selling is easy. Not only is it easy, but you can build a meaningful training program.

CB: Tell me about your involvement with Fabulous Floors, the only consumer magazine in the country and industry dedicated to flooring.
Lis: The magazine was a labor of love for several of us in the industry, a way to raise the bar, show what's possible, help retailers find a way to raise their ideas and "their" bar. Something we never had when we were in business—it’s a way to help the customer “aspire” to what she wants. Once we know her aspirations, we know what to show her. As director of sales and consumer research I get to spend time investigating why women buy.

CB: What 5 things would you do differently to improve the flooring retail experience?
Lis: In order to improve the the retail experience, I would first have retailers talk with lost customers. It takes a lot of guts to call up customers who decided not to do business with you; these people can tell you what you don't do and what you need to fix --from the front door to the way your salespeople dress and act. This information can be so useful--sometimes it can answer the question "are my prices too high?" I just finished a survey and a walk through with a good customer; the most important thing she got was that the front of her building was so distracting that she probably was getting lots of wrong customers--when they came inside they were astounded and overwhelmed--they were in the wrong store! This information can be fed back to salespeople so they can come up with solutions. This is really problem solving and that's what will change the culture of these stores and help them get to a higher level.

[Note: this is something that Lis encouraged Home Valu to do, as described in Lis Calandrino - Tips From the Trade. As a result, Home Valu has seen a change in how customer perceive them. They have determined their own course forward, figured who the competition is rather than just assuming that they understood. It's powerful.]

2. My experience is that owners don't spend enough time being educated; they send salespeople for training without identifying goals or suggestions for what to do with the information that they've acquired.

3. The other thing is that small retailers don't seem to have a handle on the bottom line, expenses, gross margins etc. You have to know, on a daily basis as well as long term, where you stand with your cash flow. Many don’t like numbers, they would rather sell. But you’ve got to know where your business is going and be actively involved in the process. I have trained 5800 people in the past 20 years, conducting training with people with good intentions, but little store direction. They don’t seem to have any idea of how a business runs and how important it is for a business to have a focus. Then, they also focus on PK [i.e., product knowledge] when women don’t really buy products, they buy finished interiors! PKs should be used to close sales rather than open or build relationships.

4. Many in flooring/carpet don't understand why they are in business. They don't look outside the industry. As I just mentioned: women don't buy products. They buy solutions. They want to know what the product can do in terms of the solution. Showrooms need to change to show examples of successful solutions, like jobs done and photos of completed projects.

Look at Benjamin Moore design centers. The paint industry used to be about white paint and the expertise of the painter. Now the salesperson has to have design skills. It’s more inspirational. It's about design.

5. Flooring retailers need to train people better on communication skills. We fill them with product knowledge, but don't teach them how to connect with customers. They need to be comfortable making connections, expressing who they are so they can understand who their customers are. And, how be better with people that they don't like. That's an art!

And a bonus tip: Retailers need to pay attention to the outside world and to what mattes to women. In my opinion, all retailers must see The Devil Wears Prada and Sex and City: The Movie. These are the fashion movies that our customers connect and identify with. Know about them. Be able to talk about them. See how all of the products inter-relate to tell a story.

Look to create non-traditional approaches to build connection. I know a woman business owner who is passionate about micro-lending. She is making that a defining aspect of her business.

Look at Cirque du Soleil. They have moved their industry elsewhere. Is it traditional circus or fashion show, art show, entertainment? [See Innovating with Blue Ocean Strategy and Experience Co-Creation.]

I know a flooring retailer in Maine was so taken with a local high end shoe business, that he decided to replicate what the store's shoe buyer did. That buyer traveled regularly to Italy for new shoes. Every time she returned from a buying trip, she would have a store event to celebrate the new fashions. My retailer friend decided to do the same thing with flooring coordinating floor/carpet choices with new shoe introductions. Wow!

CB: What about blogs, social media, etc. How do you see them affecting the flooring industry?
Lis: Blogs and social media are very important. Angie's Llist, Facebook and MySpace are definitely influencing customers, reaching them where they spend time. I had a dealer tell me that he had sold a 40,000 wood job off his MySpace!

CB: Lis, do you have any other advice about marketing to women and communicating with consumers at retail?
Lis: Have you been to a Macy's/MAC counter? It's a happening place. I recently spent half an hour at the counter talking to the young 25 year old salesperson. The counter was packed. I watched who was there. How they interacted with one another, the technology, the product packaging. I watched how the salesperson showed product, and how she behaved around consumers. It was fascinating. Getting your eyes professionally done is free. To get the rest of your face done, you need to buy something. Overall, it's fun, hi - energy, knowledgeable, organized. Does your flooring store express any of that energy? It could...

So be sure to learn from other industries. Go hang out where your customers are.

A few years ago, I went and hung out at an IKEA and asked customers why they came [until I got chased away]. Here's what they said: they love the meatballs. The kids can play. They can push their friends around in shopping carts because the carts are so roomy. It's fun! Is that how your customer talks about your retail experience? Why not? And, what are you going to do about it?

CB: Lis, I know your book is close to being finished. Tell us about that.
Lis: The book is titled "Over Promise, Over Deliver, 50 customer service strategies that will impact your bottom line". It's due out in October 2008, and it's about truly outstanding examples of customer service. My father was in the construction business and inspired me from a very young age [as a 6 year old I would accompany him on job sites] because of his amazing people skills.

Thank you, Lis, for sharing so many ideas!

Other Women In Flooring Posts:
+ Meet Jenny Cross: Sr. Brand Manager, Mohawk Residential
+ Meet Kim Gavin, Editor, Floor Covering Weekly
+ WFCA's Floor Talk! Blog: Meet Shannon Bilby

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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Integrating The Retail Experience

Integration 2 originally uploaded by tteerriitt.
Intuitively I know that integrating or bringing together every single element of the retail experience matters enormously to the consumer.

From reading The Experience Economy: Work Is Theatre & Every Business a Stage, I know that to deliver a memorable experience, you need to exceed expectations on every element of your experience. If one fails, the entire experience comes apart.

Why is it, then, that so many retail experiences are subpar?

Why is it that some will deliver a wow! first impression, and then never followup as promised? Or promise the moon to barely even deliver on ringing up the sale correctly?

How is it possible to not realize that without integrating all of the elements - all of the points of contact with shoppers - the entire retail buying experience fails?

Although always true, it matters even more in a retail environment like the one we face today.

I would love to hear about your truly extraordinary and fully integrated retail experiences.

And, if you have only horror stories, I welcome those, too!

Thanks in advance for sharing!

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Staycations and Groceraunts: Innovation in the Marketplace

Caroline Foster's cottage "Temple of Abiding Peace" at
Fosterfields Farm, Morristown, NJ.
What's all this talk about 'staycations' and 'groceraunts'? Is innovation afoot?

As easy as it is to focus on the doom and gloom, consider Jack Neff's 3/24/08 article in Ad Age titled "Recession Can Be a Marketer's Friend. From Soap Operas to IPods: History Suggests Slumps Spawn Innovation" [registration & credits required].

So, how is innovation manifesting itself in the marketplace? Read on.

Everyone agrees that shopper habits are changing. Although price comes up repeatedly as the new motivator, it's not alone. Rather, it's a function of value and the optimal bundle of worth that makes sense to us as consumers.

Quality? Who Cares? Shoppers Now Favor Price, Convenience by Sarah Mahoney from 3/25/2008 reports that "a new study from Vertis Communications finds that just 1% of adults say overall food quality is the reason they choose a supermarket, while the perception of low prices and convenience--especially how close the store is to either work or home--is far more important" [emphasis mine]. We are shopping closer to home; stocking up, combining trips, and carpooling. We are more receptive to prepared meals instead of restaurants and appreciative of stores that cater to one-stop shopping [i.e., the parts matter - giving new meaning to 'parts is parts'].

Even though the study reports quality not being important, few would deliberately accept poor quality for low price and convenience. Most, though, want to ensure that they aren't being ripped off and that store selection fits into their modified value equation taking into account shopping distance and frequency.

According to the study, women monitor food prices closely whereas men are motivated more by convenience.

In a previous post, I described The Middle is Gone. Sarah Mahoney's 3/13/2008 article titled Will Upscale Supermarkets Have Egg On Their Faces continues that discussion. According to the article "The chains that are most vulnerable, ... 'are that middle-of-the-road, plain vanilla supermarket'... such as Safeway and Publix. 'It's an hourglass economy. There's room at the high end and at the low end, but in the middle, they are just getting squeezed tighter and tighter.'"

According to Lindsey Robbins in Food fight rages for Giant, Safeway. Grocers overhaul stores, focus on private labels from 05/15/2008, Giant has opted to reduce selection, simplify and renovate. Safeway, interestingly, has chosen to promote its better living/healthful private label brands to other retailers.

Others, such as Roche Bros. in Westboro, MA prefer to create an experience as described in Restocking the store. Grocers want shoppers to enjoy time in the aisles. Wallets and Pocketbooks. [$ to view full article] by Lisa Eckelbecker from 03/02/2008. Roche Bros. is working with FRCH Design Worldwide in Cincinnati, OH to design a new grocery prototype store. "...smaller, with less selection and more prepared foods... 'People are changing their shopping habits.... They're very concerned about where the food comes from. They're concerned about service.... What we've found from focus groups is they want quality, they want freshness, they want service."

The answer isn't to be "everything to everybody" [that would put you right smack in that disappearing middle zone]. Rather, it's rethinking how to offer shoppers value. Here, using technology to bridge old formats with new ones, enabling say a combination warehouse and engaging boutique-type environment that creates a customer retail experience. The focus is on "how to make it enjoyable for the customer?"

P-O-P Times' April Miller analyzes grocery stores in "Not Your Grandmother's Supermarket" [May 2008 issue] and how they are differentiating themselves. From clean-store policies to establishing lifestyle stores where shoppers can complete multiple transactions, the goal is to engage the shopper and provide her with relevant reasons to patronize the store. Other ideas include cooking classes, themed sampling events, displays that blend with the environment, cross merchandising and offering recipes.

Then there's P-O-P Times' description of the supermarket of the future, where:

+ the parking lot goes underground "creating farmland around the grocery store, where shoppers can grow their own vegetables to eat or sell at the store."
+ imagine the produce section actually being a farmers' market.
+ signage communicates provenance
+ "A refill station for various goods in the center store to cut down on wasted packaging."
+ To transform the supermarket into a destination, plan on finding "cooking demonstrations, bookstores, cafes, gyms and other services..."

Might make a 'staycation' even more appealing!

As it relates to 'staycations,' "a Rand McNally survey found that two-thirds plan to shorten or cancel summer road trips" explains Retailers promote 'staycation' sales from 5/28/2008. And, if people don't travel for vacation, they stay home... focusing more attention on their home environment and possibly even spending on projects that enhance the home. [Maybe even carpet, right?]

Wegmans has developed a "coffee university" program to educate and certify its employees in the creation of proper espressos. Wegmans Schools Employees on Coffee from 03/11/2008 explains that the program was developed with the Instituto Nazionale Espresso Italiano.

Have you heard about Bloom? It's a fascinating new supermarket model based on two years worth of understanding what consumers want from supermarkets. The result: an intuitive layout and technology to provide "exceptional convenience, quality and variety" according to "Expanding Bloom designed with 'guests in mind'" by Angie Hanson dated 01/16/2008 from Produce Merchandising. Grocery carts include store maps; shoppers are given a handheld scanner upon entering the store, so they can scan their items and expedite payment. Perishable and non-perishable are in separate sections. The store model is fluid and can easily be rearranged to respond to changes, and interactive kiosks offer information as needed. All of this based on shopper insights.

Some retailers are combining forces to tantalize shoppers. Read In These Tough Times, Retailers Band Together by Betsy Cummings from 06/01/2008 which describes stores within a store arrangements. For example, FAO Schwarz within Macy's, Seattle's Best Coffee within Borders, Sephora in JC Penney's, and McDonald's within Wal-Marts. These arrangements add convenience and variety and enhance the overall consumer retail buying experience.

Then, there is Whole Foods' new 'groceraunt' concept describing a multitude of mini-restaurants within the traditional grocery experience. Natural~Specialty Foods Memo describes the concept in great detail in Retail Memo: Whole Foods Market, Inc. Coins a New Retail Format Term, 'Groceraunt,' for Its New Scottsdale, Arizona Store. For those of you who have had a meal in Galeries Lafayette Gourmet, doesn't this sound familiar?

It's not just new formats that we're seeing. There's also focus on improving logistics, kind of a-la-Zara... Retailers hustle to bring fashions to market by Jayne O'Donnell, USA Today from 05/29/2008 says that software and technology improvements are helping move product faster through stores, reducing the need for markdowns to move product out.

Based on these examples, how might you apply innovation to your marketplace? What customer insights might you address to increase the value you offer shoppers? What about training your staff to be passionate experts?

Can you make your retail experience more convenient? More inspiring? Have you considered clean-store policies? Can you simplify your assortment? Showcase new ideas or colors or combinations of products?

What about including related products? You may sell only flooring, but what about having paint swatches on hand? Borrowing furniture from a local retailer to create a showcase vignette? Allying yourself with neighborhood designers and showcasing their designs in your store? That also enables you to offer your shopper needed services in a one-stop location.

Might you host events in your store? Think of them as the equivalent of a cooking demonstration, or a design how-to session that translates cutting edge fashion ideas to flooring... And, if your customers are taking advantage of 'staycations,' what about offering entertaining tips on which surfaces are best for specific events and how best to care for those surfaces...

After all "slumps spawn innovation."

Related Stories:
+ The Middle is Gone
+ Tony Schiano, Giant Food: Stores As New Media
+ Trader Joe's - Where Values Drive The Brand
+ January Retail Tips
+ A Few More January Retail Tips
+ Lafayette Gourmet - A Feast For The Senses...

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Welcome To Chicago and Contradictory Messages

Welcome to Chicago originally uploaded by checoivan.
Have you noticed that we often send out contradictory messages? Ones that welcome and threaten in the same breath?

Earlier this week, heading home after NeoCon 2008 in Chicago, I noticed a welcome message. It was intended primarily for car traffic, but from the Blue Line train headed toward O'Hare I noticed it, too.

Nothing unusual about an airport welcome message. I don't think I've ever not seen one.

What was unusual about this sign is that it displayed multiple messages in addition to 'welcome to O'Hare!' Messages like 'cars are subject to search' and 'standing is forbidden' interspersed with an informative message or two [terminal information ahead?].

I couldn't help wonder how welcome we really were.

Imagine if that were how we welcomed customers to our store: 'Welcome, but we will frisk you' and 'don't dawdle here.' How much business would we generate?

An airport differs somewhat from a retail store, but -nonetheless- given how travel has evolved into a painful, lengthy crush wouldn't it be nice if travelers were welcomed in stronger, more positive terms? With albeit necessary negative messages being reframed to focus on the positive? Or maybe made more palatable through humour? The Las Vegas airport has taken that approach with its celebrity video messages as you wait to get through security....

Another aspect of contradictory messages is inappropriate delivery - i.e., communicating a message at the wrong time or place. For example, a welcome sign as you exit a store.

Inside O'Hare, have you noticed the repetitive recorded message announcing in a clipped voice that we are under a code orange alert? Now, how long have we been under code orange? According to Terror-Alert.com since August 10, 2006. That's a long time. In fact, in my mind, it has been forever. It is the new reality. So, how meaningful is it to remind us that the status quo is the status quo? And so frequently? I wish I had timed the frequency of the messages...

Finally, once through security and gate bound, there's another recorded message. This one about 3-1-1 on Air Travel. Let's be logical: I have exited security. I passed. I have collected my stuff. Those concerns are irrelevant to me on the plane side of the security process. So why remind me about 3-1-1 when I am seated at my gate? Why not take the St. Louis airport approach and do it prior to going through security?

So, please. Consider your messages. All of them. Listen to them from the perspective of your customer. Do they truly communicate what you want them to at the appropriate time and location? Do they express delight and an authentic welcome? Do they communicate valuable information in the right tone?

Or, do they send contradictory messages?

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Zara Update: Here's Zara Home!

I've written about Zara before [see What Makes a Destination?] and their fast fashion retail model.

Essentially, Zara limits product supply while constantly replenishing with new, cutting-edge fashion products, that from concept to delivery make it in-store in 15 days.

Rather impressive!

Then, as I flipped through DDI's May 2008 issue, I found a reference to Zara Home... I was intrigued.

The article titled "Parisian home - Zara Home nests in on the French residential market" by senior editor Alison Embrey Medina explains that Zara Home "specialize[s] in one thing - chic, fashionable merchandise at reasonable prices."

First launched in Paris in June 2007, you can find Zara Home in several other European countries, the Middle East and Mexico, but not yet in the U.S. or Canada. Zara Home online [here for France] gives you a taste for the merchandise selection [ranging from bed, bath and table linens, table utensils, light furniture and a myriad of other home accessories] which looks fresh and eye-catching. In true Zara form, the pricing definitely seems reasonable!

Also, admire how beautifully accessorized the product photos are. This goes beyond the vignettes and concept settings that an IKEA creates.

Glam.Com writes about Zara Home and includes several pages from the catalog. And, Lovely Things features the Zara Home Autumn/Winter Collection.

I'm quite taken with the notion of a Zara Home Store and urge you to look through they way they have presented and merchandised their products online - pending the store reaching our shores!

At the same time, as much as I love the idea of Zara extending its fashion sense to other categories, I'm curious how the business model works.

Apparel - and particularly fashionable Zara apparel - has a shorter lifecycle than home textiles and accessories. How then do you build obsolescence that consumers will respond to into items that are somewhat less fashion sensitive? Or, is Zara morphing the quick fashion model to better suit Zara Home?

If you've visited Zara Home or know more about how it fits into the Inditex model, please do let us know. I'm curious!

And, if you haven't, I'd love your take on Zara Home.


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Friday, June 06, 2008

A Wear-Dated Website Conversation With Integrity's John Simanowitz

The Wear-Dated website has launched. All of the planning and preparing and implementing is over.

Now, the real journey begins.

We're through with the traditional website approach of pushing Wear-Dated brand communications onto consumers. Instead, we start a brand new adventure where Wear-Dated starts participating in conversational marketing, offering authentic and relevant information to consumers who have been treated rather shabbily in this product category.

This is our opportunity to not wear the consumer out as she tries to bring beauty, comfort and durability to her home and her life. An opportunity to connect her with retailers who value her and her long term loyalty. An opportunity to help her care for and maintain her carpet investment over time.

It's also an opportunity to elevate the carpet category into a better realm, one that is about fashion, style and quality.

To highlight what makes the redesigned Wear-Dated site unusual, I share with you a two-part conversation with our web developer, Integrity Corporation's John Simanowitz.

CB: How is the new website different from the old website?
John: It's different from several perspectives.

From a brand perspective, the redesigned site accurately reflects Wear-Dated’s new “By the Foot” campaign. More than just new messaging and imagery, this campaign positions the Wear-Dated brand in a highly approachable and personal fashion. Our new site supports this effort aesthetically and functionally.

From a Search Engine Optimization perspective, it is greatly improved. For maximum effectiveness, you need for search engines to “see everything.” That means that you can't hide “text as images,” you need to make sure that content is relevant, and if you have anything that you want search engines to find -like products and retailers- you have to make that easy for web crawlers to find.

With the exception of one homepage graphic, the site intentionally uses no Flash. And, the new system dynamically generates a unique page for each carpet and retailer – allowing search engines to find and link to core content with ease.

From the perspective of improved usability, we have greatly enhanced the user experience, revising navigation and functionality by focusing on the visitor's perspective (e.g., with the Sales Assistant, Featured Carpets, Carpet Catalog Search, New Site Search, etc). You'll notice real carpet images now rather than simulated carpet in the Room Viewer. And, the Retailer Locator has improved map functionality to make it even easier for visitors to find dealers near them.

We added advanced search functionality so all content types are now internally searchable. Advanced results show a thumbnail of each result and offer additional resources. The site includes a very flexible Newsroom so Wear-Dated has near limitless expansion possibilities, as well as the ability to conduct eNewsletter campaigns and contests to engage visitors and bring the product category to life!

Finally, the site offers Comment and Ranking for both Carpet and Retailers. That gives each the opportunity to stand above the rest.

CB: Why are these differences important? Why should anyone care?
John: In today's world of online consumer expectation, these differences are a big deal. Websites like Google and Amazon have forever changed buyer behavior. When faced with a large or complex buying decision, customers will routinely conduct online research to determine exactly what they need, how much is fair to pay and from whom they should get it. The more complicated the category, the more important it is to offer a robust online experience.

Carpet is a complicated category. So, for customers wanting to find carpet -given how many choices are out there- how can anyone make a confident decision? That's where Wear-Dated’s online tools help to make this selection easier. Visitors can learn all there is to know about how carpet is made, tested and categorized. They can find carpet by color, style or use (i.e.: what carpet is best for Kids?). And, if they still aren't sure, they can see which carpets other people think are best and why.

They can also get maximum detailed information for any carpet on the website (available colors, durability rank, etc.), and see the carpet in a series of rooms to help with the selection process.

Then, there's the process of finding a retailer who is convenient and trustworthy.

The new Wear-Dated.com elevates the retailer “heroes of the industry” by empowering customers to document their experiences online as comments and ranking. All feedback is closely monitored so retailers have the opportunity to turn any issues into further relationship building interactions, thereby creating further positive feedback. Word of mouth is any retailer's most powerful marketing tool – Wear-Dated is leveraging this principle on an international scale.

Wear-Dated also has the ability to feature promotions going on… say… at an Abbey Store, a Flooring America, a Karastan dealer. This provides even more incentive for a potential customer to take action.

Combined, these customer centric features and content make the Wear-Dated site a site worth spending time on, exploring, and returning to. Should a site user wish to share the word, we even added social bookmarking tools to make that easy as well.

In part 2, John explains what role the web plays for corporations, and what is so important about social functionality. Please stay tuned!

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Sunday, June 01, 2008

Come Check Out The New Wear-Dated Website!

Hurray! The newly updated and redesigned Wear-Dated website is live. I invite you to come check it out!

And, since in May Carpetology Update, I alluded to a touch of pink and a hint of toes... I proudly feature those here. After all, it's only fair that I share that vision with you.

For many of you, it should be no surprise that our original vision started with wanting the Wear-Dated website to reflect the look, feel and tone of our By The Foot marketing campaign.

But, then the vision grew.

"What if....," we thought.

What if - given all that is happening as a result of Web 2.0 enabling conversational marketing, and the creation of communities - what if we could incorporate some of that in our new Wear-Dated website?

And, then, "what if" turned into our new Wear-Dated website...

We decided to make the site straight-forward and easy to navigate. Anyone visiting can learn what's important about carpet, start planning and designing [with the help of several interactive tools], find carpet and learn how best to care for carpet. Although much of this information existed on the previous site, we've changed the tone of the content. We've also gone into more depth and can easily create additional content or enhance existing content with links to Carpetology [or Flooring The Consumer] as the information develops and conversations take place with experts like Tom Jennings and others.

There's also a Newsroom.

And, if you can't find something, try searching. You can do so from any page, and the Newsroom has a special search option.

Unlike the previous site, here we only use Flash for our Pink Toes, and to expose you to Wear-Dated's Beauty. Comfort. Durability. Everything else is searchable.

On the home page, we feature specific Wear-Dated products. Those will vary over time and allow us to better tell the Wear-Dated story of Beauty. Comfort. Durability. Registered visitors can rate and comment on individual carpet styles. They can also rate and comment on their experiences with retailers. [See comment policy.]

Each page can be printed or shared - via email, or the social web [e.g., Technorati, Digg, Del.icio.us, StumbleUpon! or even Facebook].

Each page includes specific calls to action and ultimately to the 'Find Carpet Retailers' option that includes Google mapping.

I'm particularly proud of the Newsroom. Not only can we post press releases, but we also have a place where we can talk about the People [not just the Women] of Wear-Dated, post our documents, include any media, showcase upcoming contests, promotions and newsletters, and generally talk about What's New With Wear-Dated.

In the Newsroom, you can also subscribe, via RSS or email for updates...


I'd love to hear your reactions. I hope you'll visit, register [which allows you to comment and receive our upcoming newsletters], and possibly even Digg or Stumble! us. And maybe even tell others about us.

I would greatly appreciate it!

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