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Monday, November 29, 2010

Zappos Uses Social To Share Culture

CB Whittemore's 2010 Visit to Zappos
Imagine social tools being about sharing culture rather than for pushing deals. That's how Zappos uses them - be they the telephone, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, videos and more [see Zappos gets savvy with social media].

Zappos is intensely passionate and single-minded about its culture.  In fact, Zappos places a premium on employee fit with its unique customer service focused culture. "Our whole belief is that if we get the culture right, then most of the other stuff, like delivering great customer service or building a long term enduring brand, will happen naturally on its own," says CEO Tony Hsieh in 840 million reasons to celebrate. What's most intriguing is how Zappos shares its culture, using social tools. Rather than use then as selling tools, Zappos deliberately uses them to "...connect on a more personal level with both employees and customers. It gives people a glimpse into our company culture, which is ultimately what our brand is all about," explains Hsieh.

Mind you, this is the company that considers the telephone to be the best social media; "it's ... easier to build a personal and emotional connection with someone remotely than by email," says Hsieh in Happy @ Zappos.

In Delivering Happiness the Zappos Way, Hsieh advises would-be presenters to not sell a product, but rather to inspire the audience because "ultimately, it causes people to be more attached to the brand and the company. You'd much rather support a company that inspires you than one that doesn't."

As a result,as described in the March 2, 2009 issue of PRWeek in an article titled "A perfect fit", "all staffers are introduced to Twitter in their training, and more than 400 are active on the site, interacting with each other and customers."

The number is closer to 500 now and Zappos has integrated all of the Twitter streams into a single site [see below].

Hsieh explains in the article "the best way to provide customer service is to form relationships - with each other and with customers."  In At Zappos, Culture Pays, you get a feel for how Zappos "corporate culture is more than a set of values, and it is maintained by a complex web of human interactions. At Zappos the liberal use of social media facilitates the network that links employees with one another and with the company's customers..."

How many of you operate the same way?

As this Mashable interview with Hsieh titled Zappos CEO on How to Deliver Happiness with Social Media asks "Many companies view staff time spent on social media as a waste, and some are even blocking these sites. What is Zappos' approach to this? Do you think time on social media sites can increase well-being of staff or is this best left to their personal time?"

Hsieh responds, "we don't have a specific social media policy. In fact, we try to avoid policies about anything as much as possible, because usually policies are used to address the 1% of people causing a problem at the expense and inconvenience of the 99% of people that are not.

Our philosophy is to hire the right employees (employees whose personal values match our corporate core values), make sure everyone understands the long-terms vision, provide ongoing training and development opportunities, and then trust our employees to do the right thing."

It all comes back to culture and cultural fit and then using social tools to share [or "project that culture out into the world" - see 5 case studies on companies that win at Social Media and eCommerce] Zappos' uniquely warm, welcoming and other-focused culture that is known for decisions such as Zappos takes the high road again and bites $1.6million bullet...

Zappos exudes culture!
If you'd like to experience firsthand how Zappos uses social to share culture, check out these following links:
Or, you might consider Zappos' bootcamp - see Paid Content Profile: How Zappos became expert on customer service culture and a publisher.

I recommend, if you are headed to Las Vegas, that you simply schedule your very own Zappos tour to experience Zappos Culture firsthand. [Visit Zappos Insights for more information...]

Regardless, would you let me know how Zappos' example inspires you to use social to share your culture?

Previous posts in this series inspired by my 2010 Zappos tour include:

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving 2010!

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!



Image credit: Thanksgiving 2010 by C.B.Whittemore via Wordle.net

Monday, November 22, 2010

Active vs. Passive Retailing and Improving the Customer Experience

Active vs. Passive Retailing and Improving the Customer Experience
"Minding the customer" by Janet Groeber from DDI Magazine's March 2010 issue with perspectives from Herb Sorenson, Paco Underhill, Vince Guzzi and Marcie Merriman has inspired two posts so far: The Changing Customer Retail Experience. Data Vs. Insights and Reinventing Retail.

This post explores active vs. passive retailing and improving the customer experience.

I'm particularly taken with the notion of "active" retailing which implies thoughtful consideration of customers and how products meets their needs. Think Trader Joe's deliberately adhering to a set number of SKUs while encouraging new product introductions.

Active retailing also opens the door to the possibility of meaningful relationships. Lulu lemon athletica comes to mind.

From "Minding the customer", I found these quotes intriguing [note: bolding is mine]:

Underhill: "Retailers can either super-size or specialize - become all things to all people and manage it that way, or focus on who they want to serve."

"Over the past six months, we've found an astonishing number of customers - particularly those shopping for durable goods - pre-shop a Web site before arriving at the store. That's a fundamental reordering of how retailers take products to market and a completely different way of connecting."

Merriman: "Planned interruptions in the shoppers' path, ... in-store displays and disruption packaging, are current tactics to stop shoppers and make them pick up something they hadn't planned to purchase. Often, these tactics result in more mind clutter and a less enjoyable shopping experience..."

Guzzi:  "The physical environment is still the theater to stimulate ideas... Shoppers are in constant search of being surprised and delighted. Beyond this, understanding underlying customers needs has inspired retailers to incorporate new service offerings..."

Sorenson: "It is really quite simple, moving from the passive warehouse mentality to actually selling to shoppers, not just waiting for them to buy...  What do shoppers want to buy? ... That's what a shopper-centric retailer will focus on selling."

What's your take on active vs. passive retailing? How would you apply it to your business? How do you see it improving the customer experience?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Retail Experience in the News - 11/19/10

Wordle: #retailexp Here is the 11/19/10 issue of Retail Experience in the News...  recapping the latest articles and links shared on Twitter with the #retailexp hashtag this past week.

Have you noticed that the Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Holiday shopping frenzy is building to an unbelievable crescendo? Should be interesting to watch the next week + unfold. I'd love to hear your observations: what worked, what didn't, what you might adapt to your business...

Retail Experience and Customer Service

The Economy/Consumers

Retail Experience Ideas

Integrating Online with Offline

Enjoy and thanks for reading!

For previous issues of Retail Experience In The News, see Retail Experience News.

Graphic Created Via Wordle.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Have You Adapted Your Retail Experience?

Have You Adapted Your Retail Experience? by Christine B. Whittemore
This article about the retail experience and adapting it to a changed consumer appeared in the January 25-February 1, 2010 issue of Floor Covering Weekly.

Have you adapted your retail experience?

By Christine B. Whittemore

Have you noticed that our flooring consumer has changed?  It’s a change both subtle and obvious - subtle because it’s a natural evolution of forces that have been building over time and obvious because it’s now fully operational.  The end result is that our consumer has a new definition of value.  Unless you adapt the retail experience you offer your customer, you will lose her completely.

I see three major fronts of opportunity, each interconnected, based on three categories of influence.

Let’s start with the influences.

The era of frugality.
Our consumer has embraced the era of frugality in reaction to the economic turmoil we’re in.  If she hasn’t been directly affected by job loss, someone in her family or neighborhood has and she’s being cautious.  It doesn’t mean that she won’t purchase. But it does mean that she needs good reasons to do so.

She doesn’t trust what marketers tell her.
She’s been lied to, disrespected, taken advantage of and she’s tired of it.  She has access to information 24/7 via the Internet and will make sure she knows all that she needs to know before entering a floor covering store. Furthermore, she will tap into her social networks – online and off – to obtain additional guidance, perspective and context.  She wants to maintain control over her interactions and transactions with retail salespeople.  If you are not careful, she won’t trust you, either.

Her definition of value includes wanting to improve the world with her purchase decisions.
Women are concerned about the greater good and the environment they and their families live in.  They expect you to care, too, and be involved. If you aren’t involved in finding solutions to problems in your community, they will vote for others who are.

Furthermore, given a woman’s role of chief purchasing officer, chief moral promoter and chief home coordinator, you can be sure that she has generated discussion about these influences with each of her constituents.  She can help shape her children’s future by ensuring they don’t repeat our past excesses.

As dismal as you may consider the influences, they actually offer many opportunities – assuming you’re willing to adapt to our new consumer.

Make it simpler.
As much as the era of frugality is in response to the unfortunate economic environment, it’s also a reaction to excess.  In the consumer marketplace, consumers face an onslaught of choices.  Through frugality they can justify walking away from the overwhelming choices available.  Think of a sea of 50 similar beige carpet styles to choose from; each looks identical.  Having to figure out differences and benefits wastes her time.  Make the retail experience simpler.  Simplify product selection, edit the choices and offer meaningful options.  And don’t forget to include product maintenance solutions to tide her over until she decides to purchase new product.

Don’t lie to her or waste her time.
Our consumer is far from stupid. She also has access to more information than most flooring retail salespeople have available. Don’t even bother lying to her, she’ll find you out.  Don’t push product on her without truly understanding what she needs: that wastes her time.  Focus on consultative selling, on establishing relationships and offering solutions.  With that mindset, you and your retail salespeople have the opportunity to better understand the marketplace you do business in by exploring the world outside your store.  Ditch the hard sell and spend time listening to potential customers offline and online to hear what matters. 

Don’t make her regret that she gave you her money.
Your reputation matters – with your employees, your customers, in the community, with the environment.  How committed are you to outstanding customer service? What about product quality? Is your pricing deliberately confusing? Are you doing your share to support your community? How serious are you about green? Do you truly and actively support causes or are you a fake? She’s looking for authenticity and transparency.

Change is painful.  Ask our consumer. She’s had many changes to deal with. You have a great opportunity to adapt the retail experience you offer and create a customer for life.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Retail Experience in the News - 11/12/10

Wordle: #retailexp Happy Friday! Here is the 11/12/10 issue of Retail Experience in the News...  recapping the latest articles and links shared on Twitter with the #retailexp hashtag this past week.

By the way, the article about Linda Fargo reminds me that Holiday store windows in NYC are right around the corner...  What do you have planned for your store windows?

Retail Experience and Customer Service

The Economy/Consumers

Retail Experience Ideas

Integrating Online with Offline

Enjoy and thanks for reading!

For previous issues of Retail Experience In The News, see Retail Experience News.

Graphic Created Via Wordle.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Business Wisdom: Dennis Moseley, Flooring Xpress

Business Wisdom: Dennis Moseley, Flooring Xpress

Dennis Moseley, president of Illinois based Flooring Xpress, shares the following business wisdom in response to two questions I recently asked him:

How is your business doing? What are you having success with?

Dennis writes:

Thanks for asking Christine. I have come to accept/embrace several ideas.

1. Volatility is the new normal. As much as we would like more even business, volatility both motivates a person to be more careful and humble. It’s not going away anytime soon. Think like a farmer.

2. Deleverage where it counts. Figure what makes a difference to our customers. Everything else doesn’t matter.

3. I cannot expense my way to success. I need to take more calculated risks and make sure I have an exit strategy.

4. I must hire/retain employees who embrace the new age of conversation both analog and digital.

5. Our company must consistently under promise and over deliver.

The old saying goes something like this: “how’s business?”... “ I’m still here.”  Our company just celebrated our 32nd Anniversary.

Congratulations, Dennis, and thank you for sharing these ideas. I'm particularly struck with the "think like a farmer" comment combined with customer focus. I expect that careful, humble and under promise/over deliver make for a memorable retail customer experience.

How about you? How is your business going? What's your business wisdom? What are you having success with? We'd love to hear and learn from you.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Retail Experience In the News - 11/5/10

Wordle: #retailexp Time for the 11/5/10 issue of Retail Experience in the News...  recapping the latest articles and links shared on Twitter with the #retailexp hashtag this past week.

Retail Experience and Customer Service

The Economy/Consumers

Retail Experience Ideas

Integrating Online with Offline

  • Interesting perspectives on franchisee vs. franchise social media presence-fr Customer persp, which matters? http://bit.ly/bgrGGO #Retailexp
  • Lovely article about merging online/offline and surviving future of retail http://bit.ly/cMHlhn #retailexp TU Arthur Corbin
  • Retailers, hope you're paying attn to email and facebook to connect with customers http://bit.ly/cWIiHU fr @retexperience #retailexp
  • What to look forward to as technology affects customer loyalty and #retailexp http://bit.ly/bDgV09
  • Will Apple dominate location based marketing? http://bit.ly/ca3vlG fr @retexperience #retailexp

Enjoy and thanks for reading!

For previous issues of Retail Experience In The News, see Retail Experience News.

Graphic Created Via Wordle.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Working Computers Survey: You & Your Computer

I have a special request. Would you mind taking a minute to fill out this survey titled You and Your Computer?  It's for my husband, Ted Whittemore, author of Working Computers.

He wants to know more about you and your computer, what worries you about your computer and what matters to you in your computer.  Your responses will help him develop content for his blog, Working Computers.

It may even offer you valuable advice on how to make better use of your computer!

Subscribers, please click on Working Computers Survey: You & Your Computer - Perfect Together! to access the survey.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world's leading questionnaire tool.

And, if you'd like to subscribe to Working Computers, please don't be shy! I think the world of Ted Whittemore and am extremely grateful for his professional computer advice. Not that I'm biased in any way ;-).

Many Thanks!


Monday, November 01, 2010

Simple Marketing Now - October 2010 Update

Simplify Your Marketing!


Happy Halloween to you all!  I hope you enjoyed a ghost or goblin or two over the weekend.

Here follows the October 2010 update from Simple Marketing Now with posts categorized into Social Media Marketing Resources and Simple Marketing News.

[If you are new to Flooring The Consumer, I also write the Simple Marketing Blog where I discuss marketing strategy and creative, practical, simple marketing approaches and share best practices - many of which may be relevant to you and your business as you consider what's possible. The blog also acts as newsroom for Simple Marketing Now.]

Simple Marketing News for October 2010

The biggest news for October has to do with Bathroom Blogfest 2010: Press Release: Bathroom Blogfest 2010.  This was the plan for the week: Bathroom Blogfest 2010 Begins.

Immediately before Bathroom Blogfest began, I participated in Blog Action Day: Water & AOC3.

Other exciting news, Simple Marketing Blog is now listed in eCairn's Top 150 Social Media Marketing Blogs.
Happy Halloween!

You will enjoy the wisdom that Nufloors retailer Cynthia Dean shares in Connecting With Customers: Nufloors Advice.

Social Media Marketing Resources:

These three Bathroom Blogfest related posts include valuable social media marketing resources:
I've been contributing to Content Marketing Institute's crowd-sourced series on engaging content. Although I focus on my contribution in these posts, I think you'll want to read the original posts, too.

Finally, here are the latest links to articles and news about practical marketing on Twitter, coded #PracticalMktr: Practical Simple Marketing In The News 10/5/10.

As always, Thank You for reading.

Have a wonderful November.

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