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Moving Past the Multichannel Conversation

BY CSA STAFF

By Laura Saati, [email protected]

One of my favorite movies scenes is in Meet the Parents, when Ben Stiller’s character, kicked out of the compound for the "Jinxie cat switch" and subsequently setting his future in-laws’ house on fire, boards a plane to return to Chicago. Arguing with the flight attendant that his bag is not too large to stow in the overhead cabin, he finally clutches the suitcase to his heart and proclaims, “I am finished with the stowing of the bag conversation!” It’s a great line I use sometimes, most recently in a work meeting when the term "multichannel" kept popping up. Eventually I said, out loud, “I am finished with the multichannel conversation!” Here’s what I mean:

How long have we been talking and asking about multichannel? You know the questions. “Do you have a multichannel marketing program?” “Do you know who your multichannel customers are?” “Do you know how much your multichannel customer spends?” We’ve been asking these questions for about as long as we’ve been using words like "relevance" and "1:1" – which is to say, for a really long time. None of these terms is unimportant. But what’s next? What should we really be striving for now?

At its core, "multichannel" means you have more than one channel – to conduct commerce, to communicate with your customer, for them to communicate with you. As a retailer, I could have a brick-and-mortar presence and sell online. Voila – I’m multichannel. I could have an e-mail program and a social strategy. Boom – I’m multichannel. But how integrated am I? As marketers, and sometimes marketing technologists, we spend an awful lot of time creating, and talking about, the next "channel." But with every channel that is created, the customer raises the bar higher and higher, and beats the drum louder and louder for integration.

The expectation has been set, and the intersection of channels is here. Just think about it – shopping is becoming social, and your wallet is going mobile. Tying this data together certainly isn’t easy, but it can definitely be done. And the reward is a loyal customer (read: larger share of wallet) and a more profitable marketing program.

Even some of the most historically offline-focused merchants are starting to make an impact in creating an integrated marketing experience. For example:

One worldwide home furnishings retailer has taken advantage of the tremendous exposure from their annual direct mail catalog to prominently display a QR code that drives to a site which reinforces their brand message cornerstone of family focused “life improvement.” With a secondary message of “Made by _” (i.e. The Smith Family), they are also illustrating the importance of a customer’s own personal choice and style.

This “Made by” empowerment concept drives an integrated marketing program where you can also enroll into their loyalty program online and then pick up your card in store, where you are exposed to products focused specifically for the family. Each month, loyalty program members can also receive a SMS text message highlighting new family program products and offers. While each channel serves a specific purpose, there is a common thread that runs through the entire communication stream – which creates an integrated experience for the customer.

The old edict of creating “the one version of truth” and the “360 degree view of the customer” is more important now than ever. It’s time we get committed to creating and enabling an integrated marketing strategy as we move beyond the multichannel conversation

Laura Saati is VP, Strategic Marketing Services at 89 Degrees (89degrees.com), a marketing solutions provider that uses advanced analytics to drive outstanding results for data intensive marketers. Laura can be contacted at [email protected].

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SymphonyIRI: Budget grinch will restrict most holiday budgets

BY CSA STAFF

CHICAGO — As many as 71% of consumers earning less than $100,000 per year are planning to trim back their spending this holiday season, according to new research, “Holiday Shopping 2011,” released Tuesday by SymphonyIRI Group.

In addition, 74% of consumers will be spending less than $800 in total on the holidays, and 73% will begin shopping before Dec. 1. These findings point to a holiday season filled with consumers doing their homework to find the best deals and most value for their money, Susan Viamari, editor of SymphonyIRI’s Times & Trends, suggested.

“Consumers are going to shop for gifts that help make the holidays bright, but they are going to do so with an eye toward keeping costs down,” Viamari said. “The Internet is going to play a big role in helping consumers stick to their budgets. In fact, 81% of consumers say they will be shopping online this year. This is a sizable jump from 2010, when 54% of consumers told us that they would do some of their holiday shopping online.”

With 44% of consumers saying they are worse off financially today versus one year ago and 82% saying they think government actions are making a negative impact on the economy, this uncertainty is expected to impact holiday budgets. Findings from SymphonyIRI’s quarterly MarketPulse survey, conducted online in September 2011, revealed that consumers expect ongoing deterioration across a number of budget-related measures in coming year:

  • 70% are concerned about the price of food;

  • 65% are troubled about the cost of utilities;

  • 58% are worried about gas prices;

  • 53% are uneasy about the cost of borrowing/interest rates; and

  • 52% are anxious about the value of investments, including stocks, bonds, 401K, retirement accounts, etc.

These concerns will lead a number of consumers to cut back even further this year. SymphonyIRI’s "Holiday Shopping 2011" survey results found that 26% plan to spend less on holiday gifts, 16% will reduce spending on celebration-related food and beverages and 11% will spend less on holiday beer, wine and spirits.

For 74% of consumers this year, gift-giving budgets will top out at $800, which is in line with what was spent last year. However, budgets will be smaller for 26% of consumers. Cut backs are happening across income brackets, but they are most prevalent among middle-income shoppers.

Almost 1-of-every-3 shoppers will be relying more heavily on pre-made lists, and only 39% of consumers reported they will purchase fewer unplanned gifts this year than they have in the past. With lists in hand, 75% of consumers will begin their shopping before Dec. 1. While this timeline is similar to last year, 1-in-5 consumers are starting earlier in hopes of saving money.

Many consumers are timing their holiday shopping in order to accommodate budgetary needs. For instance, 46% want to spread spending out rather than making fewer, larger trips, 41% want to take advantage of sales and 24% want to ensure availability of items they want to purchase.

To get the most for their money, consumers are turning to the Internet to help with their money-saving strategies. Interesting findings from the survey include:

  • 44% of consumers will use more coupons from retailer websites versus 54%, who will use about the same as last year;

  • 42% of consumers will use more coupons from manufacturer websites versus 54%, who will use about the same as last year;

  • 61% of consumers will use more coupons from group couponing websites versus 33%, who will use the same as last year;

  • 48% of consumers will take advantage more often of promotions learned online versus 50%, who will leverage online promotions with the same frequency as last year; and

  • 43% of consumers will compare products on the Internet more often (e.g., consumer forums and blogs) versus 54%, who will do the same comparison shopping as last year.

SymphonyIRI is offering a free webinar, entitled “Holiday Shopping 2011: What Consumers Can Expect in Their Stockings This Year,” on Thursday, Oct. 20 at noon EST. The webinar will highlight findings from the newly released SymphonyIRI "Holiday Shopping 2011" report and will be hosted by Viamari. To register for the webinar, click here.

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Barnes & Noble expands Marketplace

BY CSA STAFF

NEW YORK — Barnes & Noble announced that it has expanded BN.com Marketplace, adding over one million new products to the catalog. The company also announced new partnerships with Wayfair.com, Right Start, UnbeatableSale.com Inc., School Specialty Inc., Abe’s of Maine, Delivery Agent and more. By expanding its third-party marketplace, which already supports more than 10,000 retailers in the books and media categories, Barnes & Noble now offers customers a wider product selection in time for the holiday shopping season, the company reported. As an added benefit, a majority of products from these new third-party partners will have free standard shipping year round.

The expanded Marketplace will now include home and gift, consumer electronics, arts and crafts, toys and games, and baby categories.

“The expansion of BN.com Marketplace is an organic extension of our consumer value proposition,” said John Foley, president e-commerce for Barnes & Noble. “If shoppers are buying cookbooks from BN.com, it’s natural to offer them cooking supplies at the same time; if shoppers are buying new baby books, it’s natural to offer them baby supplies as well; and so on across all of our categories. In this way, we can offer our valued customers a one-stop shopping destination.”

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