Category case study

Buy Online, Pick Up in Store Isn’t a New Idea – But the Process Still Needs Improvement

Photo credit: Mike Mozart on Flickr.Offering customers the option to buy a product online and pick it up in the brick-and-mortar store is not new idea.

In fact, I remember Circuit City offering this option way back in the early 2000s.

However, even though the idea has been around for a while, many stores often fail to meet customers’ expectations.

In order to stay competitive, retailers are going to need to work on streamlining the process.

Why Offering This Option to Customers Is So Important

From the retailer’s perspective, offering the option of buying a product online and picking it up in store helps make the sale and saves the customer and/or the retailer money on shipping, which can still be costly even with the discounts that they receive from delivery companies based on the high-volume of shipments.

It is also something that retailers are being forced to offer based on the competition, as many stores are currently offering this option.

Furthermore, this is something that customers want.

In fact, according to the CFI Group, 75% of consumers indicate that the ability to order online and pick up the item in the brick-and-mortar store is somewhat or extremely important to them.

Retailers Currently Promise Quick Turnaround Times and an Easy Shopping Experience

On the surface, it looks like retailers have a good process in place to fulfill these orders, as many stores currently promise a relatively quick turnaround time.

In fact, according to a post on the Two Cents blog, many major retailers promise to have the order ready in one to four hours from when the order was first placed online. (The turnaround time promised varies by retailer. See the post for additional information.)

What Customers Are Experiencing

While retailers are promising quick turnaround times and a smooth buying experience, this is not always what they deliver.

In fact, according to a recent article on The Wall Street Journal, “A survey of over 1,000 online U.S.-based shoppers by JDA Software Group Inc. shows that, of 35% who opted to buy online and pick up goods in a store in the past year, 50% encountered problems getting their purchases. This is a surprisingly high failure rate of a strategy meant to offset the high costs of conducting e-commerce, said Wayne Usie, senior vice president of retail at JDA.”

Another article on the RetailWire site provides a case study that explains how one retailer botched an order that a customer placed online and opted to pick up in the store.

The comments on The Wall Street Journal and RetailWire articles provide some useful insights into the issues that customers and retailers face when taking advantage of this option.

For example, in a comment on The Wall Street Journal article, Gary Bernard points out that he used the buy online, pick up in-store option for an item that Walmart carried nationally, but didn’t have at his local store. He stated that he used the option in order to save the $5 delivery fee on a $10 item. And, as he explained, it took him about 8 minutes to get the item. After completing the transaction, he came to the conclusion that this option is good for certain items that can’t be purchased at the local store, but he wouldn’t use this option to buy one or two items that could be purchased by just walking into the store and buying them off the shelf. That said, he was satisfied with the process for this type of purchase.

Average Time Needed to Complete a Purchase

A Consumerist blog post written last year highlighted a study that was conducted in 2014 by StellaService that found that, on average, it took customers using the buy online, pick up in-store option less time from the time they entered the store to the time that they completed the checkout process than it took a traditional shopper who found and purchased items off the shelf.

However, this didn’t include the time it took for the store to collect the items for the shoppers and notify them that the items were ready. In the study, StellaService stated, “Items were available for pick up in just over an hour on average.”

It is also interesting to note that the average amount of time needed for the checkout process for the buy online, pick up in-store option took longer than the average time needed at the checkout desk for the traditional in-store shopper, at 3.1 minutes vs. 1.1 minutes, respectively.

Note: Many stores try to encourage traditional shoppers to spend more time shopping at stores, as this often leads to increased sales. However, efficiency at the checkout desk is something that all retailers strive for.

Some Key Issues to Consider

There are a lot of issues that need to be considered when developing the process for the buy online, pick up in-store option.

Photo credit: Mike Mozart on Flickr.As a post on the Internet Retailer blog points out, proper training of store employees and adequate signage are extremely important to making this process work as it should. The post also highlights the fact that when you get customers to come to the store to pick up items that they purchased online, there is an opportunity to upsell other items. This can have a tremendous positive impact on the retailer’s bottom line.

In the comments section of the RetailWire post mentioned above, Melanie Nuce, VP, Apparel and General Merchandise, at GS1 US mentions that item-level RFID technology will also help fix some of the problems that retailers are experiencing with the buy online, pick up in-store option.

Final Thoughts

Retailers are always looking for ways to differentiate themselves by providing customers with options that make the shopping experience more convenient.

When done correctly, offering the option to buy online and pick up the items in the store can save customers and the retailer time and money. It also provides the retailer with another opportunity to get the customer in the brick-and-mortar store, which can lead to additional impulse buys.

However, as mentioned above, a study conducted by JDA Software Group Inc. found that often the processes that retailers currently have in place do not always work the way that they should.

These failures can hurt the retailer’s reputation, particularly if problems happen on a regular basis.

The good news is that people are already thinking about ways to improve this process.

Retailers that take the lead and are among the first to provide an efficient and smooth buying experience on a consistent basis should experience positive effects on their bottom lines not only through increased sales, but also through the decrease in expenses needed to get products into customers’ hands.

Keep in mind, successful retailers will need to continually improve the process, as positive word-of-mouth could lead to more customers using the service. This could strain the retailer’s resources even further and again lead to failures which could negatively impact future sales.

However, not offering the service might be worse than not trying at all, as many customers already say the option is important to them.

Photo credits: Mike Mozart and Mike Mozart on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at:

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Narcissism and the Secret Sale: Using Specialness, Secrets, and Exclusive Offers to Increase Retail Sales

Photo credit: thekirbster on Flickr.

In her book, “Decoding the New Consumer Mind,” Dr. Kit Yarrow explains that there are increased levels of narcissistic thought and behavior among consumers in modern society.

Savvy retailers that know this can use this knowledge to their advantage in order to increase sales in their stores by providing exclusive offers that make their customers feel special and appreciated.

We All Have Narcissistic Qualities

“Narcissism is a personality style with powerful emotional components that drive interactions and purchasing needs,” writes Dr. Yarrow in her book. “Most people are not narcissists in a clinical sense of the word, but everyone has some narcissistic qualities. That is, we all exhibit some degree of superficiality, self-focus, a sense of invisibility, emphasis on the individual rather than the group, and high expectations of individual specialness.”

According to Dr. Yarrow, “Narcissism activates particular consumer needs to feel special and appreciated. These are obvious needs that are familiar to marketers. But more subtle factors come into play when we operate out of narcissism: most notably anger and competitiveness. Marketers need to understand the real roots of narcissism both because it’s on the rise and because it activates some of our deepest, darkest emotions. Understanding narcissism means better understanding what consumers want and need.”

Retail and the Narcissistic Consumer

Dr. Yarrow points out that given the fact that narcissism exists in all of us to some extent, marketers would be wise to harness the allure of specialness, exclusivity, secrets, and social rankings.

CatnipExamples given in the book include the “secret” menu at the fast-food restaurant In-N-Out Burger, early access to sales for department store credit card holders, and exclusive coveted offerings for Facebook fans, special consumers, and Twitter followers.

Dr. Yarrow also suggests that by intentionally leaving sale price items unmarked, a retail store could increase sales for some high-priced items.

This “secret sale” that associates let customers know about can make customers think that they are getting special treatment.

In my opinion, this gives the sales associate a chance to create trust with the customer that could also increase sales in the future. There is also an opportunity for the retail store to use mobile technology to deliver value to the customer if the information is delivered via the store’s mobile app.

As Dr. Yarrow points out, secrets are exciting and create a bond between the shopper and the store. She also points out that this tactic works for all consumers, not just the more narcissistic shopper.

Final Thoughts

Knowing what motivates consumers to take action can help businesses make better decisions and create situations that increase sales.

As this post explains, the rise of narcissism in society has made it more important for brands and retailers to create experiences that make the customer feel like he or she is getting something that other customers are not aware of.

This can help the business reach short-term sales goals. It can also lead to future sales by strengthening the bond between the customer and the business.

Photo credit: thekirbster on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at:

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Online Video Marketing – Just What the Doctor Ordered

If your business isn’t utilizing online video to market your products or services, you are probably missing out on a great opportunity to connect with your customers and potential customers.

A research report that was published last year by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project points out that the percent of online adults who watch or download videos has grown in recent years, increasing from 69% of adult internet users in 2009 to 78% in 2013. This number is even more important given the fact that the number of adults who use the Internet is also growing.

According to the report, the increase in online adults who post, watch and download videos is being driven by mobile phones and video-sharing sites like YouTube.

However, as David Meerman Scott points out in his book, titled “The New Rules of Marketing & PR,” increased access to high speed Internet connections and technology that make it easy for anyone to create and upload video content also had something to do with the growth in online video usage.

Special Effects Not Required

If you check out what the big brands like Coca-Cola, Red Bull, or Old Spice are doing with online videos, you might get the impression that a huge budget is required for success.

However, that’s just not true. In fact, brands can be successful without all the Hollywood-style special effects, just ask Blendtec. (They were able to create viral videos with little more than a man in lab coat and a blender.)

The Hidden ROI of Online Videos

As is the case with all online content, online videos can have a positive effect on the business’s bottom line in other ways, as well, including decreasing operating expenses. This can be achieved by creating educational videos that help customers use the business’s product.

For example, take a look at what the Rug Doctor is doing with its YouTube channel. Even though the product is relatively simple to use, in my opinion, the directions that they include when you rent a Rug Doctor do not offer enough explanation on how to use their product effectively. While they fail in creating easy-to-use written instructions, they do an excellent job with their YouTube channel. The videos don’t look like they cost the company very much to make, but as the number of views testify, they have success demonstrating how the product is used.

As of today, one the basic educational videos that explains how to use a Rug Doctor has been viewed by over 435,000 people on YouTube. Just think about how much staff time it could have potentially saved the company if even half of those people didn’t have to call to ask questions. Not only that, think of all time they may have saved those same customers. That’s just good business.

The fact that this many people viewed the Rug Doctor’s videos does not come as a surprise when you look at online video trends.

According to the Pew Research study that I previously mentioned, educational videos are among some of the most widely viewed online video genres.

Final Thoughts 

Many experts recommend that businesses of all sizes use online videos in their marketing efforts for a wide range of reasons.

The Pew Research study reinforces the fact that consumers are already watching video online. This is not going to change any time soon. In fact, as the Internet gets faster and more options are available to reach your customers and potential customers, it will become not only a recommended tool in your marketing toolbox, it might become the key to success.

Photo credit: jm3 on Flickr on Flickr.

Video credit: Pew Research Center

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at:

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A Huge Social Media Fail—Or Is It?

In the short history of social media marketing we have seen a lot of brands post things on the Internet with the hope that the content would resonate with consumers only to have it backfire.

In May, BuzzFeed posted an article, titled “19 Companies That Made Huge Social Media Fails.”

The list includes many examples that leave you shaking your head and saying to yourself, “What were they thinking?”

Now, let’s face it, it is very tempting for brands to join the conversation when news breaks in order to gain exposure for their brand with very little time or effort involved.

If the event is positive or lighthearted in nature, then joining the conversation is just good business. (Oreo showed how to do it right earlier this year after the lights went out at the Superdome during the Super Bowl.)

As Mike Mikho suggests, even negative events that involve celebrities can be fair game. (I’d add that this is true only if no one is seriously injured.)

However, if consumers’ conversations are focused on tragic events (e.g., terrorist attacks, school shootings, natural disasters, plane crashes, etc.,) then joining the conversation might not be the best thing to do. Saying the wrong thing at the wrong time can create a huge headache for your brand.

In my opinion, the best thing brands can do to when a tragedy happens is to remain silent for a while. (And, yes, this means delaying those automated posts that were planned in advance.)

If you feel that a comment is required, pay your respects to the victims or find ways to be helpful without being self-promotional. This is a good rule to follow if your brand doesn’t want to find itself on a list similar to the one BuzzFeed posted.

Some Rules Are Meant To Be Broken

Having a lot of people criticize your brand for saying something insensitive is generally not a good thing. And, showing up on a social media fail list probably isn’t going to help generate sales.

That is, unless you’re Kenneth Cole.

If you go back to the BuzzFeed list, you will see that Kenneth Cole was number 1. Kenneth Cole earned a spot on the list by making light of the protests in Egypt in 2011 by posting this on Twitter: “Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online at -KC”

The tweet created its own uproar—this time on the Internet. (This was exacerbated when pranksters added the tweet to the window on the Kenneth Cole store in San Francisco.)

According to CNN, Kenneth Cole apologized within an hour of posting the tweet. Cole is quoted as saying, “We weren’t intending to make light of a serious situation. We understand the sensitivity of this historical moment.”

Cole then posted on his official Facebook page, “I apologize to everyone who was offended by my insensitive tweet about the situation in Egypt. I’ve dedicated my life to raising awareness about serious issues, and in hindsight my attempt at humor regarding a nation liberating themselves against oppression was poorly timed and absolutely inappropriate.”

However, as it turns out, while the tweet may have been considered inappropriate by some consumers, it also was good for business.

In the October issue of Details, Cole is quoted as saying, “Billions of people read my inappropriate, self-promoting tweet, I got a lot of harsh responses, and we hired a crisis-management firm. If you look at lists of the biggest Twitter gaffes ever, we’re always one through five. But our stock went up that day, our e-commerce business was better, the business at every one of our stores improved, and I picked up 3,000 new followers on Twitter. So on what criteria is this a gaffe?”

Given this, it is not surprising that Cole used the same tactic again when he tweeted this about the Syrian crisis in September of this year, ““Boots on the ground” or not, let’s not forget about sandals, pumps and loafers. #Footwear”

Again, it had people criticizing Cole for being insensitive.

And, that is most likely what Cole wanted people to do.

Why It Works for Kenneth Cole

So, why does it appear that Kenneth Cole gets rewarded for saying something on social media that would have a negative effect on other brands?

Is it the type of product that he sells? Maybe.

Is it the type of consumer that he is selling to? Could be.

Is it because social media is a nonissue? I’d argue no, because the data he presents show that his shocking statements on social media actually generated business.

Could it be that we are trying to be too politically correct and Kenneth Cole’s customers are supporting someone who stands up and says screw conventional thinking and is willing to take a risk and make fun of a horrible situation? Could be, but I doubt it.

Is it that all press is good press? Maybe.

So what gives?

First, we need to remember that social media is just a vehicle for people to get their message out to the world.

Before social media, people were saying things that made other people criticize them. Kenneth Cole is no exception. In fact, Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc. is known for its controversial and sometimes tasteless advertising.

On the other hand, Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc. is also known for its involvement in charity and social causes, including its involvement in the search for a cure for HIV/AIDS. Its target audience might be aware of this, which could explain why Kenneth Cole is given a pass when other brands would suffer.

But, then again, others would point out that the controversy Kenneth Cole creates actually helps the business.

The reason for this is something that I can’t quite explain. It could be a combination of many different factors that can’t be controlled for.

What I can say for sure is that this tactic is only going to consistently work if the brand delivers a great product in the first place. And, there is where I think the real answer is. Kenneth Cole makes great clothes. So, therefore, Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc. might be able to get away with things that other brands can’t get away with.

In the end, I wouldn’t recommend using Kenneth Cole Productions, Inc. as a role model for your online communication strategy. That is, unless you can deliver great products on a consistent basis and are willing to respond to complaints from consumers who might not be so forgiving.

Photo credits: mikest and davitydave on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at:

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Lessons American Retailers Can Learn From a Store Over 8,000 Miles Away

Whether you love them or hate them, nobody can argue with the fact that Walmart has been very successful at doing what they do.

This success can be partially attributed to the fact that Walmart has found ways to appeal to and meet the needs of working class consumers.

With over $328 billion in retail sales in 2012 in the United States alone, this retail giant has the money to spend on R & D to find out what their customers want. Everything that they do has been thought through, including the design of the actual “brick and mortar” stores. As retailers know, this can have a huge impact on sales.

A New Approach to Meet the Needs of African Consumers

In his book, “Africa Rising: How 900 Million African Consumers Offer More Than You Think,” Dr. Vijay Mahajan explains that global firms that have focused on Africa have primarily focused on the people he classifies as Africa One. These are the people with the most disposable income. However, they account for only about 5% to 15% of the people in the African market.

He goes on to point that in the near future, there are going to be huge opportunities for businesses that target the “future middle class” or what he calls Africa Two. This segment accounts for 35% to 50% of the African market, or roughly 350 million to 500 million consumers on the continent.

Dr. Mahajan explains that this market is comparable to similar segments of the population in India or China. He therefore uses examples from India to explain some of the opportunities as well as some of the obstacles that businesses will potentially face if they invest in Africa.

In one example he points out that Kishore Biyani, founder of India’s largest retailer at the time the book was written, divides India into three segments. His company, Pantaloon Retail (India) Ltd., focuses on India Two (i.e., the drivers, maids, and nannies who work for India One.)

“In targeting India Two, Biyani discovered that he needed to rethink his business,” writes Dr. Mahajan. “Customers in this segment were turned away by the neat and orderly aisles seen in retail stores in developed markets. Instead, they wanted the crowded chaos of an informal market. He created a store that felt cluttered and cramped, with produce covered in dust, which signified freshness to customers. In fact, he spent $50,000 transforming one of his original shining, Western-style stores in Mumbai into a chaotic marketplace. He has shown that the formula for success might look nothing like the one that is successful in the West. Using this India Two formula, he had built a $600 million business by mid-2007.”

Dr. Mahajan suggests that in order for businesses to be successful in Africa, particularly among consumers he classifies as Africa Two, businesses might need to set aside models designed for developed markets or the elite markets of Africa One, in favor of more chaotic models similar to the one that Biyani successfully used in India.

Walmart Knows How to Sell to the Working Class

There are several ways that American retailers can benefit from the information provided by Dr. Mahajan.

For example, they can examine whether investing in Africa might be a viable option for their business. As Dr. Mahajan explains, Africa is filled with potential business opportunities. The key is to actually give African consumers what they want, not what the business thinks that they want.

American retailers can also benefit by using the logic that Pantaloon Retail Ltd. used, but apply it to American consumers.

As is the case in other parts of the world, the needs of American consumers are going to vary based on income levels.

Given income constraints, consumers with less disposable income are probably not going to be purchasing expensive luxury goods. Therefore, stores that sell these products are going to want to design their stores to appeal to consumers with higher incomes. (Think Bloomingdale’s, Barney’s New York, Saks Fifth Avenue, or even Macy’s.)

However, everyone needs food and basic household supplies. Given the fact that about 50% of households in the United States had household incomes of less than $50,000 per year in 2011, we know that there is a huge market for businesses that can appeal to this segment of the population.

Appealing to this segment of the population is something that Walmart does well. In fact, 56% of Walmart’s customers have household incomes that are less than $50,000 per year.

Given the fact that Walmart has made a lot of money selling to lower income consumers in America, is it at all surprising that the retail giant has started making investments in Africa? In 2011 Walmart acquired a majority stake in Massmart Holdings Ltd. According to Walmart’s website, Massmart operates more than 350 stores in South Africa and 11 other sub-Saharan countries. I wouldn’t be surprised if that number continues to grow.

Final Thoughts

As Walmart has shown, if done correctly, a lot of money can be made by focusing on less affluent consumers in America. The same could easily be true in other parts of the world.

As Dr. Mahajan explains in his book, there are going to be many opportunities for businesses that invest in Africa, particularly those that focus on the “future middle class” or what he calls Africa Two. This segment of the population accounts for approximately 35% to 50% of the African market.

However, as the example of Pantaloon Retail (India) Ltd. demonstrated, retailers that are thinking about serving consumers in different markets and market segments may need to rethink the way that they design their stores in order to meet the needs of those consumers.

Given their success in selling to working class Americans, it is not surprising that Walmart has started to invest in Africa.

That said, there is still time for other retailers to follow Walmart’s lead and find ways to meet the needs of lower income consumers all around the world, particularly among those located on the African continent.

Photo credits: Wesley Fryer  and Rusty Clark on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at:

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Focus on the Non-Shopper to Increase Retail Sales

In an effort to increase the sales of their products and services, retailers need to focus on the whole shopping experience. This starts even before consumers see or hear the store’s advertisements and extends beyond the time that they actually use the products and services that they have purchased from the store.

When examining the shopping experience, a lot of effort is put into thinking about the needs of the shopper. However, it seems that some retailers forget the role that non-shoppers play.

The Role of the Non-Shopper

In his book, “Call of the Mall: The Geography of Shopping by the Author of Why We Buy,” (affiliate link) Paco Underhill identifies some of the challenges that retailers face.

“If an adult has to drag two sullen adolescents along for every step of a shopping expedition, you can be sure that the trip will end prematurely,” writes Underhill. “Whereas if those adolescents can be given some enjoyable outlet for their entertainment, they’ll let you shop as long as you want. The mere promise of a reward may keep them quiet. (Of course, when you’re ready to go you may have to drag them out of the mall.)”

“Yes, Dear.”

Even if a couple has the benefit of getting a babysitter to watch their children, the non-shopper in a couple can also present similar problems. In many cases, it is the male who plays this role.

Although there are exceptions to the rule, most men do not get as much satisfaction from shopping as their significant others do, unless they are in a sporting goods or electronics store.

If the mall has an electronics store (e.g., Apple Store, Best Buy, etc.) or even a book store, then the male can waste some time there. If he is lucky, there is a food court with a television set, or even better yet, a sport’s bar with all the entertainment that most men need.

However, if the store is not connected to a mall and there aren’t any other places to walk to, then the male is left to tag along like a puppy dog or wander aimlessly around the store until his significant other is done shopping. (Sure, if there is a men’s department, he can check that out. But, if he doesn’t want to make a purchase, that will only take a few minutes of his time.) This could result in the female shopper leaving the store before she wants to, which could cost the store money.

The solution might be as simple as providing an area where men can sit down and watch television. This could be enough to give the female the time she needs to shop. (As an added bonus, the area could be sponsored by a brand that caters to men. This would offset the cost of lost floor space, and possibly add to increased sales in the long run.)

Free Beer!

In 2011, a friend of mine posted this tip on Foursquare: “They give the guys free beer so they can relax while their wife/girlfriend shops!”

He was talking about a boutique store in Deer Park, Illinois. Not only did they give him something to do while his wife shopped, they created an experience memorable enough that he wanted to share it online. I’m guessing that his wife was able to take her time shopping. I would also guess that it wouldn’t be too hard to get him to go shopping with her the next time she visits this particular store.

It should be noted that this is not the only store to offer free beer to customers. Bill Hallman, a clothing store in Atlanta was featured in a 2006 Adweek article for doing the same thing. In that case, Peroni, an Italian import, paid the store for the privilege of being the beer served.

Final Thoughts

In many cases, when customers enter a retail store with the intent to make a purchase, they are accompanied by non-shoppers who can distract from the shopping experience. In some cases, this distraction can be so overwhelming that the shopping trip is ended prematurely.

It is for this reason that it would be in their best interest for retailers to focus some of their attention on the non-shoppers.

Retail experts have countless suggestions on ways to entertain the non-shoppers so that the shoppers have all the time that they need to accomplish what they set out to do.

In fact, many stores have already identified the role that non-shoppers play in the shopping experience and have found ways to entertain them so that they don’t become too big of a distraction. Among other things, it is not uncommon to have a restaurant or coffee shop near or within the retail store. And, as shown, when that is not an option, some small boutique stores have gotten creative with the way that they “distract” the non-shoppers within the group.

While it will vary by the type of store and where it is located, the important thing is that retailers find ways to entertain non-shoppers, as they may have a greater impact on the store’s bottom line than one might think.

Photo credits: Sai89AJ and jai MANSSON  on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at:

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A Look at the Aging of America From a Retail Perspective

Andy Rooney once said, “It’s paradoxical that the idea of living a long life appeals to everyone, but the idea of getting old doesn’t appeal to anyone.”

This could be partially due to the fact that either through design or disregard, the products and services that brands offer tend to cater to younger consumers.

However, as times goes on, older consumers are going to be harder and harder to ignore.

As the baby boomers reach retirement age, the number of older consumers continues to grow. (It is worth noting that there will be more older consumers in the near future because there were higher birth rates from 1946 to 1964 and because older consumers who reach the age of 65 are projected to live longer lives in the future.)

While brands do intentionally target different consumers when they advertise their products or services, there are also some decisions that brands are making that may unintentionally exclude older consumers from making a purchase.

If You Can Read This You’re Too Young

In his book, “Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping—Updated and Revised for the Internet, the Global Consumer, and Beyond,” (affiliate link) Paco Underhill explains how retail will be transformed in the near future as a result of the aging of the population of the United States. In fact, he devotes a whole chapter to this topic.

According to Underhill, by 2025, we are going to need a whole new world when it comes to retail.

“What’s wrong with this world? For starters, all the words are too damn small,” says Underhill. “See this sentence? How could you? Too damn small. How about the morning paper? Forget it. Too damn small. The directions on your jar of organic herbal laxative? Too. Damn. Small. And you’re not even going to try squinting. (It causes wrinkles.) If you can’t read it, by gum, you just won’t buy it. And if you don’t buy organic herbal laxative, nobody will. And if nobody buys it… well, you see where this is going.”

“Human eyes begin to falter at about age forty, and even healthy ones are usually impaired by their sixties,” Underhill continues. “With age, three main ocular events take place: The lens becomes more rigid and the muscles holding it weaken, meaning you can’t focus on small type; the cornea yellows, which changes how you perceive color; and less light reaches your retina, meaning the world looks a little dimmer than it once did. The issue of visual acuity, already a major one in the marketplace, will become even more critical—not just in some far-off future, but from this moment on.”

Is he making too big of a deal about the eyesight of older consumers? You can decide that for yourself, but first you might want to read some of the examples that Underhill provides as evidence.

“One of our fast-food clients realized that diners over fifty-five were their fastest-growing demographic, despite the fact that the menu boards used type that was almost impossible for older people to see well,” reports Underhill. “The company redesigned the menus using large photos of the food, and even though it meant listing fewer items, sales rose.”

Underhill also points out that, “The main market today for drugstores is older people, and that dependence will only increase. Certainly, of all the words we are required to read in the course of our lives, few are more important than the labels, directions and warnings on drugs, both prescription and over the counter. For instance, we have found that 91 percent of all skin care customers buy only after they’ve read the front label of the box, bottle or jar. Forty-two percent of buyers also read the back of the package. Clearly, reading is crucial to selling skin care and other health and beauty items.”

It is also interesting to note that the type on products that are frequently used by senior citizens (e.g., aspirin, a host of other common analgesics, cold capsules and vitamins) is often smaller than the type on products that are targeted to teenagers.

Can the Problem Be Fixed?

This sounds like an easy enough problem to fix. Just make the type bigger and the problem is solved, right? Not so fast.

You see, part of the problem is that many consumers rely on information in order to make purchase decisions. Therefore, brands need to provide a sufficient amount of information on their packages.

However, on a small box or bottle, there is a limited amount of real estate. Therefore, the choice is to either make the package bigger, provide less information or make the type smaller. It appears that many brands are choosing the third option—to the dismay of older consumers.

In the book, Underhill offers some possible suggestions that might help fix the problem, including package redesigns, better signage in retail stores, increased use of graphics on the labels, and tech solutions including sending additional information to our mobile devices.

In the end, he suggests the correct solution might be a combination of these and other possible fixes.

Final Thoughts

As Paco Underhill points out in his book, the aging of the population of consumers in the United States is going to provide numerous challenges to brands and retailers in the very near future. (These challenges include issues that I haven’t mentioned in this post.)

However, as with any challenge that is presented to the business world, they also provide an opportunity for businesses to profit by stepping up and finding ways to meet the needs of this important demographic.

As Paco Underhill sums it up, “Older shoppers are more important than ever, if only because there are more of them, and they have a lot of money to spend and time to spend it. Their presence will transform how products are sold in the twenty-first century.”

With this in mind, the question is: Is your business ready?

Photo credits: and bartsz on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at:

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They Only Cost a Tweet! #tweetshop

The Kellogg Company Introduces Special K Crisps to the UK

In his book, “Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping—Updated and Revised for the Internet, the Global Consumer, and Beyond,” (affiliate link) Paco Underhill points out that, “Close to 90 percent of all new grocery products fail, but it isn’t because people didn’t like them—it’s because people never tried them. In my opinion, a new product introduction that doesn’t include a well-funded, fully supported (with marketing) effort to give shoppers samples is not a serious attempt.”

Therefore, it’s not surprising that when introducing its new Special K Cracker Crisps to the UK at the end of last month, the Kellogg Company created a unique marketing campaign that not only gave customers a chance to try the product, but they also incorporated social media into the effort in a way that guaranteed that customers would spread the word about how awesome Special K Cracker Crisps are to their friends online.

Kellogg’s Tweet Shop

The idea was simple: They created a trendy pop-up shop in London’s Soho district that invited customers to get packages of Special K Cracker Crisps in exchange for a tweet that included the hashtag #tweetshop.

As an Ad Age article points out, this is not the first time that a brand has offered free products in exchange for a post on a social networking site. However, the article points out that it might be the first example of real-life interaction using a pay-with-a-tweet-concept.

In the Ad Age article, Dan Glover, creative director of Mischief PR, the agency behind the campaign, is quoted as saying, “We believe that physical and social are one and the same. When we had the idea it felt very simple, and we did a lot of checking to be sure it was a world first. We jumped on that and made it happen – it was eight weeks from idea to execution.”

Not only was this a creative way to get customers to sample a new product, but it also created a lot of buzz in the media, as well.

And, the pay-with-a-tweet concept ensured that people would be spreading the word online.

As Sarah Case, brand manager for Special K, explains, “The value of positive endorsements on social-media sites is beyond compare, so we’re excited to be the first company to literally use social currency instead of financial currency to launch this new product in our bespoke Special K shop.”

Word of Mouth—What Customers Were Tweeting

On Friday, September 28th, I searched for the hashtag #tweetshop. (This, by the way, was the last day that pop-up store was in operation.)

As would be expected, many of the tweets included photos that were posted on other social networking sites.

Some of the tweets included the hashtag #spons.

According to theEword, a search marketing agency located in Manchester, England, “Within the Kellogg’s pop up store, people are given a menu of Tweets to try out, all including #tweetshop #spons. While #tweetshop allows Kellogg’s to monitor the success of its social media campaign, the #spons hashtag ensures that it adheres to regulations put in place by the Advertising Standards Agency, which requires sponsored tweets to be clearly indicated.”

Here are some of examples of the tweets. (Thanks to the Twitter Blackbird Pie WordPress plugin, you can actually click on the links in the tweets to see the photos that customers tweeted.)

So cool! I'm at the first tweet shop in the world! #tweetshop #london
Pamela Chehade
Kellogg's #TweetShop #popupshop on Meard Street. Actually pretty good crisps. (@ the tweet shop) [pic]:
Steven Ray
I've just had new Special K crisps and they're delicious! #tweetshop #spons
Andrew Joseph Taylor
Just having cracker crisps in the special K tweet shop! It is rather good! #tweetshop
Simon Hepher

Increasing Brand Engagement

The official UK Press Office for the Kellogg Company (@KelloggsUK) also asked Twitterers who were not at the Tweet Shop to tweet using the hashtag #tweetshop for a chance to win some free Special K Cracker Crisps.

By engaging the audience in this way, the Kellogg Company helped increase the awareness of the new product and hopefully got some additional people to purchase them.

Who wants to win3 new flavours of Special K Cracker Crisps? Please tweet #tweetshop with a message why you should win!
Kellogg's UK


As Paco Underhill pointed out in his book, getting people to try a new product is of the utmost importance.

Getting consumers to sample a product and creating a buzz at the same time is a big win.

That’s exactly what the Kellogg Company did when they introduced their Special K Cracker Crisps to the UK in September.

By using a trendy pop-up store in London’s Soho district, the Kellogg Company found a way to get the product into consumers’ hands and, at the same time, get them excited about it.

From the consumers’ perspective, they got some tasty snacks—and it only cost them a tweet.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at:

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The Lesson That Marketers Can Learn From the 1948 Presidential Election

“Dewey Defeats Truman,” was the headline that the Chicago Tribune printed the night of the 1948 election. As you probably know, that headline was incorrect.

As an article that was published on the Chicago Tribune website explains, “Arguably the most famous headline in the newspaper’s 150-year history, DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN is every publisher’s nightmare on every election night. Like most newspapers, the Tribune, which had dismissed him on its editorial page as a “nincompoop,” was lulled into a false sense of security by polls that repeatedly predicted a Dewey victory. Critically important, though, was a printers’ strike, which forced the paper to go to press hours before it normally would. As the first-edition deadline approached, managing editor J. Loy “Pat” Maloney had to make the headline call, although many East Coast tallies were not yet in. Maloney banked on the track record of Arthur Sears Henning, the paper’s longtime Washington correspondent. Henning said Dewey. Henning was rarely wrong. Besides, Life magazine had just carried a big photo of Dewey with the caption ‘The next President of the United States.’”

“The ink was hardly dry on 150,000 copies of the paper when radio bulletins reported that the race was surprisingly close,” the article continues. “The headline was changed to DEMOCRATS MAKE SWEEP OF STATE OFFICES for the second edition. Truman went on to take Illinois and much of the Midwest in this whopping election surprise. Radio comedian Fred Allen noted Truman was the “first president to lose in a Gallup and win in a walk.” The Tribune blamed the pollsters for its mistake.”

The Problems With the 1948 Gallup Poll

Many statisticians and historians have voiced their opinions about what lead to the surprise victory by Truman and what Gallup did wrong.

Some of the issues were a result of the unique nature of voting (e.g., voter turnout, which way the undecided voters ultimately voted, whether or not supporters of a third-party candidate ultimately changed their minds, etc.)

However, many people who have written about the election explain that one of the biggest problems was the fact that Gallup quit polling voters two weeks before the election. The pollsters assumed that the 14% of voters who said that they were undecided at the time the survey data was collected would vote the same way as the respondents who said that they had made a decision about how they would vote in the election. Add in the other issues that I just listed in the last paragraph, and you can see why it is not so surprising the actual election turned out differently than the pollsters predicted.

The last issue with the 1948 Gallup poll is the one that can be generalized to all types of surveys, not just political polling. The issue: quota sampling.

The practice of quota sampling begins by trying to determine what types of respondents might influence the survey results and then setting quotas to ensure that there are enough members from each subgroup represented in the final data set. In theory, this is a not such a bad idea.

However, it is the second part of quota sampling that is at issue. When using quota sampling, interviewers may be told that they need to interview a certain number of people from each subgroup, but they still get to choose who they interview. Because the interviewer gets to choose who to interview, there is going to be a built-in bias because not everyone has a chance of being selected. For example, the interviewer might interview the exact number of people to meet a gender quota, but the people who they choose might over-represent people fitting into another category not accounted for (e.g., geography, fluency in the English language, what type of car they drive, etc.) that can influence the dependent variable being measured.

The Takeaway for Marketers

While brands that are doing surveys for marketing purposes are not going to have their survey results scrutinized in the same way that presidential polls are, the results of their surveys might be as important or even more important than those conducted on election night.

If the brand is making business decisions that can influence the success or failure of a marketing campaign or maybe even the business itself, then it is extremely important to make sure that the survey data is accurate.

Given all the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) research tools out there, it is tempting for brands to conduct their surveys in-house. However, even the most skilled marketer may overlook something that a trained individual who is dedicated to survey research has seen before and therefore wouldn’t repeat again.

When conducting a survey, there are many things that a business needs to consider, including what questions to ask and how to word the questions, when to field the study, how to administer the survey (e.g., via telephone, mail, in-person, Internet, etc.,) who to include in the sample, and how the data is analyzed and presented after the data collection is completed.

Each step is important.

As shown in this post, who to include in the sample is particularly important, as it can have a huge effect on the survey results.

Therefore, brands might want to consider hiring a strategy and research firm to assist them in their survey research efforts. If they don’t, brands might end up on the wrong side of the business of equivalent of what happened to the Chicago Tribune in the 1948 presidential election.

Photo credit: And all that Malarkey on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at:

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Don’t Worry, They’re Just Words: Part II

In my last post, I pointed out that the words that we choose to use can influence the way that people interpret what we are trying to say.

At times, the ideas that we are trying to convey to others might not be properly communicated because the intended recipients don’t understand the meanings of the words that we use. (In some cases, the words that we use might actually have different meanings among people with different cultural backgrounds.)

In other words, what we are trying to say might get lost in translation even if the people who we are trying to reach speak the same language.

Furthermore, even when the ideas that we are trying to communicate to others are properly received, there might be a more succinct or influential way of wording what we are trying to say.

A Real-World Example of the Power of Words

Not long after I posted the blog post, the point that I was making was illustrated perfectly in an article that was published by the Huffington Post.

However, in this case, it wasn’t an incorrect choice of words that caused the problem; it was the omission of the word “acquisition” that created the confusion.

According to a tweet by Peter Shankman, when the Huffington Post first published their article, it said, “Facebook has said it expects the Instagram to close sometime this year.” (Or, something similar to that—I didn’t see the actual post before the change was made. I am relying on Mr. Shankman as a trusted source.)

This led him to post this tweet with a link to the article:

However, the mistake was spotted and the article was updated. Fortunately, Mr. Shankman found out about it and tweeted this:

However, Mr. Shankman’s original tweet was still out there and not everyone saw his tweet about the typo. Therefore, misinformation continued to spread on Twitter the next day.

For example, his tweet was retweeted by Britton Edwards, and it looks like that is how Emily Binder found out about it. This led her to tweet:

This is how I found out about the post and the typo.

Now, as you can see, the omission of the word “acquision” changed the meaning of the sentence in the article and rumors of Instagram closing started to spread on Twitter. In fact, they continued to spread even after the article was fixed and Mr. Shankman tweeted about the correction.

I’m guessing that a lot of people had the same reaction that Mr. Shankman and Ms. Binder did. Just think about how many other people tweeted this.

Final Thoughts

The example that I gave in this post illustrates the fact that one word can make a huge difference in how people interpret what you are trying to say. (It also illustrates how rumors can easily be started by an innocent mistake.)

Therefore, it makes sense to not only pay attention to what you say, but also how you say it.

This is true when you are writing traditional advertisements and when you are writing blog posts as part of your content marketing efforts.

If you are interested in reading about this further, I’d check out Peter Shankman’s blog in the next few days, as it sounds like he might have a thing or two to say about it. (I will update this post with a link if he does write a post about this in the near future.)

Furthermore, you also might want to check out Emily Binder’s lastest post. She doesn’t address the typo, but she does give her opinion about Instagram and the Facebook Camera app.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at:

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