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In Retail, the Best Price Is Not Always the Lowest

Photo credit: William Murphy on Flickr.Whether in a brick-and-mortar retail store or on a retailer’s website, the price charged for the products or services sold will have an effect on sales.

However, sometimes the retailer with the lowest price around won’t have the highest conversion rates.

This post is intended to highlight some of the ways that price influences purchase decisions in the real world.

Prospect Theory

If you took an introduction to economics class in college, you are probably familiar with the law of supply and demand. It basically asserts that, if everything else remains the same, as the price of a product decreases, the demand for the product will generally increase.

However, in the real world, this relationship does not always prove to be true.

The reason for this can be explained by a theory developed by Dr. Daniel Kahneman and Dr. Amos Tversky.

According to Wikipedia, “Prospect Theory is a behavioral economic theory that describes the way people choose between probabilistic alternatives that involve risk, where the probabilities of outcomes are known. The theory states that people make decisions based on the potential value of losses and gains rather than the final outcome, and that people evaluate these losses and gains using certain heuristics. The model is descriptive: it tries to model real-life choices, rather than optimal decisions, as normative models do.”

As several experts have pointed out, this plays out each and every day in the retail world.

Consumers Will Pay Full Price for Some Brands

As you know, there are a few brands that have established enough brand equity that people are willing to pay higher prices for the products and services that they sell.

Often this means that retailers can sell these products to customers at full price.

And, in some cases, even the sale prices for these items are higher than the full price of some of the less expensive alternatives.

As I will explain later in the post, these products are extremely important to retailers for many reasons.

The Power of a Sale

In his New York Times bestselling book, titled “Contagious: Why Things Catch On,” Dr. Jonah Berger mentions an experiment conducted by Dr. Eric Anderson and Dr. Duncan Simister.

As explained in the book, Dr. Anderson and Dr. Simister partnered with a company that sends clothing catalogs to people all over the United States.

To test the power of a sale, they send two versions of the catalog to people all over the country.

In one version, they listed a specific product at full price and in the other they said the product was part of the “Pre-Season SALE.”

However, in reality, the price was exactly same in both versions of the catalog.

The only difference was that in one version it was listed as a sale price and in the other it was not.

In the end, they found that just by saying the product was on sale increased sales by more than 50 percent!

The Size of the Discount Matters

In “Contagious: Why Things Catch On,” Dr. Berger uses an example of two stores selling the same grill to illustrate how the size of the discount can be more important than the final price that the item is sold for.

As he explains, the store in scenario A lists the original price of the grill as $350, but sells it at a sale price of $250.

On the other hand, the store in scenario B lists the same grill at an original price of $255, but sells it at a sale price of $240.

When Dr. Berger asked 100 different people to evaluate each scenario, he found that 75 percent of people who were given scenario A said that they would purchase the grill, but only 22 percent of people given scenario B would make the purchase.

In scenario A, the sale price is $100 less than the original price. In scenario B, the sale price is only $15 less than the original.

However, remember that in each case the grill is exactly the same, but the final price in the second scenario is actually less than the first.

In this case, it was the size of the discount, not the actual final price that got people to say that they would make a purchase!

How the Discount Is Stated Matters (The Rule of 100)

In the book, Dr. Berger also highlights the fact that the original price will determine whether to list a sale in terms of a percentage off or an actual dollar value.

“Researchers find that whether a discount seems larger as money or percentage off depends on the original price,” writes Dr. Berger. “For low-priced products, like books or groceries, price reductions seem more significant when they are framed in percentage terms. Twenty percent off that $25 shirt seems like a better deal than $5 off. For high-priced products, however, the opposite is true. For things like laptops or other big-ticket items, framing price reductions in dollar terms (rather than percentage terms) makes them seem like a better offer. The laptop seems like a better deal when it is $200 off rather than 10 percent off.”

Dr. Berger goes on to explain that a good rule to follow is that if the product’s price is less than $100, then a percentage discount seems like a better deal. On the other hand, if the price of the product is more than $100, a discount expressed in the number of dollars off is a better way to go.

Full-Priced Items Can Make Other Products Sell Faster

Remember those full-priced items that I mentioned earlier in the post.

The fact that a store sells them can actually help increase the sales of the mid-range items that it sells.

In “Brainfluence: 100 Ways to Persuade and Convince Consumers with Neuromarketing,” Roger Dooley highlights the fact that selling high-end items increases the likelihood that people will buy products that are considered the next best option.

As Dooley points out, “A Standford University experiment had a group of consumers choose between two cameras, one more full-featured than the other. A second group chose from a selection of three cameras, which had the other two cameras plus one even higher-end model.”

“The first group split their purchase about 50/50 between the two models,” writes Dooley. “But, in the second group, fewer of the cheapest unit sold while more of the second camera sold. Adding the very expensive model made the second camera look like a reasonable compromise.”

Therefore, adding high-end items that sell at full-price can be a good choice for retailers. If the full-price items sell… great. But, if not, they might help increase the sales of the mid-level products sold at the retail store.

Keep in mind, this only works if customers see all the options available to them.

Therefore, it is not surprising that in many brick-and-mortar retail stores, people have to walk past the really high-priced items to get to the other options available to them. This makes the other items seem like a bargain in comparison.

A similar thing could be done on a website by listing other options available when customers search for specific products. The great part of an online store is that retailers can easily do A/B tests to see what website design converts the best.

Final Thoughts

In his book, Dr. Berger explains how the price of products and services influence sales. His book includes an explanation of Prospect Theory and how it can be used to explain why the store that sells a product at the lowest price doesn’t always sell it at a higher rate than other retailers in the area.

Roger Dooley’s book also highlights how price can influence sales in several different ways.

Both books offer lessons that retailers can use both in their brick-and-mortar stores and online.

In the end, it is important to keep in mind that people don’t always act the way that we would predict that they would.

Therefore, we need to test different options in an effort to find the underlying reasons why people do or do not buy products.

This will allow retailers to modify the shopping environment in an effort to increase the number of conversions and ultimately improve the bottom line.

Photo credit: William Murphy 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: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Your Online Content Might Reach More People Than You Think

Photo credit: magicatwork on Flickr.Digital marketers spend a lot of time assessing the effectiveness of their online content by looking at things that can be tracked and measured  (e.g., clicks, likes, shares, comments, etc.)

However, if we only pay attention to online metrics, we are most likely underestimating the reach and efficacy of our marketing messages.

This is due, in part, to the fact that we still “live” most of our lives offline.

Therefore, marketers really need to find additional ways to measure the success of our marketing activities.

However, because a lot marketers still create content for branding purposes, sometimes it is difficult to accurately judge the effectiveness of an individual piece of creative at all, because the influence of branding messages need to be evaluated over a longer period of time.  (This is something that Bob Hoffman, CEO of the Type A Group, pointed out in Episode 413 of The BeanCast Marketing Podcast.)

Most Word of Mouth Happens Offline

In his book, titled “Contagious: Why Things Catch On,” Dr. Jonah Berger, professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, points out that most word of mouth happens offline.

According to Dr. Berger, most people tend to think that around 50 percent of word of mouth happens online.

However, most people are wrong.

“The actual number is 7 percent. Not 47 percent, not 27 percent, but 7 percent,” writes Dr. Berger. “Research by the Keller Fay Group finds that only 7 percent of word of mouth happens online.”

Dr. Berger goes on to point out that even though we spend a lot of time sharing online, we spend more time offline and offline conversations are rarely documented.

Furthermore, he points out that while online conversations could potentially reach a lot more people, many of these potential recipients don’t actually see every online post.

What Gets Shared Online Is Also Shared Offline and Vice Versa

If the content that we create is compelling enough, people will share it.

The problem is, people share content the way that they want to.

That means that after you post something online it might get shared by people online.

However, a person who sees your content on one social networking site might share it on another social networking site.

Or, they might call people over to their computer or smartphone and say, “Hey, look at this.”

They might also just mention it in passing when talking to friends, family, or coworkers in their day-to-day conversations.

And, as other experts have pointed out, what is shared online could potentially reach the right person with the ability to spread the message through other more traditional media outlets.

For example, back in 2012, Tom Webster highlighted the fact that 80 percent of people claimed to have received information from Twitter because it was relayed to them in other media (e.g., television, radio, other websites, etc.) Even back then, 44 percent said that this happened almost every day.

I would guess that both of these numbers are higher today, given the fact that both of the current presidential candidates know that when they post something on Twitter there is a good chance that what they post will be cited in the evening news or in other media outlets.

While most businesses don’t get the attention that presidential candidates do, their posts still have a chance of being shared in many ways once it is posted online for everyone to see.

Final Thoughts

As the saying goes, “What gets measured gets done.”

Since business leaders often need to justify their budgets, it might be more accurate to say, “What gets measured gets funded.”

Because there are so many ways to measure the effectiveness of the content that we post online, measurement has become a very important part of the content creation process.

And, the good thing is that some very smart people are constantly working on ways to improve the accuracy of the analytics that marketers use each and every day.

However, as I have tried to point out in this post, we still have a long way to go, particularly when examining how content is shared.

It is therefore often necessary to find alternative ways to measure how effective your content is in accomplishing the desired goal in order to justify creating it in the first place.

That said, in some cases it might never be possible to measure all the ways that your content influences your bottom line even when there are some analytics to help guide you along the way.

That is, unless you stop creating content altogether and measure the decrease in sales over time.

The problem with this is that it probably will allow your competitors to grab the attention of your potential customers.

Therefore, this is clearly not the best solution.

Instead, the best solution is often to measure what we can, but realize that our content might be influencing sales in immeasurable ways.

Photo credit: magicatwork 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: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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HubSpot Training Teaches That There’s More to Email Marketing Than Just Clicking Send

Photo credit: Kyle James on Flickr.If you are like me, your email inbox is filled with so many emails that every once in a while you need to set aside some time to the hit the delete button without even bothering to read most of them.

Given all the competition for a person’s attention, it would be easy to think that email marketing is a waste of time.

However, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

As I pointed out in a post last October, a study from Econsultancy found that email marketing was rated as providing good or excellent ROI by agency marketers more often than any other channel, and only organic search was rated as providing good or excellent ROI by more client-side marketers.

However, when Econsultancy asked companies to rate the overall performance of their email marketing campaigns, most said they performed good (37%) or average (44%). In fact, only 4% rated the performance of their email marketing campaigns as excellent.

Clearly there is room for improvement.

HubSpot’s Email Marketing Certification

Although I have been involved in email marketing campaigns in the past, email marketing wasn’t really my specialty.

However, given the fact that 2.6 billion consumers worldwide use email, I understand its importance, particularly for those businesses that are trying to reach consumers on their smartphones.

Therefore, when HubSpot created their Email Marketing Certification, I jumped at the chance to take advantage of the free training that they were offering.

And, I am glad that I did.

According to the HubSpot website, “This advanced email marketing training course will teach you how lifecycle marketing, segmentation, email design, deliverability, analytics and optimization come together to create an email marketing strategy that grows your business, and your career.”

Throughout the training, I was constantly reminded of the fact that marketers today have access to a lot of data that can be used to improve the way that they communicate with customers and prospects.

However, data without the training to know what it is telling you is pretty much worthless.

This certification helps you gain valuable insight from the data and provides you with the background to start creating email marketing campaigns that your current and potential customers will actually open.

Final Thoughts

If done correctly, email marketing can be a very valuable way to communicate with consumers.

In fact, many companies report that email marketing is one of the most effective tools that they have.

However, many companies also think that there is room for improvement.

This is why I jumped at the chance to complete the email marketing certification training that HubSpot offers via the HubSpot Academy.

Overall, I found the email marketing training to be well worth my time and effort.

I should point out that I wasn’t paid to write this and I am not a HubSpot employee or customer.

However, I am a fan of the company and the free information, advice, and training that they offer.

I also believe that when a company does something good for others, people should be made aware of it.

I also want to point out that this wasn’t the first HubSpot certification that I have earned and it definitely won’t be the last.

For more information about the free marketing and sales training that they provide, visit academy.hubspot.com.

Photo credit: Kyle James 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: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Instagram Stories Might Be Good for Snapchat and Great for Marketers

Photo credit: Patrik Nygren on Flickr.As I pointed out in a post last month, Snapchat has been experiencing healthy growth and has become a major player in the competition to get the most users and, ultimately, more marketing dollars invested in the app.

However, after Instagram copied some of the features that make Snapchat unique, many people started to wonder if Snapchat will survive.

If you look at the facts, I think Snapchat should be able to weather the storm.

In fact, as I explain in this post, there is the possibility that Instagram Stories might actually be a good thing for Snapchat.

Either way, the competition between Instagram and Snapchat is great news for marketers.

The Argument for Instagram Stories

Almost immediately after it was introduced, marketers started to have success with Instagram Stories. That is, if you define success as the number of views that content receives.

As reported in an Adweek article, brands were getting more views on Instagram Stories on the very first day than they were ever able to get on Snapchat.

“Nike, for example, generated 800,000 views in 24 hours for an Instagram Story that it posted on Tuesday, the first day the feature was available,” reports Garett Sloane in the Adweek article. “On Snapchat, Nike’s best video got 66,000 views, according to Nike and its social media agency Laundry Service.”

This is leading some experts to predict the downfall of Snapchat.

For example, Adam Padilla, CEO of the creative branding agency BrandFire, thinks that the end is near for Snapchat because Instagram has more users to begin with, more high-profile users, and it has a better user interface. He also thinks that there can only be one “now” app. And, of yeah, the Zuckerberg factor also is in play.

Other people think that Instagram Stories won’t destroy Snapchat.

In a TechCrunch article, Josh Constine makes a good argument that Instagram is not necessarily trying to win over current Snapchat users, but prevent or hinder Snapchat from growing any further.

The Argument for Snapchat

It has only been two weeks and no one knows for sure what will happen in the future.

However, Yahoo! Finance is reporting that Instagram Stories hasn’t hurt Snapchat’s engagement levels… yet.

In an article on the Yahoo! Finance website, an App Annie spokesperson is quoted as saying, “Instagram Stories has not made a measurable impact on engagement since the feature launched.” (This was based on data gather during the first seven days after Instagram Stories was first introduced.)

App Annie’s spokesperson thinks that this is because many people use both Instagram and Snapchat.

I think that many of the arguments made so far, both for Snapchat and Instagram, could be good for the long-term growth and success of Snapchat.

As many people have pointed out, it is difficult to get people to find you on Snapchat. Therefore, many users have taken to other social networking sites to promote their Snapchat usernames. In fact, this is what many people used Instagram Stories for shortly after it was first introduced.

Given the fact that there are so many people using Instagram, the addition of Instagram Stories might actually increase the number people using Snapchat, just because they now have a way to find interesting people on the Snapchat app.

On the other hand, the fact that it is difficult to find usernames unless given directly to a potential follower could continue to work in Snapchat’s favor, particularly for younger users who want a place to post where their parents won’t find it.

Turning to adults, another thing Instagram Stories might have done is explain what Snapchat is used for.

Before Instagram Stories, Snapchat was starting to grow the number of adults who use the site.

However, one of the hurdles Snapchat had to overcome was getting adults to understand how and why to use the app.

Now many adults get it and some might start to use Snapchat in an effort to try the other features the app provides.

In addition to the Snapchat lenses and geofilters that have become a part of pop culture, Snapchat also has gamification elements that Instagram currently doesn’t have, including the Snapchat score, emojis, and trophies.

These are very important to some Snapchat users.

In fact, a friend who happens to be a millennial pointed out that this is one of the key reasons why her younger sister uses Snapchat in the first place.

Final Thoughts

As experts have pointed out, Instagram offers many things that Snapchat doesn’t, including more users, more high-profile users, and a user interface that is easier to use. Instagram also makes it easier for users to find other people to follow. This makes it easier for brands to get followers and, therefore, get their content in front of potential customers.

On the other hand, Snapchat will probably continue to be a place where teenagers and young adults go to share content that they don’t want their parents to see.

That said, there is a possibility that more adults will continue to try the Snapchat app and use it for its other features.

Since there is an overlap in users and only a finite amount of time in the day, Instagram Stories might decrease the amount of time spent in the Snapchat app. However, it doesn’t look like that is happening so far. Then again, it might be too early to predict the long-term usage patterns within each of the apps.

For marketers, Instagram will likely be the app that they use to reach a larger audience, while Snapchat might be the place to reach a more targeted audience, particularly for brands that want to reach younger consumers.

The real question for marketers is what app will give them a better return on their investment.

Because there are so many factors to consider, it is probably too early for brands to decide which app is the best place to invest in.

The best advice for brands is to keep an eye on both apps and experiment, test, and optimize the content used in both apps. Then allocate more resources to the app that gives the brand the best results.

Having two popular apps that can potentially reach a brand’s target audience in a slightly different way is a good problem for marketers to have.

Photo credit: Patrik Nygren 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: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Macy’s Is Moving Toward the Future of Retail With RFID and Artificial Intelligence

Photo credit: Warren B. on Flickr.Macy’s is once again leading the charge into the future of retail.

Earlier this year, Macy’s announced that it was expanding its use of item-level RFID technology to increase the accuracy of its inventory management system, thus making it easier for the retailer to sell more items both in its brick-and-mortar stores and online.

Recently, Macy’s announced that it is also experimenting with Artificial Intelligence (AI) in an online mobile web tool.

At first glance, these two initiatives seem unrelated.

However, if you look at them more closely, Macy’s is laying the groundwork for something much bigger.

Using AI to Help Choose the Right Outfit

Several news articles explain how Macy’s has started experimenting with AI.

While the retailer most likely has a long-term vision, it looks like the it is starting out with few expectations and is willing to let customers guide their future decisions.

As an article in the Washington Post points out, “Macy’s announced Wednesday that it has teamed up with IBM Watson to use artificial intelligence as a customer service tool in 10 of its stores.  The retailer dubbed the pilot program “Macy’s On Call,” and it will allow customers to type in questions on their phones and receive answers. Unlike some chatbots that can only regurgitate preprogrammed responses based on keywords, IBM Watson will learn over time to give better answers that are customized to individual stores.”

The article states that the retailer is expecting customers to ask where specific merchandise is located, where to find the restrooms, and other similar questions.

However, customers inevitably will ask tougher questions than that.

And, if the AI works as some people hope, the app will give the retailer a way to offer customers a recommendation engine that will help them make purchase decisions and offer additional product suggestions in the same way that Amazon already does.

In fact, other retailers have already started to use AI in this way.

“Macy’s is not the only retailer that is experimenting with some use of artificial intelligence,” Sarah Halzack points out in the Washington Post article. “IBM Watson has already dabbled in using its tools to power other shopping experiences such as a collaboration with outdoor apparel brand North Face on a website that helps shoppers find the right jacket. Users can type in natural-language answers to a host of questions, including “Where and when will you be using this jacket?” and “What activity will you be doing?” Based on the customer’s answers, IBM Watson will serve up some suggested outerwear.”

The Importance of an Accurate Inventory Management System

As I mentioned earlier, in January Macy’s announced its “Pick to the Last Unit” program for fulfillment of customer purchases.

This initiative uses item-level RFID technology to ensure that the retailer’s inventory is extremely accurate.

While the store hasn’t suggested that the new AI fueled “Macy’s on Call” mobile web tool will be tied to the inventory management system, this would be the logical next step.

If combined, sometime in the not so distant future when a customer asks to receive style advice using the new mobile web tool, he or she would not only receive recommendations based on the items that the retailer has for sale, but would also get information about whether or not the products are available at a particular location, at a nearby Macy’s, or if they are only available online.

These are things that sales associates can usually provide. However, when this information is provided to customers on their smartphone, it could save them a lot of time and lead to increased customer satisfaction and more sales.

And, given the fact that the mobile web tool could be used anywhere, this could be another way for Macy’s to capture sales that might end up going to a competitor.

Again, as far as I know, Macy’s hasn’t announced that the mobile web tool will be able to provide this sort of information. However, they already do offer customers the option to buy some items online or in app, and pick up them up in store.

While integrating the inventory management system with the AI mobile web tool might not seem like a big deal, I think a seemless integration of the possible AI recommendations and the ability to tell customers exactly where to find the items it recommends is extremely important.

Hopefully, this is something that Macy’s is planning. I also hope other retailers try similar things.

AI Won’t Replace the Store Associate

Some people wonder why Macy’s is investing in AI when they could have their store associates answer these questions.

And, the reality is that they already do.

However, as studies have shown, many people would prefer to look the information up on their smartphone rather than interact with a sales associate.

This doesn’t mean that the smartphone will replace all store associates, as some people still prefer to have a one-on-one interaction with a real human being. (Note: There is a grocery store in Sweden that has eliminated the need for customer service staff. However, this probably won’t be a common practice for the foreseeable future.)

Furthermore, having sales staff on the sales floor not only helps the store provide better customer service, but they also help decrease theft at the store.

That said, the real reason that Macy’s is experimenting with AI probably has to do with choice.

As Jeff Hasen, founder of Gotta Mobilize, often points out, giving customers the ability to shop and find information in the way that they want to is extremely important.

Final Thoughts

AI won’t replace the store associate.

What it will do is provide customers who want to find information on their smartphones the ability to do so.

And, choice is good.

Therefore, Macy’s is smart to experiment with AI.

In the beginning, there is a good chance that it will be a little bit clunky. However, if the AI learns as experts say it will, the app will get better and more useful as time goes on.

As I also pointed out, the fact that Macy’s has already improved the accuracy of its inventory management system is important.

After all, what good are product recommendations if customer are disappointed each time they go to the specific department to find the item that was suggested only to find that it is out of stock.

Keep in mind, although several articles have suggested it, it is not clear if Macy’s plans to use AI in the specific way that I am suggesting. However, other retailers have started to experiment with AI in this way, and it would be the logical next step in an effort to compete with competitors both large and small, including Amazon.

If you look at it closely, Macy’s is slowly adding new uses of technology in an effort to help improve the shopping experience it offers its customers.

Each new improvement that the retailer makes brings us closer to a retail shopping experience that would have been considered science fiction only a few years ago.

Photo credit: Warren B. 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: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Businesses Are Realizing That Snapchat Isn’t Going to Disappear Anytime Soon

Photo credit: Marco Verch on Flickr.For a while now, marketers have debated about whether or not it is a good idea to use Snapchat to market a brand’s products or services.

However, in recent months, the app that is known for its disappearing content seems to have more vocal fans than detractors.

At the very least, more brands are experimenting with it.

The obvious reason for this is the fact that more and more people have started using the app.

In fact, according to a post on the comScore blog written by Adam Lella, “Snapchat isn’t just for teens and college-age adults anymore. While still wildly popular among these younger demographic segments, the ephemeral photo and video sharing app is also rapidly growing its user base among older Millennials (Age 25-34) and those 35 years-and-older. Three years ago, Snapchat’s app was only being used by 5% of smartphone users age 25-34 and 2% of users age 35+, according to comScore Mobile Metrix. Today its penetration among these two age demos is an impressive 38% and 14%, respectively.”

What is maybe more impressive is the fact that 69% of smartphone users age 18-24 use Snapchat.

“Snapchat’s growth has likely been fueled by the introduction of several popular product features over the past few years, which amplified its already powerful network effects,” the author of the comScore post explains. “Most notable among those new product features was the launch of “Stories”, which allows a user’s “snaps” (i.e. photos or videos) to be viewed in a chronological order by their friends an unlimited number of times in a 24-hour period. The Stories feed also includes coverage of various live events or places, in which some of the best snaps from users engaging with that showcased event are curated into one story available to all users. And more recently, Snapchat began regularly adding innovative ways to express oneself, such as “Lenses,” the camera’s creative filter options which make simple photos and videos more fun and entertaining.”

Knowing this, many marketers have started looking for ways to leverage the new Snapchat features to reach all of the customers and potential customers who use the app.

For businesses that are thinking about using Snapchat, here are a few things to consider.

Snapchat Lenses and Geofilters

As Adam Lella pointed out in the comScore post, the fact that Snapchat gives users the option to make their content more fun by providing lenses and geofilters has helped fuel the growth of the app.

While similar, there is a slight difference between a Snapchat lens and a geofilter.

Lenses give users the ability to add real-time special effects and sounds to the user’s Snaps.

By now, you have probably seen the rainbows coming out of a person’s mouth or a person’s face morphed into a zombie. (President Obama used the zombie Snapchat lens in his 2016 White House correspondent’s dinner video.)

Several large brands have also used sponsored lenses to increase awareness of their products or services.

In fact, earlier this year, Taco Bell launched a sponsored lens to celebrate Cinco de Mayo that resulted in 224 million views in one day. According to Adweek, this “shattered a Snapchat record.”

According to the New York Times, a Snapchat lens like this could cost between $450,000 to $750,000. This puts sponsoring a lens out of reach for many businesses.

However, that doesn’t mean that smaller brands can’t get in on the fun.

Snapchat also has geofilters that businesses can purchase for considerably less.

Geofilters are basically digital graphics that can be put over the user’s Snaps to make the current photos or videos more interesting.

In addition to the free community geofilters and the filters that can add various stats like time, temperature, or the speed that a person is going, Snapchat also offers on-demand geofilters that can be purchased by businesses or even users themselves.

The Personal Geofilter can be used to promote weddings, parties, birthdays, graduations, or just about any other event that is tied to a physical location.

A Business Geofilter can be used to help promote sales or any other event that is taking place at the business.

According to a LA Times article, these geofilters can be purchased for as little as $5 depending on when and how large of an area you want to include.

This inexpensive price makes it possible for local bars and restaurants to experiment a little.

Snapchat Stories

As mentioned in the comScore article, the other feature that has helped fuel Snapchat’s growth is the introduction of Snapchat Stories.

Again, the Snapchat Stories feature lets friends view a user’s Snaps an unlimited number of times within a 24-hour period.

A lot of brands are using Snapchat Stories to give users a behind the scenes look at the business, offer an all-access view of an event, offer surprise coupons and discounts, or create an interesting story that connects with customers.

For example, Red Bull often lets influencers take over their account in order to let users see what it is like to live and compete in some of the extreme sports that fit the brand’s image.

Other brands like Express are using Snapchat to highlight some of the items that they have for sale and then ask for engagement with the brand. They then acknowledging those who do respond, which is a great way to make customers feel valued.

These are just a few suggestions. There are many different case studies to be found on the Internet.

Also, you need to understand that any brand can create Snapchat Stories, and these shouldn’t be confused with the content provided on Snapchat Discover.

Not Everyone Is a Fan of Snapchat

I started this post off by mentioning that there has been a debate going on about whether or not brands should invest in Snapchat.

And, while a lot of brands have started to at least experiment with Snapchat, others think that it is a waste of time. These people often list measurement issues among their largest concerns.

In a Forbes article, Mark Fidelman explains the concerns that he has with Snapchat.

Many of his complaints are similar to others I’ve heard before.

However, the one point that he makes that really hits home with me is the fact that when a person sees your content on Snapchat, there is no way to send them to your website or blog using a clickable link. This not only makes it difficult to drive sales, it also makes it difficult to attribute a conversion to Snapchat. And, the fact that there aren’t any links from the app means that your efforts won’t help with SEO at all.

Final Thoughts

There are definitely issues that make it difficult for some businesses to justify investing in Snapchat to market their products or services.

However, given the fact that a lot of people have started using the app, it might make sense to invest at least a part of your marketing spend on the app.

If done right, using Snapchat can be a fun way to connect with your current and potential customers.

In my opinion, this is an app that I would keep an eye on and try a few things, but it is not a place that I would invest a lot of time in. At least not now.

That said, I also don’t think that Snapchat is going disappear anytime soon.

It is just somewhat difficult for businesses to use Snapchat to market their products and services. And, it’s even more difficult to measure the results of these efforts.

This, however, might be part of the reason why so many people have started using Snapchat.

Photo credit: Marco Verch 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: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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A Few Ways to Use Pokémon Go, Ingress, and Other AR Games to Promote Your Business

Photo credit: Eduardo Woo on Flickr.By now, you have probably heard about the new location-based augmented reality (AR) game from Niantic.

According to USA Today, “The mobile game Pokémon Go topped 15 million downloads on Apple’s App Store and Google Play, according to estimates from research firm SensorTower.”

“Pokémon Go is also among the most heavily used apps on a daily basis since its launch,” the article continues. “According to iOS usage data from Monday, users spent an average of 33 minutes a day playing the game. By comparison, the average iOS user spent 22 minutes on Facebook and 18 minutes on Snapchat.”

The article also points out that according to data from SurveyMonkey, as of July 11, Pokémon Go has 21 million daily active users in the United States alone.

As the game expands to other countries, the numbers of Pokémon Go players should continue to skyrocket.

With this in mind, businesses might be looking for ways to cash-in on the Pokémon Go craze.

For those businesses, here are a few suggestions.

Take Advantage of the Increased Foot Traffic

As several business news sites have pointed out, Pokémon Go is a location-based game that will drive potential customers to local businesses.

As a Forbes article suggests, business owners should check out the game to see if their business doubles as a Pokémon gym or Pokéstop.

If so, it could create a Pokémon-inspired drink or dish or offer discounts to customers who are playing Pokémon Go.

Knowing this, some businesses might be wondering how they can be included in the game.

At this time, it appears that a business can’t request to become a Pokéstop or Pokémon gym.

This is because they are currently being created based on data collected from Niantic’s other popular augmented reality game, Ingress. (Note: A Wall Street Journal article mentioned that the idea of a business paying to become a Pokéstop or Pokémon gym to increase foot traffic will be an option in the future.)

Those of you who are familiar with Ingress know that many of the portals used to in the game are actually places submitted by users and approved by Niantic. In order to be approved, the places needed to fit a specific set of criteria. In particular, Niantic was looking for locations with a cool story, places with a historical significance or educational value, cool pieces of art or architecture, hidden gems or hyper-local spots of interest to the community, public libraries, and public places of worship.

As Derek Walter points out in a post on Greenbot.com, you can use the Ingress Intel Map to help locate Ingress portals, Pokéstops, and Pokémon gyms.

If your business is lucky enough to have a Pokéstop nearby, you can help get increased foot traffic by purchasing an in-game item call a “Lure Module”. This will help attract Pokémon to the Pokéstop. And, where there are Pokémon, the Pokémon Trainers (i.e., potential customers) will inevitably go.

A recent Bloomberg article pointed out that L’inizio’s Pizza Bar in Queens was one of the first businesses to give it a try.

“Food and drink sales spiked by about 30 percent compared with a typical weekend, according to pizzeria manager Sean Benedetti,” the article reports. “It was part luck—the game chooses which public locations to imbue with special significance in its virtual world—but there was also savvy strategy. Benedetti, 29, spent about $10 on “Lure Modules,” an in-game purchase that attracts Pokémon to a specified location. Players soon picked up on the fact that L’inizio’s was well worth visiting. “People are coming out of the woodwork because of this game,” he said.”

The Bloomberg article also points out that while the quest to find Pokémon might increase foot traffic, it doesn’t always translate into increased sales.

However, I would guess that the locations that haven’t seen an increase in sales might benefit by offering a special or discount to entice people to become paying customers.

Take Part in Game-Related Events

Ingress currently has a series of free events that allow players to gather and compete with other local and visiting players.

While I am not sure if it is possible to become an official sponsor of these events, if your business is located near one, it would be a smart idea to offer discounts to players who would need to refuel along the way.

There hasn’t been any mention of similar Pokémon Go events. However, given the immediate popularity of the game I would be willing to bet that there will be some in the near future.

Become Part of the Game

Actually becoming part of the game is a possibility.

Anyone who has played Ingress is familiar with the sponsored items that enhance in-game play.

These include the AXA Shield (sponsored by AXA—the French multinational insurance firm,) the SoftBank Ultra Link (sponsored by SoftBank Group Corp.,) the MUFG Capsule (sponsored by Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group,) and the Lawson Power Cube (sponsored by Lawson, Inc.)

While experts are already warning that adding too much advertising could ruin the in-game experience in Pokémon Go, sponsorships and other in-game advertising are a possibility. However, sponsorships are probably going to cost more than many businesses have in their budget, particularly if Pokémon Go continues to grow in popularity.

Either way, businesses should probably keep an eye open for sponsorships and other in-game advertising opportunities.

Final Thoughts

I definitely see the possibilities that are created by Pokémon Go, particularly because of its appeal to a wide range of people.

The suggestions that I included in this post are just some of the things that businesses can do to leverage the interest that people have shown in Pokémon Go.

If the game has staying power, it will not only be good news for Niantic and The Pokémon Company, but it will also be good news for companies that plan to release other AR games in the future.

Furthermore, it will also be another way for business owners to use mobile phones to get new and existing customers to visit their businesses.

That’s a win-win-win.

Now, I need to go find me some Pokémon.

Photo credit: Eduardo Woo 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: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Smart Marketers Know When to Zig While Others Zag (and Vice Versa)

Photo credit: N i c o l a on Flickr.

A 2013 Fast Company article has some insight that marketers could benefit from.

Disruptive strategies begin with the courage to zag where others zig,” writes Kaihan Krippendorff. “If your competitors are all starting to turn left, you look right. It is actually not that hard to do. It takes no brilliant foresight. It does not require seeing what others don’t. It simply requires reading the herd. When your competitors all start running in one direction, you just need to ask, “What if I ran in a different direction?””

While the article is talking about focusing on different product attributes to get more customers, this advice could easily be transferred into other areas of business.

In particular, I think that marketers could benefit by thinking this way when determining where to invest their marketing and communications budgets.

As I mentioned in the last post, using the 70|20|10 approach to determine where brands should invest their marketing and communications spend is a great start.

This approach helps brands plan for the future, while also focusing on the things that make them successful today.

As you can guess, investing in new media channels before others do can be very beneficial.

However, a recent Advertising Age article points out that sometimes more traditional forms of media can also be a smart move for a brand, for many of the same reasons that brands choose to try new things.

And, this can be summed up with two words: less competition.

The Value of Getting There First

With any new media channel, there are some brands that will jump on board right away hoping that they will be able to reach consumers before other brands figure it out.

There is a risk involved, particularly if users don’t show up.

Brands could also fail if the users who do show up aren’t in the brand’s target market.

However, because initially costs are low, there can be a high payoff by getting there first.

As the media channel matures and gets accepted by more users, it is inevitable that other brands will start to make an investment in the channel.

This is okay as long as the number of users continues to grow at a faster rate than the number of brands investing in the channel.

However, there usually comes a point when the number of brands investing in the media channel continues to grow, but the increases in the number of users slows down.

Because there is an increased competition to reach a finite number of eyeballs, the costs to advertise on the channel will increase, and thus, decrease the return on investment (ROI).

This concept can even be applied to a brand’s content marketing efforts, where some of the largest investment is in the time spent creating the content. For an example of this, you just have to look what Mark Schaeffer calls “content shock”.

Basically, he pointed out that the supply of content (blog posts) continues to increase, but the demand remains virtually unchanged. This has led to decreased engagement on blogs.

That doesn’t mean that using these new ways to reach consumers are a bad investment, they just tend to get less effective as the competition grows.

Furthermore, this doesn’t necessarily mean that brands should back away from these new media channels or alternative ways to reach consumers as soon as the competition increases.

However, brands do need to measure the effectiveness of each channel and adjust accordingly. The decision to move forward or pivot will need to be made on a case-by-case basis.

The Value of Using Old Media

This brings me to the Advertising Age article mentioned earlier.

The article highlights a study from Nielsen Catalina that was presented at the Advertising Research Foundation Audience Measurement 2016 Conference in New York.

Without getting into all the specifics, Nielsen Catalina found that at least among the consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies that were included in the study, magazines and television outperformed some of the new media options available to advertisers in some of the analyses.

As the author of the article points out, “The study only covers CPG, and deeper analysis suggests media effectiveness may differ for other categories, because it even differs within CPG categories and brands. Big, high-market-share brands purchased frequently had the highest returns on media spending. Brands with smaller market shares or purchased infrequently had lower returns.”

Nevertheless, brands should be exploring all options available to them.

“Much of the money that’s been chasing digital video and driving up its CPMs has been driven by the search to find millennial and Gen Z audiences that have gotten harder to reach with conventional TV or magazines,” the author of the article writes. “But regardless of the demographics, the Nielsen Catalina data suggest there’s plenty of sales impact to be had from older media.”

Note: This analysis appears to only focus on paid media. Digital marketing often includes earned, owned, and shared media. The point that I am making here is that we shouldn’t forget to examine some of the more traditional media options available, particularly when the competition abandons them.

Final Thoughts

The 70|20|10 approach is great because it encourages brands to invest some of their marketing and communications spend on trying new things.

If a brand is able to try new things early enough, it can learn a lot about what works and reach potential customers even before the competition arrives.

However, while the brands that get there first have a slight advantage, even their results will decrease as the amount of competition increases.

It is therefore important to look at the overall picture and evaluate what works and invest in marketing channels that will provide the best return on investment.

Sometimes, this means looking at some of the more traditional media channels that other brands have abandoned.

In other words, sometimes it pays to zig while others zag, and vice versa.

Photo credit: N i c o l a 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: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Note to Marketers: Holidays Help Connect Us to Others… and Every Day Is a Holiday

Photo credit: Qfamily on Flickr.The idea of creating a marketing campaign that is focused on a holiday is nothing new.

Businesses have been doing this for years.

They do it because it works.

Part of the reason why it works is because people often want to feel a connection to the world around them, and holidays tap into that need.

In a 2013 post on the Everyday Sociology Blog, Dr. Karen Sternheimer, sociologist at the University of Southern California, points out that the rituals associated with the end-of-year holiday season help us feel connected to the rest of society.

As she writes, “Sociologist Emile Durkheim saw rituals as a form of social glue, holding societies together. Shared experiences, like religious and secular celebrations may help create a feeling of commonality. As sociologist Diana Kendall discusses in her book Framing Class, during the holidays media coverage tends to highlight giving to the less fortunate more than other times of year. She found that news stories tend to be more sympathetic and less critical of the poor, highlighting their humanity and stressing our common bonds.”

“Whether the rituals are gift giving, religious worship, or other cultural practices, they serve to unite us with the people we celebrate them with,” she continues. “Wishing strangers “Happy Holidays,” “Merry Christmas,” or “Happy New Year,” extends these bonds beyond our immediate social group.”

Every Day Is a Holiday

While Dr. Sternheimer was talking about the end-of-year holiday season, this enhanced feeling of connection to others as a result of celebrating holidays can happen during any time of the year.

And, marketers are in luck, as there are many reasons to celebrate all year long.

In fact, as you will find with a quick Google search, every day is a holiday.

Sure, you might think that many of these obscure holidays seem hokey or just plain made up. And, it’s okay to think that because many of them are.

In fact, many of these holidays were made up by the man who founded the Foodimentary website.

However, people often celebrate these made-up holidays.

Peeps Aren’t Just for Easter

In an effort to expand their sales beyond the Easter season, Peeps, the brand of marshmallow candies that is over six decades old, introduced Peeps Minis with a marketing campaign that attempted to link the brand to some of the more quirky and obscure holidays.

According to a 2014 New York Times article, “Todd Condie, a copywriter with the Terri & Sandy Solution, said the concept for the campaign sprang from the idea that Peeps were associated with special occasions.”

“What we kept coming back to was that what really defined Peeps as a product was the fact that it was associated with special times, so we tried to figure out what made every day special,” Mr. Condie is quoted as saying in the article. “And it set us off into this world of weird, quirky holidays that really fit the quirky nature of the Peeps brand.”

Fast forward two years and it looks like Peeps Minis did not go over so well.

However, if you visit their Twitter page or any of their other social media accounts, you will notice that the people in charge of marketing Peeps haven’t abandoned the idea of using holidays to sell their tasty treats.

Using Holidays to Fuel Your Social Media Marketing Campaigns

Given the fact that holidays tend to make us feel more connected to each other, it makes sense that brands use holidays in their social media marketing campaigns, as social media is all about connecting and sharing with others.

Therefore, it’s not surprising that in the Market Motive/Simplilearn Advanced Social Media Certification Training, Jennifer Cario, President of SugarSpun Marketing and Author of Pinterest Marketing: An Hour a Day, suggests incorporating holidays into a business’s content mix to catch the attention of current and potential customers.

As she states, “Do you have some type of holiday tie-in? If you sell GPSs, can you do something around Columbus Day that’s got some humor to it? Do you want to push your specific candy as the perfect topper on National Ice Cream Day? There are legions of websites out there that list every single sub-holiday that exists.”

“National Tweed Day and, again, National Ice Cream Day, and Share a Hug Day,” she continues. “There’s millions of those, and there’s the opportunity to produce content around all of them. Then to creatively use some promotion and some viralized concepts and feeding things out to influencers to get people talking just based off the excuse of what’s basically a made up holiday.”

“But, again, if it gets people interested, and it catches their attention, it can be a fun way to put some content together,” says Cario.

Final Thoughts

As Dr. Karen Sternheimer pointed out, the rituals associated with holidays unite us with others and extend bonds beyond our immediate social groups.

This is something that brands have taken advantage of when creating marketing and advertising campaigns over the years.

As experts have pointed out, marketers don’t need to wait until the next big holiday to tap into the positive feelings associated with the major holidays sprinkled throughout the year, because every day is a holiday.

In fact, there is a holiday for just about everything.

While some of the holidays seem a bit hokey or contrived, that’s okay.

If celebrating the holiday fits the brand’s image, creating content built around the holiday can still create the sense of unity.

This will help connect the brand with current and potential and customers in a light-hearted way that will likely be a welcome distraction given some of the more heavy and somber issues that people need to deal with in their everyday lives.

Photo credit: Qfamily 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: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Don’t Worry, They’re Just Words: Lost in Translation

Communication is often difficult enough when we are all speaking the same language.

It becomes even more difficult when your target audience is more comfortable using a different language.

A report released by the Center for Immigration Studies pointed out that one in five U.S. residents now speak a language other than English at home. Furthermore, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that this percentage is much higher in several major metropolitan areas in the United States. In fact, in Los Angeles and Miami, over half of the population 5 and older speak a language other than English at home.

The Washington Times article that talks about the overall percentage of U.S. residents who now speak a different language at home points out that English might be spoken some of the time.

According to the article, “Although many of those are bilingual, more than 25 million residents say they speak English at levels they would rate as less than “very well,” according to the report, which is based on the latest Census Bureau figures.”

This can be a problem for communications professionals who are trying to inform and influence customers and prospects about a brand’s products or services.

In many cases, in order to reach some of their potential customers, the brand’s messaging will need to be translated from English into another language.

In some cases, specific ad campaigns will need to be created to appeal to customers of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

However, as studies have shown, when translating from one language to another, care needs to be taken as even the structure of another language can change the way the message is received, and thus impact its effectiveness.

Languages Force Us to Think Differently

As a 2010 New York Times article explains, “SINCE THERE IS NO EVIDENCE that any language forbids its speakers to think anything, we must look in an entirely different direction to discover how our mother tongue really does shape our experience of the world. Some 50 years ago, the renowned linguist Roman Jakobson pointed out a crucial fact about differences between languages in a pithy maxim: “Languages differ essentially in what they must convey and not in what they may convey.” This maxim offers us the key to unlocking the real force of the mother tongue: if different languages influence our minds in different ways, this is not because of what our language allows us to think but rather because of what it habitually obliges us to think about.”

For example, English requires that we use tenses, thus communicating whether an event happened in the past, present, or future. In comparison, Chinese does not force people to think about when something happened because the same verb is used to describe an event that takes place in the past, the present, or the future.

As the article goes on to point out, “Again, this does not mean that the Chinese are unable to understand the concept of time. But it does mean they are not obliged to think about timing whenever they describe an action.”

On the other hand, English does not force us to conjugate verbs to show the gender of a person who we are talking about each time they are mentioned. However, this is a requirement for people who are speaking in French, German, or Spanish.

It is interesting to note that in many languages, a male or female gender is also assigned to inanimate objects.

Even more interesting is the fact that this influences how people see these objects.

As the New York times article points out, “When speakers were asked to grade various objects on a range of characteristics, Spanish speakers deemed bridges, clocks and violins to have more “manly properties” like strength, but Germans tended to think of them as more slender or elegant. With objects like mountains or chairs, which are “he” in German but “she” in Spanish, the effect was reversed.”

These are just two examples of how language has an effect on the way that people see the world around them.

If you search on Google, you can find many additional examples.

Final Thoughts

Back in 2012, I wrote a few posts about the important role that the words that we choose to use play in communication.

In particular, I pointed out how changing one word can have a huge impact on the message conveyed to the recipient. In some cases, the omission of a word can also completely change the meaning. I also highlighted the fact that social media is often like the telephone game, where the original message changes as it gets passed from person to person.

As I stated in one of the posts, “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,” I continued.

As I pointed out in this post, it gets even more complicated by the fact that various languages force us to think about different things, and therefore change the way that we experience the world.

Therefore, businesses need to understand that even though they may intend to send the same message to potential customers when their communications are translated into different languages, the message won’t necessarily be received in the same way because of subtle differences in the way each language is structured.

In other words, the message can truly be lost in translation.

What follows is a Ted Talk given by behavioral economist Keith Chen. In the talk, he explains how these subtle differences in languages correlate with our willingness to save for the future.

Video credit: TED on YouTube.

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: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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