Friday, November 25, 2011

The View from Black Friday and Cyber Monday

Here it is on Black Friday--the day after Thanksgiving, which traditionally signals the start of the holiday shopping season--and predictions for online buying are optimistic, based on sales to date and on today's buying patterns.

ComScore says November online sales are already higher than last year and it sees a lot of ka-ching for web retailers. PayPal and eBay are seeing strong demand so far. Amazon (above) is ready for a big weekend and holiday season worldwide.

Of course mobile marketing has been in full swing, with special offers, coupons, and contests galore. But tracking via cell phone is also a concern on Black Friday--"Black SpyDay"--and the easy way to avoid being tracked is to turn the mobile off in malls and stores.

Will all this online buying put a dent into store sales? For gadgets, the answer is likely to be yes, mainly because it's so easy to comparison shop and click to buy without crowds and 4 a.m. lines outside for door-buster specials in the mall. Meanwhile, small businesses are hoping that Small Business Saturday draws big interest. And Cyber Monday is still days away. Stay tuned.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

2d Annual Small Business Saturday

American Express started the first Small Business Saturday in 2010 to encourage shoppers to buy from small, local businesses. This year, it's again promoting the day as a way to support small businesses all over the country.

There's a FB page with more than 2 million "likes" where consumers can learn more, pledge to buy from small biz on Saturday, and see who else is supporting the movement (FedEx, dozens of chambers of commerce, and many other corporations and civic groups).

TV, newspapers, blogs, and other media are spreading the word, giving the day more play and encouraging people to buy what they need and want from small, local firms. Wilmington, Delaware even switched its Christmas parade from Black Friday to Small Business Saturday to bring crowds of shoppers past the doors of local businesses. Great idea!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Occupy Branding

GoDaddy reports an avalanche of registrations for domains that begin "Occupy ____." More than 500 sites were registered in recent months with names like "OccupyThanksgiving" (save the turkey) to "OccupyDenver" (aligned with the Occupy Wall Street movement).

Advertising Age wrote about the Occupy movement and how it's affecting marketing here.

The Canadian Marketing Association has a video and thoughts about Occupy and marketing here.

How will the Occupy movement influence marketing in the future? In the short term, "occupy" will be a shorthand term that will pop up all over the place. Beyond 2012, who knows? I hope GoDaddy reports on how many of the "Occupy ___" sites renew their domain registrations in a year, 2 years, 3 years...

Friday, November 18, 2011

Happy Multichannel Holiday?

Shoppers are clicking from home, visiting stores, checking comparison sites and apps, watching YouTube product demos, looking at Facebook pages, signing up for deal-of-the-day messages and subscribing to promo tweets--in short, they're using multiple channels to browse and buy this holiday season. As many as 60 million shoppers will buy or compare prices via mobile on Black Friday alone.

What does all this mean for marketers?
  • Multichannel strategies are a must. More than ever before, consumers demand the flexibility to buy when and where and how they choose. And they vote with their wallets. Marketers who don't make things easy will be left in the dust, and quickly. Be sure Web sites look good on the mobile screen. Think about shipping fees, sometimes a barrier. Walmart is making a start by offering free shipping on electronics over $45, in a bid to attract shoppers accustomed to the Amazon $25+ free shipping deal.
  • Think tech. Consumers are using technology to research products and prices. Marketers better be prepared. The UK's John Lewis chain offers free WiFi so in-store shoppers can go online and check that its prices are the lowest. Lower price somewhere else? John Lewis will match, a good way to keep shoppers from slipping out the door without shopping bags in hand. At the very least, add QR codes to store displays, ads, etc.
  • Catalogs? Sort of. JC Penney did away with its famous catalog but now those store racks, once full of bulky catalogs, have flyers that function like mini-catalogs for niche offerings like the JC Penney Sports Fan Shop. I picked one up at a local Penney store the other day; the full-color flyer says: "We have your team. Choose from over 150,000 items." Sports fans on my gift list, be warned.
  • Get into social media now. You know--Facebook, YouTube, wherever customers are likely to be social, that's where marketers have to get into the conversation. Claim the name before someone unofficial does it. Multichannel now or customers will change the channel.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Grand Opening of Christmas Windows

It's not your imagination--Christmas marketing really is starting earlier and earlier. Macy's New York will unveil its new holiday window displays in Manhattan on Thursday, Nov 17, at 5 pm.

Not to be outdone, Lord & Taylor New York is unveiling its displays today--Monday, Nov 14--at 5:30 pm. (If you want to watch, log on here to see a live stream.)

Henri Bendel, the upscale fashion store, will unveil its Fifth Avenue windows on Thursday, Nov 17, as well, with the famous Radio City Rockettes as special guests.

We'll all have to wait until Nov 21 to see Lady Gaga's Barneys New York windows.

Canadian stores started their Christmas window displays even earlier. Here's what one store did to develop its holiday themes and decorations.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Travel Marketing: Reviving Interest in Trouble Spots

Egypt, Tunisia, and Thailand are all areas that have been in the headlines this year...Egypt and Tunisia because of political upheavals and Thailand because of floods (not to mention last year's political upheaval).

Now these three nations are using travel marketing to bring back tourists. The tourism office in Egypt is emphasizing security, a friendly welcome, and unique experiences like desert safaris. Egypt's tourist minister also observes: "We are selling sun, sea and culture, but Egypt can become the rehab centre for the Middle East." That's been one of Thailand's appeals in recent years.

Thailand's tourism is already bouncing back. The official tourism site offers frequent updates on the flood situation, which enhances its credibility and keeps travelers informed of where to go and where to avoid. Its beaches were untouched by the floods, so sun seekers are skipping the big cities and going to resorts for holiday fun. The "Amazing Thailand" campaign is on Facebook with 220,000 likes.

Tunisia's official tourism site puts the focus on how close the nation is to the UK and Ireland. "The Jewel of the Mediterranean" is how Tunisia describes itself, with historic heritage, spas, family destinations, crafts, and more.

With today's economy trying to recover and consumers planning trips with more care and sometimes less money than in the past, these nations will have to make a very strong case for themselves. Can they do it?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

U-Turn on Rest Area Communications?

Continuing my November theme of travel and marketing, I present two exhibits from my road trip along the Garden State, better known as New Jersey.

These two photos show parts of a fast-food tray liner at a rest stop restaurant along the New Jersey Turnpike.

The Turnpike Authority wants drivers to know more about safety on the road, and what better way than inviting them to read a few facts and take a quick quiz?

Good idea, not as good execution. The folks who wrote the facts, quiz, and answers should have tested their communications before going to print.

In the top photo, the first sentence reads: "Signing is the primary medium at which the roadway has to communicate with motorists." Huh? Not so clear.

In the second photo, question #1 is clear and straight-forward: "Why is the Emergency Pull-Off sign yellow?" It's the answer that has me puzzled: "To enhance conspicuity."

My marketing advice: To enhance conspicuity, the Turnpike Authority should do a U-turn on communications and road-test all headlines and copy before hitting the print button. If it's a matter of safety, then it's safer to test before printing and distributing.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Best Buy Express Targets On-the-Go Consumers

Three years ago, Best Buy announced its kiosk program, a way to sell cameras, headphones, cell phones, flash drives, video games, and many other electronics in airports across America. Today, Best Buy Express machines like the one above are in numerous locations and coming to 100 more spots in 2012, where travelers can touch the screen to learn more about the products and swipe a credit or debit card to purchase.

I found this machine in the huge Delaware Welcome Center rest stop along the I-95 highway corridor. It's in a prime location: A few steps from the main entrance on the right-hand wall. People naturally turn to the right when entering a shop or facility and this is one of the first things they'll see. In the 10 minutes I watched, the kiosk attracted a steady stream of browsers but no buyers.

Also, Best Buy offers a delivery guarantee and a toll-free number to call in case a product fails to be released after payment. Smart move.

By the way, the video screen at top left of the kiosk rotates ads. You can read about the program here on Best Buy's media kit page.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Rental Model Goes Upscale

Want a piece of fine art to spruce up your walls? Click over to Artsicle, where for $25/month and up, you can rent (or rent to own) a painting or other art for your home or office. Decorative wall art is a $10 billion business--think posters, mirrors, and the like--and Artsicle aims to capture a share. Museums like the Seattle Art Museum also rent fine art.

Or how about renting fine jewelry? Adorn is offering diamond necklaces, earrings, and bracelets with or without precious stones, delivered and returned via UPS (below).
Rent the Runway offers top designer clothing for rent, a new approach to the old problem of what to wear for an evening on the town, Sweet 16, special birthday, or to a wedding. Bag Borrow or Steal rents luxe handbags, jewelry, sunglasses, and watches. Montana Rader rents designer shoes and jewelry...the list goes on.

These and other rental businesses illustrate how the business model of renting is moving upscale into nontraditional categories and putting high-end items within reach for a rental fee, rather than by buying. What categories will be next?