Category Archives: Marketing

Will social media soon become an indispensable retail channel?

Social Media Outposts
Social Media (Photo credit: the tartanpodcast)

The use of social media sites like Facebook has exploded in recent years – the site recently hit one billion users. But while people are checking out social media sites daily, how many of them actually shop?

A recent study showed that seven out of ten online shoppers who took the survey say they never shop this way. That should also remain the status quo for the immediate future, as only about 5% say they’ll shop more via social media in the next 12 months.

But still, what are online shoppers doing on social media? Essentially they’re commenting on companies and products they know and discovering new ones. However, there are differences in motivation among these social media users, divided into three groups based on their behavior: “brand lovers,” “deal hunters” and “social addicts”.

Out of those brand lovers who say they interact with brands via social media, 53% go shopping in a physical store daily or weekly, compared to 45% of the overall sample, and 58% buy something in a physical store at least once a week. The deal hunters say they’ll click through to a specific online store if offered a good sale or an attractive special offer. Appealing to deal hunters looking for good offers and contests can be a great way to drive traffic to the provider’s website. Noone can afford to ignore the social addicts – they use social media to talk about their  experiences with brands, learn what their friends like and recommend, find customer service answers, and submit ideas and product feedback to companies. Getting the message out to social addicts can support the brand, while ignoring them carries significant reputational risk, as these very active online users tend to have huge social media networks and wield an outsized influence among them.

So, will social media be an indispensable sales channel? Not likely but there’s good reason for retailers to continue focusing on social media investment.  Campalyst analysed the world’s 250 biggest internet retailers and found that 97% of them are already on Facebook, 96% have a presence on Twitter, and 90% use YouTube. The social media traffic generated in many cases is impressive; 43 of the 250 can claim more than one million followers on Facebook.

More details here: http://pwc.to/Xfl6r0

Most customer-facing decisions are made without using customer insights

Why do we take non-productive decisions? This is a question easy to hear nowadays. I believe one of the answers (probably the most important one) comes from a Market Research Executive Board report: almost all executives agree that customer focus is critical to their company’s success – yet only 40% of senior executives feel that they have the support and tools that they need to be customer focused.

And why is that? – we may ask. Well, research into the customer decision-making environment reveals that the Research function—the organizational owner of customer knowledge, one of three components of customer focus – is currently set up to impact only 10% of the company’s customer-facing decisions. This leaves 90% of decisions being made based on “gut instinct” and/ or insights and information provided by other sources.

Not long ago I realised the importance of client facing behaviour – more details in this article – and decisions inside the firm will definetly impact this behaviour directly.

 

Douwe Egberts, a brand management story

I started enjoying coffee a few years ago so I hope the fact that I didn’t know about Douwe Egberts until recently will be kindly overlooked. A nice flavour during a Dutch breakfast convinced me to try this coffee again some time, and the opportunity came a few weeks ago while being in Hague with my wife. She noticed Douwe Egberts’ shop on Noordeinde street so we decided to have a latte and a sandwich.

I’ve placed the order, took the plate with the two full glasses of latte and headed to our table. Everything would have been a normal visit and no story would have been told unless an unfortunate accident happened: my backpack dropped from my left shoulder on my forearm while bending to place the plate on the table. You cannot imagine the mess I’ve made: there was coffee spelled all over the table, chairs, floor… the full content of the two glasses was literally all over the place.

One of the girls from the bar came in a hurry and, before I would have my chance to apologize and even before looking at their messed assets, she made sure I’m all right and directed me to a toilet to wash my hands and jacket. When I returned, she was already cleaning the mess so I went to the bar to order some new ones. She noticed me, smiled and told me she would bring the coffees to the table. Obviously, I told myself, it’s fair not to take a second chance with my two left hands but than I had my first surprise: she wouldn’t let me pay for them but insisted to accept the new coffees on the house. You can see part of my second surprise in the picture nearby: they made it for us with unworthy consideration – a “cappuccino art” heart on each of the lattes and two nice dark chocolates aside.

That was the moment I turned from an occasional customer to a “brand lover”. No matter how much you try to promote a brand, in the end your client facing staff will be making the difference in your brand promise.

Looking back at my brand management story:

  • the quality of the product made me become an occasional customer;
  • the service made me “love” the brand;
  • accessibility is a key point in being a loyal customer (the brand is not so well represented when compared to competitors such as Starbucks, for instance).

New media impact: marketers change their thinking and spending allocations

Social Media Outposts
Image by the tartanpodcast via Flickr

Too many companies view marketing plans as little more than an exercise in where and when to buy media placement. Yet as the number of digital interactions increases, marketers must recognize the power that lies beyond traditional paid media.

The changing role of older media and the emergence of newer ones extend the marketer’s role well beyond the allocation of budgets and channels. Marketers today require a deep understanding of how consumers engage with different types of media at each stage of the journey toward a purchase decision. McKinsey’s study “Beyond paid media: Marketing’s new vocabulary” splits the media in 5 categories: paid, owned, earned, sold, and hijacked and makes an analysis of how media are evolving nowadays.

What’s there to think about?

1. Media are becoming more integrated. New ways to connect with customers, for example, are transforming traditional relationship management by requiring marketers to interact with consumers through multiple forms of media in increasingly personalized ways. JetBlue has promoted its Twitter offering through many channels, for instance, and now has about 1.6 million followers seeking a regular feed of special deals for tickets. This approach has given JetBlue the ability to deliver timely coupons at a minimal variable cost, reducing its reliance on expensive paid media while fostering closer relationships with consumers.

2. New publishing models are emerging because the increasing complexity of consumer needs. Computer maker Dell and automobile manufacturer Nissan, for example, worked with the Sundance Channel to create a television talk show hosted by Elvis Costello to attract their target demographic. With ads that seamlessly blended into the show’s content, Dell and Nissan not only gained exposure to a highly engaged audience but also shifted the perception of their brands to connect with Generation X.

3. Applications on wireless devices are spawning tools that provide useful information. For example, eBay’s Red Laser generates a list of prices for any product whose bar code has been scanned by a mobile phone. Beverage companies show where their products are available by overlaying icons onto maps on the screens of mobile phones. In Japan, food manufacturers can increase sales across entire product categories through marketing collaborations with platforms such as Cookpad, the country’s leading online recipe site, with 9 million members, more than 40 percent of whom are women in their 30s.

4. Marketing experiences are becoming more personally relevant. McDonald’s in Japan, for example, has developed expertise in the use of Twitter and other blogging platforms to promote new products and promotions by leveraging its huge fan base to talk about how much they love the company’s food. While this fan promotion is sometimes spontaneous, it’s often facilitated and encouraged by providing these fans with free meals. In this way, paid- and owned-media efforts (such as blog and Twitter campaigns) make consumers so enamored of McDonald’s products that the company generates a significant amount of earned media.

5. The evolution of new kinds of media means that consumers are engaging more often in real-time conversations, particularly on social networks and other digital platforms. One consumer electronics company, for example, has recognized the significance of every review or rating posted about its products. It now responds to all comments within 24 hours: positive feedback gets a thank you, an invitation to become a Facebook friend, and special offers; negative reviews get explanations of how to fix issues, instructions on how to navigate an interface more easily, or follow-up questions to learn more about what the consumer didn’t like. Some hotel chains, recognizing the importance of travel sites (such as the popular TripAdvisor), likewise encourage satisfied guests to post comments online, while employing staff to follow and answer negative comments.

For more details please see McKinsey’s study.

Why confronting corruption makes sense

Detail from Corrupt Legislation. Mural by Elih...
Image via Wikipedia

Management and staff become distracted and demoralised as they investigate what went wrong and respond to legal, regulatory and enforcement actions. In some recent cases, costs have soared into the billions, significantly affecting earnings.

In addition to the external fallout, as customers and partners distance themselves from a troubled company, there are daunting internal costs. Failing to actively prevent corruption allows employees and third parties to rationalize stealing from the company. Companies with anti-corruption programmes that enable bribe payments are also highly susceptible to theft and financial statement manipulation.

Companies that do not take steps to assess and manage corruption risk stand a greater chance of being caught in the anti-corruption net. With the passing of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) in 1977, the US took the early initiative in enforcement. Under the act, any company listed on a US exchange or with significant operations in the US is subject to the rules and regulations of the US Department of Justice, regardless of where corruption occurs geographically. More recently, enforcement has become a more global affair, with the US working closely with authorities in other countries. In the last years, at least 20 of the 37 government signatories to the 1997 OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials began one or more investigations into corruption, up from 12 in 2006.

Looked at logically, bribes do not make good business sense. They may not alter the situation in any way and there is no contract to enforce if the services paid for are not rendered. Having paid once, a company also opens the door to future and perhaps larger demands and becomes susceptible to blackmail. “If you pay someone $1,000 for a service, do you think the next time they will only ask for $1,000?” says Albert Wong, head of policy and external relations at Shell International. He tells his staff to avoid this slippery slope by refusing the first demand.

While companies cannot control how governments and competitors behave, there are tools available to help level the playing field. One example is the so-called “integrity pact,” where all parties sign an enforceable agreement not to engage in corruption. Our survey highlights the importance of getting everyone to play by the same rules. Almost 45% of respondents say they currently avoid certain markets or opportunities because of corruption risks and almost 40% say they have lost bids because of corrupt officials.

A global PwC report shows that:

• Almost 80% of respondents say their company has some form of programme in place to prevent and detect corruption, but only 22% are very confident that it identifies and mitigates the risk of corruption.
• Slightly less than half say their programme is clearly communicated and enforced, while 28% say there are problems with either the communication or the enforcement of their anti-corruption programme.
• Rigorous risk assessment, a crucial step in programme design, is overlooked by more than half of those surveyed, and only 25% perform proactive risk assessments or monitoring.
• Only 40% of respondents believe their current controls are effective at identifying high-risk business partners or suspect disbursements.

The potential of corruption may always be present; however, companies can learn from others and set up a robust and proactive anti-corruption programme to mitigate their risk.

You may find more about confronting corruption here.

Restructuring checklist #2

Managing your employment brand

• Have you thought about how best to minimise the negative impact of restructuring on your employment brand values?
• Do you need to reinvigorate your employment brand initiatives for future talent acquisition?
• Do managers know what you are expecting of them when it comes to maintaining the equity of your employment brand?

Communication

• Do all your stakeholders (shareholders, employees, suppliers, community) know what your vision is for the organisation going forward?
• Is the message clear and supportive to your business plans?
• Have you considered the customer perception of your restructuring actions?

Consultation steps

• Have you considered what your employee relations strategy needs to be during a restructuring phase?
• Have you built in the time necessary for consultation in all the markets in which your business operates?
• Do you need the approval of any employment inspectorates before you implement your restructuring proposals?

Hiring freezes

• Are you prepared to stop external hiring to ensure that future employment opportunities are available to your existing employees first?
• Are you required to stop hiring in some markets where you are implementing compulsory redundancies?
• Are you going to police the consistent application of any hiring freeze you announce?

You may also want to read:
10 guiding questions to help restructuring initiatives
Restructuring checklist #1
Restructuring checklist #3

Restructuring checklist #1

Business drivers

• Which parts of the business are growing? Which are shrinking? How do you respond to both?
• Does your business evolution require new capabilities? If so, do you have a strategy for putting these capabilities in place?
• What is the acceptable pay-back time for any restructuring programme in your business?

Organisational redesign

• What should your future organisation look like in its customer-facing activities?
• Should you explore alternative channels of distribution to optimise customer reach?
• Is there scope to rethink your support structures? Are they providing you with the mix of cost efficiency, speed and customer orientation that your business requires? Have you benchmarked these features against your competitors?
• Is there an opportunity to rethink your operating principles to reduce costs through virtual teamwork, outsourcing and/or centres of excellence?

Cross-jurisdictional consistency

• Is your business operating in multiple jurisdictions? If so, have you thought through the differing legal requirements which restructuring activities prompt in these locations?
• Do you have an overarching commitment to consistent treatment of employees?
• Have you consulted appropriately at international level as well as at local levels?

Maintaining engagement

• How do you plan to maintain engagement levels in your business? Have you considered the retention challenges that may be prompted by restructuring?
• Are the challenges and associated time-frames you are setting out for your business attainable?
Do you have clear measures in place to ensure that you can respond swiftly to downturns in engagement levels within your business?

You may also want to read:
10 guiding questions to help restructuring initiatives
Restructuring checklist #2
Restructuring checklist #3

Ten tech-enabled business trends to watch

M500 Watch Phone by SMS Technology Australia
Image by inju via Flickr

Two-and-a-half years ago, McKinsey described eight technology-enabled business trends that were profoundly reshaping strategy across a wide swath of industries. Since then, the technology landscape has continued to evolve rapidly. The dizzying pace of change has affected those original eight trends, which have continued to spread (though often at a more rapid pace than anticipated), morph in unexpected ways, and grew in number to ten:

1. Distributed cocreation moves into the mainstream

By McKinsey’s estimates, when customer communities handle an issue, the per-contact cost can be as low as 10 percent of the cost to resolve the issue through traditional call centers. Other companies are extending their reach by using the Web for word-of-mouth marketing. However, since cocreation is a two-way process, companies must also provide feedback to stimulate continuing participation and commitment.

2. Making the network the organization

The recession underscored the value of such flexibility in managing volatility. McKinsey believes that the more porous, networked organizations of the future will need to organize work around critical tasks rather than molding it to constraints imposed by corporate structures.

3. Collaboration at scale

Across many economies, the number of people who undertake knowledge work has grown much more quickly than the number of production or transactions workers. While the body of knowledge around the best use of such technologies is still developing, a number of companies have conducted experiments, as one may see in the rapid growth rates of video and Web conferencing, expected to top 20 percent annually during the next few years.

4. The growing ‘Internet of Things’

Assets themselves became elements of an information system, with the ability to capture, compute, communicate, and collaborate around information – something that has come to be known as the “Internet of Things.” Embedded with sensors, actuators, and communications capabilities, such objects will soon be able to absorb and transmit information on a massive scale and, in some cases, to adapt and react to changes in the environment automatically. These “smart” assets can make processes more efficient, give products new capabilities, and spark novel business models.

5. Experimentation and big data

McKinsey affirms that some companies haven’t even mastered the technologies needed to capture and analyze the valuable information they can access. More commonly, they don’t have the right talent and processes to design experiments and extract business value from big data, which require changes in the way many executives now make decisions: trusting instincts and experience over experimentation and rigorous analysis. To get managers at all echelons to accept the value of experimentation, senior leaders must buy into a “test and learn” mind-set and then serve as role models for their teams.

6. Wiring for a sustainable world

Companies are now taking the first steps to reduce the environmental impact of their IT. Information technology is both a significant source of environmental emissions and a key enabler of many strategies to mitigate environmental damage.

7. Imagining anything as a service

In the IT industry, the growth of “cloud computing” (accessing computer resources provided through networks rather than running software or storing data on a local computer) exemplifies this shift. Consumer acceptance of Web-based cloud services for everything from e-mail to video is of course becoming universal, and companies are following suit.

8. The age of the multisided business model

Thr advertising-supported model has proliferated on the Internet, underwriting Web content sites, as well as services such as search and e-mail. It is now spreading to new markets, such as enterprise software: Spiceworks offers IT-management applications to 950,000 users at no cost, while it collects advertising from B2B companies that want access to IT professionals.

9. Innovating from the bottom of the pyramid

Hundreds of companies are now appearing on the global scene from emerging markets. For most global incumbents, these represent a new type of competitor: they are not only challenging the dominant players’ growth plans in developing markets but also exporting their extreme models to developed ones. To respond, global players must plug into the local networks of entrepreneurs, fast-growing businesses, suppliers, investors, and influencers spawning such disruptions.

10. Producing public good on the grid

Technology can also improve the delivery and effectiveness of many public services. At the UK Web site FixMyStreet.com, for example, citizens report, view, and discuss local problems, such as graffiti and the illegal dumping of waste, and interact with local officials who provide updates on actions to solve them.

For detailed analysis see McKisey Quarterly